How Has the Computer Animation Industry Evolved in the Last 20 Years?

clock April 21, 2017 16:30 by author EliciaT

Ten years ago, video games like Portal, BioShock, and Gears of War were stunning players with their animated graphics. Nearly twenty years ago, animated films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and Shrek were considered groundbreaking. Now, if you take a look back at computer animated games and films from one or two years ago, there is still an incredible improvement in quality.

Innovative technology and imaginative animators, artists and creators are responsible for the evolving animation industry. Yet, many still overlook the leaps and bounds that animation has gone through over the years.

Sometimes, it helps to take a look back and appreciate how far technology and animation have come. It can also give us insight into where animation is headed in the next decade. Here are some of the top ways that computer animation has evolved in the last 20 years and some key highlights that have shaped animation today:

The First Computer Animated Full-Feature - 1995

Toy Story was released in 1995, more than 20 years ago. However, it has since influenced thousands of other creators. It also took years for the technology to be developed and put into use. Because it was so novel and primitive in comparison to technology available today, it took an incredibly long time not just to create and animate but also to render.

This is crucial, because it led to an increased interest in how technology and coding can be used to make the animation and production process more efficient.

SGI Releases Maya - 1998

When SGI released Maya, now Autodesk Maya, it was quickly adopted by video game and film animation professionals. In 2000, Disney used it in the production of Dinosaur. Even though 3D animation software for home computers had been available in the 80s, the number of people that had access to both software and hardware were limited. Advances in 3D animation software and computing helped change that.

Maya became and is still one of the primary 3D software used in animation training and education programs. Industry-level tools like NaturalFront, Maya, 3ds Max and Unity are readily available to anyone with a computer, Internet connection and the will to learn how to use them.

Striving for More Realistic Animations - 2000s and Beyond

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001 was one of the first feature length films to really push towards photorealistic animation. Other films like 2004’s Polar Express and 2007’s Beowulf and video games like Call of Duty followed. New animation tools focused on improving facial, cloth and body design details to be more life-like. This put issues with the uncanny valley and facial animation front and center.

The Big Budget Animated Films

CGI and computer animated box office successes and a growing interest in pushing animation technology even further created an era of big budget films. Star Wars played a large role in creating this focus on visual effects and CGI. Since then, the interest has grown, along with the F/X and animation budgets. From 1995 to 2005, the budget for a feature film grew from an average of $5 million to $40 million. Today it can be five times that amount. For instance, Monsters University (2013) had a budget of around $200 million.

Today, many studios and developers are focusing on issues that have long plagued animators. For instance, facial animation has been one of the hardest and most painstaking elements of an animator’s job. Even the most highly sophisticated technologies and talented animators struggle with creating realistic facial expressions without crossing over into the realm of the uncanny valley. This is why NaturalFront’s software focuses on simplifying and accelerating the process to create professional facial animations within a few minutes.

There have been many breakthroughs in computer animation, but there is still room for progress and innovation and the need for talented animators that can weave technology, art and powerful storytelling together.

 



How Many Facial Expressions Do People Really Have?

clock March 30, 2017 15:01 by author EliciaT

As a child, you may remember those pictures with six or seven emotions that you had to recognize as sad, happy, angry, surprised, etc. Growing up, you soon realize that detecting and interpreting facial expressions is a lot more complicated than that.

 

The best animators and artists know that if you want to create realistic artwork, you need to study real-life examples. It’s why many art students take human anatomy and draw from real models. For facial animation, studying human expressions is key even to the computer animation process, but how many do humans really have?

The question has been studied and debated for years in the art and animation world.

A History of Expression Research

The first to research the nuanced topic of expressions was Paul Ekman. Ekman, who studied the relationship of emotions and expressions extensively, is now lauded as the “best human lie detector in the world.” He spent 50 years studying what are called “micro expressions,” which are small inflections of the face that are categorized into emotions. Over his years of research, he catalogued over 10,000 expressions.

