Computer animation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Further information: Animation and Computer-generated imagery

This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.(November 2009)

An example of computer animation which is produced in the "motion capture" technique

Computer animation is the process used for generating animated images by usingcomputer graphics. The more general term computer generated imageryencompasses both static scenes and dynamic images, while computer animationonly refers to moving images. Modern computer animation usually uses 3D computer graphics, although2D computer graphics are still used for stylistic, low bandwidth, and faster real-time renderings. Sometimes the target of the animation is the computer itself, but sometimes the target is another medium, such as film. Computer animation is essentially a digital successor to the stop motion techniques used in traditional animation with 3D models and frame-by-frame animation of 2D illustrations. Computer generated animations are more controllable than other more physically based processes, such as constructing miniatures for effects shots or hiring extras for crowd scenes, and because it allows the creation of images that would not be feasible using any other technology. It can also allow a single graphic artist to produce such content without the use of actors, expensive set pieces, or props. To create the illusion of movement, an image is displayed on the computer screen and repeatedly replaced by a new image that is similar to it, but advanced slightly in the time domain (usually at a rate of 24 or 30 frames/second). This technique is identical to how the illusion of movement is achieved with television and motion pictures.

For 3D animations, objects (models) are built on the computer monitor (modeled) and 3D figures are rigged with a virtual skeleton. For 2D figure animations, separate objects (illustrations) and separate transparent layers are used, with or without a virtual skeleton. Then the limbs, eyes, mouth, clothes, etc. of the figure are moved by the animator on key frames. The differences in appearance between key frames are automatically calculated by the computer in a process known as tweening or morphing. Finally, the animation is rendered. For 3D animations, all frames must be rendered after modeling is complete. For 2D vector animations, the rendering process is the key frame illustration process, while tweened frames are rendered as needed. For prerecorded presentations, the rendered frames are transferred to a different format or medium such as film or digital video. The frames may also be rendered in real time as they are presented to the end-user audience. Low bandwidth animations transmitted via the internet (e.g. 2D Flash, X3D) often use software on the endusers computer to render in real time as an alternative to streaming or pre-loaded high bandwidth animations.

Contents
[hide]

           

1 A simple example 2 Explanation 3 History 4 Methods of animating virtual characters 5 Creating characters and objects on a computer 6 Computer animation development equipment 7 Modeling human faces 8 The future 9 Detailed examples and pseudocode 10 Movies 11 Amateur animation 12 See also o 12.1 Animated images in Wikipedia

 

13 References 14 External links

[edit]A

simple example

[edit]History Main article: History of computer animation See also: Timeline of computer animation in film and television Some of the earliest animation done using a digital computer was done at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the first half of the 1960s by Edward E. the pictures should be drawn at around 12 frames per second (frame/s) or faster (a frame is one complete image). Movie film seen in theaters in the United States runs at 24 frames per second. If this process is repeated fast enough. This process is repeated. Early digital animation was also done at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. The moving goat is an example of shifting the location of an object. shape. Sinden. a goat is drawn on the right of the screen. the screen is blanked. More complex transformations of object properties such as size. the goat will appear to move smoothly to the left. Next. Then. For high resolution. Michael Noll.Computer animation example The screen is blanked to a background color. lighting effects often require calculations and computer rendering instead of simple re-drawing or duplication. Knowlton. Zajac. With rates above 70 frames/s no improvement in realism or smoothness is perceivable due to the way the eye and brain process images. such as black. Kenneth C. and A. but the goat is re-drawn or duplicated slightly to the left of its original position. At rates below 12 frame/s most people can detect jerkiness associated with the drawing of new images which detracts from the illusion of realistic movement. Frank W. which is sufficient to create the illusion of continuous movement. Conventional hand-drawn cartoon animation often uses 15 frames/s in order to save on the number of drawings needed. [edit]Explanation To trick the eye and brain into thinking they are seeing a smoothly moving object. but this is usually accepted because of the stylized nature of cartoons. This basic procedure is used for all moving pictures in films and television. adapters are used. Because it produces more realistic imagery computer animation demands higher frame rates to reinforce this realism. each time moving the goat a bit to the left. .

