Confessions of a researchaholic

December 15, 2009

Toon shading

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:52 pm
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Appleseed: Ex Machina is the best toon shaded animation I have ever seen. It really beats 2D cel animation.
I am too busy right now to write down more details, but just checkout this movie if you like anime or computer graphics.

Also, don’t miss the bonus features. I find it particularly interesting that the American crew talked about the “amazing collaboration” between Chinese (John Woo, producer) and Japanese (Shinji Aramaki, director) as though these two countries ought to start the third world war instead of collaborating on animation projects.

October 29, 2009


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:27 pm
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I watched this movie a few nights ago. It is about Genghis Khan’s early life, between his childhood and his unification of the Mongolian tribes. I guess people might expect or want to see his more (in)famous later life for conquering the entire world, but that belongs to a (rumored) sequel. I actually prefer to watch his early life as that part is less well known.

The movie is unique in several aspects. The dialogues are primarily in Mongolian with occasional Mandarin. Mongolian sounds interesting, kind of halfway between Mandarin and Korean, even though the Mongolian spoken by most actors in the movie are not very authentic. (I have probably heard more authentic ones from real Mongols in Beijing airport.) The scenery is gorgeous, and in fact so difficult to film that the director has been thinking about cutting short or even canceling the sequels. The plot is a bit loose and incoherent, but the style nicely (and maybe coincidentally) reflects the mythological nature of Genghis Khan’s early life and the nomadic Mongolian life style around that time.

The Mongols also possess certain historical fascination to me. The Chinese history books, authored primarily by the Han Chinese, naturally debased the Mongols (and any other ethnic minorities) as barbarians and describe their histories mainly as window dressings of the greatness of the Middle Kingdom. As far as I could recall I have never read a sufficiently accurate and non-biased recount of the Mongolian history. (The history text books authored by the Nationalist government in Taiwan around my time did not even recognize Mongol as an independent country.) This is sad, as the Mongols have made major impacts to world history and geography during their great conquering around the thirteenth century, however short living their empire was. As analyzed by certain historians (e.g. see False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World, by Alan Beattie), the Mongols could be responsible for the formation of dictatorship/authoritarian countries like Russia, Iran, and China, which were actually more liberal than the Europeans prior to the Mongolian invasion.

September 29, 2009


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 5:56 pm
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If I were a character in The Matrix, I want to be Anti-Neo who drags everyone from the real world back into the matrix. The synthetic world is so much easier to manipulate than the real one.

September 1, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 4:48 pm
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The phrase “animated documentary” may sound like an oxymoron, but that is exactly what I would use to describe Waltz with Bashir. I was originally attracted to this movie due to its graphics effects, especially on the masterful use of large regions of monotonic colors. What I did not expect was thought provoking storytelling, and I was thrilled to find plenty in this movie.

I highly recommend this movie, as well as the behind the scene bonus features on how the movie is made.


August 16, 2009


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 12:02 pm
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Renaissance is a stylish binary animation. By binary, I mean it is rendered in only two colors, black and white, not even gray scales which the movie used only rarely for special effects like transparency.


I watched this movie because it was mentioned in a research paper titled Artistic Thresholding, and I am curious about the artistic and technical effects. In particular, even though binary rendering has been performed on static images (e.g. posters), these are usually abstract renditions. Thus, it was not clear to me how the effect would carry over for 3D animations, for which frame-to-frame coherence is required in addition to single frame stylization.

Overall, the binary rendering of the movie looks very good, in terms of both intra frame stylization and inter frame coherence. The binary rendering, combined with the nature of the story line, pushes the film noir genre to the extreme.

In the bonus materials, the creators explained that the movie was authored as a combination of motion capture and 3D polygonal rendering. This is quite comprehensible. Unfortunately, no explanation was given to the binary shading part. From what I could see, no published research algorithms have achieved binary animation anywhere near what is shown this movie. The usual suspect is heavy manual work, but even with that I still cannot figure out how things were really done.

Looks like this is still a open research problem, and probably a darn hard one.

August 11, 2009


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 3:04 pm

Being a romance/drama, Dolls is not my kind of movie, but I watched it nonetheless for the sake of family duty. It is a very interesting movie. At the time of viewing it is a bit slow and bland, but strangely the message gradually sinks in afterward. I guess it is like drinking some sort of wine that tastes gentle but with strong after effects.

This is all I am going to say about this movie, to avoid spoiler as well as the fact that I believe this movie is better to be felt than described.


May 11, 2009

A Scanner Darkly

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:26 pm
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A Scanner Darkly is a movie that I have wanted to see for a long time but somehow did not manage to do so until recently. And it turned out to be so good that I regret haven’t watched it earlier.

The movie depicts the world and life seen from the view points of a group of drug addicts. To convey the distorted views from these druggies with impaired perceptions and brain functions, the movie deployed not only the traditional story line and dialogues, but also a cartoonish, non-photorealistic rendering achieved by rotoscoping.
The combined effect is so realistically surreal (oxymoron?) and disoriented that for the first time I kind of be able to feel what it is like to be a druggie. Rotoscoping not only preserves the original acting, but also facilitates hallucinatory or science-fiction effects such as bugs crawling all over one’s body and the “scramble suit” that disguises an undercover’s identity by constant shifting through the difference appearances of millions of people.

And yes, like all good movies, this one has a great story as well.

I believe this is one of these movies that are so unique that it is going to hang in my head for a long time.


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