Animals on the Underground

December 8, 2009

I first saw this site when having a discussion with fellow student Leah Thibbodeau. I think it’s a pretty interesting concept where animals are “found objects” in maps of the London Tuuuube. It is very interesting that with a concrete set of data like a subway map, animals are constantly found and within the same style!

I would have loved the site to have been more interactive though. When dealing with a subject like the subway, interactive moving parts can be both relevant and visually appealing. In some sense, I see this as kid friendly also, and more interaction would be better suited for that demographic. I can imagine a Flash project where it is simply a map with roll overs that highlight the tube lines depicting the animals. This would help illustrate the world that these character live in as well as the scale of the maps. This could also be educational and help promote the use of the subway, especially in an energy-sensitive world. I really enjoyed the site as a fresh break of art, something simple that can just be found in the world we live in. I hope they continue to push this site and make it something more interactive while still maintaining the fun, kid-friendly, and clean aspect of it.

Thanks for all the fish!

Polar Bear

December 8, 2009

We may not live in a more political or progressively aware time than any before, but we live in one where political and progressive movements are more accessible via the internet. That being said, political Ads are commonplace on the web, but Plane Stupid’s Polar Bear Ad stands out.

And it doesn’t take longer either. You don’t fully get what’s going til about 15 seconds in, but when you understand what is going on, it is incredibly powerful. The creative agency Mother seems to understand the human psyche. Obviously, we are deeply disturbed by living things falling down from the sky. But when its cutesy wutesy Polar Bears, it takes it to a new level. It just seems so realistic, the physics of them falling and the blood splatter, it is hard to totally disbelieve. In that way, Mother triumphs. I believe Ads like these succeed when they are confrontational, and this ad is just that. The simple typography at the ends nails in the message, without distracting the viewer of the video they just saw before. Short, simple, powerful.

Puns of fun!

I’m still a sucker for stop motion. Whereas Going West succeeded in pushing stop motion in an aesthetically beautiful and brilliantly shot movie, 8-Bit does all of that, but more importantly is just flat out fun. I believe humor is essential to Art and is vastly underused as a tool for artists. This video is funny and really clever in the solutions used to mix the real world with the 8-bit style. Such an example is @:30 where the flames of a realistic stove top is shot at stop motion.  Above all, I believe this stop motion is very successful in sound effects and audio. They are very clean and fit well within the story. There is a great attention to detail like @:32 when the character goes underwater his screams are somewhat muted. I don’t really know how the creator did this, but this and his other sounds are spot on. They compliment the style and mood of the video and come together to great a fun adventure that takes place just around the house.

I think my fellow Art student Danothy Kane would enjoy this, as it would suit his style and his type of stop motion work.

Warning: This could happen to you.

Rockstar North

December 8, 2009

In the beginning...

I have to admit, I have a little bit of a bias towards Rockstar North. Located in Scotland, they are my favorite video game studio that has produced several great works in the Grand Theft Auto series. That being said, their website is legitimately a good site. Taking place in a vague, somewhat abstracted world, the user (that means you!) takes control of a virtual character that can walk around and interact in said world. There are four small interactive spaces that are accessible through the drop-down menu. Within these worlds are usually two clickable objects that blend seamlessly into the space. Some of these objects are a phone booth that when clicked leads to cheat codes. In another world, a statue leads to thumbnails of character design. One of my criticisms is that I would have liked to see it all blended into one world. I understand that they wanted to separate the departments of the company into these different worlds, but one seamless world could have been more successful and still kept the idea of different departments. Also, some of the interactive objects aren’t as user friendly and are difficult to control and view. Other than that I find it as an enjoyable website. It is fun as an interactive piece yet simple and clear enough to offer information about the company in a unique way.

Going West.

December 8, 2009

Holy Guacamole! This video, a stop motion by Andersen M Studio, is honestly crazy as all hell. A stop motion using paper cut out of books while panning, changing focus, and pushing different camera angles and color. Breathe Eric, breathe. I’ve done about three stop motion videos in my life. Even though I get better at doing it after each one, I can’t imagine ever getting at this level. This is a pretty long video too, clocking in over 2 minutes. The amount of pre-planning that must have gone into this is just incredible. Okay, enough praising, what about the video?

