idea for this animation began with the notion of literally walking through
the stages of life – birth, childhood, adolescence and so on. Each
stage would be represented as a mysterious machine that could be approached,
absorbed and then left behind. I began by creating a series of animated
machines without any effort to match them to any specific stage of life.
Forming "meaningful" associations can then be the resposibility
of the viewer.
The biggest challenge was to help the viewer identify what the machines symbolized. I decided to create appropriately labeled museum exhibits and then switch back and forth between the museum and the machines to help inform the viewer. It was my wife’s idea to use botany as a metaphor, rather than to illustrate human development and become too literal. It occurred to me that, besides making display cases with botanical exhibits, it might be effective to use high resolution scans of beautiful old botanical prints too.
After making a trip to the Field Museum in Chicago to collect texture map images and architectural ideas, I began on the museum facade, using some neo-classical artistic license. I wanted to leave extra space between the columns for a large exhibition banner that could also function in a title sequence. The interior scenes all take place in one large exhibit hall that took many hours to fill with a variety of vegetation and labels. I wasn’t quite sure what would be included in the end, so I created credible labels for most of the examples. Nobody can read them, but I know they are there.
Since I am located at the University of Illinois, which has one of the largest libraries in the country, it seemed likely I could locate and scan appropriate botanical illustrations. After some thoroughly enjoyable searches through old corners of the Biology library, I finally ended up downloading some beautiful, high resolution images from the Missouri Botanical Garden Rare Book website. Reproduction is available under the Fair Use Copyright law with proper credit indication.
At first I thought I would have an infinitely repeated series of machines for the man to walk through, but came up with the idea of having a “reset” button available to create the cycle. Most of the walking and running of the man is accomplished with motion capture technology, using some existing files from my library of movements. I wanted the space that the man walks through to be cold and featureless compared with the warmth and intimacy of the old fashioned museum space.
One of the most exciting aspects of this project was the opportunity to work with musician Scott Borland. He contacted me in the spring of 2010 with an offer to create music for one of my animations. Expressing my conceptual goals for the work, I knew he understood what would be appropriate. After finishing a rough cut of the animation in early spring 2011, I sent it to Scott. As soon as I heard his initial sequences, I knew the music would support and transform the final work in ways that I could not have imagined. His musical skills and sensitive insight adds an important critical dimension to the work.
• 7 minutes
• 1280x 720, 30fps
• 3DS Max 2010, Mental Ray, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Audacity
• Modeling and Animation: BOXX dual quadcore PC, 2.8 GHz, 8 Gb RAM, nVidia Quadro FX 4600, Samsung 30” and Apple Cinema 30” dual displays
• Video and DVD Editing: MacBook Pro