30 December 2011

Big Buck Bunny


This is a treat.  All is well in the world of the Big Buck Bunny, an oversized rabbit with a heart of gold.  However, on his patch there is a trio of rodents (Frank, Rinky and Gamera) who are duty bound to cause as much trouble as they can and they proceed to terrorize the local animals without mercy.  One day, however, they go to far and make an enemy out of Big Buck himself.

The story of how Bug Buck gets his own back is wonderfully told with many knowing asides to animations of yesteryear if you know where to look.  As a tale of vengeance, however, it is gentle - and this story is suitable for most age groups (especially if you like your toon humor of a level of sophistication between Tom and Jerry and Shrek.

The movie is completely made using the Blender platform which is open source. Blender developers worked extensively to improve the software in accordance with the needs of the movie team. Improvements were made in hair and fur rendering, the particle system, UV mapping, shading, the render pipeline, constraints, and skinning. Also introduced during the project was approximate ambient occlusion. These features were released to the public with Blender v. 2.46.

While the video reveals the power of Blender naturally, it also contains a very cleverly told story, full of fun. Oh - and watch it to the very end - one of the funniest elements of the whole short movie is after the credits have rolled...

29 December 2011

Big Catch - The Movie


This is something quite special. The Big Catch Movie (which is in fact just a few minutes long) is one of the best animated short films I have seen in a long time. It tells a simple story but it tells it in a wonderfully comic way and with great humor too.

A fisherman walks down a pier in his local town to go fishing.  Unbeknowns to him his would-be nemesis lurks in the waters nearby.  What happens next is a fantastic concoction of the accidental and the slapstick.

Perhaps the best thing about this is probably the kung fu seagulls (see below).  There are a few sly winks to other movies throughout this too, but I won't give the game away by telling you what they are - see if you catch them! As mini pastiches go they fly by...

For you animation buffs out there, the modelling and animation tasks were all done in Maya.  The rendering was done using Renderman/Mental Ray and for the effects like the water dripping off the shark (a very good effect too, water is hard to do!) there were some specially made scripts by film maker Moles Merlo who lives in Paris.  Shake was used for the compositing.

Watch this one to the end - you will, I can almost guarantee - love this (and yes, it is more than suitable for children and work throughout).

The Brute's Passion


Back in medieval days you knew where you stood. If you landed in a prison then you knew what to expect from the resident torturer – and the resident torturer knew exactly what to do with you. Unfortunately, when your newest prisoner is a witch then the normal rules may not apply, especially when her original captor forgot to relieve her of her wand!

This is René Hoekstra’s graduate project at at the Utrecht School of the Arts where he was responsible for the animation of this very funny short. It is very much in the ‘old school’ as it were. In fact it reminded me, oddly enough of Tom and Jerry shorts, despite the absence of cat and mouse! Some of the sound effects seem familiar,too!

The music is supplied by Bart Delissen with sound design by Hessel van Hoorn.

27 December 2011

Bridge


Bridge is a story about four animal characters trying to cross a bridge, but ending up as obstacles to one another in the process. The moral behind this story revolves around how there are often disagreements or competing paths in life, and the possible results of pride, obstinacy, and compromise.

It was created by Ting Chian Tey. When this was first unleashed on the internet many people thought that Ting worked for Pixar (which I guess is an understandable mistake).

However, he did not (though they should definitely offer a job!). He has, however, recently been working at Sony on Arthur Christmas so it looks like the competition may have nabbed him!

26 December 2011

The Saga Of Biorn


Boxing Day always meant Norsemen for me! The main reason was because in my youth there were only three TV stations in the UK and the biggest, BBC1 always used to insist on putting The Vikings on their airwaves the day after Christmas.

Now, this isn’t Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis et al, but it is a Viking tale nevertheless and one of our Boxing Day treats for you at Kuriositas.

Biorn is an old Viking warrior who, to get to Valhalla, must die in battle. Unfortunately every conflict he enter seems to end with the quick dispatch of his opponent. Until, one day a convent is attacked by a giant troll!

