Mike Winkelmann, best known as “Beeple“, is perhaps one of the greatest digital artists of our time. Famous for his “Everydays” project of making one piece of art a day, which began more than 15 years ago. Here I will not talk about how he sold his first 5,000 pieces in a single collage for about $69 million, but rather to a particular feature of his work in recent years. A feature that makes his controversial and critical of today’s world art even more impactful, the painting effect. He works in 3D using a software called Cinema 4D, in which he works purely on composition; putting together various assets purchased mainly on Turbosquid. After making the composition, at the post-production stage, he applies an effect that makes his works look almost like paintings. Achieving an impactful and timeless result. In this little guide I will explain the software used and how to use it so you can apply Beeple’s painting effect to your own work as well.
The software that we will use and that Beeple probably also uses is called Topaz Studio2. A visual editing program that uses artificial intelligence to manipulate images in detail. This software allows us to apply various effects to our renders, including this painting effect. Follow these simple steps to give your work that extra touch, but don’t abuse it.
How to make the Beeple’s painting effect.
First get Topaz Studio 2 and open the program, I will assume that you already have your render ready to be post-produced. Once open, as indicated in Topaz Studio, import your rendering and let’s get started. Once you’ve imported the render you want to work on, look in the upper right corner and you’ll see that you can now click on “Add Look.” Click on it.
It will open up a list of effects for you to choose from, but as we said we need the painting effect that we can see in Beeple’s artwork. So based on various tests I’ve done, the best effect in my opinion is the one called “Simple Sketch“; look for it by selecting the “Artistic” category and scrolling down. But it’s really just a preset that we’re going to work on next. Take it as just a base to work from.
Once applied, the image will be very contrasty with gamma alterations. Don’t worry, just delete the Basic Adjustment layer. The effects in Topaz Studio 2 are combinations of various settings and adjustments to the image. In fact, on this software you can even create your own presets to reuse later. It might be useful if you want to build your own painting effect and use it frequently.
The layer we’re interested in is called “Impression“, and that’s where we’re going to set the behavior of the “brush strokes”. We will be able to adjust the brush type, size, stroke length and more. Now all you have to do is experiment with the various settings, trying to find the right combination that works with your image.
Keep in mind a very important factor though, Beeple doesn’t just apply the filter, and then it’s done, this is just one step in the workflow. After this painting effect, you can switch to another software such as Photoshop to also manually apply brush strokes, do color correction and the final post-production touches. This effect is just to give a base texture to work on. Beeple himself also puts his brush strokes on it by painting them with hand. As I said before this effect is just a step in the workflow, so use it without abusing it and without distorting too much the 3D aesthetic of your render.
CGI in “A Bug’s Life” set a groundbreaking standard in animated filmmaking, revolutionizing the portrayal of a microscopic world. Delving into the technical intricacies of this Pixar masterpiece reveals a fascinating array of innovations and the wizardry behind the scenes. If you are new to CGI, knowing the basics through the pioneering masterpieces of this world might help you fall in love with it. These are just a few pointers to understanding that what is taken for granted today, yesterday was a revolution.
CGI Techniques Illuminated:
One of the film’s standout technical feats was the integration of cutting-edge techniques like subsurface scattering. This advanced rendering method simulated the interaction of light with semi-translucent surfaces, essential in capturing the intricate exoskeletons of the insect characters. The application of subsurface scattering added an unparalleled level of realism to the characters, mimicking the way light diffuses beneath their surfaces. Today the technique of subsurface scattering is almost taken for granted, “easily” used with software such as Blender or Maya. But it’s important to understand the origins of techniques like this. Not least to realize that what used to be done with great effort is now more accessible and should not discourage you.
Revolutionary Environmental Rendering:
The film’s vivid and detailed insect world owes much to the revolutionary environmental rendering techniques. Pixar leveraged sophisticated rendering technologies to craft lifelike vegetation. Complex algorithms simulated the movement of grass, leaves, and other elements, contributing to the awe-inspiring visual tapestry. Both the island and the insect city in “A Bug’s Life” are masterpieces of 3D set design from the early years of CGI animation. They may perhaps seem trivial today, but to think that this film was made in 1998 makes it a timeless source of inspiration. The use of boxes and common objects to build a city reminiscent of big American cities like New York, or the dense vegetation of the Ant Island that immerses us in a small but huge world. All using poly modeling, polygon by polygon, optimizing the amount of them as best as possible without losing quality. This should teach us that before anything in CGI, we need to optimize from the shape to the topology of our models. One suggestion would be to try to make something similar if you are a beginner.
