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Author Topic: 3D Animation in Futurama  (Read 17424 times)
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[-mArc-]

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« on: 06-07-2001 03:35 »

What are your thoughts about the rendered 3D scenes in futurama ?

I myself am kind of split over this matter.

+ On the one hand, I think it's way better than the CGI of any other animated TV-shows. The rendering scenes actually look comic like, the particles (rain, plasmas, dust) are great (i think they use Softimage Toonz for that) and the character models look fine.

- The thing which bugs me the most is: The movement (both camera and characters) just looks too perfect sometimes. It sort of rips the animation flair away some. I don't know if it is possible to add distorted movement with the current software solutions, but I myself would really appreciate it if this would be done for Futurama.

Although I think that Rough Draft could have a hard time to sell this as an improvement ("hey, great news, we have made it look worse to match the hand drawn animation" - could insult some animators  wink )
Radijs

Bending Unit
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« Reply #1 on: 06-07-2001 04:44 »

Perfection is easier to do in computer animations then imperfection. because Computers cant do random things. OK we can make it look like its random but it never is.
The Baz

Bending Unit
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« Reply #2 on: 06-07-2001 04:46 »

I love the animation of Futurama.  Yea, sometimes it does seem too perfect but due to the sci-fi nature of the show I think it is a welcome quality.  Futurama animation is top notch and I love it.
Crizp

Crustacean
*
« Reply #3 on: 06-07-2001 11:50 »

I love it! Brings back memories... The first episode I watched was the Titanic spoof, and I never really noticed the CGI until Bender kiss the class 3 yacht (what's her name again?)... And I thought w0w!

I think all the CG in the series is exceptional, they've managed to blend it in with the hand-drawn parts extremely well... only time I noticed a flaw was in that Lord Nibbler episode... when the brain is flying out, stating it's the "greetest", Fry's eyes don't point exactly at the brain... but camera-matching is quite hard to to anyways. Believe me, I've tried  smile

I keep wondering what software they're using... the output looks very much like CartoonReyes on 3DS MAX, but it can also be LightWave or Maya... My guess is it's Maya, what's the name of the CG company they use? Anyone checked out their website?

While on the topic of CG, i guess you've seen the trailers for the Final Fantasy movie. I _so_ envy you who lives in the US, here in Norway we get the movies 6 months after you guys  frown

Gwah... enough ranting, I've been awake for too long - working on a digital art website (blatant self-plug) and finishing Final Fantasy IX... And I've just learned that Futurama is scheduled for running this summer - Monday through Thursday! I'm so happy! Finally I can watch the episodes in better quality than those MPEGs.
FishyJoe

Honorary German
Urban Legend
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« Reply #4 on: 06-07-2001 13:20 »

 
Quote
Originally posted by Radijs:
Perfection is easier to do in computer animations then imperfection. because Computers cant do random things. OK we can make it look like its random but it never is.

I don't know a damn thing about animation, but it doesn't seem like making it less perfect would be too hard. Just remove a few of the frames so that it's more consistent with the hand-drawn stuff.

But it doesn't matter, I like the smoothness of it. It makes it sleek and sexy.

Kryten

Space Pope
****
« Reply #5 on: 06-07-2001 14:15 »

What's everyone's favorite CGI bit? Mine is in "Insane in the Mainframe", where we're gliding across the rippling surface of the water towards PEHQ....

VelourFog

Space Pope
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« Reply #6 on: 06-07-2001 14:53 »

I personally think it is okay.  I don't see why everyone always lists the various CGI chase scenes as the best parts of the episodes.  but oh well.  i think that is kinda sad.  The "race" part in "crogenic woman" looked shitty as hell though, especially the part where they flip sides of the road.  I don't really like that fact that the CGI stands out as being CGI, but then i don't like that fact in movies either.  But the CGI is nice in scenes with the PE ship, cause it is all outerspacey and fast looking.


"cuter than a chinchilla, and only twice as bitey" -rach
The Baz

Bending Unit
***
« Reply #7 on: 06-07-2001 19:42 »

 
Quote
Originally posted by Kryten:
What's everyone's favorite CGI bit?


