Santa Clara Conference Suggests Virtual Reality Future for 3D Animation

clock April 5, 2015 08:13 by author christpaul

While virtual reality has been predicted for many years, the reality of this technology being part of everyday life is only now being realised. 3D animation can actually play a massive part in this emerging technology, as the virtual worlds that people will be presented with will be very much based around a 3D animation model.

Already there have been augmented reality devices released on the market. For example, Google's Glass has not been hugely commercially successful, and for the time being the technology giant has removed the product from the market. But in the long-term, Google still believes in the Glass concept, and it is thought that more retail value and investment will eventually be committed to this augmented reality technology.

The promise of virtual worlds comes with some forthcoming virtual reality technology. The Oculus Rift project and the Project Morpheus device being produced for PCs and the Sony PlayStation 4 video games console respectively, both promise to take users into a virtual world. 3D animation will play a central role in the rise of virtual reality technology, and it could be that in the near future people are experiencing a 3D animated parallel universe on a regular basis.

The 2015 Wearables TechCon in Santa Clara featured much more than just well known fitness sensors. It also had headsets, tracking sensors and artificial intelligence technology apps for virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Whereas virtual reality was once consisted of 3D digital replicas of real landscapes or environments created with animation toolsets, today 3D animation is providing an exciting new template for this technology and technique.

It is notable that several companies presented both virtual reality and augmented reality headsets at this event in Santa Clara. The sophisticated nature of contemporary 3D animation ensures that the three-dimensional worlds that people are sucked into by this new technology will be extremely absorbing. It is already predicted that Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus will play a significant role in regenerating a video games industry which has struggled to produce jaw-dropping games in recent years.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for 3D animation in virtual reality. Microsoft’s HoloLens appears to be a work in progress, but the company is investing heavily in it. Handheld displays can also show AR — iPads can be held up to render animated real-world overlays such as the popular Zombies! apps, or can show pictures of tools and instructions to a BMW mechanic.

While virtual reality has yet to install itself in our homes, it looks increasingly likely that this process will begin to occur in the next few years. By 2020, it is predicted that virtuality reality could be commonplace in our lives, and it seems certain that 3D animations will be a huge component of this.



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.



Authoritative Report Predicts Huge Future for 3D Animation Industry

clock August 8, 2014 09:10 by author christpaul

An important research paper on the future of 3-D animation has seen the light of day in the last 24 hours. Research and Markets has announced the release of its “Research and Markets: Global 3D Animation (Hardware, Software & Service) Market Forecasts and Opportunities Report 2014-2019”. This detailed and authoritative report offers the opinions of the organisation regarding the direction that the 3-D animation market will take in the next few years.

This is an extremely detailed report on the direction of the 3-D animation industry that encompasses all of the key areas of interest to all professional animators. The report segments the 3-D animation market based on a series of key components such as hardware, software and services. Within each of these areas, Research and Markets have looked into and prognosticated the direction that the animation industry will take between now and the end of the decade.

The hardware section looks at how elements of animation technology such as dedicated workstations, video card/GPU, motion capturing systems, and other hardware elements will evolve, develop and influence the industry in the coming years.

People involved in the animation industry professionally may be particularly interested in the services aspect of this report. The services market, according to research and markets, comprises consulting, development and integration, support and maintenance and product training and certification. 

The report assesses all of the most important areas of 3-D animation which have arisen from the flexibility of this exciting technology. 3-D animation is now associated primarily with video games and movies, but it is also a powerful way for companies to engage in absorbing marketing. Thus, 3-D animation has become extensively and effectively used in a variety of marketing advertising techniques, which incorporate modelling, simulation and analysis, along with training and education.

The key topics covered in this report include a detailed overview of the 3-D animation market for the remainder of the decade. The introductory sections incorporate an executive summary of the 3-D animation industry, and then the latter sections go into a detailed breakdown of the economic potential of the 3-D animation marketplace.

Numerous larger companies associated with the industry are also profiled in the report with the likes of Adobe Systems, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Autodesk, Corel Corporation, Intel Corporation, Lenovo Goup Ltd., Maxon, Nvidia Corporation, Newtek, Inc. and Side Effects Software all assessed by Research and Markets.

Report paints a picture of an extremely healthy industry, and it can be downloaded by following this link.



