Comment »Posted on Tuesday 26 January 2010 at 9:23 am by Jacob Aron
In Inventions & Technology

Digital trees are set to become more realistic thanks to a new animation technique that copies movements from the real thing.

Dr Peter Hall and Chris Li at the University of Bath have developed software that can analyse video footage of a tree to automatically generate a natural looking computer model. Dr Peter Hall says this will make animation much easier:

“Rendering trees has always been a headache for animators. Trees move in irregular ways, and it’s very hard to achieve natural-looking movement.

“It is so expensive that traditional animation often uses static trees – except in big-budget films. In computer graphics, tree models are just as hard to produce.

“With our system, the user can produce new trees of the same variety, with each one an individual.”

With the new software, animators will be able to grow digital forests with ease. All they have to do is draw around a tree outline in the first frame of a video, and the program will track its leaves and branches. The software can even generate slightly different trees by varying the movement data. Here’s a video explaining how it works:

As a lifelong gamer, I remember when videogames first took the leap into 3D. Rendering a complicated leaf and branch structure wasn’t possible in games like Mario 64, so they just used 2D pictures instead. Things have changed a little bit since then, but dodgy trees can still let down an otherwise realistic game. I look forward to seeing this new technique put to good use!

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