Mat introduces us to director David Lewandowski and his latest work, ‘Time for Sushi’, a project which was four years in the making.
Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) often has the goal of convincing us that the impossible is really happening – that a car is really transforming into a robot for example. Or it can be used to create an illusion of perfect or heightened reality: by superimposing a flawless digital product shot of a toothpaste tube into a real-life background, or sculptural splashes of milk in a cereal bowl.
‘Time for Sushi’ is a short CGI film by director and David Lewandowski that isn’t trying to convince us of its seamless take on reality. It’s a surreal collision of real-life, mundane urban settings and situations, interrupted by an unexpected crowd of dancing, writhing digital bodies. Directorial techniques and deliberate camera ‘errors’ such as lens flares, camera shake and handheld shots are contrived to convince us of the ‘realness’ and un-altered nature of what we are seeing.
Advisory note: ‘Time for Sushi’ and other films and conceptual artworks in the series include representations of the naked human form.
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The characters’ actions were created using motion capture – a technique where a performer’s real-time motion is digitised. This motion data is then used to control a 3D model. When successful it can give a great depth of nuance and realism, (for example, actor Andy Serkis’ acclaimed performance as Gollum in ‘The Lord of the Rings’). It’s a delicate balance and this technique can sometimes give rise to a phenomenon known as the ‘uncanny valley’ – the psychological effect of extremely lifelike movement and appearance in something we know is not alive, provoking feelings of unease in the viewer.
Lewandowski avoids the uncanny valley by deliberately corrupting and altering the motion capture data to create choreography that is both physically impossible and comedic (a clue is in his Twitter handle @badmocap i.e. bad motion capture). The figures have the appearance of stock CGI objects or shop window dummies, without expression, hair or defining features. They could almost be inflatable tube dancers, inanimate objects given the power of movement. But their unselfconscious, almost childlike joy in their movements transcends technical process to create something charming and very human.
Digital methods make it easier than ever to achieve ‘perfection’ and correct our creative mistakes – to edit and undo our every action. ‘Time for Sushi’ celebrates error and this is what gives its characters humanity, and also places it within the wider context of what is called ‘glitch art’.
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