Ekman traveled the world with his research. He wanted to prove that expressions are not learned or determined by one’s culture, rather, they are innate and common throughout the human species. To test this, he set off to New Guinea. There, he developed a series of tests with the locals as subjects. A translator asked a native man a series of questions to elicit emotional responses. Each expression that the New Guinea man made were synonymous with expressions made by American subjects, even though he had never traveled, interacted or been exposed to one before.

Ekman went on to use his expression identification skills in the CIA and the FBI, while others went on to continue his research.

Latest Studies

For years, scientists like Ekman held that humans had six basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, disgusted, scared, surprised. New studies have identified compound emotions that take the total up to over 20. The hypothesis was that people rarely feel only one emotion at a given time.

To study this, researchers asked more than 230 volunteers to make faces to match the following 20 expressions: “happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised, disgusted, happily surprised, happily disgusted, sadly fearful, sadly angry, sadly surprised, sadly disgusted, fearfully angry, fearfully surprised, fearfully disgusted, angrily surprised, angrily disgusted, disgustedly surprised, hatred, and awed.”

The researchers found that while humans have six basic emotions, there are acute “action units,” or smaller movements, that can be combined for compound emotions. An example would be if someone were happily surprised to walk in on their friends hosting a surprise party. This person would display raised eyebrows and a smiling, upturned mouth, which embodies both a surprised and a happy expression.

Animating Expressions

Understanding the basics of human emotion is essential to animating characters that look alive. Researchers have identified 20, not just six, basic emotions that humans portray. As Ekman’s research has shown, there are tens of thousands of more complex emotions to consider.

In other words, facial animators have their work cut out for them. The first step in becoming adept in facial animation is through real-life observation.

Observing real subjects─how they carry themselves, speak and interact─can inspire you to animate more lively characters. This can be as simple as people watching in your neighborhood coffee shop, or as intensive as selecting interesting people of your own life to observe. Other animators have even filmed or watched their own expressions in a mirror

However, as an animator, it can be hard to find the time to study real-life observation. Fortunately, animation technology like NaturalFront produces real-life faces in seconds, taking a large chunk of the workload off of animators. There is also a wide-range of stored facial expressions and options to make adjustments and create their own.

 



Are Facial Expressions Universal?

clock March 12, 2017 17:53 by author EliciaT

More than any other film genre, animation transcends geographical and cultural borders. Language barriers don’t prevent viewers from enjoying an animated film or short. Animations in a foreign language or with no speaking at all can still tell a powerful and emotional story that we understand and connect to on a personal level.

 

Take Pixar shorts like Happy Feet for example. They are a global hit and they usually don’t even use words. Instead, they express clear emotions through facial expressions of characters, tone of music, and telling movements of characters.

Conveying Emotion

How do you convey emotions and tell a story without words? In part, it is the great animation and emotive movements. A slumping of the shoulder can signify that someone is sad or tired. Fidgeting with fingers or a restless pacing can signify worry or nervousness. Even the way someone walks can reveal character, emotion and even gender─men usually walk with shoulders and women walk with their hips.

Words are not always needed to show emotion. In fact, they rarely are. Researchers in emotion and human expression have been arguing for years if such emotions are the same from culture to culture, or if they’re different. For animators, especially if you want to market your animations in a global space, it is a key consideration.

Universal Expressions

Paul Ekman founded the idea that expressions are universal with his trip to the Papua New Guinea tribe in the 1970s. His test asked natives to respond to certain scenarios.

For years, Ekman led the argument that emotions were biologically-based, not culturally-based. From this, he aimed to prove that humankind is more fundamentally alike than it is different.

As an example of his research, he found that “96% of western respondents and 92% of African respondents identified happy faces.” Even more interestingly, Ekman reported accounts that blind people expressed happiness in the same way that people with sight did.

