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Multimedia magic

Digital animation is going to be the next big thing in films


People who have seen a movie might say that the graphics were good, the animation was nice or that the special effects were great. But each one of these terms is different



SPECIAL EFFECTS Larger than life

It is the first-day-first-show at a local cinema. An angry young hero races across the screen, soars into the air like a fighter jet taking off from an air force base, floats aloft for awhile and punches the villain with a `dishum' sound that almost damages the surround speakers at the theatre.

Fans might whistle and hoot in appreciation of their favourite star's heroics, but the credit should really go to the visual effects wizards who moved the mouse and punched commands on the keyboard to make the larger-than-life action possible.

"People who have seen a movie might say that the graphics were good, the animation was nice or that the special effects were great. But each one of these terms is different," says Zameer Hussain, visual effects consultant, Land Marvel Animation Studios, Chennai.

In general, graphics means creating a flat object or a three-dimensional one, while animation means getting the object to move around. Special effects are the use of such things as scale models and pyrotechnics when it would be dangerous, costly or impossible to get someone to perform the action in front of a movie camera.

Big boom

Experts are already predicting that multimedia will be the next big thing in India — especially in Kollywood, where computers and movie cameras are likely to come together and perhaps make the infotech wizards at Tidel Park wonder whether they should switch professions.

In cinema theatres, popcorn munchers and samosa eaters who go gaga over "special effects" and "graphics" might really be referring to what the digital gurus in the movie world called "visual effects".

Hollywood producers with ample resources thought nothing of shooting live action with real actors and combining the shots with computer-generated images.

During the past few years, digital specialists in Kollywood have become experts in visual effects and are doing a lot of work for foreign film producers too. The spectacular scene in Anniyan, depicting the inscrutable Ambi-Remo-Anniyan personalities addressing a stadium packed with spectators, was actually filmed with the place empty! Computer software had added the crowds.

Generating images

Using crowd multiplication methods, multimedia experts could generate images of massive numbers of people surging along the roads or scrambling one over another to form a towering human heap, without anyone getting bruised, pushed around or trampled upon.

When a tyrannosaurus moved on ungainly feet, sending Lilliputian humans scrambling away to safety, it was nothing more than software at work, the beast existing only in computer code.

Multimedia power could send humans crashing unhurt through concrete walls and glass doors, or burst into flame and remain unharmed. Of all the visual effects available so far, digital animation is perhaps the most exciting, for it involves gaining thorough knowledge of modelling, lighting, texturing, rigging, animating and rendering computer generated characters, objects, digital sets and backgrounds.

To those who want to make a career in the exciting universe of multimedia, Zameer has a bit of advice: "Become a specialist."

Experience of having worked with a particular software is not enough.

A beginner in the field needs to have demonstrable skill in using software to create material that could fit into a movie.

A compact disc with samples of one's work could be more valuable than a biodata running to a couple of pages.

For those in the field, the best is yet to come, in the form of computer animation. Experts have progressed to the point where they can make a movie using characters that are so lifelike that it will be quite difficult to make out a real actor from a computer generated one. Evergreen stars of the black-and-white era who have long since vanished beneath the turf could return from oblivion to work their magic once more on the screen, this time in colour, for all time.

A. A. MICHAEL RAJ

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