Berlin design house Zeitguised is mostly known for their stunning fashion videos, using bold colours and impossible physics to create “0% organic” fabrics in films that walk the line between high art and commercial branding. Or rather, they disregard that line entirely—as studio co-founder Henrik Mauler put it in a rare interview with art & culture journal We Heart, “We get paid for our artwork, therefore our projects always have both artistic and market value in varying degrees.”

That approach, along with a tendency to release films under the studio name rather than identifying a director, has kept Zeitguised at an arm’s length from the “independent” animation world, but there’s no question that the studio is expanding the visual language of 3D animation. There’s a reason they’re cited as part of the experimental CG “wilderness” in Alan Warburton’s essential 2017 video essay Goodbye Uncanny Valley.

Birds is one of Zeitguised’s more straightforward films, and also one of their most playful. It’s a character study of sorts, breaking down the concept of “bird” until it should be basically unrecognizable. But the implied movements, the nervous energy and the context of title are enough that even the most abstracted forms are more than recognizable—they’re somehow cute.

It’s impressive that a film can double as a goofy exercise and a deconstruction of character design, but Birds does exactly that, and it’s worth watching it on either level.

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