Thus by changing the values of Avars over time. Shrek 2 (2004). Keyframing puts control in the hands of the animator. they usually set Avars at strategic points (frames) in time and let the computer interpolate or 'tween' between them. but uses the skeletal model to compute the exact position and orientation of the character. Traditionally.Another early step in the history of computer animation was the 1973 movie Westworld. . There are several methods for generating the Avar values to obtain realistic motion. a science-fiction film about a society in which robots live and work among humans. uses 700 Avars. artists began to use game engines to render non-interactive movies. Developments in CGI technologies are reported each year at SIGGRAPH. Futureworld (1976). In human and animal characters. an annual conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. such as facial features (though other methods for facial animation exist).gif of a 2D Flash animation. The first feature-length computer animated film was the 1995 movie Toy Story by Pixar. It followed an adventure centered around some toys and their owners. which featured a computer-generated hand and face created by then University of Utah graduate students Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke. The position of each segment of the skeletal model is defined by animation variables. The groundbreaking film was the first of many fully computer animated films. an animator creates a simplified representation of a character's anatomy. or Avars. The computer does not usually render the skeletal model directly (it is invisible). each 'stick' of thefigure is keyframedover time to create motion. analogous to a skeleton or stick figure. many parts of the skeletal model correspond to actual bones. and Cars 2(2011) [edit]Methods of animating virtual characters In this . a process called keyframing. This art form is called machinima. In most 3D computer animation systems. With the rapid advancement of real-time rendering quality. which is eventually rendered into an image. butskeletal animation is also used to animate other things. the animator creates motion by making the character move from frame to frame. for example. including 100 Avars in the face. Developers of computer games and 3D video cards strive to achieve the same visual quality on personal computers in real-time as is possible for CGI films and animation. The character "Woody" in Toy Story. attended each year by tens of thousands of computer professionals. Rather than set Avars for every frame. though the first use of 3D Wireframe imagery was in its sequel. Avatar (2009). and has roots in hand-drawn traditional animation. Computer animation helped make blockbuster films such as Toy Story 3 (2010). animators manipulate the Avars directly.

working from general forms to specific details with various sculpting tools. the character "Woody" in Pixar's movie Toy Story. Objects are sculpted much like real clay or plaster. Keyframe animation can produce motions that would be difficult or impossible to act out. His or her motion is recorded to a computer using video camerasand markers.In contrast. a real performer acts out the scene as if they were the character to be animated. and as of 2007. R. For example. Models are constructed out of geometrical vertices. but the types of characters required exceed what can be done through conventional costuming. while motion capture can reproduce the subtleties of a particular actor. realistic behavior and action is required. and edges in a 3D coordinate system. the Witch and the Wardrobe which had about 1851 controllers. Thus motion capture is appropriate in situations where believable. For the2005 remake of King Kong. [edit]Computer animation development equipment . Animation data can be created using motion capture.. designers had to design forces of extreme weather with the help of video references and accurate meteorological facts. actor Andy Serkis was used to help designers pinpoint the gorilla's prime location in the shots and used his expressions to model "human" characteristics onto the creature. 3D models rigged for animation may contain thousands of control points .for example. to make a humanoid model walk). Serkis had earlier provided the voice and performance for Gollum in J. [edit]Creating characters and objects on a computer 3D computer animation combines 3D models of objects and programmed or hand "keyframed" movement. facial expressions. games and films are using either or both of these methods in productions. and that performance is then applied to the animated character. posture. In a process called rigging. When computer animation is driven by motion capture. actor Bill Nighy provided the performance for the character Davy Jones. the virtual marionette is given various controllers and handles for controlling movement. Rhythm and Hues Studios labored for two years to create Aslan in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion. the movie benefited from his performance by recording the nuances of his body language. etc. a newer method called motion capture makes use of live action. In the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow. Even though Nighy himself doesn't appear in the film.g. in the 2006 film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. uses 700 specialized animation controllers. A bone/joint animation system is set up to deform the CGI model (e. faces. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 742 in just the face alone. R. or a combination of the two. or keyframing by a human animator. Each method has its advantages.

