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?

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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.



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.

 

 



Why Rigging Is Bad For 3D Facial Animation - revisited

clock October 23, 2015 13:54 by author EliciaT

 

 

Animating realistic facial expressions in 3D is one of the most difficult tasks for animators to accomplish. Unlike the rest of the body, movement of the face isn’t controlled by a simple hierarchy system of joints and bones. Instead, dozens of complex muscle movements control facial expressions.

Furthermore, facial movements are subtle. A slight change in the position of the eyebrows or mouth can completely alter an expression--and the meaning we attribute to it.

For example, a smile may seem like a simple expression to capture. However, there are many different types of smiles, each with their own significance. In fact, psychologists at the University of California at San Francisco once mapped and studied over 3,000 facial expressions. 

Facial animation is challenging, because of the variety of expressions and the complex system of muscles that work together to create each one. Therefore, some of the traditional methods that animators use to control body motions simply are not suitable for facial animation.

What Happens When You Use 3D Rigging For Facial Animation

One of the common methods that animators use is 3D rigging. The way 3D rigging works is by constructing and attaching simulated bones and joints to a character model.

In many situations, 3D rigging is one of the most useful tools in an animator’s tool bag. It is useful when moving limbs and other body parts that rely on a hierarchy system.

However, for facial expressions, 3D rigging is often very time-consuming and inefficient. Animators first need to construct a rig that is based on a loose idea of the locations of muscle tissues. Then, they must make a guess (remember your last visit to a casino?) as to how those muscles move to create various emotions. The whole process can take weeks or months and can result in inaccurate and unrealistic facial expressions. How can the current animation process be improved?

Curve Controlled Modeling

 

An innovative technology called Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM) is here to substantially improve the facial animation process.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM) is a newly developed technology that is designed specifically for animating complex muscle movements. It utilizes a modeling tool called NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline Curve.

If the history of technology development is one of your favorite subjects, you might recall that some of the most important advancements are based on finding and using analogies. For example, the Theory of Gravity is based on the analogy between a falling apple and orbiting Moon. The Theory of Relativity is based on the analogy between on-the-earth standstill and out-of-this-world speed-up. Curve Controlled Modeling is also based on a powerful analogy that was recently discovered (can you guess analogy of what). How can this analogy help you? It can help you complete complex 3D facial animation much more quickly and at a much lower cost than traditional approaches. Once again, the Moon is not going around for nothing. 

Rigging animated models is still an important part of the 3D animation process. However, when it comes to facial animation, it is certainly not the most efficient option. Curve Controlled Modeling can help animators complete life-like facial animations while eliminating rigging time and formidable costs associated with them. To learn more about CCM technology, view our videos here.







 



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 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.



Natural Front Intuitive Pro 2.0 Animation Package Released to Expectant Public!

clock April 25, 2014 14:13 by author christpaul

After a lot of hard work and anticipation, we are delighted at NaturalFront that we have been able to release the next version of our NaturalFront software. NaturalFront IntuitivePro 2.0 is now live on our website, offering animators a powerful new package with which to create world-class, absorbing animations.

NaturalFront offers a great deal of animation flexibility, but the Natural Front Intuitive Pro 2.0 software is particularly adept at dealing with facial animation. This bugbear of many animators is made much easier and more intuitive with NaturalFront’s unique features and package, and there will be many a professional animator who is relieved to hear this news.

We believe that the unique technology offered by Natural Front Intuitive Pro 2.0 offers a vast and welcome departure from any other 3D facial modelling package. This is the fastest, slickest, smartest and easiest to use animation package on the market, and offered at a price which is affordable for the more moderate budget.

The new release is mainly aimed at professional animation studios, and has been designed with this market in mind. Consequently, it is possible to achieve world-class results with NaturalFront Intuitive Pro 2.0, with realistic character and facial animations a particular speciality of the software. We have built on our experience in creating facial animation software to make the process of producing 3D facial animations with our latest package even more simple and straightforward than in previous NaturalFront releases.

To encourage new users to try out this fantastic piece of software, we are offering a free thirty day trial of the new NaturalFront Intuitive Pro 2.0 edition. And as if this wasn’t enough of an incentive to find out about what Natural Front has to offer, you can even win a year’s free access to the full version if you offer us feedback and are subsequently selected as the lucky winner of our free prize draw.

