Are Female Faces Really Harder to Animate?

clock August 30, 2016 11:19 by author EliciaT

 

Some of the most experienced and renowned animators in the industry struggle with facial animation. A few were publicly criticized after they made statements claiming that animating facial expressions for female characters is more difficult than male characters.

Right before Frozen was released in 2013, Disney animator Lino DiSalvo sparked controversy after stating that, "Historically speaking, animating female characters is really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty."

Even Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio caused some to stir in their seats at the E3 Conference when he said that women weren’t in the Assassin’s Creed: Unity because, “It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets.”

Structurally, women and men have the same types of muscles, bones and anatomical layout responsible for creating facial expressions. So, from a technical perspective, are women really harder to animate?

There are thousands of facial movements.

First, facial animations have traditionally been one of the hardest parts of animating, regardless of gender. This is because humans have thousands of facial expressions and a slight movement can alter their entire meaning. In fact, University of California researchers once mapped over 3,000 facial expressions, but that doesn’t represent the full scope of possibilities.

The vast range of expressions is part of the reason why facial animation has traditionally been a challenging process. But, in reality, female facial expressions aren’t harder to animate than men.

Facial animation tech and processes are evolving.

For many animators, animating facial expressions on both male and female 3D models is an equally intricate and complex challenge. But, thanks to advances in animation technology, 3D animators have more options for accelerating and improving the process. If animators use the right tools and processes to animate their characters, facial animation is relatively simple.

NaturalFront’s Facial Animation software drastically simplifies traditional animation processes and produces life-like facial expressions. In minutes, hobbyists and professional 3D animators can create female and male character models and animate them in a few mouse clicks. Because NaturalFront technology uses photos of real people to generate high-quality 3D facial models in seconds, the animations are virtually limitless and incredibly life-like.

The core innovation of NaturalFront software is its outstanding ability to very efficiently simulate the complex movement of different muscles, as well as their interactions. As we know, women and men have the same types of muscles that produce expressions. Thus, what has been unimaginable is now unavoidable – you can animate female faces as easily, fast and realistically just as male faces, by using NaturalFront software.     

Instead of guessing how to rig, morph or manipulate your 3D model to make the expressions that you want, you can choose from a wide library of facial animations. You can also customize and tweak animations to be as subtle, pretty, ugly, exaggerated or as human as you want. But, because you start with an anatomically representative 3D model, the hard labor and guesswork that used to go into creating facial animations disappears. Instead, you can easily and efficiently create animations that are more diverse, human and realistic, regardless of gender.

Would your mum be more difficult to smile to you than your dad?

 



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.

 

 



Harry Potter 3D Animation Being Prepared for Release

clock September 3, 2015 14:02 by author christpaul

When the media reported recently that Harry Potter was about to appear in a new movie incarnation, fans of the hugely successful book series were extremely excited about the prospect. Harry Potter has been one of the success stories of the publishing industry in recent years, and the series of movies sponsored by the character of also proved to be hugely popular.

The Harry Potter movie in question confirmed this suspicion of analysts, who expected a new release in the series in the foreseeable future. But the movie in question has also confounded the expectations of both critics and fans alike, as the movie in question is set to be a feature length 3D animation.

"Troll: The Rise of Harry Potter Jr." will be produced by SC Films International, and it is reported that the animation process is already well under way for this film. However, considering that canonical material from the Harry Potter universe is now in rather short supply, it is notable that the Harry Potter in this story is not actually the original character. This Harry Potter and his son, Harry Potter Jr. are characters from the 1986 film, "Troll," a movie that came out years before the renowned author released her book about the Boy Who Lived. 

So this Harry Potter picture has certainly confounded the community of fans, but it will be interesting to see whether it gains traction with traditional Potter followers. The story of "Troll" revolves around Torok, a wizard turned troll who wanted his old life back. In order to do that, he possesses Wendy Potter, a young girl who recently moved into a new apartment complex in San Francisco. The studio working on the movie states that it will be a very advanced 3D animation when it is released, and it will be interesting to see whether they can deliver on this promise.

