Saturday, 17 May 2008

Happy Feet

Saw this classy little animated film with a big heart today for the first time - yes bit slow off the mark I am. Happy Feet has some great Australian connections, from the production team and voice talent to Will Burdis who was our teacher for 3D Foundation last year.

I liked the film, though it didnt inspire completely. It was trying to be cute, but not funny with the message running through it as well. The CG is really beautiful, with the water and ice glistening as the backdrop for the entire piece.

[Happy Feet imagery from their Facebook entry]

Happy Feet is on Myspace, which is interesting - having them build presences in more places than just the web. It reminds me of the changes that are going on in Facebook actually - where non-humans are being ousted.

The CG is very special - just have a look at the scenery on display in the trailer alone. The animation is engaging as well, capturing and expanding upon the penguiness of the characters.

Reconstructions and National Treasure

In my Visualising the Past course over the last week there has been an interesting tangential discussion around the portrayal or archaeology in films like Indian Jones, Tomb Raider and the Mummy. The adventure and thievery logic that they bring is set within a context of study and research - is the net result a beneficial one? I think Jurassic Park elevated the study of anchient biology, is Indy doing the same?

I just posted this as part of the discussion:
I got out my copy of National Treasure this morning and it is very interesting to see the Treasure Hunter logic blended with a high reverence for history. We see the importance of knowledge, understanding and preservation, but when push comes to shove the characters dive in and explore or use without the full archaeological processes or due care.

On the DVD there is a report on modern day real treasure hunters as well, and despite its clearly positive slant does show the technology and process they follow. We see their technology and research is actually quite similar to what Time Team brought to a site. We see them talking about the idea that 90% of the task is research, in the library etc. They bring a rigour to the job, I presume based on the income they garner through following good processes.

It is an interesting position, fuelled by the very nature of the museum, where artefacts are 'collected' to be displayed for us.

The film and the special features also highlight several reconstructions (cinematic ones at least) of temples, ships, ruins and artefacts. These are a mixture of models, sets and CG integrated with the live footage.

Not really related, but it is great fun - trailer for the Lego Indy game. The Star Wars versions of this game were very clever and rather addictive. Bringing this one along with Indy4 at the cinema is a great idea:

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Mirrors Edge

Those dudes from DICE (via EA) who bring us all things Battlefield have another first-person game in the works. Mirror's Edge looks a bit like the Matrix meets Tony Hawk. Our heroine leaps around the upper reaches of the city a bit like DareDevil or Spidey - but witch a touch of realism thrown in. The environment looks very impressive and a critical character in the game itself, much like Tomb Raider. The clean interface feel and close-and-personal gameplay should prove interesting. I hope the city ends up feeling busy like a city is, not cold and unoccupied. Watching the vids could make you feel a bit out of breath as well actually...

Here are a few vids from Gametrailers:

It is good to see urban landscapes like this becoming such critical aspects of gaming - this then leads to repurposing for other things like urban design and visualisation.

MDM third session

Enrolled today for the 5th and 6th courses in my Masters of Digital Media (MDM) at COFA. I have been really enjoying the ride so far - though it is a long haul going part time. There were a series of interesting electives that tempted me like Making Digital Holograms but I settled on these two:

SOMA9001 Sound Construction 1
This course covers aspects of audio production relating to the production of soundtracks for film and video. Students are introduced to various conceptual, stylistic, aesthetic and philosophical approaches to the use of sound within screen-based media, with attention also being paid to the relationship of sound to other art practices. A screening and listening lecture program examines various sound/music pieces, installations and soundtracks
COFA0919 Digital Illustration for Concept Art
Concept Art bridges the gap between 'idea' and 'reality'. It allows raw ideas to be developed and visually communicated so that they can be realised through a production process.
Have you ever wanted to flesh out your own ideas into a visual form and make them more appealing and communicative? Have you ever wanted to explore digital tools to illustrate something from your imagination?
This fully online course will enhance your knowledge and techniques used in creating digital illustration for concept art by studying and practicing idea generation and the experimentation process. You will learn a series of theoretical and practical approaches such as sketching, designing unique forms and creating presentations that will help you communicate your ideas through visual languages, from basic quick sketches to finished artworks.
You will consolidate your skills by developing different digital techniques including digital colouring, painting and collage. Students will then have the opportunity to unleash their creativity and imagination. Within the online group forum, you will conceptualise, analyse and formally propose a series of concept art pieces for your own fantasy world.
Through experimentation and exploration with different digital tools, along with critical discussions with your peers, you will discover new possibilities, broaden your skills and enhance your creativity.
You are expected have basic knowledge in, and access to, graphic software such as Photoshop/Painter/Gimp. You will also require access to a scanner. Access to a graphic tablet is an advantage. Basic drawing knowledge and active participation are required to realise the full potential of this course.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Cities in the Desert

Through both my COFA courses now these 2 new cities in the middle east have been interesting examples. On one hand for their futuristic vision of things and their integration of the vanguard of architectural thinking. The other because of their planning structure - which to me was very much like that of the ancient Roman planned cities.

First up a few images of the city of Timgad showings its planning logic (constrained by a wall as it is):

[images of the Timgad city site via my COFA0913 course]

OMA's Raz Al Khaimah (RAK)
This is the planned city with the giant sphere gateway and the regimented city plannning, for more info see DeZeen's article by Marcus Fairs:

[Images of RAK from the DeZeen site]

Norman Foster's Masdar City
Here we get another planned city featuring a host of environmental initiatives like no cars and that big square in the desert again. It seems the design planning was even based around the ancient walled cities. Dezeen have a good article on this initiative as well, also by Marcus Friars:

[Images of Masdar from the DeZeen site]


One interesting thing to see here is the style and approach taken for 3D visualisations of cities. What detail is shown, what is important, how unified or disjointed should it appear and more...

