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.

1972 Pixar Hand is Foundation for Entire 3D Animation Industry

clock February 2, 2015 18:23 by author christpaul

All technologies are reliant on pioneers to a certain extent, and 3D animation is no exception to this rule. We look back at the heritage of animation and view some films from the past as rather simplistic, particularly compared to the hugely detailed 3D animation environments running in HD at 60 frames per second which are commonplace today. But the complicated and absorbing 3D contemporary animations that we see on the silver screen could not have been achieved without standing on the shoulders of giants.

In 1972, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and his graduate school colleague Fred Parke created a short film called “A Computer Animated Hand”, which is considered by many to be the first example of 3D digital rendering. Of course, it looks extremely crude by today's standards, but this film actually paved the way for the 3D animations of today. One need hardly mention the fact that Pixar has since become a massive name in the industry.

This original 3D animation which is getting on for half a century in age began by casting a plaster model of a human hand. This was then split up into 350 polygons, which were diligently measured and entered into a computer simulation. From this point, the world’s first 3D animation was meticulously created, with Catmull developing a basic animation program in order to render and manipulate this newly created digital image.


Logistically laborious though this was in itself, transferring the rendered images to film was a whole other ordeal, without computer hardware powerful enough to render the images at speed. In a world in which staggeringly sophisticated programs such as Natural Front Intuitive Pro make this type of process extremely easy, we perhaps forget how difficult it used to be to translate rendered images into usable film. 

Computer hardware has improved exponentially in a very short period of time, and this makes the process of rendering 3D animations relatively straightforward today. Nonetheless, it is still a processor-intensive process, so one can imagine several decades ago that this took quite some time. Indeed, individual frames of the 1972 Pixar movie had to be photographed from the computer’s monitor and then strung together into the film.

The legacy of the movie, aside from the impact it had on the 3D animation industry, was that it made an appearance on a monitor in the 1976 film Futureworld, the sequel to Michael Crichton’s Westworld. But this wasn't the only wife-reaching impact of this group 3D animated hand. Catmull went on to lead the computer graphics group for LucasFilm which was later purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986 and turned into Pixar, which produced the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, in 1995.

Thus, this is a little-known but extremely important animation which occupies a special place in the history of the genre.

Bournemouth University Pioneers 3D Animation Courses for Budding Animators

clock April 10, 2014 13:57 by author christpaul

In a world in which the 3D animation industry makes billions of dollars for some of the most prominent companies in the world, it’s hardly surprising that young people are looking to get into the animation industry as a sensible career move.

Thus, adolescents are increasingly seeking a way to get a foot in the door in the world of animation, and studying the subject, particularly 3D animation and visual effects, is proving to be a common approach to breaking into this exciting and profitable industry.

Within the field of 3D animation, the British university of Bournemouth has marked itself out as a leader in educating students in its critical aspects. The university has been very much a pioneer in running courses in 3D animation and particularly 3D animation, and with its alumni working on blockbusters like Avatar and Gravity, Bournemouth University is very much a force to be reckoned with.

As a result of the success of its most prominent graduates, Bournemouth University has gained a reputation as one of the best centres in the UK for anyone wanting to get into VFX and 3D animation, whether graduates wish to go on to work in fields of cinema, animation or video games. Increasingly there is a lot of overlap between these areas, as video games become more cinematic and both animated and live action movies attempt to attract gamers through their doors.


Graduates from Bournemouth have recently worked on the sci-fi blockbuster, and hugely acclaimed movie ‘Gravity’, while more than 50 graduates and former Bournemouth University academics worked on the Oscar-winning visual effects for Avatar. Elsewhere, other Bournemouth graduates have gone on to work within the animation studios of Disney and Pixar, and a plethora of students have secured positions within the flourishing British video games industry.

While traditional educational paths are still open to students, and still perfectly valid, the rich cultural society which exists today has naturally led to large numbers of young people wanting to work within creative industries. Young people today grown up in an environment in which they have never had more choice regarding entertainment, and many are inspired by popular 3D animation and 3D animated video games to want to work in this field to help play their part in creating the next generation of masterpieces.

In a world in which the animation industry is worth billions of dollars, universities and colleges are increasingly offering students an opportunity to study with a view to a career in 3D animation. As 3D technology becomes more sophisticated in the coming years, it seems highly likely that this will become ever more popular in the coming years.

