Have you ever watched computer generated animations and wished you could make something that cool? Giant fighting robots, high speed aerial dogfights, and bringing something extraordinary to life are just some of the things one can make with 3D animation tools, if they are experienced enough to use them. Collecting such experience takes a long time and a lot of effort, thereby restricting access to those who have a passion for the technology, instead of just an interest. Until now that is. Researchers from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft will be demonstrating two tools to bring quality 3D animation to every computer user at CeBit.
The first part of making a 3D animation is the creation of the 3D model. This is a very daunting task for someone only familiar with 2D drawings (and possibly just stick figures at that). The researchers have created a program to help with this though. By using a large database of pre-existing models, the software allows a person to blend between different objects. Each object was processed to determine the basic parts to it, and these get switched out as the user slides between the blends. The goal of the blending though is always to make something plausible, even when crossing a ship and an airplane.
After a model has been made though, it has to be given a skeleton with joints. This is the framework that determines how an object can be manipulated. The researchers have a tool for that too. It looks at the connecting parts of the model and comes up with a highly detailed skeleton for it. This skeleton is then simplified by clustering together joints, until just the basic form is left. The joints of the generated skeleton can then be mapped to the joints of the skeleton associated with the animation the user wants. Want a robot to perform some ballet? Find the animation and the model and the software will put the two together. (To see this and more, visit the source for AVI videos of the tools in action.)
By automating so much of the animation process, the researchers have brought 3D animation within reach of most computer literate people. These tools are for more than just amateurs though as professionals could potentially use, at least, the skeleton generator to accelerate their own animation efforts.