by Rachel Clarke and Claudia Hart
Non-linear video editing systems permit time to be arranged and rearranged a-sequentially along a timeline, permitting the aesthetic of cinematic montage. Post-photographic 3D software programs are able to produce more complex synchronous and asynchronous time loops, intervals, and durations that derive from the recursive digital logic native to computer programming. In a virtual world, both linear and nonlinear time can coexist, and multiple rates of time can unfold within a single unified XYZ space, vastly extending the possibilities of the cinematic.
3D digital cinema distinguishes itself from classical animation in that the illusion of movement does not actually originate from the linear unfolding of sequential images. Use of timeline-independent nested animation blocks is one of many significant differences between simulations technologies and earlier forms of animation. Physical processes are both generated and simulated within the virtual world itself. What makes 3D cinema different from non-linear video editing conceptually, is that EVERYTHING can have its own independent timeline. Once a virtual world is designed and physical simulations have been set up, these timeline-independent nesting processes can appear to unfold along a linear, frame-based timeline.
Once simulated, post-photographic cinema can be recorded and rendered out as a sequence of images that are played back in the same manner as any other piece of cinema or flip-book style animation.
In a virtual world, a user can simulate the growth cycles of plants, the emissions of vapors or smoke, the raging of a fire, the behavior of liquids and bodies of water, how light may react to materials, and a range of physical forces like gravity and wind, including the way that these forces might move solid objects. These processes can unfold at different rates but within a unified Cartesian space, accelerating or slowing at different speeds and velocities. The motion of an object can also be cycled, duplicated, offset or looped, or allowed to develop or decay logarithmically, to create patterns in what might otherwise appear to be naturalistic movement recorded by an analog camera.
All of these aspects create the sense of a magical, uncanny space in which events appear to be asynchronous and where bizarre juxtapositions of processes with impossible durations rupture any sense of regularity in the Euclidean time-space continuum. Such time-collages create a sense of being a temporal paradox. Although virtual simulations may unfold along a single linear timeline moving in a forward direction, one perceptually experiences contradictions to the idea that time might be continuous as result of cycling, looping, and the contradictory rates that events and processes are able to unfold. This endows a sense that multiple layers of time might exist simultaneously. A sort of bending and folding of time is yet another way that a virtual world may become conceptually "impossible" and because of this, endlessly fascinating despite a normalized photographic sense of the real.