UK / Duration 3m / 2012
Directed and Animated by Alan Warburton. Commissioned by Animate Projects for Channel 4’s Random Acts series. Soundtrack by Max Richter.
‘Z’ is composed entirely of z-depth images – also known as ‘luminance depth’ or ‘depth map’ images. Z-depth is a ghostly black & white data-driven format native only to CG animation. The function of the z-depth image is similar to radar or the MRI scan. It interprets objects within a scene according to distance: those closest to camera are black, those furthest away are white (or vice versa). Details are lost at either end of the spectrum, and are likewise revealed within the middle distance. Functionally, this allows CGI artists to pull camera focus in post-production by using the monochromatic shades in the z-depth pass to isolate and focus on the corresponding depths of the full-colour CGI scene.
The ‘selective vision’ embodied by the Z-depth image format has informed the theme of the animation – the production of historical narrative. Z is about how we make sense of the clutter of current events, how we create epochs, and how, in an era of intense global change, we are affected by a kind of longterm myopia that obscures us to the larger forces at work.
Alan Warburton is an artist working with digital film and images, with an emphasis on CGI. He was born in Stirling, Scotland, studied Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton University and Visual Effects at Escape Studios in London. Alan splits his time between his art practice and commercial work in 3D animation. This commercial work is crucial to his understanding of modern high-end digital post production techniques and processes. His films often deconstruct digital images to offer a critical reflection on how modern technology extends and alters the traditional discourse around representation. Alan’s work has been broadcast on Random Acts for Channel 4, screened at festivals and exhibited in galleries internationally, including Bristol’s Arnolfini, Manchester’s Cornerhouse and Mark Moore in L.A. Most recently, he was commissioned to create a multi-screen installation for The Photographers Gallery in London. The piece, ‘Spherical Harmonics’, was seen by over 150,000 people and explored how photography is affected by the flexibility of the digital image. The piece recently screened in Berlin and at The Austrian Film Museum as part of an international survey of digital moving image work. Alan also writes a blog cgwtf.com, which explores the emergent issues and practitioners of CGI in moving image work.
Z is an Animate Projects production in association with Lupus Films for Channel 4.