Following is the English version of my first article, originally published in ‘Sakal’ Daily News paper, Pune, on 18 Nov 2003, in Marathi. The translation is done by my wife ‘Shruti’. I decided to post this English translation, after I received few responses from some readers and friends, asking for the same. Please leave your comments and suggestions.
Computer Graphics – 3d Animation
About the 3D animation sector of computer graphics, which has made huge economical and industrial revolution all over the world, and which has become a big source of knowledge and earnings, for many artists…
‘The lion king’, ‘Tarzan’, ‘Toy story’, ‘Tom & Jerry’, ‘The Mummy’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Jurassic park’…. the list is end-less, it goes on and on. What was behind all these movies that influenced the audience so much? Just one thing and that was excellent efforts put forth by the artists. In above all the examples one thing that is common is CG (Computer graphics). Using this CG, impossible things are made possible. In today’s age of ‘IT’ this is one of the most powerful medium that has reached up to the common man. Off course, this technology is not used just for entertainment purpose, but also in the fields of education, engineering, internet, medical, advertisements, case-studies and game developments.
CG is nothing but the next step of arts like drawing, painting, making various things from paper / cardboard and so on. Here computer is just for nominal help, one has to work hard. This technology can be classified further into 1) drawing and painting, 2) image or video editing, 3) 2D animation, 4) web designing/DTP etc., 5) 3D modeling / animation, 6) simulation and analysis, 7) post production and compositing techniques etc.
Here, it is the user’s skill, to use the above technologies as needed. The way this technology is handled leads to two main parts – 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional. There is plenty of information available on 2D graphics and 2D animation, hence here we are now only going to think about 3D technology. We shall discuss 3 dimensions, 3DCG, modeling, animation and its uses.
3 dimensions: Nothing that exists is 2 dimensional, even this newspaper which you are reading has a certain thickness. The 3 main dimensions are length, width and height. When computer is used for graphics purpose, an object’s 3 dimensions are considered and accordingly it’s model or prototype is created. This is called 3 dimensional modeling. In CG, with the use of 3 dimensions most accurate and realistic characters are created. In these creations, obviously distance between all important points of the object’s surface, it’s texture, colour combination etc. and many such things are involved.
3DCG and modeling: Like the way, a line is drawn from a point, a surface is drawn from a line and a solid object is created from the surface, in the same way in 3DCG too, all these geometrical terms are used. Or 3DCG can not be defined without it. All the important points of the object’s surface are determined while creating a 3D model or prototype. The Cartesian graph method is most widely used for this. Cartesian method of graphs was introduced by the famous mathematician ‘Rene Descartes’. Considering any one point from the space as origin, its x, y and z coordinates are assumed as 0, 0 and 0. While creating a prototype, all of its apex’s coordinates are measured or decided from this main point. This can be measured in any one of the units like meters, centimeters, inches etc, so that the measurements will be accurate. By this way all the surface apex’s coordinate points are determined and hence the model or prototype is created.
Although, no reason to fear the words like origin, x, y, z coordinates, profile surface, Cartesian method or geometrical equations, mentioned above. Because most of this part is managed by the computer itself. This way the user is able to give his hundred percent efforts to make the model more realistic and accurate. An artist can create a model without this method also. He can create various models as a potter creates different shapes from clay. Whether by proper measurement or freely, once the model is created, its colour combinations, texture of the surface, its shininess, smoothness, transparency, reflectiveness and refraction etc are decided. Proper light effects are added to make it even more realistic.
Animation: Animation means nothing but making objects look alive by using their motion. Some types of animation are as follows: 2d animation, 3d animation, stop motion (clay) animation, puppet show etc. But due to differences in working techniques animation is further bifurcated into frame by frame (cell) animation, key frame animation, procedural animation, simulated animation.
1. Frame by frame animation: this technique can be called as the foundation of animation and improvements or further modifications in this technique gave rise to other techniques. This technique is mainly used for 2d or classical animation and stop motion animations. Rest of the techniques are used in 3d animation.
2. Key frame animation: In this type of animation the objects movements according to the time calculation are provided to the computer by user. In between every two positions and according to its time segment, computer decides the objects movements.
3. Procedural Animation: In procedural animations, instead of pose to pose animation, objects movements are determined by sequence of commands or formulas. This method is used, mainly to obtain different kinds of complex movements or actions.
4. Simulated animation or Simulation: In this method, along with the Models properties like volume, colour, transparency etc. some other factors are considered to generate animation. Such factors can be like the objects mass, friction, Center of gravity, Kinetic and static energy, friction, inertia etc. By using such factors, the dynamic motion of the object is achieved.
CG and 3d modeling is utilized for entertainment, educational and informative series and also for advertisements. These are its classifications.
Entertainment: It is used in movies, documentary or informative films, educational programs and films titles and special effects.
Architectural presentations: Exterior and interior designs can be studied through the use of 3D models or prototypes. These models are used to study fundamental principles of designs, such as scale, proportion, balance, contrast, reach, clearance, circulation and also for light arrangements colour combination, volumetric analysis and surveying. It can be also studied, how much sun light a particular object will receive at a particular day, particular time and from where, with the help of latitude and longitude of that place. Besides it is also used for advertising.
Engineering / Industrial: Many times, 3d models are used, to study the various working factors of a machines part/ final product. The part’s movements, space occupied by it are analyzed. By using CG, the things are visualized clearly and bifurcated. Accordingly, the machine’s parts can be improvised, its uses can be notified to students or workers through the audio visual medium. It is also used to reduce the production cost.
Who can enter into this field: CG graphics is a vast field like film industry and hence it has many branches and sub-branches like script writing, story-board making, layout and background designing, 3d modeling etc. Once we step in this field, we have various career options based on our skills and interests. Such as – director, set designer, actor, editor, cinematographer, lights and camera director and so on. Educational qualification is not compulsory but it can certainly be useful. The knowledge of geometry readily there with engineers/ architects, draughtsman, and those who have passed drawing grade examination is certainly useful. It helps them to understand how an object will appear from front, above and side ways. Qualities like, the ability to work and study for a longer period of time, creativity, dedication to the art, hard-work, are important for the person who wishes to join this field.
From where to acquire education: As mentioned above, hard-work is necessary but it is also important to acquire proper education from the right person. Hence it is necessary to rectify certain points given below.
Before taking admission in a certain institution, make sure whether they have legal version of the software’s. If not then such institutions are illegal. The cyber laws followed world wide, will be more applicable in India in coming years. In this respect it is compulsory for anyone, whether student or any institution to use legal software’s. The certificates provided by institutions which are not using legal software’s are of no use.
When someone who is interested seeks information for animation training, these institutions show spatial effect scenes, mainly from Hollywood movies, under the name of demonstrations. These demonstration certainly show the capabilities of a software, but it does not show whether the teacher is properly qualified or whether they can provide students proper education. One should avoid getting admission, just by getting fascinated with such demonstrations. One should make sure the capabilities of the trainer himself, and what exactly the student will get from the training.