The Deep, Dark World of 3D Motion Graphics

Click at your own risk.

I am so sorry. Image via albertomoss

Spend enough time on a content-delivery platform and you will notice changes in its shuffling algorithm so unsubtle as to seem like a glitch. The feeling of this realization can best be described as snapping awake in the middle of a strange dream based on the last five images you’ve seen. On Netflix, it’s realizing you can’t decide what to watch because you keep being shown the same eight movies—you know there must be more out there for you, but you don’t know how to find it. On Facebook, you just keep seeing the same thread about Overnight Oats, or the same ad for a bra that’s so comfortable some lady fell asleep wearing it. Our patterns of browsing are so obvious that we get stuck in our own targeted content eddies.

Lately this has been happening to me a lot on Instagram, in the Discover tab (is it even called that still?), a grid of content “based on accounts you interact with,” i.e., based on your stalking patterns, but on a slight delay. The algorithm used to be a lot more social—a good way to organically discover the accounts of friends of friends, in addition to the newsfeed. Instagram knows what you’ve been looking at, and tries to feed you more of the same. A few weeks after the Rio Olympics ended, my feed became a combination of Simone Biles and other Team USA highlights and food pictures from accounts with names like alwayslicktheplate and nosaladshere.

But the real coup on Instagram is the interstitial “Picked For You” and “Videos You Might Like” sections that break up this tab. Nail art and cake decorating and makeup tutorials seemed innocent enough—process videos that are almost more pleasing to behold than the final product. The thing that really got me, though, was 3D Motion Graphics. Here is where I really lost it, and by “it” I mean, any grip on my soul.

The first two videos I watched, which have now completely torpedoed my algorithms, were both animations by the extremely popular account Cool 3D World, the brainchild of Brian Tessler and Jon Baken. Cool 3D World originally rose to prominence on Vine (haha remember Vine?) and was described as “virtual nightmare poetry” by Killscreen. This description remains accurate. These videos are, with no exaggeration, easily the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen. In the first one, a man dancing in hot pants goes back and forth between full Nutty Professor obesity his otherwise very fit frame, and in the second, well, just play it.

I’m so sorry. I know you’ve already seen these but please just watch them again. But these were just starter videos. Amuse-bouches, if you will, for the wonders that lie in wait for anyone who should have the wherewithal to keep scrolling after witnessing horrors like the above. It just gets weirder and more abstract, and I promise you, you won’t regret it. They seem like the kinds of things one would watch while on psychotropic drugs, or possibly just the kinds of things you would see or think up while on those drugs. They make me feel like I’m on those drugs and as with most drugs I’m never sure if I like them or not.

Here’s is one that is basically just 3D Motion Memphis-style graphics:

Here’s a skeleton throwing and receiving a football to Lil Wayne:

Here’s a primary-colored hot dog with a face, at a rave???

Here you are being run over by some blob people covered in foliage running towards a rainbow:

Here’s Bart Simpson doing Zen meditation:

This one is a time-lapse of plants growing and includes extremely pleasing crunchy gravel sound effects:

I think you think you get the idea, but I guarantee you, you do not. A lot of them are just blobs in space with colors and music, sort of like a 3D version of an iTunes visualizer. But the worst (best) ones live somewhere in that uncanny valley of Cool 3D World, with realistic forms like bodies or body parts except they have hair-like protrusions and bend in very unrealistic ways. The ways they make me feel verge into ASMR territory, or like how listening to Animal Collective makes me feel in my spine. Please behold, the bendy hands:

Or the struggling purple humanoid form that has mop-needles for hands:

I’m so sorry about this:

And this:

Great. I know these are all “visual effects artists” displaying their equivalents of doodles and crafts, but in a sense they are also the reason, for me at least, that Instagram is still A Thing. That and Instagram stories. And all the stalking. I’m sure I can’t be alone in this. Does anyone else get these in their feed? Or do you have some other kind of rabbit hole that you go down where it’s just pet videos and extreme contouring?

Anyhow. Keep an eye out for the 3D Motion Graphics tab, and sweet dreams.