Building The Future of Storytelling Via 3D Animation

clock March 6, 2015 18:55 by author christpaul

The "Building the Future of Storytelling" summit will examine the creative and technical arts of storytelling, when it convenes on April 11-12 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. One technology that will be examined is that of 3D animation, which has played a particularly central role in storytelling in the early years of the 21st century.

This year’s event will take very much a futuristic look at the creative and technical forces that will shape the art and science of storytelling. In a climate in which virtual reality is predicted to become more important, such technologies can have a massive impact on storytelling, and indeed 3D animation in the near future.

Advances in content creation tools and workflows are giving storytellers new opportunities to refine their craft, while developments in 3D animation techniques have ensured that this industry continues to play the central role in contemporary storytelling. This event will provide a roadmap to the future and explore potentially disruptive innovations, some still in the lab, that could redefine the 'movie' — or, indeed, any episodic content as we know it.

With television having been greatly influenced and recently by the alteration of its model away from a traditional programming structure to on demand television, such a quantum leap in the cinema is also created to take place at some point in the near future. Increasingly, technology such has NetFlix is enabling cinema goers to gain access to movies when they want them, rather than he studio wants us to have them.

 

During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to attend an exclusive "first-look" at SMPTE's "Moving Images" documentary. This fascinating film will explore the way that motion-picture technology has developed through the 20th century, while also looking at future patterns in the industry in the near future. With 3D animation having played a significant role in the movie industry during the latter years of the 20th century, there will be a special section looking at the direction of computer and 3D animation in the coming years and decades.

Assembled industry experts will examine SMPTE Digital Cinema Packaging (SMPTE-DCP), recommended by the current Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) specification, and its value with regard to captioning, object-based audio, stereoscopic 3D, and high frame rates (HFR). 3D subtitles will also be on the agenda, and the group will also look at how the 3D animation industry is branching out into new territories. 

The world map of cinema continues to be redrawn, and this Las Vegas event promises to pride a fascinating and cutting-edge insight into the cinema of the 21st century.



Student Animation Project Shows Power of 3D Animation Software

clock February 15, 2015 10:11 by author christpaul

With 3D animation having become such a major commercial entity in recent years, numerous college courses have sprung up on the subject. It is now extremely common for young university students to see the opportunity for a long career in 3D animation, and there are now a wide variety of formal routes into this employment.

However, the notion of a professional 3D animation completely produced by students is a rare one. But Ice Nine Studios, a student developed production studio, has started work on their first project, a 3D animation called Allice.

This animation has been very much influenced by the popular Disney film Wall-E, and is set in an apocalyptic ice age where no force is capable of unfreezing the planet Earth. The central character of the piece, a robot, Allice, has been sent to do the impossible - thaw the ice.

Where Wall-E examined the themes of loneliness and isolation, this film also delves into similar territory. At one point during the animation, the central protagonist comes into contact with a ‘child-like’ robot named Delta and forms a friendship. At this stage the character is then thrown into something of an existential crisis, as she recognises that she needs some form of companionship in her existence.

Ice Nine Studios is entirely comprised of a team of students, with each student occupying a different role on the team, making the project a collaboration involving each of their different talents and skills. The idea was originally conceived as a way for students to work together to create art and gain work experience, but it has escalated well beyond this into a commercial-standard project.

 

Nonetheless, the film is still being used for academic reasons. The movie was originally created in order for students to be assessed as part of Professor Madison Murphy’s class, Media Arts: Advanced Projects at the Christian institution Houghton College. According to staff who have been involved with the project, the production has been based on true collaboration, with everyone contributing equally to the film.

Considering the quality of work that the students have been able to produce, there is already a hope that further projects can be undertaken by Ice Nine Studios in the future. With all the press that Allice has been getting and the great response from everybody in general, employees at Houston College are assessing the project to see if there is any hope of further animations in the future.

What the project has demonstrated is that the immersive nature of modern animations can now be produced by relatively inexperienced people with modern software such as Natural Front Intuitive Pro.



