How to Make Hollywood-Level 3D Facial Animation In Minutes At a Fraction of the Cost

clock June 8, 2017 15:03 by author EliciaT

Today, everything is fast-paced. It is not enough to be masterful at what you do. You have to also be efficient and productive. There are deadlines to meet and budgets to consider. Those working in the animation industry know these pressures all too well, especially when it comes to facial animation.

Facial animation has been a long pain point for the animation industry. Animators would spend weeks to build a 3D model and even longer to add animation and lip sync audio. The entire process was inefficient and oftentimes produced unsatisfactory results. NaturalFront’s Facial Animation Software was created to address this common problem that animators face.

With NaturalFront, everything you need to create top tier animations is already built-in. Realistic 3D facial models can be created from a photo in just a few clicks. Plus, models don’t just look lifelike. The software creates virtual facial muscles that control the model and move the same way that real muscles do when we smile, laugh, cry, talk and create thousands of other facial expressions.

As animators, you not only need to have talent and industry knowledge, you need to have the right tools. The technology that you use to create your animations can make or break you.

If you are using outdated methods of facial animation, it is holding you back. Blendshapes require countless models and painstaking construction. Facial rigging is almost never accurate even after hours upon hours of manual manipulation. Expensive cameras and equipment can set you back thousands of dollars without putting you in the driver’s seat. Does what-you-see really matter at all?

So, how do you create Hollywood-level animations at a fraction of the cost and time?

There are countless tools out there that claim to make your work easier, better, faster and cheaper. How do you know which tools are the real deal and right for you? The key is to find what you see is what you get tools.

With NaturalFront Facial Animation Software, what you see is what you get. The 3D model is a virtual clone of the photo. What you see in the photo is what you get in the software.

No matter what industry you are in, you need to learn how to do your job well, but you also need to learn how to do it faster. You have to be high quality and high efficiency. You may find yourself competing with the big budget studios when you have a much lower budget and resources. However, with innovative animation technology like NaturalFront, anyone can create realistic, production level animations.

 

If you want to create a professional level 3D facial animation with lip syncing at a fraction of the time, download NaturalFront today.



Best Places to Find Animation Tutorials

clock May 23, 2017 20:15 by author EliciaT

 

 

Whether you are an animation professional, a student or a hobbyist, you’ve probably watched a video tutorial at some point. Most of us learn best through show and tell. In fact, 65 percent of people are visual learners.

The beauty of computer animation today is that with determination and the right tools, you can learn online. There are an abundant number of resources to teach you how to use computer animation technologies and improve your animations. From novice to professional, these sites and platforms have some of the best animation tutorials to learn or brush up on your skills.

Lynda

Lynda is a paid online platform that hosts videos and tutorials on a wide range of topics. They have video courses designed to help someone learn from the ground up. If you have little to no previous animation knowledge, it can be a great place to start.

The Gnomon Workshop

If you’re serious about animation, check out The Gnomon Workshop. It has an extensive library of video tutorials, organized by category or instructor. They are professional quality and free.

Animation Mentor

This may be a paid online animation school, but it has instructors from top animation studios like Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar. Animation Mentor can also be a less expensive alternative than going to a traditional college or university and has more flexible payment options. It definitely costs less than going to Calarts, with an annual tuition cost that is close to $47,000, not including room and board.  

Animation Software Websites

If you want to learn a specific animation software like Unity or Autodesk Maya, check out their websites. They each offer free video resources and tutorials to help you learn how to use the software.

NaturalFront’s YouTube

If you want to learn more about our software and Unity plugin features, check out our YouTube channel. We go over key features like one-click animation and show how to upload photos and generate 3D facial models in just a few clicks. It is useful for those that want to improve the quality of their facial animations and accelerate the process.

In general, YouTube can be a useful, free resource for animation video tutorials. However, it also has a dark side. There are so many videos on the site that it can be difficult to know which are actually worth watching. When using YouTube for animation advice, make sure that the video is recent and that the version of software they are demonstrating matches with what you plan to use for your animations.

Even experienced animators have watched a tutorial to learn about new features and technologies or brush up on their expertise. Teaching yourself a new skill can be a challenge, but there are now more resources than ever to support you. Animation tutorials can be a valuable resource whether you are a beginner or pro.  



Why Even High-End Games Struggle With Facial Animation

clock May 10, 2017 20:10 by author EliciaT

 

 

In a previous blog, we discussed Mass Effect Andromeda and the widespread criticism that the game received because of its facial animation. In the original release, many of the characters had issues with their eye movements. In addition, the lip movement didn’t sync properly with the dialogue in several scenes. Mass Effect Andromeda developers have since released a patch that fixed many of the facial animation issues that plagued the game before.

