About Betsy de Fries

Betsy de Fries is founder, director and producer of Little Fluffy Clouds Animation studio. She and her partner, Jerry van de Beek LFC's creative director, bring an imaginative edge to concept design, character development, animation, VFX, photoreal modeling, title sequences and on-line media. As a multi award-winning studio LFC specializes in high-end motion graphics and digital animation of all flavours. Diversity of style is our byword.

Techulation Baby!

Film maker, Doug Wolens gets, as we Brits would say, a well nice review, from the Bay Guardian’s, Cheryl Eddy, for his documentary, The Singularity.

We’re partial to this film and not just because we created the animations but because it’s a story well told and a subject of endless fascination for we humans – Artificial Intelligence. Just when will robots become smarter than their human programmers and who will become Master of the Universe then?

The Singularity is an inevitable moment in our history when we will be able to create computer systems with greater-than-human intelligence, bio-engineer our species and re-design matter through nanotechnology. These future technologies will transform the course of civilization. The SINGULARITY FILM sidesteps the sci-fi cliches about robots versus humans and presents an intellectually thrilling debate that begins with a basic question: What kind of humans do we want to become?
~~ Doug Wolens, Director

Read what Cheryl Eddy has to say here: http://www.sfbg.com/2013/03/06/techulation and check out the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/51240278. Better still buy the film! We don’t get residuals, honest!

A Working Class Hero is Something to Be

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Gustave Caillebotte, Les Rabateurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrapers), presented to The Paris Salon of 1875, is one of the first occasions that members of the urban proletariat had been displayed to the general public. The jury, shocked by its crude realism but voyeuristically fascinated, rejected it as “vulgar subject matter”. In choosing to submit himself simply to the rigorous formulae of traditional realist painters, Caillebotte eschews any of the political, social or moral messages of his contemporaries like Courbet or Millet. It is as if he were a documentarian exposing us only to gestures, tools and the accoutrements of these stripped down modern heroes of antiquity. One year later he, along with Edgar Degas, were the toast of the town. … Could there be a more apropos moment to take note that a working class hero is something to be?

Chance or Chancery?

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Life truly is like the Court of Chancery. Whereas it really should be a place of infinite justice, in which all are treated equally, often it is simply unfair. This was the very truth, Miss Flite, the very astute and seemingly minor character in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, found out from her many years of living on only the vaguest promise of a slender thread of hope. Such a life is often the ruination of the soul.

Presented here a list of her aptly named birds all “to be released on the day of judgment”. Take your chances where you find them.

Hope – Desires, expectations, longings and dreams.

Joy – Happiness, revelry, pleasure and jubilance.

Youth – Adolescence, inexperience, jejunity. Innocence yet to be despoiled.

Peace – Accord, truce and conciliation. A longed for harmony.

Rest – Calm composure and quiescence. That which may give you tranquility.

Life – Essence, élan, spirit and the very joie de vivre of being.

Dust – Ashes, cinders, dirt and the fragments of life.

Ashes – Charcoal, ruin, relics and the sad burned remains.

Waste – Reckless spending, decay and desolation. A life squandered.

Ruin – Destitution and bane. Bankruptcy.

Despair – Anguish, sorrow, hopelessness and misery.

Madness – Delusion, insanity, lunacy and mania.

Death – Annihilation, dissolution, eradication. The final cessation.

Cunning – Sly, artifice, guile, deceit.

Folly – Absurdity, rashness, stupidity, triviality.

Words – Colloquy, utterances. The means of communication.

Wigs – Periwigs. The trappings of the court’s costume.

Rags – Scraps, shreds, tatters. The remnant of the matter.

Sheepskin – The testimonial document. Certification. Credentials.

Plunder – Theft, contraband. That which is stolen.

Precedent – Antecedents and the authoritative exemplar. A paradigm.

Jargon – Exclusive phraseology. Pernicious patois.

Gammon – To fleece, to dupe, chicanery. The game of swindle.

Spinach – Prevarication. The avoidance of truth. A bald lie.

