History of Computer Animation

What is Jurassic Park, Titanic, Godzilla and other blockbuster movies without computer animation? They will surely turn out to be not as good as we have seen them in the big screen. Computer animation has greatly revolutionized the movie industry.

In computer animation, animated moving images are generated using computer graphics, normally in 3D but 2D graphics are still widely used for low-bandwidth stylistic and faster renderings. The computer animation that is being used today is essentially a modern version of the traditional animation process that uses frame-by-frame 2D illustrations and 3D models. However, since computer is used in the process, generated images are more controllable. Filmmakers greatly benefit from this technology because they no longer have to hire extras to shoot crowd scenes or to construct miniatures and use props for effect shots. Computer animation also allows for the creation of images that are not feasible using traditional technologies.

The history of computer animation dates back in the early 1940s when various researches and experiments in computer graphics were conducted. One of them was John Whitney. However, it was only in the early 1960s when this technology has been fully explored because of the introduction of digital computers. By that time, computer animation was mainly used for engineering, scientific and research purposes. It was only in the mid-1960s when computer animation started to be used for artistic experimentation and then in the mid-1970s when it started to be recognized in the public media. Most of the early computer animations were produced at Bell Telephone Laboratories and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Much of the early computer animations used two-dimensional imagery. It later on evolved into three-dimensional realism. It was in the late 1980s when photo-realistic 3D images started to appear in movies. By the mid-1990s, it has become so advanced that it was already possible to create an entire movie out of 3D animation.

One of the earliest movies that used computer animation was Futureworld which was released in 1976. It was a sequel to the movie Westworld which features a society where humans and robots live together. Futureworld used 3D imagery, featuring a computer-generated face and hands created by Fred Parke and Edwin Catmull who both graduated from the University of Utah. But it was not until 1995 when the first full-length computer animated film was released, which was Pixar’s Toy Story. It was a groundbreaking movie and was the start of many other movies that were fully computer-animated. And the most recent blockbuster movies like Shrek 2, Avatar, Toy Story 3, and Cars 2, among others are all a product of computer animation.

Currently, any development in the technologies used in computer animation is presented in the annual SIGGRAPH conference. It is a gathering that tackles on interactive techniques and computer graphics and is attended by thousands of participants.

Computer animation plays an important role in the film industry. Knowing its history will let you understand how this technology evolved. And it allows you to explore many other possibilities using this creative technology.


Leaky Gut Syndrome

Last week I had red bumps all over my body for three straight days, not only that, it was also accompanied by constant sneezing. It was an event which really freaked me out totally and you would freak out too if you happen to see me during those days. They are no ordinary bumps and they were more close to welts than bumps really, as they are elongated red swellings, the kind you might have when you got yourself whipped or something.

It came from out of nowhere and I just noticed them when I scratched on my forearm as it felt somewhat itchy. After some vigorous scratching, the kind I always do the first time something itches so that it won’t anymore, I continued with my work. My attention was veritably glued to the computer monitor as the job at hand was sort of intricate that I didn’t notice that my whole arm was already covered with red blotches, not only my arms but my body as well.

I can’t remember what caused it and I was never allergic to anything before this episode. I pride myself on being made of sturdy stuff and am resistant to most any common diseases, but it seems that isn’t true anymore. I woke up, readied myself for work, drank coffee and toast, came to the office, worked hard, ate only corn during lunch as the work I’m doing needed almost all my attention, finished the item, rested a little while reviewing the finished animation and now this. What? Am I allergic to corn now? Are these things supposed to be some kind of corn allergy symptoms? I can’t remember for the life of me, me being allergic to corn, ever in my entire life.

The explanation coming from the doctor was somewhat vague to me, probably because it is only now that I’ve heard of this thing or maybe I was in denial or something, but in gist, he said that what was happening to me was in fact “leaky gut syndrome”.

He said that I somehow disrupted the balance of beneficial bacteria in my digestive tract, of all places why there I thought. He added that it is usually caused by someone being on birth control pills, taken antibiotics for a time, or has been habitually eating processed foods. Well I’m not on the pill or been taking antibiotics, so maybe it’s the third I am guilty of.

The doctor explained that when there is no balance in the digestive tract, yeast begins to grow unabated, which thereby undermines the immune system that has the digestive system as its base. The yeast outbreak eventually creates perforations in the intestines allowing yeast and some other forms of toxins to get into the bloodstream, thereby starting allergic reactions, some, even to substances that you once weren’t allergic to before.

