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Animated Short - This Wonderful Life 254

Posted by michael
from the hamster-havoc dept.
dfluke2 writes "It's been around for awhile, but Lian Kemp's This Wonderful Life is a very impressive animated short. Over at rendernode there is an interview with Lian, where additional background information can be found about the flick, including other plans for more animated movies. The author also features a gallery with photo shoot style images of the female actress from the short."
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Animated Short - This Wonderful Life

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:14PM (#10346020)
    Scares me... It's too perfect, it's creepy. And yet even though you can't find imperfection with your eye, somehow it still doesn't seem human.

    Where's the full length feature though?? Am I the only one that could only find short demos that were about 5 seconds long?

    • There's a link at the top of the download page to cgchannel.com. I couldn't get that one to load though - just the previews on the homepage.
    • Where's the full length feature though??

      Easy peezy. Silly rabbit, follow the link on the download page [cgchannel.com].
    • 1) She needs to have some pores in the skin. The closeups of the face and nose don't show any pores at all.
      2) Tiny jaw. Nobody has a jaw that small.
      3) Real tatties sag just a little.
      4) A nice touch was the subtle camel toe. Problem with that is the contours of the bathing suit fabric overlying the camel toe. Not enough wrinkles in the right places. I'm an expert.
      5) Hair - too perfect.
      6) Skin on chest - some effort went into that to make it look like a real chest, but the freckles just had the appearance of being placed on a chest in an effort to look natural.

      So it's a very nice attempt, but really too perfect. Lt. Commander Data would be able to pick her out of a crowd as artificial because her blinking pattern was exactly the same as the Fibbonachi sequence.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        A nice touch was the subtle camel toe. Problem with that is the contours of the bathing suit fabric overlying the camel toe. Not enough wrinkles in the right places. I'm an expert.

        Slashdot. News for gyneacologists. Stuff that matters?

      • So it's a very nice attempt, but really too perfect.

        You don't ever watch network television, do you? Hollywood is all about making actresses and actors look as insanely perfect as possible. Just find some pictures of Tommy Lee Jones before he's had his makeup put on.
      • by GQuon (643387) on Friday September 24, 2004 @10:06PM (#10346243) Journal
        5) Hair - too perfect.
        6) Skin on chest


        Dude! I read that as "Hair on chest".
        Read slashdot while drowsy, be creeped out.

        Seriously, though, tiny see-through hairs are natural, but not thick hair. If you're a seriously underweight girl, you risk getting more body hair growth to compensate for the loss of body heat.
      • > Lt. Commander Data would be able to pick her out of a crowd as artificial because her blinking pattern was exactly
        > the same as the Fibbonachi sequence.

        Data is dead you insensitive clod !

        -sob-
      • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:53AM (#10347405)
        1) She needs to have some pores in the skin. The closeups of the face and nose don't show any pores at all.

        Pores are usually not necessary for 95% of character animation work and would mean some major memory usage. The textures were damn good, but yeah, could use some work. (The goose bumps on the thighs were a bit overdone in the knee close-up, but that's just me.)

        2) Tiny jaw. Nobody has a jaw that small.

        Plenty of people do. With 6 billion people on the planet, can you really claim that with any sort of authority? For example, living in Japan, I see women with jaws like that every day.

        3) Real tatties sag just a little.

        Again, living in Japan, I have been blessed by the company of a woman whose "tatties" don't sag. Asian women tend to have perky breasts, and they're not as tiny as people would have you think.

        4) A nice touch was the subtle camel toe. Problem with that is the contours of the bathing suit fabric overlying the camel toe. Not enough wrinkles in the right places. I'm an expert.

        Depends on the material the bathing suit is made out of. I agree that the wrinkles aren't correct for your typical bathing suit spandex; this suit would appear to be made out of a thicker, velveteen fabric. A lot of the responsibility for this would be on the cloth-body dynamics software included in the animation package, not necessarily the animator himself. Fabric is hard to do. He did a good job in terms of getting it to flex believably over the model (note the strap over the collar bone.)

        5) Hair - too perfect.

        Hair is hard to do. Actually, my complaint would be that the hair is not perfect enough. :) However, it is masterful, considering how often most people botch it.

        6) Skin on chest - some effort went into that to make it look like a real chest, but the freckles just had the appearance of being placed on a chest in an effort to look natural.

        This comment is so subjective there's not much to say. Damn fine skin-texturing, attention to detail and believable bump-mapping and specularity. Also seems to have used some good environment maps to render the lighting (radiosity, perhaps), and possibly some sub-surface scattering (if not, then some very sophisticated light rigs.)

