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?

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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.

 

 



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.



New Report Predicts Evolution and Growth for 3D Animation

clock December 4, 2014 18:29 by author christpaul

A recent marketing report indicates that the 3-D animation industry is to experience significant growth in the coming years. The report has been authored by Grand View Research, a U.S. based market research and consulting company, registered in the State of California and headquartered in San Francisco.

Grand View Research came to the conclusion that major industries will increasingly utilise 3-D animation in the coming years. These will include education, defence, and of course media and entertainment.

Additionally, 3-D animation is expected to particularly thrive in the newly industrialising economies of India, China and Japan. These three important Eastern nations are expected to drive 3-D animation market growth in the next few years.

While the story is one of growth, it is also one of evolution in the approach to 3-D animation. The coming years will see co-production strategies adopted by cable channel operators, TV broadcast companies, and multinational studios in order to increase market opportunities. As 3-D animations become more complex to produce as the industry develops further, collaborations between studios across international borders will become commonplace.

In such a context, the increasing use of 3-D animation software throughout the entertainment industry is almost inevitable. According to the report this will be a key animation market driver. There is also expected to be significant market growth in so-called hybrid animation; combinations of 2-D and 3-D animation techniques. This is expected to be a major trend over the next few years.

The San Francisco-based report focused on the world of animation up to 2020. And while there may be a great deal of growth in this period, it is also predicted that some truly revolutionary techniques and technologies will emerge. Among these will be the development of 4D animation technology, and propagating awareness of its potential is expected to spur adoption in the animation industry.

Meanwhile, 3-D applications will be utilised across a variety of industries, as stereoscopic 3D gaming and 3D character merchandise are among the factors expected to boost the 3-D animation market.

The report overall paints a picture of a very healthy landscape for 3-D animation, and one in which the industry both develops and becomes more diverse in nature. This will happen both at the level of technology, but also with regard to the geographical location of animation studios that are prominently involved in the industry. 

As 3-D animation grows, small and medium-inside animation studios will find it increasingly feasible to produce world-class animation using such software as Natural Front.



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!



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.



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.



Two Blast From the Past 3D Animations Currently in Production

clock September 20, 2014 14:18 by author christpaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus Offer Exciting 3D Future

clock August 23, 2014 21:50 by author christpaul

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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



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

clock August 17, 2014 21:25 by author christpaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Glasses should be removed.

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

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

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

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

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



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