Is There A Skills Shortage In The Games & Animation Industry?

clock October 22, 2016 08:30 by author EliciaT

 

Think back to video games and animated movies from 5 or 10 years ago. If you take a look at the computer graphics quality of the 2003 Finding Nemo and compare it to the 2016 Finding Dory, the difference is astonishing. The same can be said for almost every film or video game series when compared to its predecessors. How has the 3D animation quality of films and games evolved so much in the span of a few years? Technology and innovative creators are revolutionizing the industry.

The requirements for a professional animator today are increasingly technical. According to a UK study, software and programming are two of the top skills needed in gaming, animation and visual effects. In fact, over half of the jobs in gaming look for coding and developing skills.

Software skills alone are a requirement for over 64 percent of positions in the animation industry and 31 percent in the video game industry.

Filling these open positions with talented workers with the right technical skills has been a difficult challenge for some. According to the same survey, 47 percent of gaming and animation employers state that finding qualified applicants with the tech skills to fill these roles has been a major hurdle.

Global Animation Outlook

From a global perspective, the skills shortage isn’t as great now as it was last year, but there's still a significant demand. In a LinkedIn report of the top skills that employers are looking for in 2016, game development went from 24 to 29 and computer graphics and animation dropped 20 slots from 17 to 37. It is also important to note that 8 of the top 10 skills were technical.

The need for professionals in the video game and film industries to have digital skills is greater than ever, because cutting-edge technology is in high demand. Creating a full length animated film or a video game often takes years at the biggest studios. Industry leaders are searching for ways to create beautiful productions more efficiently and thanks to technology it’s possible.

For instance, 3D printing has accelerated the modeling process in stop-motion. Facial animation has been one of the most challenging aspects for animators. But, software like NaturalFront’s Facial Animation Software uses advanced algorithms to make realistic and accurate facial animations. Facial models are generated in minutes by using photos of real human faces, which makes the process more efficient and lifelike. Once a facial model is created, it will have realistic animation built-in.

The game and animation industries are increasingly reliant on computer technology. As technologies evolve, studios will be on the lookout for tech savvy, creative professionals that not only keep up but innovate.



There Will Be a Toy Story 4: What to Expect

clock May 12, 2016 17:09 by author EliciaT

 

When the original Toy Story film was released in 1995, it revolutionized the animation industry. It was the first feature film to be created entirely by using computer animation technology. With Steve Jobs leading Pixar in its early days, the film was renowned for its technology innovation but also for its witty script, loveable characters and unsurpassed animation.

Now, over 20 years and three successful films later, the franchise has announced that it will be adding a fourth film to continue the tales of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the beloved toys.

After the neatly wrapped up and captivating ending to Toy Story 3, the possibility of a fourth film didn’t seem to be on the horizon. However, it is, and filmmakers have a huge challenge to create another film that stacks up to its predecessors. Toy Story has been one of the rare instances, in which each film━breaking box office records and receiving critical acclaim━has been a dazzling addition to the franchise.

Too often, franchises seem cursed to create sequels that are subpar or down-right terrible, especially when they keep adding more movies to the lineup. However, Toy Story 4 may be able to break the franchise curse again and delight us. Here’s why:

 

1. John Lasseter is directing again.

The famous animator and Disney executive will be the film’s director once again. Lasseter was part of the original story development team, alongside Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up) and Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E). The Chief Creative Officer of Disney has always been involved in Toy Story in some way but didn’t direct Toy Story 3. This time around, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack are reported to have joined the writing team.

 

2. Woody and Buzz will be back━along with some long-lost characters.

Since the beginning, the cowboy and astronaut have led the cast, and this time is no different. Disney hasn’t revealed too many cast details, but it is known that Tom Hanks and TIm Allen will be reprising their roles. Another character that was absent during Toy Story 3 will return━Bo Peep.

Woody’s former love interest was a prominent part of the first movie but seemed to fade out in Toy Story 2 and was missing from Toy Story 3. It is assumed that the toy had the fate of so many toys and was tossed aside or given away by her owner in between. It is likely that the next movie will reveal more about what happened to Bo Peep.

3. The story is unique.

Toy Story 4 has some high expectations to meet━Toy Story 3 is the third highest grossing animated film of all time and has a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, recent reports say that the film doesn’t plan on continuing the story from where the last movie left off. Instead, it is meant to stand on its own as a love story between Bo Peep and Woody as he sets off on a journey to find out what happened to her.

After three successful works in the Toy Story franchise, a fourth film wasn’t expected. But, now that it is officially happening, the excitement of fans and animators is mounting. Toy Story 4 will be released in June of 2018.