        As the saying goes, come back when you can do better. This is very high-end stuff.
    • by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:37PM (#10346113) Homepage
      I was impressed with the little imperfections in her skin tone. Its the kind of thing magazines will touch up to erase but this guy puts in here, you don't even really notice it, but it makes it not plastic somehow, and subtle shadowing, Man I've spent hours trying to get that look with a film camera and natural light...and the tiny covering of body hair.

      I've never seen CG like this, it is a little creepy how real/unreal it feels. Its very surreal stuff.

    • by pchan- (118053) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:39PM (#10346126) Journal
      this is what is called the "zombie" effect. that is, when a cg character goes for total realism, you very often get a case where it does something small and usually not obvious, that makes in not quite human, and gives it a very creepy feeling. you won't get that feeling from an obviously non-human model. i definitely can't put my finger on it, but there is something in her face (when you see the motion, at least), that just seems wrong.
    • by AJWM (19027) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:52PM (#10346189) Homepage
      It's creepy because although the rendering and small scale motions are well done, there are enough motion (or lack thereof) clues to tell you it's not real -- the motion is reminiscent the characters in the Final Fantasy movie or of Princess Fiona in Shrek (in human form -- the ogre form and the other characters are sufficiently inhuman we don't expect real motion, so don't find it's lack "creepy"). (In the stills you can look at detail long enough to pick out that it's rendered, not real.)

      Take a look at Sample 1, where she raises her head. Well done: the blink, the hair movement, the way the eyes track. The giveaway: she manages to raise her head without moving her shoulders or (apparently) using any neck muscles. That's an unnatural motion.

      In Sample 2, the hair is a bit odd -- it sways a little with head movement and ambient breeze, but should swing through nearly 90 degrees as she bends over (styling gel, maybe?). More significantly, the skin on the hands is far too smooth (no wrinkles on the knuckles), and the motion of the hand to the mouth (as in surprise) seems to have the wrong speed profile -- it's too slow and smooth, it should be faster and just a little jerky.

      That latter tends to be the giveaway -- live creature motion is either fast and relatively smooth (a "preprogrammed" muscle sequence, as with eg. a gymnast or other athlete), or slow(er) with many minor "course corrections" through the feedback loop. It takes a lot of practise, coordination and concentration to move both slowly and smoothly -- people don't normally move like that, but androids and animations do.
    • The lips are a dead giveaway that its a CG character. Once you notice that, you see everything else thats just not natural or 'right' about it. Very amazing work though.
    • Scares me... It's too perfect, it's creepy. And yet even though you can't find imperfection with your eye, somehow it still doesn't seem human.

      It looks like she's made out of plastic.

  • by reality-bytes (119275) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:17PM (#10346033) Homepage
    Okay, its fair to say that all CGI animation in this class is advanced but this doesn't really further the technology much beyond what we have seen before.

    Certainly, plenty of render-farm time has been devoted to this character's hair just as Aki Ross's hair was in Final Fantasy.

    The trouble is, the hair, while obeying *some* of the laws of physics, still doesn't 'feel' right because there are so many more factors involved. (like did she wash it this morning / static attraction etc).

    In fact, the whole motion of CGI characters is still too 'soft' to be believable, they sort of wave-around like marionettes whereas real human movement has a certain sharpness about it.

    It looks like they've done some good development work with the skin textures but thats about the height of it, nothing really that new or exciting to see.
    • by PolyDwarf (156355) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:29PM (#10346085)
      I don't know about you, but I'm plenty excited seeing the pictures.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What do you mean "they"?

      his is one guy, who spent most of his professional life doing models for Games where they do not have to ba accurate at all.

      Liam did all the work on his own with no "they" at all to help him.

      Cripes, he used photoshop to make his own textures for her!
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:49PM (#10346175)
      Still doesn't 'feel' right because there are so many more factors involved

      It's because it's still too perfect. Even if he did randomly texture/color it, he didn't randomly change the reflectivity and such.

      Several of the poses are also very unnatural, and the expressions just don't seem right.

      Special F/X people will tell you that the brain is astoundingly good at picking up when something's wrong. You may not always know what it is- like that the car leaping over the bus didn't have a shadow, or the sun was at the wrong angle for the story- but your brain is on a somewhat subconscious level saying, "What the heck?" and the scene 'bothers' you.

      It is a little similar to what I call Stump the Baby. Babies shown a box where two cars go in and two come out will loose interest quick. Show them two going in and only one coming out- or the opposite- and they'll stare at it for much longer...