Perfect but Spooky – Galilee Horses

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Perfect but spooky. Seemingly so innocent yet perhaps not. A perfect composition on a bright sunny day but still a sense of darkness lurking just off camera – maybe. Strangely devoid of all humanity yet compelling in it’s immediate association with laughing children at play. The discarded, dilapidated toys now put out to pasture at the far end of the garden.

These are the Galilee Horses, as photographed by Jerry van de Beek.

Billy Collins Reads Animated Poetry for TED and NPR

Proud to have been Poet Laureate, America’s most accessible poet, Billy Collins, reads poems from his Nine Horses collection in this animated talk for TED – Every Day Moments Caught in Time. Using five of the twelve animated poems New York agency JWT commissioned for their client, Sundance Channel, as his backdrop, Mr. Collins strides the stage in his usual comfortable down home way and charms the crowd to their feet with his wry suggestive tone.

When you get a poem [in a public place], it happens to you so suddenly that you don’t have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields that were installed in high school.

~ Billy Collins: Everyday Moments, Caught in Time.

If you are even an occasional listener to NPR his is a voice you will recognize immediately and if you are not do yourself a favor and watch and listen to these poems – and you will see why Billy Collins has been credited with the accolade of bringing poetry to the masses.

TODAY, was one of the twelve Billy Collins poems chosen by JWT to be animated. Unharnessed from the usual client restraint the agency gave full unfettered creative freedom to their appointed animation studios. We count ourselves fortunate to be amongst them. In many ways the project was a watershed moment for us at Little Fluffy Clouds – it gave us the chance to do things differently – see for yourself.

You can see the entertaining Mr. Collins’ TED talk here: http://bit.ly/GW2C5m and see all the animated poems in the line-up here: Billy Collins Action Poetry. Listen to NPR’s TED Radio Hour here: http://n.pr/Npfer7. A treat for the ears, a feast for the eyes.

 

For Power of Sound a Review Worth Having

When Ian Lumsden, the UK’s most revered animation blogger, reviews your work it’s more than an honour. It’s a testament to his unwavering ability to sort through all noise, and regardless of paid PR, level the playing field. His focus is on good animation and speaks only to that. So, it is in itself a reassurance that even in this commercially overloaded world, and somewhere within the overcrowded bandwidth, there’s a person out there of great wit and intelligence who notices – and some how it makes it all worthwhile.

Thank you Ian for everything you do to promote incredible animation from around the world with no thought of financial gain and industry sway. Yours is a review worth having.

It is a pleasure to see the work of skilled professionals and Jerry van de Beek and Betsy de Fries (littlefluffyclouds) are consummate professionals. Bose: The Power of Sound embraces a host of animation techniques, from 2D to 3D to origami. Jerry is a master, artist and technician both, employing whatever software, or scissors, it takes to convey the message.
Given a high end product like Bose, it figures the one minute piece requires something extra special. Technologically advanced article waveforms emanate from the music itself, scissored horses and cranes soar through the skies and scarlet sampans traverse the ocean; there is even a mathematical Fibonacci sequence of numbers in free flight.
This orchestral and visual feast is a masterclass. I’ve not asked but I guess the ad is linked to the tsunami that hit Japan. The giant wave crashes down and soaring out of the explosion red flowers climb towards the moon. It seems like a rebirth to me, a proud nation responding to devastating adversity.
I need to add that I had intended, and still do, to write about two other ads in the small (in size not stature) California studio’s impressive library of work, one a very traditional cartoon (like they used to do it) and, secondly, a follow-up to an earlier piece I had written about on the blog. But I got waylaid. Jerry, by the way, hails from the Netherlands and Betsy from the UK. It’s warmer in California.

Check out Ian’s blog http://www.animationblog.org/ and spend some time catching up on incredible animations.

 

Toyota – Do the Math and Save the Planet!

What do Americans like to do best? Drive, drive, drive! Hey people, it’s a vast and beautiful country out there and there’s lots to see. But in this age of rising gas prices how can we satisfy our yearning to explore, save money and still be true to our conscience and the planet by being ever “greener”?

