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Jan 06

I’ve Seen The Future of 3D Special Effects and Animation

Posted by: Mark Solon        
 

As an investor (if you’re lucky), every once in a while you see something come out of one of the companies you’ve invested in that gives you a “holy shit” moment where you realize that the company has created something that will forever alter the landscape of the market they serve. Yesterday was one of those moments for me.

Dan Farr, CEO of Salt Lake City-based DAZ3D sent me the movie short below that a graphic designer in the UK named Ben Craig made recently in his spare time. The most amazing part of the movie is that other than the people, absolutely everything in the film was created using DAZ3D’s Carrara software. It was purely a personal project which was non-commercial and he had no funding to make it. The entire movie was rendered on his MacBook Pro.

The movie is less than 4 minutes long. I urge you to click on full-screen view once the movie starts (4 outward facing arrows in the lower right corner of video) to get the full effect. However, it wasn’t until the second time I watched it that I felt the full impact of what I was seeing.

Now that you’ve watched it, let me remind you that one person made this movie, with off-the-shelf software on his MacBook Pro. Granted, it’s not as easy to use as iMovie, but I guarantee you that it won’t be long before it is and then you’ll see 5th graders making films like this. There’s no doubt that entertainment is moving in this direction and companies like Animoto (online video editing), Xtranomal (easy basic cartoon animation) and DAZ3D (character and environment animation and effects) are pushing to make these capabilities available to everyone.

I had a chance to visit with Ben yesterday and get some of his thoughts. The idea for the movie short came when he was reading about some work the British film institute is doing to restore and archive vintage movies. He wondered “How long in the futre will these films be enjoyed, by whom and where?”  The notion of making Modern Times evolved. It took Ben a couple of weekends filming the live action and a couple of months of design/build/render. There was no render farm. Just his MacBook Pro and “ridiculous amounts of coffee.” He did all of the work himself.

Ben used Carrara because he had used it before for animation and wanted to see if a film like this could be made without using “industry standard” (i.e. expensive) software. What he discovered was Carrara had all the tools necessary at a fraction of the cost. “It didn’t let me down. Carrara has all the functionailty that the most expensive software in the industry has. It’s simple, not expensive, and completely user friendly. It’s a great package to learn how 3D works. It taught me.”

I’m still flabbergasted by Ben’s work and I’ve had a front row seat to what DAZ3D has been doing for the last few years! I asked him if he thought Carrara would change film making and I loved his answer. “No, people will change film making. However, having tools like Carrara in their reach to make it possible is the key.”

My partners and I are thrilled to be a small part of such a revolutionary company. Dan and his team have done an amazing job over the last few years and they’ll be releasing a couple of radical new products during the next quarter that will make it even easier for people like you and I to become masters of 3D special effects and animation.

Epilogue: If you’re interested in seeing how Ben made Modern Times, below you’ll see a piece he put together called Behind The Scenes. While there’s quite a bit of equipment that you’ll see during the green screen filming, remember that the entire movie was created and rendered in Carrara by Ben, alone on his computer.

Also, below that is a 2 minute clip showing many different projects that have been created by Carrara users.

Note: Modern Times was written up today by Hollywood Reporter as the year’s first hot short film – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/blogs/heat-vision/meet-years-hot-short-modern-69971


 

25 Responses to “I’ve Seen The Future of 3D Special Effects and Animation”

  1. avatar Michael says:

    “No, people will change film making. However, having tools like Carrara in their reach to make it possible is the key.”

    This is a great piece of work, and as a filmmaker I have to agree with the artist. I think what you are experiencing is the awe of getting close to the sheer amount of expertise and effort that are required to do beautiful work. It is not revolutionary at all – he could have used other software. It is rather evolutionary, part of a well-established trend of faster CPUs, cheap storage, and smarter and less expensive software.

    Don't get me wrong – I think the film is wonderful, and Carrara looks great. But don't confuse the result with the tools that were used to get there. Statements like "Granted, it’s not as easy to use as iMovie, but I guarantee you that it won’t be long before it is…" are examples of this misconception. Mr. Craig's artistry and imagination were the key ingredients. They could be expressed using a wide variety of applications, and "you and I" are NOT going to be "masters" anytime soon.

    I wish the company and product well, and hope that it does prove to be a killer app. It looks like it hits a sweet spot in the marketplace. Good luck!

