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3-Dimensionality and Interactive Networked Collaboration for TRaditional Animation Production

Objective

3DINCTRAP will develop new animation approaches that integrate 2D and 3D methods for traditional animation production and implement them with real-time software techniques at a level and price appropriate to SME producers.
The project will create interactive network methods and asset management tools that allow small, remote production sites to co-produce animation sequences. It will trial the techniques and software applications in a real animation production environment and will measure the users' responses. Project results will be disseminated to increase the awareness of the potential of real-time computer-based techniques for the smaller European animation production companies. 3DINCTRAP will also identify spin-off activities for exploiting the techniques (such as cartoon movies & series; interactive animated comics; Internet applications) and prepare a business plan and marketing arrangements for the software developed by the project.

OBJECTIVES
The global objective is to improve the Proposers' capacity and that of the European animation industry in general by a programme of RTD and market preparation to:
i) Develop new animation approaches that integrate 2D and 3D methods for traditional animation production and implement them with real-time software techniques at a level and price appropriate to SME producers;
ii) Set up interactive network methods and asset management tools that allow small, remote production sites to co-produce animation sequences;
iii) Trial the techniques in a real animation production environment and measure the users' response;
iv) Increase awareness of the European animation production companies of the potential of real-time computer-based production techniques;
v) Identify spin-off activities for exploiting the techniques: e.g. cartoon movies/series; interactive animated comics; Internet applications;
vi) Prepare a viable business plan and marketing arrangements for the software.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK
The Consortium consists of an animation software developer SME, animation producer SMEs, a market specialist SME and University research groups. In a two-year programme, structured in light of previous European project experience, they will:
- Define the SME user requirements for the proposed tools in comparison with existing partial solutions (months 1-3);
- Prepare a technical and functional specification (months 2-5);
- Search for new conceptual and procedural methods, and develop resulting software integrating 2D and real-time 3D methods, asset management and networked collaborative work tools (months 3-15). The tools will provide traditional animation look and feel, novel 2.5D modelling and animation techniques; tools for 3D rendering with an artistic look; user-friendly camera control; networked asset management for remote studios; and an interactive collaborative work environment;
- Install and test the software at partner locations, undertaking a series of tests and trial productions in which the performance of the solutions will be evaluated by proven usability methods (months 4-21), and assess the software in a training environment for existing and future animation professionals;
- Carry out a thorough market study and identify business opportunities leading to the preparation of a realistic business plan (months 7-24);
- Disseminate and transfer resulting knowledge within and widely beyond the consortium and particularly to European animation producers, with presentations at industry festivals and events (months 7-24);
- Prepare the subsequent exploitation of results (months 18-24).
The main achievements of 3DINCTRAP are:
-The integration of 2D traditional animation footage and 3D computer generated imagery for two fundamentally different cases: one in which the background and environment are created as traditional animation content while the characters are generated and animated using a 3D animation software package (such as Maya), and one where the scenery is generated in 3D, and the traditional animation character(s) animated in 2D;
- Realization of 2.5D modelling and animation techniques allowing automatic in-betweening (the "holy grail" of traditional animation) in a substantial sub-class of traditional animation. The fact that we now have an model (that can be animated) behind assets that have the look-and-feel of traditionally drawn assets, brings up a whole new set of innovative applications;
- The implementation of interactive network collaboration techniques, with peer-to-peer techniques allowing two animators (interconnected through a network) to perform interactions in the OpenGL rendering context (e.g. picking and translating an animation object or animation path in a OpenGL render window): when one animator (the "master") interacts with the scenery, the other animator (the "slave") can view in real-time over the network what the other is doing.
- The creation of a client-server asset management tool used for the 3DINCTRAP CreaToon on top of the open source CVS version management system, with a front end and user interface written to meet the purposes of animation. The client station can see the content uploaded to the server, and the system automatically downloads the latest version of current files to the user, who is therefore always working on the latest version. There are facilities for uploading new versions and for sharing temporary files of work in progress;
- Extensive trailing (delivering more than 5 minutes of animation sequences) of the methods researched upon by various user groups: students and professionals inside the consortium as well as beta-testers outside the consortium where involved in the evaluation at issue;
- Definition of a viable business plan. It is agreed between the consortium members that the IPR of the software tools remain with ANDROME; other (user) partners obtain free usage licenses (including future upgrades).

Regarding the ownership of the content that is produced by the SME user partners during the trials, the copyright rules used that conventionally are applied in the traditional animation production domain are used. Often this narrows down to the fact that the graphics artist (or his company) at issue owns the copyright on the characters, whereas the commissioners of the animation (e.g. television companies) own the copyright on the animations. In larger assignments, some commissioners tend to ‘buy in’ all the copyrights. From the viewpoint of 3DINCTRAP, the respective SME user partners each will own their copyrights to whatever content they bring in and develop in the project. No patent applications are issued. A search has been done on patent websites in context of automatic inbetweening and the 3DINCTRAP 2.5D animation context. To our opinion, the existing patents are so broadly posed, that "anything" to do with automatic inbetweening is covered by the patents. On the other hand, the patents at issue lack by far the depth needed to really solve the inbetweening problem. We therefore feel safe to proceed with our planned commercial actions.

Funding Scheme

CRS - Cooperative research contracts

Coordinator

ANDROME NV
Address
Wetenschapspark 4
3590 Diepenbeek
Belgium

Participants (4)

ALAN DAVID ROGERS
United Kingdom
Address
Avenue Road 15
AL1 3QG St. Albans, Herts
ANIMANTE BALEARES SL
Spain
Address
Cl General Riera 37
07010 Palma De Mallorca
PETER LANG
United Kingdom
Address
Chazey Road 53
RG4 7DU Caversham, Reading
WAVECREST SYSTEMS LIMITED
United Kingdom
Address
23 Town Centre
AL10 0JT Hatfield