Tools created for amateur animators

The Max Planck researchers say their two new approaches, revealed today at Cebit, not only significantly shorten two important steps of the creation process, but also considerably simplify them.

“It has never been easier to create and animate a custom 3D character than today,” sayss Thorsten Thormählen from the MPI for Informatics.

Thormählen’s software uses databases like Dosch Design, Turbosquid or Google Warehouse, which, either free or for a small fee, offer data sets defining the shape of a character or an object. They give users a range of 3D models – but don’t allow them to be customized.

However, the first of the two novel algorithms cleverly splits the 3D models in the database into components and remembers how they were connected. Users can then select two of the processed models that they want to combine into a new and unique model, using a slider to decide how much of component A or B to use and  view the resulting combination.

To make sure that only fitting components can be exchanged – for example, swapping the arms of A with the arms of B – the program uses segmentation based on identified symmetries.

“This even works if you want to create a James Bond vehicle out of a motor boat and a plane”, says Thormälen.

Finally, the newly created model can be animated with another algorithm.

All that is needed is a defined movement sequence and a target skeleton; and these, too, are freely available on the internet.

The software applies the movement and the skeleton to the 3D model, using an algorithm that can identify a similar skeleton, including the appropriate joints in the target model. The movement’s then transferred to the skeleton animating the model.