In the Still of Night - technical details
To create the animated paintings, I first create a still frame of
the animation, and then projected it onto canvas. The canvas was
painted according to the outlines projected. I created the rest of
the animation, adjust the colours and put the whole thing together.
There are three main technical parts to this project, how the
animations was created, and adjusting the colours to animate
the paintings, and how the entire piece was tied together. All the
modelling, shading, textures and animation was done with Houdini.
The ferret shape is defined by spline curves that blend from
one to another.
The overall shading of the ferret is produced by masking the
shape out of a bounding sphere. This gives a nice gradient
from light to dark, but the ferret still looks like a cut out.
The shape is further defined with high lights and low lights.
A bump in the shape of the ferret is created, and softened.
The high lights and low lights around the rim of the outline
By overlaying the high lights and low lights over the
sphere gradient, a more three dimensional feel can be created.
The ferret still doesn't look completely 3D, but a bit
like shading on a relief, which is something that might
occur in one of my paintings. I like the effect enough
that I will probably try doing something like this in a
I blurred almost everything in the animation :). It gives
a nice soft effect that is more painterly. I found out how
well it worked when one of the fine art profs saw an image of
Watching Ferret on the computer and asked me when I did that
painting. The final ferret is created with a front and back
layer to give it more dimensionality.
Other parts of the animation, such as the moon, were done
similarly with a few layers and blending.
The room where the ferret sleeps is the only 3D model in
A large part of the project was devoted to adjusting the
animation so that it would add to parts of the painting and
make other parts disappear.
If this is the image I want to see, and it is projected straight onto
the painted canvas, the underlying colours would affect the image
and I would see both the sitting ferret from the canvas and the jumping
ferret from the projection.
I need to adjust the projected image to compensate for the colours
on the canvas. For example, if I want to see a dark blue over
the light blue sky on the canvas, I need to project a light,
desaturated blue, and if I want to see the same colour over the light
brown of the painted ferret, I need to project a very saturated
blue to cancel out the brown. The fact that there is an underlying
painting puts a limit on what colours you can use to paint and in
the projection. You cannot make a painted colour to appear any
lighter than it is, and you can't remove colour components (e.g.
you can't make blue look yellow).
The above is what the final image that is projected looks like.
The colour adjustments are done manually, component by component.
Since the canvas is painted by projecting outlines of a still
from the animation, the component information is readily available.
This is a photo of the image projected on canvas. The colours
for all the images shown here aren't quite what you would see. One
of the problems is the fact that monitors and projectors have very
different gamuts. The projector I used had a much larger range, so
that colours that appear to be desaturated on the monitor still
look quite saturated when projected. And the photos are of images
in a high contrast setting, so it was hard to get accurate colours.
The projection does not match up perfectly, but since I have so
many people lecturing me about why I shouldn't be a perfectionist,
I figure I would let it go :). Actually, I think the little
defects make the piece more interesting. Once people figured
out there is a painting underneath, they want to figure out what
is real and what is projected.
Putting it all together
To tie the two animated paintings together, I also had to used the
projector to simulate the lighting you might find in a gallery. Here's
a short animation that shows what the piece looks like with and without
simulated lighting and shadows.
The final animation is sequenced together with Flash 5.0 to create
a random quicktime movie. I also created a 15 minute documentation
of how the project was made using Houdini and Premiere. The above
is my favourite clip from the documentation video. It is just a
lot of ferrets!