Cartoon Girl in one Formula

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Can you create the portrait of a cartoon girl reminiscent of the Frozen movie using only mathematics? Yes. This mind-blowing video by 3d graphics genius Iñigo Quilez shows exactly how, using only high-school mathematics, a keen eye and some patience.

You know you can make computer graphics with a mathematical formula such as the one for a sphere, or a box, or other building blocks. You can probably guess that there are formulae for colouring, lighting and shadows. You might also know about “noise” and how “randomness” can be made to produce something like a TV tuned to a dead channel.

In intermediate high-school mathematics you learn to combine formulae. You could compose the formula for a sphere with that of a thin cylinder and make a lollipop shape. What you might be surprised to learn is exactly how to use this compositional technique in an entirely artistic process to produce a compelling cartoon “selfie girl”. How do you make freckles? What about lips and eyebrows, a hoodie, braided hair and a frozen snowscape.

Not only does Iñigo Quilez masterfully create all these things, he shows you how it is done and even lightly animates the figure to complete the illusion that the girl is posing for a photo.

What is unique about this approach is that it shows the power of mathematical modelling when combined with an artist’s eye. Artists do not need to use a brush to create art any more than they need to use a computer mouse. While there may be a defensible tradition of computer art that is constructed by the composition of hand-drawn elements, what this video shows us is that if you can describe in the language of maths the curve that your hand would circumscribe, you can type it into a computer and see the result appear before your eyes like magic.

Algorithmic computer graphics is more usually relegated to the realms of fractals and the infinite lacy filigree of alien geometric spaces. But trippy graphics is no more essential to the medium than the naked bosom of a Venus is to oils.

What makes this form of art peculiar is that it is expressed in a language most of us insist on remaining illiterate in, despite living increasingly in a world defined by algorithms. The attitude that mathematical illiteracy is an excusable allergy for a modern, educated person feels to me like more than a missed opportunity. Consider that its mathematical notation is broadly representative of the impenetrably cryptic and is often aped to refer to the toxic effluvia of crazed genius. Nobody is expected to know it and yet we are all alarmingly numb to the message that our world is increasingly defined by algorithms.

So think of this as a reminder of the oft-cited beauty laying wait beneath the veil of our own ignorance in the expressive, magical realm of maths. Why not lift that veil every now and then?

Having said that i appreciate that while this composition uses what is declared to be high-school maths, it does move quickly to compose a large aggregation. Click through to the detail without preparation and you might be reminded that approaching the uncarved marble block with a renewed willingness to learn does not imply that the tools in your hands will reveal a Statue of David. Take heart and take the next step.

This is not the first formulaic painting Quilez has done. There are a series of how-to videos for several of his impressive creations on his youtube channel. Note he is also the creator of Shader Toy – a tool designed specifically for creating graphics using this approach.

Ratatat, File Under Weird But Cool Music Video

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Brooklyn instrumental duo Ratatat have something interesting going on. The music is electronic dance but they dirty the lower tempo house beats with sophisticated choppy rhythm layers, 70s-style guitar riffs and fuzzy synth chords. There’s a little bit of the LA sound, like Flying Lotus, but then the square punch also reminds me of Daft Punk. There’s definitely a strain of psychedelia.

So that’s the music, but why I’m really blogging this is the video clips.

I’m not sure if somebody has slipped something into the video producer’s milkshake but the results are surprisingly stunning. Stunning in the sense that my first reaction was bewilderment. They look like intentionally failed attempts to utterly underwhelm. That stunned feeling quickly gave way to a rising mirth and wonder, like I get when experiencing a zen koan. Perhaps one isn’t expected to arrive with satisfaction at rational comprehension.

Here’s “Cream on Chrome” which may have been test footage from a budget Beijing karaoke joint that had been found in the trash folder of a backpacker’s SD card.

In “Neckbrace” I want to believe they have a highly trained battery of incredibly disciplined birds. Add a drummer with a bare snare, and that’s almost all they need on-screen.

In this one it seems like they’ve repurposed footage from a stock photography shoot, because, what could be cooler than a fake sequence of normal people acting normal?

Spazzkid – Truly featuring Sarah Bonito

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This is exactly what it needs to be!!

Everything also needs two exclamation marks!! And bunnies!!

