Recreating Dürer's Solid in 3D animation

May 3, 2022

I recently worked with Director Anthony Gaddis on a new music video/visualizer project. His concept for the artist, ELPENTHE, was to reimagine the artist as the central character in the classic Albrect Dürer print Melencholia 1. For those unfamiliar with the print, it's a Dürer etching depicting a melancholy looking angel absorbed in thought, surrounded by all sorts of symbolic objects, including an hourglass, weighing scales, a hand plane, hammer, saw, keys, a star, a weird flying creature displaying a typographic sign, and a magic square. The most prominent object however, is what's known as Dürer's Solid - aka, the truncated triangular trapezohedron-- which is an 8-faced solid geometric shape. Gaddis ultimately decided to limit the objects in this version to a star, a key, an animated numerical sequence (432), dripping gold typography, and finally, the aforementioned truncated triangular trapezohedron.

Recreating the shape in 3D was one of the most challenging tasks...

Recreating the shape in 3D (C4D) was one of the most challenging tasks I had as animator. After spending time studying obscure technical breakdowns online (check out this page for a detailed explaination of the object), I began with a simple cube, then rotated it diagonally, so that one corner sits directly above its opposite corner. I then stretched it vertically. Using a C4D boolean object, I removed the top and bottom corners with a second standard cube, creating a triangular plane that cuts through both the the top and bottom of the object, arriving at a close proximity to Dürer’s creation. We tried a number of materials in Octane and settled on a concrete material that feels very much like stone. Finally, I set up 2 colored area lights to match the lighting from the portrait of ELPENTHE (credit: Scott Lahn). It entailed a red/pink light on the left and a blue/purple source from the right. The shadow underneath the solid was created in After Effects.

See the final looping animation here, and the director's original inspiration, Melencholia 1 by Albrect Dürer, below.

Listen to ELPENTHE’s single Already Know (feat. Devan), from his Debut LP ELPENTHE 1 on Spotify here.

Melencholia 1, by Albrect Dürer
Thursday Oct 13 2022