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Written by jamaica-gleaner.com

Last Saturday afternoon an affable Professor Michael Smith of the University of Trinidad and Tobago brought his presentation on animation to life with effective use of visuals, obvious enthusiasm for his subject and rapport with a capacity audience at the second Jamaica Digital Arts Festival.

The two-day festival was held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Ruthven Road, New Kingston, ending with an awards ceremony on Sunday evening. It was staged by the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), through its training arm, the Media Technology Institute (MTI).

Among the applications he identified for animation in his audio-visual presentation were marine surveillance, bioengineering, sports videos and video games. Smith also pointed out that "animation is a good tool for teaching science and math".

He took the workshop through the animation stages, from rough to final with mattes, visual F/X and partial clean-up along the way. The link with entertainment, which many people were interested in, came early, Smith explaining that sitcoms took off in the 1970s due to computer animation as it was possible to do series faster.

He made it clear, though, that there is a human element which simply cannot be made redundant. "You can't replace the quality of an artist, but you can speed things up," he said.

Smith also outlined most of the basic steps in 3D animation, modelling, texture, animation, lighting and rendering. There were murmurs of amazement when he compared the two Transformer movies, saying that while the first movie took 20 terabytes of disc space the sequel took 145 terabytes.

That would take 35,000 DVDs to store.

Smith used images of popular Transformers characters in his presentation to good effect, but it was the footage from Superman Returns which he used to illustrate the difference between storyboards (where the images and corresponding dialogue of a story are presented before approval of production) and previsualisation (an animated version of the storyboard process) which really impressed participants in the workshop. Notes at the bottom of the screen emphasised just how many changes needed to be made to scenes to get them ready for production.

And there is the human production as well, Smith saying that in the UK animation is a micro-enterprise with fewer than 10 persons working at each firm. He also spoke about the Senegalese company Pictoon, which has benefited from work outsourced by other companies. Smith said Pictoon started off offering high quality at a low price and now offers high quality at a medium price.

When he had wrapped up, CPTC CEO Angela Patterson put animation squarely in economic perspective. "What I want you to take away from this is there is an economic opportunity for us to exploit in Jamaica. Understand the technology that is available and how to play your part in it," Patterson said.

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