Skip to content

Tiny Little Engines of Creation

Tiny Little Engines of Creation – ’98 Retrospect



By challenging the potential of animation in this hybrid form, TLE – by unifying parts of the music and visual creative process – provides examples of a rhythmic symbiosis of stimuli that’s expressed in a dynamic formula of linking and transposing of ideas or information of two different mediums in a mathematically and compositionally appealing way.


TLE is an audio/visual experience realised completely using 3D animation only, with one objective being the experimentation with using audio waveforms to manipulate the behaviour of characters (objects), lighting and other parameters.

As the primary design approach, the musical track itself – its instruments, sophisticated
rhythms, basslines, timbre (texture) and most importantly the actual audio waveforms
themselves – became the basic building blocks of this abstract musical plot.

With the aid of a (then) recently developed audio-control methods coupled with traditional
animation and modelling techniques, a mode of converting, or transposing sound to vision
had been employed to achieve a rhythmic and unified composition.

Audio driven 3D attributes:

Camera – lens, perspective, track, tilt, pivot or dolly position.
Geometry – symmetric complexity, shape, scale, color level, animated texture and behaviour.
Lighting – color intensity, fog noise level, animation and scale.
Environmental fog – color, noise level and layer height.
Paths – (for camera, geometry, lights, particles) shape and animation.

Using creative license, and a VJ methodology employed to design animation out of music, this palette of dynamic attributes were juxtaposed to generate a series of rhythmic (Tiny Little) visual engines, which provided an environmental repetition as the individual sounds re-occur.

Interacting with this Orchestra of Shape and Color, the camera and the viewer are moved via undulating pathways of loops and vortices which pass through a continuous belt of coloured fog as our journey unfolds.


When the audio waveforms were not (or could not) be driving 3D and atmospheric elements, a system of transposition employed to create an unconventional storyboard for TLE was developed using VJ performance techniques. To be able to animate these elements manually. Which allowed a somewhat seamless integration of audio and non-audio driven components.

Brief descriptions of the Final Transposition tracks are as follows:
* numbers below refer to columns Right to Left in above image *

1) The primary and multi-purpose ABC track contains tapped letters into a text document as a ‘Master Visual Reference’ to different instrument sounds and rhythms. Use of alpha-numeric keys, each unique character representing a single beat at 8 beats per line (1 Bar), with Bars of 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, or 16 representing scenes. In this case fortunately the music was 150bpm, which calculated to exactly 10fr per beat, which made animating at 25fps a much simpler translation process!

2&5) Final animation and music timings are displayed in the FPS and MIN-SEC tracks. All timings were made using a cassette tape and player.

8+9) The look and feel of translated objects and shape of sounds are shown in the FONETIX and FEEL – how the sounds could be primitively shaped by mouth gestures. And VISUALIZE tracks – gestural icons drawn to represent 3D objects as sound.

3+7) The shape and style of object animations for each scene were realised using gestural strokes are shown in the FREEFORM and loosely inspired by the WAVE form tracks.

4) Kickdrum double hits are shown in the KIK track. Noting distinct bumps and dashes as track progresses.

6) Background and character color schemes assigned for the flow/feel are documented in the RGB-HSV track. To keep the human element of creative perception and interpretation intact, the colours selected reflect the tonal values temporally throughout track as perceived by ear – not as a mathematical translation.

10&11) References for 3D scene numbers and file names are shown in the last two tracks.

The Final Transposition is the foundation technique employed in developing and realising the final TLE music video.

** Above original still sequence taken from music video.


Adem Jaffers

Unreal Pictures

Icon Digital / ComCopy
Mike Swift

The VisitorsAndrew Till, Ollie Olsen & Geoffrey Hales
Published by Psy-Music / PolyGram Music
Taken from the CD Psy-033 (Psy-Harmonics Volume 3)
“Hacking the Reality Myth”Psy-Harmonics – Australia


  • 3D Software – 3dsMax
  • Grading software – Digital Fusion
  • OS – Windows NT v4
  • Video playback card – DPS Perception
  • Network render farm CPU avg. – 966 MHz
  • Animation duration – 8:30sec
  • Translation cypher – 150Bpm = 10 Frames per Beat
  • Total frames – 12,685
  • Resolution / Ratio / Rate – 720×576 / 4:3 SD / 25fps
  • Render time per frame – 8:24sec
  • Database size – 5.2 GB
  • Production duration – 22 Months

David Nelson for in-kind support & the Unreal Pictures crew, The Visitors (Andrew Till) for the 150BPM & the Psy-Harmonics crew, James Murray & the Creative Access crew, Jeff jaffers, Zenep Jaffers, mum, dad, and Melanie Carr.

* See full article in-situ on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *