Unveiled on June 18, 2013, a miraculous and monumental work of stained glass is now housed at the United States Courthouse in Austin, Texas.  The wall is about 28 feet square. weighs almost 6,000 pounds, and is designed by acclaimed New York-based artist Clifford Ross.

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Perhaps most importantly, essential to this installation is MAXON’s CINEMA 4D product, which provides the artist with efficient and fast procedural animation.  This provides a colorful abstract effect at the same time as it gives a vibrantly realistic one.

Ross, a digital artist operating his own studio in New York City, had used CINEMA 4D for a few years before undertaking the Austin project.  He has worked on both short- and long-form immersive 3D animation studies. based on his high-res photos of Colorado’s Mount Sopris.  This series, called Harmonium Mountain, led Ross to discover many undocumented features of the software.  In turn, this led to Ross being able to develop a method for creating 16-foot wide high resolution prints which came from just one frame of CINEMA 4D animation.

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Ross decided to make the Austin Wall into sections; a lower part, being a more realistic portrayal of his work, and a more abstract upper part.  The latter was inspired by Ross’ wanting to use a small detail of one of his high-resolution Harmonium Mountain photographs to create complex still images.  CINEMA 4D has an extensive library pre-generated of animations and renderings that Ross used to help create these images.  The result is an expressive abstract composition, made largely of rectangles.  It evokes natural movement and occurrences in nature, such as the unfolding of flowers, that happen over time.  Some of the images transcend the natural, showing surreal and magical vistas that reveal the colors of earth, sky, foliage and water.

CINEMA 4D imagery was an integral part of Ross’ work method, and an indispensable part of creating the complex abstract imagery that one sees on the upper part of the wall.  “We created a fully realized 3D world using many aspects of nature such as wind, gravity and water flow, as well as the colorful abstract Harmonium elements,” Ross says. “From there we could place the digital camera in CINEMA 4D anywhere and watch the `magic’ of procedural computer animation take shape in front of our eyes to see how the imagery developed through time.”

He adds, “Nature moves and it is complex. Those two facts are central to why CINEMA 4D was useful in my creative process. It has given me a tool to push my expressive powers with color, shapes and motion in ways that are uniquely 21st-century, but also marry a thousand-year-old craft into a seamless continuum to create this large scale work of public art for the City of Austin, the General Services Administration and the Federal Judiciary.”

Liron Unreich, Clifford Ross Studio’s Animation Director, had a challenge in that his mandate was to give Ross the tools he needed to create a digital world that was both consistent with both his vision and his understanding of the natural world.  The tools then needed to be robust enough to translate it into Ross’ peculiar form of modern abstraction.

In creating the Austin Wall, we converted animation frames to digital stills.  Given that we wanted to maintain a consistent look for the large variety of particle sizes of the stained glass design and the very detailed textures, we found that this required a resolution quite a bit greater than anything we could have anticipated, says Unreich.  He continues to say that they relied on the Xpresso and Mograph toolsets in CINEMA 4D, as an alternative to blocking and storyboarding for the camera.  This gave them unprecedented control over many different elements.  Using procedural animation, they were growing “natural” particle environments that live, grow and die.  the software also gave us the capability to achieve ultra-high resolution images – 24000×35000 at full-frame.  These often demanded seven layers of multi-pass work. Collaborating with Ross on the Austin Wall project was Franz Mayer, an internationally renowned stained glass manufacturing and design company.

MAXON has been working with Clifford Ross and his creative team for years, not only to smoothly integrate CINEMA 4D into their production pipeline, but also to meet the uncommonly complex challenges of the Harmonium Mountain project.  Clifford constantly pushes the boundaries of the software, and on the Austin Wall public art project, his high-impact creative experience has generated results that are as incredible as they are stunning.

“For years we have been working with Clifford Ross and his creative team to seamlessly integrate CINEMA 4D into their production pipeline and meet the incredibly complex challenges of the Harmonium Mountain project,” Paul Babb, president/CEO, MAXON US says. “As an artist Clifford constantly pushes the boundaries of our software, and we could not be more pleased that his high-impact creative experience has generated such stunning and original results on the Austin Wall public art project.”

For more information on Clifford Ross and The Austin Wall, please visit: http://www.cliffordross.com

 

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