This is immense fun, brought to you by the combined talent of The Animated Workshop. Does Biorn succeed and get to Valhalla? Watch and see!

Platycerium - A Pretty Peculiar Plant

Platycerium – even the name sounds odd.  Mostly referred to as Staghorn or Elkhorn ferns, this genus of fern is, to say the very least, unusual looking.  Yet they are fascinating to look at because their fronds are something else, quite unique.  To look at a platycerium is to look back in time millions of years.


They are found on several continents, South America, Africa, Asia as well as Australasia and unsurprisingly thrive in tropical and temperate climates.   They really aren’t your average fern at all.

In their adult phase they are known as sporophytes and like all other members of the fern family they produce spores to produce the next generation. See the brown color on the fronds?  Those are the spore patches.

They produce a short rhizome (or root stalk) and this is the point from which the plant grows its fronds.  However, it has a trick up its sleeve here.

The first type of fronds it produces are known as fertile fronds and these will create the spores to prolong the species.  The platycerium, however, has a second type of frond, known as the basal frond. This is infertile but has a very important function.  These shield shaped frond effectively laminate the plant against a tree, meaning that the platycerium can gain vertical height in the canopy.

Image Credit Flickr User Jiggs Images
Of course, some end up quite close to the ground too!
The basal fronds are also used to protect the tufted roots of the plant from harm and from becoming too dry.  Some species of platycerium have fertile fronds which produce lobes in the shape of a crown.  These catch water and other forest detritus.  Mostly, though, they are shaped like antlers, which gives the plants their common names.

Each front contains sporangia – these are where the spores are born and they are arranged on the lobes of the fronds. These particular spores are often called sporangiospores which admittedly does sound like an Italian pasta meal but without them there would be no next generation of platycerium.

Image Credit Flickr User tanetahi 
Platycerium can form colonies but some species have a single rootstalk.  Colonies are created when a single rhizome (rootstalk) forms a branch.  When the spores are released then hopefully they will alight on neighboring trees and start the process of growth again there.

Many gardeners are enthusiastic about platycerium and the advantage of the colonial types of this gorgeous fern is that they can be propagated through a process of division.  Once they are divided then some keen gardeners will strap the new plant (using stockings!) to a tree until a new rhizome is strong enough to support the plant’s weight on its own.

They are an obvious talking point for a garden but are even more spectacular in the wild.  When mature they are large – often more than a meter in width.

You might be forgiven for thinking that platycerium are parasitic but you would be wrong.  In a similar way to orchids, they grow on the host plant but do not take sustenance from it.  They generate their own food and so do not need to draw food from their ‘host’ tree.

Kuriositas would like to thanks Flickr Users tanetahi, Danya R, Jiggs Images, Bellingen1, Poytr and dracophylla for their very kind permission to use their wonderful photographs.  Please visit their photostreams and discover their pictures!

Logorama


Logorama was an internet hit two years ago, but you know the thing about Christmas – it’s about the only time that people actually like repeats – at least of things that they love. If you haven’t seen this one before, it is set in the world of Logorama, where every person and building is represented by a brand’s logo.  It is part comedy, part thriller but one hundred percent genius!

Logorama is a short film that was directed by the French animation collective H5, François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain.

It was presented at the Cannes Film Festival 2009. It opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and won a 2010 academy award under the category of animated short.

Pixels


New York is invaded by 8-bit creatures. Yes, this is a few years old but again is one of those animations that we have somehow failed to feature on Kuriositas before.

Like the other animations on display today, however, we hope you agree that they are perfect for some lazy Boxing Day viewing!

Pixels was written and directed by Patrick Jean. The director of photograhy was Matias Boucard with
SFX by Patrick Jean and guests. It is a One More Production – and it is still excellent!

25 December 2011

Sheeped Away


Sheeped Away tells the tale of a farmer who just wants to be with his beloved sheep. When a giant UFO enters his life to claim his sheep, what will he do to keep them safe from harm? And can he do this without waking his monstrous wife?

