Becoming a Professional Animator with Natural Front

clock May 19, 2015 21:16 by author christpaul

Becoming a 3D animator is a goal for many people who fall in love with the art form. But becoming a successful 3D animator requires a huge amount of perseverance, patience and dedication. Even though outstanding software packages such as Natural Front are making 3D animation much easier for professional animators, to reach the level required in order to produce this quality of work certainly takes some investment of time and effort.

Ultimately, any goal which is worthwhile in this life requires a significant apprenticeship, and 3D animation should be considered no different to this. But the incentives for achieving competence and excellence in 3D animation are multifarious, and perhaps the most obvious of all is that high-quality 3D animators are the most highly sought-after artists in the world.

 

The underlying reasons for this are extremely straightforward. Producing quality 3D animation is difficult, even with the best tools in the world at your disposal. The great thing about Natural Front is that it makes what is otherwise an extremely laborious and challenging process considerably easier for everyday animators. Once you have done your apprenticeship and learned the tools of the trade, Natural Front can help you take your animation to the next level very rapidly.

Making animation that is believable and entertaining requires a lot of skill and practice. But any animator with his or her salt will tell you that if you invest enough time in the practice that the ultimate rewards, in terms of both what you achieve and the sense of achievement itself, completely outweigh the initial investment.

Keen observation may be the most important skill to develop as an animator. Observe life around you, and how things move. Make sketches, take notes, and try to give meaning to what you observe. Don't study just animation. Learn from film, theatre, and even comic books to understand how poses and movement create moods and nonverbally communicate messages.

And remember not to ditch the classics. Animation has changed significantly, and 3D animation has obviously become the dominant form of animation. But that doesn't mean that the traditional 2D animators should be confined to the garbage can of history. It is valuable to pay attention to such great as Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera, and doing so can very much aid your own 3D animation work.

The bottom line with 3D animation is that nothing worth doing comes easy, but if you can invest enough time in it then a piece of software such as Natural Front can ensure that the 3D animation process is made as smooth and absorbing as possible for those who have mastered their craft.



3D Animation Brings Bach Composition to Life

clock May 19, 2015 20:07 by author christpaul

3D animation is increasingly finding itself being utilised in unusual areas, but rarely is it used to bring to work the life of a composer who died over 200 years ago.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. Bach is one of the most renowned classical composers in human history, and his work has lived on for generations of music lovers to admire and enjoy.

Recently, visual artist Alan Warburton used CGI neon lights to create a haunting animation inspired by Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s recording of Bach’s masterpiece. The result is mesmerising. The animation took ten weeks to complete and involved creating 3D light models that responded to every note Aimard played.

 

This is a particularly innovative use of 3D lighting models to create a unique 3D animation. While there is nothing unusual about placing animation as a juxtaposition to music, achieving this absorbing effect in this innovative manner takes a certain amount of imagination and invention.

One should also appreciate the amount of effort that went into this particular production. Each frame took 15 minutes to create because of the thousands of calculations that had to be made to make the setting look life-like. But the final result achieved by this unique 3D animation was such as to make the process entirely worthwhile.

It would be natural to wonder why Warburton went to such lengths to acknowledge the music of Bach. The answer is that the video was commissioned by Sinfini Music to celebrate the launch of Aimard’s new recording of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier on Deutsche Grammophon. Warburton apparently realised early on in the project that it was essential to keep the 3D animation involved as simple as possible in a physical sense, in order to ensure that viewers can concentrate fully on the musical compositions.

However, just because the final product was relatively simple, it does not mean that the 3D animation techniques involved were the same. This was an incredibly labourious process which could only be completed as a labour of love by someone who is incredibly passionate about 3D animation.

Bach's keyboard masterpiece, also called 'The 48' includes Preludes and Fugues in all 24 of the major and minor keys. Bach published Book I of the work in 1722 and Book II in 1742. The piece is one of the monoliths of the piano repertoire. The work was first recorded in the 1930s by Edwin Fischer and has since been released by composers ranging from Glenn Gould to Angela Hewitt. 

