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com August/September 2012

The Path Less Traveled

Animators use CGI to create Hotel Transylvanias graphic look

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August/September 2012 Vol. 35 Number 5

Innovations in visual computing for DCC professionals


create a his friends at monsters-only Transylvania. 8 Artists at SonythePictures Animationresort Hotelunique, cartoony look for Dracula and

Pose by Pose
By Barbara Robertson

games 17ABypair of 2DMoltenbreyuses new technology to revive the retro look. Karen

Back in Style

18 Fine Tooning 21 Second Act


24 38

playing roles in industrial and scienti performing tasks keep 24Digital humans arethat helpmajortheir human counterparts safe.c applications,

In Harms Way
By Kenneth Wong


a range of tasks stop-motion including designing and outputting 32The ParaNorman team uses CG forfacial expressionsonviathea 3D printer. lm,

Face Forward
By Barbara Robertson

Editors Note
Whats Old Is New Again

Classic-style animation seemed to have gone out of fashion when CGI became the de-facto medium. However, that does not mean that todays audiences lack the appreciation for traditional animation.

The crew augments stop-motion 38environments and CGtheeffects. feature Frankenweenie with digital

One Frame at a Time

By Barbara Robertson

Maxons Cinema Side Houdini, 4in Q2. Orbolt Smart Asset Store.4D Release 14.GraphicsEffects Softwares Shipments Increase


42Storage companies try to keep up with the demands of studios. By Douglas King
Editing FXs Wilfred. A look at cameras and post. Director Todd Solondz on Dark Horse. Student to Pro: Making the transition.

The Hunger Game

30SIGGRAPH 2012 Computer Animation Festival. 48Recent hardware and software releases from SIGGRAPH 2012.
Computer Graphics World reveals its best-of-show winners from SIGGRAPH 2012. See Page 6


Back Products


The artists at Sony Pictures Animation used non-photorealistic rendering throughout the lm for characters and backgrounds, including Draculas immense castle in the clouds, home to the Count and his family, as well as a montage of monsters seeking refuge from humans. See pg. 8.
August/September 2012


Whats Old Is New Again

The Magazine for Digital Content Professionals

ot long ago, I was searching for an extension cord and came across a stash of VHS movies that I used to watch with my son when he was young: 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan, Cinderella.... I even found our old VHS/DVD player. It was a rainy Saturday, so I decided to watch some of these old favorites. I tried to get my now-teenage son to join me, but he was far more interested in shooting up something on the Xbox. I have to admit, I enjoyed my trip down Nostalgia Lane, despite the fact that, for years now, I have focused my attention on the very best that CG has to offer. My little diversion seems especially appropriate now, given the unplanned theme of this issue, as many of the stories seem to take a twist or turn back to a more classical style of animationalbeit still using current cutting-edge technologies. For the past decade or longer, animation to me, as well as most, has come to mean CGI. And we have come to love the bright, bold imagery of Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up, Finding Nemo, Monster House, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Guardians, and more. Yet, that does not diminish our appreciation for the hand-drawn beauty of traditionally animated features or stopmotion films. When CGI features took over at the box office, every now and then they were joined by a stop-motion production, such as Chicken Run (2000), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), and of course, Coraline (2009) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Things really started getting interesting when stop-motion filmmakers incorporated computer graphics to enhance certain scenes, using the best of both worlds to achieve their vision. This year alone we are being treated to a bevy of stop-motion films: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which we covered in the April/May issue, and ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, which are detailed in this issue. Each has a different look and feel, illustrating just how diverse stop motion can be today, particularly when present-day methodologies and techniques are incorporated into the mix. Then we have Hotel Transylvania, a thoroughly modern CGI film, created with the latest tools, that has a hand-drawn, cartoony aesthetic. For this animated feature, it wasnt about making something physically believable (the crux of CG) but more about design. In fact, the task for animators on this project soon became more about stretching characters (and technology) beyond their limits to achieve what could be described as something visually unique. Next, we move into the interactive realm with a pair of 2D game titles that use new technology to bring a graphic style from the past to todays high-tech gaming platforms. Ubisofts Rayman Origins and React Entertainments The Act take players into rich worlds created by hand, for a different type of gaming experience compared to what we have grown accustomed to of late. The theme of Whats Old Is New Again can also be used to describe some of the offerings at SIGGRAPH 2012, as vendors demonstrated new developments in motion capture, 3D printing, head-mounted displays, and more. Of course, we were also treated to new offerings from some first-time SIGGRAPH exhibitors, as well as impressive upgrades to industry-standard software and hardware. Be sure to visit for a recap of the show, and read about what impressed us the most as we reveal our annual Silver Edge awards in the Spotlight section of this issue.

KAREN MOLTENBREY (603) 432-7568 Courtney Howard, Jenny Donelan, Kathleen Maher, George Maestri, Martin McEachern, Barbara Robertson

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August/September 2012

Created by Illusion Bangkok for JWT Shanghai by Surachai Puthikulangkura. Rendered in modo with final touchup in Photoshop.


create art in unexpected places


Graphics Shipments Increase in Q2

on Peddie Research (JPR) revealed its findings for the estimated graphics chip shipments and suppliers market share for the second quarter. And, the news was good for most. Intel had gains in both desktop (13.6%) and notebook (3.8%), led mostly by Sandy Bridge. Nvidia gained in the notebook discrete segment (6%), and AMD saw gains in the discrete desktop category (2.5%). This was a good, if not a great, quarter for the suppliers. Graphics shipments during Q2 12 bucked the Quarter-to-quarter change JPR downward PC trend 60% and rose 2.7% from last 50% Change from Q4 to Q1, 10-year av: -3.16% quarter as compared to Change from Q1 to Q2, 10-year av: 7.15% 40% -1.5% for PCs overall. The popularity of 30% tablets, combined with 20% the persistent five-year 10% recession, have been 0% contributing factors that have altered the nature -10% of the PC market. None-20% 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 theless, the CAGR for PC graphics from 2011 The quarters change in total shipments from last quarter decreased to 2016 is 6.3%, and 0.8%; the 10-year average is 3.1%. Source: Jon Peddie Research JPR expects the total shipments of graphics chips in 2016 to reach 688 million units. The 10-year average change for this quarter is a growth of 2.27%. This quarter is ahead of the average, with a 2.5% increase.

Maxon Rolls Out Cinema 4D R14

Maxon has unveiled Release 14 of its Cinema 4D, which includes a new, fully integrated sculpting system, new camera matching functionality, the debut of exchange plug-ins to

The Quarter in General

AMDs total shipments of heterogeneous GPU/CPUs, ie APUs, dropped 13.8% in the desktop from Q1 and 6.7% in notebooks. Ironically, the company had a 55.8% increase in notebook IGPs, but it was only 300,000 units. Intels desktop processor graphics EPG shipments increased from last quarter by 6.3%, and notebooks showed double-digit growth of 13.9%. Nvidias desktop discrete shipments dropped 10.4% from last quarter; however, the company increased mobile discrete shipments 19.2% largely due to share gains on Ivy Bridge, which included ultrabooks. The company will no longer report IGP shipments. Year to year this quarter, AMD shipments declined 1.6%, Intel shipped almost 20% more parts, Nvidia shipped fewer parts (-22.0%) but that was because it exited the IGP segment, and VIA saw shipments slip by 18.2% over last year. Almost 126 million graphics chips shipped, up from 122 million units in Q1 and up from 118 million units shipped in Q2 2011. Total discrete GPUs (desktop and notebook) increased a modest 0.5% from the last quarter and were down 7% from last year for the same quarter due to the same problems plaguing the overall PC: continued HDD shortage, macroeconomics, softness in Western European market, and the impact of tablets. Overall the trend for discrete GPUs is up, with a CAGR to 2015 of 5%. Ninety percent of Intels non-server processors have graphics, and over 68% of AMDs non-server processors contain integrated graphics.
August/September 2012

two key applications (The Foundrys Nuke and Adobes Photoshop Extended), and improved integration with Adobes After Effects. Packed with other workflow enhancements, R14 will enable creative professionals to produce 3D content more fluidly and collaborate more efficiently. Maxon is offering four versions of Cinema 4D, each geared to 3D artists in different industries. Multiple enhancements in R14 offer artists a more flexible tool set to achieve greater rendering realism and compositing control. New and improved shaders and materials are now available for simulating wood grain, weathering effects, and normal mapping. Global Illumination has been enhanced with new technologies, such as Radiosity Maps and the unified sampler from the Physical Renderer. Also, new algorithms in R14 provide up to twice the speed for caustics; the software also contains further enhancements to subsurface scattering render materials. Pricing varies according to packages, with the most robust version, Cinema 4D R14 Studio, selling for $3,695.

CGW Reveals Its SIGGRAPH Silver Edge Award Winners

IGGRAPH. Theres no trade show quite like it. It truly is the one place where art and technology merge, where right-brainers and left-brainers are in sync. Where else can a techie speak geek to a director while the two are united in a meaningful conversation? This year, the conference returned to its home base of Los Angeles, which meant moremore attendees, more booth space on the show floor, more discussionsjust more, in general. This year saw more than 40 first-timers on the exhibit flooramong them, The Foundry, Unity Technologies, and VanGogh Imaging showing their technologies alongside others that are considered SIGGRAPH veterans. No question, the exhibition floor at SIGGRAPH 2012 was bustling with activity. Motion capture remained a popular technology, with a number of vendors setting up capture volumes in their booth, as a model danced and pranced on stage while a monitor showed the resulting animation after the acquired data was applied to a CG character. Making a return were companies offering head-mounted displays for exploring virtual environments. Included in this category was Infinite Z with its zSpace, which received a CGW Silver Edge Award earlier this year from GDC 2012. Having an increased presence this year on the show floor and outside the Emerging Technologies area were 3D printers, from the inexpensive (MakerBot was showing its $1749 Replicator), to the novel (MCOR, whose Matrix 300 uses regular copier paper as the printing medium), to the higher end (such as those from 3D Systems and Z Corp.). Of course, graphics boards and 3D content creation software were on full display, as they are every year. And as contributing editor Kathleen Maher points out, the number of raytracing companies are multiplying like rabbits, as evidenced by a large presence at the show. One vendor whose tech was particularly intriguing was Imagination, with its Caustic Visualizer plug-in for Maya. So, what did the staff of Computer Graphics World find especially interesting and deserving of the magazines Silver Edge Award for best in show at SIGGRAPH 2012? Heres our picks. Maxons Cinema 4D Release 14. For years, Maxons Cinema 4D has offered some great tools for 3D content creation. But with the latest version of the 3D motion graphics, visual effects, painting, and rendering software application, which the company is calling a milestone release, Maxon has established itself as a very serious contender in the DCC space. New features for the 3D suite include a new, fully integrated sculpting system that is based on the companys production-proven BodyPaint engine. The package continues its tight integration with compositing by adding a seamless connection to Nuke, along with an exchange plug-in to Adobe Photoshop Extended. Side Effects Softwares Houdini. Side Effects, like its 3D content creation software, Houdini, is hardly new to the indusAugust/September 2012

tryit is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And throughout this time, the software has been a workhorse. Not long ago, the company released Version 12. Built on a new geometry engine, Houdini 12 includes targeted optimizations to dynamics and rendering, and a reworked OpenGL 3 viewport. The big news, though, is the significant price cut and subsequent rebranding. Houdini FX (formerly Houdini Master) includes all the popular Houdini features, including some of the best particle, fluid, and cloth tools in the industry. It is now priced at $4,495. Houdini (formerly Houdini Escape), which is the base product and includes modeling, rendering, and animation tools, costs $1995. NewTeks LightWave 3D. In the past, it took quite some time for NewTek to get a new version or release of LightWave 3D out the door. Not so nowand these are not your small incremental releases, either. Just announced and soon to be released is LightWave 11.5, featuring the new Genoma modular character animation and instant rigging system for quickly rigging a simple biped or quadruped before animating it in Modelerno special rigging tools are needed. The update also contains flocking tools, instances, soft-body bullet dynamics, and more, including interexchange support for Adobe After Effects and Pixologics GoZ Fiber Mesh. Rivaling this news was the announcement of the newly formed LightWave 3D Group under the watchful eye of its president, Rob Powersnews that excited current (and, no doubt, future) LightWave users. NewTek remains the parent company, but now the software has its own dedicated group to oversee development. I am not sure if it was the software update or the corporate news, but LightWave 3D was a popular destination at the show. No doubt it will be a revitalized force to be reckoned with. AMDs FirePro W cards. For years, Nvidia and AMD have battled it out in the DCC space. But in this graphics arms race, AMD seems to have pulled ahead for the time being with its nextgen FirePro W cards (W9000, W8000, W7000, and W5000), offering up to four teraflops of graphics computing power on the high-end W9000. The new FirePro GPUs are based on the companys Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. Canons MR (Mixed Reality). Maybe it was the cool factor, or a technology that took us back to the booming SIGGRAPHs of the 1990s, but it was a treat to have a vendor that is not a SIGGRAPH regular exhibit some fantastic technology. The Canon MR is an augmented reality application of sorts, and at the show, the company was demonstrating its capability of combining 3D objects with real-time video imagery. At the booth, a user would don a Canon head-mount display, and suddenly a virtual image of a car would appear where there was only a set of actual car seats. With AR proliferating, this technology holds a lot of potential.

Christies 3D projection technology. Christie has always been a major player in the visual display realm, and at this years show, the company was virtual everywhere. In the exhibit area, Christie set up its latest offering: the HoloStation, a personal visualization system that displays up to 15 megapixels of data in a 3D stereoscopic and interactive tracked environment. Best of all, it fits in a self-contained, compact, 6 x 6-foot areaa closet-sized CAVE, if you will. Christie also gets extra points for moderating the popular Production Session Panel High Frame Rate Cinema,

Impacts on Art and Technology, a topic which generated a great deal of discussion in the conference halls. Honorable Mentions: TeamUps Multi-Optics renderer for real-time 3D collaboration powered by the cloud. Motion Analysis Raptor-12 mocap camera, with components manufactured specifically for motion-capture capability. Fabric Engines Creation Platform, a framework for building custom high-performance graphics applications (built using Python and Qt) for any software package.