Voodoo People Recreated in Ableton Live

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Jim Pavloff knows his way around Ableton Live, and, apart from being an accomplished creative producer in his own right, he has put together a couple of remakes which show just what goes into creating a classic electronic dance track… from the 90s.

Prodigy’s Liam Howlett famously composed most of Prodigy’s music single-handedly. He’s the genius behind the atomic riffs and explosive sample-laden dance floor rippers. It’s worth saying that when this music was new, all this production had to be done on physical devices… dozens of them.

These days digital electronic music production can all be done in software. Of course, it still requires talent to assemble. Jim Pavloff has that talent.

Jim, perhaps you could indulge us with some rock god poses of yourself during the intro? Thanks that would be great.

Space Oddity Music Video shot in Space

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Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…

Dragon House Dance

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Another mindblowing dance video featuring Marquese Nonstop Scott (in blue) and his Dragon House crew.

Lots of isolation, reversals, popping, locking and stuff that seems to bend the spacetime continuum. Love the hand-offs.

Previously: THATS How You Dance to Dubstep

via @grantlyndon

Indie Game the Movie

By: | Topic: Games, Movies | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Indie Game the Movie Poster

Indie Game looks like an exciting new documentary film about indie game development. The story follows the obsessive personal creative process of real developers making real indie games. Michael Dante DiMartino recognises it as a movie less about video gaming and more about the purpose and nature of Art:

Create fearlessly. Follow your passion.

The documentary follows the tumultuous emotional journeys of a handful of intensely-driven dudes as they forced these games into existence, facing adversity at every level-up. The film itself was acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival and is featured in Possible Worlds, the 2012 Canadian Film Festival in Sydney at the Dendy. The feature was inspired by a short film about Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo. Yes go watch that too.

It seems like the technological and economic conditions are right for indie games. It even seems as though independent video games are in a renaissance. I’m old enough to remember the 1980s where the shelves of suburban computer stores were usually stocked with video games with photocopied disk and cassette sleeves – home made Commodore 64 computer games. Back then we were naive enough to believe that video games could be made without large teams of dedicated artists, producers and QA people, even going so far as to believe it was possible for an individual programmer to make something fun to play! Such childish idealism! People actually paid money for those home made games, if the price was right. Kids everywhere wanted to make their own video games and be like their heroes: people like David Braben and Jeff Minter. It seems like those days are back again. People are buying and playing video games made by individuals and small teams and this spells trouble for big dumb companies who have grown lazy peddling a catalog full of big budget mediocrity. What’s more, indie games frequently adopt a lo-fi styling using pixellated graphics as if to emphasise the attractively humble origins of the game project, or perhaps to highlight this fact:

Fun is resolution-independent.

In a twist of feel-good indie fate that is so perfect that a froth of conspiracy theorists will surely claim it was concocted by an evil PR firm for an old media kiretsu to lull us indie game fans into a false sense of disruptive innovation, the film project was hatched and funded on Kickstarter. They hoped for at least $15k but actually raised just under $25k from nearly 300 backers pledging anything from $1, garnering thanks, to over $300 in exchange for (amongst the special edition merch) having one’s own video game trailer tastefully appended to the movie!

The games include indie hits Super Meat Boy with plentry of hearty platform carnage, painterly time-puzzle platformer Braid and Minecraft Notch’s recent obsession, the 3D crypto-twister Fez.

If you’re in Sydney you can get a festival ticket for $16 (includes a free drink) and not only watch the movie, but see the video games first-hand as they will be set up to play. If, however, you don’t drink/live in Sydney/want to be seen in public, you can get an even cheaper fix as a digital download direct from the filmmakers. Just like buying a cassette from the back of an artist’s car.

Does this make you want to be an indie game developer? Are video games Art? Are we witnessing an indie games renaissance? What do you think of the movie?

Previously featured: Kickstarter video game pitch for Double Fine Adventure and Neal Stephenson’s project.

Old Media on the Internet in 1993

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Bill Cameron has this report on the growing phenomenon called “Internet”.

In 1993, the Internet was on an explosive growth curve that has to a large extent lived up to the hype that many of us hoped it would back then.

It seemed more democratic than traditional media.