3D Animation to Educate Australians About Diabetes and Alzheimer's

clock February 5, 2015 18:06 by author christpaul

Novel and innovative usage of 3D animation is becoming increasingly common, but researchers hoping to deal with Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes have recently found a particular novel use of the technology. Understanding the complex biological processes which lead to these diseases is an extremely difficult challenge for the medical industry, and it seems that 3D animation is playing a significant part in the fight, at least in an educational capacity.

Two new 3D animations intend to strip away the jargon, bring the information to life and share it with the masses via YouTube. These videos have recently premiered in Canberra, Australia, with the intention of educating people on the way that these viruses develop and affect people. This is particularly important, given that the rate of Type II diabetes in the world has been rapidly increasing in recent years, with the amount of sugar being added to food often cited as a major factor.

The creator of ‘Alzheimer's Enigma’, Chris Hammang, said his animation was six months in the making. About half of this time was invested in studying the existing literature on the subject, while researchers and scientific experts also acted as collaborators in this valuable animation project. Hammang stated that his primary motivation was to distil all of the information which exists on these two critical conditions into a useful and digestible package for people to both enjoy and learn from.

Hammang stated that “a lot of what is in the scientific literature of course affects people's lives but it's difficult for people to access when it's written in scientific language”, and continued that 3D animation makes it possible to break down these complex subjects in a way that is both easily comprehensible and also engaging and absorbing.

With a huge amount of research having gone into both of these conditions, it is not possible for people suffering from both diabetes and Alzheimer's to actually do something about their condition. Yet there is a great deal of ignorance among the general public about these conditions, and ultimately people cannot seek treatment if they do not understand the options available to them. This new animation is intended to play a didactic role and enable people to make decisions about their health and what they wish to do in life.

The role of 3D animation in entertainment is already taken for granted, but increasingly animation is also playing a significant part in serious subjects as well. Numerous commercial and government bodies have previously utilised 3D animation to communicate messages more effectively, and this latest example once again underlines how useful the technology can be.



1972 Pixar Hand is Foundation for Entire 3D Animation Industry

clock February 2, 2015 18:23 by author christpaul

All technologies are reliant on pioneers to a certain extent, and 3D animation is no exception to this rule. We look back at the heritage of animation and view some films from the past as rather simplistic, particularly compared to the hugely detailed 3D animation environments running in HD at 60 frames per second which are commonplace today. But the complicated and absorbing 3D contemporary animations that we see on the silver screen could not have been achieved without standing on the shoulders of giants.

In 1972, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and his graduate school colleague Fred Parke created a short film called “A Computer Animated Hand”, which is considered by many to be the first example of 3D digital rendering. Of course, it looks extremely crude by today's standards, but this film actually paved the way for the 3D animations of today. One need hardly mention the fact that Pixar has since become a massive name in the industry.

This original 3D animation which is getting on for half a century in age began by casting a plaster model of a human hand. This was then split up into 350 polygons, which were diligently measured and entered into a computer simulation. From this point, the world’s first 3D animation was meticulously created, with Catmull developing a basic animation program in order to render and manipulate this newly created digital image.

 

Logistically laborious though this was in itself, transferring the rendered images to film was a whole other ordeal, without computer hardware powerful enough to render the images at speed. In a world in which staggeringly sophisticated programs such as Natural Front Intuitive Pro make this type of process extremely easy, we perhaps forget how difficult it used to be to translate rendered images into usable film. 

Computer hardware has improved exponentially in a very short period of time, and this makes the process of rendering 3D animations relatively straightforward today. Nonetheless, it is still a processor-intensive process, so one can imagine several decades ago that this took quite some time. Indeed, individual frames of the 1972 Pixar movie had to be photographed from the computer’s monitor and then strung together into the film.

The legacy of the movie, aside from the impact it had on the 3D animation industry, was that it made an appearance on a monitor in the 1976 film Futureworld, the sequel to Michael Crichton’s Westworld. But this wasn't the only wife-reaching impact of this group 3D animated hand. Catmull went on to lead the computer graphics group for LucasFilm which was later purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986 and turned into Pixar, which produced the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, in 1995.

Thus, this is a little-known but extremely important animation which occupies a special place in the history of the genre.



