Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coming soon...

Just breaking from the self-development topic for a moment, this is something I planned to mention a while ago. But I was kind of hoping it would turn up somewhere else on the internet first because it's about something I don't think I'm really supposed to know about. But I do. And it didn't turn up anywhere else. So if this amounts to anything, it will be a Medicated Cartoon Life exclusive. That sounds exciting, eh?

No, probably not.

Animators get asked a lot of stupid questions. Someone actually asked me once if I had to draw the backs of characters when they were facing forward. But, with computers, the common misconception is that the computers themselves do all the animating. It's the idea of an 'Animate' button.

But it's not so far fetched. 3D and Flash (and equivalents) do inbetweens that would once have been defined by actual humans. Other programmes are now doing automatic lip sync. I was once present at a Toonboom presentation that basically told me that animators are shit and here's why their system can do it better.

The full-on 'Animate' button is only a matter of time.

Or perhaps the time has already come. Here's what came to my attention, what I was hoping would be revealed somewhere else: a funding body in Ireland has been asking around studio heads about their interest in some thing, a programme, that is exactly that. This isn't something that is yet out there in the public so the only link I have verifying its existence is here. You can see it's a college project from some place and they are calling this software the "Character Animation Authoring Tool". It "uses speech analysis data as the basis of character animation, with movements and gestures being triggered relative to prominent speech events in the audio signal".

According to the people pimping the project to the studios, it produces animated body movements for characters which then allows animators to concentrate on the little details. Like expression.

Nice to see we still play a part.

So, someone wants to introduce an 'Animate' button. Press that button, get your animation. Man, can you imagine how good it will be? I can only speculate that the quality must be superb... no, I can't keep that up. You know they say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

What do you think? A great thing for the entertainment world?


Humphrey Erm said...

Woa, really? That is kind of creepy. I personally like the look of Flash and the possibilities it gives an amateur independent animator like myself, but the idea of another program removing an even larger bulk of the work?

It seems to be that public perception is that Animators dont WANT to draw all those drawings, so the less they have to work the happier they are. But are they?

dermot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dermot said...

Richard Williams told a story a few years ago about being at a party where one of the guests asked him what he did for a living.

"I'm an animator. I did the animation for the opening titles of the Pink Panther movies".

"No you didn't," the guest replied, "that's all done by computers now."

Three days later London police fished a bloated, decapitated corpse out of the Thames.

The crime remains unsolved to this day.

Andy Latham said...

Hmmm, so animation can now be done by computers alone? Doesn't this seem rather similar to how you can press a button in Photoshop to make a photo look like a "painting"? And how many people do you know who actually use that feature?

No I can't see the animate button catching on, even if it is in existence. Surely it will only make crap. Maybe we can make a machine that will sit and watch it as I don't think many humans will want to!

Bitter Animator said...

While I can't imagine an 'animate' button would completely replace things, I've seen whole ads using those exact features you're asking how many people use, Andy. I saw one only a week or so ago that was a piss poor live action ad with a basic After Effects filter put on it as if it were 'animated'.

Looked cack but somebody went for the easy option and there was a lack of any desire for quality.

Unfortunately, the easy/no quality option is a rather common occurance, especially in the world of advertising which current keeps many animators in a job.

You've got to remember who decides to use something like this - it's not the animators, it's the people with the money.

Dermot, I've had that exact same 'computers' thing said to me on many occasions. I haven't yet resorted to murder but harsh words have been muttered under my breath and that's almost as satisfying. Almost.

Red Pill Junkie said...

I'm pretty sure that 'animate' button will work just as well as those automatic translator programs you can use on line.

An dermot,
C'mon!!! you know as well as I do that the favorite murder method of any self-respecting animator is an anvil thrown from the roof :)

dermot said...

By God's teeth sir, I stand corrected!

Unknown said...

I played with Flash CS4 the other day. It's got inverse kinematics, which is kind of a cool toy, but I can easily see it becoming another way to keep animators from actually drawing anything.

dermot said...

Here's a short video where you can see the features in CS4:

I'm all for IK or anything that scrapes some of the tedium off this program.

It's great that the programmers have FINALLY made an update that deals with animation issues, and not just programming ones. It's years overdue.

I'm a bit worried that in doing so, they'll break some of the tools that we're used to. They have 3D style ease-in ease-out controls - these look cryptic to me. Why can't people create a digital version of good old fashioned timing charts?

Also, note that ability to pull the timeline out, and stretch out the keyframes accordingly. That might be useful for simple animations, but not complex ones with a lot of nested symbols.

Fingers crossed...we'll see.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Commenting on that Flash tutorial:

If the program developers themselves—the people who know the software and its potential better than anyone else in the world—resort to the use of a square to try to explain how to 'animate' things with Flash, then as a layman I can begin to share some of the frustration you Character Animation professionals experience on a daily basis.

Who says you can't learn things everyday? Today I learned squares have bones. Maybe tomorrow I'll learn circles have a digestive system... and suffer from constipation ;-)

dermot said...

Oh, it gets worse than that.

The single most inexcusable feature of Flash is the properties panel. When you click on a symbol on the stage, it shows the frame number currently being displayed in the properties panel - but it's only wide enough for TWO NUMBERS.

So, if you're audacious enough to have a symbol with 123 frames, you'll see the number "12" if you're on #123. Every time you make an adjustment, you have to slide the arrow keys to see which number you're on.

This has caused errors, and valuable time from the lives of animators who have families and loved ones waiting at home.

"Why is Daddy late again Mommy?"

"Because a heartless nerd working for Macromedia couldn't bother his fat arse to widen the frame number box by 10 pixels. I guess it wasn't worth 20 minutes of his time. Now go to bed, sweety."

Yeah. Flash. Don't get me started!

Bitter Animator said...

I highly recommend the AnimSlider plugin for the frame problems. Totally changed our studio's working methods. It's very cheap too if I remember correctly.

dermot said...

Thanks - I'll take a look at that.

As I recall, the free version is limited to a spread of frames, but it's enough to test it out.

The one good thing Macromedia did was to allow extensions - if it wasn't for the third party plug ins, we'd still be partying like it's 1999.