Top Contests for 3D Animators

clock March 27, 2016 18:32 by author EliciaT

Participating in media arts and animation contests is one way to help animators share their work with others, get constructive feedback, improve their skills and maybe even make some extra cash along the way. However, there are hundreds of contests out there, some not worth the time or entrance fees. As animators time is extremely valuable, so we have picked out some of the top contests that are worth checking out.

Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film

The Stuttgart competition is one of the biggest and most renowned animation events in the world. The competition runs in conjunction with the international film festival, which lasts for about six days and nights and brings animation companies and leaders from every corner of the globe. The festival doesn’t only focus on animated films either. It also has a category dedicated to computer games.

The festival takes place April 26 to May 1, 2016. Winners may have their productions showcased at the event and win a lump sum of cash.

Animation Block Party

 

If you are a young animator looking to get recognition on the east coast of the United States, then Animation Block Party could be the contest for you. The contest is international but has an entrance fee between $25 and $45, depending on when you register. The prizes aren’t as grand as some of the other contests on the list, but winners have a chance to share their media with a crowd in Brooklyn. The last day to submit your animations is June 3, 2016.

Nickelodeon Shorts Program

 

The TV network channel Nickelodeon has an annual international animation competition. The competition accepts ideas for programs and shorts that would be targeted to young kids. For animators that are in the early stages of a production, this contest may be more feasible. In order to submit their ideas, applicants must have strong visuals, which can be in the form of storyboards.

Winners receive production and development support to transform their pitches into animated shorts that may be aired on the Nick TV channel, website or mobile app. Interested applicants can view last year’s winners here. Submission is free and the deadline is April 15th.

Melbourne International Animation Festival

 

The annual festival in Australia has grown significantly since it first launched in 2001. It brings guests and entrants from all over the globe. If selected, winners are considered for other festivals like London, Sydney and New Zealand International Film Festival. The submission deadline has passed, but the festival takes place between June 21-28. 

Animayo

 

Resumen Animayo 2015 from ANIMAYO on Vimeo.

Animayo is an international festival and competition that includes animated films, video games and visual effects. It is held in different locations around the world, such as Los Angeles, Gran Canaria, Madrid and Mumbai. The application is free and winners may have their works promoted by the festival for up to five years after submission.

Animation can be a strenuous, time-consuming art form, so it is important to recognize when an individual’s hard work pays off. Participating in festivals and competitions gives animators recognition and opportunities to progress in the industry.

 



3 Predictions for the Animation Industry in 2016

clock January 19, 2016 15:48 by author EliciaT

 

Last year was a promising one for the animation industry. Animated film successes like Inside Out and The Peanuts Movie rejuvenated interest and demand for 3D animation. Furthermore, innovators made big leaps with 3D animation technologies. What can we expect to see in the animation industry in 2016?

Top animation companies will see box office and stock gains.

Stocks rose 10 percent last year for top media companies Dreamworks, Hasbro and Disney. Dreamworks successfully released Home, with $400 million in sales, while Disney broke records with Inside Out and Star Wars:The Force Awakens. Their improved performance could signal a promising start for animated endeavors in 2016.

There is an exciting lineup of films planned for all three companies in the next several years. Plus, partnerships with other brands suggests a positive outlook for the animation industry. Dreamworks recently announced that they are expanding their deal with Netflix with more original animated series and streaming in more than 130 countries. Towards the end of 2015, Hasbro also announced a partnership with Paramount Pictures to create films based on their iconic characters like G.I. Joe.

 

The bar for facial animation will be raised.

In 2016, you can expect facial animation and technologies to be even more sophisticated. Facial animation has long been one of the greatest challenges for 3D animators. However, in recent years animation technologies have focused on improving the process.

Last year, media corporations invested in technologies that improve the quality of facial animation, raising the bar for animated productions. Also, software like Naturalfront is making it easier for animators to create realistic, accurate facial expressions in a very small fraction of the time that it would have taken a few years ago.

Video game industry will experiment more with mobile devices.

Mobile devices have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. In fact, the number of mobile devices now exceeds the number of people on Earth. They are becoming commonplace in workplaces, schools, stores, and dozens of other places. It was only a matter of time before they started to significantly impact the video gaming industry too.

Simple games have long been a staple of mobile app stores. However, hardcore video games have yet to truly find a place on mobile devices. This year, that could change. Consoles will likely still remain relevant for years, but companies will start to explore mobile platforms as the demand continues to grow.