3D Animation Industry to Double in Size by the End of the Decade

clock January 26, 2015 15:14 by author christpaul

3D animation is unquestionably an amazing technology which has had a massive impact on cinema, and thrilled viewers all over the world. But many people who enjoy the biggest movies made by the likes of Disney and Pixar do not always consider the economic impact of the 3D animation industry.

A recent report on the 3D animation market, which looks into worldwide forecasts and analysis on the industry between the present day and the end of the decade, suggests that the 3D animation market will remain a source of growth for many years to come.

The report in question divides the 3D animation market into several sub-segments along with a detailed analysis and forecasting of revenues generated from each division. It also provides a wealth of information on opportunities, challenges and other ongoing market trends in the 3D animation industry in the remaining years of the decade.

While 3D animation technology is most associated with the film industry, it is now being utilised by a wide variety of other industries as well. This includes fields such as interior designing, architecture, stage shows, medicine, gaming, and corporate presentations. 3D animation technology is an outstanding way for companies in a wide variety of niches to display complex information in an absorbing and easily comprehensible fashion, and it seems likely that this trend will only grow in the coming years.

There are many potential growth factors which contribute to the rosy outlook for 3D animation. These include factors such as the growth of 3D animation in the cinema, the multi-industrial application of 3D animation going forward, the ability to produce 3D character merchandise, and the popularity of the technology and medium. Price sensitivity remains an issue for 3D animation in developing economies in particular, but companies offering affordable solutions such as Natural Front will naturally help to mitigate this issue.

It is notable that the report released by MarketsandMarkets suggest that the 3D animation market will grow $21.06 billion in 2014 to $40.78 billion in 2019 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.1% from 2014 to 2019. Obviously this means that the global market place for 3D animation will nearly double in just six years.

It is predicted that North America will remain the biggest market for 3D animation technology for the foreseeable future, but other regions such as Middle-East and Africa (MEA), Asia Pacific (APAC) and Latin America are expected to be key growth areas over the current decade.



Ratchet & Clank Animated Movie Indicative of Video Game Trend

clock January 17, 2015 13:24 by author christpaul

Video game tie-ins have been an obvious source of material for the movie industry in recent years, not least because gaming platforms have become hugely successful commercially. As Hollywood's attempts to regenerate an industry which is struggling to keep up with video games, its producers have naturally plundered successful video games in order to find material.

This is of particular relevance to 3D animation, as firstly 3D animation techniques are obviously prevalent in contemporary video games, and, secondly, in many cases the movies based on video games which are produced implement modern 3D animation techniques.

One such example of the 3D animated game which is now becoming a 3D animated movie is Ratchet & Clank. PlayStation veterans will be familiar with the video game series, and now Rainmaker Entertainment and Blockade Entertainment are turning the popular platformer into a fully fledged movie.

When such popular games are turned into 3D animation, authenticity is always a major concern. The Ratchet & Clank series is relatively lighthearted, but is nevertheless has attracted a vast following in the years in which it has been produced. In conjunction with the forthcoming feature film, another 3D animated Ratchet & Clank game is also planned for 2015, which the developers state will completely reimagine the Ratchet & Clank universe.

Insomniac Games is in fact involved with the production of the movie, and this seems like a wise decision. It is telling that another major movie based on a video game which will appear in the next year or so, The Last of Us, is being primarily written by Neil Druckmann; the person most responsible for producing the plot of the video game.

As games increasingly develop as a form of storytelling and even art, so Hollywood is increasingly learning from the way that the industry operates. It is hoped that this will occur with the new 3D animated Ratchet & Clank movie, which runs the risk of alienating fans if it fails to deliver an experience which is consistent with the video game originals.

This quandary is a major problem for animated movies based on video games, even if the temptation to produce them has by no means receded. There haven't been a huge number of successful movies based on video games, not least because the unique qualities of video games as a genre and storytelling medium do not necessarily lend themselves ideally to Hollywood.

Perhaps Ratchet & Clank will buck this trend and deliver a truly absorbing and successful 3D animated movie when it hits the cinema. It is currently scheduled for a theatrical release in early 2015.



