“Performance Cartoons” by Walker, Fusco and Verso

  • ©Chris Walker, Michael Fusco, and David Verso



    Performance Cartoons

Program Title:

    Demonstrations and Displays

Presenter(s): Presenter(s):


Project Affiliation:



    This demonstration is a prototype for a virtual production studio combined with a virtual theater. Using a CyberGlove and Flying Mouse, the participant (“performer”) accesses on-line, real-time animation of a sleek star, Silver Suzy, and directs her action as she surfs through the cosmos. The experience is designed to illustrate the use of a camera operator and a performer in theatrical production for entertainment applications.

    Two major problems must be solved if computer character animation is to become a viable, mainstream production medium:

    1. The quality of performance and control of artistic values must be sufficient to produce true personality on the screen. 
    2. Production techniques must be automated so that the process can compete in the commercial world.

    Because some observers believe that these two requirements, quality and automation, are mutually exclusive, this project attempts to expose the software and hardware approaches that can fuse them and create a fantastic new art form, combining the spontaneity and intensity of the theater, film’s manipulation of time and perspective, and the boundless fantasy of cartoons.

    In Performance Cartoons, live action is used as an input to realtime creation of animation. Actors drive the motion of virtual characters in a situation analogous to the interaction between puppeteers and puppets, except that here the manipulators have access to the full subtlety of performance The virtual characters may take any form: puppets, cartoons, or renditions of the actors themselves. It is also possible to manipulate light-ing, camera moves, and the characters with the immediacy familiar to online video editors.

    To the producers’ knowledge, full anthropomorphic character animation generated in real time with textured surfaces has never been done before. This capability, coupled with a high-definition laser projection system, offers an interactive performance experience for a single user, as well as a proscenium to entertain a live audience.

    Performance Cartoons opens a new frontier of creative possibilities to the modern story teller by combining four essential elements: real-time surface mapping, real-time metamorphoses, realtime data capture, and real-time motion macro specification. These combined elements have been streamlined to give the uninitiated an immediate feel for what it will be like to create in the virtual studio.

    The performance-based system consists of two 6DF motion sensor inputs controlling a complex anthropomorphic, fully shaded database in real time on a Silicon Graphics Skywriter. The primary sensor input drives a flight model for Suzy’s surfboard. A procedural modification of kinematic and multi-level interpolative databases is animated in relation to a combination of tilt and velocity inputs from the primary sensor. The second sensor is used as an input for an independent camera. VR Workbench manages the logic for database management and sensor 1/O, and dynamically changes the level of detail in the scene. Multiple systems can be networked for multiple characters in simultaneous interaction.


Other Information:

    Show Design and Models: Chris Walker, MR FILM SimGraphics Engineering Corporation Technical Staff

    Software Design: Frank F. Little, MR FILM SimGraphics Engineering Corporation Technical Staff

    Software Support: Scott Kilburn, MR FILM

    Hardware: Silicon Graphics Skywriter, Sim-Graphics VR Workbench and Flying Mouse, Orizon laser projector, Arctic Refrigeration chiller, Polhemus 6D sensors, Virtual Technologies CyberGlove, models by MR FILM

    Application: Entertainment

    Type of System: Authoring and player, single- or multi-user

    Interaction Class: Desktop/vehicle

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