Free Version of Unity3D Facial Animation Plugin Now Available

clock February 7, 2016 22:49 by author EliciaT

 

Today’s 3D animators are constantly under pressure to create high-quality models and animations in shorter periods of time. When it comes to 3D facial animations, it is extremely difficult to capture real-life expressions by using traditional animation techniques. The process may take months or years with teams of artists working together, and still, the expressions can turn out awkward and unrealistic. Luckily, there are a few emerging technologies that could help improve the creation process for 3D animators.

The new NaturalFront® 3D facial animation plugin for Unity is a very-easy-to-use solution that is vastly cutting down the time usually required to create complex 3D facial animation. The plugin allows animators to create realistic 3D facial models and their animation in seconds, without the need to rig, sculpt, or perform any other tedious tasks.

How does the plugin work?

The plugin is designed to work seamlessly with Unity3d Editor. Users simply need to upload a portrait of a model’s face and input a few settings. For the best results, the photo should be taken indoor using flashlight, and with the subject facing the camera. Once uploaded, users will be prompted to select certain points on the face to create a mesh. The plugin will then automatically generate a 3D model, with a few thousand vertices. More importantly, once created, the 3D model will instantly come with built-in 3D animation that includes abundance of different, real-life facial expressions, without your performing any conventional time-consuming tasks, such as rigging or creating morphing targets!

Why should you download it?

Using traditional 3D computer modeling and animation techniques, it may take an animator days, weeks or even years to complete high-resolution characters. Animators can significantly reduce the number of work hours that they dedicate to facial modeling animation through the tool, because it eliminates the need to rig, model, morph or keyframe.

With this Unity plugin, a model can be generated within a few seconds or minutes, depending on the processing speed of your computer. More importantly, animating expressions can be easily accomplished by only a few simple clicks.

With the Complete version of NaturalFront® 3D Facial Animation Unity Plugin soon to be available, animation and synchronizing with audio can be done super-fast and easily by our unique 1-Click Animation ™!

How can you download it for free?

Downloading the Unity plugin is simple, with a free option recently available. Animators have the opportunity to test out the facial animation tool at no-cost by downloading a free version here. Upload a photo, adjust the settings to fit your preferences, render your model in seconds, and start animating facial expressions in minutes. Essentially, you can kiss-goodbye to your old-fashion, time-consuming and costly techniques!

If you have questions about using the plugin or want to share your experiences using the tool, feel free to comment below. For more information about the tool, check out this tutorial video.



Why Morphing Isn’t the Best Solution for 3D Facial Animation

clock October 30, 2015 10:35 by author EliciaT

 

For 3D facial animation, animators sometimes use morphing targets. Morphing is a common 3D animation technique that creates movement by blending together a number of poses, called blend shapes. The method is usually more suitable for facial animations than methods like 3D rigging. However, there are some distinct drawbacks that animators face when using 3D morphing for facial animations.

 

Why is 3D Morphing Not the Best Choice for Facial Animation?

Years ago, morphing 3D facial animations may have been considered the norm. The technique can be used to create animations that are large-scale and simple. For more complex tasks like animating realistic character facial expressions, there are several challenges

For instance, when using morphing, animators must manually create and manage the poses, or targets, to be blended together. Because of this, early 3D video games that used morphing produced slightly shaky or jittery movement between poses.

In order to produce smooth and fluid animations, animators need to create hundreds of these targets. It is possible to create smooth animations with 3D morphing, however, it is an extremely time-consuming and challenging process.

With the high-demand of the realism in 3D facial animation, animators are sometimes forced to create more and more morphing targets. At this point, your targets are getting like workers constructing the Biblical Tower of Babel, with your 3D facial animation projects becoming more and more akin to the doomed tower.

Luckily, animators have more efficient options to choose from thanks to advancements in technology. One of the most efficient alternatives is Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM).

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

natural front unity.png

Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM) is a 3D animation process that uses calculations to simulate the movement of underlying muscles. It is designed specifically to control objects that have a multitude of movement positions. Based on a clever analogy that was recently discovered, CCM uses equations to calculate and display the position of each muscle in the face, as well as their interaction. Each vertex of your 3D model is controlled individually by these equations in real-time. In other words, while using NaturalFront software, CCM completely eliminates the time and effort required to create morphing targets. 

