Shifting the Boundary of Physical and Virtual Worlds in 3D Art: Introducing Designer & Director, LIU Xin(2)
© LIU Xin, Yuting Zhu
Fox Renderfarm: Hi Xin, thank you so much for accepting our interview! How do you feel about being the winner of CGarchitect 3D Awards-Student(Film) 2020?
LIU: I am very happy and honored. When I heard the news, I was surprised! I have been following this competition since undergrad. I saw a lot of excellent works and knew some like-minded creators from there. I used to wonder if my work will be nominated, and it turned out to be a winner. For me, this is a great affirmation and encouragement.
Fox Renderfarm: Phygital Shopping Cart is the second episode of the Phygital Supermarket Trilogy, so what inspired you to create this project?
LIU: The "Phygital Supermarket" series is a one-year project, including three experimental animated short films and a 130-page research book. This series mainly explores the combination of multiple technologies and mediums, novel representations of everyday objects, and interactive architectural forms. One of the inspirations for "Phygital Shopping Cart" came from a movie I watched when I was a child, that is "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids".
screenshots of Phygital Supermarket Trilogy
Fox Renderfarm: Why did you choose C4D as the main 3D software for this project? Could you tell us about what 3D technology or effects are used for the project?
LIU: Because we are familiar with the C4D production pipeline including scene management, lighting, animation, and rendering. In addition, many ready-made Mograph tools in C4D can be used to create procedural effects, which meets the overall technical requirements of the project. These tools are enough for us to make playful effects. As each small scene expresses, the main techniques used in this project are Boolean, displacement, brush texture, cloner, Voronoi fracture, and multi-pass rendering. When we used these techniques, we ignored their initial purpose and tried to “misuse” in order to achieve novel representation.
- Farm / Boolean
In a farm covered with LEGO blocks, apples are bitten off by blueberries.
- 3D Cinema / Displacement
The iPhone becomes a theater in a small world. Video and flying texts on the screen are extruded out based on moving displacement maps to play “Real”3D movies to the audience which are mini shopping carts.
- Playground / Painting Brush Strokes
Floating painting brush strokes are smeared into various slope ramps to create a playground for small shopping carts. Those brush strokes also smeared on gloves, and the bumpy surface becomes a rock wall for climbing. These paint materials are materials that we first test the shape and pattern in reality with real acrylic paint, and then scan, import, and manipulate in the digital world.
- Disorder / Mograph Cloner
The shelves in the miniature supermarket are disrupted by a mini shopping cart!
- Restaurant / Voronoi Fracturing
Lay's potato chips bag becomes a building, where the inside is a cafe, and the big potato chips become a table for mini shopping carts.
- Viewpoint / Anamorphic Optical Illusion
When the twisted patterns on the bottles are viewed at a specific point of view, they can be recognized as a meaningful texture or a perfect pattern.
Fox Renderfarm: Why did you choose the shopping cart as the protagonist? All the stories of the small shopping carts are finally gathered in one big shopping cart, any meaning for the design?
LIU: The "shopping cart" in the title refers not only to the main character of each miniature scene but also to the fact that the entire scene is on a real-scale shopping cart. The daily objects in a real shopping cart have become various scenes where the “adventure” of a mini shopping cart happens. This design not only embodies the concept of nested worlds but also uses the scale comparison of the shopping cart to defamiliarize familiar objects and express architectural potentials.
Fox Renderfarm: In the video, the title texts become an original part of each scene. Could you tell us why you choose this unique way of displaying and how did you do that?
LIU: We studied a lot of movie titles design in the early stages. In many cases, the text was not overlapped on the two-dimensional video, but integrated into the set design and became a part of the scene props. We like this idea very much. Also, because the supermarket-themed objects contain a large number of packaging designs and involve graphic designs that include text, we decided to incorporate text about each small scene into the packaging design of daily objects.
Fox Renderfarm: How long did you take to finish the work? Did you meet any difficulties?
LIU: It took three and a half weeks from the conception to the final film. The design ideas in the early stage have been discussed very clearly. It took some time to think about how the film will be presented, such as the camera language. There is a difficulty in lighting during the production stage, which is how to ensure the lighting of both small scenes and the overall shopping cart scene creates a sense of visual hierarchy.