However, the criticism the developers received because of it was intense. Naughty Dog's Jonathan Cooper, who animated on the first Mass Effect, even took to Twitter to defend the game developers. He explained some of the reasons why facial animation is incredibly hard. Those that are overly critical of games like Andromeda, probably don’t realize the great lengths that many studios and individual animators go through in order to produce realistic facial animation.

Here are some of the key reasons why animating faces is a challenge, and ways that technology and innovations in the industry are making the process a little easier for animators.

1.  Game animations aren’t always scripted.

One of the main differences between film and game animation is scripted and unscripted scenes. Films are made completely with scripted scenes. This means that animators have the exact words that characters will say and can sync those with lip movements. They can manually go over each detail to make sure that it matches with the dialogue. When a film is played, it is exactly the same every time.

This is not always the case for game animators, especially in RPGs. There are both scripted and unscripted scenes in games. Players can choose different character choices that make the game more interactive, but also create a vast amount of different scenarios or animation possibilities. They have greater control over what the characters say and do, and game engines are expected to react to commands in real-time. It’s not possible to manually animate all of these unscripted scenes, so animators rely on algorithms that automate the lip sync process.

This is a huge time and cost saver. NaturalFront’s One-Click Animation offers the ability to match up audio files to lip movements in a matter of minutes. However, many professional animators will still go through and review the animation for quality purposes. When up against a deadline, game animators may forego this process.

2. It is easy to slip into the uncanny valley.

We’re at an interesting point in game animation. Characters can look so life-like that you feel like you could almost reach through the screen and touch them. However, there is also what is known as the uncanny valley that animators constantly have to combat. The uncanny valley is when animations appear so real but are just off enough that they have a creepy quality. It is most detectable in the eyes of characters, showing a zombie-like appearance.

It only takes a second of flawed footage to unravel hours of work. There are some keys to avoiding the uncanny valley, such as getting rid of inconsistencies and using real-life references to shape your animations. However, the uncanny valley is something that everyone in the animation industry has likely faced one time or another.

3. There are over 10,000 facial expressions.

The face is complex. It is made of an intricate system of muscles and is one of the most unique features on a person’s body. We say a lot with our facial expressions, and even the most subtle of changes can alter a person’s meaning completely.

Part of capturing the right facial expression for the emotion that you are trying to convey is a solid foundation of animation principles and knowledge of human anatomy. Another, is knowing which technologies and tools can make the process easier, faster and smoother.

NaturalFront’s Facial Animation Software is designed specifically to improve the process for animators and hobbyists, so that it is possible to create anatomically accurate and expressive facial animations in a matter of minutes.

 

 



Why People Are Losing It Over Mass Effect Andromeda’s Facial Animation

clock April 25, 2017 16:31 by author EliciaT

If you really want to test the quality of a game animation, look at the characters’ faces. Facial animation is one of the most difficult and complex tasks in any form of animation. In 3D animation, it has long been an industry-wide pain point.

Studios have invested in research and development and experimented with cutting-edge technology and techniques in an effort to make their facial animation more lifelike and expressive.

However, if the recent release of Mass Effect: Andromeda has taught us anything, it is that even top tier studios with big budgets can struggle with facial animation. If you aren’t familiar with it, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a RPG game developed by BioWare and published by EA. It is set in a future in which you and your spaceship crew are exploring the Andromeda galaxy, light-years away from Earth, for a new home.

It has received mixed reviews, but many criticisms were in regards to issues with the animation and dialogue.

Why was the animation particularly difficult?

In RPG, the face is a key part in how players communicate, just like expressions are key in real-life interactions. For Andromeda, the high level of customization and multiple dialogue paths made it exceptionally hard to keep up with the appropriate animation for the player commands.

One of the main ways that film animation differs from games is that all of the dialogue in a film is scripted. In games, that isn’t always the case. It can change based on different scenarios and player experiences.

As you can imagine, unscripted animations are more challenging than scripted ones. Each conversation path needs to be animated and studios often employ engines and conversation tools to do so. Algorithms are often used to create dialogue and facial animations. This is similar to how NaturalFront’s one-click animation software tool functions. Instead of painstakingly matching audio to mouth movements manually, which can take hours and still have inaccuracies, technology helps to match up the audio to the animation.