Side Effects Updates Houdini

orontos Side Effects Software has introduced new pricing for its Houdini 3D animation tool. Also, the firm has simplified branding for the two Houdini workstation products and integration with the Orbolt Smart Asset Store, giving artists access to the Houdini community. Side Effects has rebranded its two workstation products as Houdini and

The Raptor-12 from Motion Analysis

The first camera with components designed and manufactured specifically for motion capture capability

Houdini FX. Houdini FX, formerly known as Houdini Master, includes all Houdini features, with a focus on particles, fluids, Pyro FX, cloth, and rigid-body dynamics. With the new version, Houdini FX is now available for $4,495, while Houdini will remain priced at $1,995. In other news, Side Effects unveiled Houdini 12.1, which is the first version to integrate the Orbolt Smart Asset Store, where members of the global Houdini community combine their knowledge and expertise to create customizable 3D assets. About to be launched into beta as of press time, the Orbolt store offers assets that have been reviewed and tested before being offered for sale. The assets will work with both Houdini and Houdini FX. Houdini 12.1 is available now for download at

For more information contact us at: Motion Analysis Corporation 3617 Westwind Boulevard Santa Rosa, CA USA 95403 (T) +011 707 579 6500

August/September 2012

CG Animation


By Barbara Robertson
werent so inspiring, if the animation style he embraced hadnt been so unique, if the shots hadnt been so hilarious, the poses so dramatic, things might have turned out entirely di erently at Sony Pictures Imageworks. ere, a crew of approximately 300 artists worked on 1,250 shots for the animated feature. Directed by multiple Emmy-award winner Genndy Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylvania is a monster movie with an inventive, comedic twist: Count Dracula owns and operates a luxury resort hotel where monsters can escape the demands of the human world. e idyllic surroundings give the vampire count a perfect safe haven for Mavis, his teenage daughteruntil a human teenage backpacker named Jonathan accidentally crashes Maviss 118th birthday party. e lm stars the voice talents of Adam Sandler as Dracula, Selena Gomez as his daughter Mavis, Steve Buscemi as the werewolf Wayne, Kevin James as Frankenstein, CeeLo Green as Murray the Mummy, David Spade as Gri n the Invisible Man, Jon Lovitz as Quasimodo, Andy Samberg as Jonathan, and many others. e idea of a hotel for monsters had been in development at Sony Pictures Animation for six years before Tartakovsky moved into Hotel T. Previous directors had approved character designs. Artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks had created the CG characters. e technical team at Imageworks had set up a pipeline based on Arnold, a physically accurate renderer. ere was just one problem. Tartakovsky wanted a graphic style for his animated feature that

If the director of Hotel Transylvania

August/September 2012

CG Animation

Count Dracula opens the door of his castle resort to Frankenstein (at far left), one of many monsters seeking refuge from the human world.

The crew at Sony Pictures Imageworks creates a CG animated film with a graphic, hand-drawn, cartoony look and feel

Images 2012 Sony Pictures Animation, Inc.

August/September 2012

CG Animation

Artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks used creative lighting to give a nely detailed castle a graphic style to complement the character design that director Genndy Tartakovsky preferred.

pushed beyond the previous preparations. I was on the show for a year, maybe a year and a half, before it went on hold for a rewrite, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor at Imageworks, who led a team of 90 animators. e characters were built and ready to go. But, we had set up the characters for a naturalistic style, and Genndy wanted a di erent style of animation. We had to achieve what he wanted with what we had. We didnt have time to start over. Tartakovsky, known for the Cartoon Network shows Dexters Laboratory and Samurai Jack, Jack, had not worked with CG characters; he had not directed a feature lm. He and the Imageworks crew had about a year to create this lm. ey had to hit the ground running.

Off Model
All told, the lm has 40 main characters, plus variations of each to populate the resort hotela castle. e castle is so immense, we

needed to ll the lobby with a lot of variety, says visual e ects supervisor Dan Kramer, who joined the project about the same time as Tartakovsky. We couldnt have 100 skeletons and zombies. By the time Tartakovsky arrived, the crew had already built and rigged those characters for the most part. ey were 80 percent done, Kramer says. Maybe more. We tend to build to about what we think the animators will need to do in the shots, but theres always a little bit of room for animators to work on characters during shot production. e director asked for changes to Draculas face and a complete redesign for Jonathan. Jonathan was a di erent character before, Kramer says. A simple character. Nothing special. Genndy likes to make his characters look more special, and in Jonathans case, he wanted him to look goofy. Otherwise, the crew used the existing assets for the most part. For those charac-

Like most of the characters in Hotel Transylvania, the Imageworks crew had modeled and rigged Dracula before director Genndy Tartakovsky entered the picture. Dracula was so important, though, that he was one of the few characters that changed to accommodate Tartakovskys style. He is older than the most recent model had been, says Dan Kramer, visual effects supervisor. And a little scarier. The new Dracula is more cartoony, simple, and likeable. And, he has some resemblance to Adam Sandler. The changes to his model and rig helped animators polish his performance. We could really shape-change and go crazy with him, and that was ne, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor.


August/September 2012

CG Animation

The animators were more reserved in performing Draculas daughter than the other characters. You cant get as silly with heroines, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor. With a guy, you can get gooer than with a girl. But, we kept trying. Like Dracula, gravity doesnt affect Mavis, so she can walk up walls. She can also transform into a bat. Animators would create the character transition from bat to vampire or vice versa, and the effects artists would spawn vaporous uid particles from the characters to create a magical effect. For these transformation effects, the artists used Imageworks proprietary uid system. To render the volumes, Arnold. Before, we would composite the effect and the environment, says Dan Kramer, visual effects supervisor. Now, we can get global illumination within the volume. We can dene the vapor to have light, and that becomes an area light for the environment. ters, Tartakovsky wanted the animators to push the rigs further than animators had ever pushed them before. For his style, it made sense to hit extreme poses momentarily, Kramer says. Some poses were so extreme, in fact, they took the characters way o model. Genndy hated the term on model, Crossley says. He wasnt worried about whether Draculas eyes were di erent sizes in

had tested, helped build, and set up for animators was Frankenstein. He had created a performance using the character for a couple of shots. e performance was subtle and natural, Crossley says. And then Genndy came on the show and had an animator do a shot. Genndy did a drawing over the pose when Dracula is screaming. He drew the jaw literally three times more open and broader than we had ever planned to do. If we had tried to do that, we would have broken the character. His jaw would have crashed into his chest.

Jury Rig
Stretching the rig beyond what the character TDs designed it to do and xing problems with the geometry caused by an extreme pose became a standard modus operandi for the animators. eres always room for the animators to work on a character during shot production, Kramer says. We set up the characters to survive rig upgrades. e only issue is that it was painstaking work for the animators. To hit the poses, they sculpted a character frame by frame, rather than letting the rig do its job. But no one wanted to hold back; we all fell in love with the animation style. So, we just went for it. And, if a problem came up often enough, if it was a consistent note, something the animators tweaked every time, wed put it into the rig. Animators working in Autodesk Maya would start with sliders preset by the character TDs. en, to manipulate a characters pose to match Tartakovskys drawings, they would begin sculpting. Wed go into the control points, Crossley says. We used lattices, clusters, blendshapes, and a Maya deformer called SpWrinkleFree. If you push pieces of geometry together and your vertices overlap, making the model jagged and messy, SpWrinkleFree

the same shots. It wasnt important to make sure we didnt pull a mouth corner too high. at was ne. His viewpoint was, Yeah, were changing the design. is is the drawing I want. us, during shot production, the crew often found themselves trying to update characters and make them more pliable. is was Genndys rst CG feature, Crossley says. He did hand-drawings. Hed say I dont know if we can get near this, but this is what Im hoping for. Mostly, we never said no. Tartakovsky gave animators notes via a Wacom tablet and a proprietary, frame-byframe player with custom plug-ins, by drawing over keyframes exactly the pose he wanted the animator to hit. For example, the rst character Crossley

Director Genndy Tartakovsky drew on top of poses created by animators to show how far he wanted them to take the pose. As a result, animators often had to deform geometry beyond the standard rig setup.
August/September 2012


CG Animation

Before Tartakovsky arrived, modelers had wrapped a scary-looking Mummy in bandages. Because it was important that the bandages didnt stretch as the Mummy moved, the riggers created a complex system that slid the bandages one on top of another. If we pushed it too far, though, it would crash, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor. He was an energetic character. And then Genndy [Tartakovsky] comes onto the project and tripled what we did before. We would shapechange him a lot, and use deformers to x anything that was breaking. To help nail a performance that met Tartakovskys style, Crossley asked the animators to spend a week doing Mummy tests. I asked them to be really graphic and treat the poses as graphic shapes, Crossley says. One of the animators tucked all the Mummys limbs into a ball, had him go into a roll, and then had him pop out and land on his feet again. Inevitably, Genndy had us put that in the lm. The animator had the Mummy move so fast we couldnt see what broke during the transition.

Above, animators on this lm had to learn how to design and pose; they couldnt rely on making performances physically believable. At right, sometimes characters such as these werewolf pups moved so fast the rendering team used multi-segment blurring to keep them visible. will average the points and relax them. Although one animator ended up reshaping a witchs hand, the animators more typically used the tools to reshape faces, especially the areas around mouths and eyes. is show turned animators into modelers, Crossley says. I think they probably spent about 30 percent of their time modeling. Wed model a pushed shape for one frame. ere were even times when we were making characters as we went. We had to ll the environment with a lot of characters. If we had a zombie and needed another, skinnier one, wed reshape the face. situations, but this show was all about character and design. I asked the animators to give me poses for the ve main drawings, make sure they were nice and strong, and wed break it down from there. It was a new style and an interesting learning experience for the classically trained animators on the crew, and those used to a more naturalistic, subtle type of animation. It was easy to hire animators for this lm because Genndy was a big draw, the character designs were great, and everyone knew it would be fun because its about monsters, Crossley says. But this style is more complicated than most. ey couldnt rely on making things physically believable. ey had to know how to design and pose. People have a tendency to overanimate and over-complicate. A lot of times on this lm wed simplify the animation to make nice, clear reads. For animators who learned to create a believable walk for a character by paying attention to weight shift, to the way the characters hips move, it was a new way of working. [Weight shift] wasnt important on this show, Crossley says. Wed start with minimal movement. Take Dracula, for example, walking con dently with a proud, sti back. Wed do just the Z channel of him moving forward.

Graphic Moves
Moving the characters from pose to pose gave the lm the hand-drawn feel that Crossley wanted and that suited Tartakovskys style. A lot of people in CG do a layered approach in animation, Crossley says. ey move the body, smooth the motion, and then add legs and arms. ats ne for a lot of
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CG Animation

Between the Frames

Hair, which grows from base geometry, wasnt as much of a problem as cloth simulation. e cloth simulation team had to consider sub-frames. In the blurred areas between the frames, if a character took a di erent path and the cloth didnt take that into account, the characters could come out of their clothing, Kramer says. So the cloth simulation team had to go in and make sure the simulation worked on the sub-frame, on, for example, maybe four samples per frame. Fortunately, it wasnt always necessary to have cloth simulation be quite that accurate and subtle. When we animate a character, we bind the clothes to follow along, and sometimes wed use that version of the cloth since it tracked perfectly, Kramer says. If the character moved incredibly fast, it wasnt noticeable. Wed turn the simulation o for the sub-frames, then switch it back on after. e snappy animation style presented an interesting rendering challenge, too. Often, the animators moved characters so fast they disappeared. We use Arnold, a physically-based

Wayne the Werewolf has a pregnant wife named Wanda and a litter of hell-raising pups that make a grand entrance. A hearse bus pulls up to the castle and 30 crazy wolf pups come storming out, and then Wanda, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor. Shes happy. She doesnt see that kids destroying things is a problem. But, Wayne has the weight of the world on his shoulders. No energy. He huffs. The dynamic of that family was really fun. We kept Wayne minimalistic in terms of how we animated him. Hes the opposite of the Mummy. He stands there and moves his eyes. One solid drawing. Modelers built the wolves and pups as bipeds, but the crew later changed the rig so that the pups could run around on all fours.

We had his legs moving, but we resisted doing anything that gave away weight, the up and down. He almost slides across the screen. When animators would point out that this was not how to create a believable walk, Crossley would answer, ats how you do a caricatured walk. We traded physics for design, Crossley points out. We might lean a character on a 45-degree angle or move to a fast stop. Cloth simulations would y all over the place. Wed push to get the energy and caricature the director wanted, pass everything o to cloth and hair, and hope they could deal with what we gave them. ey had a great challenge on this show.

renderer that tries to mimic the real world, Kramer says. When characters moved fast, we had issues with motion blur. A character moving 100 miles per hour completely disappears; a hand becomes transparent. But, Tartakovsky wanted to see the character, the hand, in the motion-blurred frames, no matter how fast anything moved. We had fast animation on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Kramer says. is lm pushed us further. We had to massage motion blur throughout the lm. One solution was to reduce the motion blur, which produced strobing images. Another was to render two versionsone with full motion blur to produce a streak, and one

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CG Animation
Kramer uses a car wheel spinning fast as an example. If we see the top of the wheel on frame one and the bottom on frame two, the renderer doesnt know the wheel traveled in a semi-circle, so it renders streaks between. You need to sample the wheel at the sub-frames, between the frames, to nd the path, and accurately do the blur, Kramer explains. As in the example, the animated characters often moved so quickly that the only way to keep them visible was with multisegment blurring. But, there was a cost. It took longer to render the scenes, and it resulted in more data. When we translated the characters out, rather than baking on frames, we baked on sub-frames, Kramer says. We might have six versions of a character. We could control how many depending on how fast the character moved and how much delity we needed in the blur.

with low or no motion blurand composite the two together, which produces a solid leading edge and blurry trail. e third option was multi-segment blurring. Normally, we start at one frame and blur to the next, Kramer explains. If theres motion between, it gets lost unless you sample the object between the frames, on the sub-frames.

Jonathan was the one character that artists at Imageworks changed completely for the director. The teenage backpacker, who started as a simple, normal character, became gooer. A more exible rig gave animators the ability to create extreme performances for Jonathan more easily than for many of the other characters.

