Movie Making Manual/Digital Puppets
In theory, inexpensive motion pictures can be made using Digital Puppets. Digital Puppets are the inexpensive 3D characters from Zygote, Poser, DAZ 3D, RuntimeDNA and a dozen other companies. These figures are also called Poser figures but this is now confusing since DAZ Studio and Poser are now slightly incompatible.
- Not Animatronics
- Digital Puppets should not be confused with animatronics which are electro-mechanical puppets or androids. See Wikipedia's definition of Animatronics. For fun sites about animatronics, visit Android World. To learn how animatronics works, see How Stuff Works.
Some of the procedures for making a movie with Digital Puppets are different so they are discussed here. For the rest of the procedures, look at the rest of MMM. Therefore, this section explains the major differences as well as the steps and procedures for creating a low-budget motion picture with Digital Puppets.
- 1 All About Digital Puppets
- 2 Hardware
- 3 Computer Software
- 4 Computer Models
- 5 Pre-Production
- 6 Production
- 7 Post Production
- 8 Distribution
All About Digital Puppets
Digital Puppets (or "Poser" figures) started out as fun figures for doing personal animation. However, once the quality of the figures improved and artists began to use these figures, everything changed.
The Advantages and Uses of Digital Puppets
Today, digital puppets (or "Poser" figures) are used almost exclusively as models for still artwork. This has become a huge cottage industry. At least 90% of all human figures seen in still artwork are actually digital puppets, not real people. This popularity has driven the cost of digital puppets to rock bottom prices. Many basic figures are free and upgrading to the best possible combination of clothing and morphs rarely costs more than $100.
The Disadvantages of Digital Puppets
Digital puppets (and almost all models for character animation) have one huge disadvantage. They are built wrong. A computer model of a human being is just like a balloon. It is a very thin surface and nothing more. There are no muscles in digital puppets.
Therefore, digital puppets do not deform in a natural way. If you have an absolutely gorgeous looking figure with one facial expression (such as a smile) and you have another beautiful pose of the face, the transition from one facial expression to another is NOT normal. It is like someone is squishing a balloon from one shape into another. This looks absolutely dreadful.
Obviously, if you are going to make your motion picture with the aide of a computer, you need a computer. What is not obvious is how fast a computer you need. Rendering 3D images always requires a very fast computer. Rendering your 3D figures (the digital puppets) takes a good, strong computer. But it is the 3D scenery which can take the most time to render... so much so, you would need a huge render farm (lots and lots of computers tied together) to make a motion picture with full 3D scenery. Therefore, most motion pictures done in 3D even in Hollywood, use a limited form of animation. The 3D figures are rendered in full 3D but the scenery is rendered as still images and animated with a multi-plane camera during compositing. (This is explained below.) By using this method, a single, modern computer is all you need.
If you have the money, buy a Macintosh/Windows Intel computer from Apple (after March 2008; see note below.) By March of 2008, if you want to purchase a Windows computer, you might as well purchase a Macintosh and get the best of both worlds.
Understand The Macintosh
Understanding Apple is not easy. Perhaps this will help:
- 1. The Original Macintosh
- In 1984, Apple Computer, Inc. invented the Macintosh computer with its unique operating system which was a forerunner of Microsoft Windows. The operating system is what gives a personal computer its personality.
- 2. New Operating System
- In 2001, Apple stopped making the Macintosh Operating System. Apple replaced the Macintosh operating system with Unix which is a computer operating system for nerds. This particular version of Unix was developed by NextStep. However, Apple still calls its NextStep Unix operating system "Macintosh OS X".
- 3. New Computer Hardware
- In 2005, Apple stopped making the Macintosh computer. Instead, Apple has switched to making only Intel PCs. However, Apple continues to call its Intel PC computers "Macintosh". (Note: It will take a while for the old Macintosh programs to be able to run on the new Apple Intel PCs using Apple's Unix operating system so wait until March of 2008.)
Which Model To Buy
For beginners, I recommend the iMac with the 20 inch screen or a laptop computer: either the MacBook or the MacBook Pro. The Mac mini is an interesting option but it costs the same as a MacBook. Note: You need to buy a complete hardware package. This can be a bit confusing... so get help from someone who really knows. This includes extra disk drives and lots of RAM. I do not recommend the wireless keyboard for your first keyboard.
You will need to purchase a decent machine. Ram, processing speed, and hard drive space all play an important part. Buy as much PC as you can afford but do not buy the latest and greatest technology. You will pay a premium. Instead, purchase last-year's technology. You will save a bundle of money and only get a marginal difference in performance.
Linux computers are used extensively in the motion picture business for high end animation programs. Blender 3d is a free and open software package that can import many formats for digital puppets. Blender also runs on MS and Apple computers. http://www.blender.org/ Blender also be set up to simulate muscles under the skin freeing your from the balloon look.
To create digital puppets, animated them, render them, create scenery, render it and composite it, you need computer programs.
Digital Puppet Software
The first digital puppet software was Poser. The first popular natural scenery program was Bryce. Now, you have a much larger selection to choose from.
After the first version of Poser was released with extremely crude human figures, the programmers for Poser partnered with Zygote to offer a high quality version of the digital puppets. By version 3 of Poser, the figures began to look good. Now Poser is at version 6 and it offers its own digital puppets which are slightly incompatible with the newest digital puppets from Zygote/DAZ 3D. (See a more detail overview of Poser 6 -- to be completed by 2007)
Zygote spun off a company called DAZ 3D which continues to make digital puppets. Then DAZ 3D developed DAZ Studio for animating the digital puppets from DAZ 3D. (See a more detail overview of Poser 6 -- to be completed by 2007)
Originally, Poser was the only software which could pose and animate digital puppets. Now there is a larger selection.
The animation features in earlier versions of Poser were extremely awkward to use. Newer versions have better support for animation. Animation features include basic physics simulation for cloth and hair.
DAZ Studio started out as only a still program with no animation features at all. This program is still very new so it will be a while before much animation software is available. The good news is the DAZ Studio allows for program plug-ins which can be entire animation modules.
Autodesk 3ds max or Maya
Both of these software titles are expensive but worth the price for extreme control over character animation.
Optional Software Software
Kadara created an animation program for character animation and Life Forms also has some animation capability that will be useful for filmmakers.
Movie Set Software
Bryce was the first program to offer natural scenery for a very low price.
While Bryce slowly died, Vue kept getting better and better.
Byrce has been resurrected from the grave by DAZ 3D. Version 5.5 is free from DAZ if you can download 130 megs.
Recently purchased by DAZ 3D.
The great advantage of this technology is you can buy most things you need off the shelf.
Today, there is a whole bunch of models to choose from. These are of two types. Natural and cartoon.
Digital Puppet Selection
Movie Sets Creation
(This page is under construction.)