View Full Version : Computer graphics in a movie

11-17-2007, 05:32 AM
As stated in the title, I was wondering how I would go about creating computer graphics in a move, say like Ice Age 2. What skills would i need to do something like that? I know that i'm really far off, but i'd like to get started as soon as possible. Even if i only make a small clip of animation, but how would I do that?



11-17-2007, 09:58 AM
First of all, you'll need a 3D drawing software, that supports animation modeling [or at least exporting the models in a format that can be imported by an animation software].

There are a few popular variants:
3DStudio Max

Both are expensive, but the next level above that is even worse. There is a free product call PovRAY, which is very good for the price you pay - it may even beat the commercial packages in some ways. The hard part is that it's more of a programing language than a GUI-application, so you write "code" to make your 3D models, rather than draw them as little line-drawings on the screen.

Once you have your 3D model of the characters, the landscape, houses, etc, etc, you put it into "animation engine" [either as part of the product itself, or an external one], which essentially generates the camera/character movement in small steps. For example if you have a character walking, it will lift the left leg up, then move it forward, then lower it, then the same for the right leg, etc, etc. How this movement is done is programmed by changing your character, but once the program knows each little movement, it can put together a 100 meter dash or a seven mile walk, or whatever, because it's just "repeat this until we reach the end" - including going around corners, up and down hills and what have you.

Once each frame for a scene it's produced, it's time for the "rendering", which for any commercial film is done in a product called "renderman" - it's a "raytracing application" which means that it calculates each "ray" of light that is emited from whatever lightsources you have, and how that affects every single pixel in the frame, including reflections and refraction through transparent materials, etc, etc. Since this is VERY compute intensive - a single frame is made up from maybe 2-8 megapixels, and every single pixel will have several hundred calculations performed on it, it takes litterally many CPU-years to produce a full feature film. I read somewhere that the movie "Cars" was made on a cluster of 4000 dual processor Opteron machines. It still took those machines about 2 years to produce every frame, and some really complex frames [at the race-track where there is thousands of spectators, for example] had to be produced in lower resolution because the machines would not cope with it.

All feature length films have graphics programmers that write special plug-ins to do special rendering for particular scenes or special "features" in the film - say for example simulating rainfall, snow, fire-works or some such in a more realistic way than the animation generator can do.

In all, to make a big film, you need several dozens of highly skilled artists, programmers and many other professionals. Even making a very short film will take weeks or months for someone with the right skills.


11-17-2007, 10:16 AM

11-17-2007, 11:43 AM
Doesn't really have anything to do with graphics programming. Moved.

11-17-2007, 02:50 PM
Doesn't really have anything to do with graphics programming. :confused: If this isn't graphics programming, then what is it? Did you mean game programming?

11-17-2007, 04:10 PM
It doesn't have anything to do with graphics programming. This is more about the tools used to create graphics for a movie.

11-18-2007, 12:20 PM
CGI becomes dated too fast. Watch Jurassic Park now. The
CGI looks ridiculous. Nope. Muppets are the way to go. Study
Muppeteering instead.

11-19-2007, 10:02 PM

11-20-2007, 09:53 AM
download 3d studio max, start here;


find a good 3d modeling forum,

good luck!

11-20-2007, 09:58 AM
CGI becomes dated too fast. Watch Jurassic Park now. The
CGI looks ridiculous. Nope. Muppets are the way to go. Study
Muppeteering instead.

For once, I agree, to an extent. Nowadays everything is CG, and even the best looks out of place. Back in the day of the Thing, Alien, Predator, they looked realistic because of animatronics and scale models. Were that to still be a valuable art today we'd probably have directs being a little more careful about slapping CG on a crappy movie.

11-20-2007, 06:21 PM
Actually Hollywood does not use CG a lot for images that are in the foreground. This is because the detail level has to be very dense. However this depends on the speed of the object and how long the audience has to focus on the object. But I doubt seriously that many of you can actually spot every CG object and every non-CG object. Even with all of the video games I've played I find it very hard to spot all the CG.

