Train2Game News 2D Animation Engine 


​Midas Touch Interactive, a groundbreaking physics based animation and VR/AR interaction technology studio, today released its latest product, Midas Creature – a Directable Automated Animation Engine and workflow for quickly and easily creating complex 2D animations for video games and other creative applications. 

As part of the product rollout, the company is also launching a new website that contains product information along with a purchasing shop.

Midas Creature was developed by Jiayi Chong, a former Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios whose experience includes working on many feature films, including Toy Story 3, Wall-E, UP, Brave, and Monsters University. Chong’s role at Pixar spanned ten years and involved developing physics simulation tools and engines, including simulations for rigid body dynamics, deformable solids, cloth, hair, fluid dynamics, and skin simulation tools. In his role as Technical Director of Animation for Midas Touch, Chong leads his team on creating cutting-edge animation pipeline and service, such as Midas Creature, that is made available to both internal projects as well as licensing partners.

“Midas Creature is the ideal pipeline for game developers and anyone else looking for a more powerful, efficient, and easy-to-use 2D animation process,” said Kevin He, CEO of Midas Touch Interactive. “The Directable Automated Animation Engine of Midas Creature allows you to create animations you might have previously thought impossible with key frame or flash animation. This includes motion like hair and cloth fluttering in the wind, as well as 3D-to-2D Mocap transfer.”

Video game developers and others can use Midas Creature’s powerful Skeletal Rigging and Animation tools to build, pose, warp, and bring their art to life. These tools are made to streamline the user’s workflow, reducing time and money spent while maintaining high-quality results.

“We’re very excited to have Jiayi on our team as he brings tremendous passion and expertise,” continued He, “which he utilizes to build and implement our next-gen AI driven physics based animation pipeline helping to further establish Midas Touch Interactive as a burgeoning immersive entertainment technology expert developing cost effective and deeply interactive content creation services.”    

Midas Creature caters to 2D developers of all sizes with its “Creature Enterprise” and “Creature Indie” levels. Enterprise is a premium offering that gives users everything they need to get started using Creature for their company and projects. This is the full-featured version of the tool and gives users a license for Sprite Bump, a normal mapping tool that gives 3D lighting effects to 2D images. Unlimited support tickets are included in the Enterprise package. And for first-year Enterprise customers, a Creature Lead Engineer will offer one hour a month of feedback on their projects. “Creature Enterprise” is offered as a subscription, renewed annually.

Indie is designed for small-scale development teams who prefer more flexibility without an annual commitment, while still offering product complete features and support for indie teams to realize their animation needs. The “Creature Indie” license is available to those with less than $100,000 in gross revenues in the current year, and can be purchased for $19.99 per seat for a 30-day license and to be renewed month-by-month. Committed to inspiring young and aspiring creative developers, Midas Touch is also offering students a version of Midas Creature that allows them (with proof of enrollment/student ID) to use the tool free for one month.

Midas Creature is a blend of traditional tools and new technologies. Both premium levels will have comprehensive customer support to aid user needs.  Early adopters have used Midas Creature and seen positive benefits, including a 10x increase in speed of art pipeline performance (source PlayStudios).

Midas Creature is available at the shop page: http://www.creature.midasphysics.com/shop

Train2Game News Speech Graphics launches animation SGX


Award winning software company Speech Graphics today launches its debut animation software SGX, which generates facial animation from audio.
The Coalition, a Microsoft Studio, is the first company to license the groundbreaking software, animating over 35,000 lines of dialogue in the critically acclaimed game Gears of War 4.

SGX has been licensed to a further three global studios, news of which is expected to be released in the new year.

SGX marks a step change in the games sector by bringing the quality of in-game animation close to the quality of handcrafted cut-scene animation.  The result of five years of research and development by Speech Graphics, SGX makes it possible for video game studios to execute large batches of facial animation of thousands of lines of dialogue in-house, using only audio recordings, without needing to outsource to specialists.

Based in Scotland, Speech Graphics has an international reputation for extraordinary advances in audio-driven animation and motion technology, providing facial animation for the video games industry and working with multinational companies like Warner Brothers and global artists like Kanye West.

SGX delivers an immersive experience for the gamer.  SGX processes audio files and transcripts into facial animation, creating audio-generated facial animation that is high-quality and scalable across large volumes of dialogue.

Michael Berger, CTO and co-founder of Speech Graphics, explains: “Automatic, accurate lip sync is one of the holy grails of computer facial animation.  Our task is to create the impression that the animated face you see is the source of the sound you hear.  This illusion is notoriously difficult to achieve: the movements of speech are fast, complex and subtle and the viewer is highly sensitive to any mismatch between face and the voice.