Meticulous Character Animation:
Achieving authenticity in insect characters demanded meticulous attention to detail. Pixar’s artists conducted extensive studies of real insects, meticulously replicating their movements, behaviors, and physical features. Each character was intricately designed, focusing on textures, antennae movements, and nuanced expressions to enhance their realism and relatability. Recreating insects with computers at the time was a great achievement, probably the rigging we know today would not be as effective without Pixar and its animators. One exercise for those who would like to go the animation route might be just to create insects and animate them. Today we have very powerful and user friendly tools for rigging our 3D models, use them without fear. Take inspiration from this film and build your own insect.
Pioneering Software and Visionary Minds:
The success of “A Bug’s Life” in the CGI realm was indebted to the expertise of visionary artists and the utilization of cutting-edge software. Notable contributors included technical directors and animators like John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Joe Ranft. The implementation of sophisticated software like RenderMan, developed by Pixar, played a pivotal role in achieving the film’s stunning visuals.
In conclusion, “A Bug’s Life” stands as a testament to the pioneering CGI techniques it employed, from subsurface scattering and intricate environmental rendering. These technical achievements, propelled the film to new heights in the realm of CGI animation, leaving an indelible mark in cinematic history. I recommend all CGI lovers or those who are getting into it to watch or rewatch this film. You will not regret it, especially if you analyze it with your eyes behind the scenes.
Welcome to the fascinating journey chronicling the extraordinary CGI evolution. From its humble beginnings to its pervasive presence today, Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) has undergone a remarkable transformation, revolutionizing art, entertainment, and technology. Let’s embark on a captivating exploration of CGI’s evolution, witnessing its profound impact on various creative landscapes.
The Birth of CGI: Inception and Early Strides
The seeds of CGI were sown in the early days of computing. Visionaries like Ivan Sutherland laid the groundwork in the 1960s, envisioning a future where machines could craft visual content. However, it was the breakthroughs of the 1970s, particularly Ed Catmull‘s pioneering algorithms, that propelled CGI into a new realm. These advancements marked a transformative leap in 3D graphics technology, setting the stage for its future impact.
CGI’s Presence in Art: A Fusion of Technology and Creativity
As computing capabilities expanded, CGI emerged as a canvas for artistic expression. Pioneering artists like Manfred Mohr and Vera Molnár embraced computer-generated art, integrating algorithms and creative vision to redefine the boundaries of visual storytelling. Their groundbreaking work symbolized a harmonious union of technology and artistry, demonstrating the immense potential of CGI as a medium for creative exploration.
Algorithmic Creation: Mohr wrote computer programs, often in languages like Fortran or later in more modern languages like C or Java, to generate geometric forms and patterns. These programs employed mathematical algorithms to define shapes, lines, colors, and their relationships within the artwork.
Mathematical Foundations: His artistic process heavily relied on mathematical concepts such as geometry, fractals, and algorithms. Mohr used mathematical formulas and principles to create precise and structured visual elements, often basing his work on geometric shapes like cubes, spheres, and grids.
Visualization and Rendering: The programs he developed were used to simulate or render these mathematical constructs into visual representations. This step involved translating the mathematical data into graphical imagery that could be displayed on a screen or printed as physical artworks.
Iterative Process: Mohr would often iterate on his programs and algorithms, fine-tuning parameters and exploring variations to create different visual outcomes. This iterative process allowed him to explore the vast possibilities within his mathematical frameworks.
Medium and Presentation: Mohr’s artworks were presented in various mediums, including digital displays, prints, and installations. The final presentation often involved carefully choosing materials and methods that best showcased the intricate digital designs he created.
Algorithmic Art: Molnár was renowned for her pioneering work in algorithmic art. She wrote computer programs, initially using a plotter to create her drawings. Her programming involved defining precise rules and algorithms to generate geometric shapes, patterns, and sequences.
