The result opens the road towards using an electronic, paper-like surface to be addressed the same way normal paper would be addressed. Written as well as drawn input are made possible, in a way sufficiently accurate for the "Custodiev" artist community to be satisfied with. Strong interest exists for the technology to be applied in the area of text-input on electronic paper. It is generally viewed as a great asset to e-paper devices to implement this invisible mode of pen-input, and may well be a technology enabler in this sense. Departing from the starting position of text-input, technologically the method is well suited for artistic use. Drawbacks mentioned at the end of the testing period mainly focus on the display size and pen characteristics. The best way to solve this in this new market is to create volume in a mainstream product, which will open the opportunity for artists to either adhere to the mainstream for an inexpensive, somewhat smaller product, or to opt for a more custom built product with the appropriate price tag. In terms of size, the reader / written input device is expected to grow to approx. A4 size within several years, which was generally seen as adequate.
CinePaint is an Open Source tool classically applied to image retouching and digital composition for film-quality images. It has a published plug-in interface (API), the basis of a client-server architecture, an Open Source community of developers around it, and a number of users in the professional film industry both in Europe and the USA. It is used in such a varied way and the original core has been patched by so many people who are more expert in the application domain than in software engineering that the original code base has become hard to maintain. This has been rebuilt according to current software engineering principles and models for component-based architectures and is currently being developed with the Open Source community as the “Glasgow” rebuild. The new version of CinePaint remains a film-standard image editing tool with explicit provision for spatial and colour primary depth film-resolutions and sequencing. Supporting film resolution affects every function, which could be applied to images and sequencing, if catered for properly, can profoundly affect the way functionality is presented and the resulting workflows. The original CinePaint made very little provision for sequencing other than by scripting. The new Cinepaint uses a spreadsheet model, which is optimal for short sequences or longer single, sequences and requires a replay facility, which has been implemented. Because it is possible to specify runs of function sets and systematic operand changes easily an explicit client-server arrangement is available to displace high workloads. The client-server core is highly flexible and can be reused for a wide range of image handling operations and has been used in three such applications. CinePaint is an Open Source tool whose present licence permits free use outside reselling, which is a model, which encourages take-up. The functionality added to CinePaint is explicitly intended to support its use in the animation industry at the previewing stage, optionally in conjunction with CreaToon, and for supporting film-quality composition and other time-consuming functions for CreaToon. This facilitates the use of the new tools in CreaToon for generating new forms of rendering in film animation, which have been hitherto unachievable because of stability problems. While providing a route for the new tools to film resolutions and also providing new support options, for e.g. for 2.5D backgrounds, the fact that CinePaint is Open Source encourages its use in small studios seeking to support a house look with their own software techniques, quite independent of its use in animation. Further exploitation of a client-server linkage between CreaToon and CinePaint (or with CinePaint itself) could assist in film effects and previsualisation generally, not just in animation. The ease of extending CinePaint is intended to encourage the build up of contributed functionality and hence its user base. We have rebuilt the CinePaint core to expose the client-server structure and to restructure the system around a radically applied plug-in model. Current software engineering techniques have been used throughout: object-orientation, templates, multi-threaded control, software re-use as components (plug-ins) wherever this passes a quality standard. We are engaging with the Open Source community surrounding this project so the implementation has been designed be easy to maintain and to build on. Good documentation, particularly documentation which explains how to write plug-ins with worked examples, is a key feature along with clean, well-documented code. This Cinepaint core is capable of being reconfigured for any image oriented application and has been used like this in three different applications. Also, unlike the original Cinepaint where attempts to port it to Windows failed, it runs on any platform including Windows, which is more significant for its penetration in Europe. The API for the new system is a superset of the original API and a mimic API is being developed for backwards compatibility with plug-ins. Other mimics are possible. Finally the new core supports an improved model for sequencing (where essentially the same operations are applied over a sequence of images) based on the idea of a spreadsheet for images. With some support from specialist core functions this is essentially a plug-in in its own right and allows for considerable flexibility and transparency in sequence control. Since studio users are more familiar with the restrictions of exposure sheets this spreadsheet can be reconfigured to look like an exposure sheet or it can be bypassed altogether by users who do not need this capability or for legacy reasons.
