This is not Angelina Jolie
August 6, 2006 10:42 AM   Subscribe

The World's Most Photorealistic Vector Art Is it as impressive as we have already seen ? [first link mildly NSFW]
posted by The Radish (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, holy crap. This impresses me in a very real way, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that anyone with enough patience can copy an image in this manner. It's the kind of "art" that doesn't require creativity or inspiration, only time and precision.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:49 AM on August 6, 2006

Still, that's a hell of a lot of precision.

Some of these are better than others, but even the worst just look like ineptly-airbrushed photos.
posted by Zozo at 10:50 AM on August 6, 2006

That's pretty impressive, but it is rather pointless as they're obviously just copying photographs. I mean, the whole point of doing vector graphics is to come up with something new. If you wanted too, you could just put a photo on a layer in illustrator and then trace over it, no skill required.
posted by delmoi at 11:06 AM on August 6, 2006

That said the transparency in this[nsfw] image really blows me away.
posted by delmoi at 11:06 AM on August 6, 2006

Actually this one is really amazing. It looks like a 3d render at least, but not at all like a photograph.

The first artist (wayne forrest) is by far the worst of the bunch as far as what he chooses to draw.
posted by delmoi at 11:13 AM on August 6, 2006

They may also seem so photorealistic becuase we're so used to seeing airbrushed photos in magazines. Fluid Effect has some nice before and after shots of celebrity images. It definately makes it easier to vectorize an image if they take out all the pores and blemishes beforehand.
posted by Gary at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2006

So dull. Is there actually Lord of the Rings fan art in there? And a picture of Gollum?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on August 6, 2006

This type of work does require a fair degree of creativity, while it is a creative use of tools rather than an imaginative creativity, it is far more impressive than just putting a photo on a layer and tracing over it. Even if they use the live trace and live paint features, there's a lot of work to be done to get these results. The thing that gets me, though, is doesn't this basically mean these are photorealistic digital paintings that are resolution independent?
posted by Grod at 11:29 AM on August 6, 2006

(My apologies for the glaring spelling mistakes. I forgot to hit the button before I posted)
posted by Gary at 11:30 AM on August 6, 2006

I'm always somewhat impressed by this kind of thing when I stumble across it. I linked it to me friend and she reminded me of this one. (somewhat NSFW)

So much times goes into those. Ugh.
posted by Stunt at 12:03 PM on August 6, 2006

That sure looks like a lot of work to replicate a photograph. If I were going to do that kind of work, I'd do it in a 3d modeling program. Then at least I would have some flexibility with the composition once the detailing was done.
posted by moonbiter at 12:05 PM on August 6, 2006

I mean, I don't want to tear these guys down -- they have put a lot of work into these. But it's engineering. It's a lot of paying attention to detail and using the tools in a skillful fashion. As such, I'm kind of mystified that they didn't choose a tool that would create something that would be, well, more useful as a result.

Of course, if they're doing for the money I'm sure these skills will make them some.
posted by moonbiter at 12:08 PM on August 6, 2006

That was some really well-done photo retouching Fluid Effect did in that comment Gary posted.

Sometimes the retouching is not so good
posted by jfrancis at 12:10 PM on August 6, 2006

So I can expect the Idoru when?
posted by quite unimportant at 12:19 PM on August 6, 2006

I hesitate to post an allowed-in-comments self link, but it's so appropriate I have to. I don't understand why people only choose to use this tool on NSFW type images when there's much more interesting life forms to be worked on.

Of course, there is something to be said for the female form. (Very SFW, don't worry)
posted by Brainy at 12:57 PM on August 6, 2006

Of course, if they're doing for the money I'm sure these skills will make them some. Yeah, maybe i'll give them a corporate logo to slavishly copy for no good reason.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:57 PM on August 6, 2006

Even if the "art" is up for grabs, is there no respect in craft anymore?

How is this any different from Leonardo looking through a grided pane and drawing on grided paper to draw someone? Would someone say Chuck Close wasn't an artist? What about any photographer you want to name? All they do is add or subtract lightness or darkness and push a button.

When I'm doing one of these illustrations I get the same sort of flow* as doing a still life, a painting or even page layout. You are using your mind to take in one stimulus (the original photo) and "rephrase" it in the language you're using (gradient mesh or blends). Sounds like art to me.

Sorry about the rant, but I felt like I should address the issue. I was a bit more spurned on by the comments on the linked page.

*(as an aside, I think I'm going to start using flow as the criteria for seems to be better than the all or nothing approach)
posted by Brainy at 1:09 PM on August 6, 2006

I wish they didn't specify the gender of the artists... what difference does it make?

And yeah, I can appreciate these in an elaborate kind of way, they same way I can appreciate a perfectly beaded dress or a slavishly copied photograph rendered as an oil painting, but it doesn't really do huge amounts for me.
posted by jokeefe at 1:29 PM on August 6, 2006

What about any photographer you want to name? All they do is add or subtract lightness or darkness and push a button.

How the light is manipulated is what defines the craft of photography. You could be ripped apart for what's quite plainly an ignorant statement (in fact, i'd anticipate it yet to come), but I'm going to pass because there's a couple bigger things you're not seeing...

1.) Composition

The difference between Leonardo diVinci or Any Photographer I Can Name and these vector artists is that the prior are actually crafting an original image or experience by taking a limitless array of perspectives and narrowing it to one that has a form and purpose. The vector artists are simply taking a pre-existing image and manually processing it. It's not an art, it's an artistic exercise. There is no style or purpose behind the work beyond showing off some level of technical prowess. Which ties in to...