Maybe some weird form of yeast allergy or something and the doctor told me to lay off processed foods for a while or risk compromising my immune system further. I think I’m sort of very inclined to follow his advice this time.


Warning Signs that you Should Not Take for Granted

Sitting down for long periods of time is dangerous to your health. Besides pooling the fats into your waistline adding unwanted girth to it, studies say that sitting down indefinitely are being linked to lower levels of good cholesterol as well as slower metabolic functions and susceptibility to infections and swelling. We all know that all these items are related to, and eventually lead to certain poor health in general and heart problems in particular.

Having a job that requires you to be seated most, if not all, of the time, I think is more hazardous than having a job that sees you standing regularly. When you are sitting for long periods of time, you are prone to several kinds of situational illnesses that even if you are just there, doing nothing in particular, it will happen to you.

I’m not telling you these things just because of a whim or something trivial in nature. I’m telling you this as a warning of sorts. You see I have a friend who is also into animations and films, who also recently experienced his third heart attack in as many years. Good thing for him as the two previous ones were of the mild variety, leaving him virtually untouched save for some minor inconveniences like the on again and off again pain in right arm and the bouts of forgetfulness that sometimes takes the better of him, but the third one really got him good as it left the right side of his body paralyzed. Now he can’t really do the things he used to do, least of all doing animation which was also his life’s passion.

Last time I talked with him, he kept complaining of his numbness in left arm problem and how it makes it difficult to do his job properly. It usually requires precision movements among his two hands and arms just to do a frame of animation, what more an entire feature film of it, he really had a hard time with that. I suggested he lay low for a while and rest, but his gung-ho attitude to his work really made that impossible. His diet also didn’t help.

Numbness in the left arm usually signals irritation, damage or compression of nerves most likely in the vertebrae located in the neck area, but in his case, it can also be a sign of latent heart problems, as what we had found out later. He said that it started as a little numbness in the left arm which kind of radiated up until his elbow; he felt no pain in his heart only a feeling of great pressure in the middle part of his chest, he felt labored in his breathing and the next thing he knew, he was already lying in a hospital bed.

It’s his third time with that so probably he’ll take much better care of himself right now. He will always be reminded of that once he looks at his limp left arm hanging taut beside him.


Smoking Kills

I have been trying mightily hard to convince my friend to finally quit his smoking addiction. I keep telling him that smoking is really bad for his health and although he knows it, he seems incapable of stopping. Either he does not really want to stop or smoking has finally gotten control over him. He said that he already tried it many times but ultimately failed in each and every one of them. He said that every time he tried to quit, things just seem to always push him towards smoking again, be it seeing an ashtray or a cigarette lighter lying around, it never fails to remind him of the kind of rush and feeling that only smoking cigarettes can brings to him.

I have enumerated to him all the disadvantages of being a smoker. From all the sickness that he is bound to get, to the little things like how much he can save if he’s not buying cigarettes, or the effects of secondhand smoke to his family, especially his children who are still little. Never mind him being a bad example to his young ones who might think that smoking is good just because dad does it or something like that, yet he still persist on his ways. Maybe smoking is really that addictive that he sacrifices all of these things for a puff of smoke.

Imagine the surprise I got last week when we met during a meeting for an animation project for which we are both contributors. I didn’t notice it immediately, not until we had a chance to talk after a brief break in the middle of the presentation. He always smoked outside during these intermissions, but today I was glad he didn’t. I teased him about it and asked of when did he finally quit, and what made him do it.

He said his doctor one day gave him a choice between bronchitis vs. pneumonia, after he consulted with the doctor with regards to his chronic cough, which doesn’t seem to stop with whatever medicine he takes for it. The doctor then stern-faced said to him that he has the former of the two, and although it’s still mild in form, also based of his lab tests and x-rays, might eventually get chronic if he still doesn’t kick his habit immediately.

Thinking about his family and their future together, he got really scared and finally decided to quit altogether. He said it was apocalyptically hard the first couple of days and he almost went mad from quitting. Sleeping offered no solace as his dreams were always about smoking and stuff and his terrible coughing did not help either. But he did manage to quit eventually with the help of his family, particularly his wife who was the strong one, during his down days.

Now, a couple of months since he last smoked, he looks like a changed man. He even gained a lot of weight from what he says is him recovering his sense of taste back. His bronchitis seems to have receded from what he says as alternative bronchitis remedies that his doctor had devised for him. Items like ginger, garlic, turmeric, eucalyptus oil, salt water and honey to name a few, are always given a slot in every meal and its working great for him. He says that he has no trouble breathing now and that his cough has also vanished.

