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Ray Dream Again

By Stuart Bonwit

Washington Apple Pi Journal, pp. 27-28, March/April 1999, reprint information

Another interim look at that remarkable modeling and animation software package, Ray Dream Studio 5.

I have done several ballet animations, 2D and 3D. So, I decided to try something different. I (naively assumed) would make an animation of a diva singing an operatic aria! The most popular human figure animation package is great for animating the figure in various poses, but it could not put expression on the figure's face. I thought I'd give it a try in Ray Dream Studio 5. It turns out, it is possible but definitely not easy.

Ray Dream comes with a large collection of 3D models to choose from. There are several human figures but only one with movable features. It is an outlandish cartoon face totally unsuitable for a diva. So using primitive 3D forms, extruded forms, lathed forms, and mesh (I prefer to call them "mashed") forms, I created a diva head. See Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Before I embarked on the aria trail, I thought I'd make a simple animation to demonstrate facial expression. The result is "The Wink." Four frames from the animation are shown in Fig. 2. Note that in the third frame with the mouth/jaw open the shape of the lips changed. The lips are really in four parts. Their shapes are created and changed in the mesh form, actually mashed. Under the mesh form, there something called "sphere of attraction." It uses the symbol of a magnet and allows a model to be stretched and mashed in an infinite variety of ways.

Fig. 2

The hardest thing to do is a satisfactory rendition of the cheeks when the jaw opens. I'm still working on that. I labored probably two weeks trying to get a rendition of the cheek crease that goes from the edge of the nose to the edge of the lip that you get when you smile. Most of them looked like cancerous growths! One cheek model wasn't too bad but I couldn't get rid of it when the smile disappeared. An instantaneous removal, between one frame and the next, would be too jarring. I tried making the crease transparent when the smile went. However, I discovered that a transparent object casts the same shadow density as the opaque object. This is illustrated in Fig. 3, two frames from a demo animation. I'm sure this is something I am doing wrong or there is a way to get around it. I haven't studied the problem in the 420-page manual.

Fig. 3

Now to the diva! To make the diva look as though she was singing the aria, the animation must be synchronized with the music. It is unbelievable how fast words come out of peoples' mouths even when they are singing torturously slowly in an aria. My method for synchronizing the animation is the same one I used for the dancing general. I captured a piece of music into Adobe Premiere and displayed the audio clip. A very short section of the clip is shown in Fig. 4. Then I made notations on the printed sheet music of the seconds and frames from the start of the piece of music. This is shown in Fig. 5. The notations above the notes were put in with Adobe PhotoDeluxe. On the original sheet music they were scribbled in pencil.

Fig. 4

In Fig. 5 at the extreme left above the phrase "vrà" is the notation "00:00." That is zero seconds and zero frames, the start of the audio track. This phrase corresponds to the first cluster at the extreme left of Fig. 4. In Fig. 5 the phrase "Tra" is noted as 01:12 or one second and twelve frames from the start. In Fig. 4 the cursor, the vertical line, is at the start of the phrase "Tra." This phrase is not sung very strong. It is the little cluster just to the right of the cursor. The notation at the bottom of Fig. 4 shows the location of the cursor at 01:12. The total track length is 41:07. The much stronger phrase, "voi," is the next large cluster in Fig. 4 and is noted as 01:22 in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5

So far I have made a rough animation of the first four seconds of the sound track out of 41 seconds. I have not "mashed" the lips the way I did in "The Wink."

As I said at the beginning, this is an interim report.

Fractal Design's Ray Dream Studio 5 is a product of:

Fractal Design Corporation
6303 Carpinteria Avenue
Carpinteria, California 93013 USA

Technical Support:

Phone: 408-430-4200
Fax: 408-438-9672

List price: $299.


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Revised May 2, 1999 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/