With Harry Potter having made billions of dollars at the box office, the opportunity to promote this new animated movie will certainly be exciting for the studio. The fact that it effectively comes from a completely different universe could suggest that this animation will fail to attract the sort of audience that Harry Potter material typically takes for granted. Additionally, although "Troll" did quite well in the box office, it was generally panned by critics. So it will be a challenge to repeat the success of the live-action Harry Potter films. 

There are reports that Academy Award winning actress, Patricia Arquette, will be voicing the evil witch while Baxter Bartlett is being considered to voice the young Harry Potter Jr. This could being an animated movie to look out for in the next couple of years.



3D Printing Once Again Provides Animation Template

clock August 26, 2015 13:51 by author christpaul

As 3D animation continues to develop, it seems that 3D printing is playing an increasingly important role in the industry. These two naturally collaborative technologies are being utilised concurrently on a wide variety of different projects, and yet another one has come to light recently.

The studio behind stop-motion comedy Robot Chicken used a 3D printer in order to produce several aspects of the animation, and the experience animation studio has emphasised the advantages of this method. 3D printing has enabled Stoopid Buddy Stoodio to produce a large amount of the puppetry and animation work involved in the project in-house. And there is no longer the need to mould and craft everything on-site; even a job such as cleaning up complex parts becomes obsolete.

Thomas Keiser, the director of design for Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, stated that 3D printing has enabled the animation studio to mass produce animation elements, since the machine utilised has a large build volume. Keiser was speaking to 3D Printing Industry, an important industry publication that documents developments in this burgeoning industry.

 

Animators at the studio utilised an EnvisionTEC Perfactory 4XL printer in order to achieve the unique animation technique. The studio was already familiar with this particular printer, which ensured that the production could be kept as affordable as possible. It is important to emphasise that despite some recent innovations in the niche, 3D printing remains an incredibly expensive technology. Although animators are now achieving 3D extremely impressive results with 3D printing, it will certainly be beyond the price point of many small and medium animation studios.

Using the printer, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios were able to design the action figure puppets that give the shows their signature look with more precisely honed mechanical properties, engineering them for their own creative needs. The studio has become more involved with producing prototype toys and props for television commercials as a result of their pioneering work with 3D printing, and this has opened up new opportunities for the studio.

3D printing is one example of modern 3D animation techniques that has played a major role in the development of the industry as a whole. There is no question that 3D animation is the most important new technology in contemporary filmmaking, and continues to have a profound effect on Pro software package proving popular with studios all over the world.



Natural Front Intuitive Pro - Next Edition Taking Shape

clock June 22, 2015 12:43 by author christpaul

Here at Natural Front we are continually working at improving our software, and we expect to have some exciting announcements in the near future regarding our proprietary Intuitive Pro package. Our experienced team of engineers and animators has been working behind the scenes in order to improve our already outstanding animation software, and we anticipate that it will only be weeks until we can announce the latest improvements to the 3D animation package.

This is always an exciting time for everyone at Natural Front, and we are certainly enjoying putting the finishing touches to our latest product. But we always like to remind people at this time that feedback from our customers is particularly important to us. Natural Front and the Intuitive Pro software package have been built on the principle of a constant two-way feedback loop, with the software always treated as a beta build that is being continually updated.

So as much as we are looking forward to releasing our latest version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, we're also looking forward to hearing from our extremely valued customers regarding their perspectives on the software.

One particularly exciting aspect of the new Natural Front software is the possibility that it offers related to video games. We are currently in the process of developing a plug-in for an extremely popular game engine, which will provide Natural Front users with even greater convenience. There is, of course, an extremely strong relationship between video games and 3D animation, and we're looking to develop and grow this aspect of the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software in the coming years.

We're also pleased to announce that the United States Patents and Trademark Office has just granted us another patent, and we will be utilising the underlying technology related to this in our new release. We can't say too much about this latest innovation at this point in time, but we are extremely confident that it will be something our customers simply love using.

So we're all hyped for this latest Natural Front Intuitive Pro release, and anticipate being able to release some more explicit information to customers in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can rest assured that we're working extremely hard to develop the software, and that we have taken on board all the comments that we have recently received from our customers. In the meantime, we hope you're enjoying using the existing version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, and we look forward to hearing more feedback from our valued professional animators in due course.