In the animation industry, this can be a major time-saver, but studios and animators are recommended to review it and tweak as necessary for quality purposes. It’s likely that the Andromeda creators were racing against deadline and didn’t get to review.

Andromeda developers have since released a patch to fix the earlier issues, but the Internet outrage over the character faces and issues still shows just how much realistic facial animation matters to gamers. Animation technology like NaturalFront, is a valuable tool for animating professionals and hobbyists. At times, mathematical equations and algorithms can be more effective in producing anatomically accurate 3D facial models and animation. However, as the Andromeda example points out, you can’t eliminate the importance of talented and creative human animators and their role in the process.  



How Has the Computer Animation Industry Evolved in the Last 20 Years?

clock April 21, 2017 16:30 by author EliciaT

Ten years ago, video games like Portal, BioShock, and Gears of War were stunning players with their animated graphics. Nearly twenty years ago, animated films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and Shrek were considered groundbreaking. Now, if you take a look back at computer animated games and films from one or two years ago, there is still an incredible improvement in quality.

Innovative technology and imaginative animators, artists and creators are responsible for the evolving animation industry. Yet, many still overlook the leaps and bounds that animation has gone through over the years.

Sometimes, it helps to take a look back and appreciate how far technology and animation have come. It can also give us insight into where animation is headed in the next decade. Here are some of the top ways that computer animation has evolved in the last 20 years and some key highlights that have shaped animation today:

The First Computer Animated Full-Feature - 1995

Toy Story was released in 1995, more than 20 years ago. However, it has since influenced thousands of other creators. It also took years for the technology to be developed and put into use. Because it was so novel and primitive in comparison to technology available today, it took an incredibly long time not just to create and animate but also to render.

This is crucial, because it led to an increased interest in how technology and coding can be used to make the animation and production process more efficient.

SGI Releases Maya - 1998

When SGI released Maya, now Autodesk Maya, it was quickly adopted by video game and film animation professionals. In 2000, Disney used it in the production of Dinosaur. Even though 3D animation software for home computers had been available in the 80s, the number of people that had access to both software and hardware were limited. Advances in 3D animation software and computing helped change that.

Maya became and is still one of the primary 3D software used in animation training and education programs. Industry-level tools like NaturalFront, Maya, 3ds Max and Unity are readily available to anyone with a computer, Internet connection and the will to learn how to use them.

Striving for More Realistic Animations - 2000s and Beyond

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001 was one of the first feature length films to really push towards photorealistic animation. Other films like 2004’s Polar Express and 2007’s Beowulf and video games like Call of Duty followed. New animation tools focused on improving facial, cloth and body design details to be more life-like. This put issues with the uncanny valley and facial animation front and center.

The Big Budget Animated Films

CGI and computer animated box office successes and a growing interest in pushing animation technology even further created an era of big budget films. Star Wars played a large role in creating this focus on visual effects and CGI. Since then, the interest has grown, along with the F/X and animation budgets. From 1995 to 2005, the budget for a feature film grew from an average of $5 million to $40 million. Today it can be five times that amount. For instance, Monsters University (2013) had a budget of around $200 million.

Today, many studios and developers are focusing on issues that have long plagued animators. For instance, facial animation has been one of the hardest and most painstaking elements of an animator’s job. Even the most highly sophisticated technologies and talented animators struggle with creating realistic facial expressions without crossing over into the realm of the uncanny valley. This is why NaturalFront’s software focuses on simplifying and accelerating the process to create professional facial animations within a few minutes.

There have been many breakthroughs in computer animation, but there is still room for progress and innovation and the need for talented animators that can weave technology, art and powerful storytelling together.

 



How Many Facial Expressions Do People Really Have?

clock March 30, 2017 15:01 by author EliciaT

As a child, you may remember those pictures with six or seven emotions that you had to recognize as sad, happy, angry, surprised, etc. Growing up, you soon realize that detecting and interpreting facial expressions is a lot more complicated than that.

 

The best animators and artists know that if you want to create realistic artwork, you need to study real-life examples. It’s why many art students take human anatomy and draw from real models. For facial animation, studying human expressions is key even to the computer animation process, but how many do humans really have?

The question has been studied and debated for years in the art and animation world.

A History of Expression Research

The first to research the nuanced topic of expressions was Paul Ekman. Ekman, who studied the relationship of emotions and expressions extensively, is now lauded as the “best human lie detector in the world.” He spent 50 years studying what are called “micro expressions,” which are small inflections of the face that are categorized into emotions. Over his years of research, he catalogued over 10,000 expressions.

