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Richard Rosenman

Richard Rosenman

Richard Rosenman

Tell us something about the past when you started with animation. What attracted you towards this field?

I remember how stunned I was when I saw my very first computer-generated
visual effect in "Young Sherlock Holmes". I was amazed at how marvelous the stained glass window looked when it came to life right before my eyes. My mind couldn't comprehend that what I was seeing had been generated entirely in a computer and had never really existed. It was this film effect, followed by the countless others that followed such as Jurassic Park, The Mask, The Abyss, etc, that first attracted me to this new artistic medium.

Because I had always been heavily involved in the arts (my parents both being architects), this seemed like the natural progression for me. I became heavily involved with computer graphics in the early nineties during my teenage years, and this is when I got my first taste of 2D graphics software, primitive 3D software and even computer graphics programming (which I still do on my spare time). During this time, I also came into contact with one of the first ever consumer-based 3D software packages, 3D Studio for DOS Beta 1. I spent the next four years learning and mastering this (and subsequent versions), as well as numerous other pieces of software, and by my mid high school years, I was certain I wanted to follow a career in the computer animation industry. I studied traditional animation for three years at Sheridan College in order to take the post graduate 1-year computer animation course. After graduating the 3 year program however, I had enjoyed traditional animation so much that I decided to work in that field for an indefinite period of time. Since this was also a very good time to be in this industry, I decided to venture out into the workplace instead of going through with the computer animation program.

During the next few years, I worked in the traditional animation industry producing series animation, CDROM/entertainment animation, etc., but I eventually became more and more involved in the computer animation business through projects that would inevitably come my way. As a result, it wasn't long before I ended up working at TOPIX | MADDOG in Toronto, a full-service computer animation and design studio. From that point on, I have worked locally and internationally, exclusively in the commercial computer animation industry.

You have used 3D Studio max exclusively. Do you think Maya is a serious competition to Max? What are the strong points of max according to you?

Prior to using 3D Studio MAX, I was using Softimage 3.x for many years. I enjoyed using both and to this date, I have never been one to swear by one piece of software over another. Since most 3D packages nowadays contain the same basic features, it really comes down to which software you are most comfortable with.

It just so happened that the studio I am currently employed for used 3D Studio MAX so I adapted to it. Maya is certainly a great software package as well. More recently we have begun to combine both Maya and MAX in the studio for various commercials because some artists prefer Maya while others prefer MAX. We generally stick to only one package per project as importing and exporting data between the two can be complicated and often more of a headache than it's worth.

I particularly like 3D Studio MAX because of the user support available on the internet. If there isn't a feature integrated in the software, chances are somebody ha already written a plugin for it and in most cases, it's free or very affordable. The same, however, could be said for Maya as it is an extremely popular software package. Finally, a good renderer is extremely important for me as this heavily impacts the quality of my work. MAX has many options such as Mental Ray, Brazil, Vray and FinalRender, among others.

Can you tell us your perceptions about Photoshop? How is it used for 3d animation?

Adobe Photoshop is probably my favorite piece of software. I use it extensively every day, often for most of the day, in conjunction with 3D Studio MAX, or any 3D package. In my opinion, Photoshop is the grandfather of image editors - it has been around for more than a decade, it is absolutely rock solid in stability, it's extremely powerful, and most important of all, it's easy to use. In commercial production, we use it for almost everything. From conceptual design, to background painting to texture map generation and editing, it's always used for something or other.

Specifically, I get the most use out of it for texture maps. Generally we look for the textures we need on the internet or shoot them with digital cameras, and then piece them together within Photoshop to suit our needs. Photoshop for a long time was lacking an image warper as we often have to distort textures to conform them to geometry. As a result, we always had to use After Effects or more specialized software such as Elastic Reality, but ever since the integration of the "Liquify" feature, this problem has been resolved.

Tell us your opinion about third party Photoshop plug-ins and the plug-in you have created.