  2. avatar Mark Solon says:

    Michael, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I think we're in violent agreement on Ben's artistry & imagination. My post wasn't meant to take away from that. The intent was to point out that just a few years ago, people couldn't do the things they can today thanks to programs like iMovie and Animoto and a few years from now, software like Carrara will make it easier than ever for wonderfully creative people like Ben to express their creativity like never before, most importantly at a price point that they can afford.

  3. avatar Bara1948 says:

    I'm a senior on disability. Quite frankly, Carrara is WAY out of my budget. I'd be far more impressed if such were done on DAZ Studio 64-bit–which is IN my budget and with a few pennies to spare for a couple of slices of pizza from Primo Pizza as a treat to myself. ::chuckles:: I've seen what can be done with Carrara and I'm awed. However, Carrara is not something I'll ever be able to afford. So, please. Make D|S just as kick-butt and I'll be there right after I buy my meds.

    • avatar Mark Solon says:

      Bara,

      If you're a DAZ Studio user and can't afford Carrara, I'll be happy to buy it for you. Call me at the office – (208) 860-2846. I'd like to see the work you've done in Studio and it would be very gratifying for me to see what you can do in Carrara.

      Best regards, Mark

    • avatar ladyplf says:

      Actually you can get Carrara 6 and 7 pro free with the price of a 3d magazine or the Daz studio book. And if you can save a bit and join the PC club you can then get the upgrade to Carrara 8 very cheaply when the next sale comes along, and there is always another sale coming along. I got Carrara 8 Pro for about $100 by doing the free disk then upgrade route, so it is really affordable.

    • avatar Someguy says:

      I am on dissability as well, and I have a very low income on it, however I was able to afford Carrara Pro. It is a matter of planning, saving, and timing. Daz3d as well as other software developers run sales constantly. Right now Carrara 8 Pro is on sale at 50% off in fact. If it is something you want to do, or own, you must make sacrifices for it. I haven't gone out to eat, purchased a DVD, or rented a movie in over a year, and I haven't had cable in 10 – sacrifices.

  4. avatar Michael Rothenberg says:

    Absolutely – agreed. Hopefully the price point will bring people in so that they can discover untapped creative abilities in themselves. Today I'm sitting down to finish a much more mundane piece on my own MacBook Pro and am reminded how lucky I am to be sitting in my dining room rather than having to trudge in to work. I still have to draw on a lot of the knowledge I gained back in the day when things were harder, but I'm grateful for all the stuff I've been able to forget about too!

    Thanks for your post. I look forward to trying out Carrara myself, and will keep it in mind the next time a 3D piece comes my way. Autodesk, look out!

  5. avatar Ralphieboy6000 says:

    …one person made this movie, with off-the-shelf software on his MacBook Pro? That is so untrue. In the "making of" video, I saw at least 6 crew members, 20 actors and a ton of equipment and cameras. I use Vue and Poser and a lot of models from DAZ to make little movies with no actors (except myself) no crew, no props and no other equipment except my PC. When Ben can make a movie that looks like that using only his computer, then I will be impressed.

    • avatar Mark Solon says:

      Ralphiebuy, I'm sorry that I didn't make myself clearer. I thought it was evident that I was referring to the design/build/render component of making a movie. Sorry for the confusion. Glad you're enjoying other DAZ products!

  6. avatar Toni says:

    Sometimes in the glee of "pushing" a product: Carrara,it's easy to try to build enthusiasm by saying an artist did this with our product. But, in reality,it took many "brains" and effort and a lengthy learning curve to learn all the skills of 3D modeling,rendering,and animation. Plus the extra big bucks expense of pro-equipment:green screens,lights,video cameras,and other software for computers with plenty of storage and memory to produce that kind of work.
    The software alone will not produce a movie like that,if the other components to do the task are not available. I would say the creator(s) of this movie are working professionals1

  7. avatar Danas says:

    Hello!

    From times to times Carrara's pro versions comes totally free in the magazines like 3D Arts etc.
    So if you can;t afford Carrara, you may want to look for the magazines with free copies of Carrara.

  8. avatar BetterThanLife says:

    I am going to point out that if you happen to pick up a copy of Carrara like Danas suggests then typically you can get to the current version for around $100 when Carrara goes on sale. Which is also about the price of DAZ Studio's 64 bit version.

