The Evolution Desktop 3D

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The Evolution Desktop 3D Powered By Docstoc
					 The Evolution Of 3D Animation Tools on the Desktop
                                By Ken Baer


The history of Computer graphics imagery and animation has often been
described in terms of “high end” hardware and software trickling down to
the “low end”. The initial research and development did occur on
prohibitively expensive equipment, but as the personal computer emerged
many innovations occurred there that have contributed greatly to the tools
we know today. These innovations have often been overlooked, and should
get the attention they deserve.

I am going to cover some general history of Computer Graphics (CG), show
the context of how 3D animation tools evolved, and show where today’s
tools came from. For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the term
“Desktop” to refer to low cost personal computers, and the term
“Workstation” to refer to mini-computers that cost $30,000 and up. There
are some influential products that will not be covered due to time limitations
of this presentation. To those of you that use these products, there is no
disrespect intended.

<Slide: The Early Days of CG>

The Early Days of CG (1960’s – 70’s)

The very earliest efforts in CG were done in the 1950’s for Computer Aided
Design (CAD) and military simulations. The output was usually to a plotter,
and by the late 50’s to black and white film.

In 1962, Ivan Sutherland, a student at MIT wrote a program called
“Sketchpad”. It was a 2D program that could draw lines and curves on a
CRT screen. By using a light pen the user could draw directly on the
monitor. Over the next few years, early vector graphics began to emerge.
Most of the results were 2D, white lines on a black background. Early
applications in architecture and mapping began to occur.

<Slide: University of Uhah>

In 1965, David Evans started the CG department at the University of Utah.
That same year, Charles Csuri started the Ohio State University CG
A few years later in 1968, Ivan Sutherland joined the computer graphics
department at the University of Utah. That same year, he and David Evans
founded the very first computer graphics company, aptly named Evans &
Sutherland. It provided vector graphics system comprised of custom
hardware and software. Previously, this kind of equipment was only
available as one-of-a-kind multi-million dollar installations for military sites.
Evans and Sutherland made the first CAD systems and were used primarily
by the automotive design and aerospace industries.

Much of the early research that makes 3D CG possible was done at the
University of Utah. Among the technologies to come out of Utah were,
hidden line and surface algorithms, smooth 3D shading known as Gouraud
shading, and surface subdivision. The earliest efforts to model a human
hand and human face were also done there.

A small number of people that went through the CG graduate program at
Utah had and continue to have a huge influence in the development and use
of CG. Without question, the most influential is Edwin Catmul. Catmul’s
career always seems to have him at the forefront of the CG’s cutting edge,
where he continues as the co-founder and President of Pixar. Other notable
figures to come out of the Utah program are Jim Clark, the founder of
Silicon Graphics (SGI) and Netscape, Nolan Bushnell the inventor of Pong
and the founder of Atari, and John Warnock, who founded Adobe. While in
the program, Martin Newell scanned a teapot one point at a time, to create a
virtual object that was used for testing many new algorithms for drawing and
shading. It has become legendary in the CG community, and is often used in
a running in-joke at SIGGRAPH conferences. Many other pioneers of CG
technology also came out of the Utah program, but the list is too long to
show here.

<Slide: NYIT>

In 1973, Dr. Alexander Shure hired Ed Catmul to head the Computer
Graphics Lab at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). One of the
primary goals of Shure was to create a full length CG feature film.
Considering that very few CG images had even been produced at that time,
it was quite an ambitious goal. Several people from the Utah program went

with him. The CG developments at NYIT were numerous and created the
foundation of what we use today. Among the innovations they had the
world’s first 24-bit frame buffer, the first RGB paint program, the first
computer controlled video editing system, the first Alpha channel (invented
by Ed Catmul and Alvy Ray Smith), and the first mip-mapped textures.

Most people do not realize the sheer number of technical problems that had
to be solved with the invention of new technology in order to make 3D
animation possible. The research done at Utah, NYIT, and others such as
Ohio State University, and other universities around the world was pivotal
and created the foundation of CG.

<Slide: CG Goes Into Production>

CG Goes Into Production

In 1979, funding for the NYIT CG Lab wound down, and Ed Catmul got an
offer from George Lucas to head the LucasFilm Computer Graphics Lab.
Many people from NYIT eventually joined him there. Lucas’ goals were to
create computer tools to aid in filmmaking, particularly in digital output to
film, film editing, and sound synthesis. But, in the process they also created
some of the first high quality film CG sequences. In 1982, they created the
“Genesis” sequence for the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. It
included particle fire, and an animated fractal terrain.

