AI, machine learning, and deep learning have become buzzwords today in almost every field, be it fintech, healthcare, manufacturing, IT, communication, or animation.
While deep learning or machine learning is not new to VFX studios, a paradigm shift is afoot that reminds us of the ground-breaking impact 3D brought to the animation industry. Then, artists did not have to draw characters from various angles. And now, the introduction of deep learning is set to make animation faster and more efficient.
What is Deep Learning?
Machine learning is a broader term; it needs structured data and continuous human input to learn. Deep learning approaches the problem in a non-traditional way. It attempts to match the neural systems of the human brain, and lets the machine learn with the help of artificial neural networks (ANN).
In short, deep learning focuses on learning complex functions by coordinating input with the output from the available data, eliminating the need to explicitly depend on human programming.
Popular examples of applications include self-driving cars, chatbots, animation, voice-activated assistants, auto text generation, image recognition. Yet, when it comes to VFX, how is deep learning expected to change the game?
Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the VFX Industry
Many big production houses like Marvel and DC are now successfully banking on AI tools to create engaging content. Take Avengers: Endgame.
Thanos, the infamous yet much-loved villain, was an output of deep learning. A variety of expressions were produced using AI tools mimicked expressions of the actor Josh Brolin as naturally as possible.
The AI tool produced solutions based on a library of high-resolution face scans. Whenever the output did not seem to portray the required emotion, technicians tweaked the model. This information was again provided as an input, which aided the machine in making the next output more superior. Imagine having to manually develop every facial feature!
While deep learning has applications in practically every field, it is definitely expected to revolutionize the way VFX works.
How Deep Learning Impacts the Future of VFX and Animation?
Deep learning will be able to transform digital learning and make it possible to generate models with lighting and texturing created by the computer itself. It can suggest rigs for different characters based on the data presented for automated rigging for other characters.
Another interesting part is its ability to generate new characters by learning through a set of sample characters. This can make animation much more fun and less time-consuming. It is also possible to animate a character inspired by someone else’s style.
In short, it will make it easier to simulate real-life pictures in a way that will make animation much more live and real. Additionally, deep learning can help reduce postproduction time, cut down costs, and assist VFX actors visualize scenes better.
Though it may appear that the use of AI tools & deep learning may affect creativity and even take over jobs of animators and programmers, the truth is deeper and more significant than just that. Evolving is the best way to survive any kind of threat. When computer animation took over the sketch artist’s brushes, it still provided an opportunity for animators to shift their focus on developing better and original characters that appeared more realistic, instead of painstakingly creating images for every movement of the fictional character.
AI tools are sure to offer animators a chance to explore their imagination and experiment with different elements.
However, game programmers will still be in high demand as a lot of traditional programming is involved in making deep learning work to teach computers to make deductions from large data sets. A point worth noting is that – to make artificial neural networks (ANN) work, you need tons of data. Hence, data collection still remains crucial, which calls for technical support.
Needless to say, training for neural network technologies is expected to sell like hot cakes.
To sum up…
There is no doubt that deep learning has a long way to go and many challenges are yet to be addressed, especially in terms of bridging the gap between the VFX artist and the algorithm. There is a lot of room for R&D in this field. Yet, it remains undisputed that deep learning will prove to be a disruptive technology in the VFX industry.
Is deep learning a new frontier? Yes, it is, and animators have to learn to evolve and adapt to this new technology. In fact, it will help them focus on their creative side by taking on painstaking and tedious tasks. It’s time to explore this new technology to speed up work and take quality to the next level.
At Toolbox Studio, we love pushing the boundaries in all things VFX and animation.