Ekman did uncover that certain groups of people, such as Chinese-Americans, were able to identify expressions in their native land of China more quickly than Americans were. From this finding, Ekman believed that cultures do dictate rules around emotional expression. However, it still remained true that a frown indicated sadness while a smile indicated happiness.

Westernized Expressions

However, scientists have found later that some facial expressions may not be as universal as others. A researcher named Maria Gendron visited remote tribes with little to no contact with the Western world and had tribe members react to certain scenarios.

What she found was unexpected. Unlike her research with Westerners, which resulted in neat piles of the same expressions, the tribe responded with multitudes of piles of expressions. This contradicts the long-held view that humans have 6 basic emotions. It also raises the question if Westernized expressions could be fundamentally different than those with no contact with the Westernized nations.

What it means for animations today?

These discoveries, contradictory or not, remind animators to keep cultural influences in mind when creating animations. It’s important to remember that facial expressions are powerful, especially when coupled with body language and movement.

If some facial expressions weren’t universal or easy to understand, then animation wouldn’t be such a global enterprise. NaturalFront’s easy to use software allows animators to focus on such expression, while letting NaturalFront do the heavy lifting.



Top NaturalFront Facial Animation Advantages & Features That You May Not Know

clock March 1, 2017 21:54 by author EliciaT

There is no denying that innovative technologies are improving the 3D facial animation process significantly. What once required hours and months of time can be created in a few minutes.

However, there are several animation technologies on the market. What makes NaturalFront unique?

In this blog, we’ll highlight the three top advantages of NaturalFront. (Although, you may find more when you test if for yourself.) We’ve also taken note of some features that are incredibly useful, but you may not know exist when first interacting with the software.

1. It cuts down production time immensely.

The face is probably the most intricate part of the human body. In real-life, we communicate so much through our facial expressions, and we have tens of thousands of them. Simulating that range of emotion in a computer model is incredibly difficult, if you try to recreate it manually.

Thankfully, with NaturalFront software all you need to do is upload a headshot photo and the technology generates an anatomical, ready-to-animate model for you. Within 30 to 60 seconds, you have create a 3D face, opposed to laboring for weeks on one model that is not going to be anatomically accurate.

2. It’s cost-efficient and high-quality.

Years ago, only big budget studios could afford sophisticated facial animation technologies. Today, even the little guys can create high-quality animations quickly with a small budget. For instance, the Complete version of our software will only cost you $100, and there is no limit on the number of facial models that you can create.

3. There’s no learning curve.

NaturalFront is designed to be easy-to-use. Every animator, from beginner to professional can use it. There is no training needed to get started. However, you can view our introductory software videos on our YouTube channel to get started, and we encourage users to experiment.

Anyone can use NaturalFront, but in case you miss them, here are some little-known features that you should know:  

4. It automates both modeling and animation.

Some other 3D facial software will only generate facial models. However, they lack the ability to animate within the software or you must animate completely from scratch. With NaturalFront, you have the option to do both right in the same software. (Note: A key difference between the free and complete versions of our Unity plugin is that you can only animate across a timeline in the complete version.)

5. There are an unlimited number of facial expressions available.

In all versions of our Unity Plugin, users can experiment with a wide-range of facial expressions. Beginners may want to stick with the preloaded facial expressions, in which the technology does most of the facial animation poses for you. However, more seasoned animators may want to experiment with different facial animations and create them manually. Either way, the facial models that are generated simulate an anatomically accurate human face, so the possibilities are immense.

What are some of your favorite features in NaturalFront? Feel free to share them with us, and look out for the release of our new Pro-version, which will have even more features and capabilities than the Free, Basic and Complete versions.



3 Animations That Were Ahead of Their Time

clock February 8, 2017 11:35 by author EliciaT

From personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to immersive virtual reality glasses like Oculus Rift, technology has advanced incredibly. But, it has integrated so seamlessly into our daily lives that we sometimes forget how far it has come and the people that pushed it forward.