Well, like Toyota says in this ad campaign drive a hybrid and you can have it all. Statistics show that you can drive more 535 miles in a Prius averaging 50 MPG. Catch Lucy as she drives across the country underlining the point and take a quiz on-line at www.toyota.com to see which car fits your needs. Toyota – Do the Math.

Nimbly animated by our very own team here at Little Fluffy Clouds, this multi-spot full campaign includes TV, print, radio and web. Voiced by San Francisco favorite, Denny Delp. Lucy airs from April 2012. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s cost effective – Save the Planet!

 

 

Chicago Public Radio features TODAY on Mission Amy KR’s blog

At Little Fluffy Clouds we’re always thrilled when one of our more cerebral projects is plucked from the archives, dusted off and given some national attention. So, we were more than pleased when our animated, Billy Collins poem, TODAY, was featured by Chicago Public Radio as part of their poetry awareness month. The former poet laureate was interviewed and read some of his favorite poems from the collection, Nine Horses.

This tiny nugget of literary appreciation came courtesy of Chicago blogger and WBEZ radio host, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Her program and associated blog, Mission Amy KR, is brought to you from the same folks that bring you, This American Life. Here’s what Amy had to say:

Just when I thought Billy Collins’ poetry couldn’t possibly get any better, this comes along. I’d rather not taint your experience with unnecessary intros and blabbing. So here, just enjoy: Billy Collins Action Poetry (And let me know if you were able to stop at one, or if you simply had to watch them all.)

So, thanks Amy for the mention – we’re in some stellar company there! You can read her blog, see all the animated poems and support the station right here:

http://bit.ly/mINv65. Go ahead fund the arts but first watch this!

 

The Singularity Moves Ever Closer

In 1993 the Hugo award winning ScFi writer, Vernor Vinge, wrote an essay entitled, “The Coming Technological Singularity” that opened the door to a theory which fired the imagination of both scientists and the public alike. This theory, simply stated, recognizes the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence and presages a moment of no return, one at which Vinge states, “the human era will be ended”. This event horizon for the human race is of such advance that it is believed that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.

In the decade that followed the futurist computer scientist, Ray Kurzweil, wrote and rewrote his book on the notion of Singularity culminating in the 2005 Viking edition: The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. In his book Kurzweil makes many predictions for the future of The Singularity and for mankind. (See http://bit.ly/6Womy). This fired the neurons of many scientists worldwide and debate ensued on the accuracy of these predictions which has raged on in academia ever since.

Fast forward to 2012 and the timely release of documentarian, Doug Wolens film, The Singularity. Wolens explains the theory and his film thus:

The Singularity is an inevitable moment in our history when we will be able to create computer systems with greater-than-human intelligence, bio-engineer our species and re-design matter through nanotechnology. These future technologies will transform the course of civilization. THE SINGULARITY sidesteps the sci-fi cliches about robots versus humans, presenting an intellectually thrilling debate that begins with a basic question: What kind of humans do we want to become?

Director Doug Wolens speaks with leading futurists, computer scientists, AI experts and philosophers, who turn over the question like a Rubik’s Cube. Those who insist this paradigm shift is only decades away emphasize that we’re on the cusp of creating nano tech machines that patrol our bloodstream and repair cellular damage, athletes with jacked-up genetic code who sprint like gazelles, an Internet that downloads directly to the mind and medical labs with computer-replicated brains working by the thousands to cure disease.

Ultimately, if we become more machine-like, and machines more like us, will we sacrifice our humanity to gain something greater? Or will we engineer our own demise? Even if the answers are impossible to know, THE SINGULARITY makes clear that we cannot postpone addressing the questions.

Intriguing? I think so. And Little Fluffy Clouds was happy to provide the animated elucidations that accompany the many entertaining interviews and explain the deep and diverse concepts of The Singularity. More info and festival screenings here: http://thesingularityfilm.com/index.html