Ekman traveled the world with his research. He wanted to prove that expressions are not learned or determined by one’s culture, rather, they are innate and common throughout the human species. To test this, he set off to New Guinea. There, he developed a series of tests with the locals as subjects. A translator asked a native man a series of questions to elicit emotional responses. Each expression that the New Guinea man made were synonymous with expressions made by American subjects, even though he had never traveled, interacted or been exposed to one before.

Ekman went on to use his expression identification skills in the CIA and the FBI, while others went on to continue his research.

Latest Studies

For years, scientists like Ekman held that humans had six basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, disgusted, scared, surprised. New studies have identified compound emotions that take the total up to over 20. The hypothesis was that people rarely feel only one emotion at a given time.

To study this, researchers asked more than 230 volunteers to make faces to match the following 20 expressions: “happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised, disgusted, happily surprised, happily disgusted, sadly fearful, sadly angry, sadly surprised, sadly disgusted, fearfully angry, fearfully surprised, fearfully disgusted, angrily surprised, angrily disgusted, disgustedly surprised, hatred, and awed.”

The researchers found that while humans have six basic emotions, there are acute “action units,” or smaller movements, that can be combined for compound emotions. An example would be if someone were happily surprised to walk in on their friends hosting a surprise party. This person would display raised eyebrows and a smiling, upturned mouth, which embodies both a surprised and a happy expression.

Animating Expressions

Understanding the basics of human emotion is essential to animating characters that look alive. Researchers have identified 20, not just six, basic emotions that humans portray. As Ekman’s research has shown, there are tens of thousands of more complex emotions to consider.

In other words, facial animators have their work cut out for them. The first step in becoming adept in facial animation is through real-life observation.

Observing real subjects─how they carry themselves, speak and interact─can inspire you to animate more lively characters. This can be as simple as people watching in your neighborhood coffee shop, or as intensive as selecting interesting people of your own life to observe. Other animators have even filmed or watched their own expressions in a mirror

However, as an animator, it can be hard to find the time to study real-life observation. Fortunately, animation technology like NaturalFront produces real-life faces in seconds, taking a large chunk of the workload off of animators. There is also a wide-range of stored facial expressions and options to make adjustments and create their own.

 



Are Facial Expressions Universal?

clock March 12, 2017 17:53 by author EliciaT

More than any other film genre, animation transcends geographical and cultural borders. Language barriers don’t prevent viewers from enjoying an animated film or short. Animations in a foreign language or with no speaking at all can still tell a powerful and emotional story that we understand and connect to on a personal level.

 

Take Pixar shorts like Happy Feet for example. They are a global hit and they usually don’t even use words. Instead, they express clear emotions through facial expressions of characters, tone of music, and telling movements of characters.

Conveying Emotion

How do you convey emotions and tell a story without words? In part, it is the great animation and emotive movements. A slumping of the shoulder can signify that someone is sad or tired. Fidgeting with fingers or a restless pacing can signify worry or nervousness. Even the way someone walks can reveal character, emotion and even gender─men usually walk with shoulders and women walk with their hips.

Words are not always needed to show emotion. In fact, they rarely are. Researchers in emotion and human expression have been arguing for years if such emotions are the same from culture to culture, or if they’re different. For animators, especially if you want to market your animations in a global space, it is a key consideration.

Universal Expressions

Paul Ekman founded the idea that expressions are universal with his trip to the Papua New Guinea tribe in the 1970s. His test asked natives to respond to certain scenarios.

For years, Ekman led the argument that emotions were biologically-based, not culturally-based. From this, he aimed to prove that humankind is more fundamentally alike than it is different.

As an example of his research, he found that “96% of western respondents and 92% of African respondents identified happy faces.” Even more interestingly, Ekman reported accounts that blind people expressed happiness in the same way that people with sight did.

Ekman did uncover that certain groups of people, such as Chinese-Americans, were able to identify expressions in their native land of China more quickly than Americans were. From this finding, Ekman believed that cultures do dictate rules around emotional expression. However, it still remained true that a frown indicated sadness while a smile indicated happiness.

Westernized Expressions

However, scientists have found later that some facial expressions may not be as universal as others. A researcher named Maria Gendron visited remote tribes with little to no contact with the Western world and had tribe members react to certain scenarios.

What she found was unexpected. Unlike her research with Westerners, which resulted in neat piles of the same expressions, the tribe responded with multitudes of piles of expressions. This contradicts the long-held view that humans have 6 basic emotions. It also raises the question if Westernized expressions could be fundamentally different than those with no contact with the Westernized nations.

