onedotzero festival 2011: future cities review

The onedotzero short film programme Future Cities is one I had been looking forward to, and while my intial expectations of Blade Runner esque dystopian sci-fi were let down that’s not to say that the programme didn’t showcase the work of some truly visionary and forward thinking filmakers and animators.

Let me start off with the short film that I enjoyed most; The Experience of Fliehkraft which was awarded with honorary mentions at both Arts Electronica and Siggraph. The film screened last in the programme I was impressed with the simplicity of the idea – imagined fairground rides intergrated onto real live-action plates. I think the mark of any profound film is to make one re-examine or re-explore something taken for granted; in this case the extreme pursuit of happiness.

Running Order:

Plan of the City by Joshua Frankel:
Consisting of green screened live action footage integrated with collage animation, illustrations and treated photographs, ‘Plan of the City’ must have been the product of painstaking animation techniques. The piece was set to music which served both as the score and the characters within the animation; real musicians appear playing their instruments of the soundtrack, making the animation almost feel like a music video. But not quite; at 13 minutes long the animation began to feel tedius and overwrought. The central idea of people and buildings being blasted into space and onto Mars is an interesting one but the length of the piece took away from the intricacy and effort that an animated collage such as this requires.

Möbius by Benjamin Ducroz:
Möbius was another highlight from the screening. A time lapse animated sculpture made of large triangles that were animated to create the illusion of undulating over and under the ground. The name of the piece comes from the idea of the Mobius Strip – an interesting geometric shape discovered indedpendently by August Ferdinand Mobius and Johann Benedict LIsting. This animation that must have been incredibly difficult to execute if only for the public location of the the time lapse.

Modern Times by Ben Craig:
Well executed short, live action with cg elements imagining what future civilisations could enjoy by way of otherworldly cinema screenings. Check out the making of video on Craig’s vimeo to see how much of the piece was crafted in post-production.

Migration by Matthieu Clopez + Elie Ly Kok:

Visually arresting short from the Vancouver Film School and Artfx that reimagines the somewhat tired imagery of a deserted metropolis into something that felt fresh and exciting.

Nothing To Fear by Simon Russel:
Clearly a project born of passion the desire to create something intensely individual, this painstakingly illustrated and animated short delivered just that. Whilst visually impressive the storyline was to me, unclear though this perhaps wasn’t the primary focus of the short.

Sucker Punch – Distant Planet by Ben Hibon:
With a narrated script that didn’t make any sense or interest me enough to care what was going on to the point that it became comical, this animated short didn’t impress. Whilst looking very polished and well animated, the idea of a battling a robotic army is such a well-worn idea that it worked very hard to rise above the cliche and still failed to look like anything more than another robots vs humans story.

Fix Me Up by Nils Muhlenbruch:
Fix me Up on the other hand was a short able to take the idea of an artificial human and make it both visually interesting, playful and meaningful. A legion of alien boy scouts and super human beings on a base camp in orbit above earth: Flash animation has never looked so cool. With a fantastic song of the same name this is one animation to check out.

Resistance 3: Follow Capelli by Miles Christensen:
A graphic Saul-Bass-inspired animated trailer for the new game. The cut-style of animation really works and suits the story being told.

Disassembly for Cluster Scenery by Naoki Takano:
As the vague title suggests, this animation isn’t really about anything but that’s not such a bad thing as Takano has an eye for the impressive and the CG skills to back it up. Explosions in slow motion, things falling apart and yet with the beauty of CG photorealism.

GravityOne: A Choreography for Militarised Airspace by Olivu Lugojan-Ghenciu:
We are told that ‘The remote territories of the Australian Never Never are anything but empty…” which sets the scene for a computer animation that aims to explore the history of nuclear testing, rocket launches and black military operations. While the idea of secret weapons tests can never fail to excite the imagination, the piece felt too long and a little unfocused.

Occupation: Movements II & III by Eric Schockmel:
Schockmel seemed to disagree with the onedotzero synopsis of his animation when he introduced the piece before the screening but it’s difficult to see how this 3D animation could be about anything other than the human impact on the environment. This was the one animation that was let down by its sound design, free sounds from the internet will only get you so far and a sound designer for such a minimalistic animation would have benefited the piece enormously.

The Cool Hunter by Tronic Studio:
Polished and well rendered intro for a lifestyle blog, but the piece didn’t feel like anything more than an advertisement.

Immersive Cocoon by Oliver Zeller:
This was worth it just to sea Keir Dullea of 2001: A Space Odyssey… facebooking.

Olympia by Wendy Mcmurdo:
A short film shot on location at a UK robotics laboratory in Bristol, the deserted lab is eerily alive with small machines and animatronic faces that attempt to mimic human ones. The soundtrack felt out of place and a little cliched, an operatic score that clearly served to emphasise the grace of new age machinary.

Musicians With Guns “Astroblast” by Alexadre Lehmann:
A 3D fractal, Ecsher-esque piece that was visually impressive, the never ending architectural landscape looked almost like a 3D Kaleidescope, morphing and repeating but never quite the same. It felt a little longer than necessary but perhaps this was to create a kind of visual drone, emphasised by the minimal electronotic soundtrack.

Golden Age – Somewhere by Paul Nicholls:

A truly impressive attempt at visualising how future generations may engage with other people via the Internet. From virtual reality and three dimensional paintings to cyber pets and a future Skype that translates any language instantly, breaking down the barriers of geography.

Megalomania by Jonathan Gales:
A city that’s always in construction, perhaps the title suggests what future governments might suffer from, endlessly trying to create grandeur and awe through the architecture of major cities. The look of this animation is beautiful, CG photorealistic rendering really sells the environment and ambience of a place full of awe and decay.

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