Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Are There Noble Causes For Computer Graphics Geeks?

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Finally I am facing it all. Front face, full force.
It is the phenomenal power and unrealized potential of the computer graphics, gee-whiz-wow community, including 3Ders and animators.

This is a generation of passionate and dedicated brains that dream of working for Pixar, Luca Arts, Hollywood or J. Walter Thompson. In their dreams these geeks see procedural shaders and bump-mapped textures.

So when it comes to answer, their solid, undefiant question:
"And what noble cause could we ever serve?",
I finally release my long held back river of instigations.

This is a fantastic army on inexpressed Communication Agents, so let's help them find a better way as well.

Computer Graphics professionals of the world, unite!

Time has come to look beyond the horizons served and promoted by the mainstream media (television and movie industries) you so closely look up to.

There is more to do out there than to create special effects for multi-million dollars Hollywood-type movies or for Coca-Cola 3D bears skating around.

Yes, and though that may not sound like great news to many of you, think again about the market and industry you would like to serve. Both the television and film industries which you so promptly would offer yourself to serve are the very one greatest enemy of your present inability to have an opportunity at expressing yourself while surviving at it.

You seem to forget that the monopoly they hold in the way of what consumers should be talked, communicated and marketed to, is completely in their hands. and as you can clearly see, the companies and interests controlling them are merging and buying over each other to strengthen even their market control.

Do you think Hollywood likes independent movie makers to be out there?

Do you think they favour bright new ideas and scripts from people like you?

How many major television stations offer opportunitites to new artists and graphic artists to show their work and communicate their ideas?

What do you think is the greatest resisting force to the spreading of independent media and resources out there on the Net?

So, tell me why you want to work for them?

You say because they give you opportunity to do things that you would not be able to do anywhere else.

I agree. But, with the same amount of energy, bright minds and networked computing power, couldn't we do something more valuable and at least a bit more lasting in the life of our race?

You say I am crazy. You say that I don't understand the market, that things have been and will be like this forever. You say I am a foolish dreamer.

You are right. I am.

I do dream of computer graphics artists who want to utilize their fantastic skills and unique processing power in creating visions and worlds that serve the highest purposes and goals.

Why should the greatest artists of our times be confined to serve the petty interests of only a restricted elite of US/UK global merchants?

There is such immense need for visual communication today that it is such an eresy to see Hollywood and television commercials as the only way of "making it" in this world.

There is a universe of silence being kept around the real needs we have for this type of "visualization" talent and for how significant could be a contribution made by these talented artists to endevaours outside the typical ones they dwell into.

But then the CG (computer graphics) geek looks at me and says:

"Fair enough. I am hard pressed to find out from you the greatest number of "noble causes" that can be married with computer graphics and the procedural textures I have designed and created."

And so I open up a little rivet of small, humble ideas.
I know these 3D geeks are going to scorn such ideas as too academic, unrealistic or utopian. But if you add your idea too at the end of this article, we may start building for them a vision they have been waiting for long.

Let's give them a hand.

Here my start at it
(what "noble causes" are available to people who are skilled computer graphics, 3D, animation geeks and that dream only of working for Hollywood or Pixar?):

a) Support to a music group that is already serving one such "noble cause".

b) Complement a visual artist who wishes to be a pioner in his style.

c) Creative visualization of difficult and complex concepts which would be otherwise hard to explain (e.g.: cold fusion, nuclear fission, relativity theory, gravity, etc.).

d) Design of mini tutorials able to explain other difficult concepts relating to social, cultural and spiritual aspects of our lifes.

e) Simulation of popular events that have become "suppressed" by the mainstream media. Show alternative simulations and reconstructions of how events could have actually developed.

f) Visual support to those courageous scientists and medical professionals who are striving to expose the shortcomings and unbelievable sad stories being made by the pharmaceutical industries around our precious health.
Let's help these pioneers visualize with precision and splendor the findings and proofs that can shake and mute the noise created by multinational interests.

g) Support to alternative investigative evidence into tragedies and major tragic events. If you are not the right guys to do this, who is then?

h) Explain and visualize to the layman how computer viruses and trojan horses work.

i) Visualize the techniques and methods computer graphics geeks
have mastered themselves to make them accessible to a larger
number of users.