While I didn't like this episode it had the best CGI bits.  So the entire episode of A clone of my own gets my vote.  But there are sooooo many well done scenes that is a hard decision.
futurefreak

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« Reply #8 on: 06-07-2001 22:39 »

quick question...where did you find these 3d animations?

[-mArc-]

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Liquid Emperor
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« Reply #9 on: 06-07-2001 22:55 »

     
Quote
Originally posted by futurefreak:
quick question...where did you find these 3d animations?

so someone didnt even notice       smile
CGI means Computer Generated Imaging.
So, we are talking about some bits in Futurama not being drawn by hand but produced on computers. This is most often the case when there are sophisticated camera swings with objects visible from multiple sides (eg. camera rotates around the PE  bulding or the spaceship.)

actually ... that is another point:
could it be that the average public in fact doesnt even notice there is CGI ?

I guess that would quite tone down the makers motivation for perfection though, if they concentrate on pleasing the average blob or maybe even get that ruled as their official aim to keep prduction costs low...

To me it doesn't seem like they were forced to do many cut backs though.



[This message has been edited by [-mArc-] (edited 06-08-2001).]
Crizp

Crustacean
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« Reply #10 on: 06-08-2001 13:18 »

I think there are lots of CGI the average joe does not spot... in Futurama and other movies as well...

It was easier in movies from a time ago, like T2 or some badly-created stuff like The Langoliers, but nowadays it's just so darn well integrated with the overall look and feel (lighting & radiosity have a lot to do with that) that people don't notice.

I've had some friends ask me "How did they do that?" in Fight Club... the oven exploding, the Fürni catalog etc. And some friends didn't believe me when I said the Final Fantasy movie is all-CG  smile but that one is an entirely new generation...
Bovinatron

Starship Captain
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« Reply #11 on: 06-10-2001 22:42 »

i love it.  i like when there's a bunch of stuff going on at once, like the chase scene in bendin in the wind.
Redman

Poppler
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« Reply #12 on: 06-12-2001 23:09 »

I think the biggest reason why the CGI parts look so smooth is because they realy are smooth. Normal cartoon animation is just 15 frames or so per second (what whas that opening quote again? "painstakingly drawn before a live audience"?  big grin )
Except that making a nice animation where the camera is twisting round a building or something is very complicated it would probably look crappy if it were done with only 15fps while in normal cartoons the relatively 'lack of movement' makes 15 fps very acceptable. And because it's not much harder to do 150fps than 15 fps when rendering the images on a computer, why not just use all 30 (or 25) frames every second?

The real question should be: "why do those anivcd coders encode their mpegs 30 fps while the actual animation is just 15 fps?"   big grin

"I prefer Extortion, The X makes it sound cool" -Bender-
[-mArc-]

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« Reply #13 on: 06-20-2001 16:40 »

As i felt that this thread developed pretty nice and on topic, i mailed Scott Vanzo from Rough Draft Studios about it, and just got his answer per mail. Thanks for spending your time to answer that thoroughly Scott   smile

Put on your techie-googles, here we go:

by Scott Vanzo:

I agree with mArc's observations regarding the lack of artifacts in 3D animation that cause it to diverge with the quality of the hand-drawn (2D) animation.

?Hand-drawn Animation for episodic (television) production is generally animated on 2's(12 fps) for any particular movement. This cost-effective measure introduces temporal artifacts such as strobing and emphasizes video field separation due to the NTSC format and 3:2 field rate conversion(converting 24fps->30fps).

These artifacts are generally considered limitations, so the prevailing attitude among our episode Directors is to use all 24 fps of 3D animation, despite the disparity. IMHO, however - the 12 fps would be my personal preference UNLESS the motion was considerably fast or complex. Even hand-drawn animation is animated on 1's when clarity is needed or a camera pan is in effect. Perhaps a more judicious use of 1's would be more appropriate.

?Spatially, a hand-drawn character is often "cheated" to emphasize traits of the face or body - to improve legibility of an expression, recognition of character(through silhouette features), and/or design(composition). The character's features are often drawn slightly out of proportion or off-perspective as a result.

