Academic journal article Afterimage

Digitritus: Virtual Species or Digital Waste: Ownership in the Information Age

Academic journal article Afterimage

Digitritus: Virtual Species or Digital Waste: Ownership in the Information Age

Article excerpt

I will discuss how the anatomy of the technobody (1), along with its waste, can reveal what is more invisible than visible. The material I draw upon is produced as an element for a greater body. It is the digital waste by-products, or "digitritus," of the visual effects ("VFX") filmmaking process.

The use of digital waste raises issues such as the origins of corporate creative properties and the subsequent ownership of creative properties using digital waste. Corporations, congress and copyright laws aggressively guard the authorship of corporate creative properties. But who owns the discards, the shards that have never been seen, the throw-aways that have been converted into new forms with original content? Waste contains information, the essence of a culture, its histories, and can fuel the creative process. Who owns detritus? Is there a question of copyright infringement when digital detritus from movie productions is salvaged from the wasteland of the "delete" button and evolves into a new life form to produce other works of art?

Some of the discarded material falls through the cracks of corporate ownership into the reclamation center of the artist's imagination. Layers of "digitritus" lay hidden from view where the artist mines the space that lies between the conceptual and the commercial. Artists have taken some of these fragments of discarded material in order to rework and re-present them. The "texture map," an element used to produce virtual species such as animals and aliens, is what I have taken out of the digital dumpster. The "digitritus" of the texture map will be the focus of my discussion of ownership and copyright.

As a former artist in Hollywood's special effects industry and specifically as a 3-D texture artist, I have participated in the virtual evolution of dinosaurs, fish, whales, humans both dead and alive, parts of humans, aliens, airplanes, basketballs, and much more. You are meant to believe these as real, but in fact they are counterfeits of reality generated with today's technology. This work is unachievable without the use of computer hardware and software, such as 3-D Studiopaint, PhotoShop, Amazon Paint, Maya, Houdini, or 3-D StudioMax. I paint onto a 3-D wire frame model that has been converted from polygons or "nurbs" into UV (2) coordinates that allows me to simulate the process of painting a surface. The painting is then extracted from the 3-D surface, flattened and broken into patches of 2-D images called texture maps. This all occurs before it reaches completion in its process to build a virtual species. They are typically seen and experienced as the result, the realistic 3-D creature or object coming to life on the screen.


Hidden within the digital film production process the texture map is a rarely seen 2-D image viewed solely by the texture artist. There are many changes and developments in the evolution of a texture map. Layers and layers of maps are produced in the process leading up to the final approval of a character within a scene. The deletion of the unwanted versions of most of these maps is required so that there is free space on the hard drive to store more information and the only version that is archived is the final version. It is the deleted texture map that I have salvaged from oblivion to evolve into a new form within a new context.

To put it simply, I skin virtual animals and objects. With this trans-mutated concept and context of skinning, meaning has shifted from the removal of the skin from a dead animal to the application of skin onto the animal or character to bring it into reality. Identification of meaning in the creative process thrives on the elastic moment that leads to a transformative moment that leads to the evolution of new meaning. The texture map is a site where new thoughts may erupt, where forms merge in the conscious unconscious.

The work I produced as a visual effects artist is contracted as a "work-made-for-hire" for Company. …

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