Non-photorealistic Raytracing
is wasnt the rst animated feature for which the crew had used Arnold. at honor goes to Sony Pictures Animations Oscarnominated Monster House, released in 2006. But, the graphic style Tartakovsky wanted for Hotel Transylvania pushed the lighting and rendering crew in new directions. Imageworks artists use e Foundrys Nuke for compositing and Katana, developed in-house, for lighting. ere are lots of cases when the lighting is not photorealistic, Kramer says. We suppressed detail. Suppressed light. One sequence that was especially striking takes place during a party. Dracula stands in full color amidst hundreds of characters all rendered as dark silhouettes, whether in the background or foreground. To do that with Arnold, we used AOVs [auxiliary output variables], Kramer says. When Arnold lights a character, it has information about all the lighting components and combines them into a nal image. We use AOVs on live-action shows as well, but on this lm, we used them to sculpt the frames in non-photorealistic ways. us, in addition to asking for a nal, combined image, the crew had Arnold write out separate, multiple images. Compositors working in Nuke could then put selected and perhaps tweaked images back together. Well get one frame plus maybe 50 others, Kramer says. Each is a di erent com-

As soon as Genndy [Tartakovsky] came onto the show, he wanted to change Quasimodos design, says James Crossley, senior animation supervisor. He was four heads high, but Genndy wanted him to be two heads high. He didnt want to change his costume, but he wanted his nose bigger, his eyes closer, and he wanted him to have more of an egg shape. So that was a drastic change, but we couldnt change the model. The animators would hit a pose, scale the values, and shapechange toward the new design. In one shot, Quasimodo hangs from a chain. Genndy drew him like an egg with little limbs, Crossley says. We tucked his neck in. If you squint, his body has an egg-ish shape. Although in retrospect it might have made sense to remodel this character, the decision wasnt only a matter of efciency. He was a bit of a moving target, Crossley says. He wasnt always one way. With his design changing in the beginning of production from one shot to the next, it would have been difcult to settle on a model.


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CG Animation
ponent. It might be the lighting component, or a matte we de ned, the hair on his head, his clothes, his face. at gives us tons of extra images we can control in the composite. Nuke loads in the main frame, and sort of automatically loads up the AOVs as options to be used in the comp. We customized it a bit. Rather than 50 nodes, we had one thats aware of all the les that go with it. is tweaking took place on a large scale, as for the party, and on smaller scales, too, to achieve the graphic style Tartakovsky wanted. One thing we often did was for Dracula, Kramer says. He had a shiny cape, but Genndy [Tartakovsky] wanted the cape to feel like a black mask. Dark, with no wrinkles, no light. So, we would go through our AOVs, nd the specular light, and subtract it from the nal image.

Crowd Control
Animators at Sony Pictures Imageworks typically use a proprietary crowd system to control simple crowds and Massive software for more sophisticated gatherings. But, in Hotel Transylvania, the crowdsmainly monsters in the lobby or at partieswere somewhere in between. Animating 60 characters would have been too much, says Dan Kramer, visual effects supervisor, but so would the overhead in setting up a sophisticated crowd system. So, for a shot in which a variety of monsters dance in odd ways, the crew generated simple cycles, applied them to characters, and baked out animated characters. Then, to create the scene, they pulled in the characters, placed them in the shot with simple translations and rotations, and let them dance. We had a system in which an animator could bring up a little user interface, browse through animated cycles, see a character move in real time, and then drop it into the scene, Kramer says. It was incredibly light. There was no rig, just polygonal data that we put into Maya. We used Sparrow to stream 100 characters at once. Sparrow is an OpenGL plug-in we wrote to store polygonal data on graphics cards in an efcient way and stream it back. Its similar to the now-public Alembic cache. We could have 100 characters in the scene, and the animators could scrub in real time, grab characters, rotate them, place them, and change the offset.

Learning Experience
Non-photorealistic rendering also helped bring Tartakovskys style to the backgrounds as well as the characters. We were constantly mitigating detail to focus on silhouettes and the portion of the frame Genndy wanted to focus on, Kramer says. e castle [resort hotel] was really detailed. So we ended up throwing backgrounds out of focus and dumbing down the textures. If the action was in mid-frame and the foreground was distracting, wed darken it way down to get rid of the detail. As with the characters, modelers and texture artists had already built Draculas resort hotel and the immense lobby before Tartakovsky arrived. It was basically done, Kramer says. [ e crew] had built a lot of areas for the previous version of the script. e reception desk was perfect. But, the castle is immense. We had other areas that hadnt been touched much at all. Genndy tweaked the design as much as he could to t his own style and taste. And that happened, sometimes, even after the shots were in production. Layout artists might have already designed camera moves and were ready to send the shots into animation and lighting when the shots went back for changes in texturing and modeling. It was a challenge to push look-development, model building, and environments further into production than on previous shows, Kramer says. We were building the bridges as we were going across the canyon. We kept pace, but we were much closer to lighting than were normally comfortable with. We were doing look-dev on characters and environments a month and a half before we wrapped.

ere was a good side to this, however. e result was stunning, and the crew learned from the process. We often knew exactly where the cameras were, Kramer says. So rather than building whole environments and over-building, we could build more e ciently, which was imperative when we were so close to lighting. Im going to think about this system for the next lmdecide how much we build ahead of time, how much to hold o on. We might need to crew the lm di erently, but I think some sort of hybrid might work. Sometimes we were too close to the metal. But other times it was more e cient. When you look at the character animation and clean graphic design of this lm, you might

think, Oh, simple. It wasnt. Creating the look and feel of a hand-drawn, 2D animated lm with 3D tools, especially with characters and environments designed for another style, was di cult. It was a creative process, as well. I was looking for something di erent, Crossley says. is lm was a creative, fun project. It had a unique energy. And, I could see on the faces of the animators, Wow. is show is di erent. is project changed so much, but in such a positive way, and in ways I didnt expect. Im really proud and glad to have been a part of it. Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and contributing editor for Computer Graphics World. She can a be reached at
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Back n

ce was abuzz over this animated full-length lm crafted in the new CGI medium. For several years after, classical 2D animated movies co-existed quite nicely alongside their 3D animated cousins, but it didnt take long before 3D computer-animated features became the norm rather than the exception. e same can be said of the gaming world: e 32-bit/64-bit fth-generation consoles ushered in the era of 3D gaming. By the time the seventh-generation systems (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii) hit the market, realistic, complex 3D game characters occupied robust 3D worldsa trend that continues, even on handhelds. Today, 3D CGI dominates the entertainment realm. Every once in a while, though, a 2D lm or game will pop up and garner attention that is well deserved. At the 2012 Oscars, the 2D animated lms A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita caught the eye of critics, the latter giving the CG movie Rango a run for its money. In terms of gaming, 2009 appears to be the year when 2D titles began making a comeback. But these are not the primitive, pixelated games of yesteryear. Rather, they utilize sophisticated tools and take advantage of present processing power to make beautiful art interactive. Here we look at a pair of 2D games that implement new technology to make 2D images pop.

When Pixar released Toy Story in 1995, the box o

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Ubisoft Montpelliers Rayman Origins sports a retro 2D look created with a new graphics engine that simplifies the animation process

Video games of late, particularly first-person shooters, strive for realism. Realistic characters. Realistic environments. Realistic physics. Realistic simulations. Realistic action. Sometimes, though, players want a break from reality, even if its virtual reality, to escape into a fun, fantastical universe that is as far from real as one can getlike that of Ubisoft Montpelliers Rayman Origins. Rayman Origins, a retro 2D side-scrolling game, is set in a lush 2D cartoon world. The rich, hand-drawn environments are brimming with objects and color, and each unique setting looks as though it were lifted from a 2D animation cel. The characters, meanwhile, appear to have stepped out of a Saturday-morning cartoonor from the pages of an artists sketchbook.

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By Karen Moltenbrey

The main character, the quirky Rayman, has evolved only slightly over the years since Ubisoft Montpellier introduced the character in 1995 for a sprite-based game played on the original PlayStation. During the decade that followed, Rayman, his friends, and his worlds would be ported to 3D as new consoles were introduced, while the titles for the various handheld devices retained the propertys 2D style. With Rayman Origins, however, the game has shifted back to its 2D toon roots, despite its release on a range of the latest platforms (including the PS3, Xbox 360, and the new PlayStation Vita). Nevertheless, the character does have an updated look in Rayman Origins, thanks to a new animation engine and high-resolution graphics that are stunning and vibrant. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Rayman is still limblesshe has no neck, legs, or arms, so his simply shaped head, his large, whitegloved hands, and his oversized sneaker-clad feet float in midair. He

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rescue imprisoned Electoons, which is done by gliding in midair, shrinking in size, and even riding on the back of a mosquito. If an enemy or obstacle hits a character, it will inflate into a ballooned state until another player can bring the character back into the game by slapping it. Sound ridiculous? It is. But thats all part of the games charm.

Creating Art
While Rayman Origins visual and play styles are based on those of the original 2D release, this is by no means a game built upon a 17-year-old game format. The first Rayman was really art-oriented. So we worked with artists from the cartoon industry, and painters and illustrators, and developed new tools that enabled us to reconnect with those people, says Ancel. One of the tools that Ancel is referring to is the new UbiArt

is joined in this new adventure by his longtime friend, the blue, blobby Globoxanother squash-and-stretch character. In addition to Rayman and Globox, the game features two additional main characters, the Teensies, as well as more than 100 others with which they can interact. In addition, there are 12 diverse environments (60-plus levels), all filled with rich, hand-drawn imagerywhether a steampunk-type of factory, a lush jungle, a candlelit temple, a snowy mountain, or a pond teeming with fish. Each environment proposes a different type of immersion and emotion based on its imagery, theme, music, and friends and enemies. We began the project with the idea of going back to the artistic dimension of Raymans universe. We wanted to work with artists outside the video game industrypeople in animation studios, traditional painters, and illustrators, says Creative Director Michel Ancel, who created the Rayman franchise. We believe that the combination of art and gameplay can create the kind of surprises that every player would like to experience. While Ancel and a team of artists at Ubisoft Montpellier are actually responsible for Raymans universe, the games lore purports that it is created by the titles highly sensitive supreme being, the Bubble Dreamer, who conjures up the so-called Glade of Dreams world into existence each time he falls asleep. When the Bubble Dreamer begins to have bad dreams, players must ease the beings fears and stop the nightmares with hilarious antics. While there is a deeper story to be unearthed, much of the experience in this immersive platform is about visual storytelling: the hundreds of different stories players will tell one another as they romp through this cartoon playground, interacting with the environment, says Gabrielle Shrager, lead story writer. More specifically, the game pits the baddies, the Darktoons, against the good Electoons. Players must battle enemies and try to

Rayman Origins is part of game series developed by Ubisoft Montpellier in 1995. Conceived first in 2D, the franchise eventually migrated to 3D as new game consoles were introduced. Recently, though, the developer returned the series to its 2D heritage, a move that became easier with the new UbiArt Framework engine.
Framework, a proprietary graphics engine that allows artists to easily create content and use it in an interactive environment. With Rayman Origins, we tried to get rid of the constraints and let the artists work easily, without thinking about polygons or textures or sizes, so they could just concentrate on the art, says Ancel. UbiArt Frameworks flexible architecture limits the repetitive tasks required in making a game, enabling artists to create HD animation and imagery from limited original artwork, without having to worry about the technical aspects of game development. Rayman Origins is the first title to use it. As the engine and the technology came together, it became clear that this was the right approach and time for Rayman to make his comeback, says Ancel. When we saw what we could do in 2D, the worlds we could create [with the engine], I naturally thought of Rayman. For the first Rayman, a major focus was on the art. Rayman was born in 2D, so this seemed like a great way for him to be reborn. With the UbiArt Framework, artists can create animated images from any kind of artwork that can be scanned, photographed, or digitized. The engine separates the imagery into individual pieces, and applies a skeleton and bones to the assets to provide pivot points for animating movements. Then, the animator simply poses the model and edits the silhouette, and the system deforms the image automatically. As a result of the UbiArt Framework, Ubisoft Montpellier was able to keep the Rayman Origins team small and nimble. I believe
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Rayman Origins contains bright, bold 2D cartoon images created by painters and illustrators. With the UbiArt Framework graphics engine, animations can be made from flat artwork or photographs.

that smaller teams are more flexible, says Shrager. Then, if that small team has the level of talent, creativity, and innovative thinking that we put together, you can make something really special. According to Shrager, the new engine offered the group a great deal of creative freedom. It is optimized for high-def resolution, allowing the game to run in full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second. We could iterate on concepts with high-definition graphics and gameplay assets in real time, which is one of the major keys to emerging concepts and creative, innovative gameplay, she adds.

Living a Dream
Work on Rayman Origins began approximately two years ago by a team of artists and engineers with a so-called garage-game mentality. As Ancel contends, the reactive approach to game development enabled by the UbiArt Framework platform helped promote creative energy and innovation within the group. The ability to use the gorgeous handdrawn artwork of our artists directly in-game is one of the reasons Rayman Origins looks
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so fresh and different, Shrager points out. While the UbiArt Framework simplified the 2D animation process, that didnt mean that the game creation was without challenges. According to Ancel, it is easier to create content, characters, and levels in 2D as opposed to 3D, but on the other hand, you cannot hide poor game design behind Hollywood-type sequences, he says. 2D shows every collision, mistake, and control error. Its a precise kind of game that forces us to manage a lot of details. Just one look and it is clear that Rayman Origins is an artist-created universe, a perfect choice for a 2D game. After a long time spent on complex 3D games, its cool to jump into a full gameplay experience with no turnarounds, says Ancel.

While 3D may be the standard for console games these days, theres something that can be said for a compelling art-focused 2D game that utilizes the power of these machines. The 3D consoles of today support incredible graphics and sound in 2D, Ancel points out. Its amazing to be able to create a universe with the quality of the best animated features, but in an interactive experience. The game rollout began with titles for the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360, and continued through the summer for Windows, the Vita, and the 3DS. So, choose your platform and toon in. n Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of Computer Graphics World.


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Multidimensional characters shine in a unique interactive story

By Karen Moltenbrey

computer game developer/entrepreneur Omar Khudari began looking for a new adventure and founded the game company Cecropia, mixing his experience with PC racing titles from his former company Papyrus (known for Grand Prix Legends and the NASCAR Racing series) with 2D animation. At Cecropia, the technical team was based in the companys Boston headquarters, while 2D animation veterans (many formerly employed at Walt Disney Feature Animation prior to its closing) were situated at the firms animation and production studio in Orlando. The objective was to create an interactive film in which players could perform an animated character, controlling his or her behaviors and expressions. The timing could have been better.

In the early years of the new millennium,

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Computer gaming was taking off, fueled by increasingly powerful PCs with robust graphics cards and by souped-up consoles. CGI was taking over the animation industryeven 2D animation giant Disney was heartily embracing the medium. Nevertheless, Khudari believed that 2D was the ideal genre for Cecropias project, a video arcade title called The Act, since it would make the characters more expressive and bring out their personality more than CGI could at the time. After all, this was in the early days of CGI, and many 2D films shared theaters with computer-generated features, as audiences showed their appreciation for both mediums: the unique look of CG animation and the timeless beauty of handdrawn cel animation. Dan Kraus among them.