According to a 2015 study by Mintel, over half of Americans now play video games on mobile devices. Another study by the NPD Group found that 63 percent of children ages 2 to 17 preferred to play games on a smartphone or tablet. With growing demand, game companies can’t afford to ignore possibilities for mobile expansion.

This year will be an exciting one for animators and the animation industry. As new technologies push boundaries and films continue to draw crowds at the box office, it will be interesting to watch what 2016 holds for animation. What predictions do you have for the animation industry in 2016?






Best 3D Animations of 2015

clock December 9, 2015 21:11 by author EliciaT

Each year, talented 3D animators release their newest creations. This year there have been several fantastic 3D animations released. However, a few films stick out more than the rest. Below, we have compiled a list of the best 3D animations of 2015.

The Little Prince

The film, based on the well-known children’s book by the same title, uses a mixture of computer and stop-motion animation. The characters, lighting and style of animation are reminiscent of  Antoine de Saint-Exupery's illustrated novella. However, the main reason the film makes this list of top animations is its unusual and captivating use of color.

The film has become an international success at the box office. According to the latest report, it has sold over 12.5 million tickets at the international box office, becoming the biggest animated release for French filmmakers.

Inside Out

 

Inside Out follows the story of a girl named Riley as she deals with the typical struggles associated with growing up. It portrays her emotions━fear, anger, joy, disgust, and sadness━ in the form of 3D animated characters.

The film’s creators worked directly with renowned psychologist Paul Eckman to understand and capture the complex facial expressions. Eckam is responsible for creating the mathematical-based Facial Action Coding System that influences several animators when creating facial animations.

The Pixar produced film has received critical acclaim from a number of organizations. It recently received the 2015 New York Film Critics Circle Award for best animated feature, and has been dubbed as a possible Academy Award contender.

Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie from Blue Sky Studios is arguably one of the greatest animated features of the year. Bringing famous 2D characters and stories into the world of 3D animation is a difficult challenge for the most talented animators to tackle.

However, the film’s animators worked diligently to create the 3D film, while preserving its 2D roots. Creators studied the comic strips to guide them in their work. The facial animation was especially tricky, with animators using new rigging techniques, which they called UVN transformation, that allowed the eyebrows and eyes to slide around the face.

In the end, their hard work paid off. The film manages to capture the essence of the original 2D Charlie Brown comic strip world using 3D computer animation technology.

The Good Dinosaur

 

The Good Dinosaur is another 3D animated film released by Pixar this year. The film’s major feat is its hyper-realistic world. The animators used real-life resource material to create the breathtaking settings. They studied United States Geological Survey (USGS) data and other footage of environments and weather to create the scenes.

The film’s team of creators researched heavily to develop the artwork. The animation tends to outshine the story, but has given it recognition as one of the most beautiful creations of 2015. The film was recently named as a nominee for best animated feature in the 43rd Annie Awards.

The year has produced some shining examples of well-crafted and beautiful computer animations. As we anticipate next year’s releases, what 3D animations of 2015 do you think should be added to the list?






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

clock November 9, 2015 07:31 by author EliciaT

 

Even the greatest 3D animators struggle with mastering realistic facial animations. This is because the complex muscle system that controls numerous, subtle facial expressions is hard to capture using traditional 3D animation methods.  

Methods like rigging and morphing are often time-consuming and inefficient. As a result, some animators have tried to use motion capture, also called mocap. Motion capture for facial animation uses a system of wires, cameras, and sensors to capture the motions of real people and transfer them onto a 3D character model.

Major, renowned 3D animated productions like Avatar and characters like Gollum from Lord of the Rings were created using motion capture technology. Furthermore, the technique has transformed computer animation, primarily by making it possible to transfer human emotions onto a 3D character. However, motion capture has its own set of challenges and is not suitable for every situation.  

Why Isn’t Motion Capture The Best Choice?

There is a reason that major films have used motion capture in their animation process━they have huge budgets. To accomplish the highest quality, accurate video footage, it usually requires many cameras and an environment conducive to collecting motion data. The well-known 3D characters created by motion capture were made possible in a studio, fully equipped with hundreds of expensive, high resolution cameras.

The total setup and hardware costs can range from $200,000 to a million dollars. Animators can try to minimize the costs of motion capture by using cheaper and fewer cameras, however, the price is still high and the results can be lackluster.  

