3-D Printing, French Film and the Future of 3D Animation

clock October 12, 2014 08:27 by author christpaul

The 3D animation industry has developed into an incredibly diverse niche. And one of the interesting developments of recent years which can make a further contribution to the industry is that of 3D printing.

The implications and potential of this revolutionary 3D technology is perhaps not yet fully understood. The media has taken its default position of reacting in knee-jerk fashion to the technology, and it resorted to reporting scare stories about guns being manufactured by everyday people. However, regardless of where you stand on the gun control issue, there is no doubt that 3D printing can also be a force for good, and a source of creativity.

One such example of this comes from the French filmmaker Julien Maire. This innovative animator is fixated with producing movies that do not rely on traditional methods, but instead use innovation to expand on what has already been done, in order to produce something completely new.

Recently, Maire has been working in the 3D genre with a very unique project. Maire’s idea was to replace traditional film with 3D printed stereolithographic projections. This may sound extremely technical to someone who is uninitiated, and indeed it wouldn't be ideal for the average person in the street to attempt this, as it is a supremely complex undertaking. But what Maire is essentially focused on is creating films without the actual film. And 3D printing has given him a unique opportunity to advance this process.

The latest project produced by Maire involved modelling 85 different figures, all in different positions, featuring a man digging a hole. He then used a Form 1 stereolithographic 3D printer in order to print them out. These tiny little figures were then attached to a film-like reel, and light was passed through them, just as it would be when showing an old movie.

This is a fascinating way to produce a unique form of 3D animation, as the 3D printing objects produced by the French filmmaker passed through the light projector at just the right momentum in order to fool the human eye into perceiving them as an animated feature. This is a completely unique way of producing animated film, and possibly the first ever feature which has been produced via 3D printers. 

As 3D printers develop in functionality and sophistication, more innovative animators will doubtless find away to utilise them in 3D animation. 3D printing promises another outlet for creativity, which will thicken the broth of animation worldwide.


The Ethos Behind Natural Front

clock October 5, 2014 08:21 by author christpaul

The driving force behind Natural Front was to create a computer software package that could deliver outstanding 3-D character animation. However, it wasn't good enough for us to produce a package that merely did the job well, we wanted to make Natural Front Intuitive Pro the best 3-D character animation software package on the market.

So with this ethos in mind, from day one of developing the software we deeply considered what elements we wanted the Natural Front package to comprise. Firstly, and arguably most important, was the ability to create absorbing facial animations easily. Not only did we want animators using Natural Front to be able to create world-class animations, but we also intended for them to be able to do it in a relatively hassle-free way.

At present, the most widely used techniques in 3-D character animation and 3-D facial animation are 3-D rigging and morphing, also know as blending key shapes. Most animators consider these to be a necessary evil, even though the laborious nature of the process makes it quite a headache.

The reality is that these techniques are extremely inefficient when utilised for 3-D facial animation. The reason behind this is that an effective approach in the core of 3-D modelling and animation has been lacking. Rigging and morphing have been the industry solution to the problem, but experienced animators will tell you that they are and insufficient solution. Other 3-D animation software has a focus on motion capture and tracking, but with Natural Front Intuitive Pro we intended to create a completely new system which blows such notions away.

Natural Front is not opposed to motion capture, tracking, or any of the rigging process. However, we do believe that it is currently utilised inefficiently. That is why we developed our system for capturing 3-D animations which is as simple as possible to utilise. Our curve-controlled modelling system makes the process of 3-D animation considerably easier, and also by delivering efficiency savings we can pass economic savings onto you the consumer. 

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the simplest solution is usually the best solution, and this was very much the ethos and mentality that underpinned the development of Natural Front Intuitive Pro. Since we released the first version of the software, it has become a key animation package for small-to-medium animation studios in particular, and continues to go from strength to strength.

Lakika's Boxtrolls Animation Tops UK Cinema Box Office

clock September 26, 2014 07:50 by author christpaul

Listings for the UK box office show that another successful 3-D animation is making a big impression in cinema at present. The Boxtrolls has topped the UK box office in its first week of release with takings in excess of £2 million.