  • Victory! (Score:5, Funny)

    by daishin (753851) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:21PM (#10346052) Homepage
    Now everyone on slashdot can have a girlfriend!
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:21PM (#10346054) Journal
    Putting the word "female" into a Slashdot post is like pointing a loaded gun at this poor guy's server and pulling the trigger.
  • Sheesh (Score:4, Funny)

    by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:22PM (#10346056)
    You'd think with all the time they spend putting little tiny hairs all over her body, they would have found some time to give her some "down there".

    Or am I the only one seeing "virtual camel toe"?

    http://www.this-wonderful-life.com/various01.htm [this-wonderful-life.com]

    - JoeShmoe
    .
    • Re:Sheesh (Score:5, Informative)

      by musicon (724240) * on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:40PM (#10346132) Homepage
      Um, given that I had to really screw around with the contrast and brightness to see what you're talking about, you've either got a seriously messed up monitor (I guess you never complained about DOOM3 being too dark?) or a really twisted need to look for those types of things.

      Of course, given that I felt compelled to verify doesn't say a lot about me either :) And besides, I thought you were really talking about this one [this-wonderful-life.com].
    • [...]

      they would have found some time to give her some [hair] "down there". Or am I the only one seeing "virtual camel toe"?

      There is a dark line in the crotch that makes it look like a camel toe, but this would be caused by too tight a panty; no normal amount of pubic hair would counteract this. But don't wore Joe, one day you too will get to check out the anatomy of a vulva. Just follow these simple rules: Be nice and respectful, shower and brush your teeth, and bring cash; that slot is not for credit car

  • by Doppler00 (534739) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:31PM (#10346092) Homepage Journal
    Everytime I see one of these CG rendered figures, the lack of accurate physics really stands out. While many advances have been made in the quality of the 3D graphics, the polygon count, and the texture detail; to me they still look like hollow shells (which they essentially are).

    In Sample1.avi for example, her eyes move much too mechanically and instantly. While individual hairs on her head move with the wind, it still doesn't look quite natural. I'm not complaining, it's just it will take quite some time before mathematical models are created that can accurately represent real world physics and not crude approximations thereof.
    • Actually I thought the eye motion was well done -- that's pretty much how people's eyes track when they're looking at something -- a series of small jerks as different things briefly catch the attention. Someone whose eyes are moving slowly and smoothly isn't looking at anything.
      • Not just that but if the eye stays perfectly still everything will became washed out. Vision requires constant movement of the eyes even if they are frequently very small movements.

        I thought the animation was done very well.
  • Anyone have a torrent of the whole movie up. Happy to stick a few mbs behind it as well.
  • the skin was very well done and he didn't even use the latest skin shaders that give you slight light transmission through "shallow" objects (think the ET finger effect or light shining behind your ears)

    things are going to get NUTS in the next year or so... exciting :D

  • I want a torrent of the 23 meg file!

    Anyone? Anyone? is this thing on? /-McK
  • Computer generated images and animations are improving all the time, however, they are not quite there yet.

    Look for example at this image [rendernode.com] : it is almost natural, like a real photo. No CGI hints there.

    However, look at that other image [rendernode.com], and although the hair is done OK, the eyes and hands still look fake.

    That same eery feeling

  • Here's the vid..yay coral cache. http://media01.cgchannel.com.nyud.net:8090/images/ news/2003_10_liamkemp/TWL360x208.mov
  • by melted (227442) on Friday September 24, 2004 @10:02PM (#10346228) Homepage
    That's right, he creates a virtual one. This guy REALLY needs to get laid.
    • That's right, he creates a virtual one.

      Yeah, virtual is lame! You would have a thought he would just hook up Barbie to his computer, and wear a bra on top of his head? Can it really be that difficult to create a real chick? :-)

      z
  • by n3k5 (606163) on Friday September 24, 2004 @10:17PM (#10346292) Journal
    This Wonderful Life is a very impressive animated short
    No, it isn't. It was schown at the Ars Electronica Festival, along with other animations nominated for the Prix Ars Electronica, and totally paled in comparison. Some of the shorts were full of artistic originality, showing off ideas and techniques most hadn't seen before, some were very funny, some were decent executions of some 'high concept', some were ambitious student films showing a fair share of talent; this one was just annoying. So they made two models (a woman and a baby) and scripted a couple of facial expressions for them. Decent craftsmanship, but standard 3DS Max fare, nothing you wouldn't also see in a high-budget Hollywood production with CGI actors.