Well, I for one never have a use for any third party filters. If I ever need to use filters for anything, I can always get the job done with the built in Photoshop filters. Every once in a while I come across an effect that requires a specialized filter and in most instances, I just code it myself. Of course, a lot of my filters are therefore specifically targeted for the 3D end user as they deal with texture mapping issues, lens distortions, image tiling, etc.

In addition, many digital artists are hesitant to use filters that produce particular effects that can be easily identified and traced back to the filter. This is why, for example, the lens flare filter is often frowned upon and used very sparingly by professionals.

Can we expect 3D max used for Web animation in the future?

I believe the internet is going to continue to grow at an exponential rate and, as it does, the need for internet media will also increase steadily. In addition, with the introduction of faster data transmission speeds, internet animation will become more and more elaborate until, I predict, it matches broadcast quality, resolution and playback. Again, I'm fairly certain web animation will not be limited to only one particular 3D package but rather any software capable of producing advanced 3D animation.

You have seen a long journey of animation. Please tell us about this path, the changes and the future expectations from the professionals like you.

It has been fascinating to see how computer hardware has developed over the last decade as this has directly influenced the quality of digital animation in today's world. It was interesting to see computers start with a 2 color video display and see the slow technological improvement leading up to today's sixteen million color video displays (and even higher with the recent introduction of HDR images and monitors). It humorous how impressive a chrome teapot reflecting a checkered floor was a decade ago (at that time state-of-the-art computer graphics), in comparison to today's completely digital lead actors in feature films. And it has been rewarding to see PIXAR and PDI, early pioneers in computer graphics, develop into the outstanding feature film studios they are today.

Within the last few years, global illumination rendering has been one of the single most important developments in the field of computer graphics. While it was always far too time consuming and intensive to be used for any kind of production, it is now commonplace at our commercial studio, as I imagine it is at others as well. Fire, water and smoke have also seen significant technological advancements within the last few years, most notably in feature film effects.

There really is no way of predicting what will come next but as computer hardware continues to improve, new facets of computer graphics will present

What according to you, the essential qualities of good animation?

The basic fundamentals of animation such as timing, squash and stretch,
secondary action, follow-through, hang time, etc, are what differentiates good animation from poor animation. These fundamentals must be taught, preferably by professionals, in an institution which focuses on these subjects as well as other basic creative skills such as staging, color theory, lighting, composition, etc. While it is possible for someone to learn this on their own, it is incomparable to the skills that one learns in a course that specializes in animation.

It has been said many times before that anyone can learn how to use a computer but not everyone can develop strong creative skills. It is for this reason that we look first and foremost for artists who are clearly talented in these areas, and only secondarily for people who know how to use specific software.

Many people want to take animation as their career. Please tell us the qualities required for good animator.

It's very important to carefully select a good school. There is much information available on this subject both on the internet and at the various institutions. It's important to know what background the instructors have, if they are (or were) working professionals in the field, and what the course covers. Again, it's important to also understand that there are courses which are more technically oriented while others that are more creatively driven. It is important for the individual to immerse himself or herself in as much animation as possible. Know what is out there and what level it is at. Learn and study all the classic and modern animated films. When I used to instruct animation at a school several years ago, it was always evident that in each class there were always one or two students who excelled beyond everyone else. These were the first students to also be picked up by major studios.

Finally, while it is possible to make a very good salary in this field, do not expect to graduate and make a six-figure salary. Animation is an art and only those who have a passion for it are the ones who reap success.

Please tell us your philosophy about this amazing world of digital animation.

I absolutely love the digital medium and I can't get enough of it. I will work at an animation studio for eight hours straight, only to come home and continue to work on my own projects. I feel fulfilled and satisfied when I finish a project, and I don't think I could feel this way from any other job out there. I suppose I'm very lucky to have found something I am so passionate about and enjoy doing so much. Although the hours and schedules can be hectic, it doesn't feel that way because I enjoy every minute of it.

I would therefore encourage anyone who has even the slightest curiosity about this intriguing industry to give it a shot and see what it's all about. You might find it's your calling in life.

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