Pi-ta-go-ra su-i-chi!
December 17, 2006 6:39 AM   Subscribe

In this collection of clips of Rube Goldberg machines for NHK's Pitagora Suichi, was CG animation used?

Obviously, one can ignore the 1"30 of cartoon at the top, and the japanorific dancing bit in the middle, I'm only talking about the domino effect devices.

I don't know. Some things look decidedly detailed and real, but others (some balls, cups, etc.) look very CGI-ey to my eye, what with their just-too-perfect texture and motion. There's just not enough *randomness* I guess.

So what's the deal? Is it all live action? Some live action and some CGI? Or pure CGI? Greenscreening perhaps?

Thanks in advance, and if watching this clip makes you whistle the "Pi-ta-go-ra su-i-chi!" tune for the rest of the day, I'm sorry about the earworm.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No, no CG. According to my wife (who can read the notes in the book/DVD we have of these sequences), it's just incredible attention to detail, and hundreds of takes.
posted by Grangousier at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2006

Best answer: Apparantly "After fifty takes, the crew get irritable; after seventy takes, they get sarcastic, but Masahiko Sato (the university lecturer who builds them) never gives up".

Free translation from the same book.
posted by Grangousier at 6:44 AM on December 17, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I guess seeing this on DVD would be revealing, if only for the higher resolution. Am I too skeptical then? Or just underestimating the fabled ingenuity and endless patience of the Japanese? :)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:00 AM on December 17, 2006

The mythbuster guys made one of these and it looked like they were pretty disgusted by the end of the show too.
posted by jtoth at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2006

Response by poster: Hm, maybe we should page Metafilter's Own Mythbusters guy then.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2006

Oh right on! Something tells me that bringing up that particular episode would just aggrevate the guy :)
posted by jtoth at 8:02 AM on December 17, 2006

I'd love to try building one of these with my son - does anyone know where to get the basic "cool parts" like the springs and guiding tracks?

(apologies to the OP for hijacking this thread, but thanks for the awesome video)
posted by jtoth at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2006

Best answer: MFOAS here,

I first caught these over a year ago. Makes me feel good that it took dozens of takes. They're genius. Just amazing.
No cg at all.

No aggrevation, I looove building rube goldberg machines, I just usually want more than 4 days to build and film them.

I'm sure someone's going to reference COG, so let me:

According to the press on COG, somewhere around six hundred takes were required to achieve it. Also, the space they were shooting in couldn't hold the entire sequence, so they shot the first half, reset, and shot the second half separately.

There's apparently a CG wipe when the muffler does it's tumble, though I've never been able to spot it. Which I guess means that I could be wrong about the above spots, 'cept that I don' think I am.

If you really want your mind blown, then check out
a german film from the late 80's.

There are wipes and fades in it, but it makes it no less astonishing. Lasts over 1/2 hour if my memory serves. I took some ideas from it for several different machines.

What bugged me about the press for COG, was that no one referenced the german film. I'm totally POSITIVE that they knew about, and took inspiration from, the film. Just like advertising folks not to say so.

Ah! I found it on youtube. Here it is:
posted by asavage at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2006 [4 favorites]

Yes, there is a well hidden wipe in the COG piece.
posted by filmgeek at 10:28 AM on December 17, 2006

Wow, COG! I can't believe I forgot about this! The only part I suspected of being CG was early on when the three tires on rims roll up the ramp. It just doesn't seem (or even look) plausible that they would recoil off of one another and then defy gravity to push the next to the top.

My favorite part: The windshield mobile. I know it's boring but it's just plain awesome. That sequence had to be a nightmare to get together.

The german piece is very cool but out of my realm. The fire rules it out as something I can do in the house but wheels are starting to turn now. Mine will definitely include a robosapien v2 and some optical and audio triggers (my son has every console made since pong). I also have a lot of rolling things and pretty much all the 8-year old toys I could ever need to get us started. I'm thinking of taking it out the window, into the yard, and back into the house. We can do the mentos cannon outside I guess ;)

I also see a Puzz-3d of manhattan serving some sort of a function in this thing... This will be a youtube moment.

Thanks for the links and the insight - my wife will cringe but if I include a few of the dogs in this she'll warm up to it too. We really rooted for the mythbusters creation, it was a serious nail-biter!

I need to get cracking.... Now where did I put that bosch router and my soldering gun?
posted by jtoth at 10:52 AM on December 17, 2006

I think the tires just had very heavy weights placed high inside them. They were balanced, but then, when knocked off-center, they rolled.
posted by Alt F4 at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2006

Am I the only person who spotted the CGI muffler in Cog first time I saw it? "Wow... wow... wow... wowFAKE wow... wow..."
posted by Hogshead at 12:03 PM on December 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers all.

asavage, the first thing I thought of when I saw these clips was indeed Der Lauf Der Dinge - in fact, I insisted on showing it to my friends immediately when they showed me the Pitagora Suichi clips last night. It's a stunning film, and, to pick a minor nit, it's Swiss, not German.

Thanks again all. Consider my skepticism shamed and my esteem of Japanese weird-machine makery renewed.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:21 PM on December 17, 2006

Really hogshead? I don't know that I'm seeing "fake" with the muffler. Why do you think it is? I'm just curious.

Truthfully, I've been looking for the wipe/cut in the action but the quality of the clip is not good enough to see it. I'm guessing it's either where the fan comes to rest or where the water starts squirting to trigger the wiper arms robot.

The muffler has a believable eccentric roll to it but the tires don't look right to me either. As Alt F4 pointed out though, the added weights theory factors in to account for it.
posted by jtoth at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2006

The tires do have weights in them, this was borrowed from the Swiss (cough cough) guys who did Der Lauf Der Dinge (which by the way is really fun to say out loud).

Hogshead, I don't know- I've watched COG about 50 times and am always amazed by the muffler wipe. It never stands out to me.
posted by asavage at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2006

Grangousier, I'd like to buy my own copy of that DVD. Can you point to it online?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:42 PM on December 17, 2006

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