Several CG production companies started around this time. They created
mostly flying logo sequences and animation for educational and corporate
films. The hardware available at the time was limited to mainframe
computers and terminals. Modeling was usually performed by defining
simple shapes with scripts or programs. Motion and animation were also
performed mostly with scripts. All the software was developed in-house,
and the animators had very little visual feedback or interactivity. Also, the
computers capable of the number of calculations needed for CG work cost
hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was a huge investment that put a burden
on these small companies.

<Slide: Tron>

In 1983, Disney took a major leap of faith and released the movie “Tron”.
What most people do not realize is that the majority of the scenes that take

place in the computer’s world, were not CG, but actually hand animated
rotoscopes. However, the movie did contain 15 minutes of real CG, and
included work from four different CG studios. These studios were MAGI,
Robert Abel and Associates, Triple-I, and Digital Effects. They were the
major CG studios at that time.

<Slide: The Last Starfighter>

Another studio that made waves was Digital Productions which was founded
in 1981. They decided they would trump all of their competitors by
purchasing a Cray XMP supercomputer. The catch? The price tag was $17
million. The idea was that they could produce much more output than their
competitors and do many more jobs. They did do hundreds of commercials,
and 25 minutes of space ship shots for the movie “The Last Starfighter” in
1984. That was the first time that CG was used in the place of traditional
model effects elements in a live action feature.

<Slide: How Fast Was a Cray?>

Just for a matter of perspective, the Cray XMP processing power was
reported as roughly 0.9 Gigaflops. A Gigaflop is a billion processor
operations per second. According to Apple, the PowerBook G4 500Mhz is
3.7 Gigaflops, and PowerMac G4 Dual 1.25Mhz is 18.3 Gigaflops. The
newer 3 Ghz PC’s are even faster.

<Slide: Meanwhile back at the Lab>

Meanwhile, back at the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Lab, work continued.
They create a holographic display sequence for “Return of the Jedi” in 1983,
and the sequence with an animated stained glass knight in 1985’s “The
Young Sherlock Holmes”. But, Ed Catmul was still interested in pursuing
CG feature films, and George Lucas was not. “Tron” and “The Last
Starfighter” were both unsuccessful at the box office, and Hollywood
became weary of computer graphics.

So, in 1985, Lucasfilm’s Computer Graphics Lab spun off and was renamed
Pixar and led by Ed Catmul and Alvy Ray Smith. A year later, George
Lucas sold his controlling interest to Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who
remains the CEO to this day.

<Slide: Robert Abel Reel>

Most of the CG production business was in commercials and flying logos.
Robert Abel and Associates did some of the best work during this period and
produced some groundbreaking animation. In many ways it was ahead of
most of what was being done at the time, and actually still holds up well

<DVD 1: Robert Abel Reel>

<Slide: The First Wave Ends>

The First Wave Ends

The first wave of CG production companies started running into trouble by
1986. Most of the them were burdened by huge debt from very expensive
hardware they had purchased in the early 80’s. Another set of events was
also taking its toll. In 1984, Silicon Graphics released their first graphics
workstation. Other minicomputer workstations started appearing from
companies like Sun Microsystems, Apollo, and HP. These workstations
were expensive, in the $60 thousand to $100 thousand range, but they were
far less expensive than the old mainframes of the previous generation. The
old companies could not upgrade to the newer workstations because of their
debt, and therefore could not compete with the newer up and coming CG

By 1987, virtually all of the original CG studios were out of business, except
one. Pacific Data Images was founded in 1980 and originally ran as a four
person company. Rather than investing heavily on a massive mainframe,
they bought an DEC PDP-11/44, an older and less expensive mainframe.
While not cheap by today’s standards, it was considerably less expensive
than what their competitors had purchased.

<Slide: Phil and PDP-11>

On a personal note, we had a PDP-11/44 at my high school in Portland. To
give you an idea of the changes we’ve gone through since those days, here is
a picture of the PDP-11 with my mentor Phil Mason.
<Slide: Phil and Ken>

And here is a picture of Phil and I when I ran into him at SIGGRAPH in
2001. To those of us that were there during the days of mainframe
computers, it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but other things remind us that
it was. Thank goodness I still have my hair.

PDI became known for its network and corporate logo work. They survived
because they concentrated more on commercial work than on “glamorous”
feature films, and financially they stayed in the black. They grew slowly, in
a piece-wise fashion, and paid as they went. They later went on to make
“Antz” and “Shrek”.

<Slide: PDI Reel>

Here is a sample of the some of the work they did to this point.

<DVD 2: PDI Reel>

Some of the other studios that started in 1987 are Rhythm & Hues who later
did “Babe”, , deGraf/Wahrman, ReZn8, and Blue Sky who made “Bunny”
and “Ice Age”.

<Slide: The Hardware Landscape Changes>

The Hardware Landscape Changes

The first personal computers came out in the late 1970’s. The first popular
machines were the Radio Shack TRS-80, the Commodore PET, and the
Apple ][. I started with a TRS-80 which had a graphics resolution of 128 x
48 on a black and white display. A year later, I moved up to an Apple ][
with the hires capability of 280 x 192 and six colors. The processors had
about the same power as an original Palm Pilot. Producing 3D graphics and
animation was beyond what these machines could realistically handle.

<Slide: Second Generation Personal Computers>

In 1984, SGI released the first Iris Workstation terminal and Apple released
the Macintosh. The Macintosh took a step backwards by being black and
white instead of color like the Apple ][, but a big leap forward by having the
first consumer graphical user interface (GUI). Previously, that was only

available from Xerox to a select few. The SGI was not yet a standalone
computer, but a graphics terminal.

In 1985, Commodore released the Amiga. This was a turning point. Not
only was the Amiga cheaper than the Mac, which was being marketed to
business more than home users, it had color, a graphics co-processor, a
snappy 7Mhz 68000 processor, and even video out. That meant that you
could create 2D or 3D animation on it, play it back, and record it directly to
a home VCR without additional equipment. Desktop video was born. The
community that grew up around the Amiga was smaller than the Mac and
IBM-PC communities, but seemed to have an energy and excitement that the
others did not. Amiga users began to realize the world of CG was now
available to them. Similar sentiments were happening in the Atari ST
community, but the Amiga had a few advantages that kept it ahead.

<Slide: Workstation 3D software>

As the SGI emerged in the mid-80’s, the first commercial 3D packages
started coming out. In 1984, Wavefront released PreView, a graphics
program for previsualizing motion control camera motion. Over the next
few years they added modeling, animation and rendering capabilities. The
following year, Alias released the Alias/1 modeler, which used cardinal
splines and popup menus. In 1986, Vertigo released the first fully integrated
turnkey 3D animation system for Sun workstations. In 1987, Alias released
Alias/2 which used B-splines for modeling. Another early player during this
time was Symbolics which was founded in 1980 as a spinoff from the MIT
AI Lab. They made hardware and software systems built around LISP
machines. Symbolics went in a very different direction than the other
software companies that were focused more on SGI and Sun hardware. It
also was the first software to have character animation features and flocking.

<Slide: First Desktop 3D>

Though the early workstation hardware had more power and capacity, 3D
tools began to emerge on personal computers. Autodesk, which was
founded in 1982, was on a mission to provide a CAD solution for PC for
$1000. One of the first on the Mac was a simple polygon modeler called
Easy3D. Not long after in 1986, CAD-3D came out on the Atari-ST.

But, the real explosion happened in personal 3D on the Amiga. During
1986, a few shareware ray-tracers came out, but they had no interface and
used data scripts to create still images. But, the awareness of 3D on the
Amiga started when a cover article in AmigaWorld magazine showed 3D
images of a cityscape created by a yet-to-released program called Caligari. I
was still in college when this came out, and the group of us with Amigas
were very excited about the prospect of creating 3D animation films with
our Amigas.

<Slide: Juggler animation>

Later that year, the famous Juggler animation was created by Dr. Eric
Graham, and showed the first example of character animation on the Amiga.
As it turned out, the software that was they were working on to create these
examples weren’t the first to hit the market.

<Play animation>

<Slide: First 3D Animation on Amiga>

The first 3D animation product to actually become commercially available
on the Amiga was Animator’s Apprentice by Martin Hash.

<Slide: Other 3D Products>

Later that year, several other 3D programs came out including, Aegis
Videoscape3D by Allen Hastings, Aegis Modeler3D by Stuart Ferguson,
Sculpt3D written by Eric Graham and released by BytebyByte, Silver by
Impulse, and Forms-in-Flight.

<Slide: Apprentice Innovations>

The bulk of these programs were based on polygon modeling or simple
primitives like spheres, cones, and cubes. Apprentice, however, was very
different. Apprentice was the only program among the group that was
specifically designed for character animation. The goal was to achieve
“organic” modeling and animation. To this end, instead of using the
traditional polygon modeling, it used something called “voxels”. Voxels are
like 3D pixels, or small colored cubes. The Apprentice modeler used an

image-based approach to creating shapes. The user would load a front and
side view of the object, and the program would create cross-section slices.
After filling in the gaps, the user would stamp images onto the model and be
able to paint on it from different views.

After making the individual shapes, called Segments, they would be brought
together in to create a skeleton based character. Then the user would create
Actions for the character with motion ease for natural, non-robotic looking
motion. The characters would then be placed on a stage, actions would be
assigned to them, and the user would move the characters, lights, and camera
on motion paths.

It was a very primitive interface by today’s standards, but the other programs
of that time essentially had no interface. They would make the user create
models and animation completely through scripts. In Apprentice, final
rendering would go out to 4096 color images or animation with overscan,
which meant the images could go to the physical edge of the video screen,
and not have an invisible border around it. The program could also output a
flat “Disney-style” animation that was similar to today’s toon style. The
other programs at the time were limited to 32 colors without overscan.

Apprentice had many early innovations. The intention of the method of
character motion was intended to make it easy to create actions that could be
reused, not just for one character, but for all characters with the same
skeleton. Action overloading allowed multiple actions to be layered on the
same character such as a walk cycle and facial actions like eye blinks and lip
sync. With the action list, actions could be moved, sped up and slowed
down as well. A year before the first version of SoftImage shipped, and
more than a decade before SoftImage would coin the term, Apprentice had
non-linear animation.

<Slide: Hash demo reel>

Most of the other 3D applications were written with the renderer first, and
then modeling and animation features second. Apprentice was written with
modeling and animation features first, and the renderer last. The result was
that images and animation from the polygon based programs were
predominantly simple shapes moving and rotating on a checkboard floor, our
users were making character animation and telling stories. And here is a
sampling of animation made with Apprentice during this time.

<DVD 3: Hash demo reel>

<Slide: Hash Animation Titles>

During the next three years, we went through three major versions of
Animation:Apprentice, and released nine other animation products for the
Amiga. They included a digital compositor called Multiplane that predated
After Effects by about five years, a program for ADO effects called Effects,
an animation stand emulator called Stand, a titling program called Titler, a
program for creating dopesheets from digitized dialog called Soundtrack,
and several other utility programs. We also did some contract programming
for Disney and Commodore. Not bad for a company of four fulltime
employees, and four part time people.

Incidentally, Multiplane was written by Mitch Hurst who had previously
worked at Vertigo. One of Multiplane’s innovations was the fact that it used
spline based channel graphs. This provided inspiration for our next
generation 3D software.

As the 1980’s came to a close, many factors contributed to boost the
computer animation industry. In 1988, SoftImage released the first version
of their Creative Environment. Wavefront, Alias, Virtigo, and Symbolics
systems started being used more in production, and SGI workstations
became more popular in studio environments. Though these systems were
much less expensive and more powerful than the hardware of the early 80’s,
they were prohibitive for anyone outside of a well funded studio.

<Slide: Workstations vs. Desktops>

In 1987, an SGI Iris 4D/70 workstation cost $55, 000, and the major 3D
packages for SGI cost between $50,000 and $100,000. In 1988, SGI
released the Personal Iris which was touted as the first “affordable” graphics
workstation at $30,000. In contrast to workstation hardware and software,
an Amiga was about $1500, and 3D software was a few hundred dollars,
Apprentice was $299.

<Slide: Symbolics MacIvory>

The Mac started getting more 3D applications. Strata released StrataVision.
And Aegis released a port of Videoscape3D on the Mac. It was short lived,
but interesting because of what happened later with the future of
Videoscape. Symbolics also flirted with the Mac by making a LISP machine
on a card called MacIvory which they sold for about $5000. It made it
possible to run Symbolics animation software on the Mac, but you were
essentially putting another computer inside your Mac to make that possible.

<Slide: Animation is Back>

The other major developments were that “Roger Rabbit” and “The Little
Mermaid” spurred a renewed interest in animation. A new generation of
young people now had a desire to learn and create animation. In the past,
creating animation usually required having access to expensive equipment
like single frame capable film cameras, animation stands, cels and paints,
and a good film lab to develop your film. By using personal computers with
low cost software, the world of animation opened up to many people.

<Slide: CG Effects Back For Good>

ILM was also pushing the limits of CG in feature films. In 1989, “The
Abyss” was released. It featured the water pod sequence which
demonstrated a photorealistic element mixed seamlessly with live action. It
opened the door to a new era of CG becoming an essential element in feature
film special effects. This also boosted the popularity of computer animation.

<Slide: 1990 The Second Wave>

The Second Wave

The year 1990 was another pivotal year. Most of the 3D companies on the
Amiga released new 3D programs with much more sophisticated interfaces
and output capabilities. Many of these programs are still around today in
one form or another.

That year, we released Animation:Journeyman. It was the first version of
our software to feature our Hash spline modeling and animation. Our
current version of Animation:Master still uses this technology at its core.

<Slide: Other Animation Products>

Autodesk released the first version of 3Dstudio for the PC running under
DOS. It was written by the authors of CAD-3D, and CyberSculpt on the
Atari-ST. NewTek released the VideoToaster with the 3D program
Lightwave3D written by Allen Hastings and Stuart Ferguson who wrote
VideoScape3D and Modeler3D. Caligari, Imagine from Impulse, and
Sculpt-Animate4D also came out that year. Cinema4D came out a couple
years later on the Amiga.

Polygonal modeling was still the predominant technology. But, Martin Hash
realized that it was not ideal for character animation. Humans and
animation, and most objects in our world are not polygonal by nature.
Organic shapes are much more common, and character motion is much more
fluid and flexible than the robotic motion of most CG systems. Also, the
polygonal systems did not make texture mapping very easy or intuitive.

Spline based modeling existed in products like Alias, but they did not allow
the control points to be on the surface of the model. They also were used
only in the modeler, so that when it came time to animate or render, the user
was dealing with a dense polygon model. Higher quality smoothness
required more density. Martin wanted to be able to animate the spline
control points as well. Not only that, a curve should stay a curve, especially
at render time. Despite rendering algorithms that smooth out a polygonal
surface when it is rendered, the edge of the object will still show the sharp
edges of the polygon model. These are called polygon artifacts. Therefore
the Hash renderer needed to use a technique that directly rendered the patch

Martin decided that the best way to describe the models were with a spline
mesh. And this spline mesh should have the control points on the surface of
the model and not floating above the curved surface like B-Splines, and later
NURBS. The mesh should also not be restricted to a grid. The user should
be able to attach different parts of the geometry together arbitrarily and
allow areas of greater detail. Not only that, they should have fine control
over the curvature of the surface, that can be animated. It should be possible
to create any shape, and not have the mathematics underlying the spline
dictate the kinds of shapes you can make. On top of all of that, it had to run
on a 14Mhz Amiga, so the spline calculations had to not cause so much
overhead that the tactile user feedback is affected.

By directly addressing the problems inherit in polygon-based modeling,
Martin created Hash Splines and Hash Patches, which have proven to be
more versatile and have many advantages over NURBS and Subdivision
surfaces, which were actually developed later.

<Slide: Journeyman Demo>

Animation:Journeyman was a big leap for us. Even though the modeling
paradigm changed radically, it incorporated much of the animation
technology from Apprentice and built on it.

<DVD 4: Journeyman Demo>

If the narrator seemed to be talking a little fast, that was because we were
going to use 5-minute VHS tapes to distribute this demo, so he had to get all
the details in that time window. It took several takes to get that right, let me
tell you.

<Slide: The Desktop Market Shifts Again>

The Desktop Market Shifts Again

By 1989 it was clear Commodore was struggling against the Mac and the
PC, which were catching up. Not because the others were releasing similar
technology, but because Commodore was doing little to advance Amiga
technology. Also, the fact that software piracy was rampant on the Amiga,
especially in Europe, made it very difficult to make money selling software
for it. So, in the early 90’s we began porting to Windows and the Mac.
Also during this time we began a relationship with Will Vinton Studios.
They started a game software division called CinePlay, and we agreed to
distribute our new version under that label. We released “Will Vinton’s
Playmation” for the PC in 1992. According to VP at Microsoft, it was the
first 3D Animation product to ship for Windows. Until then all other PC
based 3D programs like 3DStudio ran under DOS. Microsoft had just
shipped Windows 3.1, which was good timing for us since they earlier
versions of Windows we lacking compared to the Amiga and Mac. We also
were one of the few products to compile to 32-bit rather than 16-bit, which
made it faster.

We showed Playmation at the SIGGRAPH conference in Chicago in our
own booth. We had shown our software at the previous four SIGGRAPH
shows, but had always been in the Commodore booth. We made a huge
splash, and sold over 100 copies. At one point a VP from Microsoft came
by and asked how we mocked up the interface to make it look like Windows.

