Vincent Schwenk and Vitaly Grossmann animate 3D scans with incredible believability
Called Material Exploration, the animated film is a collaboration between the Hamburg-based designers and German engineering company Imat-uve to show the potential of 3D scanning and digital material development.
Incredibly tactile, lifelike renders are something that we see quite a lot of at It’s Nice That, so creating something that stands out from the pack takes an extra level of je ne sais quoi. Material Exploration by Hamburg-based designers Vincent Schwenk and Vitaly Grossmann is an animation that comes into this category, largely because of the incredible specificity of the textures you’ll find within it. For example, there’s the sort of hairy thread balls you’ll know intimately if you use a sewing machine, that mutant expanding foam you find in the loft, the soft waffle of microfibre cloths and some very lifelike lasers. The animation is a journey through these very precise materials that, once started, is utterly compelling.
The project is one of the first collaborations between Vincent and Vitaly, who plan to open a studio together next year. “We love to hang out together, work together and doing sports together – it’s pretty much like a relationship,” says Vincent. “At work we have fun together, we trust and challenge each other. I am the freestyle and more intuitive designer,” he adds. “While I am the thinker and concept-driven designer,” Vitaly says, finishing Vincent’s sentence.
Both based in Hamburg, the pair start each project with a coffee, pen and paper, moving into rough sketches to show each other ideas and then to Cinema 4D for animation tests. Vitaly says, “I think I’m addicted to grids and rules; pretty German, I know. Storytelling, a strong concept, should be the heart of any visual style. A strong idea defines the style, composition and even the colour. I’m super bad with colours and setting up some rules helps me to narrow down and find the palette that feels right.”
After setting the rules and the grid, the pair play “ping pong” with frames, trying to get the right feel for each of the textures. “Vincent has a great eye for light and colour and we both love to get lost in details,” says Vitaly. When German engineering company Imat-uve approached them to create a material world for a trade show, the pair knew that this would be a great brief to tackle together. “We love to work with textures as they always challenge us to find the right balance between reality and abstraction,” says Vincent.
As part of their work Imat-uve's in-house design department creates textures but also 3D scans existing ones. For the project, Vincent and Vitaly used many of these scans, which explains why the objects in the animation are so lifelike. “The first part of the video is bright, colourful and abstract,” says Vitaly. “The objects are alive and the textures blend into each other.” While the beginning of Material Exploration shows a broad range of possible texture combinations, the second part shows the process of scanning and highlights the final designed textures. “Here the objects become more rigid and realistic,” says Vitaly. “We wanted to create a contrast between these two stages. The camera angle, the colours, the animation and the texture are completely different. At the end, we bring both worlds together and showcase the library of materials we used in the whole spot.”
Creating 3D hair, which features several times in the animation, was one of the most challenging parts of the project, especially in terms of rendering. “The more detailed, the more difficult it is to render,” says Vincent. “We kept it more abstract and it worked quite well for us. The laser projection was our biggest challenge though. Once it was working for us, we decided not to touch it anymore and sell it as final.”
Projects like this embody exactly what the duo want to work on when they launch their studio next year. “Working with the client directly, and involving them in the process, made the job become more natural,” says Vitaly. “We ticked the client's bullet points at a very early stage and won the trust to run this piece more experimentally. This means we had much more freedom to direct and shape the concept.” Stay tuned for more work from the pair, including some very complex haptics.