Wearables, Salvador Dali and the Future of 3D Animation

clock May 3, 2015 22:31 by author christpaul

The recent release of the Apple Watch will ensure that wearable technology becomes a very big deal in the near future. Whenever Apple releases a new consumer electronics device, one can be certain that the entire niche related to it will get a massive boost. So although wearables have yet to become a mainstream niche, we can certainly expect this to happen in the foreseeable future.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note that Vulcan Jewelry-founder Desmond Chan has recently created a collection of 3D printed wearables. If this sounds like a surreal concept, then it is perhaps appropriate, as it was apparently inspired by the surrealist master himself, Salvador Dali. The line of wearable art, titled the Tree in Cross collection, plays with the concepts of contradiction, illusion, floating objects and the stuff of dreams so often found in Dali’s work. 

 

The whole collection was sculpted using Autodesk Maya, which Chan prefers since it supports polygon modeling, and then 3D printed in sterling silver with white rhodium plating. Chan considers 3D printing a brilliant technology for producing a unique product based on my original concepts. Some of the ideas can be hard or expensive to achieve when it comes to traditional product development and 3D printing can also be integrated into on-demand production pipelines to reduce inventory costs.

There is already a well-established link between 3D printing and 3D animation, and this already symbiotic relationship is set to be extended further with the advancement of wearable technology. 3D animation has a definitive role to play within this particular niche, and the popularisation of wearable technology as a viable mobile niche will only advance this further still.

The combination of 3D printing, wearable technology, 3D animation and the development of 3D cinematic and televisual technology indicates a very bright future for 3D animation as a niche. 3D is becoming an absolute buzzword in numerous connected industries, as not only does this provide potential for 3D animation as an innovative technology, but it has also led to individuals working with 3D animation who would never have considered it previously.

In terms of the design process, Chan’s inspiration comes from everywhere, from Modern Art to things he sees on the street. “I love to mix new technology with art to create another form with a new definition,” he has stated. It is innovators such as Chan who will play a big role in the development of 3D animation as it continues to expand, diversify and grow in commercial importance.



Windows 10 to Embrace 3D Animated Tiles

clock April 28, 2015 06:59 by author christpaul

As Microsoft attempts to resurrect the image of its flagship Windows operating system, the corporation has interestingly decided to include 3D animation as part of this process.

One of the most notable new aspects of the Windows 10 operating system will be 3D live tiles. This feature has been leaked ahead of the release of the operating system later this year. Tiles have previously been criticised for being slightly dull in the technical preview of Windows 10, but this new setup utilising 3D animation is intended to make the appearance of the software more attractive.

 

This latest version of the Windows 10 operating system is intended to work across multiple devices. Therefore, with Windows 10 desktop and mobile being effectively the same OS, it is expected that this 3D animated tile system will show up on mobile platforms eventually. This new 3D animated approach appears to be a further move away from the original bland starkness of Metro to something  a little more lively.

Windows has, of course, been the market-leading operating system for many years, with Microsoft having developed something of a blanket control over the OS marketplace. But in recent years, Windows has been increasingly challenged by the prevalence of mobile as an important competing platform, and the runaway success of Apple, which is eating into its dominant market share.

Nonetheless, Windows is still installed in 88% of desktop computers in the world, and despite a disastrous Windows 8 release, Microsoft predicts that this latest and greatest version of the operating system will reinstall the reputation and prevalence of Windows.

The fact that Microsoft has turned to 3D animation to spruce up this critical piece of software is indicative of the importance of the genre. Although truly immersive 3D has yet to really emerge as a mainstream technology, it is still predicted that this will occur in the near future. Certainly the cinema industry is heavily invested in this prognostication, and it is expected that once 3D film can be delivered without audiences needing to wear glasses, that it will begin to make a serious impact. 

For the time being, 3D animation remains one of the most immersive ways to deliver a 3D experience in both computing and cinema. This is probably one of the foremost underlying reasons for the success of 3D animation commercially, and the decision of Microsoft indicates that this will not change in the foreseeable future.