There are some really beautiful compositions within this video. A strong sense of movement is also showcased, with a myriad of cut pieces moving and generating 3d form throughout the video. Paired with the audio narration, a true story is created, which is especially successful when this video is made for a book council. The “sets” created in the video with the paper are HIGHLY detailed and create a mood further enhanced by the strong lighting. There is also a strong pace throughout, with the video constantly panning or focusing somewhere else. I wonder if the animator ever wants to see a book again?

This video has a lot of "hidden" detail not noticable at times

This video has a lot of "hidden" detail not noticable at times.

This class, if anything, made me appreciate just how hard it is to create pieces with software like Flash and After Effects. When I see it pulled off with a high level of technical skill, it blows me away. Such is the case for the music video of Mario Basanov & Vidis. A well done music video can be exceptionally interesting as it seeks to create a relationship between the visual and audio. A very hard task indeed, which I believe fellow student Drake Chandler would agree with.

The music video of “I’ll be gone” is immediately striking. It starts with four cardiograph/ lie detector instruments each assigned with transcribing an aspect of the song such as drum, vox, keyboard, etc. The video goes to push this even further. With several different camera angles, a 3d space is created for the video to live in. The red pen transcriptions also start to flake off the paper and float away into the space, adding to the ethereal and ambient touch the song contains. Highly recommended just for visuals, and the song isn’t bad either!

Hey, this is cool!

Hey, this is cool!

Loaded Pictures

December 8, 2009

Loaded Pictures is a production company of young filmmakers and storytellers. Located in Montreal, they create a mixture of local and international pieces relevant to social, political, and cultural issues. Their documentaries are heavily emotional and contain “meaty” messages than can verge on a guilt trip. Meant to spark change, Loaded Images are filmmakers out to spread consciousness to the word on subjects like Oil and Water, Street Art, Wal-Mart, etc.

I first found Loaded Pictures by watching clips from their movie H2Oil. H2Oil is a documentary about the growing scarcity of water paired with the increased demand of oil, which uses fresh water in production. Similar to the movie Blue Gold, H2Oil paints a grim picture of the future where the lack of water can create future conflict, something that oil already does.

The clips I saw were the animated sequences that are throughout the movie. Theses sequences are very well done, both technically and aesthetically. The animation has a very hand done look to it, which I believe was meant to create a “grass roots” and “progressive” vibe to it. If it wasn’t so obviously illustrated, it could come off cold, as if it were some corporate advertisement. There is great pace throughout and a strong influence of movement in the piece. This I believe was meant to help energize the video and message, and depict the change they wish to create. The video also does a great job of  creating an environment around the obvious 2d plane of the animation. Creating this world connects it to our own world, further enhancing the piece.

H2Oil Animated Sequence

H2Oil Animated Sequence

Click Picture above for link to video.

TheyRule.net by Josh On

October 15, 2009

THEY RULE

Josh On, member of FutureFarmers.com, and with the help of In Transit’s Amy Balkin, created a site that produces the chance of perhaps looking inside the closed doors of the top 500 companies in the US and seeing how the connections between a few can control the many. This is the “they” On refers to, an oligopoly of the haves and how they rule from above over the have-nots. With interactive features based around creating maps of who is connected to who, the viewer begins to understand how the American ruling class exists. They scratch each others backs, switch positions on boards, all the while being enemies trying to destroy the competition. This is the ruling class of America- and Josh On wants us to realize society needs a change.

Josh On created THEY RULE to serve as a tool start research on the ruling class. After my experience on the site, I did not wish to continue any research on the people I discovered from the site, but TheyRule.net makes it a simple process if I wanted to. A user can create their own map where they can search by company or board member and continue to add other companies/members to establish connections as they see fit. They can leave comments on their map and save it for others to view. The real beauty is in search abilities. You can enter two companies and find similar board members, enter a board member and a company and find their connections, and click on any board member and have multiple links pop up that will search the board member on several news sources. They Rule thus can be seen as a starting point like On wanted, with its easy search features and accessibility to outside information. Where I believe most members spend their time is looking at maps made by other members. Some examples are Apple vs. Microsoft, or how Cheney and Haliburton are linked to oil companies, etc. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists are free to roam here, but it is up for the viewer to decide what is true or not. The site is also based on 2004 data and is not up to date.

