Animation Trends 2012: Photorealistic CG meets traditional animation

You don’t have to look much further than Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin to see the impact that advances in photorealistic rendering and lighting have had on mainstream animation. This quest for realism is evident in independent productions, too, like the incredible advert Alex Roman made for kitchen and bathroom outfitters Silestone (below), featuring fruit apparently falling and shattering in ultra-slow motion.

Other animators like Gabe Askew and the former Lobo and Motion Theory animator Guilherme Marcondes are also rightly lauded for work that includes photorealistic CG you can almost touch, mixed with traditional forms of animation and live action.

Skyline, an online short by Guilherme sponsored by Coca-Cola’s Burn drink

“It’s trying to get the best of both worlds,” Marcondes says, “the look and feel of analogue animation with the flexibility and control of CG. It’s amazing – you can do stop-motion in zero gravity. But it comes at a high price: heavy rendering [load] and a multiplication of technical issues created by the detail-oriented style.”

Askew, who has worked in the VFX sector and architectural visualisation sectors, says the genre has benefited from the fact that the tools for making photoreal renders have improved substantially over the last decade.

Tyger is a short by Guilherme Marcondes that combines CG with real-world puppetry in the style of the Japanese bunraku tradition

“Renderers like Mental Ray, RenderMan and my favourite, V-Ray, have made working in CG much closer to working in the real world,” he says.  “When I started learning CG animation back in the late 90s, if you wanted to have light appear to bounce off the floor, you had to actually put a light below the floor to fake it. Now these tools are ubiquitous and fairly intuitive. 

“Instead of spending a lot of time making something look like it’s real, I can focus on the aesthetics. Instead of making light coming in through a window look realistic, I can focus on what time of day it should be or what direction it should come from. Creativity comes to the foreground of CG animation and the technical aspects recede.”

Animation trends 2012


1) Stop motion animation is hip again

2) Interest in hand-crafted animation grows

3) Combine animation with programming

4) Children's TV animation rediscovers its craft roots

5) Photorealistic CG meets traditional animation

6) Animation firms positive about George Osbourne tax breaks, but have reservations

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