Customizable characters or the ability to create your very own avatar is a well known element in video games. Major game studios are even creating customization interfaces that are reminiscent of a real world fitting room including the ability to pick characteristics such as eye colour, skin tone and hair style.
The importance of identification has positioned character customization as a component for game studios with graphic ambitions. It has also raised the issue of lack of diversity in an industry with reputation to only be representing white men as has historically been the only character option to choose from. Insomniac games is one of the studios rebelling against that norm in their action game Sunset Overdrive. In it, the players are given the option of playable female character as well as customization options that are unrelated to gender. It points out the importance of identification in recreating yourself digitally: you not only have the possibility to represent your physical world self, but who you want to be or, even let your imagination take you to a new digital self.
In Bungie’s Destiny as well as BioWare’s fantasy title Dragon age: Inquisition, the player can choose his or her appearance with high level of detail in everything from race, gender and class to face features. As computer graphics have advanced into close in on photorealism, the gaps in implementation have decreased. The type of self-visualizing which has so far only been used for character design is now of interest when we digitize our lives for different kinds of services.
Fashion ecommerce is constantly looking for new visualization tools to provide stunning digital experiences with technology used by game artists. 3D content such as creating personal avatars, virtually trying on 3D rendered garments or customizing products are services now popping up globally to bring us new ways of living our digital lives. The skillset of a CG artist is suddenly pure gold in a new fashion landscape. As shown by the advances of self-visualisation in gaming we will most likely see great innovations in the near future at this very intersection, taking the shown examples out of their original context. When it comes to visual experiences fashion has everything to learn from game art and digital storytelling.
Kate Moss will have to look for a new job – the instant media response after a Manchester Metropolitan University press release suggesting a new virtual direction in fashion. Runway models are replaced by digital replicas – “near-faultless copies” that need no sleep or expensive plane tickets. Academic research has never felt more like science fiction.
Dr Andrew Brownridge with Dr Peter Twigg use a combination of 3D scanning and motion capture in developing the hybrid avatars that creates a human digital copy to be digitally dressed in virtual haute couture. From there you can either render a fashion show to video file with animated characters ready to distribute or have a live performance with models in motion capture outfits, working in real time.
However the research project did not start out with a fashion focus but as an analysis tool for the movement of ballet dancers.
How come ballet was the focus of your research Andrew?
– The research began when we were approached by the Northern Ballet School enquiring about using motion capture equipment. Their interest was for use within augmented performance which had been touched upon by the Melbourne Dance Company previously. We suggested developing the technology further in order to provide a database of gestures for choreography purposes. Upon speaking to the dancers and researching the discipline it occurred that the motion capture technology we were using had the capability of recording very accurate measurement of movement which could be used for analytical purposes for corrective coaching and training.
Would that focus have been possible outside an academic context?
– No, I don’t believe so. It takes researchers who do not have the pressure of training and performance constantly present to look at methods and processes in a different way to see further possibilities of applying the technology. We also had equipment and appropriate expertise readily available to bring technology and physical performance together.
How did the research move over to fashion?
– Following discussions with researchers in the fashion department, it was pointed out that modelling is simply a different form of performance and the same technologies associated with movement analysis and physical representation in a virtual world could be applied similarly in the fashion industry. The fashion department had an excellent high specification body scanner which we were quick to employ and develop techniques for generation of life-like avatars.
When research has a strong technological focus, what really drives the innovation in implementation? Do those ideas come from inside the team or from the outside?
– Personally, coming from a creative background, I found it fascinating that the technologies we were using had such a wide range of application in various other fields. I had recently studied feedback methods and motor skill learning and saw the potential for utilising the motion capture technology to analyse a performance and provide detailed and accurate feedback to aid coaching methods.
What really is your personal drive as a researcher. Do you feel stronger about “cracking the code” or does how it is being used equally interest you?
– I think if you are involved with technological research, you cannot help but constantly try to be innovative and creative. I personally feel stronger about the application and how the technology can be used, and the ‘cracking the code’ is more of a means to take the technology and implement the idea.
The fashion avatar reminds you that physical reality and virtual worlds are merging at a fast pace. On a philosophical level, what impact do you think that has on how we look at ourselves? Will we stop looking at things as “real” or “digital”?