Today’s film and video game computer animations may seem effortless on screen, but it didn’t start out that way. We owe it to innovators, forward-thinkers that saw an opportunity to do something better and had the skills to create it. Here are three computer animations that were ahead of their time and laid the groundwork for the 3D animation we see today.

1. Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke's hand: 1972

 

In 1972, two students at the University of Utah introduced one of the first examples of computer animation. Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke produced a film called A Computer Animated Hand, which used Catmull’s left hand as a model. They used a plaster model of Catmull’s hand and rendered it with a coordinate measuring machine. The film demonstrated a human-like hand that could open and close, twist and point. It may seem like a basic animation today, but at the time, it was groundbreaking. Very few people even had access or knew how to use technology in this way. But, the techniques Catmull and Parke used laid the foundation for future animation.

Their 3D animation was also the first to be used in a feature film. A Hollywood producer used a clip of A Computer Animated Hand in Richard Heffron’s popular 1976 movie, Futureworld, which is the basis of HBO’s Westworld. Catmull went on to found Pixar, while Parke created other groundbreaking computer animations.

2. Fred Parke’s facial animations: 1974

 

Parke is known for his extensive research in the animation field. After his work with Catmull on the hand, Parke presented one of the first lifelike renderings of a face as his thesis at the University of Utah in 1974. Animating the face is one of the most challenging animations. Today, we have technology like NaturalFront that allows designers to model a 3D face in a minute. One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the uncanny valley, which happens when animated faces look creepy or have zombie-like expressions.

Parke made his animation of the face through linear interpolation. Parke would draw half of a face and divide it into sections that used polygonal shapes. He would then mirror the face so it made a full, symmetrical face. Today, linear interpolation isn’t used often because animations appear jerky. Over the years, more sophisticated techniques have been developed for smooth and natural movement. But, again, it was an incredibly innovative technique for the time. 

Parke’s facial animation is still considered one of the best in the industry and better quality than films that came 30 years after. Take The Polar Express from 2004 as an example. All of the characters looked unsettling due to the uncanny valley. Hulk from 2003 with Eric Bana ended up looking like a face made out of silly putty.

3. Toy Story: 1995

didn’t Pixar’s Toy Story just make its way into a generation’s heart, but it set records in the film industry. Toy Story was the first 3D animated feature film and topped the box office for three weeks in a row. It also won a Special Achievement Academy Award and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Toy Story’s success hinged on software that Catmull helped develop. The geometric shapes of many toys─like blocks and bouncy balls─lent themselves easily to this style of animation. Human characters like Andy were much more difficult to render, but did make their way into the film.

These incredible animations were created when home computers and 3D technology seemed like a fantasy.  Only a few select people even had access to these tools. Now, anyone can animate high-quality animations in seconds with software like NaturalFront.  



How to Make a 3D Animation Project On a Budget

clock January 18, 2017 13:16 by author EliciaT

 

 

You have a specific 3D animation project in mind. You may have even fleshed out your ideas with concept art and storyboards. Whether you want to create a 3D animated film, a short film or a video game, you’ll need funds to support you throughout the process, from ideation to production and distribution.  

Unless you have enough cash saved to bootstrap, you’ll need to seek capital. Animated productions can be costly, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune to make a quality piece of work. These tips can help you create quality 3D projects, even on a tight budget.

1. Document your budget.

The first step to raising capital is to create a budget for you project. There are a number of financial benchmarks that can guide you in calculating your budget. The most important rule to keep in mind is that the bigger your production, usually the bigger your budget will need to be.

For example, say your goal is to create a 30-minute animated TV series similar to the popular “South Park.” Based on available data, you should allocate approximately $1 million per episode, which works out to about $45,000 per minute of animation.

The numbers are even more daunting if you would like to make a full 3D animated film, along the lines of “Frozen” or “Toy Story”. Figures show that you might need to allocate $24,156 per second of animation, or about $1.5 million per minute.

2. Be realistic and minimize costs.

Obviously, if you don’t have millions of dollars in upfront financing for your project, you have two choices to minimize costs. Either opt for as short an animation project as possible, or look for technological solutions that can drastically reduce the cost of each animated shot.