Pixar to receive prestigious 3D animation award

clock December 16, 2013 19:39 by author christpaul

Pixar Animation Studios has become a name synonymous with 3D animation, the biggest company in this increasingly important genre. Their commercial success since they were founded back in 1986 has been truly astounding, and many of their 3D movies have become critically acclaimed classics, as they have established themselves as an absolutely great movie studio.

Their achievements over the years have secured Pixar a huge amount of awards and accolades. And it has been recently announced that Pixar is to receive another award to add to the pile in the coming months.

The International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society will honour Pixar Animation Studios with the Sir Charles Wheatstone Award for creative excellence. This award be presented to the animation studio at the fifth annual Creative Arts Awards on 28th January at Warner Bros. Studios. This particular award is handed out to give recognition to outstanding achievements in 3D movies, TV shows and 4K technology.

The CEO of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, is being recognised, along with the whole team at Pixar, for their outstanding achievements both in technical animation as well as storytelling. Pixar is by far the most successful studio in this particular award having already received four previous gold Lumiere Awards from the Society. Pixar’s ‘Brave’ was pciked by the Society as the best animated 3D feature of 2012, and the studio was also awarded prizes for the best 3D short film for three consecutive years with 2010’s ‘Partly Cloudy’, 2011’s ‘Day and Night’ and 2012’s ‘La Luna’.

Pixar’s success story has continued this year as they released the latest in the ‘Monsters’ franchise of movies, when ‘Monsters University’ was released. There were no signs that the momentum of this series had slowed down in any way, as ‘Monsters University’ managed to take over $743 million worldwide.

The studio has been consistently praised for the quality of its character models and animations, and this is something that we also recognise to be of particular importance at Natural Front. Our curved-controlled modelling technique allows the highest quality of 3D character and facial animations to be achieved, but with the minimum amount of fuss, effort and expense. This means that professional animators of all budgets can produce world-class character animation to engage and enchant audiences.

The success of Pixar is indicative of the success of 3D animation as a genre, and we at Natural Front are extremely enthusiastic and positive about the future of 3D animation, and of playing an active part in it.

Hugely successful 3D animation Monsters University gets home release

clock November 10, 2013 14:41 by author christpaul

One of the most beloved 3D animated movies in the history of the genre has recently made its way to Blu-ray. Monsters University, one of the iconic Disney corporation’s biggest hits and most loved movies has recently seen a release on both high-definition Blu-ray and the more populist DVD format.

Directed by the veteran Pixar operator, Dan Scanlon, Monsters University did extremely well for Disney, making nearly $275 million in the United States, and close to $750 million in worldwide box office grossing since its release in June. It is thought that DVD sales could push the overall money made by this 3D animation over the magical $1 billion threshold.

A prequel to some of the previously released Monsters movies, at least in terms of the films’ timeline, Monsters University attracted some of the most renowned vocal talent in the movie business to voice the adorable three-dimensional characters who appear in the film. Thus, in the course of watching Monsters University we hear from the likes of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Joel Murray and Peter Sohn.

This particular DVD release has been particularly praised for the extent of bonus material which comes on the disc. This is of particular interest with regard to animated movies, as people are generally fascinated by how the 3D animation process is achieved. The Monsters University release contains a great deal of material looking at the animation process, and really casting a spotlight on all the hard work that goes on beyond the scenes of such a movie to bring the characters to life via 3D animation.


Of course, any 3D animated movie is hugely reliant on the quality of the animation techniques that go into its production. And any professional animator will tell you that producing convincing character animations, particularly facial animations, is an extremely challenging process. Not merely is it extremely demanding for animators to produce detailed 3D animated characters, but the expense to the production can also sometimes be prohibitive.

There are no such concerns with Natural Front, because ethos behind the software from day one was to create a 3D animation system that delivers both high-quality 3D facial and character animations at a price point that doesn’t exclude small or medium-sized enterprises. We believe we have achieved this, and the instigation of such innovative technology as curved controlled modelling has also enabled us to make the animation process much easier.

With Natural Front, creating absorbing 3D characters such as those featured in Monsters University becomes much easier and more affordable. It is a very powerful implement in the right professional animator’s hands.

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