What it means for animations today?

These discoveries, contradictory or not, remind animators to keep cultural influences in mind when creating animations. It’s important to remember that facial expressions are powerful, especially when coupled with body language and movement.

If some facial expressions weren’t universal or easy to understand, then animation wouldn’t be such a global enterprise. NaturalFront’s easy to use software allows animators to focus on such expression, while letting NaturalFront do the heavy lifting.



Top NaturalFront Facial Animation Advantages & Features That You May Not Know

clock March 1, 2017 21:54 by author EliciaT

There is no denying that innovative technologies are improving the 3D facial animation process significantly. What once required hours and months of time can be created in a few minutes.

However, there are several animation technologies on the market. What makes NaturalFront unique?

In this blog, we’ll highlight the three top advantages of NaturalFront. (Although, you may find more when you test if for yourself.) We’ve also taken note of some features that are incredibly useful, but you may not know exist when first interacting with the software.

1. It cuts down production time immensely.

The face is probably the most intricate part of the human body. In real-life, we communicate so much through our facial expressions, and we have tens of thousands of them. Simulating that range of emotion in a computer model is incredibly difficult, if you try to recreate it manually.

Thankfully, with NaturalFront software all you need to do is upload a headshot photo and the technology generates an anatomical, ready-to-animate model for you. Within 30 to 60 seconds, you have create a 3D face, opposed to laboring for weeks on one model that is not going to be anatomically accurate.

2. It’s cost-efficient and high-quality.

Years ago, only big budget studios could afford sophisticated facial animation technologies. Today, even the little guys can create high-quality animations quickly with a small budget. For instance, the Complete version of our software will only cost you $100, and there is no limit on the number of facial models that you can create.

3. There’s no learning curve.

NaturalFront is designed to be easy-to-use. Every animator, from beginner to professional can use it. There is no training needed to get started. However, you can view our introductory software videos on our YouTube channel to get started, and we encourage users to experiment.

Anyone can use NaturalFront, but in case you miss them, here are some little-known features that you should know:  

4. It automates both modeling and animation.

Some other 3D facial software will only generate facial models. However, they lack the ability to animate within the software or you must animate completely from scratch. With NaturalFront, you have the option to do both right in the same software. (Note: A key difference between the free and complete versions of our Unity plugin is that you can only animate across a timeline in the complete version.)

5. There are an unlimited number of facial expressions available.

In all versions of our Unity Plugin, users can experiment with a wide-range of facial expressions. Beginners may want to stick with the preloaded facial expressions, in which the technology does most of the facial animation poses for you. However, more seasoned animators may want to experiment with different facial animations and create them manually. Either way, the facial models that are generated simulate an anatomically accurate human face, so the possibilities are immense.

What are some of your favorite features in NaturalFront? Feel free to share them with us, and look out for the release of our new Pro-version, which will have even more features and capabilities than the Free, Basic and Complete versions.



3 Animations That Were Ahead of Their Time

clock February 8, 2017 11:35 by author EliciaT

From personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to immersive virtual reality glasses like Oculus Rift, technology has advanced incredibly. But, it has integrated so seamlessly into our daily lives that we sometimes forget how far it has come and the people that pushed it forward.

Today’s film and video game computer animations may seem effortless on screen, but it didn’t start out that way. We owe it to innovators, forward-thinkers that saw an opportunity to do something better and had the skills to create it. Here are three computer animations that were ahead of their time and laid the groundwork for the 3D animation we see today.

1. Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke's hand: 1972

 

In 1972, two students at the University of Utah introduced one of the first examples of computer animation. Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke produced a film called A Computer Animated Hand, which used Catmull’s left hand as a model. They used a plaster model of Catmull’s hand and rendered it with a coordinate measuring machine. The film demonstrated a human-like hand that could open and close, twist and point. It may seem like a basic animation today, but at the time, it was groundbreaking. Very few people even had access or knew how to use technology in this way. But, the techniques Catmull and Parke used laid the foundation for future animation.

Their 3D animation was also the first to be used in a feature film. A Hollywood producer used a clip of A Computer Animated Hand in Richard Heffron’s popular 1976 movie, Futureworld, which is the basis of HBO’s Westworld. Catmull went on to found Pixar, while Parke created other groundbreaking computer animations.