and other tools for movie animation. Photorealistic animation would be impractical in this context.motion capture or performance capture. low polygon count renders. Because of this. and are specialized for rendering..000. Professionals also use digital movie cameras. A workstation typically costs $2. and the field has made significant progress since then and the use of facial microexpression has increased. The result is a computer-animated movie that can be completed in about one to five years (this process is not comprised solely of rendering. the rendering can take a lot of time on an ordinary home computer. Graphics workstation computers use two to four processors. video game animators tend to use low resolution. film editing software. This level of quality for movie animation would take tens to hundreds of years to create on a home computer. and sparked interest among a number of researchers. props.Computer animation can be created with a computer and animation software. television. with the more expensive stations being able to render much faster.000 to $16.Computer facial animation is a highly complex field where models typically include a very large number of animation variables.[2][3] . etc. bluescreens. however. such that the graphics can be rendered in real time on a home computer. and video sequences on computer games make photorealistic animation with high detail. and thus are a lot more powerful than a home computer. Professional animators of movies. the first SIGGRAPH tutorials on State of the art in Facial Animation in 1989 and 1990 proved to be a turning point in the field by bringing together and consolidating multiple research elements. however). Historically speaking. A large number of workstations (known as a render farm) are networked together to effectively act as a giant computer. [edit]Modeling human faces Main article: Computer facial animation The modeling of human facial features is both one of the most challenging and sought after elements in computer-generated imagery. due to the more technologically advanced hardware that they contain. Many powerful workstation computers are used instead. jaws. Some impressive animation can be achieved even with basic programs. [1] The Facial Action Coding System (with 46 action units such as "lip bite" or "squint") which had been developed in 1976 became a popular basis for many systems.[2] As early as 2001 MPEG-4 included 68 facial animation parameters for lips.

Over the Hedge. Finding Nemo. . while Antz is an example on stylistic photorealism (in the future stylized photorealism will be able to replace traditional stop motion animation as in Corpse Bride. Coraline.In some cases. due to the enormous complexity of the human body.[4] [edit]The future One open challenge in computer animation is a photorealistic animation of humans. most computeranimated movies show animal characters (A Bug's Life. A mid-level Partial Expression Parameters (PEP) space is then used to in a two level structure: the PAD-PEP mapping and the PEP-FAP translation model. Complete human realism is not likely to happen very soon. realistic simulation of humans remains largely an open problem. None of these mentioned are perfected as of yet. human motion. Shrek. In this approach the PAD model is used as a high level emotional space. and possibly interacting with other simulated human characters. This could be done in a way that the viewer is no longer able to tell if a particular movie sequence is computer-generated. Robots) or cartoon-like humans (The Incredibles. but the progress continues. photorealistic hair. Another problem is the distasteful psychological response to viewing nearly perfect animation of humans.. fantasy characters (Monsters Inc. However. Ice Age. and human biomechanics. together with clothes." It is one of the "holy grails" of computer animation. or created using real actors in front of movie cameras. The movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is often cited as the first computer-generated movie to attempt to show realistic-looking humans. the goal is to create software where the animator can generate a movie sequence showing a photorealistic human character. and the lower level space is the MPEG-4 Facial Animation Parameters (FAP). real photorealism (where performance capture is used in the creation of the virtual human characters) and stylized photorealism. Monsters vs. photorealistic and non-photorealistic rendering. still using and perfecting the main principles of animation articulated by the Nine Old Men. Eventually. Open Season. Photorealistic computer animation can itself be divided into two subcategories.[citation needed] For the moment it looks like three dimensional computer animation can be divided into two main directions. a complicated natural background. Aliens). an attempt to make the animation look like a three dimensional version of a cartoon. known as "the uncanny valley. anthropomorphic machines (Cars. Rio). Currently. such as squash and stretch. Despicable Me. Nightmare Before Christmas). Ratatouille. an affective space such as the PAD emotional state model can be used to assign specific emotions to the faces of avatars. undergoing physically plausible motion. Real photorealism is what Final Fantasy tried to achieve and will in the future most likely have the ability to give us live action fantasy features as The Dark Crystal without having to use advanced puppetry and animatronics.[citation needed] but when it does it may have major repercussions for the film industry. WALL-E. The non-photorealistic/cartoonish direction is more like an extension of traditional animation.TMNT.Up).