Bender is a good example. His visor is clearly visible in hand-drawn rear 3/4 poses even though his visor is all but occluded by his head in our 3D model. We would have to severely lengthen or warp his visor during a 3D animation in order for it to appear identical to the 2D model. Also, front 3/4 drawings emphasize the frontal features by "pulling" the front of the character more towards the viewer. All of this pushing, pulling and warping that is merely an intuitive impulse/response to the 2D animator would be a logistical nightmare to the 3D animator.

This problem would be interesting to investigate, however. A more procedural way of key-framing these distortions, based on camera movement, may be possible.

?Unintended variances in hand-drawn perspective and position are often a trait of even good Animation. The eye is able to "accept" some imprecision without really correcting for it. The movement is believable, even if it isn't incredibly smooth. In the worst case, an object that is drawn very small, or in-betweened poorly may jitter unacceptably.

This is where we could experiment more and still meet our schedule. Perhaps a minute, random offset, rotation, camera angle adjustment could be introduced to each frame to vary the appearance in a subtle way. This would not be too complicated. Worth a test.

3D is used to extend our 2D toolset, so its use is by definition divergent from what we can do with 2D. We therefore limit our 3D animation by making the movement as simple as possible.

?Drawn high-lights and shadows on a character or object may be based more on composition than on accurate representation of a "3D" or real-world light source.

In general we "lock" down, or limit the way that lights interact with objects. Usually, it is as simple as grouping a light source with an object, where possible,  to reduce the broad movement of shadows or highlights. The light source can move locally, but not globally.

The amount of coverage and softness between shade regions is also considered.

?Line thickness and coherence(missing lines or line portions) is an issue for hand-drawn Animation (during the Assistant/Cleanup stage) as well as for the 3D Animation. We've had to learn how to model in 3D to help insure that lines won't jitter or pop on/off during Animation rendering. Our rendering solution(PowerAnimator->PowerToon) was the best product at the time to maintain coherence in lines and still offer a great amount of control. We're still looking for a Maya solution for line rendering that will offer us this kind of quality.

Line quality is another issue. The line renderer we use is good, but creates a uniformly thick line. This is adequate for Futurama, but there are some finer nuances of 2D cleanup that are difficult to emulate, such as rounded corners and soft pencil lines.

?Effects (such as smoke, explosions, nebulae) are toned down quite a bit so they don't look too realistic. Many people think that cool looking effects are necessarily realistic-looking; I contend that abstraction can look appropriate, if not "cool", as well. Abstracting effects (reducing local detail/noise, lighting and action) is much more difficult to do well than pursuing a quasi-realistic result. Of course, obtaining convincing realism is a holy grail of sorts, butWe have to determine how far we will go and still integrate the style with the hand-drawn. Some shots are more successful than others; Overall, IMHO, we've done pretty good.

-----------


To clarify for anyone curious, we use Softimage Toonz for 2D ink&paint/composite, and Alias|Wavefront PowerAnimator and Maya for 3D...

Any how, sorry for any techno-speak.

-s.vanzo
 rough draft


my short first comment: nice to see that they are really involved in what they do and don't just deliver on schedule and move along. I'd like to see more of the staff to act like him and get in contact (even if proxied like here through me) with the fans.
more remarks on the actual matter some later when i'm more awake   smile
Kryten

Space Pope
****
« Reply #14 on: 06-20-2001 16:50 »

Hey, thanks. I always wanted to know how they pulled this stuff off.

PS: Whatever happened to the sig block that Paul sent you for me?

futurefreak

salutatory committee member
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« Reply #15 on: 06-20-2001 17:12 »

that is so cool that he emailed you marc! awesome info!  smile

bart182

Professor
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« Reply #16 on: 06-20-2001 17:35 »

Wow that was very informative!  So much wonderful information!  That really should be archived for a web site one of these days.

[Jon] - [my winamp statistics]
[CGEF - gotfuturama.com]
[Futurama Collectorama! - enjoyslurm.com]

]PaulFSAC[

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« Reply #17 on: 06-20-2001 19:08 »

Was going to read all that and will later on.

You siggy block should be available tomorrow/today/whenever, Kryten.

Click me!
                                                                                     
Thanks To Daniela for the new block.
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RETIRED AVATAR KING - hopefully custom rank will return one day
Scotty

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« Reply #18 on: 06-21-2001 07:07 »

Bart182 thinks everything should go on a website  big grin 

Wonder what I did with that siggy block thing i had....

