portfolio news animation Bookstore bio Sketchblog contact

Archive for the 'Digital' Category

Kal dances with PhaseSpace

July 04th, 2008 | Category: 3-D, Digital, Economist, News, PhaseSpace

The Economist and Second City partnered again for another successful stage event in San Francisco on June 25. “The Art of Satire” received a rapturous response from the sold out crowd at the Yerba Buena Arts center. The show, which is touring to several US cities later in 2008, is an exciting mixture of sketch comedy, satiric video, interviews and “Stand-up Cartooning”.

The newest addition to the show was a unique collaboration between myself and Bay Area motion Capture company PhaseSpace. I had the good fortune to have worked with PhaseSpace in the Spring on an earlier animation “Debate 2008“. We conspired at the time to produce a cutting edge presentation to feature in the “Art of Satire” show in June.


Our plan was to employ PhaseSpace’s Realtime Motion Capture system to bring alive my animated versions of Barack Obama and John McCain. We understood this would be technological challenge and an entertainment treat.


First I created a script that would both show off PhaseSpace’s technology and my digital puppets. The theme was a “Dancing with The Stars” parody. We announced to the audience at The Yerba Buena Center that the two candidates had agreed to have a live special debate that evening. ┬áThe format was to be a “Dance-off” where the audience would suggest dance styles and the candidates would have to compete for the audiences’ favor with some slick moves. The audience was then to be introduced the contestants who were fully animated real-time animated caricatures of Obama and McCain.┬áThe audience would then pick a winner who was awarded electoral votes as a prize.

On PhaseSpaces’ part, they erected a 16×20x8 framework out of aluminum poles backstage. They added 20┬ádigital cameras for capturing data. They teamed up with Digital Steamworks (my great crew from Baltimore) to add further facial animation enhancements.

Finally there was the actor. I was to act the role of both Obama and McCain. I was to wear a leotard festooned with PhaseSpace’s lit digital markers. I would be wearing a wireless microphone filtered through voice recognition software to create mouth movements for my digital characters. Simultaneously, a puppeteer from Digital Steamworks, Martin DeRiso, would be manipulating the facial expressions of Obama and McCain while I moved and talked. We had programmed a selection of camera angles to toggle through for added interest.

This new, innovative experiment was an enormous hit. First, technically everything went off without a hitch. PhaseSpaces’ professional team of Kan, Ketrina and Milton were completely prepared for all eventualities. Even with minimum rehearsal time the routine was a technical success.

My John McCain character made his world premier with howls of approval from the audience. However, despite his best Fred Astaire steps, McCain was out-Boogied in the audiences’ opinion by Barack’s disco moves. The finishing touch to the piece was when I was called out onstage to take a bow in my leotard with lights attached. Quite a sight.

PhaseSpace’s real-time Mocap system worked amazingly in a demanding environment. I was whirling around the 16×20 virtual dance floor doing ballet, the moonwalk, even the Macarena. All my movements were captured without a problem. I can highly recommend them for their quality goods and professional manner.

You can see here some shots taken of me backstage during the performance by the gifted photogragher Maggie Hallahan. If more images of the performance appear I will share them with you. Stay tuned for more news on “”Art of Satire” shows with cutting edge animation slated for 2008-2009.┬á



No comments

3-D Digital Caricatures

June 17th, 2008 | Category: 3-D, Digital, caricature

Next week I unveil my newest 3-d character- the digital John McCain. Creating a 3-D animated caricature has its challenges. Up to now, I have been sculpting a static version of my characters and then carrying them to a local imaging company, Direct Dimensions LLC for scanning. The sculptures are devoid of expression as they are the “default” poses for the new characters. ┬á

Politicians by their nature are quite active and animated people. As a result, I found it tricky to capture a politician without any motion in their face. When they are still they often do not resemble themselves! I found that my lifeless sculptures do not adequately capture the targeted politicians very well. However, after the new digital characters are rigged with the facial expressions of the politicians, suddenly the caricatures take life.

I have employed the great team from Digital Steamworks to help me in this exercise. You will see below how we moved from a sculpture of George bush to its final manifestation in a recent 3-D movie.

Below you will see the bust that resulted in the Obama caricature as well as the finished Hillary character that resulted from the sculpture above. A screen grab from a recent animation shows how they ended up in motion.


Check in tomorrow for news of my adventures in Azerbaijan.


1 comment