Scene I: Serendipity
While working in the 2D animation field at Bauhaus Software, Kraus visited the Florida studio of Cecropia and was immediately taken by the aesthetics of the game under development there. This was during the dark days for 2D animation, in 2003/2004, when there were tons of layoffs and CG was taking over everything, he says. The industry hadnt come to realize how unbelievable classical animation really was. Kraus later learned that the Cecropia game more or less had been completed (about the time that the video arcade revolution was ending) but had never launched, despite having a tremendous animation team and building a great game. So the title was shelved, and Cecropia turned its attention to other projects (before eventually shutting its doors). Fast-forward to 2009, when Kraus, along with 2D/3D game technologist Alain Laferrire, formed React Entertainment as a next-generation game studio focused on transforming classical 2D animation into an interactive gaming experience. The first order of business was to develop the technology necessary for creating and delivering 2D animated games. The second order of business was to deliver Reacts first title. The Act offered opportunities in both areas. Kraus and Laferrire approached Khudari, who now serves React in an advisory role, hoping to resurrect The Act for the next generation of gaming on mobile devices. The mobile revolution wasnt really there yet [in terms of gaming], but we believed it would eventually come, Kraus says, noting this was prior to the rise of the iPad and tablets. We wanted to evolve and transform The Act to run on new platforms. As Kraus explains, The Act had not lost its attractiveness; the timing just wasnt right before,
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as it fell between the market gap for waning arcade games and rising mobile titles. And the games underlying technology could be used to ultimately transform almost any 2D art and animation into an interactive experience.

React Entertainment resurrected The Act using its new, commercially available technology suite, including an advanced state-defined editor specially tuned for 2D artwork.

Scene II: The Story

The Act is a classically animated romantic comedy that requires active participation rather than static viewing. It stars Edgar, a well-meaning window washer, and Sylvia, the woman of his dreams. The goal is for players to control Edgar as he attempts to rescue his hapless brother, save his job, and romance Sylvia throughout the various scenes. The game contains many different scenes (levels) in which Edgar must complete a task. For instance, in the first scene, the Dream Sequence, the players task is to maneuver close to Sylvia in a bar. If the player acts too quickly, Sylvia is turned off and moves away; too slowly, and she becomes bored. The next sequence challenge requires Edgar to ensure that his brother does not fall asleep on the job and to keep the boss from firing them both. Between the scenes are interstitials that help complete story threads. The challenges become more difficult as the scenes progress through a cartoon world that is rich in detail. However, through it all, players can see the character develop and learn. You are building a relationship between the characters, explains Kraus. From a gameplay standpoint, it feels like you are playing a movie [in the active sense] and guiding the expressions and emotions of the character. What happens in the scenes is totally predicated on what you do with your character, the actions and emotions you invokewhether you get to take her hand and dance with her, for example. This interactive comedy can be played in a little over one hourless for those who have played it before. Each scene has a number of variables and variances depending on the reactions between the characters, explains Kraus. Ive been playing with this for a while and am still discovering some of them. I saw Sylvia do something recently that I never saw her do before. Its fun to explore the depth of the characters.

Scene III: The Technology

Not only were Kraus and Laferrire intrigued by the game design and gameplay, they were also taken by the proprietary technology used to integrate and manage all the elements of the 2D interactive titletech that would be extremely useful to React. It was propriety, built from the ground up, and integrates all the art, music, video, and game logic into one platform, says Kraus. The challenge, however, was re-writing the technology inside the game engine, which he says was incredibly complicated. There are two components to the technology: the authoring platform, which is the interactive editor for the 2D content and the game logic, and the runtime engine. Both had to be revised before this gameand others like itwould work on the new mobile platforms. And that was the first order of business for React. There are many more elements needed for a modern mobile game than for an arcade

video game. The technology elements had to be rewritten, and that required an enormous effort, says Kraus, noting that the company spent nearly a year and a half working on the production tech. The touch interaction, the graphics design all this had to be restructured. In terms of building assets, the processes of editing them, exporting them, and pulling them into the runtime engine are basically the same as with any game. According to Kraus, there are four steps to creating game content using Reacts technology. First, of course, involves authoring the assets for the character animation and music/sound. Here, teams can use vector images or hand-drawn art that is digitally scanned into the computer. Using the React authoring tool, users then create and load the variample, in the first scene, if Edgar moves too far forward too quickly, Sylvia backs away. From a modern production perspective, studios likely will create the imagery in a vector animation system, like Flash, Toon Boom, or their own proprietary software. Cecropia, meanwhile, had hand-drawn every frame of The Act and later scanned them into the computer230,000 drawings in total, and React had to come up with a solution for compressing all that artwork while maintaining its high visual quality. As Kraus points out, this is a completely proprietary platform, and React continues to look for opportunities for the tech suite, such as in professional animation studios where the artists could quickly and cost-effectively pro-

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ous scenes, define the sequences, and build the logic between the characters. Next, they export the data, and then the runtime engine loads the game logic, assets, and so forth, which enables the triggering and interaction. The runtime engine is a compositing system with an integrated game engine that combines backgrounds with various characters and triggers music and sound effects. The biggest differentiator in Reacts technology is in the advanced state-defined editor, which is designed for 2D artwork. Specifically, the system allows you to draw characters and character interactions, and express those and interrelationships between two characters, Kraus says. Kraus explains the way the engine handles two characters meeting. You have two sets of character loops containing actions and interactions. Each loop you create contains a few hundred frames, and the engine ties those loops of action/reactions together according to the logic that is assigned, he says. For ex-

duce and deploy interactive 2D titles or develop interactive episodics.

Scene IV: Mobile Debut

So, what made Kraus and Laferrire decide to embrace classical animation in the age of CGI? Kraus says there are two reasons why this style works and pulls people into The Act. First is the animation itself, which was created by the original artiststhe simplicity and elegance, the beauty and motion that goes beyond 3D. Second is how the game is played. Rather than moving between scenes, in The Act the player is moving the characters position. This is done simply by swiping left or right on a tablet or iPhone, or via a mouse for the Mac versionthe controls are so simple, Kraus says, that a five-year-old can learn how to do it in a matter of seconds. You are controlling the position of Edgar during the game, and by that interaction, you cause dynamic interactions with other characters, he says,

noting that one of the more powerful aspects of The Act is the soundthe system triggers music to coincide with the game states. Many classical animations are tied to music themes. That relationship is very important, he adds. Kraus believes that if The Act, which was released at this years E3, had come out a year and a half ago, most phones wouldnt have been able to push it. Now they can, for the most part, he adds. React hopes to tune its technology for other delivery platforms as well. Again, its all about timing. Kraus contends that because of the way the characters are drawn, the iPad is especially conducive to this type of game experience. We were ecstatic when the iPad came out. We believed that was where Edgar and Sylvia would truly shine, and we were right. There is so much depth and richness to the original color scheme. The fluidity and transitions you fast become the character. The suspension of disbelief happens quickly. Our biggest challenge was to make sure the user experience was as beautiful as it could be. Despite using all the inherited artwork for the game, some additional graphic design was needed to fill in gaps left by the new technology, and Khudari made sure that the crew remained true to the spirit and intention of the game as established by the Cecropia team. Kraus points out the obvious, that mobile games have grown in epic proportion, and adds, This is a new genre of mobile game, building on the legacy of Dragons Lair. Its a character-focused game with much more interactive gameplay [than most current mobile games]. Khudaris vision, a few years ago, was for The Act to be a game for consumers, and React was able to adhere to that vision, albeit on tablets and the iPhone rather than a coin-operated machine. So while the games hand-drawn animation style may be traditional, it certainly looks in vogue on these new platforms. We are excited about what the authoring pipeline can let us do in terms of expanded content for serious production, and how that opens the door for cloud-based gaming, Kraus says. So it seems that the sky is potentially the limit for hand-drawn animation. Or, at the very least, React has opened the door once again to this traditional art form. Omars initial vision was that 2D would become interactive, and you could preserve the legacy and extend it to other genres. We agree, and with The Simpsons and Family Guys of the world, there are many possibilities. n Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of Computer Graphics World.
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To explore ergonomic setups, design possibilities, and safety measures, digital humans boldly go where no man has gone before

Virtual humans play an important role in keeping their human counterparts safe.
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Image courtesy Dassault Systemes.

everal years ago, professor Karim Malek had a small lab in the University of Iowa, staffed with approximately 10 students working on a research project. They wanted to see if they could predict and simulate human movements by applying robotic principles to human anatomy. As their project gained momentum, the US Army came knocking on their door, with a check for $2.7 million. Malek explained why the military took an interest in his work: You can do a lot of testing [on a tank design] in the virtual world. Thermodynamics, aerodynamics, stress testsall these can be done on a computer. The only time you must build the tank is when you want to put a soldier in it, so you can ask him or her, How does it feel inside there? Can you assemble this system? Can you engage the target or see through the visor from where youre sitting? But what if you can put a virtual soldier into the virtual tank? With a robust bank account to attract top talents, Malek assembled a team comprising nearly 30 experts from all over the world to take on the Virtual Soldier Research project for the Army. Then contracts began rolling in, from Caterpillar, Rockwell Collins, the US Marines, Ford, GM, and many more entities. Nearly a decade later, having invested close to $30 million to refine the technology, the professors humble lab gave birth to Santos and Sophia, a digital duo for the commercial market. Malek is now part of a team that oversees SantosHuman, Inc., a company spun off from the lab. The young firm (formed in 2010) represents and licenses the intellectual property of the University of Iowa. The university conducts research and development; the company markets and distributes software suites.

Santos and Sophia are part of a new outsourcing trend. This time, the jobs are not shifting from high-salaried, skilled workers in the First World to low-cost laborers overseas. Instead, theyre shifting from human workers to digital workers. But you may take comfort in the fact that the types of operations ceded to digital humans are the works many of us would consider too dangerous, stressful, or painful to perform to begin with. (Sometimes, theyre literally backbreaking jobs.) When the Army needs to figure out how a 10-pound vest would affect a snipers agility and fatigue level, when an automaker needs someone to crawl into a tight space previously untested, when a plant manager needs someone to perform a series of ergonomically risky maneuvers, they may now turn to digital human models (DHMs).

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Working with CAD Geometry

DHM-incorporated simulation exercises often involve 3D CAD files because the human-machine interaction usually takes place in a virtual environment, detailed and populated with standard CAD objects (3D models of armored vehicles, mechanical assemblies, and plant layouts, for example). Some manufacturers use digital human models to identify and correct ergonomic issues in tight-fitting Studying product designs (how a driver might navigate vehicles, like the cockpit of a plane. The simulation shows Siemens PLM Softwares Jack and Jill. inside a smaller-than-average electric car) and manufacturing operations (how a repair technician might install an exhaust pipe) and ergonomists, among othersconfidence that the digital humans invariably require a mix of files created in different CAD programs. reaches, crouches, and bends accurately represent an average soldiers or Therefore, for DHM-incorporated simulations, a solution that can ac- employees range of motion, along with his or her limitations. commodatein other words, importnot just the software makers The breadth of things our digital humans [Jack and Jill] can do covproprietary format, but also many different CAD formats, is preferable. er the breadth of things real humans can do, explains Tom Hoffman, Many design, engineering, and simulation software makers have director of Tecnomatix Global Marketing for Siemens PLM Software. been developing and perfecting their own technologies to cater to this John Buchowski, vice president of product management at PTC, notes, relatively new field. Siemens PLM Softwares digital humans, called The degrees of freedom available to our manikin are the same ones Jack and Jill, are part of the companys Tecnomatix digital manufac- available to real humans. turing software suite and integrated with the companys NX CAD In the movie Avatar, the Navi characters are 10 feet tall, notes package. A basic version of PTCs digital manikin is included in the Julie Charland, product manager of Virtual Ergonomics at Dassault companys flagship product, Creo Parametric (formerly Pro/Engi- Systemes. In our applications, the manikin has to be no bigger than neer). Another version with greater functionalities, dubbed PTC Creo [typical] humans, with accurate anatomy and kinematics controlling Manikin Extension, can be purchased from Dassault Systemes Virtual their movements. If you pull on our manikins arm, for example, it will Ergonomics Solutions suite, which includes male and female digital only stretch as far as a human arm willit cant go farther. Game avamanikins called Teo and Sia, and are integrated with the companys tars dont need to know where their center of gravity is. Our manikins CATIA (CAD), DELMIA (computer-aided manufacturing), and need to know that. ENOVIA (product lifecycle management) software packages. SanThe difference between 3D characters in games and DHMs in engitosHuman partners with Okino Computer Graphics, a CAD trans- neering software is the difference between making something look good lation technology developer, to make its DHM software compatible and making something right, notes PTCs Buchowski. When youre with industry-standard 3D file formats. dealing with human behavior simulation in product design, theres actually a library of typical body types you need to use as reference: for Human Constraints instance, 50 percentile North American male or 30 percentile Asian Unlike the type of semi-autonomous extras and player-controlled char- female. I challenge you to find a woman who matches Lara Crofts proacters commonly found in video and computer games, digital humans portions in real life. used in simulation are designed with significant motion restrictions. In virtual environments like Second Life and World of Warcraft, an av- The Science of Agony atar could be a 9-foot-tall, blue-skinned elf archer with superhuman DHM simulations produce more than visual references for movements, strength. After a few quests, he may even be permitted to wield a club reaches, and lines of sight. Theyre designed to collect other data, such twice the size of his body mass or fly through the clouds. After all, doing as the amount of force applied to joints (often called joint torque), joint whats not physically possible in real life is one of the main attractions strength capabilities, internal muscle forces, and intervertebral disc compressive force. This allows army engineers, product designers, and of the virtual world. In simulation applications, its important to prevent digital humans ergonomists to address questions such as, How long can a pilot remain from performing moves and maneuvers that are outside of what is pos- in a small cockpit without feeling stress on his or her back? How long sible within the human population. The restriction is deliberate. Its can an average person continuously lift and drop a 50-pound part in meant to give usersarmy engineers, facility managers, plant designers, an assembly line? How far would a repair technician need to bend to
August/September 2012


Image courtesy Siemens PLM Software.

Images courtesy SantosHuman, Inc.

remove a cap? Is it ergonomically safe for the technician to execute such a maneuver? On the Virtual Soldier Research project, Malek once received directives from a colonel in the US Army. He said, I want to be able to nd out how long and what distance I can have [a virtual squadron] walk before I allow them to sit down, chew on ca einated gum, and have a drink of water. ese are the type of questions they want answered, Malek says. at meant Malek and his programmers had to embed in their digital human, Santos, certain biomechanical intelligence, including his energy expenditure, the rate at which his fatigue increases, and the impact of the armors weight on his mobility over time. For validation, programmers review motion-captured data of real humans performing similar tasks to make sure Santos simulated behaviors and biomechanical feedback re ect the same outcome. If you ask Santos to perform something thats not humanly possible, Malek explains, Santos will come back and say, Youre asking me to carry something thats too much for my elbow joints and musclesthe load is much higher than what Ill ever be able to carry.

