March 25, 2006

Illustrator, Flash, AE, and a bandsaw…

…equals kinetic sculpture. This is one of the coolest customer applications of Adobe tools I’ve seen in a while. Artist David C. Roy builds spring-driven wooden forms that, once given a few cranks by hand, provide hours of hypnotic movement.
Though the techniques page is out of date (is that Illustrator 6 and Extreme 3D??), David reports that he’s been evolving his technique in synch with the software and cutting tools. He writes:

I do all my drawing directly in Illustrator, and as an idea matures I “test” it in After Effects. The direct update link between the programs has been a great boon as I can modify the forms in Illustrator, often using symbols, and get almost immediate feedback on how the piece will look in motion from After Effects. The design of my “Variation” series and my new sculptures Illusion and Spectrum were greatly enhanced by the ability to see motion and quickly change the design.

I use After Effects expressions to simplify setting up the animations. They are nothing elaborate, but they make for far more realistic motions. In the case of the Variation series I use them to keep the orbiting forms counter rotating in time with carrying wheel. In the “bird form” pieces like Migration and Quest I use expressions to keep the bird “level” as the wheels that carry it move at varying speeds. This was very tedious prior to expressions. I’m currently working on a new design where a form that is carried by other counter rotating wheels will pick up a swinging motion but basically stay in a fixed orientation. I was able to add the swinging by simply including a sine function and controlling the amount of swing with a constant.

(this_comp.layer(“back wheel 6 spoke”).rotation+this_comp.layer(“back
carrier”).rotation)*-1 + (Math.sin(time)*60)

The animated simulations can then be exported directly from After Effects to SWF for use on the Web, though David reports he’ll often bring them into Flash or LiveMotion for tuning first. When it’s time to build the pieces in the real world, he converts his Illustrator documents to DXF files using a plug in from BPT-Pro. These files get emailed to a local father/son team who have a large computer-controlled router. These guys convert the DXF files directly to machine code, then send it to the cutter. “It is amazing to watch the machine work,” says David.
It’s likewise amazing to watch an artist and his work grow with the tools. Seeing the technology open doors makes the long hours of development worthwhile. [Thanks to Photoshop engineering director Marc Pawliger, who hangs Tri-Fusion in his home, for the lead.]
[Tangentially related: speaking of computer-assisted woodcutting, Turn Your Head will take a picture of your profile, then use a lathe to render your profile on a wooden dowel. [Via]]

Posted by John Nack at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2006

Comments

  • Michael — 1:31 PM on April 23, 2007

    WOW, thanks a bunch for this very intersting article …i’m going to translate this into german ;-)
    Cheers,
    Michael
    [Nice! Glad you found it interesting. --J.]

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