0) (0. y. and Z is far in and out of the screen the point is.A. Each wall. z). feature very convincing computer animated human faces and movement. Y is how far up and down the point is. y := screenHeight / 2. X is how far left and right the point is. the floor and the ceiling is a simple polygon. and has the advantage that animations may be accurately produced at any resolution. to make the sprite appear to move. Noire. Each corner of the rectangles is defined by three values referred to as X. most notably L. Let's step through the rendering of a simple image of a room with flat wood walls with a grey pyramid in the center of the room. in this case. apply “textures”. A sophisticated graphical user interface may be used to create the animation and arrange its choreography. Most frequently. The location of the sprite is changed slightly. while x < screenWidth drawBackground() drawSpriteAtXY (x. Another technique calledconstructive solid geometry defines objects by conducting boolean operations on regular shapes.While a single frame from a photorealistic computer-animated feature will look like a photo if done right. a rectangle. lighting and other effects to the polygons and finally rendering the complete image. [edit]Detailed examples and pseudocode In 2D computer animation. Although films such as The Polar Express and Mars Needs Moms have made steps towards realism. Below is a representation of how the wall is defined (0. the uncanny valley is still present.” A sprite is an image that has a location associated with it. y) // draw on top of the background x := x + 5 // move to the right Computer animation uses different techniques to produce animations. 10.0. moving objects are often referred to as “sprites. 10. sophisticated mathematics is used to manipulate complex three dimensional polygons. 0) (10. Y and Z. 0. The wall nearest us would be defined by four points: (in the order x. The pyramid will have a spotlight shining on it. Some recent video games however. between each displayed frame. which produces an even simpler look). 0) The far wall would be: . The following pseudocodemakes a sprite move from left to right: var int x := 0. a single frame vector from a cartoonish computer-animated feature will look like a painting (not to be confused with cel shading.0) (10.

See List of computer-animated films for more. defined by three dimensional data. where objects blocks the light we darken colors. 20) (0.S. With utilities and programs often included free with modern operating systems.(0. To draw this image the computer uses math to calculate how to project this image. Next we render the complete scene on the computer screen. Several free and open source animation software applications exist as well. 10. [edit]Movies CGI short films have been produced as independent animation since 1976. will be drawn on them. and four triangular sides. A popular amateur approach to animation is via the animated GIF format. and the first completely computergenerated animated movie was Toy Story (1995). 20) (10. The first completely computer-generated television series wasReBoot. Our view point is inside the room a bit above the floor. Next each point is perspective projected onto the screen. as it is behind our view point. A small drawing of wood that can be repeatedly drawn in a matching tiled pattern (like desktop wallpaper) is stretched and drawn onto the walls' final shape. in 1994. The far side of the pyramid will also not be drawn as it is hidden by the front of the pyramid. First we must also define where our view point is. To make the walls look like wood. many users can make their own animated movies and shorts. 20) The pyramid is made up of five polygons: the rectangular base. If the numbers describing the position of the pyramid were changed and this process repeated. 0. To accomplish this. which can be uploaded and seen on the web easily. animation. The near wall will not be displayed at all. 10. a technique called “texture mapping” is often used. First the computer will calculate which polygons are visible. onto a two dimensional computer screen. [edit]Amateur animation The popularity of websites which allows members to upload their own movies for others to view has created a growing community of amateurcomputer animators. directly in front of the pyramid. . 0. though the popularity of computer animation (especially in the field of special effects) skyrocketed during the modern era of U. called a texture. from what vantage point will the scene be drawn. 20) (10. But we also have a spotlight. that is. a wood pattern. The portions of the walls „furthest‟ from the view point will appear to be shorter than the nearer areas due to perspective. Where its light falls we lighten colors. the pyramid would appear to move. The pyramid is solid grey so its surfaces can just be rendered as grey.

org/wiki/Computer_anim ation . additional terms may apply. See Terms of use for details..wikipedia. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation. a non-profit organization. Inc.  Contact us http://en. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.  This page was last modified on 24 February 2012 at 13:15.

King Kong. The first is by artists creating a succession of cartoon frames.g. Whereas a high level programming language allows for the definition of complex data types. A second method is by using physical models. so that high level control constructs can be specified which are then mapped into more detailed control constructs. the image recorded. to move a simple rigid object such as a cube. using physical models. i. A major part of animation is motion control. the scripting languages allowed for the definition of "actors". For a simple animation this might be just moving the camera or the relative motion of rigid bodies in the scene. for example a bird might have over twenty degrees of freedom.Introduction to Computer Animation Animation has historically been produced in two ways.. Thus. Animation is used in Visualization to show the time dependent behavior of complex systems. Now think about animating an entire flock of birds. the next image is recorded. A more complex object will have more degrees of freedom. which are positioned. These systems were used as a computer high level language where the animator wrote a script (program) to control the animation. many early animators were computer scientists rather than artists. then the model is moved. This is analogous to the second technique described above. Also. whereas a high-level system would allow them to use more general or abstract methods. One way to classify animation techniques is by the level of abstraction in the motion control techniques. which are then combined into a film. For example. and this process is continued. Later systems have allowed for different types of motion control. a Control Hierarchy is required.e. and can even use the laws of Physics to determine the behavior of objects. Computer animation can be produced by using a rendering machine to produce successive frames wherein some aspect of the image is varied. e. Therefore. Early systems did not have the computational power to allow for animation preview and interactive control. requires six degrees of freedom (numbers) per frame. along computed curved paths. A low-level system requires the animator to precisely specify each detail of motion. More sophisticated computer animation can move the camera and/or the objects in more interesting ways.g. objects with their own animation rules. e. scripting systems were developed. .