[-mArc-]

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Liquid Emperor
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« Reply #19 on: 06-21-2001 13:02 »

 
Quote
Originally by Scott Vanzo:
This [...] introduces temporal artifacts such as strobing and emphasizes video field separation due to the NTSC format and 3:2 field rate conversion(converting 24fps->30fps).
As I've never seen a NTSC episode on TV i wonder how they go about the PAL release. Do they make it 24->30->25 fps? To me the PAL version seems some faster but very clean and smooth. 

 
Quote
IMHO, however - the 12 fps would be my personal preference UNLESS the motion was considerably fast or complex.
It could be worth a test as it shouldn't be to complex to kick some frames and then see how it integrates. Maybe the directors wouldn't even notice  wink

 
Quote
This is where we could experiment more and still meet our schedule. Perhaps a minute, random offset, rotation, camera angle adjustment could be introduced to each frame to vary the appearance in a subtle way. This would not be too complicated. Worth a test.
That's about what i meant. Changing the camera parameters per frame might do. Changing the object positions themself could be way more difficult and look too bumpy in the end. Would be nice to hear/see the result of the test some day

 
Quote
In general we "lock" down, or limit the way that lights interact with objects.
Your lighting looks great IMHO, keep it up that way.

 
Quote
Many people think that cool looking effects are necessarily realistic-looking; I contend that abstraction can look appropriate, if not "cool", as well.

Full agree. I don't want to see realistic explosions and the like. To be honest, there was one episode (sorry, forgot which) where i thought "What the ..." as it didn't quite look toon like. Regarding explosions: The DOOP HQ space station explosion in Brannigan begin again is one of my favs. I wish i could remember the episode in which a tire emerged an explosion ...
 
Quote
Overall, IMHO, we've done pretty good.
Yes you did. I'm a nitpicker by heart, so you got away pretty well  smile
futurefreak

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« Reply #20 on: 06-27-2001 23:41 »

 
Quote
Originally posted by Scotty:
Bart182 thinks everything should go on a website   big grin 

Wonder what I did with that siggy block thing i had....


me too...and stop advertising porn of me on your website jon...  wink

Bender 06

Poppler
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« Reply #21 on: 11-05-2006 04:12 »

yo gust had sex
coldangel

DOOP Secretary
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« Reply #22 on: 11-05-2006 04:21 »

Strange way to bump a thread, but anyway...

I think the use of CGI in Futurama is probably the most seamless of the show's time. Transitions are great. I do see how it can still grate against the traditional animation at times, but that's never bothered me.
ivan_fry

Bending Unit
***
« Reply #23 on: 11-05-2006 06:32 »
« Last Edit on: 11-05-2006 06:32 »

If [-mArc-] still hangs around here (he probably does, since hes an admin), maybe he could try to email Scott again to see if anything has really  changed.
I love the 3D animation in Futurama, especially when it is actually used heavily in an episode (one example is the first act of The Sting) with the best episode to use to explain this being Roswell That Ends Well. Basically from start to finish this uses 3D modelling and animation (the supernova, the time stream, flying back into earth, crashing, the nuclear explosion, the 'fighting' scene at the end, gee, even the cars in the background [such as the Jeep or whatever at the army base] use it even though they're only on for a few seconds), and I absolutely love how it looks. Of course, an episode like Roswell would need that kind of animation because of the way the plot develops (eg: the ship is used a lot, the nuclear explosion would look awful without 3D renderring, etc), but an episode like...let's say I Second That Emotion, would, in my opinion, look absolutely godawful if they tried to use anywhere near as much 3D renderring as they did in Roswell, because that episode is basically just characters walking around and talking for 20 minutes.
HookerBot 5000

Liquid Emperor
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« Reply #24 on: 11-05-2006 07:57 »

I do love the 3D animation, it gives a whole different, more real feel to it...like in Obsoletely Fabulous, those waves, wow, they were amazing. The only thing that sticks out (only slightly, mind you) is that 3D Benders eyes are weird. I dont know why that niggles, it just does. I mean, Im not complaining, Ive just noticed.
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