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Posts Tagged ‘3D’

Digital Art and Unintended Consequences

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Example of unintended consequences in digital art
An example of unintended consequences in digital art

Yesterday I was working on an image processing program to use as a part of my art creation workflow. I was writing a program to texturize an image so that I could incorporate the output as a layer in a Photoshop document.

As a part of the development process, I decided to use as the source image the painting Paris Street, Rainy Day by French artist Gustave Caillebotte. This is the same image that I used to serve as the "discovered" painting for my article and applet Particle Painting: Name That Painting.

To create the look I was after I needed to use the third dimension, aka the z axis. The addition of the z axis made it possible for me to use that axis as the source of distortion while keeping the correct color information in the x,y plane. Using 3D also allowed me to rotate the image relative to the "camera" thus introducing another level of distortion.

All was going well until I made one small change to the variable I was using to control the distortion along the z axis. This single change took what had been output that was recognizable as the source image and produced an image that was completely unrecognizable. I’ve used a cropped version of that output to illustrate this post. Below is a side by side comparison of the source image that my program used as input and the resulting output.

Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day before and after
Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day before and after.

This can not be called an algorithmic oops or a glitch. Rather it is a case of parametric discovery. It is this discovery opportunity, whether by design or by accident, that makes digital art such an interesting and revolutionary arena for artistic creation.

It remains to be seen whether or not I will ever make use of this program in a production environment. Even if I don’t, what I learned during the process will serve me well in the future. So remember the golden rule of digital art: never be afraid to experiment.

Ad Astra, Jim

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Hubble 3D IMAX Movie

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Hubble 3D IMAX movie
Hubble 3D IMAX movie

What a great IMAX movie. Thursday I visited Chicago’s Navy Pier to take some photographs and attend a screening of the latest IMAX movie – Hubble 3D. I had a number of free passes so I and several friends from the National Space Society met up to see the movie.

According to the theater Shuttle astronaut John Grunsfeld, who was in the movie and was one of the astronauts on the last Hubble servicing mission, was supposed to be there. However there was no John Grunsfeld. I never did ask anyone from the theater what happened.

As to the movie, the main themes were the training for the Hubble servicing mission, the actual servicing mission itself, and simulated 3D views of some of Hubble’s better known observations. The blend of shuttle launches, astronaut training, the Hubble servicing missions, and the simulated trips through the Orion Nebula and M87 kept the movie well paced.

The 3D, which relies on polarized light rather than the red/blue anaglyph, really made the movie spectacular. When the astronauts were in the Space Shuttle’s payload bay servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, it was like being there with them. One particularly effective shot was a close in view of astronaut Megan McArthur suited up prior to boarding the Space Shuttle for the STS-125 mission. She was seated and it was like she was seated only a few feet in front of me. I felt like I could reach out and give her a high-five. Megan was a mission specialist on STS-125, the 5th and final Hubble servicing mission, and worked the remote manipulator system (RMS) used to grab the Hubble Space Telescope and bring it into the Shuttle’s payload bay.

Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is arguably the best known and most photographed astronomical feature. Astronomically, the highlight of the movie was the simulated trip to and through the Orion Nebula, which is a stellar nursery. I’ve had an interest in the Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42 or M42, for a long time and have in the past considered putting together a presentation on the subject. If you want to know a lot more about the Orion Nebula, I recommend the book The Orion Nebula: Where Stars Are Born.


There were some slow moments during the show that relied on non-3d visuals. These were primarily news reports associated with Hubble’s initial optical problems (recall that the primary mirror was ground a fraction of the width of a human hair out of shape).

I would have liked to have seen more of the movie devoted to astronomy. There were some beautiful 3D stills, like that of the Helix Nebula, and the simulated trip to the galaxy known as M87, a giant elliptical galaxy with a super massive black hole at its center. And there was more – just not enough for me.

Bottom Line

If you are at all interested in space exploration or astronomy, then this is a movie you’ll enjoy. The 3D views are amazing and the script provides a great educational opportunity. And did I mention that the 3D views are amazing.


After the movie we headed to Bubba Gump’s for food and drink. Bubba Gump’s wasn’t our first choice but other than Harry Caray’s, it was the only place still open. For the next hour and a half we talked some about the movie but mostly about the National Space Society and the upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) – which all of us have an involvement in. For my part, I am the ISDC webmaster and am the point of contact for the Call for Papers. The ISDC is being held in Chicago this year over Memorial Day weekend and is the best space exploration conference for the general public. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and many other space luminaries, will be attending. For more about the ISDC, check out the International Space Development Conference web site.

The Hubble 3D IMAX Web Site

The IMAX folks have a web site for the Hubble 3D movie. There is background about the shuttle missions, the astronauts, and a few movie wallpapers available. Be forewarned – the web site is heavy. If you don’t have a high speed internet connection the site will take some time to load. And if you don’t have a newer computer – well let’s just say that the site will put a strain on your browser. So for more about the movie, visit

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