How 3D/Animation Has Changed My Life

The past four weeks have seemed like a whirlwind of information and learning with regards to my most recent class, 3D graphics/animation.

There is truthfully so much that concerns the 3D/animation world and only so much can be covered during a four week span.  However, this class and everything that I have learned has without a doubt left an impact on me!

Even though my animations are simple animations, I have learned how much work really goes into animating figures.

I have always been a huge fan of animated films and now I can begin to understand just how much all the teams of illustrators put into the films that we enjoy.

Recently, my wife and I watched the 2013 Pixar film; Monsters University.  We are like children in the way that we love watching animated films as often as we can!  When I was watching this movie most recently however, it was like my eyes were opened for the very first time.  Even from the very first scene with the scene being set with a row of houses surrounded by trees, and the morning sunlight shining brilliantly through those trees; I was able to see a glimpse of what those animators went through even to make just those few first seconds of the movie!

Animation takes so much patience and so much manpower.  I am even more impressed with everything that is able to be accomplished with todays animated films.  It really isn’t a surprise at all that these movies take years to complete!  All the folks involved in the animation process are superheroes in my book, and I just can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

What IS Rendering?

If you have even just a little bit of experience with or knowledge of video or 3D/animation production, you are familiar with the process of rendering.

I have had some exposure of and experience with rendering recently, but the more I work with After Effects and render out footage the more I wanted to better understand what exactly  is happening when I wait for hours for the footage to fully render.  I did a little bit of research and I what I found certainly helped me to better understand this whole process.

The process of rendering is by far the most technically complex aspect of 3D production, but like many complicated processes, I find it easy to comprehend in the context of an analogy:  just like a [film] photographer must develop and print photos before they can be viewed, graphic designers that work in the 3D realm must also ‘develop’ their footage before it can be viewed.

When a designer works on a 3D scene, the model they are working on is actually a mathematical representation of points and surfaces.  The term rendering refers to the calculations that are performed by a 3D software package’s render engine to translate the scene from a mathematical configuration to a finalized 2D image.  During this entire process, the scene’s spatial, textural, and lighting information are combined to determine the color value of each pixel in the flattened image.

How the computer mathematically does all this work is truthfully beyond the power of my brain to comprehend, but without getting into extreme detail (as well as delving into things I don’t even understand), this is how rendering works!  I find it fascinating that our computers and the programs that we use every day are able to accomplish these complicated tasks.  I also love that I don’t have to fully comprehend everything that goes into making the rendering process work, but I am still able to use and benefit from it!

Animation Studios + 3D Printing

When I discovered 3D printing, my mind was pretty much blown (which I think it is safe to say is the reaction that most people have when they discover the magic behind 3D printing).

An industry that has benefited from the use of 3D printers is the movie industry.  I recently read an article that discussed the animation studio LAIKA that relies on using the software and 3D printing hardware to make its films.  With recent improvements on the technology that the [really good] 3D printers use, LAIKA has the ability to print thousands of precise colors and subtle gradients in plastic, which achieves color accuracy that has not been accomplished with 3D printing before now.

The way in which LAIKA most utilizes the 3D printer for their films is pretty simple in concept:  faces.  LAIKA’s designers produce the puppets’ (they produce stop-motion animated films) faces, and they the 3D printer is used to print literally tens of thousands of slightly different facial expressions for each character that is utilized during filming.

LAIKA actually pioneered this specific technique on their first film Coraline and they have continued to continually change things up with each film that they have produced.

3D technology is amazing and is constantly changing, and it has produced incredible applications to so many industries including film.  I cannot wait to see where this technology goes in just the next few years!

Animation in Disney’s Moana

While I have always been a pretty big fan of animated movies, I am pretty new to to the animation “scene” as far as beginning to understand what actually goes into making one of these masterpieces.

I have been reading a fair amount of articles that discuss Disney’s newest adventure in animation.  Every single review that I have read about the movie says that Moana is not only visually breathtaking; it is one of the best animated films they have ever seen.

From what I have read, the amazement that comes from watching this film comes from a few factors.  I have read that nearly every frame of each scene in the movie was beautifully animated and rendered so well that the textures, hair, fabric, water and lighting make each scene seem all too realistic. Even from the short “bursts” of scenes that I have scene in previews, I can say that this observation is certainly true.

I think that with the deep history that Disney has cultivated with animated films, this is definitely saying something.  Disney has literally defined for generations what an animated film experience should look like.  Because each film that Disney has cranked out has consistently been better than the previous ones, they have set an almost ridiculous bar height for them to soar over.  Audiences go into these animated films just expecting to be blown away, and I have to say that I am in this crowd as well.  I am always blown away by not only the great experiences I have when watching one of Disney’s animated films, but also by how far technology has come even in just the past few years.  Animators have to stay on top of the ever-so-quickly changing technology, and now having nearly completed an introductory class to animation, I can begin to understand what a feat it is for an animated film to be made; especially for it to be a good one!

I can almost not wait to get to the theater and see Disney’s newest gem, Moana.