Saturday, April 20, 2024

In a New Milky Chance Music Video, GMUNK Pushes the Envelope of CG Artistry and Digital Creative Tools

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Over the past year, AI-powered creative tools have radically transformed art. Designed for content creators, visual effects artists, designers, and animators, these resources have the potential to generate stunning visuals, and many professional artists embrace AI for everything from automating mundane tasks to concept inspiration and quickly iterating visual references. These tools take repetitive tasks off of artists’ plates, enabling them to focus on elevating their creative outputs and achieving projects on a grander scale.

Renowned artist and director Bradley G Munkowitz, a.k.a. GMUNK, has been breaking new ground in experimental filmmaking and digital art for more than 20 years using tools such as Autodesk Maya and Adobe Creative Cloud. Challenged to take his practice to the next level as one of the creators behind a new music video for German alt-pop duo Milky Chance, GMUNK evolved his craft using compute-intensive cloud simulations and AI-powered experimentation.

GMUNK and a team of Z by HP global ambassadors, whom HP provided with product and payment, collaborated across continents to produce a stunning CG music video for Milky Chance’s new dance anthem, “Synchronize.” To match the feel-good synth-filled track, the artist employed complex simulations, real-time rendering, ray tracing, global illumination, and AI, all requiring significant computational resources.

GMUNK’s creative exploration using Stable Diffusion

GMUNK’s creative exploration using Stable Diffusion

He created visuals of rotating clouds using EmberGen, a real-time fluid simulation software from JangaFX. In the earliest stages of the project, the artist ran tests morphing those simulations through AI-powered tools like Stable Diffusion and Topaz Labs. “Until about a year ago, there was one way to achieve these types of effects. Now with AI and the power of the Z8 Fury, there are ten ways to do it, and the results are all incredible,” he said.

EmberGen is based on real-world physics with controls to manage combustion, emission of fuel, flames, temperature, and smoke, and it’s up to the artist to combine them and determine how they react in the final simulation. The software runs 100 percent on the GPU, as does the terrain generation software Gaia from Procedural Worlds, which GMUNK used to build landscapes.

He also utilized Topaz Labs’  VideoAI tool to interpolate slowdowns of smoke-simulation flythroughs from 24 frames-per-second to 200 frames-per-second to get better results out of Stable Diffusion in his early development. While those tests don’t appear in the music video, they did serve as visual inspiration for a new artwork in his Breathing series, “Bali Moon”, which sold at Christie’s during Art Basel in December 2023.

With experimentation at the heart of his work, GMUNK uncovered another technique for running smoke simulations through a mesh built in SideFX’s Houdini so that the color and movement of the smoke drive quickly moving and morphing triangles, creating a spectacular shattered glass effect.

“As I continued to experiment with these simulations, they got more interesting,” he says. “I’m very excited about a breakthrough new technique that produced a fantastic mosaic-like effect that is an homage to stained glass windows. This was done as a post-process of the simulations in Houdini where we mapped all the pixels to a triangulated mesh capturing the color values of the smoke simulation underneath the distortion.”

To create the heavy simulations using the Maxon renderer Redshift, GMUNK needed a powerful workstation that enabled him to run massive 225 million-voxel simulations that were still interactive. “I can see exactly what I’m doing. It’s extraordinary to have this kind of computing power at my fingertips,” he says.

GMUNK even revitalized some of the approaches he’s used for years, including modeling and animating in Autodesk Maya, an application that favors clock speed over the number of cores and is largely reliant on the CPU. “The Z8 Fury is rendering Maya scenes almost in real-time. Depending on the software I’m running, it’s five to ten times faster than any other computer I’ve ever used. Everything I’m doing in Maya, in EmberGen, in rendering–it’s all super-powered. As a creator, that feels large, like an extension of my mind is constantly giving me feedback instantly in all realms of what I’m doing.”

Learn more about this exciting collaboration by watching the behind-the-scenes reel. Visit Z by HP online to learn more about how these workstations can help you realize your creative vision.

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