Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Statement of the Computer Animation Jury

Rolf Herken

In distributing the prizes the Prix Ars Electronica Computer Graphics and Animation jury has tried to stick to the basic principles it set last year. Besides the artistic character of the entries, their computer-specificity is the most important measure of prize quality. They should distinguish themselves through images that are specifically related to the computer's role in their creation. This inevitably draws attention to the role of software and, where relevant, to the development of software within the creative process. Among the works submitted there were, in the eyes of the jury, only a few that could be put on the short list for the Golden Nica. This is not necessarily a sign of a decline in quality, or tightened entry criteria. The reason is probably that not enough outstanding recent works have been entered. The Golden Nica was awarded to Pascal Roulin's "Lakme", notwithstanding that in an artistic sense it represents a contrast to the new forms of expression favored by the jury, showing images that are familiar, though perfectly realized by computer, literally animated and surreal.

It was therefore mainly on the criterion of computer specificity that "Lakme" was judged to be worthy of the prize - to a certain extent in recognition of the opportunity provided on the meta level of the software to represenHmagined animated images as they are seen here in the movements and transformations of the hands representing the princess Lakme and her servant Mallika; to the music of Delibes. The fluid transformation of the hands and the associations they conjure up of various animals and their characteristics, as well as their individual beauty and danger of the jungle around them, are highlights of the animation.

The animation of the hands, which carries the film, was brought about by Estelle Chedebois using newly developed animation software. It allows the user to build and animate a skeleton with moving joints, and automatically covers the pre-determined body volume with skin. It also generates extreme complex surface transformations which are controlled by the movements of the skeleton and under the influence of additional user-defined functions, which in traditional methods of modeling and animation could only have been achieved by the most laborious means. This has enabled the animator to concentrate on the fundamentals of the animation; the choreography and transformations of the hands, and to show organic bodies in movements of unattainable complexity and elegance. The software was developed by Philippe Brock and Madeleine Jean for Ex Machina.

One of the two Distinctions goes to Darrin Butts for his work "Legacy", a production which originated as a student work. It testifies to the high technical and artistic level now within reach to artists who thoroughly investigate the capabilities of today's commercially available software.

An opposite pole can be found in the films "Ex Memoriam" by BĂ©riou und "Infrared Roses Revisited" by XAOS, which shared a Distinction.

The almost entirely two-dimensional animated collage by Beriou does not present anything essentially new in the technical sense, but with regard to the artistic strength of his overall work, it is excellent. The work by XAOS is an interesting example of the trend of using the cumulative application of a number of self-made, in-house programs, and using all the tricks of computer graphics, to achieve almost organic and hallucinatory three-dimensional dynamic images.

This year, industrially produced animations and special effects, which undoubtedly represent the state of the art in visual effects, did not win prizes. Nevertheless, the three Honorable Mentions awarded to the outstanding productions are a tribute to their significance to the further development of tools in the areas of simulation, special effects, and the combining of real images with synthetic ones.

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