I congratulated him for his momentous choice and it is also such good feeling, knowing that he finally realized the error of his ways. I just hope other smokers realize the many mistakes that they are making right now, hopefully before it’s too late.


3D Animation Simplified

Do you want to know what I do for a living? Well I’m a certified freelance 3D animator, and dare I say a good one at that. With all the repeat projects and the permanent ones that are under my portfolio, coupled with the long list of companies that always utilize my services, convince me of the general quality of my work. Being nice and approachable also helps as who wouldn’t like that.

Your next question probably is going to be on what particular things do I usually work on and what the heck is a 3D animator? Well, our work, to put it simply, is all about imagination and the ways we put it into a tangible object, say a movie or a short film, but it’s not limited to those things and the possible uses of 3D animation is virtually endless, and I think, that as advance as it is now, we are only barely scratching the surface of it’s possible uses.

A 3D animator makes imaginary worlds appear so real that you would say it’s not anymore the drawings and sketches that they really are. We make images stand up and move around backgrounds that also move as well. Lighting, shadows, motion, movement are always considered and scrutinized very carefully with every frame so that we can make the make-believe believable. We try our very best to make fictional things become reality to whoever sees them.

So you can very well see the great effort we put into each and every one of our projects, and sometimes it gets the better of us and in fact, the attrition rate among our ranks is very high. Back problems, especially the lower left back pain variety is very prevalent, usually caused by sitting too much and the withholding going to the bathroom, are kind of inevitable because we really just can’t leave our work whenever we wanted to.

Me for example, I have been experiencing a sort of right side back pain on and off these past couple of weeks. One time it got so painful that I checked with a doctor about it, expecting to hear something that I will be regretful of. I’ve done my research and saw several nasty diseases like UTI, lumbar muscle strain, slipped disc and gallbladder problems to name a few, and all the doctors got to do now is pick among them, I just really need to know which.

My diagnosis was sciatica, which seems to be the result of improper posture, especially during sitting, which I also tend to do a lot of when I am working. So I’m basically flummoxed with my situation. Maybe I should start practicing my seating properly with a straight back and stuff. It’s like grade school all over again.

So the next time you watch any 3D animated film, keep in mind the hard work and long hours that was invested doing it. And if you are really interested in being one of us, do continue with your dream and persevere. The rewards are truly worth it.


Be Careful of Itchy Scalp

My current project, which is a kind of outsourcing work form Pixar, wherein it is required of us to generate several layers of animation backgrounds for use in later films, is a very tough nut to crack. Imagine thinking of brand new sceneries never before seen in this earth, or ever for that matter, and doing not only one of them, but several, actually two dozen of them, with still more in the future if our works proved satisfactory.

It’s a very hard project with lots of man hours involved in doing it, good thing I have two partners to share it with as it would be virtually impossible to do it on my own, given the short timeframe that comes with the completion of the project. I’m also very happy that the two partners I am working with happen to be close friends in the industry. One of them was even a classmate in high-school so we go way back. It promises to be a very rewarding and fun project to make.

The rewarding part comes later when we manage to finish the whole thing, but the fun part is now, as in everyday now. You see Jim, my former classmate, is a clown to be around with, not that I’m complaining or anything, but you always tend to look forward, to what another day may bring, when he’s around. But yesterday was sort of his karma day and it was he that was the object of all the fun.

He came to the office wearing a baseball cap and that got us all curious. It was really a hot day and the air-conditioning can’t seem to keep up with the heat and stuff, so after having lunch, Jim unintentionally removed his cap, which was a really bad move on his part, as it revealed an out-break of scalp folliculitis all over his newly cleanly shaven head.

Amidst laughter, he said he got his head shaven because of the severe itching that he experienced because of it. Folliculitis is a kind of inflammatory condition of the hair follicles in the scalp region, which are usually distinguished by tiny and very itchy eruptions or pimples scattered around the area. It is commonly cause by yeast, bacteria and also mites. He said that he have been affected by it for a long time, four months to be exact and he also have the scabs on scalp to prove it. He said he can’t really resist the desire to scratch at it and stuff, and it was particularly worse during the day, as his sweat tends to irritate the pimples in his head that is also why he purposely got bald in the first place.

We said that wearing any head gear while having folliculitis, is not so good an idea as it hinders proper air circulation in the area, lengthening the time for his malady to heal. So basically, he eventually has to show the world what happened to his head or else, risk having it worsen for him. He may just have to bear and grin with it for a while.