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Bellows: Bringing Digital Animation Into the Physical World

Theme: Future History
Hall H

Bellows is an art installation and cinema project that uses a new animation process. The concept of the zoetrope, a pre-cinema optical toy, is combined with rapid-prototype 3D printing and fast-shutter digital video to tell a story suggesting the destructive and expressive potential of humans.

In Bellows, anthropomorphized concertinas take the place of people. Concertinas serve as the metaphor for humans because both breathe and both have great expressive potential.

The ability to print out three-dimensional animated sequences, alter them in the real world, and shoot them in real time is unexplored territory. Procedurally, Bellows creates a much-needed bridge between digital and tactile processes in animation. The Bellows animated sequences and resultant cinetropes (Director/Artist Eric Dyer's term for this variation on the zoetrope) are created in Maya, then printed in ceramic or plastic on a 3D printer. The cinetropes are then hand-painted and manually altered, spun using a variable-speed motor, and shot with a fast-shutter progressive-scan video camera.

This process rethinks the status quo of digital animation, blurring the line between virtual and real, and introducing the human hand, and the serendipity it enables, to digital time-based creations.

The Bellows installation at SIGGRAPH 2008 features six cinetropes and live video. A total of fifteen cinetropes will be created for the final film.

Eric Dyer
University of Maryland Baltimore County