An animator spent 6 years creating hyperreal CGI men at urinals and the results are very unsettling

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The Independent Culture

Eight years ago, CGI specialist Liam Kemp uploaded two videos of mundane CGI human characters (below) he hand key-framed, modelled and textured and which amassed a few hundred thousand views thanks to their being lodged deep in the uncanny valley.

Kemp then went mostly silent, but the videos remained YouTube oddities and commenters years later asked what had happened to him and if he ever found use for the characters.

This week, after six years work on the project, mostly full-time, the animator released a short called The Normals, ‘a kind of snapshot of human awkwardness set in a gent’s toilets.’

Kemp freely admits that technology has considerably moved on since he started work on The Normals, but the video’s hyperrealism is still incredibly creepy - even in 360p.

Some of the character gestures are staggering, particularly those of the bathroom intruder, who rubs his eye, has a throbbing vein and twitches with unsettling verisimilitude.

With CGI usually employed only for actions and characters impossible to recreate with humans, there is something deeply odd about watching this scene, and a threat of violence (which may well be in the eye of the viewer, or in that random pool cue) hovers over it.

"The whole 'neck system' alone took around 4 months to develop," Kemp told The Independent. "The platysma muscle's fibres in the neck each contract individually and independently, being driven in part by the contractions of other muscles around the mouth.  They flutter and flap very lightly under the strain of a held facial expression, but these details are barely noticeable, and that is the way they should be. As for the eyes, oh god, don't get me started.

"It's very satisfying for a viewer to notice these things," he added, "though it's the 'feeling' the viewer gets from watching the show that is always the highest priority to me."


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