3. Use animation technology.

Most savvy animators choose the second option. Technology has increased efficiency and improved processes in every industry, including art and animation. Until recently, constructing realistic 3D facial models and animating them was a time-consuming and expensive process. Traditional methods of 3D facial animation could chew up a huge portion of your overall project budget.  

However, using unique facial animation software like NaturalFront, it’s possible to take an animation project that might take days or weeks and turn it into a process that lasts just a minute – without any need for rigging, morphing, keyframing or motion capture. In fact, once you have an image of a face you’d like to animate together with an audio track, it becomes a relatively easy process to animate and synchronize facial movements.

You can easily see why streamlining this process pays off immediately. If you can save even a few days on the animation project, you’re potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars in production costs.

4. Where to get funding

Once you’ve locked down your budget and made it as trim as possible, you can start looking for sources of funding. If you’re not a major studio, you won’t have as many options to cover costs – such as reaching out to brand managers for lucrative product placements.

But, depending on the type of project and your location, government funding and grants may be available. Search for arts foundations and festivals near you. Often, arts organizations will have opportunities that artists can submit applications to and receive funding.

You can also raise money on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Tubestart. This is where animation software can also play a huge role in helping to get your project off the ground. Every great crowdfunding project needs a great reel or trailer. Using animation software like NaturalFront, you can quickly put together the footage to create a two-minute teaser video for your project.

The process of creating a 3D animation project can be expensive. However, by planning ahead, leveraging technology and tapping into the power of the crowd, it’s possible to put together an animation project that won’t break the bank or require you to max out your credit cards.



 



4 Essentials to Get Emotional Facial Animations

clock January 16, 2017 15:09 by author EliciaT

 

 

Our facial expressions usually convey more about our emotions than words. A slight movement of a muscle can completely transform how we interpret one emotion from the next. There are thousands of possible expressions, which make the face one of the hardest parts of the body to animate.

NaturalFront specializes in improving the facial animation process for animators and hobbyists. Animating facial expressions can be difficult to master. However, these essential tips and techniques can help you create more lifelike and expressive animations.

1. Start with a solid foundation.

Each facial expression is the combination of several facial muscles and structures working together. If the construction of your 3D model is flawed, your facial animations will be too. The key is to start with an anatomically accurate foundation. In fact, most animation schools will require animators to study human anatomy. Creating a facial model manually is extremely time-consuming and tedious for animators though.

Technology like NaturalFront can help automate the process. NaturalFront uses real-life photos of human faces to instantly generate 3D facial models. Each facial model is assembled with thousands of vertices and is modelled after the actual human facial construction, so you can create accurate, lifelike expressions.

 

2. Create a gallery of facial expressions to inspire you.

Most artists and animators use real-life references to guide their own creations. If you are struggling to capture a certain emotion in your 3D models, then do a study of people expressing a range of emotions. You can model the facial expressions yourself and photograph them.

3. Let technology help you.

Although it may improve your animations if you know what muscles and parts of the face are anatomically used in creating them, technology can be used to accelerate and improve the process. Thanks to advanced computing and improved algorithms, it is easier for animation technology to generate facial animations as well as 3D models. For instance, NaturalFront’s 1-Click Animation feature can help animators sync audio files with lip movements.

4. Avoid the uncanny valley.

Creating emotional facial animations may take some practice. If your facial animations are too real, they risk falling into the uncanny valley, a state in which characters have a zombie-like dead look. However, if they are too exaggerated, they won’t be believable. To avoid the uncanny valley, animators focus on eliminating inconsistencies, incorporating eye movement into facial expressions and basing their animations on real-life. Read more on the Uncanny Valley and how to avoid it here.