New Middle Eastern Animation Focuses on UAE Prime Minister

clock April 27, 2014 16:48 by author christpaul

It is perhaps hard for Western people to imagine an animation project which focuses on the successes of our political leaders! It is fair to say that such a production would struggle to meet with commercial success! But that is precisely what an animation studio in the Middle East is offering at present, and it has apparently achieved significant success.

A 3D animation video chronicling the most important achievements of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was launched a couple of weeks ago. Sheikh Mohammed, as he is more commonly referred to, is particularly well known in the UK, where his Godolphin racing stable has a massive influence over British horse racing.

The movie known as ‘Titled Journey’, was launched via Shaikh Mohammad’s official website and official YouTube Channel by the Government of Dubai Media Office (DGMO). The prospect of the Obama administration, or pretty much any European government, attempting to launch an officially sanctioned animated movie would seem to be pretty remote, though...

 

The video dates back to the date of Sheik Mohammed’s birth, 1949, and takes viewers back to his early childhood, before reviewing his political career which has taken in such positions as Chief of Dubai Police and Public Security in 1969 and Defence Minister in 1973, before assuming the post of Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in 2006.

This latest 3D animated movie may not be a commercial production, but it is intriguing to see the extent to which animation is now being used as a way to convey messages to people. Where once cartoons were seen as the preserve of children, the multi-billion dollar industry that is animation, coupled with the sophistication of contemporary 3D animation techniques, means that animators are increasingly being called in to engage with projects that would once upon a time have been viewed as the preserve of dry PR methodology.

According to some of the people who have observed the video, the 3D animation utilised in the video is pretty impressive. The animation must tell a complicated story showing the evolution of Dubai from a traditional region of the Middle East to a knowledge-based economy that brought about a vast change in the landscape, architecture and culture of the city.

While new, diverse animation projects seem to crop up every week, this is one of the most unique animations ever to surface.



Frozen could be the most advanced 3D animated movie ever

clock December 11, 2013 19:52 by author christpaul

3D animation has once again been in the news in the last few days with the release of Disney’s ‘Frozen’. The legendary animation studio has high hopes for this movie which is based on the story of The Snow Queen.

The early indications regarding this charming 3D animated movie is that it has been received particularly well, with critical acclaim being heaped on the film almost universally, as well as the box office figures being highly encouraging for Disney.

Disney will be very pleased that ‘Frozen’ has been released to a great deal of box office support. In the United States, it instantly replaced ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ as the top movie in its native country, while the movie has jumped straight to number one in the UK box office as well. The 3D animation had impressive takings of £4.7m in its opening week, easing the dystopian sci-fi epic Fire’ down the list in Britain as well.

‘Frozen’ is classic Disney. It is funny, festive and ideal for all the family to watch together. It contains enough material for adults to find it an enjoyable movie, yet it contains the sort of cute and adorable animation that kids love.

Critics have particularly acclaimed the animation in ‘Frozen’ as some of the best examples of 3D animation that we have yet to see in the genre. Some of the scenes have been described as “jaw dropping”, and it has been seriously suggested that the movie has raised the bar of what can be achieved by 3D animation.

This is no mean feat given what has come before, yet many are asserting that ‘Frozen’ blows past 3D animated feature films out of the river. The ice formations, snowstorms and giant waves are brilliantly animated on the one hand provide a spectacular backdrop for the movie, but the character animation has drawn particular praise as well.

 

This just underlines the importance of character animation in even the biggest animated productions. Creating absorbing and convincingly animated characters is the key to sucking people in to any animated film, no matter how long or short, and whatever its budget may be.

It is ideal then that Natural Front’s technology is particularly aimed at creating absorbing and attractive character models. Our curved-controlled modelling is particularly adept at creating facial features which draw you into an animation, and we do it at a price that doesn’t require the sort of budget that Disney has access to. 

We’re all about user input at Natural Front as well, as we constantly seek suggestions from professional animators regarding how to improve our software. It has benefitted greatly from this thus far, and we’re sure any professional animator will be impressed by what our unique and intuitive software can do.



Why Motion Capture Isn’t The Best Bet for Your 3D Business

clock October 11, 2013 23:18 by author MattW

Facial Animation is one of the hardest things to do when dealing in 3D animation. Capturing the exact expression of a face and then translating that into a 3D program is very difficult. Many animators turn to a technology called Motion Capture to successfully animate the face, but it isn’t always necessary to do so. There is a better alternative, called Curve Controlled modeling which could be better for facial animators.

