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Human Anatomy Gets A Digital Twist In CGI Film Experiments

Animator Albert Omoss melts hands into piles of goop and imagines humanoid ratkings in his "Forms" series.

Animator Albert Omoss excels at creating psychedelic, geometric worlds that are easy to get lost in. His avant garde Cycles series and his hypnotizing Godface, for example, strive to spark a celestial experience through optical illusionsThe digital artist's latest work, however, attempts to transcend that mold and venture into a space where he can explore and tinker with human bodies at his creative whimsy. Forms is a series of ultra short films that hypothesize surreal, anatomical scenerios, and then test them in a seemingly-real—albeit virtual—realm. It's not quite artistic mad science, but it's definitely experimental. 

The earliest entries in the Forms series aren't a far cry from Omoss' previous work—whoa-worthy digital entities that spawn from nothing and evolve on screen like ratking humanoids, as exemplified in form j04 - quadruplets. More complex and intricate with each new addition, Forms eventually becomes a place where Omoss can play with the way that human beings interact with their surroundings, as well with their own bodies. By the time his most recent addition, form i02 - loose clutch, joined the set—where a hand melts into a pile of goop—Omoss' curiosity turned to the weird ways flesh itself can behave under the right, digitally-engineered circumstances. The Creators Project spoke to Omoss about his unique CGI experiments.

The Creators Project: How would you describe your personal art projects to someone who's not familiar?

Albert Omoss: Depending how pretentious I want to sound (usually not very), somewhere between: Graphics experiments that I make with computers, and, Films resulting from the search for some kind of pure mathematical truth orchestrating the computation of reality.

Your Forms series plays with several different aesthetics, from intricate geometric shapes to surreal lifelike bodies. What ties each experiment together?

I would say that the common theme of the series is the exploration of form, in the geometric and structural sense of the word, and using film as the medium to express those forms. So often film is used to explore narrative and characters, and in this series I want to explore the narrative and character of the forms themselves. I direct the structures to a degree, like a director would with an actor, but at some point I give control over to the machine, in one way or another. My directorial choices made in filming these structures comes only after observing their nature and behavior. The forms express themselves and I try to capture it for the viewer to see.

Can you walk me through your creative process, from the inspiration for the idea to publishing the finished product?

The source of my inspiration is probably mostly sub-conscience connections my brain makes between techniques and processes that I've learned over time. Occasionally a new technology will spark an idea, like some computer graphics research I come across, or a new feature I'm exploring in a piece of software. Other times, I will have the general idea for the structural evolution that I want to see, and then figure out how to implement it.

I will experiment in various software packages, usually Houdini, and iterate on a concept until I feel I have something worth trying to polish. Many tests and experiments get thrown out. The forms that I find most interesting, I will try to turn into short films. At that point I will usually import the animated geometry into Cinema4D and work on lighting and 'digitally filming' the evolution of the forms, with a focus on classical film cinematography.

Then the films go through the typical computer-graphics process of rendering and compositing. If I have to do complex compositing of the renders, I will use Nuke, but usually I just composite the pieces in After Effects. I add sound in After Effects after the picture is locked. Then I compress and upload the pieces for the world to consume.

On the series' webpage, you give each video a short, three-word phrase summary of the ideas you're experimenting with. Does your creative process start with these ideas, or do you create the Forms and summarize in retrospect? How does that process work?

The summaries come after the creation of a piece. Mostly the phrases describe some element of the technical process used to create the piece. Other times, the phrases describe some kind of subjective quality I feel for the piece as a whole.

Your website also notes that this work is an "ongoing filmic exploration of four-dimensional forms." What do you mean by four-dimensional here?

The fourth-dimension in these pieces is time. Most physical sculptures exist as static three-dimensional forms. Since I am not restricted by the use of physical materials, in this series, I want to explore structures that change and evolve as the viewer observes them.

From the title, Forms, to the frequent appearance of human bodies/limbs, your work clearly has a fascination with human shapes and bodily forms. Do these body modification experiments have undercurrent goals? How do you hope viewers reply to them?

Since a lot of my other work is almost completely abstract and geometric, I wanted to take an opportunity with this series to explore more emotionally impactful forms. Most computer-graphics research has a very cold and technical aesthetic. This might be my attempt at injecting some kind of warmth and emotional weight into a typically synthetic and unrelatable space. I hope that viewers find something relatable in these pieces, but that they are abstract enough for each viewer to pull some personal meaning from.

To explore more of Omoss' strange digital worlds, visit his website here.

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