As animation for video games and other media becomes more realistic and precise, the need to improve the process grows. In a short amount of time, animators are pressured to create 3D animations that are life-like. Using CCM can help animators produce impressive facial animations substantially faster and cheaper than ever before.

 

 



Adult Themes and Developing Economies to Dominate 3D Animation Future

clock August 30, 2015 15:47 by author christpaul

With 3D animation becoming such a mainstream niche, the motto of the industry could perhaps be “go where no-one has gone before”. This old adage from the Star Trek universe indicates the importance of innovating in 3D animation in the contemporary landscape. Animation has gone beyond our imagination, featuring not just cartoon characters, but increasingly human emotions. With robots and monsters, talking animals, dancing toys, aliens taking human form and humans performing super-human acts, animation has opened up a completely new world of imagery and fantasy.

Considering the increasingly realistic animations that are possible with 3D animation, it is hardly surprising that major animation studios and producers are still developing this technology. While companies such as Walt Disney made their reputations with films that were ostensibly aimed at children, today it is possible to produce animations targeting a much more adult audience. Equally, it is common for contemporary Disney films to attempt to be all things to all people, and attract an audience of both children and adults with multi-faceted, multi-level narratives and scripts.

 

Equally, animation studios are realising the importance of diversity and plurality in producing modern 3D animations. Although this has unquestionably been a US-dominated industry up until now, it is also equally certain that 3D animation is beginning to diversify as the 21st century unfolds. Rapidly industrialising countries in the so-called developing world have got on board with 3D animation, and thus there are a wide range of major animation studios now located in countries such as India.

Major animation studios and producers from all over the world like Walt Disney, Imax and Sony are increasingly outsourcing cartoon characters and special effects to India, along with commercials and video games. Avataar, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and The Adventures of Tenali Raman are some of the animation films with Indian expertise that have received rave international reviews.

The propensity of animation studios to both innovate and locate work outside of the traditional Western world indicates that this industry still has a huge amount of developing to do. It is extremely difficult to predict the future of 3D animation, not least because it has always been based on technological innovation and development.

But what can be said with some confidence is that these two trends of more adult 3D animations and an increasing participation from developing economies and newly industrialising countries will be important in the future. These two tendencies should contribute to a highly exciting industry going forward.



Spongebob Squarepants Movie is Latest 3D Animation Outing

clock April 4, 2015 09:41 by author christpaul

Full-length versions of television series are big money spinners for filmmakers in general, and nowhere is this more true than in the field of animation. It is a natural move for popular television series to be converted to the silver screen, and such luminaries of TV animation as The Simpsons, South Park and Beavis & Butthead have already received this treatment over the last decade or so.

The latest small screen success story to be converted to a fully-fledged cinematic animation is SpongeBob Squarepants. This anarchic children's programme has already received a massive following all over the world, and perhaps part of its success has been due to the fact that it translates so well into several cultures.

SpongeBob Squarepants also follows the basic template for success in children's animation; there is plenty here for adults to enjoy as well. Many people consider this to be an adult series, with writing which often goes well over the head of its largely child-based audience. This means that there is something for all of the family to enjoy in this movie, and pretty much ensures that it will be another massive commercial success.

This is SpongeBob's second outing on the big screen, and this time the filmmakers employ some glorious new 3D animation to give the sponge a little twist. It is interesting that what is essentially a 2D animation on television has been converted in this way, and it shows the power of 3D animation in contemporary cinema.

 

The film starts off as most episodes of the TV series do, in the underwater town of Bikini Bottom, where SpongeBob Squarepants has a job at the Krabby Shack working with cashier Squidward. The plot as it is focuses around a rival restaurant owner who attempts to undermine our aquatic hero. And on this occasion his actions end up with SpongeBob certainly being a sponge out of water.

Screenplay writers Glen Berger and Jonathan Aibel - the writing team behind the Kung-Fu Panda movies - offer a fresh take on the Spongebob universe, and overall this is one 3D animation which is expected to be an overwhelming commercial success.

