Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Even though these two paintings have the same subject, still life, they have totally different characters. The bottom one has very calm and stable atmosphere, but the top one looks more aggressive than the bottom one. It even looks sort of depressed. I wanted to say here is characters doesn't have to have a body and face. Everything around us can be characters. Colors, motions, shapes... can be elements of characters.

Gesture-based interfaces

With digital convergence, gesture-based interfaces are becoming a reality, wherein hand or other gestures by the user drive software instead of a mouse and keyboard. A popular example in film was the interface in Minority Report, but real systems like that are now being prototyped. The Wii is an example of a practical system using gesture-based input.

Some systems also use force feedback or haptics to give the user tactile feedback as he or she navigates around the interface.

It is only a matter of time before animation tools get gesture based interfaces, which would give an oddly reflexive element to animating - you animate gestures in software with other gestures. The tool below is an example of existing technology, and demonstrates the proof of concept, though there is still some way to go before the technology is cheap, portable and intuitive enough to use for the animator.

I've worked on some research projects that involved gesture based interfaces myself, such as the one below which was a 3D environment navigation application driven by a user wearing special gloves.

More information at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Expanding Motion Capture

Motion capture provides the artist with interpolation curves for all the bones in a simplified human skeleton. The resulting data can be both manipulated and weaved with other interpolation data from a variety of sources. In the first example that I created the firefighter leans forward while reaching out (keyframed) before being blown back (rigid body simulation).

The example above demonstrated a simple switch from a motion I keyframed to a dynamic simulation that was generated. This next example will demonstrate more of a weaving between keyframed, simulation, and motion capture performance data.

The ability to expand a motion capture performance beyond the motion capture stage and the limitations of the human performer while maintaining a sense of realism and fluidity is without limit.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gesture, Culture and Mirror Neurons

Image taken from

One of my earlier posts listed instances of communities that spontaneously came up with micro-languages based on gesture because of their inability to communicate via speech.

But how closely are gesture and culture related?

I recently came across an interesting study by Istvan Molnar-Szakacs and Dr. Marco Iacoboni that examines the relationship between gesture and culture using a specific type of brain cell known as a "mirror neuron". According to the article, these neurons "fire not only when an individual performs a particular action but also when he or she watches another individual perform that same action. Neuroscientists believe this "mirroring" is the mechanism by which we can read the minds of others and empathize with them."

By measuring brain activity, the scientists found was that American subjects showed higher responsiveness to either American, Nicaraguan or completely meaningless gestures when performed by an American as opposed to the same gestures when performed by a Nicaraguan. In other words, we are programmed to respond more to our own cultural or ethnic "in-group", leading the scientists to surmise that "our brain mirrors people, not actions".

Since the perceived culture of the performer affects our interpretation of gestures, there is a cultural component to gesture. The strength of this connection is still unclear from the article I read, but would determine the impact on animation as it becomes an increasingly cross cultural medium.

Summary Of Dance and Robot Choreographer, Margot Apostolos

Highlights from Margot Apostolos's presentation on Dance and Robot Choreography. Examples of Margot's Robot Choreography are displayed and dissected by Margot as they relate to her experiences in Dance and how they relate to animation. Margot presents her experiences in conveying robot movements into smooth, more graceful and dance-like portrayals, focusing on her efforts of constructing key-frames and in-between keys in her programming to allow the robots to move along curved paths of motion.......a very important idea in conveying fluid natural motion in character animation.

Deconstructing Character Choreography and Thoughts On How Motion Capture Is Receive In The Dance Community

Margot discusses some interesting thoughts on communicating gesture and motion in her dance students. She hopes her students will plan to choreograph their own performances by de-constructing their dance choreography to express their "Movements as Sentences, and your Steps as Words" to convey, successfully, the message of their character gestures and motions through dance performance.

Margot also discusses her experiences with working with Motion Capture technology to create an interacting dance performance between motion captured character performers and live action dancers performing together and how her experiences have shown that many dancers feel hesitant or reluctant to share the stage with a screen projected motion capture character, performing the same dance choreography.

Panel Discussion About Disecting Dance Motions And Gestures From The Point Of Views Of A Dance Choreographer, Traditional 2-D Animators, And A 3-D C.G

In this video the discussion is presented to a panel of Character Animation specialists, A Dance and Robot Choreographer (Margot Apostolos), Two Disney Animators (Andreas Deja and Tom Sito), and a Sony Imageworks 3-D Animator (Maks Naporowski). The discussion is based on the question of how dance motions and gestures are conveyed in choreographed dance to elicit a successful movement of emotion, and if these same guidelines or principles of successful motion are used to critique the success of an animated movement in the choreography presented through the character animation performance.