David Coleman, Animation Director of Gears of War 4, commented: “Speech Graphics provided us with a robust system for automatically creating quality facial animation for the many thousands of lines of gameplay dialogue in Gears of War 4. We found the people at Speech Graphics to be very responsive and helpful in us achieving our goals.”

“SGX goes beyond good lip sync. Speech contains energy and emotion, and that too can be decoded from the voice and synchronized in the face. Using all available acoustic information, our algorithms drive not just the mouth but the entire face from audio input, from syllables to scowls.”

Speech Graphics delivers accurate and expressive facial animation. Emotional impact comes through very strongly in both the upper and lower face. Speech Graphics technology captures the intensity of every syllable and animates eyebrows, eyes, lips, jaw, cheeks and even tongue. 

Speech Graphics has a unique fusion of expertise in speech technology and computer animation found nowhere else in the world. The team brings together decades of research into machine learning, speech recognition, phonetics and computer graphics to solve what is an interdisciplinary problem.

Speech Graphics is on track to become the main provider of lip-sync and facial animation – a sector forecast to reach over $500 million (£375m) – to the global video game market. Speech Graphics currently employs eight staff and has plans to recruit three more in the year ahead. 

For further information visit: www.speech-graphics.com

Train2Game News VR Animation

Limitless, Ltd. today announced a new cloud-based animation toolset that allows rapid prototyping of animated VR content inside a virtual reality world. For the first time ever, anyone working on VR content can intuitively animate characters in real time within the VR world itself – and accomplish this at least 16 times faster than with current animation software.  By making VR content faster and easier to create, developers can run more experiments and create more compelling content for VR, including games and films that involve interactive character’s.

The new animation toolset is the first-of-its-kind and does not require professional training.  Limitless CEO and Founder Tom Sanocki saw the need for great VR content, but was watching VR directors and animators spend countless hours going back and forth between computer software and the VR environment where the content lives. Putting VR content creation inside the actual VR world eliminates the time-consuming back-and-forth between the computer and the VR environment, and also allows those without professional training to become VR animators on the spot.

According to Sanocki, “We are all animators at heart – we learned at an early age by playing with our toys.  We just need to remove the barrier formed by our software so we can all create stories using the inspiration that we already have inside of us.”

“I’ve seen the future of VR animation, and Limitless is getting it right,” said Bobby Beck, CEO/Founder Artella and CEO/Founder Animation Mentor.  “They are paving the way in VR animation for both professionals and the masses.”

The animation editing tools in the Limitless Creative VR Environment are strong enough for developers to use for prototyping, yet easy enough for anyone to animate.  Using a VR headset and hand controllers in the Limitless Creative VR Environment enables rapid prototyping for newcomers that would otherwise require weeks of intensive professional training. Plus, Limitless has a tutorial character within the VR environment to help walk anyone through the animation process.  Film directors, for example, can change the way a character moves, looks or acts instantly in real time.

Professional animator Jon Collins, who has previously worked at Pixar, ILM, Blue Sky, Blizzard, and ToyTalk, currently leads UX and animation as the Creative Director at Limitless.  “As a layout tool, this dramatically increases the rate at which sequences can be assembled and iterated on in CG. What would have normally taken me an entire day to do,  I can now accomplish in less than an hour,” said Collins.

“It has always frustrated me that although I can visualize motion and timing quickly and easily, the process of replicating these movements in CG with traditional animation software is time consuming and non-intuitive,” Collins added. “With the Limitless Creative VR Environment, both of these restrictions can be overcome in a matter of hours by anyone. By connecting a person’s innate ability to move their own body in beautifully rhythmic ways directly to VR characters in real time, the process of animation becomes much more intuitive and enjoyable.”

The Limitless animation tools can be used with any VR environment and character that has been imported into this part of the Limitless Creative VR Environment platform.  In October, the company will be opening the platform and animation tools to a small group of studios and partners to make sure the company is solving the right VR problems while keeping content creation easy.

Sanocki concluded, “Right now the biggest need in VR is good content and that is largely driven by characters. Forming a deep emotional connection with the characters we care about hits the core of mainstream entertainment. Our platform solves the tricky task of creating interactive characters in VR, and now makes it easy for anyone to animate those characters in real time.”

Train2Game News BFX Family Weekend

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Come along to the free Family weekend at BFX Festival The BFX Festival 2015 is hosting a free Family Weekend with workshops, films and more!