2. Fred Parke’s facial animations: 1974

 

Parke is known for his extensive research in the animation field. After his work with Catmull on the hand, Parke presented one of the first lifelike renderings of a face as his thesis at the University of Utah in 1974. Animating the face is one of the most challenging animations. Today, we have technology like NaturalFront that allows designers to model a 3D face in a minute. One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the uncanny valley, which happens when animated faces look creepy or have zombie-like expressions.

Parke made his animation of the face through linear interpolation. Parke would draw half of a face and divide it into sections that used polygonal shapes. He would then mirror the face so it made a full, symmetrical face. Today, linear interpolation isn’t used often because animations appear jerky. Over the years, more sophisticated techniques have been developed for smooth and natural movement. But, again, it was an incredibly innovative technique for the time. 

Parke’s facial animation is still considered one of the best in the industry and better quality than films that came 30 years after. Take The Polar Express from 2004 as an example. All of the characters looked unsettling due to the uncanny valley. Hulk from 2003 with Eric Bana ended up looking like a face made out of silly putty.

3. Toy Story: 1995

didn’t Pixar’s Toy Story just make its way into a generation’s heart, but it set records in the film industry. Toy Story was the first 3D animated feature film and topped the box office for three weeks in a row. It also won a Special Achievement Academy Award and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Toy Story’s success hinged on software that Catmull helped develop. The geometric shapes of many toys─like blocks and bouncy balls─lent themselves easily to this style of animation. Human characters like Andy were much more difficult to render, but did make their way into the film.

These incredible animations were created when home computers and 3D technology seemed like a fantasy.  Only a few select people even had access to these tools. Now, anyone can animate high-quality animations in seconds with software like NaturalFront.  



How to Make a 3D Animation Project On a Budget

clock January 18, 2017 13:16 by author EliciaT

 

 

You have a specific 3D animation project in mind. You may have even fleshed out your ideas with concept art and storyboards. Whether you want to create a 3D animated film, a short film or a video game, you’ll need funds to support you throughout the process, from ideation to production and distribution.  

Unless you have enough cash saved to bootstrap, you’ll need to seek capital. Animated productions can be costly, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune to make a quality piece of work. These tips can help you create quality 3D projects, even on a tight budget.

1. Document your budget.

The first step to raising capital is to create a budget for you project. There are a number of financial benchmarks that can guide you in calculating your budget. The most important rule to keep in mind is that the bigger your production, usually the bigger your budget will need to be.

For example, say your goal is to create a 30-minute animated TV series similar to the popular “South Park.” Based on available data, you should allocate approximately $1 million per episode, which works out to about $45,000 per minute of animation.

The numbers are even more daunting if you would like to make a full 3D animated film, along the lines of “Frozen” or “Toy Story”. Figures show that you might need to allocate $24,156 per second of animation, or about $1.5 million per minute.

2. Be realistic and minimize costs.

Obviously, if you don’t have millions of dollars in upfront financing for your project, you have two choices to minimize costs. Either opt for as short an animation project as possible, or look for technological solutions that can drastically reduce the cost of each animated shot.

3. Use animation technology.

Most savvy animators choose the second option. Technology has increased efficiency and improved processes in every industry, including art and animation. Until recently, constructing realistic 3D facial models and animating them was a time-consuming and expensive process. Traditional methods of 3D facial animation could chew up a huge portion of your overall project budget.  

However, using unique facial animation software like NaturalFront, it’s possible to take an animation project that might take days or weeks and turn it into a process that lasts just a minute – without any need for rigging, morphing, keyframing or motion capture. In fact, once you have an image of a face you’d like to animate together with an audio track, it becomes a relatively easy process to animate and synchronize facial movements.

You can easily see why streamlining this process pays off immediately. If you can save even a few days on the animation project, you’re potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars in production costs.

4. Where to get funding

Once you’ve locked down your budget and made it as trim as possible, you can start looking for sources of funding. If you’re not a major studio, you won’t have as many options to cover costs – such as reaching out to brand managers for lucrative product placements.

But, depending on the type of project and your location, government funding and grants may be available. Search for arts foundations and festivals near you. Often, arts organizations will have opportunities that artists can submit applications to and receive funding.

You can also raise money on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Tubestart. This is where animation software can also play a huge role in helping to get your project off the ground. Every great crowdfunding project needs a great reel or trailer. Using animation software like NaturalFront, you can quickly put together the footage to create a two-minute teaser video for your project.

The process of creating a 3D animation project can be expensive. However, by planning ahead, leveraging technology and tapping into the power of the crowd, it’s possible to put together an animation project that won’t break the bank or require you to max out your credit cards.



 



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