The CG Santos digital human is versatile; here astro Santos provides vital information to real-life researchers and technologists. however, DHMs must come with a software interface accessible to those with little or no animation skills. Its safe to assume that most DHM users will not know how to set up character rigs and de ne paths. For these users, commanding the DHMs has to be as straightforward as selecting a manikin and choosing a standard action (Walk, Go Here, Reach, and so forth) from a menu. To perform these tasks, digital humans must rely on the built-in kinematics, with little or no intervention from software users. One of the advancements made in the DHM technology is to move away from the keyframe-based animation used by [movie and video game] animators, says Siemens PLM Softwares Ho man. Here, what were doing is instructing the digital human to perform a task. If we say, Reach for this object, it can gure out on its own how to move there. Dassaults Charland points out that 10 years ago, that was much more di cult. Now, its much easier. ings that took about 10 clicks now take about three clicks, because when you tell the manikin to grab something, it knows exactly how to reach for it and grab it, she says. Most of the experts hired by Malek came with biomechanical and simulation expertise. But two years ago, Malek hired two senior programmers with experience in video game interface design. eir task was to revamp Santos interface so it would be more accessible to non-technical users. Our mandate is that after three days of training, people should be able to use the [Santos] software, he says.

Issuing Directives
In games and movies, all the behaviors and movements of a character, from its facial expression to its distinct walk, are governed by a skilled animators script. In simulation,

Use-Case Scenarios
According to Dassaults Charland, some progressive airplane manufacturers are beginning to consider end-of-life disassembly procedures: How should a plane be dismantled when it has reached its retirement? In these cases, they use [DHMs] to simulate the process because they want to know how people might get to di erent parts of the plane and remove them, she explains. DHMs prove to be particularly useful in simulation exercises where a certain stressful or dangerous action must be performed repetitively in order to understand its impact on human anatomy. If you use real people to simulate [an assembly operation], you cannot possibly run tests on an entire cross section Sophia is the female counterpart of Santos. Both are virtual models created by Karim Malek at the University of Iowa.



August/September 2012

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where else in the world. So if you are manufacturing your design in Malaysia, for example, youd want to resize your manikin to match the typical Asian population there. By default, we keep our manikins within average sizes, with normal range of motions, but if someone knows something about the target user, they can tweak the manikin further to get the right range of motion with DELMIA software. Although currently it is not the primary focus of DHM technology developers, academics and researchers have now begun studying and compiling data on under-represented segments of population, such as disabled people. Ron Hamameh, who authored the paper titled Digital Human Models of People with Disabilities (Digital Commons, Wayne State University, January 2010), observes, With the injured veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars returning home and the baby-boomer generation exceeding retirement rection. [Researchers] may focus on ergonomics, on answering specific questions, but the people they present their findings toupper managementare usually influenced by the visuals theyve seen in the games their kids are playing. So they find it difficult to trust analysis results where figures look inferior to what theyre used to seeing in video games. Thats a challenge we recognize. Some DHM software allows users to incorporate scanned 3D data (usually saved as point-cloud data) and high-res images. They can be used much in the same way as texturemapping on 3D volume to create video game characters with realistic skin and clothing.

of the population, says Dassaults Charland. That is something you can do with DHMs. The technology is so powerful you can answer a lot of what-ifs: What if we move this part from here to there? What if we move the opening another foot? Fifteen years ago, plant managers and ergonomists had no easy way to identify certain repeated motions that, in the long run, prove hazardous. Today, using DHMs, they can reasonably predict the long-term impact of certain operations on workers. The aim is to prevent and reduce injuries by designing a safe, risk-free environment for manufacturing.

All Shapes and Sizes

Looking back at earlier incarnations of Siemens PLM Softwares Jack and Jill, Hoffman admits that, originally, figures were much chunkier, more rigid, and didnt deform well. Now, a mesh network covers the figure, he
Image courtesy PTC.

The Next Frontier

Malek currently serves as president of the International Human Simulation Society, a relatively new industry group. Design and simulation software developers have quickly
Image courtesy Siemens PLM Software.

says. That lets us represent the shapes of different people more accurately than before. Accurate representation of body types is important not just for aesthetics, but also for accuracy of the analysis results. In many cases, designers employ DHMs to understand how people in the far ends of the spectrumthose who are extremely tall, heavy, thin, or short will react to their products. For example: How much legroom should be engineered into a cockpit to accommodate the tallest pilot? Is the lawn mower seat big enough to fit the heaviest potential user? Being able to adjust and customize the DHMs gives users a better understanding of the hazards posed by the design, the risk of injury involved in a certain factory layout, or the discomfort a consumer may suffer when using a product. Our [DELMIA] manikin is resizable to match different segments of the human population, notes Dassaults Charland. This is important because, today, a product designed in one place of the world might be used some28
August/September 2012

(Top left) A basic version of PTCs manikin is included free of charge with its flagship CAD software Creo Parametric. An advanced version, Creo Manikin Extension, is available for purchase. (Top right) As shown in the Sequence Editor dialog window in Siemens PLM Softwares Tecnomatix, digital human software makes it easy to construct a series of actions the model needs to perform. age, there is an increase in the disabled population, the elderly population, and the need by both those populations for assistive technologies. With DHM software programs being utilized by more and more industries, including the medical device and assistive technology industries, it only reinforces the notion that DHM software use will increase dramatically over the next few years. jumped on board; founding members include Siemens PLM Software, Autodesk, and Dassault Systemes. At the Societys first International Summit on Human Simulation early last summer, Ulrich Raschke, Siemens PLM Softwares director of human simulation products, was named vice president. Im working with Ford, GM, and Chrysler, Malek says. Human modeling is such an important issue for them, particularly to reduce injuries on the assembly line. One of the societys objectives is to establish industry standards for digital human modeling. Although better graphics and increased power in computing now enables Santos DHMs to show results in real-time animation for straightforward scenarios (for example, predicting posture when reaching for a certain lever), the more complex jobslike asking a digital marine to perform a series of tasks

Demand for Realistic Visuals

Five or six years ago, recalls Dassaults Charland, the manikin looked more like a robot. The complaint the company often got from users was that kids $50 video games had better-looking humans than the high-end professional engineering software. The DHM figures are going to be much more lifelike, says Siemens PLM Softwares Hoffman. Things are definitely going that di-

with a certain load, then generate a detailed report of the force, torque, and fatiguecan take some time, from three hours to two days. Santos software can take advantage of parallel processing for most jobs, so users with a highperformance computing server running many cores simultaneously will see greater performance. But optimization formulation remains an area that cannot be parallelized due to the algorithm involved. At the present time, DHM technology employs a mix of robotic, simulation, and biomechanical principles. But the demand for more accurate results may push developers to incorporate a dose of psychology, as well. Malek has a daunting list of requests from his clients in the military; they want him to add cognitive parameters into the software code. ey want to load the digital marine with [inputs such as] being scared, his mood this morning, and whether hes battle-hardened, explains Malek. ese soft [inputs] are important to the client, but they are difcult to model. e challenge for Malek as well as other digital human model developers is to gure out a way to represent fear, anxiety, state of

Professor Karim Maleks research project led to the development of SantosHuman, Inc., specializing in using digital soldiers to simulate military operations.
Image courtesy SantosHuman, Inc.

mind, and combat experience through a series of equations and algorithms. In case youre open-minded enough to befriend a digital human model, Santos has a Facebook page (you can add him as a friend at One/1777013781). Dont be o ended if it

takes him a while to respond. He may be in the middle of performing a very crucial task for a client. Kenneth Wong is a freelance writer who has covered the digital video, computer gaming, and CAD industries. He can be reached at

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Release Your Imagination by Stuart Bailey and Alexis Van de Haeghe of RealtimeUK (computer-animated short lmElectronic Theater)

The Colors of Evil by Alex Glawion, Phillp Simon, and Alyse Miller of Ringling School of Art + Design (student projectAnimation Theater)


Computer Animation Festival

Each year, art and technology, innovation and craft converge at the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival (CAF), featuring animations from various genresfull-length and short lms, music videos, real-time projects, visualizations/simulations, and more. We are proud to have presented an eclectic array of pieces, ranging from the visually stunning animated shorts and VFX breakdowns to gorgeous and informative scientic visualizations, says The Creative-Cartels Josh Grow, who returned once again as the CAF chair for the second consecutive year at SIGGRAPH 2012. Our jury reviewed hundreds of entries from all over the world and created a selection of works with the highest level of originality, craft, storytelling, and technology. For the past several conferences, SIGGRAPH has opted for a more lm-festival-like atmosphere. While the 2012 CAF still embraced those elements, the organizers brought back the classic Animation Theater to the program. Now called the Daytime Selects, these reels consisted of amazing content that we just couldnt t into the two hours of the Electronic Theater, notes Grow. More than 600 pieces were submitted for consideration to this years festival. Of those, nearly half were from students. A jury of industry professionals then selected 29 projects for the evening Electronic Theater program. More than 60 projects (divided into three reels) were part of the Daytime Selects, as were three additional reels of content (animation, entertainment, and art) from the Japan Media Arts Festival. The content gets better and better. This years show was particularly difcult to put together due to all the amazing content we received from every stretch of the industry, says Grow. The CAF is the best of the best from all over the world, Grow continues. And its the one place to see all the greatest minds in our industry come together and celebrate their hard work and achievements. A selection of images from this years Computer Animation Festival (courtesy of ACM SIGGRAPH 2012) appears on these two pages. Karen Moltenbrey
August/September 2012

Divine Intervention by Yen-Chi Tseng of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (student projectAnimation Theater)

Fertilization by Thomas Brown of Nucleus Medical Media (visualization/simulation Electronic Theater)

Great Expectations Title Sequence by Nic Benns of Momoco (animated feature lmAnimation Theater)

Bon Iver We Are Music by Dan Marsh and Ryan Knowles of The Moving Picture Company (television commercialAnimation Theater)

Rising by Lionel Juglair of Groupe Mikros Image (computer-animated short lmElectronic Theater)

Encounter by SeeHun Jeon of the School of Visual Arts (student projectAnimation Theater)
August/September 2012


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Stop-Motion Animation

FACE Forward
To create ParaNorman, a stop-motion animated feature, the crew uses state-of-the-art technology
By Barbara Robertson
August/September 2012

Stop-Motion Animation

Images 2012 Laika, Inc.

Visual effects artists painted out the seams caused when animators applied face parts to change Normans expression.

Hes little, but this boy with a thousand faces has a mighty presence in a big, wide world. Eight thousand faces, and more than a million expressions, in fact, when animators arrange and re-arrange Normans tiny mouth and eyebrow pieces like a jigsaw puzzle to create happy faces and sad faces, and lip-sync his dialog. As for the big, wide world, we see the star of Laikas stop-motion feature ParaNorman at home and at school, in chase sequences through a well-populated town, in a graveyard and a forest, and a variety of other locations. Historically, stop motion has felt like it was shot on a tabletop, says Laika President, CEO, and Animator Travis Knight, who received Annie and VES nominations for animating the star of Coraline. For ParaNorman, Knight was producer and lead animator. We wanted ParaNorman to feel more expansive. We did that through set design and animation performances. Computer graphics tools and techniques helped make this possible in two ways. First, designers worked with Autodesks Maya, Pixologics ZBrush, and Adobes Photoshop to shape and color facial expressions before sending digital models to 3D Systems Corporations full-color ZPrinter 650 for outputting the face parts. Second, the visual e ects crew used a combination of Maya, Side E ects Softwares Houdini, and Pixars RenderMan to extend backgrounds, swirl witch-infested tumultuous skies, populate the town with CG puppets, and, in general, help make it possible to create an action/adventure lm in stop motion. Compositors put it all together with e Foundrys Nuke.

in response to a centuries-old curse, Norman becomes a hero. e epic nale of the movie is an amazing blend of old tech and new tech, 2D, stop motion, CG, compositing, says Sam Fell, who directed the movie with Chris Butler. at was a high point in terms of pushing the envelope. And, we have a dynamic chase sequence that tops every action seen in stop frame. Action was a big ambition. I thought at some point wed be reined in, but we never were. We had a very ambitious style of acting, with extreme close-ups and reaction shots, adds writer/director Butler. We wanted to do proper lmic acting, not just pose to pose. Part of the reason we were able to achieve that is we asked a lot of our animators on set. But, the technical innovations of face replacements gave us a degree of acting in the faces we havent seen before. Pushing the envelope is almost Laikas brand. Push and push and push, and if cant be done, thats a reason to try.

Face Off
Laika rst used rapid-prototyping machines to print small face parts for Coraline. Animators popped mouth and brow shapes onto Coralines face, rather than create her facial expressions by sculpting pliable silicon models with armatures inside. Rapid-prototyping printers are similar to ink-jet printers, but rather than applying ink to paper, multiple print heads spray a UVsensitive resin in layer after layer onto a powder-based supporting material to build the model. ey look like sugar cookies from the oven when they emerge, says Brian McLean, creative supervisor of replacement animation and engineering, and director of rapid prototyping. e crew removes the face parts from the supporting material, and cleans and sands them. en, rinses and repeats. ousands of times. For Coraline, the groundbreaking technique worked so well that the studio took it to another level for ParaNorman, creating more parts for more characters, and using the machine for new purposes. Coraline, for example, had approximately 200,000 potential facial expressions created with combinations of mouth and eyebrow parts. Norman has 1.5 million. For Coraline, artists painted color onto the parts. is time, the crew used full-color printers that could build color into the model. ey put the printers to work creating props as well as face parts. And they even printed visual e ects. For example, to simulate motion blur, they printed Normans face with his nose in triplicate.
August/September 2012

Pushing the Envelope

e Focus Features comedy tells the story of an 11-year-old boy named Norman, who is normal in every way but one: He can see and talk to the ghosts of dead people. And, that makes Norman an outcast. Norman lives in the town of Blithe Hollow, which was the site, 300 years earlier, of a famous witch-hunt. He has one friend, the chubby Neil, also an outcast, and both boys su er bullying. Even at home, Norman is misunderstood. He makes his father angry when he talks to his grandmothers ghost. His older sister is annoyed, his mother forgiving. Norman doesnt care. He bonds with Neil by talking to the ghost of Neils dog, which Norman can see but Neil cant. He pins zombie badges on his backpack, and decorates his room with zombie posters. When zombies invade Blithe Hollow and ghosts rise from graves


Stop-Motion Animation
tic buy-o , the dense ZBrush mesh moved into PixelMachine SRLs TopoGun software, where modelers redrew it with a lower-resolution topology. We produce each face thousands and thousands of times, McLean says. If the topology is too dense or the le size too great, we cant produce very many parts at one time. 3D printing is a new art form; theres no established work ow. Our rigging supervisor, Michael Laubach, had to gure out how to produce high-level detail with low le sizes. At this point, a characters CG head is still a complete shell; there are no removable parts yet. e shell moves in two directionsto two di erent groups working with Maya on the inside and outside of the characters heads. For the outside, a CG modeler creates face masks. For the inside, a CG modeler designs and engineers the elaborate mechanical system. For Norman, it had 78 parts that animators could set in motion to move his eyes, eyelids, and We build the faces in kits, McLean explains. One series of faces in a kit might allow Norman to say any line of dialog with a smile. With another kit, he could say any line of dialog with a frown. We create each of his emotions with phonemes to build a foundation for the whole lm.