Non-contact real-time 3D capture is a technically demanding application. Currently the Glasgow system captures video from up to 24 cameras in real time and post processes the video streams together to compute an all-round 3D model whose appearance and behaviour matches that of the subject. For animation purposes it has been used to capture a face-and head model which is then marked up by a semi-automatic process in which MPEG-4 reference points are placed on the model, then tracked as long as possible automatically before manual correction. The idea is to capture the behaviour of salient points on the face and head and use them to calculate MPEG-4 Facial Animation Parameters (FAPs) to drive an animated face and head model. While a detailed reproduction of the surface appearance of the original face is not a requirement in this application a good 3D model is important to minimising the amount of manual intervention required and a significant reduction in mark-up time has been achieved over early efforts, to the point that this stage of post processing is now becoming comparable in duration to the initial wholly automatic stages of model construction and conformation. At the same time the FAPs tracked have been increased to include points like the irises of the eye which are hard to obtain by any other approach to motion capture. The Glasgow 3D (markerless) dynamic capture system was originally developed as an experimental rig 3 years ago and its use in the project has focused on its evaluation as an emergent technology with potential for use in animation. The specific reason this technology was developed was to facilitate the portrayal of historical figures in animation. Improved markup tools have also improved the quality of the results obtained and most MPEG-4 FAPs, notably pupil position, are measured and passed. The capture functionality is based on the C3D stereo-vision system using data captured by between 12 and 24 analogue cameras with real-time feeds to digitising frame-grabbers operating at 25 frames/sec. Attention has focused on head capture as the basis of evaluation. While human faces are easy to animate what is difficult is to retain a specific character, especially a known character, in the facial behaviour. In the application for which it is ultimately intended the idea is that an actor will provide the character portrayal and the animator has an opportunity to embellish this (although we foresee contractual issues arising here between actor and studio). Dynamic capture has its place for the specific kinds of facial animation we wanted, and can possibly lead on to new styles, but the data-path will have to be streamlined beyond the limits of the present implementation. Some development will be necessary for a professional production context but much of this is to do with environment (e.g. proper provision for a director not hitherto considered for a research-oriented experimental rig). The sequences we have captured have an aspect which an animator would not normally have considered and a film actor would have been constrained to avoid.
The book The Art and Science of Drawn Animation is in essence the distilled understanding we have reached in the project on the future of 2D animation in the form of 2++ D animation. Examples, of which there are now many are drawn from the various productions strands of the project. Of particular interest is the relationship between the artwork, the styles, and the story theme, also the relationship between all of these and the technical means of achieving them. Where possible the lessons learned in the project will be factored in although this is not a book about methodologies but about stylistic techniques, a rationale for supporting them, and how to support them. The book also seeks to consolidate the research work of the partners and co-authors. Contents include the following. 1, The traditional approach to animation: introduction, principles of movement, traditional practices and procedures, cheating, faking and tweaking, and the limits of traditional 2D animation. 2, The use of computers in non 3D animation: The Hierarchical Display Model, Computer Implementation of the 2D Data-Path, Multi-view In-betweening, Vector Drawing, Painting and Brush Simulation, Highly Rendered Styles. 3, The extension of digital animation technology to live action: Digital Compositing, vector image forms, animating from photographs. There are 11 chapters and 271 pages in the present manuscript.
A vectorised image is one in which the pixel sample values are represented by the boundaries of level sets which are held in a continuous resolution-independent form. These boundaries are represented in terms of the control points of free-form curves of degree 1 or higher, which may be thought of as vectors in the algebraic sense or chains of vectors in the geometric sense, hence the term vectorisation. Inter-level values are interpolated via a diffusion process the simplest of which allows linear diffusion between levels. An image held as level sets is this itself resolution-independent, although will carry no more detail than that present in the sample set from which it was derived . A codec has been developed which translates any raster image into vector form with the smallest number of level sets required for reconstruction, and back again into sampled form. The codec is noise-resistant in the sense that images with high noise measures will decode back into images with low noise measures i.e. pixel correlation is normally increased while correlation breaking (at an edge) is preserved. In vector form the image may be manipulated in the same way as any other vector or drawn image without risking the generation of sampling artefacts. Certain image manipulation processes, e.g. histogram re-shaping, image warps, can be carried out far more precisely than with raster images in particular without loss of sampling levels in the case of histogram equalisation. There is potential for a whole range of improved image sequence manipulation processes, which are difficult or impossible with sampled images including rotoscoping, rotomatting, matte pulling and hole filling. In principle all image manipulation processes can be conducted, usually advantageously in terms of operations on vector formats, including so-called compression processes. These processes are now being investigated with a view to promoting and exploiting the format. Descriptively speaking there are essentially three ways in which raster images might be reduced to a resolution-independent form: as a 3D surface constructed as a locally continuous approximation to the pixel values, as open overlaid brush-strokes which define a combination of pixel values, or as a non-overlapping set of isochromic contours (also known as isophotes) which divide the image space into regions below or above a given colour primary value level set. The 3D surface approach makes problematic assumptions about pixel correlations, the brush-stroke approach is still a research issue, so the isochromic contour approach was followed. As the term isochromic contour has been applied elsewhere to boundaries of contiguous collections of equal-valued pixels we should emphasise that we treat pixels as being like spot heights in a piecewise continuous landscape and that contours may or may not respect pixel values depending on an estimation of the noise in the samples. Such contours may be derived from any degree of quantisation of the original pixel values although there remains the question of how to interpret the regions between the contours which we have resolve by using diffusion as described in Level Set theory. We now facing a vista of possible avenues for improvements in performance based on new technical development following on from the present approach, including a range of new applications of (the algebraic form of) level set theory, and it is intended to take these approaches in future exploitation.