My friend Massimo may complain that I have not included enough use of textures, because that is what he specializes in.

Fair enough. Let's follow them all the way into this.

i) What about then if you guys started to visualize for us monuments and wonders of this planet clean of the dirt and pollution and given back to their original splendor?

Already done?
Too expensive?
Too academic?

i) What about then if you guys made a gallery of these wonderful textures and you first explained to the rest of us what they are about and how powerful they can be in the simulation of artificial realities?

I have opened a groove, let's see if I can resonate with anyone out there.

Maybe I am really the one out of sync.

Readers' Comments    
2003-05-07 23:43:17

kenneth woodruff

Your subjectivity seems to have gotten the better of you.

First, I think that it's presumptuous to have determined that it's everyone's goal to work in film and commercials. I do everything from commercials to retail space design and don't have any driving need to work on anything in particular, other than my own art actually. At what point did you take a cross-section of the CG industry and decide that everyone is slaving away and has no personal interest in any other "causes" outside of what they do to pay the bills? Tell that to the people who will watch the cancer awareness videos that I'm working on. Is that noble enough for you? =)

On the other end of the spectrum, I have many friends who have dreamed of working in film for years, and many are amazingly blissful that they're now doing it, even the overworked ones. Out of all of the things that you mention as "alternatives" to the grind that you perceive that most of us are in, people have been affected by such classics as Casablanca for far longer and in far deeper ways than many of those alternatives. I think it's amost an insult to them to proclaim that their life ambition was somehow unimportant.

I know that wasn't your intention, but you have to try to see things from different angles. I think maybe you've been hanging out in the wrong online haunts, or something else has happened that led you to think that we're all hollow automatons cranking out visuals for the Master's will.

2003-05-05 17:32:10


So there you go, laying down the gaunlet and demanding that we all live with a purpose and for a cause. Well, I ask you, what cause can be greater than opening the hearts, minds, and eyes of people whose senses were once closed or deprived. I don't feel the need to vaildate my purpose to anyone, because I learned long ago it is better to live through action than wishful possibilities. By creating whatever it is we create we leave a mark on the world which has impact and purpose. It is up to each individual creator to define what that purpose is.

Purposes are easy to come by, but fulfillment is something entirely different.

Just because someone has a cause doesn't mean the world will be a better place. I think it is best to advise all creators that they must be at one with what they do and at the end of the day would not think of doing anything different than what they currently do. If there is a difference or disharmony, then the situation must be analyzed to insure happiness.

So go forth all you raging creators and create your happiness and give to the world as you would have it give to you and be ready to be amazed!

2003-05-05 15:59:26

The PDF Expert

Very interesting comments and suggestions by everyone. Although my background is a bit different (2D graphics and technical illustration), I'd like to share a bit of what I've been doing lately.

6 months ago I was hired by government to do a proof of concept to see whether PDF could be used to make business forms for the blind. Being desparate for work I took on the challenge. The proof of concept ended up working after a few weeks. Encouraged by what I had, they kept asking for more, so I continued until I had a working prototype. They asked for more, so I kept hacking at it until finally after several months I had a complete solution in hand. Now it looks like this solution has the potential of becoming a national standard.

Anyway to make a long story short, my graphics background has proven invaluable in an unexpected way. My strong understanding of visual communication was crucial in understanding how NOT to make something useful to a blind person. My programming skills on their own would not have been enough. That would only allow me to build forms that talk, but as so many blind people told me, a talking form is not necessary a useful form. I relied heavily on my design skills to make these forms "usable", but I did so in an unexpected way. Since I was designing for blind people, my visual design knowledge turned out to be everything that I didn't need. It was then easy for me to look at all the opposites. That greatly narrowed the field of possibilities and allowed me to succeed where no one had before.