Making Headway
Each character starts as a pencil design on paper, followed by interpretations drawn in Photoshop. Once the artists and directors narrow the choices, modelers create clay maquettes in key poses for each character, and the armature department begins working on the tiny skeletons with ball and socket joints that will t inside the bodies. e heads and faces for ParaNormans characters took two shapes. One, used for the zombies and some background characters, had silicon esh with a mechanism inside, a traditional method of creating facial expressions, albeit with new, softer silicon over foam latex for

Making Faces
To build the kits, Laubach rigs the CG characters in Maya. e rigs give animators the ability to do poses and create each characters range of facial expressions, as they would with any CG character. e di erence is that Laubach must be cognizant of printing limitations. We print physical objects, so there are real-world limitations, McLean says. A lip stretched too thin might break when printed, for example. CG animators shape the facial expressions by moving control points predetermined by the rig, working from dialog samples and 2D drawings that provide a blueprint for each

added exibility and longevity. e second technique, used for the main characters, employed the use of rapid-prototyping machines to print face parts. Much as they would if they were creating a CG character for a lm, the artists began the process by scanning the head of the clay maquette. We captured tool marks in the clay, facets, everything that made the clay sculpt handmade, McLean says. CG modelers created the rough topology from the scan in Maya, moved the result into ZBrush to exaggerate the details, and sent the le to the printer for a test run. e printer softens edges, grooves, and valleys, McLean says. We needed to see what to push in terms of color and texture. We would never want to show the directors the ZBrush model or a rendering of that le because its so exaggerated. Once the printed head received an artis34
August/September 2012

Digital skies and set extensions helped set builders add details and open Normans world beyond the tabletop. ears. Some parts are printed plastic. Others are tiny metal bolts and screws. People often think were printing whole faces and eyes, McLean says. But we build heads to be transformers. Normans face is a mask held in place by magnets, as are all the characters faces that use this system. When an animator removes the face mask, Normans eyeballs are still inside the shell of his head. Animators move his eyes using the internal mechanical system. ey close his eyelids and move a blade of his hair with an X-Acto blade. Once moved, the parts stay in place until the animator moves them again. On the outside, eight thousand faces composed of snap-together eyebrows, foreheads, mouths, and cheeks give Norman his facial expressions. His buddy Neil has 3,000. characters range of expressions and phonemes. eyll take a line of dialog from Norman with a good range, for example, and use that to build his kits, McLean says. ey digitally sculpt his faces. e di cult part is making sure each shape is unique and will be used in the lm. ey have to be as economical and considerate of printing as possible. Before a stop-motion animator puts a Norman puppet into a set, he or she builds expressions for the shot using the CG face kit. e animator will sit with a facial animation specialist, McLean says, someone who knows every face. ey listen to the dialog together and create a playblast with the digital faces. Animators typically move the bodies on ones and faces on twos. at is, they position the body in a unique pose 24 times per

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Stop-Motion Animation
and white whites, which had been the Achilles heel, McLean says. The studio decided to test the printers with a little model of a zombie head. When we got it back, it looked fantastic, McLean says. The yellows were vibrant. The greens, consistent. We purchased the machine. Thus, rather than hand-tinting each face part, the artists could use Photoshop to paint one digital part and print multiple copies in color. They would soon learn there were other advantages as well. It wasnt easygoing in the beginning, though. When they first tried printing faces, the skin tones looked terrible. What the painters saw on screen was not what the machine printed. Except for the zombies. We asked if our machine was broken, McLean says. They told us that the machine prints green and yellow really well, but other colors can be a problem. Character painter Tory Bryant took the problem in hand. She went through McLean explains that the characters in stop-motion films that use faces animated with replacement parts have lollipop heads big heads on little bodiesfor a reason. Its a wonderful design, but its also a side effect, McLean says. The bodies are made of silicon, which is translucent and has color all the way through, so you have subsurface scattering. But, you cant put a hand-colored, hard, printed face next to the translucent body, so you need a long neck. But now, with the color printer, they could put the translucent, color-printed face next to a soft silicon body. We created Alvin the bully with a thick neck, McLean says. We could never have done that before. Thats one reason why the designs in ParaNorman are so unique. A big inventory solved any problems with continuity. Although each printer outputs slightly different shades of red, the colors fade through the life cycle of the printer heads, and humidity and temperature affect the color. When you have 10 or 15 copies of a smile,

second, and change face parts to create facial expressions 12 times per second. Animating on twos gives us more pop, Knight says. If we want more subtlety, we might animate the faces on ones. When the animator and facial animation specialist have assembled all the digital face parts into the series of expressions they wantperhaps of Norman screaming as he runs from zombies, or frowning, laughing, or smiling they show the playblast to the lead animator or director. If he approves the playblast, we create a shopping list of face parts, McLean says. The shopping list goes to a face librarian, who picks all the physical face parts for the shot.

These go into a box that the animator takes to the set, along with an X-sheet that lists expressions and face parts frame by frame. Because this might be the first time these faces appear in sequence, we run tests to be sure the color and registration are accurate, McLean says.

At left, the physical tornado and layers of tulle (middle) created and manipulated in the art department provided reference for the CG stormy skies in the image above. In that shot, when the witch moves her face, volumetric CG clouds react. the Pantone book, the thousands of colors, and printed each as a physical chip, McLean says. That became her palette. As they tested the machines to calibrate the color, the crews excitement about this new process grew. We realized the printer puts color one-sixteenth of an inch deep into the model, McLean says. That was unlike anything wed seen before. In addition to getting wonderful colors, this technique gave us subsurface scattering for free. The model didnt look like a thin shell; it looked and felt like skin. We realized we could put color where we wanted, so we put a little red inside Normans ears, and they looked like real ears. And that broke us free to do a lot of other things. Most important, they could change the characters designs. you can find faces that match, McLean says. Tim Yates, our face librarian, can look at hundreds of face parts and pick the ones that work well together for color. Once an animator finishes a shot and the shot has made its way through editorial, the faces move back into a CG pipeline where artists on the visual effects crew paint out the seams between all the face parts. They also work on the entire shot, removing rigs and, sometimes, reconstructing sets. We do all the traditional, invisible effects, says visual effects supervisor Brian Vant Hul. Sometimes an animator will have to cut away a portion of a set to reach the puppet. We shoot a clean plate and tell them to go for it. These are paint and roto tasks no one will no-

Printing Makeup
Color was the major difference between the process used at Laika for ParaNorman and Coraline. For Coraline, we used the plastic printer, McLean says, the same one we use now to print eye parts. So we hand-painted her face. Thats why she has five freckles on each cheek. We needed to keep the paint really simple. When 3D Systems new color printers became available, they considered new possibilities. Color printing had been around for a while, but the new machine had rich blacks
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Stop-Motion Animation

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Mantra. For the characters, they used Pixars RenderMan.

Digital Puppets
In addition to the digital environments, another way in which the visual effects crew expanded the puppets world was by mixing digital characters with real puppets in the school and in town. We created digital ghosts, background adults for a mob sequence, and kids in the school, Vant Hul says. Eleven real puppets sat in the foreground of the school auditorium; the rest of the characters in the background were CG. In the mob, puppets intermingled with CG characters. The CG characters had to match the puppets, even their skin texture, Vant Hul says. We had multiple versions of skin. Background characters had rubber heads, which has a slightly different look and feel than the face-replacement heads. Our characters had to match each type. Our shader writers would hold a puppet and see how the light played off it. The effects artists also put a CG owl in a school play, moths in a teddy bears mouth, and butterflies in the sky. We really tried to use the computer to enhance the film, Vant Hul says. For the directors, the combination of CG and traditional effects is what gives the film its own identity. We didnt want to make just another stop-frame film, Fell says. Theres no point going round the same track. Butler adds, Years ago, CG was in danger of killing stop motion. Now the approach is to embrace the age-old technique and drag it into the next century through innovation. The scope, the set extensions, the digital background characters, the face animation we can get with CG dont detract from stop motion. They add to it. By pushing the state of the art, the artists at Laika kept the tangiblereal light, real textures, real photography. But with the help of computer graphics, they were able to take stop motion off the table and animate puppets with smoother, subtler performances. I think weve got the best of both worlds, Fell says. n Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World. She can a be reached at
Use your smartphone to access a video interview with ParaNorman VFX supervisor Brian Vant Hul.

tice, hopefully, but they are extremely important and allow animators to stay in a creativeperformance mode.

Big, Wide World

But, the most dramatic role the visual effects crew played was in opening up the world for the filmmakers. Ninety to 95 percent of the film has stop-motion puppets and miniature props and sets, Vant Hul says. Things people made. But, occasionally, we remind the audience of the bigger world. Stop motion can feel claustrophobic. Travis [Knight] gave us the task of expanding the world and opening the environment. Visual effects artists typically paint skies for stop-motion films. For ParaNorman, they created a volumetric storm. They also extended roads and streets in the town and populated it with digital extras. We have a lot more CG elements in this film than in Coraline, Vant Hul says. There was a conscious decision to open up the production value and make the world feel bigger. They did so in much the same way a visual effects crew would enhance a live-action film. Despite the painstakingly slow, frameby-frame performances, stop-motion is live action, and the visual effects crew needed to match the materials and scale of that stylized world. We have to balance photorealism with what the directors want in style, Vant Hul says. But the tools make it easier. As they might for a live-action film, the crew shot HDRI images of the sets to better match digital environments and characters with the practical sets and puppets. For HDRIs, they used exactly the same type of camera, a Canon 5D Mark II, that the animators and cinematographer used. During a chase sequence in which a blue van rockets through the town, for example, the crew extended the set with digital backgrounds and composited those backgrounds into the shot. Then, they tracked the practi-

cal van in the shot, match-moved a CG version, lit and rendered the shot with the CG van. Lastly, they removed the reflections of the digital background from the CG van and applied them to images of the practical van. The most dramatic environment the crew created, though, was for the climax of the film in which an enormous face of a witch appears in turbulent storm clouds. It would have been easy to have told the visual effects department that we needed a supernatural storm, Butler says. But our reference was an imperfect, handmade storm that [production designer] Nelson Lowry had come up with. To match the design, the artists created storm clouds out of tulle, material typically used for ballerina costumes, animated the material clouds, and lit them. Then, the CG artists needed to match the practical element. In the sequence, volumetric CG clouds fill the sky. We used shapes and shaders and cloth simulations, Vant Hul says. The effects artists started building the sky using a series of curves in Houdini to construct the cloudscape, put hundreds of pieces of twisting cloth material based on the weave in tulle on top, and added the volumetrics. The cloth simulations gave the clouds a tactile feel, the volumetric effects added scale. A giant, greenish witchs face appears in the clouds, and as it moves through the sky, it impacts the volumes. Eventually, the witch resolves into a puppet that animators perform, but with CG enhancements. They wanted her dress to be flowing and electric, Vant Hul says. So we tracked and match-moved the puppet. We put a CG dress on her and gave her Tesla-coil-like hair. We didnt base the Tesla electricity on real electricity. We used a drawing that looked like someone had blown through a straw at ink spilled on paper. We wanted it to look like we had paid an animator to do an intricate, timeconsuming thing for six months. The crew rendered the clouds in Side Effects

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at a Time
For Tim Burtons Frankenweenie, a visual effects crew surrounds stop-motion puppets with digital environments and sparks the action with CG fire, water, and electricity
By Barbara Robertson
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Stop-Motion Visual Effects

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Skies painted by visual effects artists lifted the storytelling into the environment.

Images 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The good news is that the visual effects crew working on Tim Burtons Frankenweenie didnt need to create CG characters that matched puppets for the stop-motion film or remove seams from puppet faces. The bad newsor the interesting challenge, if you preferis that they still ended up producing 1200 visual effects shots. The reason was unique. With every stop-motion film, much of the work, like rig removal, is hidden, says Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Ledbury. The difference between Frankenweenie and other films was the scale of the puppets. They had to be big because of the mechanics in Sparky [the dog]. And that meant we ran out of stage space. So we had to do more digital environments. More, as in nearly everything. The sets included houses for the main character and a neighbor, and the school. Everything else is CG, Ledbury says, houses, streets, lampposts, cars. A crew that topped 40 artists at peak worked for more than two years on the show creating the environments. They also swam invisible fish through digital water, cast light from torches and flashlight beams, ignited various electrical effects that appear throughout the film, and burned a windmill with digital flames. Of the 1200 visual effects shots, only around 200 had rig removals alone.

