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3D Computer Animation   |   3D Animation


In most 3D computer animation systems, an animator creates a simplified representation of a character's anatomy, analogous to a skeleton or stick figure. The position of each segment of the skeletal model is defined by animation variables, or Avars. In human and animal characters, many parts of the skeletal model correspond to actual bones, but skeletal animation is also used to animate other things, such as facial features (though other methods for facial animation exist). The character "Woody" in Toy Story, for example, uses 700 Avars, including 100 Avars in the face. The computer does not usually render the skeletal model directly (it is invisible), but uses the skeletal model to compute the exact position and orientation of the character, which is eventually rendered into an image. Thus by changing the values of Avars over time, the animator creates motion by making the character move from frame to frame.

There are several methods for generating the Avar values to obtain realistic motion. Traditionally, animators manipulate the Avars directly. Rather than set Avars for every frame, they usually set Avars at strategic points (frames) in time and let the computer interpolate or 'tween' between them, a process called keyframing. Keyframing puts control in the hands of the animator, and has roots in hand-drawn traditional animation.

In contrast, a newer method called motion capture makes use of live action. When computer animation is driven by motion capture, a real performer acts out the scene as if they were the character to be animated. His or her motion is recorded to a computer using video cameras and markers, and that performance is then applied to the animated character.

Each method has its advantages, and as of 2007, games and films are using either or both of these methods in productions. Keyframe animation can produce motions that would be difficult or impossible to act out, while motion capture can reproduce the subtleties of a particular actor. For example, in the 2006 film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, actor Bill Nighy provided the performance for the character Davy Jones. Even though Nighy himself doesn't appear in the film, the movie benefited from his performance by recording the nuances of his body language, posture, facial expressions, etc. Thus motion capture is appropriate in situations where believable, realistic behavior and action is required, but the types of characters required exceed what can be done through conventional costuming.

3D computer animation combines 3D models of objects and programmed or hand "keyframed" movement. Models are constructed out of geometrical vertices, faces, and edges in a 3D coordinate system. Objects are sculpted much like real clay or plaster, working from general forms to specific details with various sculpting tools. A bone/joint animation system is set up to deform the CGI model (e.g., to make a humanoid model walk). In a process called rigging, the virtual marionette is given various controllers and handles for controlling movement. Animation data can be created using motion capture, or keyframing by a human animator, or a combination of the two.

3D models rigged for animation may contain thousands of control points - for example, the character "Woody" in Pixar's movie Toy Story, uses 700 specialized animation controllers. Rhythm and Hues Studios labored for two years to create Aslan in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which had about 1851 controllers, 742 in just the face alone. In the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow, designers had to design forces of extreme weather with the help of video references and accurate meteorological facts. For the 2005 remake of King Kong, 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. Serkis had earlier provided the voice and performance for Gollum in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Computer animation can be created with a computer and animation software. Some impressive animation can be achieved even with basic programs; however, the rendering can take a lot of time on an ordinary home computer. Because of this, video game animators tend to use low resolution, low polygon count renders, such that the graphics can be rendered in real time on a home computer. Photorealistic animation would be impractical in this context.

Professional animators of movies, television, and video sequences on computer games make photorealistic animation with high detail. This level of quality for movie animation would take tens to hundreds of years to create on a home computer. Many powerful workstation computers are used instead. Graphics workstation computers use two to four processors, and thus are a lot more powerful than a home computer, and are specialized for rendering. A large number of workstations (known as a render farm) are networked together to effectively act as a giant computer. 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, however). A workstation typically costs $2,000 to $16,000, with the more expensive stations being able to render much faster, due to the more technologically advanced hardware that they contain. Pixar's Renderman is rendering software which is widely used as the movie animation industry standard, in competition with Mental Ray. It can be bought at the official Pixar website for about $3,500. It will work on Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows based graphics workstations along with an animation program such as Maya and Softimage XSI. Professionals also use digital movie cameras, motion capture or performance capture, bluescreens, film editing software, props, and other tools for movie animation.

 

 

For many years, I have lived uncomfortably with the belief that most planning and architectural design suffers for lack of real and basic purpose. The ultimate purpose, it seems to me, must be the improvement of mankind.
James Rouse

I am but an architectural composer.
Alexander Jackson Davis

I hope that America as a whole, and especially its architects, will become more seriously involved in producing a new architectural culture that would bring the nation to the apex - where it has stood before - and lead the world.
Tadao Ando

I look upon myself as a musical bricklayer with architectural aspirations.
Robert Mayer

I'd say that my profession ends where architectural thinking ends - architectural thinking in terms of thinking about programs and organizational structure. These abstractions play a role in many other disciplines, and those disciplines are now defining their 'architectures' as well.
Rem Koolhaas

I'm not an architectural composer.
Harrison Birtwistle

It fills one with a sense of architectural possibility.
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It was always my intention that The Frieze should be housed in a room which would provide a suitable architectural frame for it.
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Profit and bottom line, the contemporary mantra, eliminates the very source of architectural expression.
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Supply and demand regulate architectural form.
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The center of Western culture is Greece, and we have never lost our ties with the architectural concepts of that ancient civilization.
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