Mixing Physical and Digital Worlds

For our current printed #FutureForecast edition of Design Exchange we decided to do things a little differently. Call us innovative, or just plain eccentric. Either way, we hope you like the results.

None of which would have been possible without Mike Pelletier. A professional animator based in the Dutch creative capital, Amsterdam, a background in media arts and technology – both at degree level in Calgary, and at world renowned research and creative institute, the Banff Centre – should give some idea as to exactly where his specialisms lie.

Mike Pelletier - parametric expression

Mike Pelletier - parametric expression

Combining computer engineering, art, design, and at least some degree of experimentation, amongst his recent projects is a stunning short entitled Parametric Expression. Set to a simple yet emotive, not to mention futuristic and minimalist soundtrack, the clip focuses on two humanoid figures, which expand, morph and distort into a myriad of forms, with an emphasis placed on facial movements and reactions. Startling, compelling, and astonishingly natural, it’s at once terrifying and serene.

We were so impressed, we asked him to adapt the work into an augmented reality cover animation. He kindly agreed, and this is what he has to say about the final results.

“The Design Exchange cover art is an adaptation of another piece of work, only this is more of a loop and more interactive. The original project stemmed from playing around with this 3D character generator software, called MakeHuman. A programme specifically designed for making characters, which has a library of pre-set expressions- happy, sad, whatever.”

“And it’s kind of weird that there are all these pre-sets, the way that it deals with human emotions is strange really- as a set of parameters. So I was just playing with that idea in the animation, in this slow, robotic, uncanny, unsettling way of looking at emotions, expressions and feelings through data.

“In the regular animated version there’s a beginning and end. In this new form you have the freedom to move things about a little more. I mean that’s still a limited freedom, so you have to consider it in a different way. And you have to take into account the technical limitations of making it run properly through a phone.

“I tend to render things with a very high quality render, which takes around five minutes per frame. In this context I need to push out 30-60 frames per second to make it look nice. So faking textures onto the model, instead of using real time lighting, and simplifying it all a little to suit the new purpose.

“I think AR and virtual reality [VR] feel like they are still building up in terms of potential. When I started at the Banff Centre in 2001 they had done loads of VR research in the 90s, but then all the hardware was gathering dust. There had been this big hype, but it wasn’t really ready, so it disappeared. Now things seem different, as actual consumers have access to this technology, rather than just research companies, so there are a lot more people involved and taking an interest on different levels.”

Could this be the future of print we wonder?

This article was taken from our #FutureForecast edition, which is now shops or order here. Experience Mike’s work close up via the augmented reality cover and content by downloading our app and pointing your device at the cover and images throughout the print publication marked with #AR 

Some more amazing examples of work by Mike Pelletier

Keep sending us pictures of the cover, we would love to share them on our social media. Here are some of our favourites 


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