People in association withLBB Pro

Bending Reality: Creative Physics in Animation with Alex Levinton

Production Company
London, UK
Irresistible Studios’ director Alex Levinton sits down with Fida Khalid to explore his fascination with realism through animation

As an Argentinean who grew up attending a British school with much of his family living in North America, Alex Levinton’s early life was a cocktail of cultural influences. "I think different cultures sort of permeate in your brain, it broadens your critical thinking as you’re able to dissect your thoughts in two different languages.” 

In his career, Alex has followed this belief, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as the vivid realism of his grandmother's paintings to the work of 3D artists & studios such as Six N. Five, Andrés Reisinger, and XK Studio. In both, their shared love of boundary-pushing approaches resonated with him. Seeking to explore this further, Alex turned to natural phenomena, studying the properties of gravitational fields and the unique, pulsating flow of underwater tides. Borrowing their unique physics, Alex has become known for mimicking reality while adding in a touch of the abnormal, suffusing his work with familiar yet strange behaviours and colours. His biggest motivation has always remained to recreate what looks real but feels off, evolving his Grandmother's realist legacy through a fascination with the uncanny; “The sense of having something you want to touch, feel and perceive to be normal but then seeing it suddenly acting up. That’s just super fun for me”. 

One of Alex’s finest collaborations is the short film ‘Magna Matter’, a distinct example of his extraordinary take on realism. It is one of his proudest works and, he notes, one of the best for having provided him with epic challenges and steep learning curves to hone his craft. Alex has always preferred having the freedom to experiment and creatively evolve projects, being able to trial and error different physical simulations to create unexpected textures and feelings. The payoffs from these experiments are the moments of triumphant bliss Alex strives for, which is why ‘Magna Matter’ was such an unforgettable project. "It was absolutely bonkers, we woke up every single day asking “what do you want to experiment with today?” And we just played around with fluid and flower simulations, making the character come to life and dance. The attitude was like; just go for it, do what you want and something will stick. It was crazy in that sense. Everybody had a lot of freedom to explore different ideas and I think there was a great connection between us all.” 

Freedom has always been essential to Alex. Both creatively and technically, he aspires to remain unlimited in his work. However, throughout his career, his creativity had always felt restricted due to the limits of the software available. That was until he discovered Houdini, powerful 3D procedural software that allowed him to explore infinite possibilities without restraint. Whole new avenues of creativity suddenly opened up to Alex, allowing him to push simulations further and explore new dynamics in fluids, fabrics, RBD, explosions and destructibles. 

He goes on to explain how using Houdini feels like leaving the tap open and letting everything flow, letting the software actually become a medium with your work rather than just another tool. But if the software isn’t a tool, then what is it? “I would say it’s a continuation of what you’re thinking. It’s like an extension of your brain. You’re actually letting everything you’re trying to achieve iterate, to explore hundreds of possible versions of it, and having the ability to do so in a non-destructive workflow. I think that’s the most interesting thing about Houdini”. 

Like everyone else, we’re always wondering what the future of animation might look like… so we asked Alex! “It’s kind of inevitable that at some point Artificial Intelligence is going to come in and we’re going to have to learn how to live with it. I don’t know if you’ve seen this new open A.I? They’re creating this new bot where you input a prompt and it runs out different versions of images based on your request. I think it’s going in a direction where we designers are going to have to live with that and use it to our advantage. It’s just a matter of how we co-exist with it rather than being afraid of it. It’ll eventually help us refine our process rather than replace us.” 

Alex Levinton has made his mark in the world of animation with a unique style, but adapting and altering one’s approach is a challenge everyone faces. “The main challenge to date is to not repeat what I’ve already done. Creating new ideas based on the same workflow, I think that’s one of the main challenges. To reinvent your style but never run it down”. 

Work from Irresistible Studios
All Roads Lead to Thursday
Something Greater