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3D Animation


Imagine describing a dream you had to a friend. No matter how well you describe an object or scene, the image in your friend's mind will be different than yours. However, if you recreate your dream using 3D software, you could capture the most finite details. (Graphics)

This is just one way that 3D-computer animation can be beneficial. It can also be very useful in other areas as well. 3D animation can help create movies, reenact dangerous or costly events, as well as take people to where it is physically impossible to go.

What is 3-D computer animation? Well, animation is "a simulation of movement created by displaying a series of pictures, or frames," (Modeling). 3D computer animation is "fundamentally a dynamic illustration created on a computer. The three-dimensional aspect of animation allows movement to be illustrated as a function of time and space. While a still image captures a moment in time from a particular view, a 3D animation allows the viewer to move around the scene and change perspective over time," (3D).

So where did all of this 3D stuff originate? Animation didn’t happen over night, there were many aspects that helped in the evolution of 3D animation. The backbone of 3D animation came from way back before the advent of computers. Hand-drawn animation started back in the early 1900’s. Hand-drawn animation consisted of thousands of images put together to create motion. There were a couple of ways that this traditional animation was produced, and that is by using key frames, or cel-animation. To animate using the key frames method, "the senior artists will go and draw the major frames of the animation. These major frames are frames in which a lot of change takes place. They are the key points of the animation. Later, a bunch of junior artists draw in the frames in between. This way, the workload is distributed and controlled by the key frames, (Cybulski). Using cel-animation, "each character is drawn on a separate piece of transparent paper. A background is also drawn on a separate piece of opaque paper. Then, when it comes to shooting the animation, the different characters are overlaid on top of the background in each frame," (Cybulski).

Who uses 3D animation? 3D animation has impacted the entertainment industry in a big way. Whenever the going gets too tough or too expensive, 3D animation serves as an extraordinary alternative. Take for example, Jurassic Park. All of those dinosaurs were 3D animations that were integrated with film. For the producers of Jurassic Park to make life size models would take too long and cost too much money. So the 3D animators were called upon to bring those ancient lizards to life. Movies such as Men in Black, Jumanji, Terminator 2, and Small Soldiers would have been virtually impossible to create without 3D animation.

The advertisement industry is in the same boat as the entertainment industry as far as creating believable situations with a computer that would be realistically impossible to do. It’s all about fooling the viewers eye and making the audience think that what is being shown on TV is real.

Modeling is "the process of representing 3-dimensional objects in a computer," (modeling). Both entertainment and advertisement use modeling to create their animations. Morphing also has been a very fascinating element to ad to a film or commercial. Morphing is "short for metamorphosing, which refers to an animation technique in which one image is gradually turned into another," (Modeling). An example of this technique would be in the movie Terminator 2. The liquid metal T-1000 cyborg can change into different object right before the viewer’s eye.

3D animation is beneficial in many ways. Not only is it great for the entertainment and advertisement industry, it is also great for getting ones point across to selected audiences.

3D-computer animation captures attention. It can communicate more information, at a faster rate, than oral descriptions can. Best of all, information presented as moving images is retained by the viewer for a longer period of time and with greater accuracy. (3D)

Computer animation can re-enact an event, which is too dangerous and expensive to reproduce live, such as an airline crash or an explosion. Animation also helps with presentations. The speaker can use computers as a tool to enhance his speech with graphics. Computers can change the viewpoint of any object, inside and out. Motion can be added to the illustration or object for a better appeal. Computers can detail an object better than traditional animation due to photo realistic capabilities. Computers can take people to where it is physically impossible to go such as inside a human body or an engine.

There are about six stages or steps included in creating 3D animations. Some of these steps can be skipped, however, depending on what the output of the animation will be used for. Typically, the first stage will be the storyboarding or rough layout stage. This is where the total animation is sketched out, including dialogue, so that the animators have an idea of what is next. The second stage is the Modeling stage. Here 3D animation software "is used to create three-dimensional computer models of characters, props, and sets. These computer models describe the shape of the object as well as the motion controls that the animators use to create movement and expressions," (Animation).

Some of the software used by animators might include Animation Master, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, Softimage, or Lightscape. Some well-known animation studios use proprietary software that was developed within their own company.

The third step of the animation process is going to be the actual animation. The "animators choreograph the motion in each scene by defining key frames or poses. The computer then automatically creates the ‘in-between’ frames, which the animator can adjust if necessary," (Animation). The fourth step is known as shading. This is where textures, color, and finishes are added to each object in the scene. Step five is the lighting stage. "Using digital lights, every scene is lit in much the same manner as stage lighting. Key, fill, bounce and ambience are all defined and used to enhance the mood and emotion of each scene," (Animation). The sixth and final step in the animation process is the rendering stage. The computer will take the animation, lighting, and shading information and compile it into the finished product. Each frame can take anywhere from one to twenty minutes to render.

It is important to remember that the computer is only a tool used to improve the generation and the accuracy of the animation. It does not replace the human element. An animator, experienced in the principles of movement and three-dimensional representation, is still required to ensure that the animation looks natural and believable. (3D)

The possibilities of computers and animation are endless. That is why the computer industry is booming at a rapid rate. The advertising and entertainment market has adopted computers full force to create special effects. There’s a huge demand for people who can crank out 3D graphics and animations, and this is where the computer animators come in handy. They’re the ones who spice up entertainment, and that is why a good animator, will have an extremely high paying job for a lifetime. "Anybody who has selected this field has selected an extraordinary field, and they can go far. It applies to every product or service that is being offered on the market"




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