animation

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Disney tech smooths out bad CG hair days

Disney is unequivocally the world’s leader in 3D simulations of hair — something of a niche talent in a way, but useful if you make movies like Tangled, where hair is basically the main character. A new bit of research from the company makes it easier for animators to have hair follow their artistic intent while also moving realistically.

The problem Disney Research aimed to solve was a compromise that animators have had to make when making the hair on characters do what the scene requires. While the hair will ultimately be rendered in glorious high-definition and with detailed physics, it’s too computationally expensive to do that while composing the scene.

Should a young warrior in her tent be wearing her hair up or down? Should it fly out when she turns her head quickly to draw attention to the movement, or stay weighed down so the audience isn’t distracted? Trying various combinations of these things can eat up hours of rendering time. So, like any smart artist, they rough it out first:

“Artists typically resort to lower-resolution simulations, where iterations are faster and manual edits possible,” reads the paper describing the new system. “But unfortunately, the parameter values determined in this way can only serve as an initial guess for the full-resolution simulation, which often behaves very different from its coarse counterpart when the same parameters are used.”

The solution proposed by the researchers is basically to use that “initial guess” to inform a high-resolution simulation of just a handful of hairs. These “guide” hairs act as feedback for the original simulation, bringing a much better idea of how the rest will act when fully rendered.

The guide hairs will cause hair to clump as in the upper right, while faded affinities or an outline-based guide (below, left and right) would allow for more natural motion if desired.

And because there are only a couple of them, their finer simulated characteristics can be tweaked and re-tweaked with minimal time. So an artist can fine-tune a flick of the ponytail or a puff of air on the bangs to create the desired effect, and not have to trust to chance that it’ll look like that in the final product.

This isn’t a trivial thing to engineer, of course, and much of the paper describes the schemes the team created to make sure that no weirdness occurs because of the interactions of the high-def and low-def hair systems.

It’s still very early: it isn’t meant to simulate more complex hair motions like twisting, and they want to add better ways of spreading out the affinity of the bulk hair with the special guide hairs (as seen at right). But no doubt there are animators out there who can’t wait to get their hands on this once it gets where it’s going.

Big tech companies are looking at Hollywood as the next stage in their play for the cloud

This week, both Microsoft and Google made moves to woo Hollywood to their cloud computing platforms in the latest act of the unfolding drama over who will win the multi-billion dollar business of the entertainment industry as it moves to the cloud.

Google raised the curtain with a splashy announcement that they’d be setting up their fifth cloud region in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Keeping the focus squarely on tools for artists and designers the company talked up its tools like Zync Render, which Google acquired back in 2014, and Anvato, a video streaming and monetization platform it acquired in 2016.

While Google just launched its LA hub, Microsoft has operated a cloud region in Southern California for a while, and started wooing Hollywood last year at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, according to Tad Brockway, a general manager for Azure’s storage and media business.

Now Microsoft has responded with a play of its own, partnering with the provider of a suite of hosted graphic design and animation software tools called Nimble Collective.

Founded by a former Pixar and DreamWorks animator, Rex Grignon, Nimble launched in 2014 and has raised just under $10 million from investors including the UCLA VC Fund and New Enterprise Associates, according to Crunchbase.

“Microsoft is committed to helping content creators achieve more using the cloud with a partner-focused approach to this industries transformation,” said Tad Brockway, General Manager, Azure Storage, Media and Edge at Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re excited to work with innovators like Nimble Collective to help them transform how animated content is produced, managed and delivered.”

There’s a lot at stake for Microsoft, Google and Amazon as entertainment companies look to migrate to managed computing services. Tech firms like IBM have been pitching the advantages of cloud computing for Hollywood since 2010, but it’s only recently that companies have begun courting the entertainment industry in earnest.

While leaders like Netflix migrated to cloud services in 2012 and 21st Century Fox worked with HP to get its infrastructure on cloud computing, other companies have lagged. Now companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are competing for their business as more companies wake up to the pressures and demands for more flexible technology architectures.

As broadcasters face more demanding consumers, fragmented audiences, and greater time pressures to produce and distribute more content more quickly, cloud architectures for technology infrastructure can provide a solution, tech vendors argue.