Meanwhile, 3D animation continues to breakthrough new boundaries and achieve exciting, pioneering effects and collaborations.



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.



Indian Cricketer Virat Kohli Launches 3D Animated Avatar

clock November 22, 2014 10:20 by author christpaul

The Indian cricketer Virat Kohli is already a famous name and figure within the subcontinental Asian nation. But a recent innovation on his website is aiming to improve his image and reputation still further.

Kohli recently unveiled a 3-D animated character which will form a major part of his website going forward. This new animation will be used in conjunction with a newly unveiled logo on this new website which aims to further advance the batsman’s image.

Image rights of sportsmen are incredibly important in the modern era. Many sports personalities make far more money through their off-field activities that they do actually playing the sport from which they made their name. For example, the tennis player Roger Federer makes tens of millions of dollars every year from products he endorses, such as the Gillette razor range and Rolex watches.

Kohli  is already a hugely popular figure in cricket-mad India. Since the retirement of the legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian public have been looking for a new hero in what is regarded as its national sport (officially the national sport is field hockey). The dashing and exciting play of Kohli has fitted the bill in this regard, and the middle-order batter is already well on his way to being one of the best one-day international batsmen of all-time.

The decision of Kohli to launch a website specifically based around animation shows the growing significance of the 3-D animation genre in developing economies such as India. The Indian animation industry is in fact extremely established, with the production of feature-Lancs animated movies in the world is the second most populous nation dating back to 1956. 

At this time animator Clair Weeks, who have worked on the imaginary Disney film Bambi, was invited to Films Division of India in Mumbai to establish and train the country's first animation studio as part of the American Technical Co-Operation mission. The first Indian 3D animated film was Roadside Romeo, which was a joint venture between Yash Raj Films and the Indian division of the Walt Disney Company.

 

These historic events set in motion the wheels of Indian animation, and today feature length animations particularly in the 3-D genre are commonplace within the nation. India is symptomatic of a growing popularity of 3-D animation, and it is significant that a hugely popular public figure such as Kohli has chosen this medium to extend his already burgeoning popularity.



Queen's Brian May Involved in New 3D Animation

clock November 6, 2014 06:35 by author christpaul

Brian May has had a varied career, most obviously being associated with his role as the lead guitarist in Queen. But unlike many rock musicians, May also turns his hand to a wide variety of other ventures. He is a very well qualified astrophysicist, vice-president of animal welfare charity the RSPCA and a keen stereoscopic enthusiast. The rock icon has certainly earned his award of being a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

But his latest venture is a departure even for May. The former Queen axeman has been involved in making the music for a new 3-D animated film. One Night in Hell, filmed in Dolby 3D and Dolby Atmos, is a devilish and spectacular animation short that tells the story of one skeleton's journey into a stereoscopic Hell. And the music for this ghoulish animation has been provided by May, with the trailer featuring one of the Queen’s greatest hits, We Will Rock You. 

Although Queen were a stadium rock band, May has for many years sought the opportunity to work with classical musicians. This has been exemplified by this latest animation project, as the former Queen nurdler has worked closely with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra to produce pieces for the film that are truly dramatic and atmospheric.

May's brief synopsis of the film is that a man is condemned to hell, and then plays music while confined to eternal damnation. The film actually builds on a French tradition which dates back to Victorian times, and May has stated that the movie is very historically accurate in this regard, and shows great authenticity and respect to this cultural element.

This is another example of the pull of 3-D animation in 2014. Increasingly artists from all manner of different walks of life want to work in this vibrant and exciting creative field, and the possibilities for collaborations in the future are clearly extremely high. One Night in Hell has already been premiered to the press, and media has reported that the animation involved in the film is both very technically impressive and visually appealing. 

One Night in Hell, will premiere on Sky 3D & Sky Arts on October 31st at 7:40 PM, and will be available from iTunes early November, £1.99 The film's soundtrack, composed by Brian May is now available on iTunes, £79p, and a related App, Diableries, is now available from the App Store, £1.99.