Peanuts 3D Animated Movie Nears Completion as Trailer Emerges

clock January 10, 2015 22:25 by author christpaul

The new 3D animated Peanuts Movie is evidently developing rapidly, as a new trailer emerges to showcase the much loved and legendary characters in a new, updated animation. This is in fact the first ever full-length film which focuses on Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the characters created by Charles M. Schulz, which ran in a cartoon strip form for many decades. The movie utilises both CG and 3-D animation to provide an updated view of the characters.

Producing a Peanuts movie has been a huge challenge for the animation house, not merely because an animation style needed to be produced that was a faithful to the original, but also because the source material is held in such esteem.

It would be difficult to name a cartoon that has had a greater cultural impact than Peanuts, with the possible exception of The Simpsons. The strip which appeared in newspapers all over the world was characterised by a subtle and dry sense of humour, as events focused on the perennially unfortunate Charlie Brown.

After the passing of Charles Schultz, Peanuts was effectively ceased, as his family did not want anyone to continue with the strip and potentially sully the Peanuts legacy. So this places even greater pressure on this forthcoming 3-D animated movie, as the producers need to ensure that the family of Schulz will be happy with the results.

Thus, while the animation may be updated, the story appears to be staying firm with the spirit of the characters fans have been familiar with for decades. Although Peanuts was produced right up until the death of Schulz in 2000, the Peanuts cartoon strip remained steeped in nostalgia throughout its run of nearly five decades. 

While converting any strip to 3-D animation is challenging, the animators thus have to deal with the fact that the movie needs to have a modern look, but one that is effectively rooted in the past. Creating an authentic 3-D animation for this Peanuts movie will be a massive challenge, and it is intriguing to finally view the trailer and see to what extent this has been achieved.

Similarly, writing a plot for the Peanuts movie must have been a serious undertaking, and this has been kept pretty quiet from the public thus far. As in the aforementioned Simpsons, writing a movie regarding such an iconic cartoon and producing a script worthy of a full-length movie must be extremely difficult.

The state-of-the-art 3-D animation that has been produced for this Peanuts film should at least ensure that it is a good-looking movie, and there is no doubt that Peanuts fans all over the world will be interested in seeing the final product.



Latest Natural Front Intuitive Pro 3.1 Animation Software Released

clock January 4, 2015 21:51 by author christpaul

It's not that long since we released the last version of Natural Front, but we are never inclined to rest on our laurels in terms of providing the best possible service to our customers. So we have already taking feedback from our valued users to help create the next version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, which we are naming the 3.1 version of the software.

We are quite pleased with the new improvements that we have included in this already powerful software package. Updates that have been made to the Natural Front Intuitive Pro 3.1 program include the ability for users to play a captured video directly from the software.

This particular innovation was strongly requested by users in feedback, so we were keen to deliver this particular form of animation support as quickly as possible. We are delighted to announce that it is now fully in place for the 3.1 version of the animation software, and we are extremely confident about the robustness of this feature.

Users downloading the 3.1 version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro will find that they can use any captured videos as a reference for 3-D facial animation. It is possible to place the video and any animation produced side-by-side, which greatly facilitates the process of creating 3-D animation. Already Natural Front Intuitive Pro was a massively slick and powerful animation program, but we're confident that this feature takes it to the next level.

We have also addressed several bugs which existed in the 3.0 version of the software. Of course, we work diligently to ensure that there are no errors in our Natural Front program, but it is almost impossible to eliminate these completely even with diligent testing. But after a lot of work from our engineers, we're now confident that the animation will be even more consistent when different levels of abstraction are used in the same animation process.

This means that animating different parts of a face individually, or animating the whole face based on a few primary expressions, will become even more easy, user-friendly and efficient than before. We are extremely proud of the animation capabilities of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, and equally proud of the fact that animation studios all over the world have used this powerful program to create absorbing 3-D animations.

Finally, Natural Front Intuitive Pro also benefits from a new user-friendly user interface. We were already happy with the ease-of-use of the program, but believe that we have bettered it with this new interface.

All in all, this is another excellent Natural Front Intuitive Pro release, and we can't wait to see what professional animators are able to produce with it.