I never could have imagined ending up doing such work. There are absolutely no graphics involved, but the underlying principles of communication are the same. So I applied these principles, but instead of using visually colorful graphics as ornaments, I used intuitive audible ornaments.

Sometimes I think to myself "but I'm a graphic artist, and making accessible forms is not the career I chose". However, knowing at the end of the day that my efforts are truly helping disabled people is just as rewarding as if I had finally been able to make that flow chart explaining quantum mechanics.

2003-05-05 13:27:20

Rolhion Jean-S├ębastien

Well there will be alot to say about this whole subject... I'm just gonna tell about my own mind.

I travelled alot and had alot of different jobs, all of them not artistic, except my actual one where i'm graphist in a webagency. I know it's temporary due to the actual market, but i'm not dreaming about working for the greatest studio in the world to be just a puppet... I'm creating as a need. I need to create to live, not for money, but for my mental health. I could work as a simple worker in any industry, i would continue to create besides by painting, sculpting, and more than all : on Computer with CG. There's no way for me to work for others who had ideas (ie : i'll be sad to work on modeling, or rendering of a pixar production, just because i didn't create monsters or toys, or any creature because someone else did it before... For me it would just be a copy of an existing work).

Being paid for what i know to do, is different, but then the way would be like a painter : to live of my own art as an opportunity... but i don't think in this world of communication, of visual common effects it will be possible one day... and after all, all the things around are money stories... Most of CG artist are interested of well living by doing what they like... but it's a kinda "selling soul" ... and i'm not ready to sold my soul to CGindustry...

2003-05-05 11:58:19


Hi there.

On a purely...gut-level basis I couldn't agree with you more on the subject of "the dream". An artist shouldn't dream of working for somebody else, more so for such money-making behemoths like the ones you named.

But then again, even the greatest Renaissance painters needed sponsors. It is so much easier to express yourself when you don't need to worry about putting together lunch and dinner, and when you're given reasonable freedom *and* an equally reasonable check every month (not to mention those huge renderfarms!), it's hard to say no thanks, I'll just follow my own road to fame and starvation.

What's really awful about the current scenario is imho the fact that Art has very little to do with it. Remember the early years? We used to see all kinds of wacky, crazy, perhaps meaningless abstract animations. Mutations! Tentacles spraying seeds around! Escher-like structures! Now *that* was something. And what do we get now?

Pixar-looking puppies. They're cute, they're furry, they move smoothly and oh boy, look at that carpet - it's so REAL!

But it's still just a frickin carpet, for crying out loud. Where's the art in that? Why doesn't anybody DARE anymore? Where's that "and now, for something entirely different" spirit that was the essence of CG art?

And then you say: let's forget about art for a minute (in my case that's a "let's not even begin to think about it", since I'm no artist, and in fact I only do architectural stuff) and put our skills to useful tasks.

Wonderful idea indeed, but a very difficult road to travel. The perfect example is your last one, about (quote) "...monuments and wonders of this planet clean of the dirt and pollution and given back to their original splendor" (/quote)

Well, that does sound great, but it requires an awful, awful amount of work and money. A local university here just completed the 3D reconstruction of the inside of an ancient church; they used laser-measuring tools, software you've never heard about (which usually costs amounts you don't *want* to hear about), dozens of PC's and 20 or so people - for two years. It's not the kind of thing you can do by taking a couple of photos of the monument and then rebuilding it in your favourite modeling tool - it must be done properly. And again, even if you had access to the sci-fi looking technology needed, what would you eat for dinner? Hell, I'll just send yet another demoreel to Pixar...

In this field, true Geniuses do get recognized; in fact, they're hunted. But True Geniuses are very few and for the rest of us, the humble ones, it's a hard, mean world.

posted by Robin Good on Sunday, May 4 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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