Cooking Up Virtual Actors

Because I’ve got a definite shortage of real actors for my various ventures in video, I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring assorted alternatives. One of them is CrazyTalk, a great facial animation package that has loads of untapped potential. The only downside is that it is actually limited to being used in scenes that only feature the character’s head & face. Therefore I’ve been looking into other possibilities.

One of the earliest options I looked at was “Anim8or”, a 3d modeling and animation package. Thing is, everything I’ve managed to create with it looks like something out of the collective nightmares at a drug rehab center on a bad day and I am not a hamster, blocky cubist looking characters that could be built with that could easily give viewers the idea that I needed to look up Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign.

Since I’m looking for something a shade more realistic than that, I moved on in my search. A real gem that I found last week is something called Daz3d, which is a powerful package that creates 3D animated characters & objects that can save the animation result into a movie file ready for the editing suite. The only problem there is that it requires a graphics card that supports OpenGL 1.3 or higher and I’m stuck with an old ATI RAGE 128 PRO.

I say “stuck with” because in trying to come up with a new video card that would support Daz3d’s requirements, I’ve discovered that while I wasn’t looking somebody changed things and now the good old PCI bus apparently isn’t used anymore, having been dropped in favor of PCI-E. Of course the two aren’t even close to compatible which means that the Nvida GeForce 8400gs that I had my eye on is never going to work on my ASRock K7VM3 motherboard which only has a couple of PCI slots and one 1.5v AGP 4x slot.

This means that, great as it looks, Daz3 is out of the running for the foreseeable future. Next up in consideration is Blender. It actually works with the hardware I’ve got. It’s learning curve seems to be kinda steep but I’m going to give it a go and see what I can do with it. From the pics & screenshots I’ve seen on the Blender website it ought to be able to do everything I’m wanting, it’s just going to be a matter of a lot of learning how.

Once I can get somewhere with it in terms of creating and animating virtual actors, props and sets, I’ve got a script in mind that will make for just under an hour long movie. It’s an ambitious project but I’ve been wanting to produce this movie since I wrote the screenplay a few years ago.

[Tags]animation, software, virtual actors, virtual sets, filmmaking[/tags]