Uncanny Bastards (2022)

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Uncanny Bastards (2022)

Andrew Roberts

Provoking the Film Industry

Who or what are “Uncanny Bastards”? A general observation presents the uncanny as the psychological experience of something as not simply mysterious, but creepy, often in a strangely familiar way. And bastards can be understood to be “of mixed or ill-conceived origin”

For his master’s thesis Andrew Robertson has explored how the exponential refinements of AI image creation in combination with the latest 3D printing technology by Stratasys can facilitate fruitful collaborations and expand movie making horizons.

Great movie making is about telling stories that will feed a need, satisfy a desire or open up new horizons. A lot of different components have to come together to achieve this, such as script writing, acting, lighting, and of course the artistic vision of the director. So far this vision had to be somehow translated from the director’s words into images by a visual artist and as a consequence was ‘limited’ by their vision and creativity. AI now offers the opportunity to expand those visions and create lifeforms and objects that have not existed before. The actors are the mediums with which the director tells the story, so their acting skills are of particular relevance to the success or failure of the movie. In movies with story lines of foreign or futuristic scenarios, a lot of times these actors are supposed to react and interact with unknown, unfamiliar, and ultimately uncanny characters. Uncanny in the sense that they appear foreign, but display characteristics that the spectator can ‘grasp’ and connect with. The more futuristic or foreign the aspects of the movie are, the more the actors’ ability to display credible interactions within it is important to the success. Currently this interaction happens through green screen filming, CGI and extensive (=expensive) prop making. Actors are human beings and as such instinctively react more spontaneously and ‘true’ to a physical counterpart than to having to ‘imagine’ it and react in front of a green screen. Here the ability to print out these uncanny objects in a quality that enables realistic interactions, the actors input is much more credible. Belief and disbelief have to have a well-balanced momentum to carry or sink the story line.

For his first area of research and experimentation Andrew focused on AI tools as offered by RunwayML, VQAN + CLIP, and MidJourney, exploring their data set synthesizing methods and how visuals are created through visual and written prompts. The next one explored how multi-material printing, through the latest Stratasys J850, and its associated software processes of ZBrush, Keyshot, GrabCAD, and Houdini visualizes these 2D creations in a 3D context. Thirdly, the implementation of the various design and manufacturing techniques to produce a library of creatures which fulfills the research aims and objectives. And finally, exploring how human actors react and interact to/with these foreign creatures/ uncanny bastards. “The proof is in the pudding”: demonstrating in orchestrated scenarios the genuine and raw acting responses to the creatures, highlighting the use of innovative tools for the film making industry, creating exceptional and new experiences for creators and viewers alike.

During his studies Andrew was able to secure a Summer Scholarship at Weta Workshop, where he gained valuable insight into the movie making industry and for his Master’s he secured funding from the NZ Product Accelerator, who support research relevant to industry.

Materials and Processes

Software

Adobe Photoshop, GrabCAD Print, ZBrush, Keyshot, Houdini

Hardware

Stratasys J850 printer

Project level

Master of Design Innovation (MDI) thesis, supervisor Ross Stevens