The worst CG we have currently are those used for clouds, smoke, and other particle effects. They look so terrible and fake. Scorpion King's sandstorm, Twister's tornadoes, and The Mummy's sandstorms. Very fake. Independence Day used sand for when the asteroid destroys downtown Paris because it was a low budget flick. But in the end their dust effects look better because they are using real...um...dirt.

CG also does not model delicate precise human motion and animal motion very well either. Spider man looks so fake that I'm surprised they didn't edit out half the swinging through the city scenes. CatWoman looks extremely fake when she is jumping from building to building, etc., etc. But again those are solo shots. Titanic modeled several sets of passengers in the distance and used them for the folks jumping off the ship here and there during the sinking. All in all it looks very good.

But very hard to spot CG items are like the gas canister in Gone in 60 seconds during the dock scene that gets hit, blows its top, and shoots right through a truck. The entire canister is CG but you would never know it because it is done so well.

I think sometimes we 'say' this is CG or that is because we expect it to be when in reality it may not be. Pearl Harbor mixed a lot of CG with a lot of real life models and/or real objects and even though the plotline for the movie sorta sucked....the Pearl Harbor attack sequence is probably one of the best large-scale battles ever filmed. (minus the scenes with Ben Affleck of course).

11-20-2007, 11:08 PM
Pixar should have patented CG so nobody else
other than them could ever do it. Ever. <-period.

Ratatouille was the best movie of the summer.

11-21-2007, 09:34 AM
One of the worst looking along with the worst decision to use CG was Next. They couldn't even afford Wood Logs or a tractor to throw down a hill so they made lame CG with it.

Mind you, every movie mentioned in this thread was pretty horrible with or without CG.

11-22-2007, 09:45 AM
Saying that Bubba... the technology for reproducing human movements and nuances is improving vastly. My fianc&#233; (the sarcastic Sunlight if anyone remembers him and the famous Windows v. Linux thread) worked for a motion-capture company that worked on the film Beowolf. Most of making something appear 'realistic' is to mix clever graphics with accuracy of movement and lighting and, you've got to admit with Beowolf there are places in the film it would be difficult to tell (were not for the magic, witch etc) if the people were live actors. We're not quite there yet but I doubt it's far off.

I'd trying modeling a a scene in flash (or the like) and try and build it into 3 dimensions with 3DS-Max. It's not an easy tool to use with proficiency but don't get disheartened, there are millions of tutorials and free models so you can get up and going quicker.

From a programming perspective it may be good to start with OpenGL programming so you can get a feel for what words mean and how affecting them affects your model. I found having a backing in OpenGL gave me a good grounding for getting started with 3DS MAX as you know what a lot of the variables are and you can get started quicker.

ethic - Rataouille was awesome but I can't quite forgive them for Toy Story (ad nauseum).

11-22-2007, 10:19 AM
Hehe. I remember Sunlight but that's been a very very long time ago. I had just joined the board when Sunlight was prominent here so I did not get a chance to know him well.

11-22-2007, 01:57 PM
....the Pearl Harbor attack sequence is probably one of the best large-scale battles ever filmed. (minus the scenes with Ben Affleck of course).

yeah, but he was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!
(for my Kevin Smith fans out there)

but to add something about blender 3d: thing about it is you can create 3d animations and videos with it. Its a cool program but the problem is, if you want to do 3d animation as a career no one is going to hire you cause you're a blender 3d professional (of course thats not being debated here so its a moot point). but auto desk does put out a learning edition of maya. seems pretty good for a free edition of a software like this. but you can't really make any production quality animation on it because they watermark the rendered product.
it's available here if you want to take a look.


and you're looking for the PLE version (personal learning edition).
i hope this helps you out some.

11-22-2007, 11:08 PM
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault has a sequence in the Pearl Harbor level that has some cocky airman on the deck of a ship that looks like Affleck. As you approach him he says 'someone get me into a damn plane' and then he runs off towards the bow and gets blown to bits by a Japanese bomb.

So I get the feeling the designers of the game were dying to make fun of that cheesy line. Quite humorous and a gaming moment I won't forget.

You can also get GMax which is a free version of 3DS max with some limitations. Also available are Wings3D and Caligari GameSpace Lite. For a good list you can check out the sticky on game development resources.