NaturalFront’s curve controlled modelling offers you the opportunity to create fabulous results in an incredibly short period of time. Curve contolled modelling, a fundamental part of the Natural Front Intuitive Pro 2.0 release, makes numerous time consuming elements of 3D animation obsolete, saving you time, money and greatly assisting your animation productions.

To read more about our this latest NaturalFront Intuitive Pro 2.0 software, browse our updated website. You can download this fantastic animation package today and start taking advantage immediately of the 30 day trial offered. So what are you waiting for?



Natural Front Intuitive Pro Release Imminent

clock March 25, 2014 14:41 by author christpaul

We are very excited at the moment, as the release of the latest version of our NaturalFront software is imminent. We believe that this breakthrough technology will achieve a literal revolution in 3D facial modelling, and provide the slickest 3D animation package available, at the usual affordable price.

The world-class professional results that can be achieved with NaturalFront offers incredibly speedy animation solutions which are also intuitive and user-friendly. In this latest NaturalFront release we have built on our experience in creating facial animation software to make the process of producing 3D facial animations even more simple and straightforward than in previous NaturalFront releases.

We strongly believe that all professional animators at all levels of the ainmation industry can benefit greatly from the NaturalFront software. We are offering a free thirty day trial of the new NaturalFront Intuitive Pro edition as usual, and you can even win a year’s free access to the full version if you offer us feedback and are selected as the lucky winner of our free prize draw.

NaturalFront ensures that realistic 3D facial animation can be achieved at a fraction of the expense and time that must be invested in other approaches. With NaturalFront’s curved controlled modelling, you can produce double the work in half the time, and get incredible and absorbing results.

We have long since prided ourselves on ensuring that the NaturalFront package renders some of the most laborious animation techniques obsolete, but the new Intuitive Pro version achieves this even more profoundly. With NaturalFront Intuitive Pro there is no need for rigging, no need for morphing, no Need for key-framing and no need for motion capture. We’re sure that professional animators will be rubbing their hands with glee at that prospect!

Another unique element of NaturalFront is that we adapt and evolve the software on a lightning fast and ongoing basis based on your direct feedback. We value our customers extremely highly, and a continual feedback loop is at the heart of NaturalFront’s ethos.

We pride ourselves on this interactive approach – if you see something you'd like added to, or changed within, NaturalFront let us know - because we can usually get your idea created and updated quickly. And if we can’t, we will work tirelessly to do so in the medium-term. We greatly value our users and their feedback and consider our users as more than customers, rather we view all NaturalFront users as a genuine community helping build the software together.

To read more about our NaturalFront Intuitive Pro software, browse our website, or you can download a beta version if you want to check out the 30 day trial.

 



The New Natural Front Professional Release and Curved-Controlled Modelling

clock February 26, 2014 19:28 by author christpaul

With the release of the new professional version of the Natural Front software not long away, we just wanted to take a little time in this blog post to go into the standout features of this exciting piece of software in a little more depth. Whether you’re already familiar with a previous iteration of Natural Front, or completely new to the program, it would be in your interest to read on to find out more.

The whole ethos of Natural Front is to provide the highest quality of professional animation at an affordable price point. But perhaps the most notable and unique feature of the software is its ability to make the hardest part of animation considerably easier.

Any animator worth their salt will know that facial animation is the hardest part of character modelling. Rendering facial expressions so that they are accurate and convincing to highly demanding audiences is an extremely complex task. It is thus very labour intensive, time consuming, and consequently quite often the most expensive part of an animation.

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 enables 3D animators to create highly realistic facial animations via a ‘NURBS curve’. This process acts as a control mechanism which enables animators to simulate muscle movements. This new advanced procedure makes the well-known technique of 3D rigging largely redundant, at least for facial animation. There are surely few animators who will shed a tear at this prospect given how expensive, involved and labour intensive it can be!

The new professional edition of the Natural Front software enhances the Curve-controlled modelling element of the software further, making it slicker and even more powerful. Whereas once animators could look forward to grafting a series of complex joints onto a ‘rigged’ skeleton in order to achieve plausible 3D facial animation, Natural Front’s new professional release will make this a thing of the past, at least with regard to facial animation.

With the professional version of the Natural Front software there is no need for 3D rigging, and no need for morphing. Natural Front enables you to create photo-realistic 3D animation intuitively. Furthermore, another part of the software that we’re particularly excited about is the ability to create unlimited photo-realistic 3D models from one or more photos of a person. We anticipate this being extremely useful for our customers.