The BFX Festival has lined up a Family Weekend that includes film screenings, workshops and talks and lots of fun for all the family, and best of all its completely free.

From Saturday 3 to Sunday 4 October, the Family weekend is full of drop in events aimed at children between the ages of 5-18 years. Aiming to inspire the next wave of VFX, gaming and animation talent, there is a whole host of activities.

Walt Disney Animation studios have generously lent BFX a selection of concept art from the incredible animated feature film Big Hero 6. The exhibition will run from Tuesday 29th September until Sunday 11th October and will be displayed in the Bourne Lounge at the BIC.

There’s the opportunity to watch some of the best recent animation films, these include Big Hero 6, Frozen, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons.

To get hands on with animation, there’s a fun workshop for children and families using stop motion animation techniques. Participants will have the opportunity to make an aeroplane, background elements and props using a variety of materials and learn the secrets of animation and the techniques used by the professionals.

There’s also the opportunity to create a 3D character with an academy award winning digital sculpting software tool, Zbrush, today it’s used in virtually every film that requires special effects work. Working in pairs you will be able to sculpt and paint your very own creation. Come along on both the Saturday and Sunday for ages 8-18.

There will be a Microsoft games station including X-Box and Minecraft as well as careers advice from Bournemouth University’s National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) and STEMNET ambassadors.

To come along to any of the events, please register for a family ticket (note that this does not guarantee a space on the animation workshops). For more information on the BFX Festival, visit www.bfxfestival.com .

Train2Game News Versatile student finds home at T2G

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Student who tried many careers finds Train2Game is the place where he can accomplish his life’s ambition to work in the Games Industry You name it, he’s tried it.

James Hardman has attempted many directions in his life: Seven years in Education, Franchise Manager, The Navy, Tattoo Artist, Events, Bank Employee and many more. But he’s finally found where he belongs, creating creatures and art in the Games Industry.

It has been an interesting journey for the 30 year old who has roots in Prussia and Egypt. James Hardman has tried everything to get a job and a career that he enjoys, but it took him a great deal of time and effort to find his ideal arena of employment.  Working in hotels, events and working in data processing in a bank. He tried work experience with Jenny Clarke Design Ltd as a Flash Tattoo artist and Aphelio Ltd as a Creature Designer (3 month unpaid internship). He tried to join the Navy and also trained as a franchise manager.

Since birth he’s loved gaming but struggled to make it his career. After many attempts in other directions it was when he joined Trai2Game that he rediscovered his love of gaming and found the passion to get into games.

“To enter the game industry is more than a job to me; it’s a sense of identity and my place in life. I noticed through each job role generates a certain type of person. I am specific type of individual needing to be a specific type of environment to really take off. I feel mis-understood in many job roles due to my style of thinking and how I approach subjects to produce solutions.

It is really important to me to around great people who support each other and understand each other without constant questioning of one’s self. I’ve had seven years in education and two at T2G. Proving it’s not just qualifications but you also need experience, that is why I am now looking to work and gain experience in art.”

“My experience with Train2Game has been the best course I’ve entered. The course not also teaches essential techniques but provides many opportunities of job placements. Also get your name out there. The course itself already has done so much for me, I am forever grateful. They have really improved my self-esteem and I can see hope finally. The content is up to date and explains all vital processes very clearly.”

James is now completing his studies with Train2Game and looking for an internship/employment at a games studio. James is a great conversation; ask him about his roots in a country that no longer exists or how he created an energy loop that he was going to build with a team of Belgian Nuclear Physicists.

You can find James on the Train2Game Forum or reach him through the Train2Game blog.

Train2Game News: Autodesk release Maya LT for Indie developers

AutodeskAutodesk has unveiled a new tool specifically targeted at indie developers. The 3D modelling and animation toolset is designed for developers working on mobile, PC and web, and can be integrated with game engines such as Unity and Unreal Engine.

Maya LT includes a number of features such as enabling the creation of 3D assets of any size, with the ability to export FBX files containing up to 25,000 polygons per object.

The tech’s animation tools include a skeleton generation and inverse kinematics with Autodesk HumanIK, as well as viewport previews so developers can view assets as they would appear in-game. Other features also include lighting and texture baking, with developers able to use global illumination tool to create “realistic” lighting effects.

Autodesk’s latest tool will cost $795 per perpetual licence as oppose to the license for Maya which is almost $4,000. Short-term licenses are also available on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

“We see indie game developers as a key part of the industry, driving innovative new production techniques and gameplay,” said Autodesk Media & Entertainment VP Chris Bradshaw.

