Sunday, June 10, 2012


Not many members of the movie-going audience realise how much science is involved in computer animation. Some animators also don’t know this and even some animation studios have taken a while to understand the need for good, innovative science in CGI.

Pixar does. They have their own Research Group, established in 2004, to develop new, innovative technology and new methods for exporting their characters to other media, such as games and animatronic robots. This group is based on a model of an academic research department and currently has seven “tenured faculty”.

Disney does too. Disney Research was launched in 2008 as an informal network of research labs that collaborate closely with academic institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Z├╝rich (ETH). Research areas include computer graphics/vision, video processing, robotics, human-computer interaction, behavioral sciences.

Animators move characters around the screen with tools provided by scientists; tools like simulated cloth, knitted garments, light models, hairmore hair and this amazing model of human skin.  Any day now, we'll be seeing dead actors starring in new movies.

Where else can you see such a wonderful combination of art and science but in computer animation?


Sunday, June 3, 2012


Recently my old chair just collapsed under me like Buster Keaton’s car. The seat tilted, screws fell out, knobs popped off and the back fell apart. 
    So, I ordered a good-looking chair from Amazon, assembled it and sat on it. After five minutes excruciating back pain occured. And no wonder: it had a space where lumbar support should have been and the back was fixed in an un-natural position and couldn’t be adjusted. Returning it was not easy, since the base had been attached to the hydraulic seat and was impossible to remove. When I popped the hydraulic clasp, thingies exploded all over the floor:
little wheels, washers, oil, springs, other stuff. The wheel base did come off which permitted me to cram the chair back into the box and return it for a refund.   
    Obviously I would have to test-sit chairs first so, I went to several stores and tried out their models. I found a suitable one but they don’t sell chairs in the store, your have to order online. As it happened, that particular chair was out of stock online and remained so for three weeks during which time, I had to do my writing in bed or on the sofa. Very decadent but quite uncomfortable, really.  
 Eventually, the chosen chair arrived, was assembled and proved to be sittable. Not beautiful, bloody ugly, in fact, poorly designed with the “lumbar support” in mid spine and a needlessly enormous back that supports nothing and bangs into the desk when swiveled, but the back and height are adjustable, greatly reducing any back pain.

    Chair designers, please pay attention to human anatomy when designing a piece of furniture in which most of us have to spend eight hours or more a day.  Unless you’re a ballet dancer, most human spines curve out at the top then in at the lumbar region.  But most office chairs curve in at the top and out at the bottom causing a great deal of needless discomfort.  
    The fact that the chair I ordered was out of stock would seem to indicate that people sensibly prefer an adjustable chair to the current non-ergonomic models with fixed backs which cause backache.     
    How hard would it be, designers, to reverse the S-curve on all office chairs and give some comfort to aching writers and office workers?  And, while you're at it, why not make smaller backs which would reduce the cost and weight of these chairs too.