Size Matters
The stop-motion animated feature, a remake of Burtons 1984 liveaction short, stars a young boya child scientist named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by actor Charlie Tahan). Its a parody of and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein: When Victors dog Sparky dies in a car accident, Victor revives him. The story is based on something so dear to Tim [Burton], says producer Allison Abbate, who has produced numerous animated films and worked with Burton on Corpse Bride. It was born of a time when he lost his beloved dog. And, he loved horror movies. In the animated feature, Victor is an outcast. Sparky is his only friend. The whole film is about a boy and his dog, says Supervising Animator Trey Thomas. Its about the purity of their relationship. Victor drives the story. But, Sparky is Victors reason

for doing all the stuff that gets him into trouble. All the puppets are silicon with mechanical steel armatures inside. The animators performed the puppets on ones, that is, they moved the puppets into unique poses for each frame; 24 poses for each second of film. Sparky determined the scale. You base the scale on the smallest important actor, says Rick Heinrichs, production designer. And that was the dog. Although revived, Sparky still acts like a dog in the film. He isnt an anthropomorphic character or a monster. Tim wanted a dog that was dog-like, and to get a happy, charming little guy with personality was a real challenge, Thomas says. The animators had to make this little puppet that has only dog emotions come off like a living thing. We had to make him larger to get expressions. To fit Sparky with an internal armature complex enough for these precise performances, the puppet needed to stand three-and-a-half inches high from his head to his toes, and five inches long. That meant the boy Victor was a foot tall, and Victors parents grew to 16 to 18 inches tall. So when you do a house scaled to a character that size, youre talking about a fairly large house, Heinrichs says. And we had a whole neighborhood. More than one whole neighborhood. During production, individual animators worked simultaneously on 35 sets. Thus, the neighborhood became the province of a visual effects crew that created set extensions and, for some wide shots, an entire digital town. We had 800 greenscreen shots, Ledbury says. And, we had different scales of miniatures that we had to comp. In one shot, for example, a Godzilla-like turtle monster stomps on a miniature of the town center, and crowds of puppets run away. We decided to make the miniature go with the turtle and composite puppets shot on greenscreen for the crowds. To rotoscope the puppets, the artists used The Foundrys Nuke and Autodesks Maya. The crew also used Maya to build the town, creating a New Holland kit based on 18 house styles. This is suburbia, Ledbury says, clean, flat, and boring. So youd immediately say it would lend itself to CG. But, it only makes it look more CG and stark. We added a
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into Maya, and roughed them up, Ledbury says. Sometimes we tweaked the mesh by hand to get rid of perfections. We might plus two frames together and get a jump. Wed change the order of the frames. There werent many procedural ways to do this, so we did it by hand. Similarly, it turned out that there were no procedural ways to create the electrical effects and the lightning. Throughout the film, lightning shoots through the sky and electricity dances across Left to right across the page spread: VFX artists built much of New Holland with CG. Victor in his attic preparing to revive Sparky. Painters inserted hand-drawn electrical effects frame by frame. Tim Burton, puppet master. Sparky the dog established the scale. results are head and shoulders above the standard approach. A group of four or five people had a go at it and got the right look. By the end of production, they could do a shot the first time. They got used to how fast the electricity should move.

bit of grime and wonkiness. Threw in a few trees. Put water stains on the buildings. Textures and set dressing changed the look of individual streets. We had the real houses on set to follow in terms of style, and we photographed swatches and material samples from the art department, as if we were doing a fantasy liveaction film, Ledbury says. We clipped sections of streets together, put a curve in the road, added a junction, and dressed the streets with bushes, trees, cars to change the look. When the camera was higher, the crew

Burning Windmill
Sitting on a hill above the town is New Hollands monument, a wooden windmill. At the end of the film, it catches on fire and

composited lower-polygon versions of the town. For a wide view from the windmill on the hill, the artists put mountains behind the CG town. A rooftop shot also needed a big environment extension. Its a shot with a kid on roller skates on top of a roof, Ledbury says. They built only one side of the roof, so we extended that, too. Hes doing experiments with fizzy water. We had to do fluid simulations, and CG spray and steam coming out of a bottle. Water and fire are never easy to simulate with computer graphics, and this film has both. In stop motion.

Frame-by-Frame Sim
At one point in the film, Victor shines a flashlight beam into water to highlight an invisible fish. That was harder than it sounds, Ledbury says. It took a lot of versions before Tim [Burton] picked a final one. Creating a fluid simulation with stopmotion characteristics was difficult. To shine a light on the water rippled by the invisible fish, the crew blended rendered passes of the water. But first, they had to create the water. The effects artists started with a CG fish and a water simulation created with Next Limit Technologies RealFlow software. We simulated the fluid really slow, brought the meshes
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metal objects. When Victor revives Sparky, the entire attic becomes electrified. There are lots of ways to create electrical effects with CG, but you can spot them, Ledbury says. We wanted something that would fit more into the stop-motion look. So, we painted all the effects frame by frame for something like 100 shots. In other words, they achieved the stopmotion look by mimicking the technique, by moving the electricity frame by frame. It was quite painful, Ledbury says. I did a couple myself, and it drives you up the wall. But the

collapses. Those were the shots that kept me awake, Ledbury points out. We were all concerned about how we would achieve the fire. We toyed with using live-action elements, but in the end, we went full CG using Maya Fluids. The animators used windmills in various sizes appropriate for shots ranging from closeups to wide shots. For example, one full windmill used for wide shots stood four-and-a-half feet tall; a separate top was in puppet scale. There were interior sets, as well. The visual effects crew built CG versions of

Stop-Motion Visual Effects

each set using surveys for measurements. Then they match-moved the sets and camera positions in the final images with CG versions and CG cameras to position the fire in approximately 60 shots. Wed talk to an effects TD, decide where the fire should go, lay it in, tweak it, and enhance it, Ledbury says. The effects TDs started by using Maya Fluids to simulate several versions of fire, for three shots to start, giving Burton options to consider before settling on a final look. His main concern was the speed of the fire, Ledbury says. We started too slow. Faster fire put more energy into the scene. pets against greenscreen, and we built a CG interior, part of the windmill exteriors, and the sail, Ledbury says. We couldnt use a previous image of the set because we needed to have flickering light from the fire. I hope no one can tell. The effects crew also put fire into CG torches held by a crowd of puppets that chase Sparky through a CG town. They tracked each torch in the crowd and inserted fire in the appropriate scale. And, they tracked in 3D flashlight beams for shots in a pet cemetery. Doing five of those shots would have been fine, Ledbury says. But we had 20 torchbeam shots in a misty scene with lens flares.

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when they went to black and white, Ledbury says. They could apply the black-and-white lookup as they went along, but by the end of production, it wasnt an issue. We all kind of forgot whether we were working in black and white or color. It was just the movie. Digital environments and set extensions, water, fire, and smoke simulations, electricity, rotoscoping, greenscreen shots, match-moving, compositing. It all adds up to

Once the fire was in place, the artists layered in other CG elements, such as falling debris, bits of digital wood, planks that hit the wall and splintered, and smoke. For smoke, we went half and half, Ledbury says. Smoke is notoriously difficult to get to work in CG, even when you have all the time and money you need. So, we enhanced the CG smoke with live-action elements. Then to develop that Frankenweenie look, we tweaked. The fire took a lot of tweaking. It was weeks of pain. At the end, with all the elements rendered out, compositors could drop out frames for a final bit of tweaking as needed. One of the most challenging windmill shots moved into the visual effects department after all the sets were gone. They filmed the pup-

Shine a Light
Although Frankenweenie is a black-and-white film, the artists worked in color. The art department painted some of the sets in black and white, and some in color, Ledbury says. The grass is green. But the matte painters worked in color for their own sanity. This was true for the skies as well as elements on the ground. We created a whole raft of assets for the artists to study, says Heinrichs. In a movie like this, the sky is an important character; its part of the storytelling process. The people who did the backgrounds were incredibly skilled at extending the look and feel into the environment. Without color to put depth into a scene, the artists needed to experiment with the tone. People soon learned what would happen

Ledbury calling Frankenweenie an effects film. I think we had close to 800 more visual effects shots than we had on Corpse Bride and twice the shots I worked on for Fantastic Mr. Fox. It worked out to between 600 and 700 shots per year, which is a lot for 40 people, but we pushed through. We had to be quite fast and efficient. We didnt have a massive technical infrastructure. But, the approval process was quick. We were quite low on layers of management, Ledbury says. We didnt have CG supervisors or a compositing supervisor. It was just me. And, I went directly to Tim. Ledbury has worked as a visual effects artist on several live-action films as well as stopmotion features, and he finds himself drawn to the stop-motion world. It seems to be more special in a way, Ledbury says. The process is grueling. Compared to six months on a live-action shoot in Soho, 70-odd weeks on a shoot can wear you down. But the end product can be more satisfying. The shelf life of some live-action films is short. This feels like something that might last. And, the artists at this studio have more ownership, as well. We can wander around at lunchtime and have a look, see the puppets in the workshop. Its a lot of work. But its fun. n Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World. She can be reached at
August/September 2012



unger H ae
Tom Coughlin



As studios produce even greater amounts of data in keeping up with the latest formats in media and entertainment, their need for more storage seems insatiable By Douglas King
Many of us who have worked with computers for years can remember a time, not so very long ago, when having 100 of storage on a disk was considered impressive; when we were amazed by the rst 1 storage devices. Now, however, studios are creating that much data in one frame of animation or one scene of a game. Storage needs have grown exponentially with the advent of more realistic gaming systems, 3D stereoscopic lms, not to mention 4 and now 6 single- lm-frame resolutions and 48 frame-per-second (fps) lm rates. e storage needs of studios, large and small, no longer deal in megabytes or even gigabytes. We are now talking about daily production of terabytes and petabytes of data. How are studios dealing with this increasing need and the various challenges that come with it, such as latency and accessibility? Computer Graphics World asked Tom Coughlin, Pete Schlatter, and Jason Danielson, all leaders in the storage industry, questions that are on everyones mind, to see what options studios of all sizes have today, and what they can expect in the future. With more than 30 years of experience with magnetic recording engineering, exible tapes, and oppy disk storage and rigid disks, Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Associates, has written market and
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Jason Danielson

Pete Schlatter


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technology analysis reports and articles, including the Digital Entertainment series focusing on data storage and the creation, distribution, and reception of entertainment content. Schlatter is the product marketing executive/brand evangelist at G-Technology by Hitachi. He has been with G-Tech since 2005 and has worked to support the unique needs of the entertainment industry while gathering information for next-generation products. Danielson, along with his product team at Digital F/X, won an Emmy for Technical Achievement for the development of the video workstation. Prior to leading NetApps worldwide marketing for the media and entertainment industry, he launched Omneons broadcast-specific MediaGrid storage system, and at Silicon Graphics he developed solutions for more than 100 of the leading editing, compositing, animation, and graphics application companies. Lets jump right in. In the near future, what will the storage requirements be for studios? Coughlin: As the resolution and frame rate of video Source : The content increase, the total quantity of content 201 2C ou storage as well as network bandwidth needs increase. Also, as multiOPTICAL camera projects increase due DISCS to stereoscopic and even free viewpoint workflows, the total storage and bandwidth MAGNETIC requirements will continue TAPE to expand. Movie projects can accumulate total content storage of several petabytes in size, and this will HARD-DISC increase with time. FILM DRIVES Schlatter: When it comes to storage, larger film studios are really looking for capacity, performance, and sharing. The higher-resolution films produced Percentage of various nowadays are increasing the amount of recording media in professional space needed to store them, and in larger production video cameras. studios, you have multiple people working on the same project at the same time, which means that being able to collaborate and share these files with one another quickly and easily is extremely important. Smaller studios are more about getting one workstation set up with faster storage that then can be shared to other users. [Apples] Thunderbolt benefits smaller production studios because it provides quick storage transfer rates using new Apple gear and direct-attached storage. Danielson: The storage demands for media companies are increasing at an unprecedented rate, with the adoption of digital cameras and on-set, file-based workflows and the proliferation of delivery platforms. On the production side, video formats such as 3D stereoscopic and 48-fps shoots are driving up bandwidth and capacity needs, which is why we have focused on increased bandwidth and non-disruptive scalability for our production storage systems. Bandwidth drives productivity by reducing file transfer times and the number of file transfers needed to move content through the workflow or pipeline. On the distribution side, with anywhere, anytime access, the strategy for monetizing older assets is becoming clearer. This opportunity, along with the evolution of object stores and the cost reduction for terabytes, is building the case for deeper digitization of library assets. As a result, global distributed content repositories are emerging. With this trend, object store technology will become more important. We will also see continuing interest in the analytics of consumer behavior for the Internet, broadcast media, film content, and other formats. Therefore, storage architectures that accelerate big data analytics will be another focus.


t. Repor iates ssoc in A ghl





You mentioned Apples Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology. What impact do you foresee this technology having on the industry? Schlatter: Thunderbolt breaks performance bottlenecks and enables laptop expansion by bringing PCI Express (PCIe), the system bus found inside the computer, to the outside. This will allow Thunderbolt-enabled systems, like Mac laptops, iMacs, and Mac minis (and soon, PC
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ible increments along with non-disruptive upgrades so that users have constant access to existing data while upgrades are performed. In regard to animation and special effects creation, what are the requirements? Coughlin: Modern video rendering has similarities to HPC (high-performance computing) and engineering simulation and modeling, and tends to involve bursts of data transfer that the storage systems and network must accommodate. The use of clustered computer and storage, with many nodes for processing the rendered images, is common. Very-highspeed InfiniBand connectivity for computer nodes and storage in not uncommon for these applications. Of course, as the resolution of the finished product increasesand there are projects now using 6k or higher rendered resolutionboth the bandwidth and storage requirements increase. The high costs of building a modern rendering facility have led to a strong market for outsourced rendering. Because much of this work can be done transferring the initial input and the final result through the Web, rendering could be seen as a good example of the use of cloud resources for professional video production. Danielson: We have seen our customers [in large film animation and special effects facilities] find great value in non-disruptively scalable storage systems. With effects and animation rendering occurring 24/7, its imperative Data rates (MB/sec) 6.25 49.8 199 1,910 23,890 Storage capacity per hour (GB) 22 179 716 6,880 86,000

Mac Guff Studios (Paris, France), a division of Illumination Entertainment, was the primary facility that created Dr. Seuss The Lorax, an animated film released in 2012, which, according to box-office Mojo, generated nearly $200 million in its first 45 days of worldwide release. The Lorax was rendered on HNAS storage by Hitachi Data Systems. systems), to engage in professional, uncompressed workflows by allowing fast RAID storage systems to be directly attached, supplying up to 1000mb/sec data rates! Thunderbolt also enables the direct connection of professional video I/O devices to these systemsall this with one small, high-performance connection. Coughlin: Thunderbolt is the first in a series of PCIe-based storage interfaces that will remake the industry over the next several years and allow aggregate BW of 64gb/sec or higher. Danielson: Because Thunderbolt-enabled laptops are getting performance that previously only desksides could get, there will be wide adoption of the Thunderbolt standard, particularly for on-set use. Frankly, on-set, filebased workflows sorely need more bandwidth. The bottleneck between on-set storage and the shared storage in the facility will be streamlined by various solutions, such as ATTOs Desklink family. With Thunderbolt on-set storage, ingest streams will more fully saturate the SAS, Fibre Channel, and 10-gig Ethernet ingest paths into shared storage. Which storage devices work best and within which type of video production environments? Coughlin: The storage hierarchy for video production and postproduction will include Flash memory, high-performance HDDs (hard disk drives), high-capacity/low-cost HDDs, and optical or magnetic tape storage for archiving. Note that Flash memory is becoming dominant in professional video cameras, and this trend is expected to continue in future years. Schlatter: RAID subsystems work best in
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large studio environments. Smaller studios will use direct-attached RAID and Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt will be used in the field, as well. Danielson: Our customer feedback is that customers would like to get the most bandwidth possible in the least amount of rack space, so we focus on bandwidth per rack unit: for mixed read/write bandwidth, a 2RU enclosure with 1.6gb/sec and a 4RU enclosure with 2.8gb/sec. For production environments, there are many different sizes, so there is no Format SDTV (NTSC, 4:2:2, 8-bit) HDTV (1080p, 4:2:2, 8-bit) Digital Cinema 2K (4:2:4, 10-bit) YUV Digital Cinema 4K (4:4:4, 12-bit) YUV Digital Cinema 8K Resolution (width x height) 720 x 480 1920 x 1080 2048 x 1080 4096 x 2160 7680 x 4320

Frame rate (fps) approx. 30 24 24 48 120

The chart above offers an example of storage and bandwidth requirements from the Coughlin 2012 Digital Storage for Media and Entertainment Report. Note that stereoscopic content can increase these numbers by 2X for raw content and approximately 1.5X for lossless compressed content. perfect storage device. The best solution is an agile and intelligent architecture that does not burden the production facility with unnecessary costs, yet has the ability to scale infinitely to meet growing production needs without disrupting operations. We focus on modularity to allow scaling down to entry-level systems and to allow granular scaling in easily digestthat these companies have a unified infrastructure in place to bring every ounce of efficiency out of their renderfarms. For instance, they need to be able to move their datasets, rebalance their network ports to any node in the cluster, add storage nodes, and apply software patchesall non-disruptively and without downtimebecause downtime costs money.

