Computer animation

Studying new interfaces for 3D animators

Computer animation

Studying new interfaces for 3D animators


Computer animated scenes featuring virtual objects and characters are a key element in a number of application fields, from the production of movies and video games to product and service design, education, training, advertising, cultural heritage, etc. Creating 3D animations is a long and expensive process, which requires animators to deal with sophisticated interaction paradigms.


VR@POLITO is addressing open challenges in this field by designing and developing new interfaces leveraging emerging approaches in the areas of computer graphics and human-computer interaction with the aim to find, for each graphics production, the best trade-off between time required for creating the animation and the resulting quality.

To this aim, the domain of multi-modal interfaces is being explored, through the adoption of techniques merging different technologies for both input and output. Thus, gesture- and voice-based interaction is being experimented in combination with commercial off-the-shelf tangible user interfaces (TUIs), which are regarded as being capable to make the creation of animation more intuitive, and possibly more efficient, by exploiting the affordances provided by physical props that mimic the structure of virtual counterparts.

Within the above context, visualization systems based on large screens as well as immersive virtual reality-based headsets are being considered as primary means for letting the animators immerse directly in the 3D scene being developed, and providing them with the ultimate point of view for telling a story.


Several studies have been completed already, whose results have been accepted for publication, as listed below. Other works have been submitted for consideration in international conferences and journals in the field.


Title Immersive virtual reality-based interfaces for character animation / Cannavò, Alberto; Demartini, Claudio Giovanni; Morra, Lia; Lamberti, Fabrizio. IEEE Access, ISSN 2169-3536, (In press), pp. 1-18.
Abstract Virtual Reality (VR) has increasingly attracted the attention of the computer animation community in search of more intuitive and effective alternatives to the current sophisticated user interfaces. Previous works in the literature already demonstrated the higher affordances offered by VR interaction, as well as the enhanced spatial understanding that arises thanks to the strong sense of immersion guaranteed by virtual environments. These factors have the potential to improve the animators’ job, which is tremendously skill-intensive and time-consuming. The present paper explores the opportunities provided by VR-based interfaces for the generation of 3D animations via armature deformation. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, for the first time a tool is presented which allows users to manage a complete pipeline supporting the above animation method, by letting them execute key tasks such as rigging, skinning and posing within a well-known animation suite using a customizable interface. Moreover, it is the first work to validate, in both objective and subjective terms, character animation performance in the above tasks and under realistic work conditions involving different user categories. In our experiments, task completion time was reduced by 26%, on average, while maintaining almost the same levels of accuracy and precision for both novice and experienced users.
Related project or activity: Computer animation
Title Is immersive virtual reality the ultimate interface for 3D animators? / Lamberti, Fabrizio; Cannavo', Alberto; Montuschi, Paolo. IEEE Computer. ISSN 0018-9162 (In press), pp. 1-12.
Abstract Creating computer animations is a labor-intensive task that requires animators to deal with sophisticated interaction paradigms. Virtual Reality, which is becoming commonplace in many domains, recently started to be considered as being capable to ease also the animators' job, by improving their spatial understanding of the animated scene and providing them with interfaces characterized by higher affordances. However, current VR-based animation solutions only offer heterogeneous subsets of traditional tools' functionalities, and/or are not integrated into them. In this paper, we present an add-on for the well-known Blender animation suite that allows the animators to seamlessly switch between the native and an immersive VR-based interface, and to use the latter to perform a representative set of common animation tasks. A user study including both professional and non-professional users showed that VR can improve usability and reduce animation time while letting animators achieve quality results, though with differences from task to task.
Related project or activity: Computer animation
Title A multimodal interface for virtual character animation based on live performance and natural language processing / Lamberti, Fabrizio; Gatteschi, Valentina; Sanna, Andrea; Cannavo', Alberto. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. ISSN 1532-7590 (In press), pp. 1-46.
Abstract Virtual character animation is receiving an ever-growing attention by researchers, who proposed already many tools with the aim to improve the effectiveness of the production process. In particular, significant efforts are devoted to create animation systems suited also to non-skilled users, in order to let them benefit from a powerful communication instrument that can improve information sharing in many contexts like product design, education, marketing, etc. Apart from methods based on the traditional Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointer (WIMP) paradigms, solutions devised so far leverage approaches based on motion capture/retargeting (the so-called performance-based approaches), on non-conventional interfaces (voice inputs, sketches, tangible props, etc.), or on natural language processing (NLP) over text descriptions (e.g., to automatically trigger actions from a library). Each approach has its drawbacks, though. Performance-based methods are difficult to use for creating non-ordinary movements (flips, handstands, etc.); natural interfaces are often used for rough posing, but results need to be later refined; automatic techniques still produce poorly realistic animations. To deal with the above limitations, we propose a multimodal animation system that combines performance- and NLP-based methods. The system recognizes natural commands (gestures, voice inputs) issued by the performer, extracts scene data from a text description and creates live animations in which pre-recorded character actions can be blended with performer’s motion to increase naturalness.
Related project or activity: Computer animation
Title A virtual character animation system based on reconfigurable tangible user interfaces and immersive virtual reality / Cannavo', Alberto; Lamberti, Fabrizio (In press), pp. 1-11. Proc. Smart Tools and Applications in Graphics (STAG2018), Brescia, Italy, October 18-19, 2018.
Abstract Computer animation and, particularly, virtual character animation, are very time consuming and skill-intensive tasks, which require animators to work with sophisticated user interfaces. Tangible user interfaces (TUIs) already proved to be capable of making character animation more intuitive, and possibly more efficient, by leveraging the affordances provided by physical props that mimic the structure of virtual counterparts. The main downside of existing TUI-based animation solutions is the reduced accuracy, which is due partly to the use of mechanical parts, partly to the fact that, despite the adoption of a 3D input, users still have to work with a 2D output (usually represented by one or more views displayed on a screen). However, output methods that are natively 3D, e.g., based on virtual reality (VR), have been already exploited in different ways within computer animation scenarios. By moving from the above considerations and by building upon an existing work, this paper proposes a VR-based character animation system that combines the advantages of TUIs with the improved spatial awareness, enhanced visualization and better control on the observation point in the virtual space ensured by immersive VR. Results of a user study with both skilled and unskilled users showed a marked preference for the devised system, which was judged as more intuitive than that in the reference work, and allowed users to pose a virtual character in a lower time and with a higher accuracy.
Related project or activity: Computer animation


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