The State of the Art
At the recent SIGGRAPH confab in Los Angeles, our company Faceware Technologies announced a SDK for our real-time facial mocap and animation technology, Faceware Live. With the rise in VR/ AR/ MR, interactive marketing and the use of CG, we have experienced a growing number of inquiries from different markets for real-time technologies. That’s why we created this SDK to enable developers to create the tools they need to meet their own specific needs.
In the decade that I’ve been with Faceware (which used to be a service company known as Image Metrics), we have made great strides in offering more flexible and quality animation software and hardware to studios and indie artists alike. We are in a very niche business, within the motion-capture and facial capture field. So we decided to work on creating a stand-alone product line that people could use themselves without relying on third parties. Faceware has been immensely successful, and we now have customers in 56 countries on six continents. From where we stand, it has been very fascinating to observe the many different ways animation is being created and used worldwide.
New Ventures We recently announced a new R&D division called Faceware Interactive, which focuses on real-time content creation. The use cases for this sort of technology point to a wide-open market. Everything from VR to theme parks to mall kiosks. Just this past month, we saw the launch of a pop-up restaurant in New York called The Spotted Cheetah, which was spon- sored by Cheetos. When you walk into this restaurant they have this stand-alone screen with Chester the Cheetah there to greet you and welcome you to the restaurant. Behind the scenes was a motion-capture performer doing facial and body capture, which was streaming in real time through a game engine onto a display for the fans. People loved it and kids couldn’t leave the screen, and Frito-Lay was very excited about it. It’s that type of innovation that has started to push the envelope in terms of offering unique, interactive experiences for everyone.
We also just announced an exciting new feature in Cloud Imperium Games’ Star Citizen. The feature allows a player to stream the motion of their face onto their game character as they talk to the other players in the game. In other words, player-to-player chat using real-time animation. We think this is really going to revolutionize how multiplayer gaming is done.
We are also working with two professional football teams, integrating the technology into their apps as well as creating interactive experiences in stadiums. You can have all these augmented reality effects applied to your face and screened up on the jumbotron.
I believe, in the next few years, we’ll see more advancement in this area, much of it coming from all the big technology pushes that are going on around VR and AR. Take, for example, real-time rendering. Real-time rendering allows you to do a lot of different things in both mediums, and across other platforms. With devices like the iPhone 8, we are going to see a lot of utility-type tools as well as immersive tools. Pro- cessing power is going to help push that. Obviously the Intels and Nvidias and AMDs of the world are very interested in reasons to use their chips. When you have the hardware manufacturers, the content makers and screen providers pushing the medium, this will have benefits for everyone across the board.
Adapt and Thrive The key to success in this new world is being flexible. If you want to get into the tech and animation field, it’s crucial to develop adaptable skills across all these different changing arenas. If you become somewhat of a turn-key artist—meaning you can create your artwork and animation, then integrate and technically support it—you will not be so specialized that you become an island. Eventually you will find your specialty and niche, but it never hurts to know all the complementary skills for what you really want to do.
The speed at which animated content is being created is getting faster and faster. You do see indie movies (this even goes back to Hoodwinked) that are made for significantly less money, but have more returns. The faster you can create content, the better it is for creators to try new ideas. There’s a wave of new content being created for a number of different areas. Just look at a trend like autonomous self-driving cars, and think what that means in terms of the amount of free time people will have to consume more content.
What is evident is that these are very interesting and fast-changing times, and it will be fascinating to follow the new wave of content creation in the near future. Peter Busch is the VP of Business Development at Faceware Tech. For more info about the company’s turnkey and real-time systems, visit www.facewaretech.com.
NVIDIA released a new batch of Quadro cards last fall (yes, I’m late in the game), resting on the Pascal GPU architecture. The series ranges from the low-end entry level P400 to the screaming behemoth GP100. I was able to test drive the P4000, which sits on the high end of the mid-level cards.
The first thing I noticed is how incredibly small the card is, given its power—especially in comparison to the 5200 I pulled out of my workstation. It has a comparably short PCB and a broad cooling system. But the card is powerful despite the size, so it still draws 105W, requiring the PCI Express power connector to feed the 1792 CUDA Cores and 5.3 T TFLOPS of sing gle-precision computing.com The P4000 comes in 5GB and 8GB RAM flavors. MineM is the 8GB kind, which is great —make that essential—for GPU RAM-hungry software like Foundry’s Mari and Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter, and additionally compositing software like Nuke and After Effects are throwing more and more processes to the GPU. The more RAM, the better. I would consider 8GB the floor rather than the ceiling if you are doing this kind of work.
There are four 1.4 certified DisplayPorts on the back that can drive 4K displays at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and 8K (?!) at 60Hz. The simultaneous multistream displays are great for multi-monitor use, but with VR needs growing exponentially, we need that throughput. The top of the card sports SLI connectors for tying multiple cards together for even more GPU power, stereo ports for 3D displays, and Quadro Sync ports for syncing multiple monitors to display one huge image at ultra-high resolutions on arrays of monitors—not that you’ll have something like that in your office.
