Chris Landreth Expands Creative and Technological Boundaries With 'Bingo'
Academy Award Nominee Uses Maya Software for Stunning New Animation
ORLANDO, Fla., July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A clown so realistic you can smell the face paint, a coy little girl that morphs into a hideous creature, and a bizarre, little man with seventeen arms made of money, are a few of the characters encountered in "Bingo." Created and developed by Chris Landreth, "Bingo" was has been selected as the grand finale of the Electronic Theater at SIGGRAPH '98. Developed concurrently with Maya(TM), Alias|Wavefront's ground- breaking 3D animation and special effects software, one of the goals of this in-house production was to rigorously test the software to ensure that it could satisfy the most demanding and innovative of creative endeavors. "'Bingo' is like no other production both in terms of the artistic content and the process for creating it," explains Landreth. 'Bingo' and Maya were basically developed in tandem which was challenging and exciting. The fact that Alias|Wavefront would support a project of this scope is a testament to its commitment to creating the best tools for artists." "Bingo" is a five-minute computer animated adaptation of a live theater performance called Disregard This Play which was first produced in Chicago in 1993 by Greg Kotis of the Neo-Futurists theater company. The recorded audio performance of this play is used in "Bingo" which incorporates exciting and bizarre visual imagery to support the telling of the story. Landreth is a senior animator at Alias|Wavefront who in 1995 was nominated for an Academy award for his animation, the end. With "Bingo," Landreth introduces a cast of animated characters who are alternately, shockingly human-like and disturbingly freakish. "'Bingo' is an animation that stretches the boundaries of realistic representation while also pushing the limits of the technology," describes Landreth. "We wanted the characters to look a certain way and in every case, Maya delivered." By using virtually all of Maya's tools in a variety of different ways, Landreth and a team of Alias|Wavefront employees who volunteered to help him, were able to give critically important feedback on how to make Maya a cohesive and comprehensive package that can withstand even the most challenging production environments. The "Bingo" team ranged from software engineers to customer support-line employees to product specialists, who were able to use the production environment to refine their skills and learn how to build and support the world's best software. Keeping Up Appearances The characters in "Bingo" range from the realistic to the fanciful. A variety of tools in Maya helped Landreth and his team achieve precisely the look they wanted. The blendshape feature was used for setting the facial animation for the characters. This tool allows for incredible precision and speed in developing facial animation by allowing the animators to set poses which connect the character's facial movement to the appropriate phonemes. Landreth took advantage of the customizability of Maya to create unique shaders for numerous specific effects. Realistic hair was created by using a custom anisotropic shader which provides directional highlights across both the X and Y axes. Similarly, the strange and wonderful mechanical elephants have ears that were built using a variety of shaders layered on top of each other until just the right texture appeared. Dynamic Movement Movement of both characters and objects in "Bingo" is naturalistic and compelling. Characters not only have incredible depth of detail, they also walk, leap, and bicycle across the stage while exhibiting the subtleties of movement that make for very convincing animation. Objects such as balloons, cloth, and even ponytails move with incredible realism and interactivity. Maya allows artists to apply real world dynamics to virtually anything in a scene, which means that animators don't just have to guess what a response would look like, they can actually simulate the real-world effect. For example, the little girl in "Bingo" twists and sways and her dress follows with all the fluidity you would expect from real fabric. Landreth achieved this feat by making the dress a soft body and applying weight, gravity and other properties so that it deforms with the flow and swish of cotton. To further add to the realism, Landreth made the little girl's legs collision objects which cause the dress to shape to the force of her legs each time she takes a step. The inverse kinematics in Maya made it incredibly easy for Chris and the other animators to set up walk cycles for the various characters. It also permitted an unprecedented level of control over the character's body language by maintaining consistent movement and characteristics throughout the production. Mood-defining Effects With "Bingo," Landreth has created a world that is dark, stark, and unsettling. The powerful mood created in "Bingo" comes, in part, from the deft application of lighting and special effects. As the clown walks onto the stage, a subtle swirl of dust settles on his shoes, emphasizing the seedy circus atmosphere created in this scene. The dust was created using Maya software's phenomenal particle system which offers a collection of flexible particle creation and emission tools that can be combined with dynamics fields such as gravity, wind, and turbulence. Further enhancing this scene are stark spotlights used in combination with gently fogged peripheral lighting. Artists who helped work on this scene were amazed with the speed and interactivity of Maya which allowed them to apply and adjust lighting and instantly see the result of their tweaking. "Maya really lets you get to the heart of making art rather than spending time fighting tools or waiting to see your results," notes Landreth. "You spend more time finessing your work and in the end you have a piece of work where the artistic vision shines through." Alias|Wavefront provides artists with advanced computer graphics software that helps unleash the power of their creativity. As the world's leading innovator of 2D and 3D graphics technology, Alias|Wavefront develops software for the film and video, games, interactive media, industrial design and visualization markets. Alias|Wavefront's film and video customers include Bluesky/VIFX, Cinesite, CNN, Digital Domain, Dream Pictures Studio, Dream Quest Images, Industrial Light + Magic, NBC, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Games and interactive media developers include Acclaim, CAPCOM, Electronic Arts, Iguana Entertainment, Interplay, Kronos Digital Entertainment, NAMCO, Nintendo, SEGA, Sony Interactive, Square, Virtual Worlds Entertainment and Williams/Bally Midway. With headquarters in Toronto, Alias|Wavefront is a wholly owned, independent software subsidiary of Silicon Graphics, Inc. (NYSE: SGI). Alias|Wavefront has worldwide distribution via a network of Channel Partners and sales offices located in North America, Europe and Asia. For more information on products, readers can access Alias|Wavefront's website at www.aw.sgi.com. Readers in North America can also call 800-447-2542 for the location of the nearest sales office or Channel Partner in their area. NOTE: Alias is a registered trademark, and Alias|Wavefront, the Alias|Wavefront logo are trademarks of Alias|Wavefront, a division of Silicon Graphics Limited. Maya and the Maya logo are trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc. and exclusively used by Alias|Wavefront, a division of Silicon Graphics Limited. Silicon Graphics , IRIX, and the Silicon Graphics logo are registered trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc.RELATED LINKS