Between 2D and 3D

This is update from a previous note. A few months ago I modeled a few cartoon characters using an experimental modeling application developed by Alec Rivers at CSAIL. Working with it is actually a hybrid process between drawing and modeling. After drawing a few views of a cartoon character from a few basic two dimensional shapes—front, side and top for example—the software tries its best generate all other views required to look at the character from any p.o.v. in three dimensions. An iterative process lets you refine the views that don’t look right, rearranging and deforming the original shapes, until you build a two dimensional character that can be looked in three dimensions from any angle. Hence the name of the project: 2.5D. I believe using this software can be significantly less confusing than my explanation. Alec and his collaborators are definitely more clear in the paper that was featured in Siggraph this Summer. If you visit Alec’s project webpage you can actually download the software and play with the models I made—or make your own—provided that you can run Windows 7 or Vista in your machine.

The character featured in the picture combines features from Disney’s Stitch and the little green aliens from the Toy Story series.

I am not sure if a version of this technique will ever become an industry standard. It all depends on how much smarter computers will become in the future, but it’s a good reminder that the creation of new digital tools is an open door to new forms of expression, even within the constraints of traditional forms like cartoon animation.

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