The film is centred around a performance by teenage Game of Thrones star Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who lends voice to a character raised by rubbish collecting trolls. The Boxtrolls has not only achieved commercial success, but also has been pretty warmly received critically.

As a 3-D animated film, The Boxtrolls has been recognised to be a huge achievement in stop-motion animation. The detail included in this particular 3-D animated movie has received almost disbelief from the critical community, with some reviewers commenting that the quality of the 3-D animation in the Boxtrolls is almost magical.

Set in the United Kingdom, The Boxtrolls effectively tells the story of a minority group. The Boxtrolls in this animated story, reside in cardboard boxes under the ground, and only feel able to come out into the larger world when night falls. Human-beings consider them to be disgusting, and effectively want them to be wiped out completely.

The dazzling visuals and technical brilliance of The Boxtrolls has been achieved thanks to an animation studio which considers itself to be left-field in its inspiration. The Portland, Oregon-based Laika studios have explicitly stated that they consider themselves to be an animation studio willing to stand on the fringes of the industry, and their president, Travis Knight, has stated that they consider their role to be to produce animations that are neither middle of the road nor inoffensive.

Laika also produced 2009's "Coraline" and 2012's "ParaNorman," both of which were nominated for Oscars, and takes particular pride in creating aesthetically different tales from other mainstream animation studios such as Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. Clearly although the Pixar formula remains extremely popular, there is room in the marketplace for an alternative ethos.

The Boxtrolls is the latest indication, as if one were needed, that 3-D animation is one of the biggest genres in cinema. The 3-D animation industry is now worth tens of billions of dollars each year, and it is already estimated that the annual worth of the industry will top $40 billion by the end of this decade. Unquestionably, 3-D animation is here to stay, and will only get bigger in the years to come.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro - The Best Choice for Small-to-Medium Animation Studios

clock September 22, 2014 15:29 by author christpaul

Natural Front has been working with a variety of small-to-medium studios and indie developers for some years now, and in that time we have developed an industry-wide reputation for providing animation packages of the very highest quality. We are particularly proud of our Natural Front Intuitive Pro software, which makes facial modelling in particular extremely easy, without in any way scrimping on the power.

By applying our patented technology to the way realistic 3-D facial animation is created, you can create truly world-class 3-D animations in an incredibly short period of time. This enables animation studios and freelance animators to greatly cut down on the cost of animation, which can be prohibitively expensive.

At Natural Front we have made the decision to be particularly focused on 3-D animation and specifically facial animation for a wide variety of reasons. Firstly, 3-D animation is becoming very popular. It has been an established genre across all manner of cinematic, film and other productions for many years, but over the last few years its reach has grown stratospherically.

Now 3-D animation studios are cropping up all over the world, and Natural Front is delighted to be able to state that its products are being utilised by animators all over the globe. To be part of this 3-D animation revolution is both exciting and inspiring.

Additionally, our team of software engineers at Natural Front are all animation fans, and thus we understand the laborious process which is facial animation. There is no doubt that 3-D facial animation is the most expensive and time consuming part of any animation. Yet it is also the most important if one is to bring a particular character to life. That's why we created our curve-controlled modelling system which makes facial animation straightforward, but delivers absolutely incredible results.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro completely removes the need for rigging, morph targets, key-framing or blend shapes. It provides a standalone software package which isn't dependent on time consuming and often irritating techniques such as motion capture or tracking. However, future releases of the software are going to support this technology, owing to feedback from our customers.

This is another key aspect of Natural Front, we engage in a constant two-way feedback loop with our customers and animators, and our developers very strongly take personal feedback into consideration when developing the Natural Front Intuitive Pro product. We're confident this is the best software package on the market for small-to-medium-sized animation studios and freelance animators, so why not try our free 30 day trial today?

