Manifesto

The goal: make hobbyist animating easier, cheaper, faster

The current barriers to hobbyist creation of interesting, watchable 3DCG animated short films are extremely high.  Non-professionals with an animated story idea are faced, today, with an enormous number of challenges:

- Most 3D animation software and its add-ons are ferociously expensive, both in up-front costs and recurring annual support costs.  Blender is one exception, however Blender doesn't yet have a user community that rivals that of commercial packages, and it therefore lacks the support and 3rd-party add-ons available for commercial packages.

- Motion capture hardware and its required support software are similarly expensive.

- The creation process for 3D films is extraordinarily complex and requires skill mastery across a broad range of technologies: modeling, texturing, rigging, skinning, animation, procedural scripting, lighting, effects, post-production, asset management, and more.  The skillsets are so specialized that nearly all animation shops divide film creation into separate positions of employment, with a specialist handling each separate part of the animation pipeline.  Hobbyist animators often speak of spending 2 to 5 years of free time on a single short film which might run from 1 to 10 minutes.

- Asset-sharing between 3D programs is difficult at best, and often close to impossible.  Animation creators are often forced to purchase format-translation tools, typically priced between $300 to $1000, if they want to move assets from program X into program Y.

- Machinima-based techniques, while much faster than a conventional keyframed animation process, typically come with significant limitations: asset import from other programs might not be possible (e.g. MovieStorm), or rendering has to be done in an online environment (e.g. SecondLife), or the licensing agreement of the 3D engine doesn't allow for the resale or redistribution of user-created content (e.g. The Sims or other video-game-based rendering environments.)

- Although there exists a large amount of low-cost 3D content available for the hobbyist rendering programs Poser and Daz Studio, there is not yet a clean, low-cost, low-time-investment method to get this content into a true 3D animation package with all morphs and textures intact, and with a set of bones adequate for the needs of animation.

- Modern character rigging practices assume a need to create very complex humanoid rigs, and assume that you have a trained rigging specialist available who can spend dozens of hours per character creating joints, setting up a naming scheme, setting up constraints and a naming system, skinning, and then training the animators how to use the rig.  Most rigging textbooks today recommend "triple-skeleton" setups that have simultaneous interlocking IK, FK, and base bone sets.  These types of rigs are so involved that they nearly demand that the animator learn a scripting language, which places yet another burden between the person with a story idea, and the translation of that story idea into a film.


3DCG animation shouldn't have to be this way.  It takes too long, it's too expensive, and it's too complex.  Creating an animated film should ideally be as easy as it already is to pick up a home movie camera, pointing it at a subject, and pressing the record button.  We need order-of-magnitude improvements in hobbyist animation speed, cost, learning curve, or all three.

The aim of this web site is to publish tutorials, articles, links, and related content which have the potential to significantly ease the life of the hobbyist animator.  The emphasis is on ways to make hobbyist 3D computer animation significantly easier, cheaper, and faster.

- Bruce
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