Realistic models

Researchers at the University of Bradford will be looking into ways of improving the computer modelling and animation used in such films as Shrek.

Researchers at the University of Bradford will be looking into ways of improving the computer modelling and animation used in such films as Shrek, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and Jimmy Neutron.

Dr. Hassan Ugail and Dr. Ian Palmer from the University’s School of Informatics have been awarded a grant of around £300,000 to carry out fundamental research into developing new techniques for computer-based modelling and animation.

The grant, awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will see a collaboration between the Bradford researchers, and Professor Phil Willis of the Department Computer Science at University of Bath.

Support for the research also comes from an external industrial leader, Alias, whose ‘MAYA’ software is presently the industry standard in the field.

The research, which will start this November and hopefully conclude by the end of 2008, will develop new techniques to address many of the existing issues in geometry modelling and animation.

The basis of the research by the Bradford computer experts is a novel method for geometric design known as the PDE method. The PDE Method can be used to describe the surfaces of complicated objects which can be created and manipulated in an interactive environment by a designer. Using the PDE method, the animations of realistic objects are performed as a series of curve transformation where the curves correspond to the character lines or the boundaries of the animated object .

Dr. Hassan Ugail, Senior Lecturer in the Electronic Imaging and Media Communications (EIMC) department of the University, said: “The modelling and animation of characters, human or otherwise, is a huge and rapidly growing field. The global computer games market alone is currently worth some $28 billion.”

“The success of movies such as those made by Pixar and the massive computer games market has led to a need for more realistic character modelling and animation, and this realism is demanded in shorter timescales. This is apparent from the large number of computer animated films, such as Shrek2, Finding Nemo, Jimmy Neutron and Excalibur, which have short production times to satisfy consumer demand,” he added.

Dr. Ian Palmer, Head of EIMC, added: “Today, the magic of real time characters we see in many movies and computer games comes at a considerable cost.”

“Creating the complex geometry of such characters from scratch and bringing them to life by way of computer animation requires highly skilled designers and artists, who are often rare and expensive. Furthermore, the lack of particular modelling tools and the complexity of established tools for modelling and animation is a source of frustration to the designers. If successful, this research will produce several new algorithms, which will go into the next generation modelling and animation software tools.”