March 17, 2015

When Technology Meets Art - How To Train Your Dragon 2

I don't know if I've mentioned it before on here, but growing up I wanted to be an artist working for either Disney or Dreamworks. So when I went to college, I decided to study computer science (not knowing much about computers except how to type in Word and play minesweeper, I thought computer science and computer art were pretty much the same thing). Of course, I ended up deviating from my initial goals, quite a bit in fact, but my fascination for that art has always remained.

So here are a few interesting facts regarding the making of How To Train Your Dragon 2 which I thought I'd share with you:

  1. Total number of artists to work on the movie: 495
  2. Total number of storyboards created: 100,000+
  3. Time taken to craft the film: 18-24 months (90 million+ render hours for the computers to render the frames)
  4. Total number of digital files: 500 million+
  5. Total amount of storage needed: 398 terabytes

It's quite impressive to see how far technology has come as far as animation goes. It used to be artists had to "scan an image into a computer, then "draw" the animation by typing numbers.... With a giant spreadsheet, they could change the way a smile looked or how a shadow fell across a face." Now, however, artists can work directly on the computers and change the final image in real time, as Fredrik Nilsson (workflow director for animation/crowds) explained regarding Dreamworks' Premo tool:

Animator using the Premo tool
Image Credit: Dreamworks Animation
"I used Premo with a touchscreen-sensitive pen. The display could show me any given frame from the movie. I could make a change to the main character Hiccup's face, clicking on him. Then I could use the pen to pull his face downward, turning his smile into a frown. I could then tell the computer how long he would hold that pose before he would start smiling again. Then I played the frames and watched it all happen in real-time. It was easy and intuitive."

Pretty amazing, eh? And to think I took an animation class (which was awesome, by the way), where I had to draw each frame myself (it took me close to 500 drawings to draw a couple of seconds, and that was a very basic cartoon).

As for the animated feature film, I know it came out quite a while ago, but I thought it was a great movie (I'm always skeptical about follow-up movies)!

Venture Beat - an absolute read for those into animation and technology in general! Filled with tons of details and great interviews!

March 10, 2015

Fantasy Vs. Knowledge

Einstein by VityaR83

Just a quick food for thought for the day.

Einstein once said (or wrote, not sure which):

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

I think this is a great point to bear in mind when thinking about educational programs. I believe it's
good to understand the bases for certain ideas/theorems/etc, but I don't think that individual thinking should be discouraged. Simple regurgitation of a teacher's or professor's lectures should not be the goal of one's education, especially not when pursuing higher education. That is why I feel privileged to have attended a university in the U.S. and at a school where professors encouraged critical thinking and questions in class.

PS: This is my own opinion, of course, and like anything human, subject to fallacy. 
PS 2: I'm not saying American schools are necessarily the best. I'm also not saying that this point should be the only one to consider when comparing programs on a global basis. However, based on my own experience, I do not believe I would have blossomed to the same extent (or at least not as quickly) had I chosen a university in the "regurgitation" system than in the "free-thinking" one.

March 3, 2015

Taking The Pear-Shaped Figure A Little Too Far...

Before the advent of the 20th century, when the emancipation of the woman started and Paris fashion designer Paul Poiret changed dress designs quite dramatically (and back then, Paris was the center of fashion in the western world), dresses included two body shape-altering devices:

1. The corset: to make one appear thinner at the waist than in real life--the more antiquated and painful version of the spandex, I suppose...

2.  Crinoline: to make one's derriere look bigger and therefore more alluring (for I would say quite obvious reasons). Of course, both turned out to have their extremists :

Thought I'd share these fun tidbits with you. Have a great day!

Is fashion a science, an art...or child's play? (in French)