    As for Poser and Vue? Carrara does what they do, plus includes a modeler. Is it a modeler as serious as Maya, Lightwave or 3DS Max? No. However unlike those, it is, even without a sale, under $500.

  9. avatar Jimmy UK says:

    youtube.comyoutube.comHello all,

    Mark S,
    That is a gobsmacking fingerlicking video for sure. Intergrating live actors into a CG environment is no easy feat so only compliments can go to Ben & the crew for a fantastic job. Carrara is more capable than most people think which hopefully will change as a result of excelent work like this.

    Intergrating CG into live footage is also a hard job like we all see in movies these days but due to carrara's support of industry standard matchmoving applications it's just as possible to pull this off effectivly even for novices. Maybe not quite so impressive as your featured video but take a look at the following link, this guy also used Carrara and demonstrates another end of the specrum at great quality.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSXSqYOq2VM

    Carrara is Superb for sure

    Regards
    jimmy

  10. avatar Jimmy UK says:

    youtube.comyoutube.comHello all,

    Mark,
    That is a gobsmacking fingerlicking video for sure. Intergrating live actors into a CG environment is no easy feat so only compliments can go to Ben & the crew for a fantastic job. Carrara is more capable than most people think which hopefully will change as a result of excelent work like this.

    Intergrating CG into live footage is also a hard job like we all see in movies these days but due to carrara's support of industry standard matchmoving applications it's just as possible to pull this off effectivly even for novices. Maybe not quite so impressive as your featured video but take a look at the following link, this guy also used Carrara and demonstrates another end of the specrum.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSXSqYOq2VM

    Carrara is Superb for sure

    Regards
    jimmy

  11. avatar dudley says:

    I've used Carrara both as a hobbyist and professional for about 3 years now. I also use more professionally aimed applications such as Autodesk and Maxion. That being said, there's a reason why people like myself gravitate towards Carrara, and that is simply because of it's ease of use, without skimping on quality of course. On the other side of the moon, there are people out there that swear that Carrara is an utter pile of cow nibblets, but I consider such folks a bit extreme and most likely unfamilair with the application past a first-impression glance.

    The gem about Carrara is that it isn't like C4D, which is visually apparent just by it's marketing. With Carrara, you have to finese it a bit before it opens it's doors to you to reveal the treasures it holds. Carrara doesn't offer you anything most other apps can't, except a reasonable price, an intuitive interface and a solid in-house (fast) render engine, that in my opinon is superior to C4D and can hold its own against Mental Ray and the likes.

    I personally feel, Carrara for better or worse, has a very intuitive feel for indivisuals who are more inclined to the creative side of the moon. That is, it doesn't feel too "technical". I belieive it's the way the interface is designed. Namely, "rooms". Some hate the "rooms" concept, however for myself, I think it allows the technicalities to be ordered in a very linear fashion, (as would be making a film) thus not inhibiting the flow of the creative process. There's something very distracting to me about having all features enabled in one box. Because of this, I feel Carrara has one of the most masterful GUI designs as compared to many 3D apps, even ones costing a second mortage on your house. :)

    Poser also employs the "rooms" concept but to me feels sticky and sluggish as compared to Carrara.
    I even think Autodesk has quietly taken the cue and revamped it's 2010/2011 interface in this regard. User-friendliness seems to be all the rage these days. Of course, there's no way Autodesk would pubically admit that. ;) As far as Blender, ehh…still a work in progress on that end if you ask me. :)

    I agree that most of the awe in this short is due to the creativity and techincal skill of the makers. Which has less to do with a particular app, and more to due with vision and of course monetary rescources. Did the actors get paid, for example? If so, did they hire an accountant to cook the books? There's so many factors that go into making a film of this calibur that are on the far side of the moon to any 3D app. I think if this film proves anything, it's that ingenuity supercedes technology.

    Still, I think it's a great representation of what so many por-level Carrara users have been affirming since the early days of Amapi. It really is good to see Carrara get some just and positive attention in the huge shadows of industry-standard giants.

    DAZ has continued is commitment with Carrara since it purchased it. Basically, it saved it from an early retirement and I think we all can be very grateful for this. Even as I type this, there are several welcomed improvements and new features being slated for the current version of Carrara by either DAZ or third-party developers that I think we'll see an influx of new interest in Carrara which has up until this point been very scarce.

    Articles such as this one really aid in that effort.