The whole point of making Sheeped Away for creator Junaid Chundrigar was to make a tribute of sorts, to the old American cartoons he grew up with.

They were not necessarily made for children but neither were they unwatchable for them. He wanted to make something just like that; something for both adults and kids. And adult kids like you out there!

Idol Worship

Special Delivery

A Happy Christmas from Kuriositas!

24 December 2011

Stephen Fry on Language



Using the wonderful words of acclaimed writer, actor and all-round know it all (that is meant that in the best of ways) Stephen Fry, Matthew Rogers has created this kinetic typography animation.  

Fry expresses some of his ideas about the English language and the way that it is used today - and these might surprise you. He describes how over time he threw off the mantle of the pedant and followed some of the greats of literature, like Shakespeare and Wilde, in their (more or less, depending on your opinion) subtle approach to English.

This combines two things of which I am rather fond – kinetic typography and listening to Mr Fry wax lyrical about a particular subject. They do seem to go very well together, too!

Out of a Forest


At certain times of the year families get together, sit around a table and eat and talk. Such is the case with this extended family of rabbits but there is danger lurking in the background…

This is Tobias Gundorff Boesen’s Bachelor film from The Animation Workshop. It is set to the song "Slow Show" by The National, who were kind enough to allow him to use their music (well it makes for a very memorable promo after all!). It is a non-commercial short film, intended for festivals – and it has won many!.

It was shot in the forests surrounding Viborg, Denmark. Boesen’s main inspiration was Victorian literature, and "Boxer" by The National. It was painful to finish, as shooting stop motion in the forest at night for longer periods turned out to offer a lot of problems. I think (or hope!) that you will agree that is was worth all the effort.  Plus I love the surprise ending!

23 December 2011

Darth Vader's Christmas Wish List

Alarm


This is dedicated to all of you out there who have difficulties getting up in the morning. This young man has to be one of the worst at that particular skill.

However, he has an alarm clock that just keeps on ringing and ringing and ringing…. and wherever he seems to go in his flat the alarm clock just seems to follow him.  All the poor chap wants to do is to get a little sleep - and so he resorts to some fairly extreme ways to get himself back in to bed and in to the land of nod.

Alarm is a very clever animation directed by Jang Moo-hyun from the independent team of MESAI. 

Red


Red is an unusual take on a story we all know (and possibly love) – that of Little Red Riding Hood.  We are used to see the wolf as a villain but here he is a love lorn boy who desperately wants Little Red Riding Hood to reciprocate his feelings but cannot express himself very well at all.

Appropriately enough, the whole animated short is washed through with the color red.  I also like the way that elements of this have a very rough feel to them – particularly the rabbit unicorn rabbit.

This is the 3rd year Calarts film by Hyunjoo Song with music provided by Steve Mahpar.

The Real Alien Ant Farm

NASA technology and macrophotography come together to produce a stunning set of images of the real alien ant farm.

We might be a little in danger of coming over all Monty Python if we pose the question what has NASA ever done for us?  It is a good question, however and one which we will seek to answer in an occasional series of articles, beginning with this one.  The real alien ant farm!

Generations of children have been fascinated by ant farms (not to mention adults who often use the kids wanted one as an excuse) but when it comes to dirt, you can’t really see a great deal of what is going on inside.  Enter NASA.  Back in 2003, the Space Agency wanted to see how ants would create their tunnels in zero gravity.  However, there was a problem, not so much for Houston but for the ants.

The problem was gravity, specifically the almighty amount of it associated with getting a shuttle off terra firma and in to space.  If sand had been used then it would shift under the gravity and inevitably crush the life out of the ants.  A container full of squished ants would not be very useful for any sort of study in space – unless it was to be a taste test of some kind.

Life and death can be observed through this clear gel.  So, how do you get the tiny harvester ants with their powerful jaws and tenacious nature up beyond the blue?  NASA rose to the problem and their solution was to create the gel that you can see here.  Because of its chemical composition it does not collapse during launch.    Wouldn’t that happen to the ants too?  The answer is no – ants are incredibly resilient and able to withstand the G force of lift off with no problem.  Hardly a surprise when you consider they can lift up to twenty times their body weight.

