“Magic and new technology have always walked hand in hand – even back in the days of Robert Houdin” – David Copperfield

The Quote above stands true especially when you see the amazing Artistic Imagery that is being achieved in CGI Animation today, what seemed impossible to achieve just a decade back.

The Credit for this ‘Magic’ though goes to the consistent innovation in new age technology that have improvised the Artist’s Tools for the various facets and artists in the Animation Filmmaking and Visual Storytelling Industry.

Historically Animation has been a laborious time consuming and costly process involving multiple skillets, departments and steps. Starting from the earliest days of Hand Drawn Cel Animation, the animation production processes have gone through multiple stages of innovations with advent of Digital 2D animation followed by 3D CG Animation and then Motion\Performance Capture Animation. Though at the core it is an artistic vision driven process, still the tools available have primarily been used as an enabler for the person behind the tool to make the Creative Choice or Decision.

Whether it has been using advanced Scanning and photogrammetry techniques to create the best of the CGI Models or automation techniques to replicate Anatomy and skeletal structure for Rigging Systems or to the widely used Performance\Motion Capture Systems to animate Characters for Films and Games, New Tech has primarily been an enabler in the Creative Industries.

Complete Automation for a process which is so intricately embedded with the humane creative side of ours has always seem to be a difficult task as compared to the advancements in the same in say Manufacturing or Automobile Industry.

But with more demands and competitive economic landscapes, automation if not in Totality but in major modules of Creative Storytelling for a Visual Industry like Animation seems to be the Calling for the Future.

Many Animation Tools have been developed to simplify the 3D animation Workflow and reduce the Compute Time for complex tasks as well as enable ease of Use for Simple tasks for the CGI Artist.

Some age old common Examples – NON AI\ML related – Tweening InBetween Frames in 2D Digital Animation, Animation Curves helping Keyframing for Animators, Smoothing Algorithms for Modeling, Global Illumination for Lighting.

But in recent times, the advanced usage of Machine Learning and AI in varied fields has really excited the tech enthusiast in me to explore existing applications and ponder future applications of the same in the Animation Film Making Space.

Many People think a new technology cancels out an old one. I believe, it only makes the means to the end better and hence deeper research and strong collaboration between Academia-CGI Industry and IT Industry can generate fascinating results. Since ages, some amount of AI has been put to use in tasks that are more procedural or that needs randomising like Crowd Simulation, Random Multiplications, Render Algorithms, Noise Reduction techniques, Various Ray Tracing Lighting Techniques.

But the latest research and certain prospective application really look like Machine Learning and AI can also be used to embrace the Organic or that inane Human Creative aspect that has been missing.

Few innovations that are already resulting in a paradigm shift that I have experienced or am excited to be aware of–

·        AI accelerated solutions like denoiser or adaptive raytracing in Physical Based Renderings

·        Fractal Art using algorithms

·        AI RENDER WRANGLER – Machine Learning based Rendering that automatically calculates the complexity of a scene and allocates the best Render nodes in the farm accordingly.

·        Use of AI in Matte Extraction and Auto Chroma Keying in VFX Space

·        The advent of DEEPFAKES – AI on Image + Voice manipulation resulting in pretty disturbing Fake imagery lately. But if used in the right way, this can be revolutionary in VFX for Films.

What are the future applications you see will benefit the most?

–         Will Digital Humans without the Uncanny Valley be a reality?

–         Can machine Learning based Prediction models be created to reduce parameter errors in Lighting Flickers or Render Artifacts?

–         Can there be a “One Rig for all” to make adaptable rigging systems for all characters in a Movie

–         Can we use Motion and Performance Capture from a simple Smartphone to be used in Professional Feature Quality animation rather than just for common recreational use?

Will that result in making the animation less creative? Will the touch of AI reduce the Creativity involved in the process? Will it result in people losing jobs and me and fellow producers sitting in a Studio filled with Robots and no Artistic colleagues around?

The current feeling is aptly mentioned in a paper I read by Aaron Hertzmann (Reference Link mentioned below) recently – “ Certain segments of the industry is filled with an interesting mixture of curiosity with deep scepticism “

Sigh! Makes me Nostalgic of my early CGI days in late 90s when using Computers to animate was looked as if it was a curse on the holy Craft. And Holy Moly..fast forward to 2018 when Digital Animation for both 2D and 3D has transformed the Craft of Creative Production Process and resulted in a boom in Animated Films and TV Series being produced resulting in thousands of New Jobs..

Well, that sounds like an excellent discussion to have over a Drink! Any one wants to join me? Let’s look for a place where the drink is brewed by AI. But please let the choice of Shaken OR Stirred still be with me. “Pun Intended! “ 😊

RK Chand ai

RK Chand

The above article is written by RK Chand, Business Head, Golden Robot Animation. To read more or to post your views on this topic Click Here