May 09, 2012

MPC helps artists bring a Dutch master’s still life painting to life

MPC worked with artists Rob and Nick Carter to create a stunning animated replica of Bosschaert’s Vase with Flowers in a Window.

MPC helped artists Rob and Nick Carter create a computer-generated, animated replica of Dutch Golden Age master Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder's Vase with Flowers in a Window.  Transforming the still life into a fully-animated work of digitally engineered art took two years of painstaking work, during which time every detail in the painting was animated, including each individual flower stem, insect and background detail.  

The groundbreaking animated sequence spans over three hours, and illustrates changes in the painting as it transitions through different times of day, from just before dawn, through the bright light of noon, and then into the darkness of dusk and late night.  Creating a piece with this level of intricacy required thousands of hours of digital rending, more than with a feature length animated film, and the result is an incomparable testament to the artistry of technological invention.

"’Transforming still life painting’ is without doubt one of the most challenging briefs we have ever worked on for a number of reasons,” explains MPC Creative Director Jake Mengers. “At three hours long it is quite simply the longest piece of animation we have ever developed. Furthermore, to ensure absolute detail and realism we had to study hours and hours of nature footage—the task was to capture every subtlety and nuance surrounding the events of a 24-hour cycle in the life of a bouquet of flowers. This isn’t as simple as one might think. A lot happens!”

While some of the animated sequences in the piece are obvious at a glance, it would take a more sustained viewing to observe all the subtle changes that occur over the course of the three-hour display.  You could then see subtle shifts in the animated painting as clouds pass over the flowers, the sun rises and then eventually yields to the stars.

“Rather than study a bunch of flowers as reference for animation, we chose to approach it as though we were animating a timelapse sequence,” explains Mengers. “We created a database of timelapse footage for almost every flower in the original painting and referenced the timelapse movement very closely. We felt this would give us a truer representation of the movement of the flower that one might not pick up with the naked eye.”

MPC further added to the true representation of the time lapse by animating over 45 minutes worth of butterflies, ladybirds, flies, snails, and caterpillars eating leaves. The team also added other subtle effects such as a dewdrop dripping down an alcove at dawn; mist that thickens at dawn and then clears with dusk; and 3D animated water in the vase.

The artwork attempts to address issues of the boundaries between the real and the imagined, analogue and digital, the traditional and the progressive and the very nature of art itself. By painstakingly re-rendering every component of the painting as a digital animation the whole process draws attention to the mastery of the original and allows us to consider it in a new light.

With our experience traditionally rooted in advertising and feature film visual effects, it has been a great experience working with artists of Rob & Nick’s caliber,” comments Jake Mengers. “We are very proud of the finished piece and the levels to which we were able to push our creativity.”


You can view clips from the film on

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