– My personal view is “Yes!”. Initially as the visual appearance of virtual characters becomes increasingly life-like, both from an image and a movement point of view, correspondingly the levels of artificial intelligence that can be used to drive and control such avatar will rapidly develop to the point where it would not be possible to distinguish between real and digital. For example, Windows ‘Cortana’ virtual assistant is very much in its infancy, but imagine a character like this being super imposed on an avatar in a decades time. The possibilities are endless.
Team of creatives at Thomas Traum, a Swiss agency for digital innovation teamed up with British fashion designer Cristopher Raeburn to land this magic fashion concept for his S/S collection. Titled “Meridian” the movie clearly crosses that mind tickling border between fashion, storytelling and video game graphics.
Meridian sets place at a military wasteland, inspired by a desert boneland in Arizona where old airplanes are stored waiting for reappropriation. In a digital rendered replica a model is by flying airplane particles dressed in one of Christopher Raeburn’s signature looks. “We wanted to explore the possibilities of 3D-modeling clothes in a high fashion context and make a virtual version of a complete 3D fashion look,” says Thomas Eberwein, founder of Thomas Traum.
The film does not strive for photorealism but instead brings fashion concepts and storytelling together in a product line. By using 3D scanning and 3D software Marvellous Designer, earlier featured on Magic Fabric, the film results in an expression we have so far only seen in video games and opens up a new interesting digital landscape in fashion.
Digital fiction is still where the most mind-breaking and visually seductive stories take place. But as technology advances the opportunity of creating interesting visual experiences expands to a wider group of creatives.
Speaking to the humans senses in digital and physical form simultaneously creates great and memorable experiences. In this virtual fashion app a digital fashion show appears just at the palm of your hand. By printing out an online available catwalk card and downloading the augmented reality app, the user points at the card and a 3D-catwalk pops up.
The show gives you front row to London College of Fashion graduation show and was developed by students Chirag Grover and Tanisha Arora in collaboration with augmented reality specialists Holition and media partner Shopping Spy.
There’s no doubt that augmented reality has the potential of disrupting the concept of fashion shows and its alternate futures.
Dutch Jacob Kok proves what research already knows about the characteristics of an innovator – double degrees. Having background in animation he stepped in to the role as a fashion designer ending up winning the Dutch version of the well-known tv series Project Runway. However his journey in to the high fashion world did not end up just building a ready-to-use fashion line but followed the path concept of an “Evolution” – the name of one of his collections that brought him in to a groundbreaking collaboration with software company Autodesk.
– How did you really end up working with Autodesk Jakob?
– After seeing a demonstration of the 123D Catch application I was instantly intrigued and impressed Autodesk is able to offer such complex technology in such an accessible way. I contacted them to work together, and they were up for it, curious and excited like me.
Using the app 123D Catch the Evolution collection is brought to life letting the user rotate and interact with the model, zoom and examine the garments in detail. A digital fashion experience far from convention.
It is not the only virtual collaboration Jacob has taken on. In 2013 he presented his “Paradise” Collection, a both physical and virtual fashion experience brought to the runway as well as on the famous game platform The Sims by Electronic Arts. Without compromising his psychedelic, spectacular aesthetics he entered the game industry.
– I’m generally very attracted to the game aesthetics, and I like the idea of interaction. Fashion is very personal, but fashion shows can be distant and impersonal. I’m working towards a similar playful interaction between fashion and the wearer.
Lover of aesthetic “tackiness” and “awkwardness” his specific style in fashion entered the virtual every-day life in the Sims. As a concept, you downloaded Jacobs collection to use on your very own Sims character.
Your aesthetics differ from most of the art in the video game industry, what were the reactions to the Sims collection?
– As a statement it worked very well, and people in fashion were excited about the project, but obviously people that got to play with it were mostly gamers. They were, to say it mildly, not into it at all.
You have now been making collections that both have a physical and a digital life, claiming that virtuality gives fashion new dimensions. Would you consider only making the garments digitally, or are they mutually dependent?
– Fashion is in essence about people wearing it. Even though the core of my work is about visual stimulation I tend to find it necessary to also work towards a physical purpose. I would like to state I can fully let go of the physical and investigate solely the virtual, but something inside me tells me I need to work on both.
You are working in an innovation landscape of virtual technology with many possible directions such as art, computer games, online retail, product development etc. What path would you want to take from now if you could choose?