Furthermore, scientists could put all the food and water necessary to sustain the ants on their trip inside the gel.  What’s more they were also able to put in anti-fungal agents and antibiotics to help ensure the ants would not get ill!  The other main advantage of the gel is that it is clear.  Scientists had always found it difficult to get to grips with how ants did the tunnelling and how exactly they navigated underground because – to state the obvious – they could not observe them doing it properly.

So, you have something that works as both habitat and nutrition for the ants, which meant that all the astronauts had to do was to sit back and observe how they went about the business of tunnelling without any gravity. The answer was pretty much as usual but the question had to be answered.  The main difference was that the tunnels were wigglier than those made by the same species in the same gel back home on Earth.

However, business folk were not tardy when it came to recognizing the commercial potential of this amazing aqua blue gel and soon enough the old concept of the ant farm was overhauled to this amazing sight.  So, it’s not just users of non-stick frying pans who have benefited from the efforts of NASA after all!

22 December 2011

The Usual (Christmas) Suspects

Galileo


Although this is now two years old this strange little parable about perseverance and the strength of friendship by Ghislain Avrillon is still a favorite of ours here at Kuriositas Towers.

In fact we are still scratching our heads (a sight perhaps not worth seeing) as to why we have never featured it before. It certainly counts it hits on Vimeo is the hundreds of thousand.  See what you think of this very visual metaphor.

A young inventor, trapped in his home in the clouds, is determined to create a contraption which will enable him to fly.  He may not succeed but in the end he has, perhaps, something much more precious.

I Am Beautiful


Over the Christmas period, Kuriositas will be showing you some great animations that you may well have seen before on other sites but for reasons that escape us have not been featured on Kuriositas.

Let’s call them special features!

So, first up is I Am Beautiful, one of the number of great animations that we will be showing.

It is short but very very sweet – and we get to see Worf from Star Trek in a way in which we have never seen him before (but possibly always suspected!).

21 December 2011

Space Santa


Even in the future it seems that people will hope for the call of Santa at a certain time of year. Here, however many hundreds of years in to the future, a couple cannot quite believe their eyes when a certain someone appears in the airlock.

This is the Christmas contribution from the folks at Splice Here (a full-service post-production company). Based in Minneapolis, Splice contributes work which is seen all over the US and beyond.

Among their award-winning feature projects are Stuck Between Stations, Ana's Playground, Wedding Bros., Pride of Lions, 3D Sun and Good Morning, Beautiful. Even if you haven't seen any of their work before you have to agree that this is something out of this world!

A Christmas Card from Austria


Why is it that people confuse Australia and Austria? Of course, if they are not doing that they are then confusing Austria and Germany.

So, just to put the record straight, Kris Hoffman from Australia has put together this animation for you.

It’s all done with a great sense of humor, which is typically Austrian. No, wait… well, whatever the case, enjoy this – and no, I am not from Austria, Australia or even Germany!

Snow Goblin Loves Christmas

Indyanimation


They do say that some films should never be remade (who they?) but it has to be said that more often than not they are quite correct. Not in this case, however! Jeff Gurwood has painstakingly recreated the first six minutes of one of the most exciting action adventure films ever made – Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yet there is a great difference between this and the original – have you spotted it yet? Yes, the sets are tiny and the actors have been replaced with their Hasbro figures.

Indiana Jones would probably raise a wry eyebrow at this development but it is something which really does work. Gurwood’s hard work pays off spectacularly. You can also see making of details at Jeff Gurwood’s website. Plus there is more fun to be had at his Faceboook page too. It is incredible to think that Gurwood created all the sets from scratch himself!

There is a good reason for all of this Gurwood is not simply uber fan extraordinaire.  The animation was specially made to mark the film’s thirtieth anniversary. That just makes me feel old, seeing it as I saw it when it was first released (and I was a teenager too)...
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