The Big Flat Plateau of Fractal Animation

A few years back I was excited about the possibilities of fractal animation.  Fractal animation, as I saw it, would be literally living and moving fractals.  Fractal artists were about to become fractal film makers and the art form would take on a whole new dimension.  And after seeing a couple of very exciting algorithmic but not strictly fractal animations, I was, yes, excited.

These days I’m bored with fractal animation.  It started out with a very rapid ascent and then, equally rapidly,  reached a plateau where it is now, languishing in endless variations of  oozing parameter transforms and deep zooms into nothing and nowhere.

It’s not for lack of hard work, though.  Fractal animation takes a lot of time and processing because, in the same way as traditional films are made, the movement is produced by sequencing many still images together to give the impression of movement.  I mention that because some may think that digital animation is different.  Animation is resource hungry and multiplies the work required even to the point of making thirty images for a single second of animation.  Those brave pioneers who have been dabbling in fractal animation are hard-working and dedicated individuals.  You have to be to take on something as intensive as animation.  Fractal animation takes as much work as still image creation does as well as requiring a few things that still images don’t.

Here’s where fractal animation gets bogged down: film making is more than just a complicated, high tech  slide show.  For instance, something has to happen.  Still images only have to look good, but animation requires some sort of progression and  development of an idea.  People just look at still images and everything is all there all at once to be studied –nice and simple.  But with moving images one has to engage the audience and move them along some sort of story line without leaving them all behind or without making the message so simple as to bore them.  With more abstract content of course, the messages or ideas in the animated sequence become less of a story than simply a visual experience, but the need for some progressive, development which will engage the viewer isn’t any different than it is with producing an animated cartoon.

In short, I believe that fractal animation is just too different for the old, still image visual techniques to work.  Artists who have been successful in the still image area will not necessarily have any advantage in the area of fractal animation other than the software skills necessary to operate the program.  What looks good as a still image can easily appear flat and boring when animated because transforming the parameters of pretty graphics to make them flow between one shape and another, while it may be a good start to an animated sequence, on it’s own is really nothing more than a demonstration of animation and not the use of it.

An artist can get away with work of a purely ornamental character in the realm of still images, but with animation the lack of expression or message sticks out like a sore thumb –nothing is happening.  Instead I think animators should concentrate on simpler imagery with regard primarily to interesting shapes and structures.  It’s a different game than the still image thing; animation is all about action.

Fractal animators need to make their own rules and be prepared to pioneer their own styles.  It’s all crap right now.  So go ahead and experiment and do outrageous things that only you would do and have never been done.  Cross boundaries and mix fractal imagery with everything you’ve got in you animation spice cupboard.

And now, having said all that, here’s a cool zooming/fly-by with orchestrated soundtrack of the late, great Mandelbulb by none other than Daniel White who I now declare to be the first recipient of Orbit Trap’s Fractal Hitchcock award.  Get ready to scream…

Into the Heart of the Mandelbulb

Directed by Daniel White, Starring “The Mandelbulb”


More at TwinbeeUK’s YouTube page

5 thoughts on “The Big Flat Plateau of Fractal Animation

  1. To my mind, fractal animations have the same problem/opportunity as abstract 2D art: engaging the viewer. Just as 2D fractal art has gone from (what are now considered) bland pictures of Mandelbrot structure, fractal animations have to go beyond zooms and parameter sweeps. This is where the “art” and expression come in–figuring out how to tell a story with a moving fractal, just as we now figure out how to make a statement with (just) a spiral. It’s not easy; I made my first fractal animation in 1987 and don’t feel that I’ve gotten any closer to making good animated art since.

  2. I agree with most of your comments, strictly because I have seen so many fractal videos lately that they are all starting to look very similar (even the Mandelbulb ones).

    But there is another purpose for the ordinary zooms and parameter variations. And that is to use the animations as backgrounds for rock concerts, raves, and other gatherings, where the main focus is not on the animation but on the performance and music.

    Fractal videos are perfect for such things, and there need be no story line or plot to follow. Just a projection on some wall or screen to further bend the minds of those that have already taken something for such a purpose.

    But it would be nice if the stand-alone animations did progress to something more than what we have been seeing lately.

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