The face is the main window into a person’s inner emotions, so it is critical for facial animations to be accurate and lifelike. NaturalFront’s technology focuses on improving the traditional 3D facial animation process, so that animators can create more realistic and emotional animations without spending thousands of dollars or hours on it. Learn more about NaturalFront’s Facial Animation Software and Unity Plugins here.



7 Animation Festivals to Look Forward to in 2017

clock December 27, 2016 15:43 by author EliciaT

Animation festivals are prime spots to mingle with other animators and industry leaders, learn about and test cutting-edge animation technologies and be inspired by new animations. Many festivals even offer contests and competitions for animators to show off their skills and recognize their talent. Often for busy animators, finding the time to travel and go to them can be a challenge.

Each year, there are hundreds of art and animation festivals held around the world. But, these 7 animation festivals should be at the top of your list.

1. South by Southwest (SXSW)

One of the biggest and most well-known events is South by Southwest (SXSW). The film festival portion is held in Austin, Texas from March 10-19 and honors the winners of categories like animated shorts, documentaries and more. The deadline for the 2017 admission has passed but there are many more reasons to attend the festival than to compete or celebrate the winners. It is one of the most attended events for industry leaders and features some of the most innovative animation technologies.

2. Sundance Film Festival

Another well-known and prestigious event is the Sundance Film Festival. Top film directors, writers, animators, actors and other creators gather to view and honor the best in the industry.  One of the greatest benefits of attending one of the Sundance festivals is that tickets can give you access to early film premieres as well as exclusive parties and events with industry professionals.  

The festival is taking place from January 19-29, 2017, in Park City, Utah (United States). The submission period for 2017 has already passed, but Sundance has several other international events held at different locations and times throughout the year. An international festival will also be held in London in June 2017.

3. GLAS Animation Festival

A lesser-known, yet intimate event, GLAS Animation Festival is held in Berkeley, California from March 2-5, 2017. Although smaller, it is sponsored by some top animation companies and influencers such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Brew. Also, special guests like animation legend Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille) make it a can’t miss event.

GLAS Animation Festival 2016 Trailer from GLAS Animation on Vimeo.

4. Annecy International

The Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place in Paris, France from June 12-17, 2017. The festival partners with Mifa, or the International Animation Film Market. It is a great event to make connections with networks and others that are interested in financing, selling or distributing animation content.

5. Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film

One of the top annual animation events in the world will be held in Stuttgart, Germany from May 1-7, 2017. The festival showcases film, video and computer game animation. During the event there are multiple film viewings as well as an award ceremony. You can submit an entry to the festival until January 15, 2017.

6. D23 Expo

If you are a Disney fan, which most animation enthusiasts are, D23 Expo is the place to be. Although more of a fan convention than a film festival, it showcases what is next for the world leader in animation. There are also special events with Disney filmmakers and celebrities as well as fun events like a Mousequerade costume contest. The convention will take place in Anaheim, California, from July 14-16, 2017, and tickets are on sale now.

7. VIEW Conference

The VIEW Conference will be hosted in Turin, Italy from October 23-27, 2017. The event will host some of the biggest names in animation. Here are just a few of the expected 2017 guests: Mike Mitchell (TROLLS Director), Conrad Vernon (Sausage Party Co-Director) and Byron Howard (Zootopia Director). Besides the amazing guest speakers, the conference holds animation workshops, recruitment events and a Games Bootcamp.

 



The Animated Films We Can't Wait to See in 2017

clock December 13, 2016 08:12 by author EliciaT

As a whole, the animated film release set for release 2017 may not be as exciting as 2016. But, with big successes like Zootopia, Inside Out and Finding Dory, there’s a lot of hype to live up to.

Also, a lot of major studios like Disney and Pixar are gearing up for the huge films they’ll be rolling out in 2018 and 2019. (Toy Story 4, Gigantic, The Incredibles 2, etc.) However, there are a few animated releases that have us counting down the days until we can see them in 2017.