Psycho Power

In one of those fun emails we all get (thanks Sebastian) I got these 3 images of power lines in India. The images conjure up all manner of futuristic chaos in the mind and look as though a concept artist was having a really wild day. They are so crazy, they look like art - perhaps they could sell them for millions...

What is the future of our electronic/digital age - neater or messier :-)

[images of Indian power lines via email]

Dell XPS and Alienware

When Dell grabbed gaming hardware creators, Alienware, there was always going to be some sort of change with the respective lineups. The two companies were direct competitors on the gaming hardware front, particularly at the higher end.
We have a bunch of XPS1730 laptops here in FBE and are expanding that number to be a larger 'laptop lab' and many of the staff are armed with the XPS1330s as well. Our new labs are full of XPS420 desktops and we are looking at a few XPS730s to give us even more grunt at the testing/research end of things.

Alienware hadnt ever offered us the same support and cost benefits that Dell were delivering, but things could be set to change. With reports (gizmodo) that we might lose the suped up models to accommodate Alienware - who knows where we will end up. I have liked the XPS range of hardware from Dell for ages now, it seems better built, specced and stylish that all their other kit.

With Dell beasts like this XPS730 running Crysis like a dream and Alienware's XPS1730 competitor, the Area 51 m17x - things are sure interesting.

[some imagery of the various hardware joys from the gizmodo site]


ps. it is funny when I put these 2 pics next to each other, it looks like Alienware have made a simply gigantic notebook computer!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Volcano Graphic Design

Not sure where this fits in, but check out this time-laps image of the lightning storm in the ash cloud spewing out of Chile's Chaiten volcano at the moment. There are a few videos that show the boiling mass rising into the air and this one shows the lightning going off. But it these remarkable images by Carlos Gutierrez that caught my eye. They have a futuristic nature driven power and complexity about them - super!

National Geographic

Check out the City

Walking my way down through the city, back on May 4th (destined for Customs House - more on that soon) I went past a few interesting architectural sites. These arent necessarily examples of the worlds leading design ideas for what our cities should be, but they are the standouts/interesting in their environment for a range of reasons. This is coming from the perspective of modern works as opposed to some of the historical pieces.

First up was the Emporio Armani store at Martin Place (see previous post). Note the images below are shrunkified - I have higher res if useful for anyone.

Next the almost finished redevelopment at 115 Pitt St. The entry area below features an interesting blobbilicious high-tech column

[115 Pitt Street looking pretty finished, Sydney May 4th 2008]

Onto Aurora Place, here we can see the towers and the courtyard with the glistening glass, thin metallic framing and refined stonework.

[Aurora Place with buildings and covered space, Sydney May 4th 2008]

And here are a couple more shots of buildings along the way

[various city shots, Sydney May 4th 2008]


Next stop the Custom's House spaces and exhibitions.

Neato LED display

The Emporio Armani store at Martin Place here in Sydney has a nifty LED screen that is the sort of tech we are starting to look at for a special info-board-installation outside here at the uni. I took this little vid when I was out past there a week or so ago.

Suppliers like Barco are the sort of folk we are looking at, but we are also hunting for solar power to drive the whole thing as well.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Kynogon's game AI goes to Autodesk

Big companies acquisitions are a mark of their ability to stay ahead of the game and Autodesk is no exception. They have announced their acquisition of Kynogon which will enhance their capability in the gaming area further.
I hadnt heard of Kynogon until the takeover, but they seem to have a set of tools and applications for games development. Their Kynapse AI software for gaming has some real potential for simulations and building living 3D architectural and planning models.

This video shows off how the software runs inside the Unreal Editor to generate AI meshes.

This video shows how the dynamic pathfinding works for a single character

And this one shows us a thumping big crowd of 10,000

It will be fun to see Autodesk integrate this sort of functionality with their other software. Speaking of which - will we see them deliver tools that integrate with the big game engines rather than hanging back with supporting tools...

Fictional Future Cities

One thing I was looking at as part of CAinDA was a variety of notions around the future of Architecture and Cities. Sci-Fi films often need to portray these future environments and in so doing bring prediction, desire and intent into the mix.

I was using examples like the Minority Report and the Star Wars films. In researching the idea I was surprised how few examples there were from architects and city planners, but there are many many in film, tv and fiction. The BLDGBLOG (more on this soon) has a great article by Geoff Manaugh "Science Fiction and the City : Film Fest Update!" which explores cinema's thinking on the future. The ideas brought forward by the concept artists are really engaging and evocative of some of the subconscious & intentional aspirations & fears of our culture and its society.

Some images from the BLDGBLOG article showing the vision that concept artists bring to architecture:

[concept images of future cities from BLDGBLOG]

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Wearable & Augmented Computing

This idea has been around for quite a time now, and I was referring to it in my Contemporary Aesthetics in Digital Architecture course - so it seemed sane to take a little look at some of the players of today.

Steve Mann
Probably the most famous wearable computing guy, Steve Mann has been driving the idea of how to integrate digital technology into what we do. Iron Man (love the film) is an ultimate form of this augmentation of the physical, sensory and even intellectual (through the AI). Anyhow, Steve Mann began with much simpler bits taped and strapped to his head and body which has evolved a great deal since 1980 when he started. His site, WearCam, has some good resources and coverage of his work over time - plus plenty of info on his water-based musical instruments.

[Steve Mann's evolving wearable computers from the Wikipedia entry]

Check this article on by Brian Bergstein and this interview on youtube (ignore the presenters and check out the billboard swapping).


There are others exploring this field of course (apart from cinema)

Lets let BMW have the last word for now: