3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 105: Second Generation 3D | 2 | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 105: Second Generation 3D | 2


Lesson 105 - Second Generation 3D - Part 2

Commercial 3D graphics was born when the fruits of the extraordinary university research work of the 1970's moved into Hollywood industry in the 1980's. The motion picture industry was the first environment with the financial means and the motivation to exploit this very new and very expensive technology. With the development of standard software packages for modeling and animation, 3D moved quickly into broadcast television and professional video post-production – particularly in television commercials. In short, 3D arts first found their place in the service of well-established and well-financed media.

Then came games. This was a field that truly exploited the essence of 3D graphics because it is premised on interactivity. The graphical quality of the realtime 3D is currently improving at an astounding rate because the necessary user hardware is improving so rapidly. This is true whether we speak of the new PlayStation 2 console or just a late-model home PC equipped with the kind of powerful video card that comes almost standard today.

The next step is the general application of interactive 3D graphics on the Internet. I've been directing my personal energies along this road for some time because I think the Web is the place to be in world today – in almost every endeavor. The range of opportunity here simply dwarfs that of the older, established media. In my opinion, we are only a couple of years away from the day when there will be thousands of jobs creating 3D content for the Web for every opening in film, video or even console gaming.

But there is an equally important trend that is changing the landscape.

Over the past decade, 3D modeling and animation toolsets have become standardized in the top commercial packages. 3D education and 3D arts employment has been largely centered around mastery of one or more of these huge applications, typically Maya, 3D Studio MAX, Softimage or Lightwave. All of these packages are essentially similar and involve the application of traditional artistic skills to a digital environment. Modeling is ultimately sculpting, albeit with its own unique methods. Texturing is painting or illustration. Animation is a more flexible and automated application of traditional Disney principles dating back over 80 years – posing characters or objects at key moments and interpolating the transitions between them.

It therefore takes an artist, and a skilled one at that, to create even the simplest 3D content. But a second generation of technology is now emerging that promises to change the creative process entirely. Let me suggest an analogy. Word processing software is obviously an enormous advancement over the typewriter, which promises to be the proverb of obsolescence in our day as the "old buggywhip" was to the generation that adopted the automobile. Yet the word processor functions in largely the same way as a typewriter. It is a computerized typewriter.

Right now, voice recognition software is just beginning to make wide-scale commercial sense. When you can start talking into your word processor, it will be far different than a glorified typewriter. This extremely sophisticated technology could, at a plausible extreme, save future generations the trouble of learning the art (or skill) of typing.

The same possibilities are rapidly emerging in 3D graphics.

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Created: November 6, 2000
Revised: November 6, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson105/2.html