How pop culture can provoke conversation: Meet Vince Ibay’s TikTok-inspired 3D animations
The upcoming digital artist uses motion capture AI and photogrammetry to humorously explore complex technological issues, such as surveillance capitalism on social media.
Vince Ibay views the internet as “a powerful and democratic space that should collectively steer towards the benefit of humanity”. It’s an idea that lies at the crux of his digital practice where he uses photogrammetry and motion capture AI to create provocative 3D animations. A recent graduate of Camberwell College of Art’s drawing with creative computing degree, Vince spent the last few years honing his technically impressive skills which use his own image (“primarily just because of ease of use”) to comment on pressing societal issues as a result of the digital age. His work questions surveillance capitalism on social media platforms as well as internet ethics, but at the same time, his work is light hearted, humorous and entertaining.
For the West London-based artist, an interest in 3D animation began a while ago. As a child he remembers drawing his favourite video game characters for leisure and watching Pixar movies. Then, as a teen, he began a video practice by creating Call of Duty montages and indulging in the cinematic trailers of games such as World of Warcraft and League of Legends. “I’ve always wanted to create my own worlds and stories,” he says on these early forays with VFX. At university, Vince then developed these interests with a distinct visual language where effective picture making was key. Along the way, unlocking various technological theories which introduced him to CGI and coding; now a staple in his work.
As one of this year’s The Next Generation, Vince tells us more about his fascinating practice and the technical wizardry behind it. In this comprehensive Q&A, he explains how TikTok culture has impacted his graduate collection, using comedic irony as an accessible way to deconstruct complex issues and encourage deeper thought in the viewer. For more pop culture references, funky dance trends and more, read on below.
“I’ve learnt techniques such as motion capture and photogrammetry all from YouTube tutorials.”Vince Ibay
It’s Nice That: You have such a brilliant and recognisable aesthetic in your work, it’s so full of personality and super well executed at the same time. You use photogrammetry and motion capture AI to create your 3D animations, can you tell us a bit more about these technologies? Why do you enjoy working with them over other mediums?
Vince Ibay: Thanks so much! Photogrammetry is basically 3D scanning without a scanner. I use my phone and take lots of pictures around an object or person from all different angles. I then upload these pictures to a photogrammetry software such as Agisoft, which essentially stitches the pics together into a 3D model (think of it like flatpacks). This is then ready to be transferred into Blender where I do all the editing and colouring of a character.
I learnt VFX as a teenager (on After Effects, Premiere and Sony Vegas) which was my gateway into 3D animation. Back then there were only a few tutorials available, mainly from Andrew Kramer on YouTube and online forums. Nowadays there's so much information out there for free. I use Blender for my work, primarily because it has a large community constantly posting help. I’ve learnt techniques such as motion capture and photogrammetry all from YouTube tutorials. I think it’s so crazy how we can now do 3D animation on a laptop anywhere, compared to previously where you needed to be at a large studio to learn such things.
Blender is an easy and quick way to transfer something from the physical world into the digital, rather than modeling it manually. Of course the results might not be as polished, but I like the unique imperfections you get with photogrammetry models.
I use Deep Motion for motion capture which is an AI powered body tracker. Basically you can insert a video of someone doing an action which is then transferred to your 3D characters, making them come alive. This makes the process of animation less time consuming and it is also cheaper than buying a motion capture suit. The movements sometimes come out a bit janky, but it still provides a solid base that can be edited. I enjoy working with these mediums as they don’t need large productions behind them. As these tools get better over time, I’m excited to see the different ways in which people use them.
INT: I love how you reference meme culture and social media in your work, it’s such a refreshing spin on its ubiquity. Can you tell us a bit more about your interests in influencer culture and digital realms?
VI: Throughout the pandemic we have seen TikTok become a huge part of people’s lives. I think it served us at the right moment, acting as a band aid through a tough year with its fun and nonsensical content. The world turned very serious and people needed a way to lightheartedly express themselves. My characters try to reflect on how the platform brought everyone together with collaborative creation through global trends and memes. I’m interested in the process of building and cultivating cultures that reach far beyond local boundaries and the role influencers play.
My intention is to also express a darker undertone in my work, with whimsical TikTok scripts playing in the context of the seemingly apocalyptic world we live in. The imperfect figures aim to portray a self that is constantly subject to market forces and anonymous virtual observation. The monotone puppet-like expressions of my influencers try to hint at the underlying problem of market forces that control their digital habitats. It’s my attempt to speculate on the illusions of these biased choices given by surveillance capitalists.
Similarly to how Shrek deconstructed the traditional fairytale, I went for a light hearted take on surveillance capitalism. I feel using tools such as humour and irony is important in making my work approachable. By using pop culture I hope to facilitate conversation around complex technological propositions for newer generations.
”The monotone puppet-like expressions of my influencers try to hint at the underlying problem of market forces that control their digital habitats.“Vince Ibay
INT: The characters in your work seem to resemble yourself, what intrigues you about using your own image in your work?
VI: The characters are definitely based on me visually, primarily just because of ease of use. It also avoids the implications of attaching a critical subject to someone else. I don’t necessarily see them as overtly autobiographical but rather a reflection of the content that I would most likely engage with, or the content that is easily sold to me. I can certainly relate to the characters and some of them express parts of my personality, but I see them more as vessels that have collected curated trends. I want to portray them as symbolic pieces of our digital cultures.
INT: If you had to pick a favourite project from the past year, which one are you most proud of and why?
VI: My favourite will have to be my graduate piece Dante, Jocko & Hugo which was shown at the Camberwell Space Gallery. I feel that I really hit my stride at the final push of the year and I got to release everything into this project. It also marked a beginning, where I found my creative voice that I truly enjoyed and felt comfortable in.
Jess World also has a special place in my heart because it was the first experiment where I nailed the process together with my girlfriend (my muse for the models). It was a long summer project, but we had a lot of fun figuring all the 3D things out, which I think is expressed in the video.
INT: You mentioned in an artist statement that your work questions the liberating capabilities of the internet. Can you tell us a bit more about this concept and how you hope to explore this in the future?
VI: The internet is such a powerful and democratic space that we should all collectively steer towards the benefits of humanity. It has completely changed the geography of seeing things, with the power of online media globalising our interactions with each other.
The global pandemic has rapidly transported more of our lives into the digital realm and I think it is important to explore the early ethics and cultures the internet incubated, and also look into the utopian ideals it originated from. Things such as surveillance capitalism on social platforms, the rise of the alt-right from the culture wars, and the new influencer economy, are all things I try to dive into.
As digital practitioners, we should try to have a conscious awareness of operations such as data harvesting as the liberating capabilities of the internet are sometimes used to influence dependency upon it. I intend to address questions such as “what kind of judgments are built into these systems? Who are they benefitting and at whose expense?” My ambition for the future is to keep creating visual narratives and experiences that are receptive to this coming generation of digital natives.
Copyright © Vince Ibay, 2021
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.