Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

25 SEPTEMBER, 2008

You Better Believe It


Why we drink, scandal!, the world’s most expensive clock, theft-worthy animation, what Radiohead and Goldfrapp have in common, and how diarrhea can save the planet.


Enough said.

Inspired by the ever-amusing Indexed blog — if you’re not already familiar, we strongly suggest you fix that cultural mistake ASAP.


The horror! The scandal! You know those annoying new “PC Pride” TV spots for Microsoft that attempted to shove the Seinfeld fiasco under the carpet? Well, an overzealous conspiracy theorist decided to look at the EXIF information of the campaign photos sent to the media — that’s the little piece of file information that shows what program the file was created in.

Guess what — those Microsoft ads were made on…gasp…a Mac. And if you think Microsoft and Crispin, their ad agency, have the relationship equivalent of a Catholic priest caught with his pants down at a gay bar, it gets worse. Turns out, Dell’s agency, Enfatico, did the exact same thing with their client’s campaign. Except in their case, those Macs were actually bought on the Dell dollar.

And just when we thought no one could out-whore-out the ever-irreverent Improv Everywhere…who actually revered quite quickly at the sight of corporate bling.

via Tribble Ad Agency


Speaking of Seinfeld, here’s something that sounds like one of Kramer’s ideas but is, in fact, completely real:

Corpus Chromophage

One of our heroes, brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, has just unveiled the world’s strangest clock. Called

Chronophage, which means “time-eater,” the beastly time-keeper cost $2 million and was developed over 5 years in Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College by Dr. John Taylor, a renowned inventor and horologist.

Its shtick: It has no hands — time is displayed by a series of blue LED lights illuminating the 24-carat gold surface through various slits and lenses. The design itself was inspired by the work of legendary innovator John Harrison, who came up with the “grasshopper escapement” mechanism almost 300 years ago.

The clock is only accurate every five minutes, but is wired up to an electric motor that will keep it running for the next 25 years.

We’re fascinated by the idea of a device that captures the relativity of time and how its passage mercilessly eats away at our lives. That, and we like shiny things.

via BBC Technology


On the cool-LED-stuff note, we’re obsessed with chronophage art collective PIKA PIKA. They make abstract animation using LED flashlights, which “draw” an image by tracing its outline over and over. Their movement is recorded in a series of photographs using long exposures, which are then spliced together into an animated sequence.

In 2005, the team was invited to a conference, where they presented the back-end of how the animation worked. They noticed that the audience of people interested in the concept was incredibly diverse, so they came up with a way to make the animation more interactive and inclusive, recruiting audience members in its production.

PIKA PIKA Today, PIKA PIKA films are made by that audience: Each person gets a flashlight and becomes a part of the animation. The films have since traveled the world and won various awards across a number of art and film festivals.

So that’s where Sprint stole the idea from.


From one cool audience-made light-employing video to another: After Radiohead’s In Rainbows fan-made video contest, a Goldfrapp fan got inspired to animate the track “Lovely Head” from their first album.

It’s essentially a visualization of the sound data, with the lyrics superimposed, producing the visual equivalent of what we’d imagine goes on in one’s brain when listening to the track on psychedelic drugs.

It was made through a process that’s way over our head, which makes us dig it all the more. It also reminds us of binary data sculptor Paul Prudence his video stream data visualizations.

via Coudal


And since we’re getting into things way over our head, here’s something that blows everything else out of the water. Or, as it just so happens, out of the oil.

Plastic-Producing E. coli

Scientists have developed a new strain of that same pant-pooping E. coli bacterium that can make butanediol (BDO), the material used in stuff like spandex, car bumpers and plastic cups, from scratch. Which basically means they can make plastic without using oil or natural gas, taking a huge energy load off the current plastic production methods.

That’s what we call research-grant-justifying progress. (Unlike, say, the one that measured methane emissions from farting cows.)

Now, if they can only get them to make tacos…

via PSFK

08 AUGUST, 2008

Monkey See Monkey Make NBC Look Bad


How rocks stars are making capitalism look really, really, really bad.

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You’ve seen the promos. You’ve heard the promos. You’ve smelled the promos. The 2008 Olympics have been a long time coming, and now they’ve finally come. And while we have high hopes for U.S. Olympic teams, we sure hope the performance of the American teams tooting the horn is no predictor of the nation’s competitive edge over other nations.

Case in point: the BBC promo for the Olympics make NBC look like a bunch of sponsor-grubbing YouTubers.