The only thing missing is USB-C ports for your Wacom tablet!
All in all, this release is a super strong mid-level card for most of your GPU needs, without a huge price tag that comes with the higher-end cards. I see this as the entry level card you should go for if you are getting into higher-level modeling and texture painting. As I said before, those kinds of programs are extremely hungry for RAM, and the last thing you want is lag when you are trying to paint. 3100 with 4GB of RAM, and a peak 1.25 TFLOP single-precision compute.
The WX 3100 is even smaller than the NVIDIA P4000 I was reviewing. In fact, it’s so small that I am beginning to wonder how we can fit all this technology into such a tiny package. Probably, the 14nm Polaris GPU architecture has something to do with that. It boasts eight 512 streams, processors, and specs have it performing 2.3 times better than its predecessors. The benchmarks against its closest NVIDIA competitor, the P600, have it at 28 percent faster. I’ll take their word for it, but I didn’t have a P600 to compare myself, and putting the WX 3100 against the P4000 is hardly a fair assessment.
But back to real numbers: The WX 3100 is extremely conservative with its power draw of 50W, along with a power management system to balance out the power load and reduce consumption when it’s idle. Also, the backside has one full and two mini 1.4 DisplayPorts (so I can directly plug in my Wacom Cintiq Pro, yay!), which can drive three 4K monitors at 60Hz—or one 5K at 30Hz.
The performance is snappy and responsive. The card is certified for SOLIDWORKS, PTC Creo, Siemens NX and CATIA, but I don’t have those to test with, so instead I went with Maya, 3ds Max, Modo, ZBrush, Mari and Substance Painter. Modeling programs stayed quick, especially with your straight-forward modeling tasks. ZBrush can get out of hand quickly, but even at millions and millions of polys, I was still getting things done. Mari and Substance bogged down much more quickly because of their dependence on GPU power and the RAM capacity. But even so, the card took a lot of abuse before slowing.
The biggest thing the WX 3100 has going for it is the price-performance ratio. At $199, the card has a ton of power and is more readily accessible than higher-end cards—especially for artists just getting in the game. I wish it were possible to increase the RAM, but to stay inexpensive, small and energy efficient, I think the WX 3100 may be capped. Overall, it’s a great entry-level card. Website: pro.radeon.com Price: $199 Todd Sheridan Perry is a vfx supervisor and digital artist whose credits include The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hirsh, CEO of WOW! Unlimited Media. An Ever-Expanding Empire Frederator channels feature hit series including Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors and Natasha Allegri’s Bee and PuppyCat, and a rich universe of new shorts from rising animators. The Frederator Network is the world’s largest animation-only multi-channel network on YouTube and programs online channels such as Channel Frederator and Cartoon Hangover. Between January and April 2017, the network added 270 channels and received over 2.4 billion views. As of April 30, it had 43 million subscribers.
Seibert points out that YouTube has always been a powerful tool to approach new talent. “With the new CAVCO situation, we can help talent really expand their vision,” he says. “At WOW, we try to help talent beyond the areas that they’re currently producing their content. If they want to expand on TV or movies, co-produce shows with Frederator, this is our way of making that happen. In this case, we can help Canadian-based channels or talent find a bigger audience via the Frederator Network.”
As always, Seibert is also busy overseeing the many successful animated shows he produces. His latest project Castlevania (based on the popular game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse) had a successful launch on Netflix in July. “The series has had incredible success across the world,” he notes. “We acquired the rights to the property more than a decade ago, and we brought producer Kevin Kolde to Frederator. Piece by piece with patience and per- sistence, we put this show together, and it’s been great to see it receive so much attention.”
Among the other news, the Frederator maestro shares with us that thanks to a partnership with Nelvana, the fourth season of Bravest Warriors will be ready to air in the U.S. towards the end of this year. The second season of Bee and PuppyCat is also in production, and the ninth and final season of Adventure Time will conclude on Nickelodeon in spring of 2018. Seibert is also overseeing his animated incubator project, a joint venture with Sony Pictures Animation which will deliver 12 shorts to air on Cartoon Hangover. And, he plans to announce several new miniseries produced by the Frederator Digital Unit in New York City in the next few weeks.
As expected, Seibert is juggling hundreds of other projects as he heads over to the MIP Junior market in France to deliver his keynote. No matter how busy he is, he continues to be a remarkable source of inspiration for artists and animators all over the world. “I think that animation continues to be experiencing yet another Golden Age,” he concludes. “We are in a place where Castlevania can exist at the same time as Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors can entertain fans in parallel to The Loud House and The Fairly OddParents. We are seeing high-quality animation being produced for every age now in such incredible numbers. We could have never imagined this second Golden Age only a few decades ago.” For more info, visit www.channelfrederatornetwork.com and frederator.com.