With the technology of today, we can create entire worldsin which anything is possible. Imagination is the only limit.
By Laura Dart
When you think of your favourite movie what do you think of?
Some may see action films with cars blowing up in the background, or maybe a cute orange fish in the ocean, or maybe a gorilla climbing up a building.
The one thing these have in common is that they were all thanks to 3D animators who have made another world come to life.
3D animation is defined as making 3-dimensional objects move. When animations come to life, whether we see them in movies, video games, architecture, commercials, science, or ads, they seem so real that sometimes we don’t exactly know what’s being animated. Animations are becoming so humanized that if something looks human, but not quite, we will know that it’s animated.
Paul Neale, 3D animation professor at Humber College describes how much time and effort goes into making these animations come to life.
“In some movies we’ve hit that realism with humans. Benjamin Button, most of the time, he was CG. It took one guy just to make the eyes, two years. Just to get the eyes right, so they’re believable,” he says.
Pixar Animation Studios, based in Emeryville, California created Toy Story, the first all-computer animated feature film in 1995. What followed was a steady stream of award winners.
“I remember seeing Finding Nemo and just the opening shot [looking] at the colouring going – ‘Oh my god, that’s gorgeous, that’s just absolutely beautiful, and that’s done in a computer,’” says Neale.
The work that’s being done takes hundreds of people, from the starting process of modeling to build the characters or scenes. Then there’s texturizing where the textures and designs get put onto the models. Colours, designs, textures are all added. There’srigging and skinning, the process of setting up what the character will do if it’s going to walk or talk before the character animation can start. Lighting and camera work are also very important before the animation is finished. Compositors put together the final image using all the combined layers that have already been created.
Neale says modelers, compositors and animators jobs are to mimic the real world.
“We want to partner with the photography students and have our students do real lighting and rendering because it’s the same thing, we’re putting lights in the scene, got all the same settings as cameras do,” Neale says.
The advancements in technology have made animation a lot more detailed and real, and Neale says, “That’s just it, it’s as things progress everything gets better and you can say it gets easier. Now it’s really easy to render a chrome sphere but nobody wants just a chrome sphere anymore,” he says. “We expect a chrome sphere that’s blowing up and turning into bats and then flying into a fox and running off. It’s just, we expect way more out of the chrome sphere now. That doesn’t impress anybody at this point. We expect things to be absolutely real,” Neale says.
Students going into the industry now have to be able to adapt to new programs, new technology that comes out. Not all of it can be taught in the time span that they’re in college, so learning everything that’s needed for a job in the industry is countless hours learning on their own.
“Stuff just shows up and you have to stay on top of it,” says Jacob Cattapan, a final year 3D animation student at Humber College. “If there’s this program that you don’t think anything of, and then a year from now everyone’s using it and you’re behind because you didn’t learn it when it was new. You gotta stay in the loop a lot, because [stuff] changes quick,” says Cattapan.
When starting on a new piece of work. There’s a lot of trial and error.
“Every project when you start it, you spend a good week thinking just maybe this will work- eventually you try little tricks- you can get it done really quickly and go,” says Cattapan.
It takes hundreds of people to create what is seen while watching Finding Dory or the newest Grand Theft Auto video game. Sometimes looking at the computer screen, TV screen, billboards, or commercials, it all seems so real that the animation goes unnoticed. “It’s very demanding work. A lot of people think going into it that it’s art- you draw pretty pictures,” says Neale. “I tell my students – when they’re doing realistic pieces- if your parents say that’s really nice 3D work you just failed. They should look at it and say “So?” Say thank you and walk away. It should look 100 per cent real because you don’t even know what you’re seeing on TV anymore that’s real or not,” he says.
A lot of students coming into the 3D animation world, aren’t exactly sure what they’re getting themselves into, says Neale.
“They call it animation. Well, animation is the art of moving something and making it come to life. That’s it. That’s what animation is. So there are multiple areas of CG that they don’t even understand the terminologies that are attached to them at this point,” says Neale.
“They have no understanding of what the industry is, what the grand scheme of the industry is. They have no understanding generally of the specificity of jobs,” says Neale.
The skills learned throughout the program will help students get hired in their specialized field for people.
“That’s what we try to do in this program is- the first two years are spent giving them an overview,” he says. “But not of everything, because there’s areas like game design, for instance you’re not going to hire a game designer to design your game right out of school generally because they have no experience making games,” says Neale.
Prospective student Noah Rodgers is excited. “I want to be able to learn how to use all the animation 3D modeling effect programs to the best of my ability so that I’m able to be hired by a good company in the future,” says Rodgers. “Expecting to be able to come out of this with the knowledge of what a company would want and basically to be able to be able to look into a program open it up and someone ask me for something and I’m going to be able to do it,” he says.
Neale says the program allows students to specialize in an area during the final year so that companies will want to hire students for that specialty. “You can’t just be good at a bunch of things because they don’t need good. They need fantastic in all of those things. They’ll hire someone’s specialty. Students spend the last two semesters working only on their chosen specialty whether it be modellying or animation. Trever Johansen who’s in his final year of 3D animation at Humber stresses the importance of always learning, no matter what.
“Most important skill you can learn is teach yourself – teachers can teach you only so much in anything – figuring out programs for yourself. If you’re not willing to teach yourself you have no business in this industry,” he says.
As for the technology, it’ll always be changing, so you have to adapt and be interested in growing with it.
“You should always be willing to learn anything. Always be willing to learn any new technology that comes out whether you’re 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 – as long as your brain’s working you should take the opportunity to learn,” says Johansen.