5. Coco

If you’re annoyed by the growing number of sequels and prequels studios keep dishing out, here’s some good news: Disney Pixar is releasing a new original film called Coco. The film is inspired by the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It follows the story of a young boy named Miguel who explores what would happen if we could actually talk to our dead family members. Lee Unkrich (aka the director of Toy Story 3) directed the film. The film premieres a little after the actual Dia de Los Muertos holiday on November 22, 2017.

4. Cars 3

 

After the horrible Cars 2 sequel and the even more disappointing spin-off, Planes, nobody was asking for a Cars 3. But, we’re getting one in June of 2017. Mostly, we are excited to figure out what was going on in that extremely dark trailer that showed Lightning McQueen crashing.  

3. Despicable Me 3

If you love animated series, then you’ll want to check out the third film in the Despicable Me franchise. The film has a new villain named Balthazar Bratt, but still has the same lovable characters that made its predecessors successful. You can watch it in theaters in late June.

 

2. Captain Underpants

The upcoming Captain Underpants movie has a release date of June 2, 2017. There are still a lot of details shrouded in mystery though. Some details that have been revealed have excited many fans of the popular comic book series that it is based on. Ed Helms and Kevin Hart are leading the cast, and it’s being animated by Mikros Image and produced by DreamWorks Animation.

2. The Lego Batman Movie

 

When The LEGO Movie came out in 2014, it was a smash hit. But, there was one character that stole the show: Lego Batman. Audiences loved the unique and comical spin on Batman so much that he’ll have his own movie in 2017. If the trailers are any indication, it is going to be amazing.

With venture animators, witty writing and clever casting choices (Billy Dee Williams is voicing Two-Face), it could be an even bigger hit than The LEGO Movie. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until February 10 to find out.

For animation lovers, there are a few gems in the 2017 release schedule to look forward to. What are your top animated film picks for 2017?

 


New NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Plugin Version 2.1 Released Just In Time for 2017

clock December 8, 2016 07:54 by author EliciaT

Out with the old, in with the new!

As the year comes to a close, we’re rolling out an updated version of our Unity plugin. NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Plugin 2.1. If you haven’t used the plugin before, here is a brief overview of the top features and capabilities.

  • It simplifies the complex and labor-intensive nature of facial animations.
  • With just a single photo, it can create realistic 3D facial models in a matter of seconds.
  • Facial models are ready to animate with vertices in place and sophisticated, accurate modeling.
  • Built-in facial expressions and audio lip-syncing capabilities accelerate the animation process.

You can also find more information on the plugin in this article or watch one of our video tutorials on our YouTube channel.

 

The new version has all of the above benefits and more. We made a few changes to improve the performance and user experience of the plugin. Also, after growing requests, we added a Mac version. (Previously, there was only a Windows version.)

Here’s a deeper look at what’s new in the updated Windows and Mac versions:

Improved audio uploading and processing.

Matching lip movement to dialogue and audio is one of the most challenging aspects for animators. Unfortunately, when not executed precisely, it is also the easiest flaw that others will notice. The lip-syncing feature of the plugin helps animators tackle this challenge by matching up audio files to mouth shapes to create natural, accurately-timed lip movements.

The lip-syncing tool is still one of the top features for animators. However, we’ve improved the audio uploading process by changing a few aspects. First, we eliminated the dependency on loading audio. In Version 2.0, the animation heavily depended on loading audio into Unity. The new version eliminates this and makes creating 3D face animation more intuitive. Animators can create animations without relying on loading audio up into Unity.

Planning for the Future

Secondly, an undocumented change to Unity 5.4 disrupted the performance of audio waveform. We updated the plugin, so that Version 2.1 isn’t affected by or dependent on it. But, more importantly, we updated it so that not only this undocumented feature, but any others that may happen won’t impact Version 2.1. In other words, future undocumented Unity changes won’t affect the performance of the plugin audio waveform or other capabilities.

Find out how the NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Plugin 2.1 can save you from doing hours of tedious animation tasks and greatly improve your facial animations. Test out the update and download the Mac or Window versions on the Unity store today.



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