What are the storage and bandwidth requirements for stereoscopic and highdefinition content capture? Danielson: The storage and bandwidth requirements are exceptionally high, and, for years, the industry has wanted higher-bandwidth capture capabilities. I do not foresee this trend stopping. Producers and directors will continue to push the bounds of whats possibleI think that is part of their job. We no longer have one number to depend on for bandwidth per stream. You have to review spreadsheets of formats, frame sizes, frame rates, and color depth to derive megabytes per second. So, 230mb/sec, 380mb/sec, 1.2gb/sec, and even 2.4gb/sec come to mind. Schlatter: At the high end, many movies are being produced in 4k resolution. Theres an incredible amount of data in a 4k image, especially uncompressed, where data rates are upwards of 1,000mb/sec at 24 fpsthats 1gb a second! For 3D work, multiply that by a factor of two! That said, the amount of storage needed would be tremendous if youre working in a 4k, uncompressed environment. In addition, some directors are now experimenting with shooting at higher frame rates, which further increase the amount of storage needed. Can you name some of the solutions for dealing with latency of storage systems? Coughlin: Fast-cache storage is providing ways of dealing with latency issues. Increasingly, systems are using Flash memory in addition to DRAM for these caches. Faster interfaces that can use Flash-memory storage bandwidth are another important element. Note also that fast metadata servers can help with faster access to stored content, and these are increasingly moving to Flash memory as an important storage system component. In modern postproduction workflows, cloud storage may be used for collaborative workflows that span time and space, even though the latency might be too long for direct video streaming (one example is the viewing of proxies and dailies through the Internet). Danielson: Just below bandwidth and above capacity, latency is one of the most critical aspects of a storage system. There are many strategies for dealing with reducing latency. There is a choice of drives (SATA, NL-SAS, SAS, FC, SSD), a choice of storage interfaces (SAS, InfiniBand, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, Ethernet), as well as tiering strategies for moving less-used content off to cheaper drives. There are also staging strategies for bringing copies of most-used content forward, closer to the CPU, for processing or delivery of content. Are there trends you foresee in storage devices? Coughlin: Studios will need to look at faster direct-attached and storage network connections and speedier storage systems. Higherspeed Fibre Channel (up to 16gb/sec) might become common for FC-based SAN facilities. Also, lower-cost 1gb Ethernet and the availability of 40gb Ethernet will increase file-based NAS connections as well as iSCSI and other protocol SANs. Flash memory devices, including PCIe, as well as SATA and SAS express interface devices will be more common in storage systems as caching layers and system performance enhancements. Direct-attached and internal connections using Thunderbolt, NVMe, SATA, and SAS express will become common. Basically, PCIe-based connection storage will enable many high-speed media and entertainment applications. HDD and even magnetic

n n n n

of storage systems, larger distributed libraries to more efficiently repurpose content, as well as lower-latency and more secure storage systems for big data analytics. How will cloud storage be used? Coughlin: Cloud storage is assuming an important ancillary role in the M&E storage hierarchy. Danielson: For the past decade, media companies have been figuring out the makeversus-buy model for managing and storing media assets. The question for these companies is: Can a cloud provider offer storage that can scale more cheaply and more securely than if it is managed internally? However, the decision about whether to employ a public, private, or hybrid cloud is less important than making sure that the underlying storage architecture supports distributed content repositoImage from Gnomeo and Juliet; courtesy Arc Productions Ltd.

ATTOs Celerity 8gb/sec Fibre Channel HBAs allow Arc Productions to screen uncompressed film images in mono or stereo, which requires huge bandwidth and higher density storage with fast data transfers. tape (especially LTO tape with the LTFS file system) will remain in the background as nearline and archive storage, respectively, for the large library of accumulated content. Schlatter: In the large production studio setting, I see the need for more capacity and shareability. For the smaller studio setting, I see the need for technology like Thunderbolt. Danielson: In addition to the trends I mention earlier, other trends I foresee are the digital acquisition of higher bit-rate formats and greater emphasis on media assets across the range of distribution channels/delivery platforms; global distributed content repositories; and analytics to drive better business decisions regarding release windows and release platforms. From a storage perspective, I see a consolidation of production workflows due to the greater scale-up and scale-out bandwidth ries and allowing everyone in the organization to see a federated view of the object store. A distributed content repository trumps the current capabilities of cloud storage because it can span dozens or hundreds of locations. Eventually, we will have cloud storage offerings supporting CDMI. This will make a hybrid cloud and multi-cloud offerings real. Do you believe SSD usage will become a trend? Coughlin: SSDs and Flash memory in general will grow for usage in speeding content transfers and also for content capture. Schlatter: While SSDs provide amazing performance, the cost per gigabyte is still significantly more than spinning disks, which makes them cost-prohibitive. In some applications, the advantages of SSDsruggedness,
August/September 2012



for examplemay outweigh the cost. You can get some amazing data rates in a very small footprint (portability). Danielson: SSDs are now a trend with both positive and negative attributes. SSDs were the panacea for a while. Now their value and where the data storage devices sit on the cost/bene t curve are better understood, and SSDs are not going to replace all the harddrive technologies in play. However, some use SSDs as staged and tiered storage to reduce latency on most-used content, and this trend will continue and grow. Customers use SSDs for latency-critical usage cases, like lm animation and e ects rendering, to reduce the unused clock cycles in any given 24-hour period. SSDs for cached content are very effective in these instances and, therefore, are worth the cost. What do you think of new developments, such as the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) in Linear Tape-Open (LTO)? Coughlin: File-based tape is assuming an important role in the professional M&E environment. Already cloud-based archive services, such as the Permivault solution from Fuji lm, point the way to creating low-cost and accessible media archives using LTO tapes with LTFS le systems. Danielson: LTFS supports the tape argument by providing a le system that application vendors can leverage for MAM (Media Access Management) functionality. So LTFS is great in that regard since the ecosystem can develop e ciency at the software application layer. But LTFS does not change the users perspective of tape in and of itself. e user still has the latency of accessing les, which means that tape remains a tier-two or tier-three storage alternative. Looking at the latest developments for object-based workows, what advantages do they present? Coughlin: Object-based work ows are the logical extension of le-based work ows as le metadata moves to even more granular levelseach frame can be a separate le. is allows more accurate indexing of the metadata and, as a consequence, can speed up digital work ows and make them more convenient. Danielson: One advantage is that object stores support billions of objects and hundreds of sites. Global media and entertainment companies will build out true distributed content repositories, which the industry has been discussing since the mid-1990s. Another advantage is the Cloud Data Management In46
August/September 2012

Postproduction Storage Capacity Annual Demand

1,600,000 1,400,000 NLE Cloud Capacity (TB) NLE Local Network Capacity (TB) NLE Local Capacity (TB)

Total Capacity (TB)

1,200,000 1,000,000 800,000 600,000 400,000 200,000 0 2010








Source: The 2012 Coughlin Associates Report.

terface (CDMI), which enables object-based work ows to span tiers and brands of storage as well as the cloud. ere are over 100 smart vendors, end users, and academic experts working to make this standard a reality. Distributed content repositories will be able to span on-premise infrastructures, privately hosted cloud infrastructures, and public infrastructures with security. Assets can be designated for geographic dispersion, quality of service, security, legal rights, retention, and, of course, next steps in the work ow. e benets of object stores will tip the cost and bene t scale so that more companies will move to a consolidated enterprise-wide repository for all their media assets. Is a 40TB hard drive possible? Coughlin: Within 10 years time, we will likely see common HDD capacities of 60 or greater, SSDs with multiple terabyte capacities, and magnetic tapes with tens of terabytes of storage capacity. Danielson: We are talking to a company, NanoScale, that is working on a prototype 10 platter that will be in a product a few years from now. eir non-magnetic technology has big upside potential, but it will take a while to get into production. So, yes, we will see 40 drives eventually, and with higher data transfer rates than we have today. How much storage does our industry expect to use over the next several years? Coughlin: In the 2012 Coughlin Associates report, we stated that between 2012 and 2017, we expect about a 5.6 increase in the

required digital storage capacity used in the entertainment industry, and about a four-fold increase in storage capacity shipped per year (from 22,425 to 87,152 ). Total media and entertainment storage revenue will grow more than 1.4 between 2012 and 2017 (from $5.6 billion to $7.8 billion). Danielson: Its clear that storage demands in the media and entertainment industry are rapidly rising. According to a 2012 survey by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers members, within ve years the digital storage needs of the media and entertainment industry will increase 5.6 times. However, all sectors of the industry lm, broadcast, cable/satellite/telco TV, Internet TV, and social mediaare growing at varying rates. Each is driving unique demands for storage in bandwidth, latency, topology, reliability, application interoperability, and capacity. Film and broadcast TV have been growing at a steady rate, while cable TV is growing much more rapidly. Social media is expanding at an immeasurable rate. It is evident that the amount of storage we are going to use in the next three years will be more storage than weve used in the past 30 years. Its estimated that between 2011 and 2016, the media and entertainment industry will see about a 7.7 times increase in digital storage. Douglas King is a freelance writer and producer based in Dallas. He has worked in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, including time spent as a creative director for a game developer, product development manager, and writer/director for lm and television, currently writing/ producing for the Web comedy series For Export Only.

Although we do our best to achieve 100% accuracy, occasionally errors and inaccuracies do occur. Should you encounter an error or inaccuracy, please inform us so it can be corrected.

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Numerous vendors introduced products and services at SIGGRAPH 2012. These can be found on the CGW website by selecting the News button on the left side of the home page.

with components manufactured specifically for motion-capture capability. With a high-speed electronic pipelined global shutter, each pixel measures 5.5 x 5.5 m. The cameras grayscale processing enables outdoor capture capabilities that are not possible with optical filtering methods. The Raptor-12 will be available this fall.

Motion Analysis;

More Volume OptiTrack has expanded to the high-end motion-capture market with the introduction of the Prime Series, a new family of motion-capture cameras tailored specifically to large-volume capture. Offering capture volumes that extend up to 150 feet, the 4.1mp Prime 41 provides VFX studios and game developers with the tracking technology necessary for the most ambitious motion-tracking and capture applications. The Prime 41 enables capture volumes of up to 75 x 150 feet. The 4.1mp cameras offer a camera-to-marker range of more than 80 feet, and their infrared strobes are usable with other film/video/photography gear. The cameras have a capture rate of 180 fps, and offer simultaneous body and finger tracking. The system can even be used outdoors and features a simple and quick single-user setup. The Prime 41 is available now and is priced at $4,999 each.

Kepler Architecture Nvidia has released a new line of Quadro professional graphics solutions for the latest leading mobile workstations. These new Quadro GPUs feature the fast, efficient Kepler GPU architecture. Kepler delivers large performance gains over previous generations, albeit with the same power budget as those Quadro mobile graphics solutions. These latest Quadro mobile GPUs offer at least double the number of Nvidia CUDA cores of previous generations. The new mobile lineup includes the Quadro K5000M, Quadro K4000M, Quadro K3000M, Quadro K2000M, Quadro K1000M, and Quadro K500M.

creation of character animation and motion capture. The iClone Animation Pipeline is a trio of character creation, facial, and bodymotion animation production and motioncapture tools with exportable results for use with game engines, such as Unity3D or UDK. Character animation with iClone5 is a new approach to animation and offers shortcuts to creating walk cycles or basic human gestures using the Motion Puppet tools and library of various emotion- and action-based character puppeteering modes. Custom 3D content comes to life with iClones animation tools through the import capability of 3DXchange 5.



Team Effort TeamUp, a new company focused on making 3D more accessible, has unveiled its Multi-Optics renderer with real-time 3D collaboration. The TeamUp platform is completely cloud-powered, so no software download or install is necessary. Typically, the tools and workflows for collaboration are all tied to desktops, renderfarms, and so on; as a result, 3D rendering has been slow in this type of setup. TeamUp improves this experience so creative teams and their clients can see the same render live, edit and make decisions in real-time on multiple devices, and arrive at the look they want for any 3D asset. TeamUp is available as a monthly-paid service subscription.



Eye on Raptor-12 Motion Analysis has announced a new camera in its Raptor motion-capture camera lineup, the Raptor-12 with a resolution of 12 megapixels (mp). Varied resolutions include 150 fps with 12mp, 200 fps with 9.4 mp, 300 fps with 6.3mp, 500 fps with 3.8mp, and 900 fps with 2.0mp. The Raptor-12 features a new processor, firmware, sensor, and ring light, creating the first camera

Not an Illusion Reallusion has released the iClone Animation Pipeline, a creative suite for real-time production and development. The iClone Animation Pipeline features a real-time viewport with pixel-shader preview during




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August/September 2012

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