2.) Function

After all is said and done, what's the point of the exercise? While I can appreciate using a laborious process to reproduce an image, the product of the exercise doesn't mean anything more or less to me than the resource. True, the exerciser develops better precision at this part of their craft, but they haven't crafted anything that is valuable to its audience.
posted by pokermonk at 1:35 PM on August 6, 2006

Many of you are missing the point. The point is not the replication of photographs, but that VECTOR ART can be used to create something so photorealistic. The celebrity likenesess were used merely to make this point more vivid.
posted by Chasuk at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2006

poker, I meant the "subtract lightness or darkness" comment as quite a bit of satire, or perhaps a better word I can't quite think of now. While I'm hardly a photographer extraordinnare, I do have a camera, I do use it to craft the photos I want to see, and I do try to create great works with it.

What I was saying was that just because there is a pre-existing original that looks like the finished project, we cannot use this fact to invalidate the art. We can use that fact to say "this art is kind of pointless" but we can't say it isn't expression.

I feel that almost any time we are forced to make a choice, we are expressing ourselves in our art, or at least applying our own style. Isn't there a choice of subject matter? Of the techniques used for each area? Also, in many of these, we don't have the original photographs for do we know what changes may have been made?
posted by Brainy at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2006

Of course, some of these people may have done their own compositions, we don't know. The only problem with it is that it's just so ultimately futile. They should really learn to do 3d modeling.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 PM on August 6, 2006

This seems like a bigger deal.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:33 PM on August 6, 2006

Wow, that is pretty great sirmissalot. David Fincher getting behind it means it's first use will probably be something quite good.
posted by Brainy at 2:42 PM on August 6, 2006

VECTOR ART can be used to create something so photorealistic

'That's not surprising' is what most of us who are missing the point are saying. They're breaking down an image to its individual segments of colors... The more precise the selection, the more realistic the result. That the aesthetic of vector art (indeed, its general usefulness) is the opposite of realism doesn't make this somehow revolutionary.

but we can't say it isn't expression.

It may be expression, but it seems to only express an appreciation for the original image... The same way framing it and hanging it up in your house would. While all art may be expression, not all expression is art.

If a writer were to write a book and the contents of the book were 1984 but the writer typed it reeeeely fast on his word processor; we'd still call it plagiarism. The exercise was certainly impressive, but the product is meaningless.

Also, in many of these, we don't have the original photographs for do we know what changes may have been made?

Heck, if the compositions are original the work is a lot more impressive, but I'd still not be sure the pieces we are looking at are anything more than technical exercises.
posted by pokermonk at 3:04 PM on August 6, 2006

Ceci n'est pas un photo.

Very pretty, very impressive.
posted by blacklite at 4:33 PM on August 6, 2006

Its pointless arguing about what is or isnt art. The definition has become so broad nowadays as to be fairly meaningless. If the artist calls it art- thats what it is.

Im more impressed with illustrator than with the artists and see copying the photographs as practise of their skills more than anything. To me reproducing a photograph isnt particularly useful or expressive - its pixels to pixels. Im always impressed by photorealism artists who convert a photo to paint.
posted by phyle at 5:07 PM on August 6, 2006

> The only problem with it is that it's just so ultimately futile.
> They should really learn to do 3d modeling.

I'd be interested to know if any of this could be used to produce the 3D model.

I could imagine a piece of software that allows you to reconstruct 3D information from a single photo by pushing meshes around until the result looks correct (which is more or less what these artists are doing -- except that they are manipulating 2D meshes in "tone space" or something like that instead of actual 3D data).

I've seen systems that attempt to do this automagically from a stereo pair, with disappointing results. Typically it's difficult to go in and offer the program "advice" based on a human's understanding of the scene. And one doesn't usually have a stereo pair to work from.

There are other programs (like AnaBuilder) to generate color (red-blue glasses type) stereo anaglyph images from a single photo, which is much closer to what I am thinking of -- except that I'd prefer to have the 3D info as a DXF file instead of the anaglyph.

I've also seen extended tutorials about using something like Maya to go from a photograph to a 3D model (e.g. of a face), but the process has more to do with "figuring out what Maya primitives to use" than with actually thinking about what the actual shape is and how the light hits it.

In these tutorials, you need to reconstruct everything from scratch, whereas in the software I am imagining, you could make use of the fact that you already have a lighting model, so to speak, implicit in the picture you are working from.
posted by nickp at 5:14 PM on August 6, 2006

Anyone who thinks "hey he just traced some photos" has never created vector artwork before, or thinks that you can be an illustrator or designer by just pushing a button. I am extremely good with Illustrator and it's how I pay my mortgage but this is totally, insanely impressive and I can't even imagine for one second being capable of the patience and precision to make these happen.

I'd love to have the original AI file on these, just to take it apart.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:41 AM on August 7, 2006

The only real reason why anyone would need to do this would be to scale the image for a large print job or billboard.

p.s. "art" vs. "not art" arguments are boring. i'd rather read about good art vs. bad art.
posted by skullbee at 9:57 AM on August 7, 2006

I think there might be a technological advantage to photo-realism in vector format - a bitmap image has a limit to how large (pixel dimensions) it can be scaled - whereas a vector image can be made as large or small as needed. So any of these images could be used in any size media.
posted by mouthnoize at 11:40 AM on August 7, 2006

Yeah, the art vs non-art question is really boring and relies on an inaccurate model of the romantic artist. A lot of art is based on rote repetition of conventional tropes and doesn't have anything to do with intention or expression. Anyways, even if the pictures themselves are uninteresting, the technique here is really incredible. Even if you were tracing a photograph (which, as has been argued recently, the Rennaissance masters did), this would still be incredibly hard using illustrator--definitely harder than just using a paintbrush.
posted by kensanway at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2006

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