Furthermore, motion capture may make it easier by automating the process of transferring video of human movements into a 3D animation. However, it does not mean the entire process is automated. In order to make the animation flow smoothly, it still requires skilled 3D animators to manually clean up the animation. For animators that want high quality 3D animations while minimizing the cost and work time, there is another option━Curve Controlled Modelling.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Screenshot (40).png

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

NURBs curves are equations that allow animation software programs to animate the muscles of a 3D object. This allows for astonishingly complex movements to be generated very quickly, which is crucial to successfully animate facial muscles.

With CCM, all you need is a software program, and the knowledge of how to use it. It is relatively easy to get both of these things, while it usually more difficult to obtain the tools to correctly use motion capture. With the complex and feature rich software that is available on the market for CCM animation, you’ll be able to animate complex facial muscles without spending an arm and a leg on hardware and studio space.



Peanuts 3D Animated Movie is in the Can

clock September 10, 2015 15:59 by author christpaul

Possibly the most anticipated 3D animation movie in the coming years is the new Peanuts film. This is, of course, based on the iconic comic strip held very dearly in the hearts of many fans across the world. 

Peanuts is particularly poignant as it ran for several decades in publications all over the world, and was then promptly finished when its iconic writer, Charles M. Schulz, became too unwell to continue producing the strip. In the final edition of Peanuts, Schultz wrote of his illness and how proud and honoured he had been to produce the comic strip over many years.

So the new 3D animated version of Peanuts certainly has a challenge on its hands. To reproduce the vision and artistic achievement of Schulz in a 3D animated form will certainly be difficult to achieve, and the animators also need to satisfy a demanding audience that their product is truly authentic. This will be the first ever Peanuts products of any kind that has not involved its lauded creator and this naturally puts massive pressure on the animation studio.

Thus, team members at the Ice Age animation studio Blue Sky Studios were both excited and nervous when they were tasked with turning the iconic Charles M. Schulz Peanuts comic strip into a 3D motion picture, The Peanuts Movie, which opens November 6. There is a lot of anticipation regarding this new 3D animated movie, but at the same time it is hard to escape the feeling that the knives could be out for The Peanuts Movie if it fails to deliver the sort of authentic experience that fans will unquestionably desire and expect.

Speaking Thursday at CGI confab Siggraph, the team behind the film spoke before a clearly enthusiastic crowd of animation fans as it described how it translated Schulz’s subtle dots and pen lines — some of the world's most recognizable comic strip images — into the upcoming feature. Clearly this has been a labour of love, and the animation studio is all too aware of the faithfulness that it needs to show to the original comic strip.

However, animation supervisor Scott Carroll is confident about the work his team have done. Carroll summed up the effort that the team have made for The Peanuts Movie thus: “Our big lesson that we took away from this: If you have faith in your creative team, you can take on big risks.”

With just three months to wait until Peanuts is finally sprung upon an expectant audience, it'll be fascinating to see whether the animation studio has achieved the success that it is unquestionably hoping for.



Pixar Director Sees Rich Narrative Future for 3D Animation

clock June 24, 2015 21:50 by author christpaul

John Lasseter is an infamous name in the field of 3D animation, as he is the director of the Pixar animated masterpieces ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Toy Story 2’. Thus, when he offers his views on the future of 3D animation it is certainly worth paying attention.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Lasseter has presided over a revolution in filmmaking: as a director he has played his part in reasserting the fundamentals, no less, of the art of film itself. And as creative head, of Pixar then Disney (since 2006), he has reinvigorated the stale, corporate, executive-laden world of children’s entertainment.

While 3D animation is often emphasised as being a state of the art medium, Lasseter sees things differently. He suggest that 3D is just a new tool that the filmmaker has to help tell a story. In this sense, the Pixar legend just sees the technology becoming the mainstream of filmmaking, rather than a niche element of the industry.

Every technology that comes into filmmaking is first a gimmick. Think about sound with “The Jazz Singer” or the first colour or surround sound – it takes a while for filmmakers to understand how to use it. Most of the time, when people think about 3D, it is with images ‘coming out of the screen’ at the viewer.

 

But these are just the early days of 3D, and Lassiter believes that as people understand the technology even better than we do at the moment, that it will evolve rapidly.

There is certainly pressure on Pixar to produce something outstanding owing to its position in the industry. Pixar has become such a dominant name that it is literally synonymous with it. And under the circumstances, the billion dollar company which Pixar has become ensures that the industry constantly looks to the company for innovation.

But according to the comments of Lassiter, Pixar sees the future of the industry as involving 3D animation becoming a mature form of storytelling. Perhaps at times elements of 3D animation can still be gimmicky, but this pioneer of the industry has no doubt that this will not remain the case indefinitely. This is a medium which has huge potential to usurp existing forms of filmmaking and deliver an entirely new, more profound experience.

