I want a triple-twist Klein bottle!


Here’s a great thing: a trio of Klein bottles nested one inside the other by mathematical glass-blower Alan Bennett (found via BoingBoing, of course.) You can tell it’s three separate bottles by looking at how the layers are interconnected: the long skinny tubes at the bottom each connect a pair of layers, and the folded-over edges at the top connect the same pairs (1+6, 2+5, 3+4). Figuring that out was fun, but then I saw this tantalizing quote from the museum’s website:

“In the series Alan Bennett made Klein bottles analogous to Mobius strips with odd numbers of twists greater than one.”

Darn, I was really hoping to see one of those! Suddenly the math geek in me is sorely disappointed. Given how much labor it must have taken to build this object, he could have made it a lot more interesting just by switching which tubes connect to which bottles! If the tubes linked 2+6, 3+5, and 1+4, this object would be transformed from three separate surfaces into a single surface that turns inside-out three times, the equivalent of a triply-twisted Moebius strip.

Continue reading I want a triple-twist Klein bottle!

A major milestone


Looks like they’ve gotten started on marketing for the movie I’m working on. And they’re using some of my animation in a bunch of the promo materials. This is it, man, I’ve made the big time! Forget about feature films. Projected celluloid is so old-media. Animated GIFs are where it’s at! I won’t hurt your eyes by posting ’em on the front page though. Click below for the full effect.

Continue reading A major milestone

The difference between film and animation

Over at Kevin Koch’s always excellent Synchrolux blog, there’s a discussion brewing about a new course being offered by professor Alej Garcia at San Jose State University about the physics of animation. I love the idea of this course, and I also love the openness with which Professor Garcia is engaging with animators to get the ideas and terminology exactly right, via Kevin’s blog and elsewhere. When scientists and artists get together, good things happen!

Part of the discussion has revolved around a certain stroboscopic photo of a bouncing ball:


Kevin pointed out that the ball’s arc looked strange to him, and a wonderful discussion ensued. The question in my mind was why there appeared to be a sudden change in direction and speed between the second and third “frames” of the ball’s movement. The best explanation I’ve been able to come up with is that none of the strobe’s flashes happened to coincide with the exact moment when the ball hit the ground:


This brings up a really important distinction between animation and film. In live-action film (or in strobe photography) the camera captures whatever happens to be in front of it every 24th of a second, regardless of whether the image captured in that instant is particularly interesting or important. Only one instant is captured, and the rest of what happens in that 1/24-second interval is lost. In animation, the expectations are higher: we expect each frame to do the best possible job of telling the story of what happens in the entire interval. In the case of a bouncing ball, the most important part is clearly the instant when the ball hits the ground–not what happens a few milliseconds earlier or later! The strobe photo above might be a technically accurate representation of a bouncing ball, but it does a poor job of conveying the whole truth to the audience, because the most salient moments–the bounces–are misrepresented. This is just one of many reasons why animation has something that live action (or pure motion capture) will never quite match.

how I use my thumb-rocker switch

A student was asking about some ergonomic issues, so I thought I’d post a little demo of how I hold the stylus for my Wacom tablet, and specifically how I use the rocker-switch for the second and third buttons.

Note the way the side of my thumb rests lightly against the switch at all times. I press the forward button by putting a tiny amount of pressure on the tip of the thumb, and I press the other one by putting some pressure on the knuckle. Click, click, click, it’s easy!

Bjork floats my boat.


Encyclopedia Pictura has just released the video for my favorite song on Bjork’s latest album… and the video’s as good as the song! Apparently the video was shot in stereoscopic HD. Don’t know how we’ll ever get to see it that way, but in the meantime, here’s a not-too-shabby quicktime. (Don’t bother with YouTube‘s version, it’s intolerably compressed.)

Thanks to Guido for the link! See also Cartoon Brew for a making-of video and other links…

What’s eating Marv Pushkin?

A bear, that’s what! Yes, folks, Mykle Hansen’s new novel is finally out in print! You can buy a copy online from the publisher–or if you’re in Portland, Oregon, you can swing by Powell’s Books on Thursday, March 20th, to hear a real live bear* read a chapter from the book in Mykle’s own voice! It’s part of a bigger small publishers’ event from 5-10pm. Mykle and friends will go on around 9pm.

*Disclaimer: if real bear is not available, reading may be provided by man in bear suit.

A non-photorealistic videogame?


Check out these screenshots of this new game being created by one lone developer, Eskil Steenberg. The idea of an auteur-driven videogame is already pretty inspiring, but the painterly visuals here are especially exciting to a guy like me. I’m not a gamer myself (RSI and gaming don’t mix) but I get a lot of joy out of watching over people’s shoulders. I can’t wait to see how this plays in motion. I’m sure there will be shower-door effects and crawling texture artifacts to contend with, but if he’s clever, he’ll find a way to rise above all that. And this guy seems to be nothing if not very, very clever. Can’t wait!

(via BoingBoing)

Cassidy Curtis's splendid display of colorful things.