“The market is fiercely competitive, and Maya LT can provide indie developers and small studios with a powerful, yet simplified workflow for designing and animating remarkable 3D characters, environments and props – at a price that fits within even the most modest budget. It’s a practical solution that closely matches the needs of the mobile game development production cycle and helps developers rise above the noise and really shine.”

Train2Game News: Mad Munchkin Reviews

Mad Munchkin ReviewsTrain2Game student, Amy Methven from Elgin Scotland, has created her own YouTube channel talking about all sorts of different art and animation.

Amy’s Mad Munchkin Reviews have covered media such as games, movies and TV Shows. She has spoken about the Batman Arkham games, My Little Pony and she has discussed subjects such as CGI compared to 2D animation.

It’s a fascinating view on all the different aspects of animation.

I asked Amy why she decided to create her YouTube channel and she said “I started the Mad Munchkin reviews for lots of different reasons really. The first one being that I love Art and love talking about it, like most people on the Art and Animation Course with Train2Game.

The second reason is that I wanted to find other creative ways to expose my Art work outside of the video game industry. In a practical sense, it allowed me to develop my video editing skills as well as analytical skills when it comes to my writing. I wanted to teach myself how to construct my critiques so I can successfully back up my opinions on what I review.

The show primarily focuses on Animated Movies, tv shows and video games, looking at the creative process behind creating these pieces of Art from the perspective of theory rather than the practical technicalities of the process. As much as I love the practical side of creativity, it is the theory and reason behind it that I like talking about more. Asking why something looks a certain why is more interesting to me than finding out how it was constructed.”

If you would like to check out Amy’s YouTube channel you can here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Amymethven/videos?shelf_index=0&view=0&sort=dd

Or you can view her Deviant art page at: http://amymethvenart.deviantart.com/

Train2Game News: Ezekiel Morris student diary – Week 18

So what have I been doing this week? Well I’ve finished animating characters and now I’m going back to doing vector art again. The project manager wanted me and Amanda to change our roles, my task for this week was animating characters and Amanda’s task was to create character costumes in vector art, so we mixed up, she does one animation and I do one character costume.

Matty and I were helping Amanda to use the tools in Maya so hopefully she will pick it up, I will be there to guide her if she needs any help.

I was knackered working late on Wednesday and also Thursday but the end result is that all the animation for this week is completed and now I’m starting to create one costume for the character.

I know there’s a tight deadline coming soon but I feel confident that all my sprints will be done before the deadline hits. I’m glad that I’m getting my work done and I’m learning a lot since working at DR Studios.

Train2Game News: Amanda Blatch Student Diary – Week 4

This week has been a productive week once more, creating five characters and a single animated sequence for one character in it’s home environment as given to me by our project lead as he wanted to see me and another colleague try something different to see how easily we adapted to different roles.

It was a tough start on the animation of the characters as I had never animated in Maya before and barely scratched the surface with animating in 3Ds Max. I  was fortunate however that I have had a lot of experience in animating traditionally and in film-software packages so it was very easy to pick up once I learnt the processes.

With the combined efforts of Eze, Matty and good old online tutorials I managed to grasp the basics of it overnight and was about to complete my animation by the end of the next day. Overall not a bad turnaround methinks! Also… two more awesome characters coming into the game that I am pretty happy with and hopefully you guys will be too! Anyways.. back to work with me.

Train2Game News: Valve releases Source Filmmaker

Valve has introduced Source Filmmaker, the video creation tool they’ve used to make over 50 animated shorts including the nine Team Fortress 2 ‘Meet the’ class films.

It could be a fun way for those on the Train2Game Art & Animation or QA Tester course to practice their animation or editing skills. Those interested in a free beta invite can sign up via the Source Filmmaker website.

“The Source Filmmaker is the movie-making tool built and used by Valve to make movies inside the Source game engine.” reads the Source Filmmaker FAQ.

“It is how we have been making all of our animated short movies. Because the Source Filmmaker uses the same assets as a Source-engine game, what goes into the game can be used in the movie, and vice versa.”

“By using the hardware rendering of a modern PC gaming machine, the SFM allows storytellers to work in a “what you see is what you get” environment so that they can iterate in the context of what it will feel like for the final audience.”

Valve has released a series of tutorial videos for the Source Filmmaker, the first of which you can see below, right here on The Train2Game Blog.

Source filmmaker arrives on the third day of Team Fortress 2’s Pyromania event, which has also seen six community created weapons added to the popular free-to-play shooter.

Be sure to keep reading The Train2Game Blog for the latest news from Valve and Team Fortress 2.

Will you be trying out Source Filmmaker?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.