I was recently lucky enough to win a place on a 3 month 3D VFX course at Escape Studios. It’s a great place to study, and it managed to get me out of my unrewarding job in e-learning. But since then, I’ve been languishing somewhat, trying to integrate the mass of 3D skills I learnt into a fine art context (which I studied here).
While I was at Escape Studios, it became pretty clear that I was training to be a technician, rather than an artist. I’m not bitter about this at all (who would be? - free training!) it’s just that in the CGI industry, the people who know how to use the software are not the people that come up with the ideas. That’s down to the director. And the director only makes films/games/ads that’ll make money, so you’re unlikely to find a director trying out something strange or risky when there‘s millions of studio dollars at stake.
The whole industry is geared towards improving the level of realism (interesting article here) and the thus the technology is developed accordingly. So it’s pretty great when someone with huge technical expertise stretches the software in a different direction, like Chris Landreth, whose animated documentary Ryan won an Oscar in 2004. You can find out a bit more about it here.
The film is driven by ideas, not technology. He calls the style ‘psychorealism’ (there we go with the realism thing again!). The best thing about this film is how Landreth has avoided convention in almost all respects - the story doesn’t flow normally, we don’t have a hero, there’s no 3-point lighting, he fuses the tools (hair, paint effects, particles) in weird combinations, the animation is jerky and pretty much anti-Disney. Judging from this article, he was essentially attempting to break the software. Which is a good thing, by the way.