– At the moment I’m working towards a broader interpretation of my vision, approaching my brand as a design studio. Doing so I don’t restrict myself to any field. The vision and the fascination need to be guiding me.
How does our perception change when fiction looks as real as reality?
Joseph Cross, senior concept artist at American Bungie pushes the magic border with his robotic characters, excelling in tricking the human eye. Originally trained in traditional illustration Joseph bounced around different areas of commercial art, teaching and retail jobs until landing the first job in games as an environment concept artist on Dead Space 2 for EA Visceral. Since then he’s been working on a variety of other projects and games including Dead Space 3 and Destiny.
What is the story behind these characters?
-All of these are personal works. If you had asked me before I started working as a concept artist what I imagined myself doing in the field, I probably would have said designing characters. But as it worked out I’ve spent the vast majority of my career as a concept artist designing environments and spaces. So that’s what these guys are born out of, years of pent up desire to design characters.
– Aesthetically these characters come from a growing interest and appreciation of fashion, and being inspired by all the amazing character concepts out there. I did all these characters fairly quickly over about a month or so, and I really tried to think of them as fashion designs (as opposed to concept art) and myself as a fashion designer. It really freed me up mentally, and I tried to focus on textiles, materials, trends, color blocking, as opposed to rendering and how “cool” can I make this character.
For many of us, it’s hard to grasp that these outfits are actually 2D and not 3D looking amazingly realistic. They are also highly detailed descriptions of textiles and materials. How would you for someone outside of game context explain how you technically go about?
– I always start with a photograph in Photoshop, usually of a figure that has a nice gesture or lighting, and is not too stylized design wise, something utilitarian that will provide a nice “canvas” to work on top of. Then I’ll start searching through my library of photos that I keep of industrial objects, fabrics, textures etc. looking for things might be interesting to combine with the original photo. For example a section of an airplane wing overlaid on a figure in the same perspective might provide an interesting design idea for a helmet. Then I go through that process dozens more times, with each new element informing the next, and painting in areas of the design where the materials or textiles or lighting doesn’t match. It can be tedious, and I never really know what the end result will be, but that’s the fun of it. Spontaneity is really important for me, I love reacting to design decisions that I didn’t know I was going to make.
When is high realism something to strive for in concept art and when is it not?
– In production art I like to think realism is always ideal and something to strive for, but not always required. As a production concept artist it is your job to provide visual information and inspiration to other artists whose job it is to turn that art into a usable asset or 3D environment.
-Realism=information so the more realism the better in most cases. There are definitely times when it is not required, like if an environment artist has a tight budget or schedule and just needs a couple of quick ideas for a prop or a motif for a room to slam in. Or a quick proof of concept sketch to show a particular size of door will work in a space etc. There are also concept artists who specialize in more illustrative work, and are brought into to create amazing paintings of castles and ships to inspire the story and generate ideas in a more grand sense. In that case realism certainly isn’t a requirement.
Your concepts are, as I assume imaginary futuristic. What do you think the actual future will look like in terms of aesthetics. Are the alien like, sci-fi and robotic shapes we use to describe the future ever likely to come true?
–“Predicting the aesthetics of the future” is definitely in the job description of a concept artist. It’s a slippery slope and can do your head in if you think about it too analytically, but it’s also what makes the job so fun.
– The way I see it there are a few key points or rules that I keep in mind when thinking about and designing the aesthetics of the future. These are in no way meant to be a formula for predicting the future of design, but I think they are valuable things to keep in mind if you find yourself in the position of having to do so for a living:
1: Design is cyclical
2: There are periods of design that are objectively outstanding/superior to others
3: Life imitates art
So in practice I try and apply those points like this:
For whatever point in the future you happen to be designing for or thinking about, it is reasonable to draw aesthetically from some point in the past (or present).
–Whether it’s art, architecture, graphic design or industrial design, when drawing from the past or present make sure you have educated yourself thoroughly in as many fields as possible, so that you can make intelligent, informed and creative choices for your references.
–Have confidence in your ability as an artist and visionary and know that artists have always had a profound influence on industries outside of the medium.
-It’s as if I was in a computer game. Once you know the rules, you can play for hours’, explains Design student Jennifer Droguett. This virtual “game” is 3D virtual prototyping software developed by Lectra. Designing clothes with this technology can feel like playing a game with an avatar
Software for garment prototyping seems to continue winning ground in the fashion industry and fashion schools worldwide are preparing their students for a new, 3D oriented craft landscape.