    And yes, DAZ has a consistent habit of offering it's previous software for free after they release a new version.

    Also, if you have Carrara or are intested in trying Carrara, you can find a boat load of information and tutorials from the ever strong Carrara community over at the DAZ3d forums. A lot of it's members are very experienced and extremely respectful and helpful to beginners.

    Go Carrara 2011!

  12. avatar simon says:

    Does this mean you're going to invest more into Carrara now? Carrara desperately needs it.

  13. avatar Dan says:

    hollywoodreporter.comhollywoodreporter.comMark, this is what I love about being involved in the creative community. The passion for the work and the work-flow by the artists is amazing. I am also blown away by how creative people innovate and push the limits of the applications beyond what is originally anticipated. I just got another email from Ben Craig telling me that the Hollywood Reporter has noticed his film and wrote an article on it http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/blogs/heat-visio…. This is really fun stuff.

    I agree with the comments above about Ben's Artistry and creativity being the key ingredient. As Ben mentioned to us, he had other 3D software choices but he chose Carrara because he felt it would be easier for him to do what he wanted. I believe as we continue to improve the work flow of Carrara and our other applications, it will open up the door for even more talented and creative people to express themselves in this manner. It will also open up the door for others (like myself) who may not be as artistically gifted to express our creativity too. Although I don't expect the Hollywood Reporter to do an article on my animation I did for Halloween this year, I still get a rush showing it to friends and family.

    Thanks for writing the blog and for showcasing a talents of Ben and the great talents of others shown in the Carrara Demo Reel.

    Dan Farr
    C.E.O. DAZ3D

    Ditto on "Go Carrara 2011"

    • avatar Mark Solon says:

      Dan,

      It's been gratifying to watch you and your team's passionate work towards creating software that will allow more people to express their creativity than ever before. It's great to see DAZ3D getting the recognition it deserves as one of the most innovative software programs available. Keep up the great work!

    • avatar Antara says:

      Dan,

      Is there a chance that DAZ would commission Ben to create a comprehensive tutorial/walk-through about his work-flow between Carrara, After Effects and any other software he used in creating this short?

      I believe that it would go a long way in teaching and encouraging other users to tap into Carrara’s full potential.

      Seeing an example like that is inspirational, but with Carrara’s documentation still incomplete, and with pro Carrara use either infrequent or unadvertised, but in either case largely not taught anywhere, it is hard for other users to know where to start.

      There are some tutorial packages out there showing the interface and general Carrara capabilities, but very few articles or videos showing the high-end optimized work-flows and pipelines, which would answer questions like: What is best done inside Carrara and what should be left for After Effects/post? What lighting and rendering cheats and tricks to use for best look/render-time combinations? What’s the best way to integrate a real camera footage with Carrara’s internal camera movements? etc.

      Ben clearly knows how to best achieve all these goals many others. It would be great if his knowledge could be shared with the rest of Carrara users.

  14. avatar Dan says:

    Antara,

    This is a great idea. We are looking for ways to make it easier for people to submit user tutorials as well as making it easier to find great ones that are already being done in the community. I have also sent a note to Ben letting him know of your request for a tutorial on his process. We definitely are working to improve on showcasing the great work being done in the Carrara community (as well as our other applications).

    Dan

  15. avatar Antara says:

    Dan,

    I am very happy to hear this. Thank you! I hope that Ben will share his experience and knowledge.

    I wish you the best of success in promoting and developing Carrara.

    Antara.

  16. Modern Times is a great short. It is obvious alot of time and sweat went into the production. However, Ben getting such a high level of quality from Carrara is not surprising to me at all. I am a professional 3D animator. Carrara is my primary tool for commercials, virtual sets, custom character design, animated logo, virtual prototypes, conceptual illustration and more. I have used Maya and other industry standard apps but I chose Carrara because of it's such a complete package, ease of use, and low cost. I expect to see much more industry quality work from Ben and and others who choose Carrara.

  17. Modern Times is a great short. It is obvious alot of time and sweat went into the production. However, getting such high quality from Carrara is not surprising at all. I am a professional 3D animator. Carrara is my primary 3D app for commercials, virtual sets, animated logos, virtual prototypes, conceptual illustration, custom character design and more. I have used Maya and the like but I chose Carrara because of it's complete feature set, ease of use and low cost. Carrara is clearly a top player in the alternative 3D app revolution.

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