    What made this annoying was the way they showed off their achivement (two models with facial expressions): They artificially constructed a 'storyline' in which the woman got to show as many emotions as possible, and due to the lack of a talented writer they ended up with nonsense and kitsch galore. The animation process doesn't use motion capturing or a physics engine or anything else that would further realism; it's old-school keyframe animation, which looks (in scenes like the one in which she jumps from one stone in the water to another) artificial and very out of place with these partly near-photorealistic images (she looks like a marionette draged along on wires). They're stuck deep in the uncanny valley (if you haven't heard that term before, google it; /. has also reported on this); most characters in Finding Nemo looked more human than this woman.

    This short looks like one painfully long commercial for the product they made; it's just a demo of the 3D models, and not a very impressive one. Also shown were the very humorous New Balls Please and the hilarious Pfffirate, which made the giggling audience gasp for air, but This Wonderful Life definitely got the most laughs -- they just weren't intended.

    But don't take my word for it; if you want to see a recent animated short that's very impressive, check out the documentary Ryan: "The audience hears the voices of real people who accompanied Ryan as he made his way through life. In the world of computer-animated film, these people speak through strange, distorted, broken [pennnet.com], disembodied beings, humans whose exterior appearance comes across as bizarre, humorous or irritating." The author calls this style psycholrealism [pennnet.com].
    • by Leikhim (666271) on Friday September 24, 2004 @10:22PM (#10346307)
      um, They = 1 guy, so perfection isn't garunteed...
    • but what do i know, i'm just a model [ftv.com].

      Will you marry me? :)
    • They artificially constructed a 'storyline' in which the woman got to show as many emotions as possible, and due to the lack of a talented writer they ended up with nonsense and kitsch galore.

      Ah. That explains it. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who thought the entire scenario was so contrived as to be pointless. In fact I was kind of hoping the main char would hurry up and off herself by the middle; if I had known how much longer the movie would take I would have simply deleted it then.

      Normally when
    • The animation process doesn't use motion capturing or a physics engine or anything else that would further realism; it's old-school keyframe animation,

      The animation you mentioned, Ryan [www.nfb.ca], exclusively used old-school keyframe animation, even though it looks like it might be motion captured. Like I guess animators should go with whatever works.

    • Your reference to uncanny valley combined with his "photoshoot gallery" totally suggests what this guy should be doing: making porn. Sure, it's cheaper to get a DV cam and some chicks who wanna make a few bucks together than it is to make a CGI short but uncanny valley suggests to us that the experience of watching porn vs the experience of watching rendered porn would be two very different things. Different reaction == different market, and as there's no-one in the business of making rendered porn (at le
    • We have enough computing power on the desktop now, so I'm sure you can do better. Have at it.

      Yeah, I'm being snarky. Everyone's a critic, but they watch it anyway.
    • The efforts of just one person to make this seems to be one of the interesting things.

      You do mention the uncanny valley, but there are people trying to beat it or prove that the theory is missing something. That's right, it is a theory to explain observations, yet some people have taken it as if it is a natural, unyeilding law.

      Oddly enough, if quotes from a Popular Science article is true, some pretty intelligent people seem to cite this uncanny valley as a reason to not try to beat it, test it or explor
  • what ever happened to women with waists that are 2/3 of their chest/hips measurements being considered attractive? Nowadays most of the generally accepted as attractive "women" have bodies like rules. Straight up, straight down. 36-24-36 baby! Not 32-28-32. Yech.
  • by nhavar (115351) on Friday September 24, 2004 @10:33PM (#10346349) Homepage
    I've seen this I think a little over done lately where the artists insert what might be considered natural human flaws like freckles and other blemishes into the skin, etc. The problem is that it's seems stretched. Sometimes there are too many freckles, too large, too frequent, or the translucency is just off.

    Then there's hair. It's not all the same thickness or texture. Real hair even on a persons scalp has a variety of shades, textures, lengths, colors, etc. The hair put on all the models I've seen so far are generated to the same exacting specification (i.e. equal to the average human hair). When faced with things like arm hair or eyebrow hair it's all the same. To create an eyebrow it seems they just pile more hair into the same amount of space instead of starting out at the edges with really fine hair and then as you go down the brow it becomes more course.

    It's the same with skin. Skin comes in a variety of options but for the most part these models always have the same skin from head to toe. Pores are missing, veins, scars, wrinkles are more like smooth ridges than real wrinkles (i.e. there's an indentation there but the indendation is smooth).