3-Bahadur Release Underlines the Growth of Animation in Asia

clock December 29, 2014 15:50 by author christpaul

The Asian subcontinent is an increasing source of 3-D animated movies, with India being particularly prominent in the industry. However, a recent development in Pakistan is putting the neighbour and rival of the Indian nation on the animation map as well.

Pakistan’s first-ever feature length animated film, ‘3-Bahadur’ is set for release in the summer of 2015. This historic film is being produced by Waadi Animations of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and sponsored by English Biscuits Manufacturers (who aren’t actually English!).

While the Western world was enjoying the holiday season and Christmas celebrations, the animation studio behind this pioneering movie unveiled the first images and clips from the film at a special event in Pakistani city of Karachi. ‘3 Bahadur’ debuted at an exclusive event held at Nueplex Cinemas, which was attended by a raft of media and industry personalities.

Given the huge nature of this particular movie for the Pakistani film industry, there were no shortage of leading lights in attendance. According to reports, the event was hosted by leading television and film personality Fahad Mustafa who introduced the project’s core partners to a packed house. The director of the film, Salman Iqbal, also took time to speak to the audience, and he particularly praised the work and efforts of the animation studio who have been involved in the movie.

Although Waadi Animations wishes to keep the film under wraps to a certain extent, those who were present at the screening were fortunate enough to experience an exclusive behind-the-scenes video preview, along with a premiere of some of the imagery and animation involved in this huge cinematic event.

‘3-Bahadur’ follows the adventures of three friends who set out on an epic journey to save their town from some unfortunate events that currently hang over the heads of people residing there. This is very much a tale of courage against the odds, and the central theme of the movie would seemingly be the need to restore peace and harmony in the face of apparent misfortune.

It will be interesting to see whether there is a clear demarcation between good and evil in this film, or whether it is more sophisticated in town. However, given that the director has previously won an Oscar, this would seem to be a particularly credible movie, and one that will doubtless achieve massive success in its native Pakistan. 

The producers have proclaimed that this movie will change the way that partnerships are carried out for films in Pakistan, and are said it'd be very excited about the results. It will certainly be interesting to see how Pakistan's first animated movie turns out when it is released in 2015.



3D Printing and War Games To Stimulate Animation

clock December 26, 2014 11:58 by author christpaul

The phenomenon of 3-D printing has had a significant impact on the types of animation that can be carried out successfully, but one realm that few people will have considered in which 3-D printing is having a genuine impact is that of tabletop war games. Of course, 3-D animation has had a huge influence over the video games industry, and modern games such as Call of Duty greatly benefit from complex and absorbing 3-D animations.

However, tabletop war games remain extremely popular for a variety of reasons, not least that strategy is central to what takes place. Essentially, the most popular board game in human history, chess, is a war game, and the enduring popularity of this ancient game is indicative of the degree to which traditional tabletop games can still attract players.

Although tabletop war games can to some extent to be viewed as a dated, or at least traditional, hobby, hundreds of thousands of the players are still involved in the pastime. And the notion that this is a dated way to spend time is being challenged by one company, which goes by the name of  Printable Scenery. The  Printable Scenery company is combining the modern-day technology of 3D printing with that of those traditional games.

It is here that 3-D printing has come in useful, as the Printable Scenery company is able to combine this very contemporary technology with the traditional tabletop game. The creation of miniature fantasies scenery has really enhanced the tabletop gaming community's experience.

Representatives of the Printable Scenery company suggest that the process for modelling for animation and the process for modelling 3-D prints can be quite different, with keeping everything to scale being a serious challenge in the latter. Nonetheless, the Printable Scenery company is also intending to work in animation in the near future, with 3-D printing seen as a viable option for absorbing animated movies.

In the process involved in this innovative gaming device, creating brick patterns that don’t tile or repeat can take a while to model. This differs with animations, where applying a tile-able texture is much easier.

Several 3-D animations based on 3-D printing technology have already been produced, perhaps most notably the short film which went viral on the Internet, Bear on the Stairs. Although the technology is still in its infancy, as it develops it seems more likely that 3-D printing could become a staple of the 3-D animation industry.



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