Realism in The Future of Computer Animation
Realism in computer animation can mean making each frame look photorealistic, in the sense that the scene is rendered to resemble a photograph, or to making the animation of characters believable and lifelike. This article focuses on the second definition. Computer animation can be realistic with or without photorealistic rendering.
One of the greatest challenges in computer animation has been creating human characters that look and move with the highest degree of realism. Many animated films instead feature characters that are anthropomorphic animals (Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Rio, Kung Fu Panda), machines (Cars, WALL-E, Robots), insects(Antz, A Bugs Life, The Ant Bully, Bee Movie) fantasy creatures and characters (Monsters Inc., Shrek, TMNT, Brave, Epic), or humans with nonrealistic, cartoon-like proportions (The Incredibles, Despicable Me, Up, Megamind, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius).
Part of the difficulty in making pleasing, realistic human characters is the uncanny valley: a concept where, up to a point, people have an increasingly negative emotional response as a human replica looks and acts more and more human. Also, some materials that commonly appear in a scene like cloth, foliage, fluids, and hair have proven more difficult to faithfully recreate and animate than others. Consequently, special software and techniques have been developed to better simulate these specific elements.
In theory, realistic computer animation can reach a point where it is indistinguishable from real action captured on film. Where computer animation achieves this level of realism, it may have major repercussions for the film industry.
The goal of computer animation is not always to emulate live action as closely as possible. Computer animation can also be tailored to mimic or substitute for other types of animation, such as traditional stop motion animation (Flushed Away). Some of the long-standing basic principles of animation, like squash & stretch, call for movement that is not strictly realistic, and such principles still see widespread application in computer animation.
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