We had another interesting interchange at the show. Someone came up to
Martin and asked what kind of splines we were using. Martin replied “a
variation of the Catmul-ROM spline”. “Really” the man replied, “a
variation? Well, I think I’d like to buy a copy. Here’s my credit card”.
Martin took the card to run it through the credit card machine. It was then
that he read the name on the card. “Edwin Catmul”. Needless to say, Martin
continued the conversation with him, which resulted in an invitation to
demonstrate the software at Pixar a few weeks later. At that time Pixar had
50 employees. There were 30 people in the room for the demo, including
Molly the company sheepdog. She fell asleep, but hopefully nobody else

The next year we released ports of Playmation on the Mac and the SGI.
Incidentally, our SGI version sold for $999, and SGI wouldn’t list it in their
product catalog because it was less than $10,000.

<Slide: Hash and Will Vinton Studio>

During this time our relationship with Will Vinton Studios improved. We
helped them set up their first computer network, and began training their
animators in our software. We set up their first CG department. They were
world-famous for their Claymation films and commercials, but had never
done CG and wanted to get into it. We added several features to the
software for them including skinning, motion blur, alpha channels, field
rendering, full 3D Inverse Kinematics, and network rendering. We decided
to create two versions of the software, one for the hobby market, and one
with more features for the pro market. The lower end version was called
“Martin Hash’s 3D Animation” and the other “Animation:Master”. Since it
was the next generation of Playmation, we gave called it “Version 2”.

<Slide: Cool Tools>

Vintons used Master in several commercials, and in a film for Sesame Street
called “Cool Tools”. Several years later I saw a collection of Sesame Street

animations that was screened locally. There were two CG films in it, one
was “Cool Tools”, and the other was “Light and Heavy” made by Pixar.

<DVD 5: Cool Tools>

<Slide: Bald Man’s Corner picture>

The quality of work we started seeing from our users increased dramatically
during this time as well. This is an image called “Bald Man’s Corner” by
Rod Altschul. Even though it was made ten years ago, we still use it in our
promotional material. And being the Mac guy at Hash, it made me very
happy that it was done with the Mac version.

The SGI market was changing during this time as well. The workstations
were getting better graphics acceleration and more capacity, but were still
between $30,000 and $40,000, and the software prices were still around the
same. Wavefront bought Thomson Digital Image (TDI), which was a
European company that sold a 3D animation system that included NURBS
modeling, and interactive rendering. Alias released PowerAnimator and
Alias Studio, which were the exact same executable, but marketed to the
entertainment market, and the CAD market repectively. In 1991, Symbolics
was bought by the Japanese company Nichimen, and renamed N-World. It
would several years later become Marai.

Wavefront started shifting its focus to CAD and allowed Alias to make
inroads in the entertainment industry. This also created a vacuum in
animation tools that SoftImage began to fill. They released their Actor
module in 1992 which included a number of character animation tools and
what they called “Advanced Inverse Kinematics (IK)”. However, they IK
only worked in 2D, not from a bird’s eye 3D view.

Also, in 1993, ILM pushed the limits of CG in feature films again with
“Jurassic Park”. It provided another boost to the desktop CG market.

Back at Hash, we consolidated all of the individual modules of
Animation:Master into one application. Ever since Apprentice, Sculpture,
Action, Choreography, and Render had all been separate programs because
of the memory limitations of the machines we ran on. In 1994, we released
version 3 which brought it all together. We also added support for Motion

Capture hardware and Stride Length which made it much easier to create
walking characters that didn’t slide.

<Slide: 1994 Motion Capture in AM>

That year at SIGGRAPH we really felt like we were giving the SGI guys a
run for their money. The highlight of the SGI booth was a person in a
motion capture suit that was controlling a relatively low count polygon
character in shaded mode on an SGI machine with a $100,000 Reality
Engine. It was very cool. However, in our booth I was also in a motion
capture suit, and driving the animation of a character in Animation:Master in
wireframe mode. The big difference was that our hardware was a 90Mhz
PC and our software was $699. Here are a couple samples of what we were

<Play animations>

We also were showing the following film, “Killer Tools” by Rod Altschul

<DVD 6: Killer Tools>

<Slide: 1995 A Year of Change>

By 1995, Microsoft had bought SoftImage, Alias had bought Wavefront, and
then Alias/Wavefront was bought by SGI. ILM was the undisputed king of
CG feature effects and animation. They were using Alias for modeling,
SoftImage for animating, and Renderman for rendering. It was a
combination that they used for many more years. Lightwave had been
ported to the PC and was being used in broadcast TV effects like “SeaQuest”
and “Babylon 5”. 3DStudio started becoming popular in video game
development. It was also the year that “Toy Story” came out, and interest in
Desktop animation had never been higher.