Considering the success of its biggest movies, there's absolutely no doubt that Pixar will play a central role in this, and don't bet against Lassiter himself producing another 3D animation classic.



New Report Predicts 18% YOY Animation Growth

clock June 18, 2015 21:00 by author christpaul

A recently published report on the future of 3D animation predicts that the industry will achieve an average growth rate of 18% between now and the end of the decade. The Global 3D Animation Software Market 2015-2019 research report highlights Adobe Systems Inc., Autodesk Inc., Corel Corp., Electric Image and Maxon as key players in the industry in the coming years, and emphasises a major role to be played by an increasing number of small animation studios.

The research of the report analyses over 60 countries in depth, as well as looking at the overall state of the global industry. Animation has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the last couple of decades, and 3D animation unquestionably plays a central part in this success story. As 3D animation has become more technically possible, so it has become the primary form of animation in the cinematic industry in particular.

Although the state of the industry is already in extremely rude health, the report in question suggests that the recent gains that 3D animation has made are set to increase in the coming years. And it will be technological innovations that will play a major part in this seismic growth.

For example, emerging technologies like photorealistic tools and toon-shading will trigger the use of hybrid animation, thus enhancing overall picture and visual effects. This technology is already widely used in computer games, as it retains the 2D appearance of animation, despite the inclusion of 3D technology.

Another major source of growth in the 3D animation industry will be video games. The gaming industry is already a huge utiliser of 3D animation techniques, but this is expected to expand rapidly once virtual reality technology becomes cemented in the industry. With Project Morpheus, Cculus Rift and Hololens all nearing completion, this is expected to be sooner rather than later, and could lead to a massive boost in the 3D animation marketplace.

However, the industry also faces challenges. Piracy and the availability of open-source 3D animation software will pose challenges for established market players. However, the increasingly diverse and geographically expanded commercial 3D animation marketplace, along with a more professional aspect to many areas of the sector, will ensure that the industry continues to grow significantly.

As Natural Front and its Intuitive Pro software continue to develop, evolve and grow, the company intends to play a massive part in this industry in the coming years. With 3D animation increasingly playing a role in a vast range of industries including architecture, building and construction, academia and education, defense and intelligence, healthcare and life sciences, manufacturing and design, the future looks extremely rosy for the Intuitive Pro 3D animation package offered by Natural Front.



Disney Utilizes 3D Animation to Bring Robots to Life

clock June 17, 2015 20:45 by author christpaul

To this day, animation is massively associated with Disney, and the corporation is continually trying to pushback the boundaries of what is possible. Disney has played a major role in the popularisation of 3D animation, and now it is looking to implement robotics at its Disney World locations.

Thus, the next time you see your favorite characters walking around Disney World, they might not be actors inside suits, but could be automated robots, instead. The scientific arm of the Disney corporation has recently made a massive breakthrough which will enable it to bring its animated characters to life in a unique way.

Engineers affiliated with the Disney research department in Pittsburgh were able to create a bipedal, walking robot, which was created in a way similar to 3D animation. Indeed, Disney built on typical 3D animation techniques in order to construct this robotic official intelligence.

Contemporary CGI animation studios are able to create different walks for every single character which appears on screen. Effectively, is this the way that animated characters develop particular traits and personality. Extremely complex animations can be applied to characters in order to give them a distinctive flavour.

This is now being transferred and personified into a walking robot, with researchers at Disney focusing on the physical aspect of 3D animation in order to transmit this to the AI robots. Co-author of the research, Katsu Yamane, stated that the researchers focused on the robot's saunter because, "walking is where physics matter the most. If we can find a way to make the lower half work, we can use the exact same procedure for the upper body.”

Recreating the animated walk wasn't without its difficulties. Among the problems encountered, were physical constraints of the robotic legs. The team had to design the legs to fit within the 3D animated character's form. Additionally, the engineers had to make compromises when it came to creating the ankles. Each animated ankle had nine degrees of freedom which couldn't be re-created physically without the robot falling down, so the same motion was achieved by adding additional motion in the hips and knees.

Disney is now working on implementing this on a wider scale, and this could have hugely positive implications for the corporation. Considering all of the huge amount of Frozen toys, for example, that Disney has sold, being able to create interactive robotic versions of these characters are genuinely convincing could be a positive breakthrough for Disney. 

Once more this an example of 3D animation opening up new avenues and commercial opportunities for a massive company and industry.



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