Tech company Lectra recently collaborated with dutch AMFI in letting the students innovate with their virtual 3D software. High function aswell as more experimental suggestions were made.
AMFI teachers stress the fact that a fashion designer of today need to know the physical craft aswell as keep up with new technology.
-For companies such as Adidas and Nike the virtualization of their collections is already implemented. By reducing samples they reduce costs, that’s a fact
-Fashion companies like Dior Homme and other fashion brands are following. They will all need the 21st century designers that graduate with these 3D skills in their portfolio. (AMFI)
Are there visual styles with a stronger digital connection than a physical one?
Steampunk might be an example of subculture grown strong in digiculture, a phenomena at the fringes of pop culture.
Steampunk as a term bloomed in the eighties having grown out of a vast referencial system in literature and film. Cyberpunks sci-fi sibling has been described as “what the future would have looked like i it had happened sooner”. It is a pseudo Victorian dream with attributes of industrialism playing with element of air balloons, steam-powered machinery and mechanical computers.
“Steampunk may also, though not necessarily, incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The term steampunk’s first known appearance was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created even as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures, that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.” (Wikipedia)
Still with cross media popularity it still is mostly appreciated in video games while having a movement like analogue life. It is a popular subcultural manifestation outside the fashion spotlight still evolving finding new visual expressions.
What can we expect from a future fashion industry when advanced technology makes itself both available and cheap for the average every day consumer?
While ID Magazine released its new digital channel it made its stylistic suggestion; a 15 minutes high-tech runway installation at the New York launch party. A web glimpse of the concept is available on the site letting the user move and rotate models while changing sound and background.
“Onstage models entered a holographic diorama and were immersed in digital projections, enhanced by a multi-dimensional musical experience – every variation of model, scene and look triggered a different element of the original score by Yeasayer’s Chris Keating. During the event the audience was invited to haptically draw on the diorama using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, after which they could interact with and create their own personal fashion shows using the main diorama alongside one of three scale models. Playing with buttons on the devices´ touchscreens allowed attendees to choose their designer, design and environment, while swiping allowed them to rotate the model and apply audio filters. Using your cursor, you can re-create and personalize your own interactive fashion show.
In a video ID lets people in the business speculate around the new marriage between fashion and technology. Interestingly enough it still has the perspective of a top down trend system. Fashion veterans welcomes new technology such as 3d printing as a way of strengthening the brand towards the customer.
The possibility of a two-way interaction in the fashion industry is sometimes raised using customization in online retail but rarely used as a force of changing the perspective further. Environmental issues questions a system where the consumer is eager to buy and eager to throw away. It’s lack of functionality aspects it works against entrepreneurship and underground innovation when an unknown label can never be first to market with the latest thing and has to build up to a high level of integrity before it can make money. With interactive technology we now see new possibilities of letting the consumer having a voice instead of being market dictated.
Beyond possible new business model there is also the underlying philosophical question mark; what does the industry use technology for and what does it need to use it for? Fashion gurus will continue to scratch their heads to keep up with an unstoppable revolution.
Fashion site SHOWstudio asked a number of creatives to express their vision of Punk by creating a fashion video and garment. This is fashion designer and stylist Carri Mundens contribution, using 3D mapping and modelling techniques.
English Carri Munden is the designer behind fashion brand CassettePlaya, well-known to a fashion audience for earlier collaborations with M.I.A and Rhianna . She claims her striking graphic style to be inspired by among other things video games and pixelation. In fact Mundane has earlier been commissioned by Nintendo DS to provide vinyl and foil artwork for the console’s MySims world game. She says of those she works with, “We have the same references… I translate their sound into clothes.”
SHOWstudio has since early millenium continued to deliver groundbreaking fashion projects, making online fashion a platform for innovation while delivering fashion film out of the ordinary.
To SHOWstudio’s lead, Nick Knight 3D tech hardly comes off as something new having experimented with it for fifteen years. Nick has worked closely with stars like Lady Gaga and Björk, and is to be considered a fashion veteran with unconventional methods. Earlier this year he presented a campaign for fashion retail giant Lane Crawford where he both used 3d scanning and motion capture, as always with a personal twist. Watch the result.