which has a syntax similar to LISP. One scripting system is ASAS (Actor Script Animation Language).e. a complex object which has its own animation rules. the user must learn this language and the system is not interactive. For example. There are three subcategories to this. i.g. The animator writes a script in the animation language. complex objects composed of connected rigid segments. Procedural Animation Procedures are used that define movement over time. This is similar to the behavior of objects in object-oriented languages. i. the wheels will rotate in their own coordinate system and the animator doesn't have to worry about this detail. for example throwing a ball which hits another object and causes the second object to move.. The first is the animation of articulated objects.This is analogous to high level computer languages with complex control structures or data types which are translated at runtime into low level constructs. The second is soft object animation used for deforming and animating the deformation of objects. An example is a motion that is the result of some other action (this is called a "secondary action"). ASAS introduced the concept of an actor.e. Thus. This can be done in two or three dimensions. Representational Animation This technique allows an object to change its shape during the animation. e.based modeling) or animator generated methods. These might be procedures that use the laws of physics (Physically . Types of Animation Systems Scripting Systems Scripting Systems were the earliest type of motion control systems. skin over a body or facial muscles. Actors can communicate with other actors be sending messages and so can synchronize their movements. in animating a bicycle.. The third is morphing which is the changing of one shape into another quite different shape. Stochastic Animation .

org/education/materials/HyperGraph/animation/anim1. Examples are schools of fish or flocks of birds where each individual behaves according to a set of rules defined by the animator. Last changed February 08.htm .htm Jurassic Park was one of the first movies to integrate computer-generated characters with live actors.htm http://entertainment. fire. etc. Getty Images http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/computer-animation2. Behavioral Animation Objects or "actors" are given rules about how they react to their environment.This uses stochastic processes to control groups of objects.htm http://entertainment.org/education/materials/HyperGraph/animation/anim_intro.siggraph. Scott Owen.howstuffworks.siggraph. such as in particle systems.org http://www.htm http://www. owen@siggraph.com/computer-animation4.com/computer-animation.howstuffworks.com/computer-animation3. Examples are fireworks. water falls.htm http://entertainment. G. 2000.howstuffworks.

that the audience suspends its disbelief and enjoys the show. The applications of computer animation extend far beyond film and television. With sophisticated modeling software and powerful computer processors. The camera continues its speedy descent to the 112th-story balcony of a steel gray apartment building. computers have opened up unimaginable possibilities for animators. 3-D animators help design and model new products and industrial machines. a giant lizard man named Fizzle. While their tools are high-tech. In computer animation. but we still believe. An animator's job is to take a static image or object and literally bring it to life by giving it movement and personality. Computer animators are artists. Using powerful computers. nothing replaces their creative vision. And computer animators are in high demand for marketing and advertising campaigns. Thousands of space-age vehicles whir past on an intergalactic freeway.htm The movie opens with a sweeping aerial shot of an alien world. over the past two decades. That's the magic of modern filmmaking. What is Computer Animation? To animate means "to give life to" [source: ACMSIGGRAPH]. where it focuses on the pensive face of our hero. That said. objects and landscapes out of thin air? What are the basic techniques for modeling and animating virtual creations? And how long does the process take? (Hint: much longer than you think!) Keep reading to find out. a vast city emerges. There are two basic kinds of computer animation:computer-assisted andcomputer-generated. animals. But how exactly do these magicians create people. As thecamera swoops downward from the clouds. animators use software to draw. 3-D animation can help simplify and visualize complex internal processes. so convincingly real. the only limit is the animator's imagination. model and animate objects and characters in vast digital landscapes. .com/computer-animation5. Great skyscrapers crowd a smoggy skyline lit by a deep orange sunset.howstuffworks. Video games are at the forefront of interactive 2-D and 3-D animation. We know that none of this is real. animators anddigital effects artists at companies like Industrial Light & Magic can construct fictional worlds and virtual characters that are so lifelike.http://entertainment. In fields like medicine and engineering.