Map of "The Magnificent Seven"

Map of "The Magnificent Seven"

The Sheep Market

The Sheep Market by Aaron Koblin is an interesting experiment on the emerging world of internet labor. I believe Koblin attempts to comment on how cheap labor is carried about today and the results that can be created. Koblin uses Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to commission 10,000 jobs. A member of MTurk could accept the job, draw a sheep facing left (following Koblin’s guidelines,) and receive two cents if approved. Over a span of 40 days, the jobs were finished and some interested data was received. The average time taken to draw the sheep was 105 seconds, making the sheep drawing career rack in 69 cents an hour. Almost 7600 people participated in the event, suggesting few people did two or more drawings. Over those 40 days, 662 were reject for various reasons.

With the drawings submitted, Koblin set up the Sheep Market where all 10,000 sheep are shown as tiny rollovers. A viewer can click on a sheep and view how it was drawn. At that point, they can also decide to buy the sheep or email them. The viewer can watch how much (or little) detail the artist put in the work. Recently, Leah and I discussed this site and found it funny how most seemed to lack any real fine detail. We generally chalked it up to the artist wanting to finish the job as quickly as possible (less than 2 min. avg) and receive their two cents. But, what we found more interesting is the people who seemed to disregard the money and take the opportunity to create real art. Some drawings are very intricate and take several minutes of watching to be completed. It would be interesting to find out some of the information on these artists who took longer to finish their drawings than the others and perhaps find a pattern or common trait that would explain why they went into such detail. I personally used to use MTurk and did several jobs similar to this, where a small task would be compensated with mere pennies. When I realized I was only making pennies at a time I tried to finish the drawing as quickly as possible. Perhaps what Koblin or even the artists who took longer to complete their drawings were trying to say is, “Is something less important or deserves less attention if it so clearly offers little return?”

Example of a User Submitted Sheep and also the Purchasing and Emailing Features.

Example of a User Submitted Sheep and also the Purchasing and Emailing Features.

In Transit by Amy Balkin

October 15, 2009

In Transit

In Transit by Amy Balkin is an interactive map that focuses on taxis in the San Francisco Bay area. The map itself is white line on black, with line position according to GPS data from SF taxis. The basic premise is that each taxi’s GPS transmits its location constantly and when the data is compiled, you can see traffic patterns around the city. Balkin’s approach was to try to connect these patterns and information to factors such as income, airports, business hubs, crime, etc. Through a series of ten green buttons, Amy Balkin describes these connections.

In Transit succeeds in making a 2-d line drawing feel interactive and true to the city. Scale and geography seem to be accurate even to those not familiar with the city. Where it truly succeeds is in telling a story about SF. By the tenth button the viewer has an understanding not just of SF and its denizens, but of society in general and the patterns that could and would likely be imitated in similar cities (Balkin suggests Seoul as prime example.) Balkin attempts to show how human nature can be reflected simply by taxis while providing information to a specific area. By simple things such as locations of hospitals, a conversation between a taxi driver and customer, airport location and patterns, Balkin begins to fill in the holes in the map. What was only line now has people conversing, doctors and nurses, tourists and how they interact with businessmen and women of SF and so forth. The “map” we usually consider as roads and street names now has history and sociology behind it.

I enjoyed In Transit because of the journey I went through. I have never been anywhere close to SF, but by the end of my experience I felt it was a satisfying substitute. In Transit explained how small daily routines can have larger effects. Finding human patterns and explaining social, economical, and geographical scenarios in SF just through the use of GPS in taxis is a clear and simple tool to discuss the larger issue of human nature overall.

Example of how buttons are used in In Transit

Example of how buttons are used in In Transit.