Stepping into the breach, cloud computing and technology service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are trying to buy up startups servicing the entertainment market specifically, or lock in vendors like Nimble through exclusive partnerships that they can leverage to win new customers. For instance, Microsoft bought Avere Systems in January, and Google picked up Anvato in 2016 to woo entertainment companies.

The result should be lower cost tools for a broader swath of the market, and promote more cross-pollination across different geographies, according to Grignon, Nimble’s chief executive.

“That worldwide reach is very important,” Grignon said. “In media and entertainment there are lots of isolated studios around the world. We afford this pathway between the studio in LA and the studio in Bangalore. We open these doorways.”

There are other, more obvious advantages as well. Streaming — exemplified by the relationship between Amazon and Netflix is well understood — but the possibility to bring costs down by moving to cloud architectures holds several other distribution advantages as well as simplifying processes across pre- and post-production, insiders said.

 

Tattooist creates mesmerising flipbook-like animations of his work

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Some people want a tattoo that no one else has. Others, like the clients of 29-year-old Canadian tattoo artist Phil Berge, want to be part of a bigger story. 

Well, a flipbook story, that is.

Berge’s stop-motion animations have been attracting plenty of attention on the internet, as each image is a shot of a completed tattoo. 

Here’s one of Bart Simpson doing a kickflip on a skateboard, as told by the tattoos of 19 human participants. It is very, very cool.

More about Culture, Tattoo, Tattoos, Animation, and Stop Motion

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Amy Goodman narrates a gorgeous animation about Chomsky's “Manufacturing Consent”

In this gorgeous video produced by Al Jazeera’s media literacy show The Listening Post, Amy Goodman from Democracy Now narrates an explanation of the “5 Filters of Media Manipulation” set out by Noam Chomsky and Edward S Herman in their 1988 classic Manufacturing Consent, brought to life by Pierangelo Pirak’s spectacular animations. You could hardly ask for a more timely intervention in our current media and political landscape. (via JWZ)

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You'll actually want to watch these stop-motion loading screens

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How much time do you spend waiting for stuff to load?

Not as much time as animator Raphael Vangelis took to put together this video, that’s for sure.

The two-minute long video sees 30 different and familiar loading screens playing in stop motion.

You’ll probably recognise the Windows, Google and Facebook ones, including some that’ll make you pause wondering why they look so familiar. 

“I spend most of my life swearing at the computer because it’s crashed or isn’t working,” said the London-based animator in his video description. Read more…

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ATARAXYA is one of the best animations of a psychedelic club experience

Club drugs: when they’re good, they’re good, and when they’re bad, they’re better. Five directors collaborated on this trippy animation that stands among the best depictions of a club trip I have seen. Headphones, full screen, and dark room strongly recommended. (more…)

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Blooms are strobe-animated sculptures

Blooms are sculptures that animate when a camera captures them in motion at a certain frame rate—a common accidental example is the illusion of car hubcaps spinning “backwards” on video. John Edmark’s designs embody the mesmerizing precision of objects one would assume were computer-generated if we didn’t know better: reality itself seeming to simulate our simulation.

Unlike a 3D zoetrope, which animates a sequence of small changes to objects, a bloom animates as a single self-contained sculpture. The bloom’s animation effect is achieved by progressive rotations of the golden ratio, phi (ϕ), the same ratio that nature employs to generate the spiral patterns we see in pinecones and sunflowers. The rotational speed and strobe rate of the bloom are synchronized so that one flash occurs every time the bloom turns 137.5º (the angular version of phi).* Each bloom’s particular form and behavior is determined by a unique parametric seed I call a phi-nome (/fī nōm/). -John Edmark

Update: Previously!

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Regina Spektor's stunning cover of The Beatles' “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

From the Kubo and the Two Strings soundtrack, this hauntingly gorgeous cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor who kindly said the following in an interview a few years back:

“I love Boing Boing. It’s cool because the site is filled with curated information all about science, art and culture — plus, you still get cute distractions like little animals.”

Thanks, Regina!

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