As 3D animation becomes more ubiquitous in the cinema, the number of people moving into this genre ensures that the future of 3D animation is extremely rosy. Natural Front intends to play a significant role in the development of 3D animation by continually refining our already renowned Intuitive Pro animation software.



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.



Major Report Indicates Healthy Financial Future for 3D Animation

clock October 29, 2014 10:18 by author christpaul

3-D animation has already established itself has not merely an important part of the film industry, but a valuable industrial niche in its own right. However, a recent report entitled ”3D Technology Market by 3D Product Type”, conducted by the market research organisation Markets and Markets, has indicated that growth in the 3-D animation marketplace is set to be far more buoyant than even its most optimistic proponents predicted.

According to Markets and Markets, the 3-D animation marketplace will grow at unexpected rate of nearly 27 percent between 2014 and 2020, on an annual basis. This would mean that the overall value of the 3-D animation market would be in the region of half of $1 trillion by 2020.

This incredible figure indicates the degree to which 3-D animation continues to grow all over the world. Although in many ways 3-D animation industry is still inherently associated with United States, animation studios are from all four corners of the globe are producing 3-D feature films as well as a variety of 3-D animated shorts. It is in this context that one should view the half $1 trillion figure, as it is only through developing a global marketplace that such growth and success can be achieved and sustained. 

 

While 3-D animation technology continues to be driven by the entertainment industry, effectively providing a new viewing experience for cinema goers, other developments in 3-D technology have also indicated that 3-D animation may have a more sober basis in future. Already 3-D animation technologies are being used in the medical field, and it is possible that the technology will branch out even further in the remainder of this decade.

Although the United States continues to contribute the major economic production to the 3-D animation marketplace, other geographic areas are also making a contribution. Both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region now post a large amount of animation studios dedicated to the 3-D art, and these are expected to expand in number in the coming years.

The major players that will continue to dominate the 3-D animation industry in the coming years, according to Markets and Markets, include 3D Systems (U.S.), Autodesk, Inc. (U.S.), Barco (Belgium), Dolby Laboratories, Inc. (U.S.), DreamWorks Animation Skg, Inc. (U.S.), LG Electronics (South Korea), Panasonic Corporation (Japan), Samsung (South Korea), Sony Corporation (Japan), and Stratasys (U.S.). 

Overall, the prognostications of the report indicate a very rosy future for this animated medium.



The Importance of Simplicity for 3D Animation

clock October 18, 2014 09:31 by author christpaul

The infamous scientist Albert Einstein once stated that the best solution to any problem is always a simple one. This ethos is very much at the centre of the Natural Front approach to animation. We strive to make the most challenging and time-consuming tasks in 3-D animation as simple as possible; perhaps simpler than you can even imagine.

The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software is based on our own revolutionary 3-D technology. It has taken a huge amount of loving care and effort to turn our ideas into a constructive software package that can produce world-class 3-D animations. The principle which drives the Natural Front software has never been commercially explored previously, and it is the unique nature of the software which has perhaps above all else contributed to its success.

The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software enables animators to work in the core of 3D modeling and animation in a way that is both unprecedented and hugely effective. The approach that we take to 3-D animation makes us stand apart from other animation companies and software, particularly in the respect that the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software does not rely heavily on traditional modelling and animation techniques as is common in the industry.

Not only is our curve-controlled modelling a unique element of the Natural Front software package, but we have also acquired the exclusive rights world-wide to commercially explore this revolutionary 3D technology. This means that only Natural Front Intuitive Pro will be able to offer you our fantastic 3-D animation package which makes creating the most absorbing animations imaginable easy and painless.

This means that we can offer unique benefits through our software, particularly to SMEs. Natural Front has worked with animators and animation studios all over the world, and as an SME ourselves, we fully understand the pressures that modern businesses have to cope with. The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software was precisely designed to meet the needs of animation studios on a budget, and we pride ourselves on offering incredible value for money with our system.

By using Natural Front’s unique technology, you not only get your 3D animation business a giant step ahead of competition, but also start a revolutionary journey. In no time at all, you can be creating animations better than you could have ever hoped. So don't delay, sign up for our 30 day free trial today.



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.



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