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This Digital Still is Basically Virtual Reality in 2D

It took 50 hours to render Cornelius Dämmrich’s endlessly detailed new digital work, “52HZ.”
April 30, 2016, 5:00pm
All images courtesy of the artist. Click here for high res

There's mystery in the scene of an astronaut being beamed up to space after what looks like many months living in a phone booth. We'll never know exactly what's going on in these ultra-high definition pictures, and that's part of the fun. A viewer can zoom up close and pick out details and clues, but there's nothing concrete, and they serve more to facilitate the imagination than to outline anything specific. Encouraging viewers to lose ourselves in a still image is really the point behind this digital piece, called 52HZ. Cornelius Dämmrich created it in an attempt to slow viewers down and make us focus on one thing for a significant period of time rather than spend seconds on dozens of images. It was made specifically for the internet, taking into consideration and capitalizing on user habits while also challenging them. "It usually works best on a screen, when nobody else is looking and you are all alone by yourself," he explains to The Creators Project. "I tried it with my last piece at a contemporary art exhibition in Germany. Didn't work that well. People tend to wander around more when they look at art prints. They won’t zoom in or look closer."

His goal is to draw people in and allow them to get lost in the work’s seemingly endless details—signage, graffiti, bathroom humor. There's a drawing of a dinosaur hugging a penis, cola cans labeled "cum," signs for used coffin stores, and more. There are four different high res images of the same scene taken from slightly different angles. It took around 7.5 gigabytes of space and the wide shot, which was sized at 8000 x 4800px, took over 50 hours to render.

Dämmrich is a German artist and designer who creates digital art for advertisers, companies, and creatives. One commercial project he worked on was a series of hyperrealistic discarded objects for a garbage disposal company. "I became an expert for dirty things over the years," he says. Another was a rendering of a spaceship that could hitch a ride on an asteroid and travel into deep space, which was an actual concept developed for NASA.

Immersive digital environments like 52HZ are his real passion though, and it's how he built his name. A project called Haze, which depicted a kitchen scene cluttered with an uncountable array of objects, went viral in 2013. Created over the course of seven months, it was a follow up attempt to his bachelor's thesis, which he considered a failure.

52HZ, his first personal project since Haze, took much less time, although he didn't see any friends for a few weeks while working on it. To create it, he used Cinema 4D, Fusion 360, Marvelous Designer, and Octane. Gaining a better understanding of Octane was a big incentive for Dämmrich. Basically, the program sends rays of “light” using pathtracing to collect data from all the objects and light sources in the scene and combine that into one big whole. The way lights reflect off various items and work together results in a sense of completeness.

The separate angles from each image are used for some subtle animation in the video breakdown that explains visually the process behind the scenes, but it's meant to be viewed in still form. Ultimately, Dämmrich would like to create an independent animated short.

Otoy, the company that makes Octane, reached out to Dämmrich about exporting the images for a VR scene. But the piece would need updating because there's no information behind the separate layers, like the the backside of the phone booth, for example. He also doesn't have a pair of VR goggles, so he's not overly taken by the idea at the moment. But the broader implications for the future are pretty clear.

For more of Cornelius Dämmrich’s work, click here.


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