<Slide: Duke Nukem>

1995 was also a big year for Hash, Inc. Animation:Master became the
software of choice for some amazing artists, and images and animation made
with Master started showing up some very high profile games. “Duke
Nukem” was one of the biggest. Jeff Bunker became of the best known

artists in the Master community for his amazing work. Here are a few

<Jeff Bunker superhero images>
<Slide: Captain Quazar>

Bob Terrell, who we had worked with at Will Vinton’s, did some great
animation for a game called “Captain Quazar”. Here is a cut scene.

<DVD 7: Captain Quazar>

<Slide: Master Supported Platforms>

We released Animation:Master for Windows NT on the PC, Alpha, and
Mips PowerPC, and for the new PowerPC based Macintosh. In fact, we had
the second animation software for the PowerMac, and were beaten only by
Infini-D, which managed to get pre-release machines out of Apple eleven
months before we did.

<Slide: Fluffy>

That was also the year we made “Fluffy”. This was a film by Doug Aberle,
an animator at Vintons. The animation was produced in-house at Hash,
rendered on our render farm, and printed out on textured paper. Aberle then
took the printed frames, and shot them onto film with Vinton’s down-
shooter. “Fluffy” was shown in the Electric Theater at SIGGRAPH to a sold
out crowd at the Shriner’s Auditorium, and was the hit of the show. Here is

<DVD 8: Fluffy>

<Slide: Telepresence>

But the one project that truly dominated our time was “Telepresence”, our
feature film. Martin Hash decided it was time for us to write and produce
our own direct to video feature film. Written by Martin Hash and directed
by Ray DiCarlo, it was a gritty science fiction film with 25 minutes of pure
CG. In comparison, “Jurassic Park” had 11 minutes. We released it in
1996, but were never able to get a good US distributor. We did sell it in
several countries overseas. We had a user that saw it on Malaysian

television. We learned a valuable lesson that I will pass on to you. If you
want to make money with feature films, always get your distribution deal
before you make it. Here is the trailer for “Telepresence”.

<DVD 9: Telepresence Trailer>

In 1996, we rewrote Master from the ground up, changed to a unibody
modeling approach and released it as Version 5. This was also the first
version with the project workspace, constraints, and faster Direct3D and
OpenGL support. It provided a new code foundation to build the application
we have today. Also that year Martin Hash was interviewed by Wired

**** Skip for Clark Talk ****

<Slide: 1997 Medley>

The artwork that our users were making was truly amazing. We started to
get used in several studios around the world. Here’s a medley of
Animation:Master work that was done by 1997.

<DVD 10: 1997 Medley>

**** End Skip ****
Even though we didn’t market to studios, we started being used by some
very talented artists who worked for the big studios, but preferred our
software and used us for their own personal projects. Some of these artists
were also beta testers for Alias and SoftImage, and kept commenting to us
that they preferred our method for modeling and animating.

<Slide: New Features in Master>

Over the next few years, we added many features to Animation:Master. We
added powerful modeling tools like 5-point patches and hooks, and
animation tools like pose sliders, full timeline controls, and major rendering
features like radiosity, A-buffer rendering with selective raytracing, and
effects features like lens flare, particles, cloth, hair, and fur. But, our focus
was on ease-of-use, a clean self-evident interface, and tactile control.
Because our market is much larger and more diverse than the SGI market,
our interface is held to a much higher standard when it comes to ease-of-use.

<Slide: Animation Magazine 15 Top CG Pioneers>

In the year 2000, Martin Hash was named one of the “15 Top CG Pioneers”
by Animation Magazine. That’s Ed Catmul pictured above him.

<Slide: The Next Generation on SGI>

The Next Generation on SGI

In 1998, Alias/Wavefront had been losing ground to SoftImage for several
years, and turned the tables with Maya. That same year, Microsoft sold
SoftImage to Avid. They had been showing their next generation 3D
software that would become SoftImage/XSI, at SIGGRAPH. But it didn’t
ship for two more years. By this time they had also ported to Window NT,
with Maya soon to follow.

Maya and SoftImage/XSI had significant interface improvements. But,
much of these were already in Animation:Master. I believe that much of the
feedback they were getting was from artists who also used desktop 3D
programs like Master, Lightwave, and 3DStudio, and they were requesting
features for Maya and XSI that already existed in these programs. There
were certainly features from Maya and XSI that were emulated in other
Desktop 3D programs, but the reverse was also true. It is something that
engineers will deny, but they may not have even been aware that these
features already existed in low cost 3D applications. From their point of
view, they were merely fulfilling the requests of their customers. But, it was
clear that they were influenced by Desktop 3D, whether they knew it or not.