Exploration of Mathematical Structures: Similar to Mohr, Molnár was deeply rooted in mathematics and geometry. Her artworks often revolved around geometric forms, grids, and patterns. She used algorithms to manipulate and transform these shapes, exploring the relationships between order and chaos, symmetry, and randomness.
Iterative Process and Systematic Exploration: Molnár’s artistic process involved systematically exploring variations within her programmed algorithms. She would fine-tune parameters, modify algorithms, and introduce controlled randomness to generate diverse visual outcomes. Her exploration was methodical, allowing her to examine the vast possibilities within her computational frameworks.
Interactive and Dynamic Art: In addition to static visual pieces, Molnár was interested in interactive and dynamic art. She created artworks that responded to user input or changed over time, demonstrating her interest in engaging viewers with the interactive potential of computer-generated art.
Medium and Presentation: Molnár’s artworks were presented through various mediums, including prints, installations, and digital displays. She experimented with different methods of presenting her computer-generated visuals to convey her artistic concepts effectively.
Critical Reflection on Technology and Art: Molnár’s work was not only about the aesthetics but also about questioning the relationship between technology and art. She delved into the philosophical aspects of using computers as creative tools, challenging traditional notions of authorship and the role of the artist in the creation process.
The Rise of 3D in Entertainment: Gaming and Cinematic Milestones
Early video games paved the way for the 3D revolution. Titles like “Super Mario 64” and “Final Fantasy VII” heralded a new era, immersing players in dynamic 3D environments and pushing the boundaries of interactive entertainment. In the cinematic world, movies such as “Tron” and “The Last Starfighter” offered glimpses of computer-generated wonders, captivating audiences with the potential of CGI. However, it was Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” in 1993 that became a defining moment, astonishingly bringing lifelike dinosaurs to the screen through CGI, altering the course of filmmaking and showcasing the capabilities of CGI in storytelling.
Evolution of 3D Software: Empowering Creative Visionaries
The evolution of 3D software has been a transformative journey. In the 1990s, Wavefront Technologies developed Maya, a groundbreaking 3D computer graphics software. Maya revolutionized the film industry by providing advanced tools for creating computer-generated imagery (CGI) and animation. During this era, several notable films utilized Maya for their visual effects and animation:
“Jurassic Park” (1993): Although not exclusively created using Maya (as it was released before Maya’s launch), this Steven Spielberg-directed film incorporated computer-generated dinosaurs. Maya’s precursor, Alias PowerAnimator (which later evolved into Maya), was used for some of the animation and visual effects work. It demonstrated the potential of CGI in creating realistic creatures.
“The Abyss” (1989) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991): While these movies predate the official release of Maya, their visual effects were developed using software that laid the groundwork for Maya’s capabilities. Both films, directed by James Cameron, heavily relied on CGI for groundbreaking water effects in “The Abyss” and the metallic T-1000 character in “Terminator 2,” showcasing the potential for computer-generated effects in filmmaking.
Maya’s Emergence and Usage: Maya was officially released in 1998, marking a significant advancement in 3D animation and CGI. The software quickly gained traction in the film industry due to its robust set of tools for modeling, rendering, animation, and simulation. Films in the late 1990s, such as “The Matrix” (1999), started to leverage Maya for various visual effects and CGI scenes, showcasing its capabilities in creating complex, realistic digital environments and characters.
CGI Today: Expansive Impact Across Industries
In the present day, CGI’s impact extends across diverse industries. Films like James Cameron’s “Avatar” and cutting-edge commercials seamlessly integrate CGI, blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Its influence spans beyond entertainment, shaping fields such as advertising, architecture, medicine, and more. Technological advancements continue to drive innovation, promising an era where CGI transcends conventional limits, unlocking uncharted territories of creativity.
Conclusion: The Ever-Evolving Realm of CGI
The evolution of CGI, from its nascent stages to its widespread integration, showcases the fusion of human ingenuity and technological advancement. Aspiring creators entering the world of CGI find themselves in an expansive frontier, ripe with endless opportunities for artistic innovation and expressive storytelling.
Throughout its journey, CGI has transformed from a novel concept to an indispensable tool, leaving an indelible mark on our visual culture and redefining the possibilities of human imagination. The future of CGI holds immense promise, inviting creators to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the realm of digital creativity.