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New CG animation tool to revolutionize the industry

Although many people probably assume that that CG animation is an easier option than the techniques of the past, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, CG animators are required to learn a lot more than simply how to animate through drawings or stop-motion characters. Instead, these individuals are tasked with constantly learning how to use new software and work within various user interfaces.

Additionally, the constant movements that are required to bring CG animated characters to life can easily lead to medical problems such as repetitive strain injury. Fortunately, one group of CG animators recently decided to address this lack of ergonomics, and the results could change the entire industry.

Audiences have been treated to regular doses of CG animation since Pixar brought the original Toy Story to the screen in 1995. This blockbuster was the first feature length film to be 100 percent CG animated, according to Livescience, and it took more than 2.5 years for it to go from being greenlit to ending up on the big screen. The 3D-type effect that was achieved by this style of animation was quickly embraced by audiences, and it is not surprising that it has now become the standard technique.

According to Masters of Pie, animating via CG can be a cumbersome process due to the user interface, mouse, 2D screen and the discomfort associated with sitting at a desk all day long. In order to tackle these issues, the company decided to launch the Geppetto Project.

The main goal behind this project was to give CG animators the ability to tweak their creations in a way that is similar to stop-motion animation. In other words, with just a simple hand motion, they would be able to manipulate the character’s appearance so that the animation stage would come to a finish much more quickly.

Masters of Pie chose to use two Razer Hydra controls and an Oculus Rift to bring their vision of VR animation to life. This changed the process so dramatically that animators were no longer stuck behind a desk at all. Instead, they are able to stand with the Razer Hydra controls in their hands and an Oculus Rift virtual reality mask over their eyes while they manipulate a 3D character that appears to be right in front of them.

Another benefit of choosing this particular method is that the animators were able to work with their own rig structure, so it was not necessary to learn a new, complicated user interface in order to proceed.

This innovative team selected a character they had previously designed named Syd the Spider Guy to test out their concept. The Razer Hydra made it possible to highlight the desired section of the character, and this then led to direct manipulation of its appearance. Masters of Pie indicated that moving things from one area to another was as easy as “holding down the [Hydra’s] right trigger… and then a simple motion of the hand.”

The team behind the Geppetto Project is currently in the process of tweaking their tool so that it will be easier to control and offer better blending results. These touches will be important to make the Geppetto Tool a viable option for professional CG animation projects, and a lot of work has already been completed to bring this tool up to speed.

For example, the left Hydra control now offers panning and zooming functionality to improve the entire process.
Although it remains to be seen if the Geppetto Tool will someday help companies like Pixar finish their movies more quickly, this type of innovation is an important way to push CG animation into the next stage of its evolution.

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