<Slide: The End of the Workstation Era>

The End of the Workstation Era

As we enter the new millennium, the hardware landscape has changed
dramatically. Personal computers have increased so much in speed, and
dropped in price to the point where there is very little reason to spend
$20,000 or $30,000 for a workstation. 3D accelerated videocards are
performing at a speed that easily humbles graphics workstations of just a
few years ago. And 3D animation software on the desktop rivals
workstation based tools in ability and quality.

The 3D industry is at a very strange place today. Products that evolved from
the “low end” and from the “high end” have met in the middle. But there
remains a dichotomy. Products like Maya and XSI evolved in the studio
environment. Most studios have three separate groups of people that are
using the 3D software; modelers, animators, and technical directors. Also,
studios are in a position to train their animators in the parts of the software
they want them to use. They emphasized scripting tools that the TDs could
use. The result is that these programs are very complex, and are not
designed for an individual to do everything. They are made for a team

<Slide: The Animation:Master Philosophy>

We have a very different design philosophy. We have always designed our
software to run well on a machine costing $1500 or less, and allow one artist
to create a film on a single machine. Even though the underlying code is
very complex, every bit as complex as Maya or XSI, it should not
overwhelm the user. Artists should not have to know how to program
scripts, or learn an endless array of CAD style machine tools in order to
create great models and animation. The look of the final output should
reflect the artist, and not what tool they used. Modeling and animation
should go hand in hand, so the animator isn’t stuck with a mesh so dense
that making it actually move is an ordeal rather than a joy.

Most of the 3D animation tools on the market have aimed their design and
marketing towards studios. That used to be the only market, and it made
sense for the SGI based applications. But, we always felt that the real
market was everybody else. People who had aspirations of being the next
Steven Speilberg or Tex Avery, but couldn’t afford to buy a workstation.
We want to include people who want to learn animation as a hobby or future
career. Over the years we have added many features for the studios that we
work with, but the overall design is for a wider market. We are continuing
to make Master easier to use. We feel we are far ahead of the competition in
this area, but we have a lot of plans to improve it more.

The 3D products of today have improved in many ways from their ancestral
code. But the newer tools like NURBS and subdivision surface modeling
are still sitting on top of a polygon base and do not solve the problems that

Hash patches solve. Animation:Master continues to have significant
advantages over the polygon-based systems to this day.

**** Clark talk ****

During this course, Steve will be showing you some amazing films that have
been made with Animation:Master. You can also download many of these
from the Hash website. The bulk of these films were made by individuals on
their home computer. These are great films, because they were made by
talented artists. But, the revolution of 3D animation software on the desktop
opend the door for them and made it possible for them to make these films.
You have incredible power at your finger tips, I encourage you to make the
most of it, and realize your dreams.

**** End Clark Talk ****

<Slide: Alien Song>

I’d like to conclude here with a few of the more famous films made with
Animation:Master in the last few years. This next film you may have seen
in your email. A couple years ago, it seemed like everyone was emailing the
link to this animation to all of their friends. It’s called “Alien Song” by
Victor Navone.

<DVD 11: Alien Song>

Victor was working for a game company when he did this in his spare time.
He credits this film for getting him a job at Pixar. He worked on “Monsters
Inc.”, but ironically, didn’t animate any of the one-eyed characters.

<Slide: Killer Bean 2>

This next film is one of my favorites. This film was the number one rated
film of all time on iFilm, and is still in the top 10. Jeff Lew’s “Killer Bean
2:The Party”.

<DVD 12: Killer Bean 2>

Jeff Lew has worked for several well known CG studios and most recently
was a supervising animator on The Matrix:Reloaded. You can see why he
got the job.

<Slide: Perk>

This next film is by an animator in Slovenia by the name of Dusan Kastelic.
The character in this film is our current mascot. This is “Perk”.

<DVD 13: Perk>

Perk was shown the SIGGRAPH screening rooms last year, and was also
featured on the official SIGGRAPH Video Review t-shirt. Now, that’s an

<Slide: Snapshot>

And I’d like to conclude this evening with a film by Conrad Chow. When I
first saw this film, I thought to myself, this is why I write CG animation
software for a living. This is “Snapshot” by Conrad Chow.

<DVD 14: Snapshot>

Each one these films that I have just show was done by an individual on
their home computer. They are great films because they are talented artists.
But, the revolution of 3D animation software on the desktop opened the door
for them and made it possible for them to make these films.

<Slide: Hash, Inc.>

That concludes my talk. I’ll leave you with a picture of where we work. I
will take any questions now.