Back in 1980 I got a job at Robert Abel & Associates. It was an incredible gig. I was paid to use computers to make 3D models for TV commercials (and movies). The only problem was trying to explain to my mom what it was that I did. After 6 years, I finally just said, “I make cartoons”; and THAT she understood.
So, if the next few paragraphs don’t make much sense, just go back to, “he’s making cartoons.”
In the old days when you wanted to shoot a movie about London, you had two choices.
- Send a whole lot of people and machines, and stuff to London, then film your movie. (and, while you were there, make sure nobody walks into the frame as you film.) $$$$$$
- Go into a “Sound Stage” and make it look like Paris. $$
Number two is what most film-makers did. (And it is at the core of the “studio” system. Before 1966 hardly anybody could afford to do this.) Imagine a 120’x120’x30’ tall room. With heavy insulation on the walls & ceiling, and no windows. A totally controllable empty space, with NOTHING in it. You want trees? Build some (or put real ones in buckets and bring them inside). Grass on the ground? Buy sod. Actors? Dress them, give them lines to speak, and bring’em inside. Sunlight? Have the Grips hang a really big light up near the ceiling and aim it down. Smoke in the air, rent a fog machine and run it during the scene. Then place a camera somewhere. If you created enough stuff, then it would look like London. [Watch the first 3 minutes of “El Amor Brujo” (1986) for a beautiful display of this process. You start in the sound stage, and end in a small, dusty, rural village.]
The model is this: Nothing is visible in the camera frame unless you create it and place it there.
Computer animation is exactly like that. When you watch Avatar (as a beautiful example); every single tree, bush, creature, raindrop, dirt clod, airplane, person, stick & stone was created by someone. Those someone’s are called Modelers. Just like in a sound stage, someone has to create everything you see. (And yes, the next step is to animate those things; but that will be another article.)
Now, when we started building objects in the computer, you had two choices.
1. Fast and sloppy. From exactly the right angle, your object looks prefect. And as soon as you try to look at it from another angle, you see errors. (real good for 30 sec. commercials.)
2. Slower and accurate. These looked good from any angle you could look at it from. (Better for movies when the director didn’t know where he would shoot from.)
Then people started thinking, “Could we take that computer model, and feed the data to a CNC milling machine; and build a physical version of that object?” Well yeah, duh!
So now we have a third choice.
3. “Water-tight”. This means; not only does it look right to your eye, it is also mathematically correct (in terms of computer numbers, polygons, vertices, normals & [well, you get the picture]).
And that brings us up to today. A 3D Printer will happily take that 3D Model, and (if the data is good) create a physical copy. The implication of all this is that anything you can create in the computer, you can get a physical copy of it. This has opened up a whole new world of fun.
I would LOVE to have a bunch of people, learning to model, here at Wowser. Interested?? Ask. And you can join our 3D Modeling Workshop.