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Tag Archives: animation

Hollywood gets its own open source foundation

Open source is everywhere now, so maybe it’s no surprise that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the organization behind the Oscars) today announced that it has partnered with the Linux Foundation to launch the Academy Software Foundation , a new open source foundation for developers in the motion picture and media space. The founding members include a number of high-powered media and tech companies, including Animal Logic, Blue Sky Studios, Cisco, DreamWorks, Epic Games, Google, Intel, SideFX, Walt Disney Studios and Weta Digital. “Open Source Software has enabled developers and engineers to create the amazing effects and animation that we see every day in the moves, on television and in video games,” said Linux Foundation CEO Jim Zemlin.” With the Academy Software Foundation, we are providing a home for this community of open source developers to collaborate and drive the next wave of innovation across the motion picture and broader media industries.” The Academy Software Foundation’s mission statement notes that it wants to be a neural forum “to coordinate cross-project efforts; to provide a common built and test infrastructure; and to provide individuals and organizations a clear path to participation in advancing out open source ecosystem.” According to a survey by the Academy, 84 percent of the industry uses open source software already, mostly for animation and visual effects. The group also found that what’s holding back open source development in the media industry is the siloed nature of the development teams across the different companies in this ecosystem. “The creation of the Academy Software Foundation is an important and exciting step of the motion picture industry,” said Nick Cannon, the chief technology officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. “By increasing collaboration within our industry, it allows all of us to pool our efforts on common foundation technologies, drive new standards for interoperability and increase the pace of innovation.” The fact that even Hollywood is now embracing open source and its collaborative nature is yet another sign of how the world of software development has changed in recent years. Over the last few years, traditional enterprises realized that whatever technology they developed to run their software infrastructure isn’t what actually delivers value to their customers, so it made sense to collaborate in this area, even with their fiercest competitors  — and the same, it seems, now holds true for the Hollywood studios, too (or at least for those that have now joined the new foundation).

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Snapchat launches its first speech recognition lenses

Snapchat is today launching ne w  lenses that respond to voice commands. The company says it’s now rolling out a series of lenses that will animate when users speak simple, English words like “hi,” “love,” “yes,” “no,” and “wow,” as opposed to taking some other action – like opening their mouth or raising their eyebrows, as has been the trigger for some of the company’s prior lenses that animate with special effects. For example, saying “hi” in the new lens will launch an animation that surrounds you with a flock of chatty birds; “love” will play cheesy jazz music; “yes” creates a zoom effect; “no” puts you in an infinite photo tunnel; and “wow” puts a bow on your head and surrounds you with the word. While the company has offered lenses that involve audio before, this is the first time it has created lenses that actually recognize words, then use its understanding of what was said as a marker that kicks off the lens animation. Snapchat says it will begin to make around five to six of these new lenses available to users within the next week. They’ll appear periodically in the Lens carousel along with the others, starting today, Wednesday August 1st. The lenses will prompt users how to trigger the animation, when launched, Snapchat says. Unique lenses have always been one of Snapchat’s biggest differentiators. And it has continually pushed the bar forward in this area by creating those that take advantage of camera technology and augmented reality in new ways. For example, it has launched things like World Lenses that add AR elements to any scene – including, more recently, Bitmoji – plus selfie games , lenses that can change the sky , paint the world around you, and more. In May, it also launched the first lenses that react to sounds – but not particular words

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Disney tech smooths out bad CG hair days

Disney is unequivocally the world’s leader in 3D simulations of hair — something of a niche talent in a way, but useful if you make movies like Tangled , where hair is basically the main character. A new bit of research from the company makes it easier for animators to have hair follow their artistic intent while also moving realistically. The problem Disney Research aimed to solve was a compromise that animators have had to make when making the hair on characters do what the scene requires. While the hair will ultimately be rendered in glorious high-definition and with detailed physics, it’s too computationally expensive to do that while composing the scene. Should a young warrior in her tent be wearing her hair up or down? Should it fly out when she turns her head quickly to draw attention to the movement, or stay weighed down so the audience isn’t distracted? Trying various combinations of these things can eat up hours of rendering time. So, like any smart artist, they rough it out first: “Artists typically resort to lower-resolution simulations, where iterations are faster and manual edits possible,” reads the paper describing the new system. “But unfortunately, the parameter values determined in this way can only serve as an initial guess for the full-resolution simulation, which often behaves very different from its coarse counterpart when the same parameters are used.” The solution proposed by the researchers is basically to use that “initial guess” to inform a high-resolution simulation of just a handful of hairs. These “guide” hairs act as feedback for the original simulation, bringing a much better idea of how the rest will act when fully rendered. The guide hairs will cause hair to clump as in the upper right, while faded affinities or an outline-based guide (below, left and right) would allow for more natural motion if desired. And because there are only a couple of them, their finer simulated characteristics can be tweaked and re-tweaked with minimal time. So an artist can fine-tune a flick of the ponytail or a puff of air on the bangs to create the desired effect, and not have to trust to chance that it’ll look like that in the final product. This isn’t a trivial thing to engineer, of course, and much of the paper describes the schemes the team created to make sure that no weirdness occurs because of the interactions of the high-def and low-def hair systems. It’s still very early: it isn’t meant to simulate more complex hair motions like twisting, and they want to add better ways of spreading out the affinity of the bulk hair with the special guide hairs (as seen at right)

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Big tech companies are looking at Hollywood as the next stage in their play for the cloud

This week, both Microsoft and Google made moves to woo Hollywood to their cloud computing platforms in the latest act of the unfolding drama over who will win the multi-billion dollar business of the entertainment industry as it moves to the cloud. Google raised the curtain with a splashy announcement that they’d be setting up their fifth cloud region in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Keeping the focus squarely on tools for artists and designers the company talked up its tools like Zync Render, which Google  acquired back in 2014 , and Anvato, a video streaming and monetization platform it  acquired in 2016 . While Google just launched its LA hub, Microsoft has operated a cloud region in Southern California for a while, and started wooing Hollywood last year at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, according to Tad Brockway, a general manager for Azure’s storage and media business. Now Microsoft has responded with a play of its own, partnering with the provider of a suite of hosted graphic design and animation software tools called Nimble Collective . Founded by a former Pixar and DreamWorks animator, Rex Grignon, Nimble launched in 2014 and has raised just under $10 million from investors including the UCLA VC Fund and New Enterprise Associates, according to Crunchbase . “Microsoft is committed to helping content creators achieve more using the cloud with a partner-focused approach to this industries transformation,” said Tad Brockway, General Manager, Azure Storage, Media and Edge at Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re excited to work with innovators like Nimble Collective to help them transform how animated content is produced, managed and delivered.” There’s a lot at stake for Microsoft, Google and Amazon as entertainment companies look to migrate to managed computing services. Tech firms like IBM have been pitching the advantages of cloud computing for Hollywood since 2010, but it’s only recently that companies have begun courting the entertainment industry in earnest. While leaders like Netflix migrated to cloud services in 2012 and 21st Century Fox worked with HP to get its infrastructure on cloud computing, other companies have lagged. Now companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are competing for their business as more companies wake up to the pressures and demands for more flexible technology architectures. As broadcasters face more demanding consumers, fragmented audiences, and greater time pressures to produce and distribute more content more quickly, cloud architectures for technology infrastructure can provide a solution, tech vendors argue. Stepping into the breach, cloud computing and technology service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are trying to buy up startups servicing the entertainment market specifically, or lock in vendors like Nimble through exclusive partnerships that they can leverage to win new customers. For instance, Microsoft bought Avere Systems in January, and Google picked up Anvato in 2016 to woo entertainment companies

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Barnes & Noble teeters in a post-text world

Barnes & Noble, that once proud anchor to many a suburban mall, is waning. It is not failing all at once, dropping like the savaged corpse of Toys “R” Us, but it also clear that its cultural moment has passed and only drastic measures can save it from joining Waldenbooks and Borders in the great, paper-smelling ark of our book-buying memory. I’m thinking about this because David Leonhardt at The New York Times calls for B&N to be saved. I doubt it can be. First, there is the sheer weight of real estate and the inexorable slide away from print. B&N is no longer a place to buy books. It is a toy store with a bathroom and a cafe (and now a restaurant ?), a spot where you’re more likely to find Han Solo bobbleheads than a Star Wars novel. The old joy of visiting a bookstore and finding a few magical books to drag home is fast being replicated by smaller bookstores where curation and provenance are still important while B&N pulls more and more titles. To wit: "Save Barnes & Noble" is trending. assuming they mean the store that got rid of half their books and mostly sells toys now, and which literally did not have copies of Newsweek when I went there specifically to buy an issue of Newsweek I was in — drewtoothpaste (@drewtoothpaste) May 7, 2018 But does all of this matter?

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Hulu’s upcoming shows include ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and a Blumhouse horror anthology

Hulu is announcing several new shows this morning at the Digital Content NewFronts, running the gamut from romantic comedy to horror. On the romance front, the streaming service has placed a series order for an update of Four Weddings and a Funeral , which will be written and executive produced by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton. The pair previously worked together on The Mindy Project , which started out as a series on Fox before becoming a Hulu Original. Will Kaling be appearing on-screen in the new show? Hulu’s announcement doesn’t say. She did appear on-stage at the very end of this morning’s NewFronts event, where she said her version of the story will feature a diverse cast including Pakistani characters, black characters, even a few older characters — “but not too many.” As for horror, Hulu unveiled a new series called In The Dark , which will be produced by Blumhouse Television, the TV arm of the studio behind horror hits like The Purge , Split and Get Out . Each episode will be a feature-length standalone. And rather than releasing all of them at once, or even every week, Hulu will air a new episode on the first Friday of each month — apparently each episode of will tie in to a holiday during the month it airs. The first segment, “The Body,” will air on October 5 and tell a selfie-oriented Halloween story. “We want Hulu’s audience wondering every month what scary holiday will be next, and we hope that you will never look at a calendar the same way again,” Blumhouse founder Jason Blum said. In addition, Hulu said it will be celebrating Halloween (or, uh, “Huluween”) with a short film festival focused on aspiring filmmakers. The network also picked up Ramy , a show based on the comedy of Ramy Youssef. This is Hulu’s first series order from A24 (the independent studio that released  Lady Bird , Moonlight and Ex Machina ), and it will be executive produced Jerrod Carmichael. Hulu didn’t just announce new titles. It also revealed that The Handmaid’s Tale has been picked up for a third season — no surprise, since the show won Hulu its first Emmy Awards and is also one of the service’s most-watched dramas .

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