Two Blast From the Past 3D Animations Currently in Production

clock September 20, 2014 14:18 by author christpaul

Two animation studios have recently announced 3D animated movies which harp back to the golden age of animation. The two studios in question are bringing cartoon series which made their names on TV to the silver screen in 3-D animated format.

Mexican animation studio Anima Estudios is taking the ‘Top Cat’ franchise into the cinema, which will be a pleasing surprise for fans of this Sgt Bilko-inspired cartoon. In fact, this isn't the first 'Top Cat' flick for Anima. In 2011, Anima produced “Top Cat: The Movie,” which became the highest grossing Mexican film that year, earning well over $3 million in his opening weekend within the Central American nation. The film went on to be released in more than 25 countries.

However, Top Cat should apparently not be seen as a sequel to their earlier work. Fernando De Fuentes, chairman of Anima Estudios, has indicated that the movie is very much a companion piece for the other film rather than a continuation of the storyline.

The success that the Mexican studio has had with this seemingly ageing American franchise indicates the extent to which studios all over the world are tapping into the highly prosperous 3-D genre.

In addition to the Top Cat movie, Sony Pictures Animation are currently working on an all CGI feature which will see the return of another colourful character from the distant cartoon pass. Popeye is unquestionably one of the most famous cartoon characters of all time, and Sony is bringing back this iconic character in 3-D animated form in the near future. Already a teaser trailer has been released.

Dating back to 1929, Popeye is an incredibly historic cartoon, and there has been no new canonical material released for over 30 years. Thus, the young audience of today will certainly not have encountered this character before, so it will be interesting to see how successful Popeye is in his new 3D format.

Popeye will evidently be getting updated to the 21st century with state-of-the-art 3D technology, while the individual who has been place in charge of this project, Genndy Tartakovsky, is a veteran of many previous animated movies. He recently directed Hotel Transylvania, and cut his teeth on traditional 2D animations including Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack.

Sony have currently set no release date for Popeye, but clearly have an international release in mind when this 3-D animation has been satisfactorily completed.

3D Animation Developing on the African Continent

clock September 11, 2014 14:06 by author christpaul

Africa has been one continent that has not been particularly associated with animation. Yet this perception is steadily changing. There are already a raft of animation studios based in countries across Africa, with Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa already boasting studios capable of producing high-quality 2-D and 3-D animation.

While the teaching of complex animation techniques is still pretty limited on the African continent, some recent programs are seeking to change this. A recent project launched by a Senegalese media mogul has attracted European union funding in an attempt to bring high-quality animation to the African continent.

The program will offer ten young Africans with particular animation talent the opportunity to train in the most important concepts in 2-D and 3-D animation. The project will offer the ten lucky individuals selected a grant to support them while they train to become skilled animators.

The BBC’s Laeila Adjovi recently reported from Dakar, and posed the question of whether Africa could one day produce popular animated movies to compete with American cartoons or Japanese mangas? Perhaps it is a little too early to contemplate Africa producing the same quality of 3-D animation as the Western world, but there is certainly both enthusiasm and potential inherent within the continent.

Aside from the development in movie-based 3-D animation, the video game industry is also attracting 3-D animators in Africa. Particularly in South Africa, the game industry has taken off significantly, and is already worth R2.1 billion per year, with figures expected to exceed R2.5 billion during this calendar year. 

196 full-time and 284 part-time South Africans work in the video games industry according to a recent survey by Make Games South Africa, and given the prominence of 3-D animation within this genre, the technique is developing rapidly in the nation.

As the gaming and animation industries develop in South Africa, institutions are springing up all over the nation which are offering young people the opportunity to further enhance their skills in this area. College courses on 3D animation are offered in South Africa by Learn 3D, a local 3D animation and game development college.

This rapid rise of 3-D animation in both gaming and movies in Africa is indicative of the growing significance of this industry across the world. Given the massive economic success of 3-D animation, animators are cropping up in every note and cranny of the planet. Its points to an exciting future for 3-D animation in which there is a great deal more plurality in big 3-D animation productions.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro - The Perfect Solution for Small to Medium Animation Studios and Animators

clock September 7, 2014 22:30 by author christpaul

Here at Natural Front, we're all too aware how difficult it can be for small animation studios and independent animators to gain a footing in the industry. The animation industry is extremely competitive, and with numerous huge corporations at the head of it, and significant overheads associated with every aspect of the animation process, remaining competitive as a small business, or as the little guy in the street, can be a huge challenge.