Curve Controlled Modelling and Natural Front Intuitive Pro

clock October 30, 2014 05:39 by author christpaul

Natural Front Intuitive Pro delivers a world-class 3D animation package at an extremely affordable price. But the software is particularly special due to its outstanding feature set.

At the head of this list is the outstanding curved-controlled modelling facility. This revolutionary element of Natural Front Intuitive Pro makes character animation ten times easier for professional animators and animation studios.

All professional animators know that facial animation is the hardest part of character modelling. Rendering facial expressions so that they are accurate and truly immersive is extremely time consuming. Yet it is also the most important part of animation. The ability to absorb an audience in a story can be completely predicated on producing absorbing characters. So although facial animation is a very labour intensive and time consuming process, and consequently quite often the most expensive part of an animation, it is not something to cut corners with.

Natural Front addresses this by introducing a completely new form of 3D character animation software. ‘Curve-controlled modelling’ makes the whole process of making world-class facial animations considerably easier by negating a lot of established 3D modelling techniques that are both time consuming and  laborious.

Curve-controlled modelling is intended to render a variety of customary animation techniques obsolete. For example, this new advanced procedure makes the well-known technique of 3D rigging largely redundant, at least for facial animation. This can be a real boon for a professional production, as 3D rigging is known to be one of the most labour intensive procedures involved in animation.

Our recent professional release enhance this process still further, making it slicker and even more powerful. Whereas once upon a time it was a necessity to graft a series of complex joints onto a ‘rigged’ skeleton in order to achieve a 3D facial animation of any real quality, Natural Front Intuitive Pro renders this process obsolete.

Aside from our new animation techniques and the quality of our software, we also provide ourselves on having a constant two-way dialogue with customers. We seek continual feedback from professional animators on Natural Front Intuitive Pro, and are constantly looking to upgrade and improve the software. Many of the qualities that the program processes today have resulted from this feedback loop, and it’s something that we will always engage in with customers.

We’re also so confident about the quality of Natural Front Intuitive Pro that we offer a 30 day free trial. So feel free to download it and try it out for the first time today!



Researchers Create 3-D Model of the Universe

clock October 22, 2014 04:17 by author christpaul

3-D animation has achieved many notable things, but a recent animation produced by researchers led by the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy in Germany has truly documented an epoch changing event. The 3-D animation produced by a raft of scientists reveals the entire evolution of galaxies within our solar system over 10.8 billion years.

This is the first time that the cosmic web has been mapped at such a vast distance, and 3-D animation has been absolutely instrumental in this process. The researchers involved in the project insist that carrying out such research helps us to better understand how our known universe took shape. In addition, this animation is also helping scientists predict when galaxies will appear in the future.

The research was led by Dr Khee-Gan Lee from the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy in Germany, which has been involved in researching our universe throughout its existence. In addition to the unique 3-D animated approach that the researchers took, they also used techniques similar to X-ray computer-tomographic, often used for medicinal purposes, in order to craft this unique production.

The lead researcher on the project, Dr. Lee, stated that this was the first time in human history that light had been used to map the universe in such a unique 3-D fashion. Previously models of the universe have focused on one or two dimensional cosmic webs, but by producing this unique 3-D animation researchers are able to better understand relativity between elements of the universe.

Scientists involved in the project claim that a better understanding of the past will help researchers understand the future of the universe in more depth. This 3-D animation provides a fascinating glimpse into the way that giant structures which extend across millions of light-years are formed. Dr. Lee insisted that the 3-D animation involved will enable scientists to understand the physics that govern galaxy formation, which could eventually lead to us truly understanding the future direction of the universe.

With this unique 3-D project having already been a significant success, researchers from the institution have already stated that they intend to repeat the experiment later this year, possibly in December. This new project will map an even larger segment of the known universe, according to those involved.

As 3-D animation continues to develop, such applications in science, medicine and other important human disciplines are certain to grow.



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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