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3D Animation

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Computer animation is the art of creating moving images via the use of computers. It is a subfield of computer graphics and animation. Increasingly it is created by means of 3D computer graphics, though 2D computer graphics are still widely used for low bandwidth and faster real-time rendering needs. Sometimes the target of the animation is the computer itself, but it sometimes the target is another medium, such as film. It is also referred to as CGI (Computer-generated imagery or computer-generated imaging), especially when used in films.

To create the illusion of movement, an image is displayed on the computer screen then quickly replaced by a new image that is similar to the previous image, but shifted slightly. This technique is identical to how the illusion of movement is achieved with television and motion pictures.

Computer animation is essentially a digital successor to the art of stop motion animation of 3D models and frame-by-frame animation of 2D illustrations. For 3D animations, objects (models) are built on the computer monitor (modeled) and 3D figures are rigged with a virtual skeleton. For 2D figure animations, separate objects (illustrations) and separate transparent layers are used, with or without a virtual skeleton. Then the limbs, eyes, mouth, clothes, etc. of the figure are moved by the animator on key frames. The differences in appearance between key frames are automatically calculated by the computer in a process known as tweening or morphing. Finally, the animation is rendered.

For 3D animations, all frames must be rendered after modeling is complete. For 2D vector animations, the rendering process is the key frame illustration process, while tweened frames are rendered as needed. For pre-recorded presentations, the rendered frames are transferred to a different format or medium such as film or digital video. The frames may also be rendered in real time as they are presented to the end-user audience. Low bandwidth animations transmitted via the internet (e.g. 2D Flash, X3D) often use software on the end-users computer to render in real time as an alternative to streaming or pre-loaded high bandwidth animations.

Careers - 3D Animation & Visual Effects
The 3D Animation & Visual Effects program grants students the skills they need to become excellent 3D artists.

The jobs and/or fields we specifically train for are detailed below. Depending on the size and style of the animation studio, hired artists may specialize in one field or work in many. The 3D Animation program counters this by granting all students a working knowledge of a range of fields while urging them to specialize in one. The links listed on the right will lead you to stories about VFS grads that work in the related fields.

Character Animator
The character animator interprets animatics and scripts and uses that material to create the performance of 3D character models. Some animators - especially in games - use and manipulate motion capture data to inform their animation.

Like all animators, 3D character animators must have have an intuitive understanding of physical and emotional performance.
Alumni Stories
Nora - Working on FIFA at EA
Paul, Adam, & Lorenzo - at EA
Kirk - Motion Capture at EA
Pritish - Huhu Studios in NZ
Ernesto - On The Ant Bully
Lino - Disney Feature Animator

Using a designer's conceptual drawings, a modeler creates the 3D geometry that animators later use to create motion. A team of multiple modelers may be broken up into different positions, including character modeler, prop modeler, and environment modeler.
Alumni Stories
Daniel - Spacecraft for Battlestar
Caroline - Medical Modeler
Matt - EA's NBA Franchise
Visual Effects Artist
The effects artist is responsible for the creation of natural and supernatural phenomena and the compositing of them into a finished image. Effects can range from the subtle (removal of wires, gunfire, etc.) to the extremely complex (water, explosions, etc.).
Alumni Stories
Scott - Emmy for Lost
Winston - Effects at Mainframe
Texture Artist
A texture artist creates and applies textures, colors, and other surface attributes to 3D models. They often work in Photoshop, painting their textures by hand or by manipulating photographs of real-life surfaces.

Lighting Artist
Lighting artists apply a lighting scheme to the characters and environments within a production's 3D environment. Lighting artists may apply lighting schemes to characters, scenes, or entire sequences.
Alumni Stories
Arun - Games and Movies
Kristen - Honourary Narnian
Previsualisation Artist
The "previs" artist assembles the 3D sets and props into the scenes as defined in the script and establishes preliminary camera moves. For visual effects in live-action productions, the artist previsualizes shots using 3D models to support the Director of Photography for the live-action filming.

This function sometimes replaces hand-drawn animatics and is a relatively new position in the animation world.

Technical Director (TD)
A Technical Director (TD) is the glue between the artistic and technical departments within an animation facility. TDs are jacks-of-all-trades; they may design new software tools, rig and weight character models, or specialize as technical assistants in the other disciplines on this page.

This relatively new position may vary from company to company and is in high demand.
Alumni Stories
Lucasfilm Hires 6 3D Grads


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