    I think what I really miss with a lot of the character renders is sublety. Too many things are done to say "HEY LOOK I'M A REAL BOY!" and they look forced. Like some of the character renders in games where the character fidgets a little too much or breaths really really deep as they stand waiting for you to get out of their way. Or when the characters blinking is such a major focus of the action of their face. I like to be romanced a little - give me a pulse and some soft breathing and a little sublety and it will take me a long way.
  • Someone slap this friggin thing on suprnova! Really the fact that this has no bittorrent link is a ridiculous oversight!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 24, 2004 @11:12PM (#10346468)
    Yup, those are definitely fake.

    -ShadeOfBlue
  • kinda weirds me out... something wrong about the proportions of her face that give her a creepy cheshire cat quality.
  • Working Mirror! (Score:2, Informative)

    by MichaelMarch (686675)
    Here we go laides! A working download link [xs4all.nl].
  • BitTorrent (Score:4, Informative)

    by placatedmayhem (816456) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:56AM (#10346786)
    Alright, kiddies... you asked for it, so it's been done.
    http://torrent.youceff.com/torrents/TWL360x208.mov .torrent [youceff.com]

    Ya'll enjoy now, ya hear?
  • by maxpublic (450413) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @01:03AM (#10346820) Homepage
    ...who're bitching about the flaws in the movie, please provide a link to a short that you think is more impressively realistic. That is, instead of just moaning about the flaws in the piece, do us all a favor and give us a link to something better.

    I swear to god, Slashdot is home to more nasty, jealous pricks than any other open forum on the net. Even Spaceship One had a horde of vile little losers trying to cut down Rutan and Melville's achievement seconds after the craft put down in the desert after an historic first.

    No doubt y'all think you're cool in some pseudo-intellectual fashion when you rave on as some self-appointed not-so-expert critic, but here's a newsflash: You aren't! Blasting the achievements of others doesn't make you look cool or chicly rebellious, it just shows you up as a pathetic, common, unaccomplished little man green with envy and burning with vitriol.

    And in case you haven't figured it out, I thought the stuff was very nicely done. It's certainly better than anything I could ever do, even if I spent my entire life working at it. The artist deserves kudos, and he's getting them, at least from me.

    Max
    • by Zhe Mappel (607548) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @02:04AM (#10346944)
      Criticism may or may not indicate envy, Max, but that's all beside the point. The film has its flaws. It's not necessary to make one's own film to see them; in fact, someone with a good eye who points them out may help other filmmakers avoid the same or simply do better. That's one of the benefits of constructive criticism, as opposed to mere ranting.

      My problem with the film, which actually struck me as quite technically accomplished, was its trite sentimentality. It's just unwatchable as a narrative: the syrupy music, all the goo-goo mother-baby stuff, all those lingering gazes and heart-tugging smiles and the itsy-bitsy eyelash-batting. Good bloody lord!!! I had to fast forward, in order not to suffer a whopping violation of Zhe's Rule of Chick Flick Endurance: one minute of wistful gazing at babies is all a man should be required to sit through in a film of any length. I'm glad you were transported to your special place. Me, I needed a shot of whiskey.

      And this is a problem that can't be ignored. Art demands to be seen, understood, even judged, first and foremost, as art--not as mere technical accomplishment. If you, for instance, code AI that can autonomously produce Barry Manilow music, that will be a rather serious, er, accomplishment. But as much as you might want it to write the songs that make the whole world sing, don't get bent out of shape if we'd rather not.

  • I liked this better the first time I saw it and it was called "The Sims 3".
  • by JessLeah (625838) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:05AM (#10347302)
    I am confused as to the plot of "This Wonderful Life".

    This woman's obviously lost her husband; hence the crying and the kissing of the ring. Then she sees the baby, which seems to bring a new hope into her life. But she abandons the baby (placing its fragile head far too close to the stone walls of the bridge where a single jerk could damage it-- she seems intelligent enough, and any intelligent woman wouldn't do that) to jump off the bridge when she loses her ring... and then what? She doesn't die immediately, but what happens? While she's down there lying on the rock (wounded?), someone else comes and takes the baby away-- because she was too afraid to 'let go' of her deceased husband and open a new life with the baby?

    How about an essay on the plot? A review? A synopsis? Anything? Bueller?
  • by Colonel Cholling (715787) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @09:08AM (#10348134)
    The author also features a gallery with photo shoot style images of the female actress from the short.

    Somebody mod this phrase -1 Redundant.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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