In 1973. This can't be done with pencil and paper. animators can program objects to adhere to (or break) physical laws like gravity. and the Utah Teapot. More films in the late 1970s and early 1980s relied on computer graphics. the computer uses mathematical algorithms to fill in the "inbetween" frames. a strikingly rendered 3-D teapot that signaled a turning point in the photorealistic quality of 3-D graphics [source: Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science]. mass and force. "Tron" (1982) was ideal for showcasing undeniably digital effects since the movie took place inside a computer. research institutes. Technology has long been a part of the animator's toolkit. Key framing and tweening are still an important function of computer-generated animation. Their earliest films were scientific simulations with titles like "Flow of a Viscous Fluid" and "Propagation of Shock Waves in a Solid Form" [source: Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science].Computer-assisted animation is typically two-dimensional (2-D). but are accomplished much faster with a computer. Key framing and tweening are traditional animation techniques that can be done by hand. This process is called tweening. but there are other techniques that don't relate to traditional animation. The animator draws objects and characters either by hand or with a computer. First of all. the monster's fur is designed to wave gently in the wind and lie flat when wet. to create primitive effects that were designed to look computer-generated. Using mathematical algorithms. Ed Catmull at the University of Utah was one of the first to toy with computer animation as art. beginning with a 3-D rendering of his hand opening and closing. Next. it's three-dimensional (3-D). often with government funding [source: Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science]. or CG. meaning that objects and characters are modeled on a plane with an X. Then he positions his creations in key frames. . Y and Z axis. which form an outline of the most important movements. "Westworld" became the first film to contain computer-generated 2D graphics. like the hidden surface algorithm that allows a computer to conceptualize three-dimensional objects.S. The University of Utah was the source of the earliest important breakthroughs in 3-D computer graphics. Or create tremendous herds and flocks of creatures that appear to act independently. The roots of computer animation began with computer graphics pioneers in the early 1960s working at major U. Computer-generated animation is a different story. With computer-generated animation. like cartoons [source: ACMSIGGRAPH]. Animators at Disney revolutionized the industry with innovations like the use of sound in animated short films and the multi-plane camera stand that created the parallax effect of background depth [source: ACMSIGGRAPH]. yet collectively. instead of animating each hair on a monster's head.

3ds Max or Blender.000 to less than $2. you could model a car by connecting cubes. rock. Splines allow for objects with smooth. calledprimitives or prims. Each shape that's formed by the lines of the wireframe is called a polygon. curved lines. This is done in something called the materials editor [source: ICOM]. and "Toy Story" (1995) from Pixar was the first fulllength "cartoon" made entirely with computer-generated 3-D animation [source: ACMSIGGRAPH]. pyramids and spheres of different shapes and sizes. cylinders.through any modeling method you choose -. Once you have your wireframe -. they're modeled on the X. which are the building blocks of more complex objects.you can shade its surface to see what it would look like as a 3-D object. Common surface textures like wood grain. When you first begin to model an object. a standard desktop computer runs 5. you need to add color and surface texture. This is called a wireframe. A pyramid. Since these are 3D objects. there are several ways to create a wireframe model of an object. Now let's look at the basics of creating a 3-D computer-generated object.000 [source: PBS]. metal and glass usually come with the modeling software .000 times faster than those used by computer graphics pioneers in the 1960s. The increasing sophistication and realism of 3-D animation can be directly credited to an exponential growth in computer processing power. is made up of four triangle-shaped polygons. Y and Z axes and can be rotated and viewed from any angle. Today. green and blue values. These programs come loaded with a large number of basic 3-D shapes. In practice. you'll needmodeling software like Maya. And the cost of the basic technology for creating computer animation has gone from $500. it doesn't have any surface color or texture. All you see on your screen is the object's skeleton -. Computer-Generated Objects To create a 3-D computer-generated object. But to make the object look more realistic. If you don't want to be confined to constructing objects from fixed shapes like blocks and cylinders. Here you can play with an endless palette of colors or create your own by adjusting the red. blocks and spheres that have been used to construct it. and tinkering with hue and saturation. Another method is to sculpt an object out of clay or some other physical material and use a 3-D scanner to create a wireframe copy of the object in the modeling software. entirely computergenerated characters into a live action film. For example.the lines and outlines of the individual cubes."Jurassic Park" (1993) was the first feature film to integrate convincingly real. for example. you can use a more free-form technique called spline-based modeling.

