Animation tool puts a physical body in the frame
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Date posted: 23/03/2007
Posted by: Site Administration
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Total Immersion

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Saarbr?cken, Germany have created a new kind of 3D animation technique which they believe will take most of the grunt work out of animation.

It allows a high-resolution 3D scan of one person?s physical form to be pasted on to another person's movements, allowing the first person a form that looks like the first?s - or can be tweaked and altered without requiring further animation.

The technique is faster than traditional animation methods. Usually animators must design a skeleton to go inside a character and ensure its movements translate into realistic deformations of the outer surface.

"Parts of that process are very labour-intensive," says Christian Theobalt, who led the research: "We wanted to be able to go directly from the desired motion to animating your character."

The scans can be taken in less than a minute and are accurate to millimetres.

"The only thing the user needs to do is mark the corresponding points on the scan and on the source of the motion," explains de Aguiar. "It is easy to do." After matching points on the scan and the source (such as hands or elbows) have been marked, equations developed by the team work out how to deform the scanned surface as the points move.

In tests, an inexperienced user could produce the animations shown in the video in less than 15 minutes by using around 60 markers, the designers say. More markers produce better results and using fewer allows quick prototyping of a sequence. After the basic animation has been created, textures or other finishes can make the result look more realistic.

"We are most interested in using it to generate 3D video," says de Aguiar, "but it's a versatile technique that can have other uses." One application could be to import a person?s scan as an avatar into a computer game or virtual world, he says.

Video showing the process in motion - (36MB, avi format)

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