Fox Renderfarm: As a Designer and Director who was originally trained as an architect, do you plan to have any new explorations in the integration of architecture and digital technology?
LIU: Currently, I am interested in the combination of architecture and motion design. It can be mainly divided into two aspects: 1. Dynamically-changing space, that is, with the help of emerging technologies, such as mixed reality, projection mapping, hologram, etc., by combining motion design methods and introducing timeline into architecture, we are able to create spatial experiences that are no longer static, but are dynamically changing influenced by human activities, or vice versa;
video clips from Augmented Library Aggregation
- Use motion design to articulate the concept of design, that is, with the help of procedural animation tools, we can use motion visuals to efficiently convey the designer’s idea behind the work, which is more efficient than traditional drawings and models.
Fox Renderfarm: Phygital (Physical × Digital), the theme of Phygital Supermarket Trilogy, also means the combination of reality and artistic creation, could you talk about your views on this combination and future outlook?
LIU: The unprecedented global pandemic and quarantine in 2020 transformed the mode of life and work from the physical world to the digital screen. However, since the physical body ultimately lives in the physical world, the challenge that the screen space takes over physical space and the desire which brings digital back to the physical exist at the same time. Therefore, I believe that the future of digitalization is not pure digital, but an organic combination of digital and the physical realities. From a functional perspective, designers can use digital technology to change human perception to create alternative realities; from an aesthetic perspective, design languages originally belonging to the digital world, such as glitch, can be applied to the design of physical spaces.
the offline and online exhibitions of All At Onceness
© LIU Xin, Jessie Pan, Leo Wan
the physical models of Augmented Library Aggregation under normal and UV lighting
Fox Renderfarm: What made you start learning CG? Could you briefly share with us your education and work experience along your CG journey?
LIU: When I was young, I liked watching movies. My first vision of my profession was to make special visual effects for movies, although I didn't know CG at that time. Later, when I was about 13 years old, I was exposed to some CG software through magazines, so I started to understand, and gradually learned Video Studio, AE, and Nuke, and tried to make some short videos. I studied CG systematically when I was studying architecture in Liverpool, England. Because architectural design needs renderings for presentation, in order to do it better and faster, I self-taught non-photorealistic rendering workflow with Cinema 4D to quickly produce architectural illustrations. After working at the British architectural firm Sheppard Robson for a year, I went to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) to study for a master’s degree. Since the school curriculum is known for its pioneering and experimental thinking, I deliberately chose courses related to CG during the two years of study, and I have made a lot of advancement in both design thinking and technical skills. With the help of CG tools, I feel the freedom of creation, as if I can "create" anything imaginable.
Fox Renderfarm: Which CG artist or CG work has the most influence on you?
LIU: ZEITGUISED, whose works are weird, playful, sometimes ridiculous, and thought-provoking.
Berlin Magazine “032c”, where I learned a lot of fresh and novel ideas.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about Fox Renderfarm cloud rendering services?
LIU: I really enjoyed rendering with Fox Renderfarm. It has good quality and low price and helps us to meet a lot of deadlines. I also want to mention the 24-hour technical support, which is super helpful.
Fox Renderfarm: Any other things you want to share with the CG enthusiasts?
LIU: Believe in your instincts, improve design thinking, and do not be limited to techniques.
It is true that compared with many other arts, CG creation has higher requirements for "techniques". If one’s technical skill is not enough, how can we talk about creating "arts" that have aesthetic value? If the creator does not have basic skills, the images in his mind cannot be effectively presented. However, I also see that more CG creators are obsessed with the learning of "techniques" and ignore the improvement of "thinking". They spend a lot of time studying tutorials, but they rarely think about the originality and concept of the works, and make a bunch of "software function test images." Of course, this learning method can quickly improve software operating skills, but with the iteration of software and tools, the technical threshold will only be lowered. Therefore, creators should spend more time improving their knowledge on design and artistic thinking, and think more about how to create their own original work. I believe this is the key to distinguishing excellent and mediocre works.
For previews introduction to LIU and his delicate artworks:
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