CGI software a brand new and totally absurb sculpted font. by Liz Stinton
Computer-generated imagery software has given us some truly wonderful gifts: Avatar, Jurassic Park, and that creepy dancing man, to name just a few. Also? These totally absurd, photorealistic letters.
Created by German design studio FOREAL, the typography project began as an extracurricular activity to the company’s advertising work. Founders Benjamin Simon and Dirk Shuster were looking to sharpen their 4-D animation chops beyond the strict briefs and parameters they usually worked within. Working with clients offered little room for experimentation, even less for a typographic free for all. “That’s when we decided to do a sculpted alphabet,” Simon and Schuster explain. “And we found out it was great fun.”
The letters range from gorgeous to shudder-inducing. Take the letter “K,” for example, which appears to be make from a knobby slab of pasty skin sprouting moles and hair. Then there’s “Y,” a stretch of translucent blue goo dripping from a pair of broken eggs. A lowercase “I” looks like a Snickers broken at the tip to create dot, and “D” appears carved out of moon rock. “Our inspirations came from specific objects we’ve seen,” they explain. “And some of the letters were born in a random experimenting phase.”
Each letter was constructed in CGI as a sculpted model. The team says the most common way to build a virtual 3-D shape is the box modeling method, which uses geometric mesh or shapes as a base. “These are very efficient and fast ways to build up something artificial,” the duo says. “But if you want to create organic stuff, a naturally looking irregular form, these modeling tools come to their limits.”
Sculpting, on the other hand, begins with a 3-D model that’s already roughly the object’s final form. In the case of the letters, “it has already the basic shape of the final letter but looks more like a edgy low resolution version without any details,” they explain. The software allows the artist to smooth the mesh, essentially turning a rough virtual model into digital clay that can be finessed into a photorealistic object.
The attention to detail makes it clear the designers considered how an object exists in real life. For instance, how does a candle build up its hardened drizzles of wax? “While burning down a candle the liquid wax drips down step by step, it dries get hard and the next layer of liquid wax follows and so on,” they say. “So we did exactly the same thing in Cinema 4D to achieve the same. Drip by drip – layer by layer.”
Though the images look real, FOREAL’s typography isn’t hyper-realistic. Rather, it occupies a strange place between photorealism and surrealism. “It’s important for us to have realistic parts but it never was just to create a hyper-realistic reproduction of existing objects,” the founders say. “Our biggest aim is to create bold and graphic illustration with a surreal twist.”
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