We’ll be bringing more updates on Natural Front in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes on this blog for the latest information.



New Natural Front Professional Release on the Horizon!

clock February 22, 2014 20:50 by author christpaul

We’re very excited to announce that the latest professional version of the Natural Front 3D animation software is nearly ready to be unveiled. We’re extremely proud of our latest product, and can’t wait for 3D animation professionals to get their hands on it, and for that matter to see some of the results that are produced with it.

The latest version of the Natural Front software still bears all of the hallmarks that professional animators have come to associate with the intuitive 3D animation package. Thus, Natural Front’s enhanced curved controlled modelling ensure that there is no need for time consuming and costly processes such as rigging and morphing. You can create world-class 3D facial animations for a fraction of the time and expense that would have been incurred previously.

This latest version of the software has stepped up the animation features within the program even further, to ensure that photo-realistic 3D animation can be produced without difficulty. We pride ourselves on making the Natural Front package as user-friendly as possible, so you can be reassured that this latest professional version comprises a highly intuitive user interface that makes producing the most absorbing 3D animation easy.

One of the features that we’re particularly excited about with the professional edition of the Natural Front software is the ability to create unlimited photo-realistic 3D models. These can be rendered from merely one photograph of a person, although several can be used if they are available. This is a really neat and exciting feature that is sure to create a big impression on those that witness it.

Natural Front is standalone technology which is not reliant on expensive and logistically complex techniques such as motion capture or tracking. However, in order to make the software as flexible as possible and meet all of the needs of our audience, it is possible to incorporate these techniques into Natural Front if you do desire.

 

The Natural Front software has been built with a unique 3D algorithm which has never featured in any other software program. This unique approach to 3D animation produces spectacular results that rival any major cinematic production.

We’re fully aware that professional animators are very passionate about their work, and also understand some of the frustrations involved in what is an extremely complex and involved process. Our goal from day one with Natural Front has been to produce software that takes all of the headaches out of creating 3D animation. We believe that our latest professional package achieves precisely this, and is our best yet, and we’re extremely excited about its imminent release.

Keep watching this space for more on this new release in the coming weeks.



New Chinese 3D animation to debut in Europe

clock January 7, 2014 04:15 by author christpaul

In an indication of the growing importance of the 3D animation genre, the first Chinese 3D animated feature length film ‘Boonie Bears’ (Chinese name: Xiong Chumo) is to hit screens all over the Western world in due course.

This new 3D animated picture has been produced by Fantawild Animation Inc., Mr. Cartoon Pictures, LEVP and Zhujiang Film. The storyline of the movie is centred around the relationship between two bear characters, with the main character Vick altering his relationship with an antagonist from enemy to friend as the pair go off in the search of lost treasure. 

Precedent already exists for this particular 3D animation, as ‘Boonie Bears’ already exists as an animated television series which is broadcast on Central China Television. The ‘Boonie Bears’ universe is set within an animated forest, and the storyline generally involves the heroes of the cartoon attempting to prevent the aforementioned Vick from attempting to cut down trees within the forest. ‘Boonie Bears’ was first shown in February 2012 and has become the most popular children's show in China, hence the fact that the makers have decided to produce a full length 3D animation of the television series.

There are similarities between the plot of the ‘Boonie Bears’ and a popular American cartoon series, ‘The Raccoons’, which centred around an elderly industrialist who also was obsessed with deforestation.

 

The worldwide animation market has grown over the last couple of decades, to the point today where it is quite simply one of the most important cinematic markets. Not only has the marketplace grown exponentially over the last few years, it it also predicted to grow rapidly in the near future as well. The global animation market is expected to grow from $122.20 billion in 2010 to $242.93 billion by 2016. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 12.94% from 2011 to 2016.

It is in such a culture that Natural Front was created in order to take advantage of the huge amount of interest in 3D animation. The huge amount of 3D character animation that is produced today is of particular relevance and interest to Natural Front, given that its curved-controlled modelling is particularly focused on making facial animation more intuitive and less expensive.

With facial animation the most time consuming and laborious element of 3D character animation, and consequently usually the most expensive, Natural Front’s technology enables you to create the highest quality 3D animations possible while saving you the rigmarole of some of the most labour intensive animation techniques. It really is something you must check out if you’re a professional animator looking to create world-class facial animations.



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