The current word for that is “social media” and though it’s been overused and seems at times to be a term defined too narrowly – denoting interpersonal chatter. As an aside I think it’s quite a good term at heart, at least to the extent that it implies that the alternative is an antisocial media: centralised, with high barriers to entry, closely guarded and scarce broadcast spectrum resources, single points of failure (and of editorial or censorial control) and the inescapable agendas of large commercial operations

Newspapers, magazines, television programs have started to take notice…

Oh have they?

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like many of those older media have been paying much attention over the past two decades.

Ken Block visits San Francisco

By: | Topic: Culture | Tags: | Comment »

Nice circle work.

Major Lazer – Get Free MP3

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I’ve been obsessing about this song for more than a week now. It haunts me. I’ll tell you where you can download the mp3 for free but first let me tell you how I feel about it.

Having been exploring Jamaican music recently – dancehall, ska reggae, rocksteady etc, when I first heard “Get Free” I just felt like I’d tapped into some kind of deep underground thermal spring of good vibes.

The pieces work so well together.

The voice is really interesting. Amber Coffman from Dirty Projectors delivers a sultry mixture of  matter-of-fact lyrics and rallying calls over a wide and capable modern production that happily remains inconspicuous and doesn’t fight the basic, chilled out rhythm for prominence. Amber’s voice trails off in the wind in a series of rich dischordant siren harmonies reminding me of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery Voices of Bulgaria) with shrill quartertones that befit a cry from Carpathian mountain battlements.

The warm off-beat organs, nasal guitar riffs, life-giving bass rich with spacy old amplifier artifacts including what might be genuine original Studio One speaker cone dust… this is reggae. Brassy synths and monster sax leads burst and tumble like a steel drum on a humid night in Kingston (or did you hear one?)

Amber’s presence builds in layers. She sings in rounds. Peaceful, insistent, sometimes close to your ear, sometimes through the loud hailer.

There are remixes – and rightly so, the rhythm is pretty subtle and understated… you’d think a driving drum & bass mix could be great – but so far none of them that I’ve heard have penetrated the massive presence of the original. The remix by Andy C unfortunately seems to squash the energy (and the chord progression) with 19 layers of multi-octave pads, and tiresome 90s swooshing effects and kick rushes.

But the video clip is the jewel in the crown. Simple yet apocalyptic, artful yet apparently affordable.

It seems Major Lazer is exactly the kind of interplanetary soldier who stares impenetrably at the horizon in his mirror shades and his bandolier of microphones, sitting on the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Poignant. Triumphant. Vigilant. Pure.

Go get the mp3 for free.

Jumping Robot Video

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The nerdcore ninjas at Boston Dynamics, famous for bringing the robot invasion ever closer with creepy military research robots like big dog, recently demonstrated a mega jumping wheeled robot, Sand Flea.

Check how high it can jump in this freaky video.

Andrew Dickey – Black Bike in Melbourne

By: | Topic: Bikes, Culture, Music | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Andrew Dickey riding freestyle through the streets of Melbourne. This is amazing. The height and insano distance Andrew Dickey gets in this video… incredible. Sweet track Attack Ships on Fire by Architect too…

The video is published as volume 1. Can’t wait for Vol. 2

Starwars Theme Played by Floppy Drives

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Many of our readers will remember that there used to be a kind of technology, a bit like a huge, flat, noisy slow USB key that stored less than 2 Megs of data. Not gigs, megs.

So anyway, these were called Floppy Disks (even though they were square and rigid (the actual disk is inside the casing) and the floppy drives that each computer had back in the before time, well they were NEVER ever used to make music like this, except by extreme geeks with too much time on their hands:

The sound comes from getting the disk to “seek” by moving the read/write “head” with its little motor to read different parts of the disk, but moving in a stuttering, stepping fashion. The stuttering speed is fast enough to make a “tone”. The tones can be “played” by (somehow) converting a midi file into commands that cause the floppy drives to move in just the right way when it’s their turn to play the “note”. Freak!

THATS How You Dance to Dubstep

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Marquese Scott - Pumped Up Kicks

I’ve looked closely and can’t see any tricks. Yet this is the kind of dancing that could never have been conceived without modern digital video production technology as a reference point. Note the extended reversal.

via @seancurtis

Dubstep Baby

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This baby is getting filthy with the dubstep… and the chilli.

There are other dubstep babies, sure. Babies have a natural affinity with both grime and wobbles. But this baby is truly feeling it.. you can see it in her face.