“Journey to the East” is based on the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West and follows the adventures of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as they make their way to the other end of the world using Olympic athleticism to overcome the literal and abstract hurdles.

If this looks and sounds familiar, it should be: the enachanted short film (because we can’t bring ourselves to call it a mere video) is the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the duo behind the pseudo-band Gorillaz. (Albarn is perhaps better known as the frontman of Blur and the mastermind behind The Good, the Bad & the Queen.)

The 3,000-frame animation took 12 weeks to complete and required 12-13 drawings per second of screen time, eating up 50 pencils and over 8,000 sheets of animation paper. If you think that’s quite a production, just wait for the audio: it was recorded on unusual Chinese instruments, 20 of them total, with a choir of 38 Chinese singers studio-dubbed to sound like 76 people. The two parts — the animation and the music — were developed simultaneously over the course of the 4 months so they woud fit together in the most perfect, organic way possible.

…And now it’s back to “This segment brought to you by Exxon-Mobil.

16 MAY, 2008

Hodgepodge of Cool | SHEEP!


We continue our weekly tribute to all the random, eclectic awesome stuff out there. Welcome to Part 3 of the Hodgepodge of Cool issue: SHEEP! …or what 10,000 strangers, the BBC and Soulja Boy have in common.

When we promise random, we deliver random. But, really, there’s a ton of sheep-related awesomeness out there. In fact, we think sheep are the new penguins — you know, that awkward yet adorable “it” species of popular adulation that gives rise to all kinds of trends. You heard it here first, kids — Happy Hoofs, anyone?


Knowing the name of the individual animal you’re eating for dinner: kinda creepy. Knowing the name of the animal you’re wearing to dinner: kinda cute. FLOCKS, the brainchild of Dutch designer Christien Miendertsma, is a knitwear line that explores the long-lost connection between producer and consumer.

In simpler terms, you can buy a cozy wool sweater (or scarf, or mittens, or socks, or hat) that comes with a photo and a short bio of the ovine contributor, so you can confidently answer you fashionista friends when they ask who you’re wearing.

The project is a collaboration between the graphic designer, a knitter, some spinners, and the farmers and felters who tend a flock of sheep. Each sweater comes with the sheep’s “passport” and a yellow RFID tag that matches the one on the sheepie’s ear.

And we’d so much rather wear something that comes from a happy fluffy sheep than from the hands of an overworked Chinese 6-year-old.

via GOOD Magazine


The BBC, always the beacon of underappreciated entertainment (hey there, The Office original), has just upped the ante for sheep-related entertainment with the latest work of cult animators The Brothers McLeod.

Pedro and Frankensheep, a series of 10 5-minute episodes for CBBC, is part Robot Chicken, part Sesame Street, part something else entirely. It’s the story of a crazy guinea pig scientist and his cyborg pet sheep, delighting British kids in those bedtime hours with quirky, weird-voiced, crazy-eyed animation magic.

Ah, nothing beats a Mexican accent with a British accent.


Why on earth would 10,000 strangers get together to draw sheep?

Remember Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s labor distribution system where you can pay web workers small amounts of money to complete simple tasks for you? Artist Aaron Koblin did just that for his project The Sheep Market he created a simple drawing app and simply instructed Turkers to “draw a sheep facing left.”

10,000 people got to it, for 2 cents each. In 40 days, they drew at a rate of 11 sheep per hour with an average draw time of 105 seconds per sheep. And little did they know Koblin was also recording their drawing process. He then collected all the drawings and turned them into a series of collectible stamps. But because the entire project is the ultimate experiment in collaborative digital art, he also crafted The Sheep Market website where you can see all the drawings and watch each one being drawn.

662 sheep were rejected. We feel really bad for them.

via Wired


Where else would you find a little knitting sheep by the name of Rose but at the relentlessly wonderful Etsy?

Rose stands at a little over an inch, clutching tiny bamboo knitting needles, and is made from 100% real sheep wool. She comes from Canadian crafts designer fantiny, who can ship one of Rose’s siblings your way if you’re so inclined.

Rose is most positively the cutest little knitting sheep we’ve ever encountered.


Shaun the Sheep does Soulja Boy.

‘Nuff said.


Forget all bucolic stereotypes — sheep have gone 2.0. Or at least that’s the case of Jan, the USB sheep from Swedish animal-themed gizmo maker Minimoo. Jan comes in 1GB ($43), 2GB ($58) and 4GB ($74) memory sizes.

Jan looks rather grumpy. But we empathize — we too would be rather grumpy if we had a USB flash drive stuck in our business end.

via Geek Alerts