Early 3d Techniques

Sometime after 1995, I had a conversation with an animation producer about how to get a job in Animation. His advice was two-fold. 1. Get a copy of a 3-d computer program, then called Playmation and teach myself how to do it, and 2. Move to LA or New York. I followed exactly half of his advice.

It took considerable time, effort and even money, but over the course of a year or so, I was able to do rudimentary 3-d animation. I burned through two hard drives and tied up the phone line for endless hours downloading models and textures from the BBS, but was able to learn the ins-and-outs of the craft while I experimented with the modeler and the stage setup. With each new version of the software, there were exciting new features within the physics, spline modeling and interface to play with. So I learned the basics of inverse kinematics, ray-tracing, texturing, lighting, refraction and other concepts which are built into the new programs automatically these days. You have to remember, at the time the brand new “Toy Story” was at the forefront of the industry. Other than that were short films and test reels - and not much else.

Test of an Old Man

Test of an Old Man

To put this all in perspective, at the time, many objects would not connect hierarchically. So you had to place them next to each other on each and every frame. Additionally, as there was no way to lock down the footing of a character yet, much effort was needed to prevent your dude from sliding all over the floor. Add that to flipped polygons and software bugs, the whole process was very labor intensive.

That being said, I was able to learn a lot about the craft of 3-d animation and stage direction, lighting and the art of movement over the course of 5 years or so.