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.



University of Maine at Farmington to Offer 3D Animation Course

clock March 14, 2015 16:51 by author christpaul

As 3D animation continues its inexorable rise worldwide, another educational institution is offering a valuable opportunity for students to gain a grounding in the subject. It seems that the University of Maine at Farmington will be offering a 3D animation course in May, thanks to the efforts of a local entrepreneur.

Steve Milligan of Sidney will be teaching "Introduction to 3D Animation," which will use industry-standard systems and programs to introduce students to the world of 3D animation. The intention is to use the course to buttress an attempt to establish an animation studio in the local vicinity. If successful, Milligan said, he hopes to continue teaching the course in the fall or spring semester.

Milligan has stated that the course will give students a strong grounding in the fundamental principles of animation, such as how objects and people move, before graduating onto more complex aspects of this diverse subject area.

A graduate of Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Milligan first became enthralled with 3D animation in 1995, after seeing the movie 'Toy Story.' This film, of course, has inspired so many people down the years, and still stands out as one of the most absorbing and successful examples of 3D animation on the silver screen.

The film inspired Milligan to learn the art of animation, despite the fact that he was never a particularly talented two-dimensional artist. But Milligan began following 3D animation work in the media and Internet, using an old copy of animation software and a lot of trial and error to begin modelling objects.

Soon he was a successful freelancer, and as his career has since built up with a variety of different successful jobs. At this time, Milligan began to fantasise about opening a local 3D studio in Maine. After negotiations with the local university, this course is an attempt to establish such a studio with nationwide prominence in the New England area.

Meanwhile, Milligan continues to build up a freelance portfolio in the hope that this can at some point to be converted into a brick and mortar studio. Milligan hopes that he has laid groundwork that might allow some Maine residents to follow in his footsteps.

With 3D animation being a multi-billion-dollar enterprise worldwide, there is no doubt that an increasing number of educational establishments will offer courses in the subject in the future. 3D animation is certainly here to stay, and more and more people now view this entertaining aspect of the arts as a viable career path.



Freeze 3D Animation Combines 3D Printing and Sculpture

clock March 12, 2015 13:00 by author christpaul

A state-of-the-art technique which keeps creeping into the world of 3D animation is 3D printing. Many predictions have been made about the capabilities of this technology, and it is already being utilised widely in fields such as architecture. The concept of a completely 3D printed city, full of buildings rendered via the technology, may seem fanciful, but already experts in the field believe that this will be possible in the coming decades.

Meanwhile, 3D printing continues to have an influence over animation. New examples of animations being created via 3D printing seem to emerge on an almost weekly basis. And in line with this, a pair of innovative animators have recently produced another striking animation utilising this technique.

The crew at Job, Joris & Marieke, have recently produced an animation entitled “FREEZE!”, Which is based around 100 frames from their looping CGI creation. The pair have effectively recreated an entire digital event in one frozen sculpture. The result is extremely striking, and constitutes an odd looking string of characters presented in a variety of poses.

3D printing may be a remote technology for many people at this point in time, but it is becoming more mainstream on a daily basis. It meshes particularly well with 3D animation, and this latest CGI-based creation very explicitly underlines the principles of animation.

 

Animations created with 3D printing objects are nothing new, but the ability to create one based on entirely still frames, and then turning that project into a sculpture, is an extremely rare and intriguing concept. Although 3D printing has many practical and utilitarian purposes, it is also worth pointing out that the technology can make a significant contribution to arts and entertainment as well.

The animation in question was produced by the two Dutch artists via the painstaking process of producing 100 separate frames. Using an Ultimaker 2 3D printer and liberal amounts of glue and string, artists Job, Joris and Marieke squeezed all the cells from a short animation into a single mise-en-scene.  

This revolutionary place will be exhibited at Amersfoort's Kunsthal museum on March 29th, where lovers of animation and artwork alike can experience FREEZE at close quarters. This groundbreaking animation is indicative of the extent to which 3D printing is now having an influence on the animation industry. And Natural Front Intuitive Oro offers the opportunity to scan 3D printed objects into its software, in order to create absorbing and spectacular results.



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