Literally. There are three basic values that dictate how a surface responds to light:    Ambient: the color of an object's surface that's not exposed to direct light Diffuse: the color of the surface that's directly facing the light source Specular: the value that controls the reflectiveness or shininess of the surface [source: ICOM] Modeling programs are especially helpful for creating realistic looking 3D objects because they contain mathematical algorithms that replicate the natural world. Everest or the moon's surface. Think of those magnificent establishing shots in the recent "Star Wars" movies. 3-D modeling and 3D animation to create impressive fictional landscapes. Computers have added a whole new dimension to matte paintings. These details trick the mind into thinking that this object on a twodimensional screen actually has depth and texture. the surface reflects light in just the right way and the shadow is cast at the precise angle. Computer-Generated Landscapes Since the earliest days of motion pictures. You can also create image files in a program like Photoshop and wrap the image around the object like wallpaper. For example. Modeling programs allow you to light your objects from every imaginable angle and adjust how the surface of your objects reflect or absorb light. realistic landscapes and backdrops without having to actually film on-location at the peak of Mt. artists relied on several techniques. showing a sprawling intergalactic metropolis or a jungle fortress crawling with thick foliage and perched atop a raging waterfall.and can be easily applied to surfaces. In traditional matte painting. when you light a sphere from a certain angle. Digital matte painters use a combination of source photographs. Lighting is perhaps the most important component for giving an object depth and realism. filmmakers have looked for ways to convincingly (and inexpensively!) recreate vast. . The most common solution is a production effect called matte painting. Now let's look at how animators use computers to help create vast digital landscapes and realistic animated sets. from simply painting a huge fake backdrop (think of those old westerns with the cactus and sunset in the distance) to carefully replacing parts of a shot with scenes painted on glass. 2-D Photoshop images.

For live action films. digital matte painters often get the assignment of creating a historically accurate backdrop for a scene. Pixar movies. with a pencil and paper. But for large establishing shots. the script called for Tom Cruise's character to wander out of a bar and into the streets of San Francisco. So the landscapes can't look perfectly "real. circa 1876. then each set element is rendered in 3-D [source: Pixar]. it's the animator's job to model the character in 3-D on the computer. the matte painters use a combination of 2D Photoshop collages and 3D models to build realistic landscapes that fit within the style of the animated film. For digital matte paintings. Particle systems use mathematical algorithms to recreate the natural movements of animated elements like smoke. If the characters are going to interact a lot with the virtual set. the animator doesn't have to draw every flame and every wisp of smoke as the city burns. With the same controls. he can model one CG seagull and program the software to create a flock of birds that flap their wings at different paces to take slightly different paths as they soar across the sunset. Then they created a computergenerated trolley that would clank down the steep street in front of the actors. Another technology that adds impressive realism to a digital landscape is something called a particle system [source: Vanderbilt University School of Engineering].) Digital matte painters use the same techniques when creating landscapes for fully animated films. fire and flocks of birds." for example. for example. The art department submits hundreds of character sketches based on discussions with the writers and director. First. or an enormous backdrop that will only be seen once. Sometimes the art department will create a 3-D clay model of the character and then scan it into the computer to create a wireframe model. Once they settle on a design for a particular character. like those made by Pixar. the heart and soul of computer animation. Then the digital matte painters consulted archive photos of the city to model a 3-D skyline. Computer-Generated Characters The process of creating a computer-animated character begins as it always has. have become increasingly photorealistic without losing their "cartoony" quality. the live actors performed their scene in front of a green or blue screen. He just uses the modeling software's particle tools to program how large he wants the flames to be and how dark and billowy the smoke should be. They took digital photos of a beautiful sunset and placed it behind their model cityscape." They have to be built on a color and texture palette that matches the rest of the movie. . (Go here for behind-the-scenes pictures and videos from Matte World Digital. In "The Last Samurai. Now let's look at character modeling and animation.