Stalin's Fridge is an animated feature aimed at a mainstream audience. This is a dark comedy adventure, brought to life with a combination of classic animation techniques and the specially developed computer technology. Although it involves some of the most sinister figures of recent history, the political shenanigans are the backdrop for antics in the mould of The Rescuers or The Borrowers, with the mice as central characters happily oblivious of the terrible carnage around them. The graphic style of Beb Deum's artwork is a perfect match for this subject matter, but makes several technical demands, namely the rendering of 2D images to give them an air-brushed, 3D look. This seemed to be the perfect vehicle for the use of "creative pull". The animation industry feeds off novelty, and the development of Stalin's Fridge was used as a model to give the consortium's software developers, so that they could develop 2 and a half D, and rendering processes necessary for the production of the film. As more and more animation production for television is sent to the Far East, the European industry is in danger of losing those very skills it needs to compete internationally in the future. Preproduction may be done in Western Europe, but very little animation for television. European animators are mostly employed either in the games industry, or on feature films, where budgets are higher. If we are to retain jobs and skills in Europe, we need to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the animated feature film industry. European feature animation stands in the shadow of the great American and Japanese animation studios. In the US, an animated feature film could cost as much as $100 million. This money can be recouped through a combination of cinema receipts, sales of dvd and vhs, and spin-off merchandising. It is quite possible for a film to make its money back from a domestic cinema release, and then to make large profits from overseas exploitation. The same is true of Japan, though budgets are lower, and the overseas market less lucrative. The feature film market in Europe, however, is extremely fragmented. There is no pan European system of feature film distribution, the market for animated features varies enormously from country to country, and theatres in some countries, like the UK, take a disproportionate percentage of receipts. A European feature film producer is usually faced with a choice of either selling rights to a big American studio in order to raise a large production budget (Chicken Run), or working with the sort of budget that can be recouped within Europe (Kirikou, Belleville Rendezvous). This means working within a production budget of less than $10 million. This is 10% of a big budget American animated feature. In order to compete internationally European studios need to be creating its own styles of animation, i.e. doing something that the Americans are not doing, and also reduce costs. The development of 2 1/2 D software for Stalin¿s Fridge is designed to do both these things. Stalin¿s Fridge uses a design style that is innovative and idiosyncratic, very European, and which could not be easily realised using existing software. At the same time, through the Custodiev project, a software is being developed that could not only potentially reduce costs, but which could allow all sorts of illustration techniques to be realised in animation in a way that is currently, at best, difficult, at worst, impossible. This could have an impact both on feature film animation, where new and innovative styles can be realised, but also in the world of tv animation, where new markets could possibly be created in styles impractical to do in China or India.
The AnimationForge website was designed and built to provide a "virtual centre" for "creative pull" artistic production using a virtual forum to foster collaborations between artists and technologists and to accumulate the technological outcomes. This portal dedicated to cartoon animation and to the art of the movement promotes Open Source concepts such as open access, open production, open training and open engagement. This website provides a forum where everyone interested in animation can place and swap information. This information could either be creative or technical, e.g. artistic concepts, pieces of artwork, practical tips, technological tools, software, etc. The website comprises of two distinct parts, "a public part in which general information on animation topics is exchanged between the artistic and technical communities, and "a private project part, dedicated to the development of specific projects ideas enabling them a chance to grow into full productions. These projects benefit from the provision of a log book, a library (downloading zone accommodating all types of files), galleries and a private forum. These facilities encourage virtual teams to work together ubiquitously, while creative control can be maintained by the originator of the idea or delegate until the final production is completed. Use of the results: The Centre of Multimedia Product Support, the CNBDI department responsible for creating and maintaining the AnimationForge website, will soon be taking on a new role as the "Multimedia Technological Platform" during the creation and development of the new Angoulême "Campus of the image". It is planned to develop the AnimationForge website into a service which supplies hosted applications, dedicated to the requirements of narrative image (comic strip, cartoon film, real recording, video games and interactive media). The site shall gradually accumulate associated problems and preserve work from the aforesaid domains for users to browse. This shall evolve from the adoption of the Application Service Provider (ASP) model where users of this service are able to access the services and software they require remotely via the internet or any other network they are connected to. The user company pays for the right to access and use this service usually at a fixed monthly cost rate. All the data and software accessed is stored centrally on a remote server or servers. Current stage of development: The design of the AnimationForge virtual forum has matured over the last 2 years. Through testing and reviewing the site most of the common design faults were identified and rectified fairly quickly. By using both the public and private parts of the site to achieve project goals several design enhancements to improve the overall effectiveness of the website have been identified and implemented.