Why Isn’t Motion Capture Best Bet?

So basically the way motion capture works is by placing cameras and markers (in many cases)  around the subject, capturing the motion of the specific parts and then applying that movement to the 3D model piece by piece. This includes expensive software and equally expensive hardware. The cameras that are used can be very pricey, especially when you get up into the higher resolutions.

Motion capture also needs to happen in an environment conducive to collecting motion data, in other words, a studio. The lighting and space needs to be perfect in order for the motion capture to be as accurate as possible.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Curve Controlled Modeling or CCM is a type of 3D animation that is completely software based, meaning that it doesn’t require the expensive hardware costs of motion capture. It uses software tool called a NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline curve to simulate the movement of muscles, making it ideal for facial animation.

Without getting into the complex equations that make it work, NURBs curves are equations that allow animation software programs to animate the muscles of a 3D object. Changing a part of the equation correlates to a specific movement around a control point (or more than one). This allows for astonishingly complex movements to be generated very quickly, which is something you will need in order to successfully animate the facial muscles. 

Why is it Better?

There is no denying that motion capture has its uses. In fact, it is one of the most used technologies in the animation industry. The biggest problem, at least for most animators, is that it requires expensive equipment to pull off, and also requires the right environment to get it right. That means that unless you have a huge budget or a corporation backing you, large scale motion capture is probably out of your price range.

With CCM, all you need is a software program, and the knowledge of how to use it. It is relatively easy to get both of these things, while it might be relatively hard to obtain the tools to correctly use motion capture.

Conclusion

Curve Controlled Modeling is not simple to grasp but it IS simple to use once you start. CCM is also much cheaper since it is a software-only solution. It will allow even the most modest animator to pull off facial animation without spending thousands of dollars on expensive camera and sensor equipment. With the complex and feature rich software that is available on the market for CCM animation, you’ll be able to animate complex facial muscles without spending an arm and a leg and without setting up a studio.




What is Motion Capture?

clock October 11, 2013 23:16 by author MattW

3D Animation is one of the fastest growing niches of software development. One of the areas that is most interesting inside that niche is motion capture. Motion capture is one of the best ways to translate living and moving objects into 3D projects. The question is what is it really; what is it used for; and what are some examples of its uses. That will be our quest in this article.

First Off What is Motion Capture?

To put it simply, motion capture is the act or process of recording a moving object. The object can be anything from your mom doing dishes to a rock rolling down a hillside. Sensors and cameras catch the motion of the real world object and then translate that movement on to a digital oriented object. So, for example, if you were capturing a rock rolling down a hill, the movement of that rock would be translated into the computer and projected on to a similar digital object, like a rock on a hillside.

To get more technical, at least for a minute, motion capture takes snapshots at a certain rate of the real world motion. This is done by using sensors attached to the object (in many cases), and by pointing precision cameras at the object as it moves. The rate at which the motion is captured determines the accuracy of the digital transformation. The data that comes out of the cameras and sensors is then fed into a computer running 3D animation software, which coordinates the real world movement with the digital object.

What is it Good For?

So motion capture has many uses, and in many ways the technology is still evolving. As cameras get better at capturing small movements, motion capture technology also gets better. Motion capture is used in many places that you see animations such as movies (particularly 3D movies), television shows, and more entertainment-style uses. It is also used in universities and laboratories to study human movement for medical purposes and user interface study.

Examples of its Uses

So the most obvious use of motion capture is in moves. Films like Happy Feet (which portrayed a group of penguins) and Cars(which was a story about cars) both used motion capture to assist in the animation of the movie elements.

Other, more obscure, uses of motion capture exist. As we mentioned above, it is used in medicine to study the effects of motion on the human body. It is also used to study the way humans interact with both digital and real world user interfaces. The data collected from both of these uses is used to better medical equipment in the former, and to improve how we use machines and digital interfaces in the latter.

Motion capture is also used in virtual reality and augmented reality. Both of these fields have uses outside of the university. Virtual reality uses it for gaming, and augmented reality uses it to overlay information on the real world.

Conclusion

In an upcoming piece, we’ll talk about the disadvantages of using motion capture in certain 3D animated situations. Until then, the best thing to know about it is that it is widely used, especially by moviemakers. You should also know that the technology is still advancing. Devices like Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect use similar technologies to advance gaming and fitness, as well as controlling user interface. Like most technology, it isn’t over until it’s over.



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