That is why our Natural Front Intuitive Pro software is specifically aimed at small, independent animation studios and freelance animators. We have built our package up as a small business, and we want to help out people who have been in the same situation as us.

Central to this process has been ensuring that the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software is available at a price that particularly suits small to medium enterprises and freelance animators. Although we are extremely proud of the powerful nature of the Natural Front software, we want its facilities and functions to be available to as many animators as possible. We don't want anyone to be excluded from the Natural Front experience.

That's why we have recently announced a new monthly payment system for our two most sophisticated Natural Front Intuitive Pro packages. These deliver incredible functionality and intuitive 3-D facial animation in particular, but are now well within the price range of small studios and freelance animators.

The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software delivers incredibly user-friendly and easy photo-to-3-D modelling. It enables you to create 3-D animations intuitively and speedily, with lip syncing particularly efficiently supported. You can put in place your own distinctive blend of expressions and mouse shapes, and the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software supports complete export to the popular SBX platform. With the Natural Front Intuitive Pro complete version now available at the bargain price of $25 per month, you really can't go wrong in signing up for Natural Front.

Aside from the value for money element of the Natural Front software, we are also conscious of the fact that small-scale animators want to be able to save resources in every step of the animation process. Therefore Natural Front has been designed to make 3-D facial animation particularly easy, via its revolutionary curve-controlled modelling system. Natural Front makes the most time-consuming, expensive and complex processes associated with 3-D animation obsolete.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro is the ideal package for any small to medium animation studio and freelance animator. Sign up for the free 30 day trial today, and start finding out what Natural Front Intuitive Pro can do for you.

New Natural Front Intuitive Pro 2.2 Version Released

clock September 1, 2014 20:40 by author christpaul

We're always happy at Natural Front when we have some good news for our customers. And as the saying goes that bad news comes in threes, we’re happy to announce that sometimes good news comes in threes as well! So we have three morsels of good news to announce to all of our customers, and we're sure that this will please animation studios and professional animators alike

Firstly, the new Natural Front website is now up and running. We have been working on our new site for quite some time, and we're extremely pleased with the new design of the website. It features a lot of useful information about the Natural Front Intuitive Pro package, so whether you're thinking about purchasing the Natural Front animation software for the first time, or would like to learn a little more about it as an existing customer, the website is a good place to start 

Secondly, as a companion to our new website we have also recently released a new beta version of the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software. This is effectively the 2.2 version of the Natural Front package. In this latest release, we have particularly focused on ensuring that the 3-D animation facility in the software is improved, and we're delighted with the level of smoothness that has been achieved. We're confident that our customers will really love this new Natural Front Intuitive Pro release. You can access the latest version of the software by clicking here.

Finally, in order to make our payment system more suitable to our customers needs, and having received a lot of feedback on the matter, we have recently changed the payment system for Natural Front from a one off payment to a monthly subscription model. Natural Front Intuitive Pro Complete 2.2 will cost $25 for a monthly subscription, while Natural Front Intuitive Pro Simplified 2.2 will cost $9 per month. We also have our Intuitive Pro Free version, and the two premium packages are also available on a free trial basis. 

Nothing else about Natural Front Intuitive Pro has changed. NaturalFront Intuitive Pro remains the ideal piece of animation software, designed for 3D professionals, businesses and developed on revolutionary 3D algorithms. It offers incredible animation power, while making the process of 3-D animation considerably easier, particularly with regard to facial animations. We're extremely proud of this fantastic piece of software, and recommend professional animators and animation studios to check it out today.

Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus Offer Exciting 3D Future

clock August 23, 2014 21:50 by author christpaul

All lovers of science fiction will be familiar with the concept of the alternative or virtual reality. 3-D worlds that run parallel, or are somehow separate to our own, has been a perennial theme of a science fiction writing for decades, and is particularly associated with the work of the highly acclaimed writer Philip K. Dick. For a long time, the most imaginative people on the planet have envisage the possibility of people disappearing into an alternate reality. Well, that time may not be far away.

Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus PR created a lot of headlines. The company is currently in the process of developing Oculus Rift; a virtual reality headset which has been initially proposed to be aimed at the video gaming community. With its ability to deliver truly immersive 3-D worlds via a virtual headset, the potential of Oculus Rift in the long -term is absolutely massive.

Oculus Rift is not the only virtual reality device currently being developed. A contender to the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift is Sony's Project Morpheus. This is another virtual reality headset which will eventually provide access to 3-D worlds for owners of the Sony PlayStation 4 console.

The ability to take people - even given the immersive world of modern videogames  - through the television, into an entirely new concept in which one is literally transported into a 3-D world, offers huge opportunities for movie makers. Because it has been predicted that 3-D movies will not really take off until such time as they become a more immersive experience.


Although 3-D animation has been vastly successful in the cinema, and has greatly outperformed 3-D movies, which by their very nature require glasses to be worn, technologies such as Oculus Rift promise a future in which incredibly absorbing 3-D animations can be viewed within one's own home. It would seem at this point in time that the technology is rather too expensive to be used on a cinematic basis, but certainly home movies could be viewed through the helmet in a way which adds something of great significance to the viewing experience.

Just days ago, the popular movie website Netflix announced its intention to be compatible with Oculus Rift eventually. This would mean hat you could both browse and then view movies in wraparound 3-D; an attractive proposition for many movie buffs and fans. It seems inevitable that such a form of technology could add a great deal of value to animation as well, given the potential for it to immerse viewers in an entirely new animated universe.

Virtual reality has huge transformative potential for 3-D movies and 3-D animation, and it'll be fascinating to see how Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus develop in the coming years.

How to Select or Produce the Right Facial Photograph for Natural Front Intuitive Pro

clock August 17, 2014 21:25 by author christpaul

Natural Front Intuitive Pro makes producing world-class animations incredibly easy and intuitive. With its specialised package which particularly focuses on producing the highest quality of 3-D facial animations, Natural Front Intuitive Pro is a powerful tool in the hands of professional animators and animation studios.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro has been designed to make the animation process as easy as possible, and the feedback we have received has time and time again indicated to us that we have been successful in this goal. But we never cease in our attempts to make the 3-D animation process even easier and more pleasurable for our customers, and there are always little snippets of knowledge which can help with the animation process.

One thing we asked about a lot at Natural Front is the best way to select a photograph for 3-D modelling. This is a valid question, as selecting the correct sort of photograph is essential to making the process as straightforward as possible. So here is a short step-by-step guide to selecting the best possible photograph for 3-D facial modelling.

- Firstly, it is advisable to select the photograph or someone aged between 15 and 65 years of age. This should give you a pretty broad spectrum to select from.

- Secondly, the photograph in question must be a full frontal facial image, with mouth closed and the person’s face exhibiting a relaxed expression.

- Thirdly, flash lighting must be used. You should avoid using photographs which have been taken during the daytime.

- Fourthly, any form of facial hair is acceptable, as is make-up.

- Glasses should be removed.

- In terms of the distance between face and camera when taking the photograph, a distance of at least five feet is recommended.

- When taking the photograph, ensure that the camera and human face being photographed are kept at the same horizontal level.

- Images should be in full colour, black and white images will not suffice.

- Finally, once the image has been entered into the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software, the face should be clicked in eleven spots as follows: within both eyes, at both sides of the face adjacent to the ear lobes, at the side of the furthest extremities of both nostrils, at the corners of both sides of the mouth, at the furthest extremities of both sides of the person’s jaw, and the lowest point of their chin.

By following these simple steps, you will soon be able to animate your 3-D face in Natural Front Intuitive Pro.

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