the animator only has to move one joint or body part.major plot points -. In this hierarchal structure. even in real time. in this case. comic-book-style rendering of each scene in . the filmmakers write a treatment. for example -. et cetera). the live actor is moving the animated character like a puppet. Walking. shoulder. When they've settled on all of the story beats -. for example. This is called an articulated model [source: Vanderbilt University School of Engineering]. The storyboard is a 2-D. all the animator has to do is set a key frame with the character's hand in the desired position.they're ready to create a storyboard of the film. Animation software often comes with pre-loaded inverse kinematic models for walking and other common character movements. When animating a character. Another popular method for creating smooth. The human eye is very sensitive to unnatural or jerky movements. the animator only poses the character in key positions and lets the computer fill in the "in between" frames. The Computer-Animation Process Half of the process of creating a computer-animated feature film has nothing to do with computers. This brings us back to key framing and tweening. and the lower joints and body parts assume their correct position. The sensors rest on key parts of the body. Since all of the character's body parts are connected in a hierarchy. The hard part is animating them. Let's say the animator wants to make the character raise his hand. This is made even easier by the articulated model and something called inverse kinematics [source: Vanderbilt University School of Engineering]. a live actor puts on a special suit embedded with dozens of sensors. With motion capture. In this sense. First. Basically. the character is built upon bones and joints that act according to a hierarchy. elbow. The computer will not only fill in the movement of the hand. which is a rough sketch of the story. fluid motion. forearm and hand. There are joints at the top of the hierarchy -.that control the movement of body parts that are lower in the hierarchy -. like limbs and joints. Now let's look at the overall animation process for a feature film. realistic character movements is through motion capture. but of all the parts connected to the hand (arm.elbows.upper arm. One solution is to build an animated character as if it had an internal skeleton. is an extremely complicated movement that requires just about every part of the body to participate in a single.Modeling characters isn't that different than modeling an object. The data can be used to directly control the limbs and joints of an animated character. The computer tracks and records the movements of the sensors and can use that data in different ways. Or the sensor data can simply be used as a guide over which a character is modeled and animated. like pulling a marionette's strings.

an individual animator is expected to produce 100 frames of animation a week [source: Pixar]. The final step of the process is called rendering. all of the digital information that the animators have created -. After further editing. shadows and moods. major set locations. re-writing. digital matte paintings. et cetera -. omnidirectional and spotlights to create depth. props and color palettes for the film. For a 90 minute film. that's nearly 130. the real animation is ready to begin. Even with the incredible computing power of a company like Pixar. They're dressed with clothing that wrinkles and flows naturally with body movements.the movie along with some jokes and snippets of important dialogue [source: Pixar]. Using the actors' recorded dialogue. and skin that looks real enough to touch." for example. Now the characters and props are given surface texture and color. During the storyboarding process. sets. lighting.calculating the best way to tween two key frames -. the script is polished and the filmmakers can start to see how the scenes will work visually. The art department now designs all the characters. High-quality animated films are produced at a frame rate of 24 frames per second (fps). key frames.character models. Then they begin the tweening process. props. for example. textures. and re-recording of dialogue. The next step is to have the voice actors come in and record all of their lines. Woody from "Toy Story. each character is equipped with hundreds of avars. hair and fur that waves in the virtual breeze. Using powerful computers. The next step is to create all of the 3-D sets.000 frames of animation. the filmmakers assemble a video animated only with the storyboard drawings. had over 100 avars on his face alone [source: Pixar]. colors. it takes an average of . The director and lead animators block the key character positions and camera angles for each and every shot of the movie. Then the characters are placed on the set in a process called blocking. Now teams of animators are each assigned short snippets of scenes. Then it's time to light the scenes.is assembled into a single frame of film. using ambient.but the artist often has to tweak the results so they look even more lifelike. At Pixar. At Pixar. little hinges that allow the animators to move specific parts of the character's body. They take the blocking instructions and create their own more detailed key frames. The computer handles a lot of the interpolation -. It's common for an animator to re-do a single short animated sequence several times before the director or lead animator is satisfied [source: Pixar]. The characters and props are modeled in 3-D or scanned into the computers from clay models. tweens. painstakingly dressed with all of the details that bring the virtual world to life.

Computer software programs help animators give life to creatures such as this alien Dave Hogan/Getty Images Special effects staff at Industrial Light & Magic create many of the computer-generated images seen on film Justin Sullivan/Getty Images . That's over 88 years of rendering for a 90-minute film. Good thing they can render more than one frame at a time. check out the links on the next page.six hours to render one frame of an animated film [source: Pixar]. special effects and related topics. For even more information on digital filmmaking. We hope this has been a helpful introduction to the world of computer animation.

animators will paint backgrounds to give a realistic appearance to a scene. Carl DeSouza/AFP/Getty Images Animators will build molds to animate a character's movement like this one created for "Toy Story.Using computer software programs." © Ted Thai/Time Life Pictures/ .

Motion-capture software was used to turn actor's Andy Serkis into the creature Gollum from the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. Scott Gries/Getty Images .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful