Scooby Doo. The Smurfs. SpongeBob SquarePants. Every generation has its favorite iconic cartoon. We may one day get to interact with them, too, if Digital Magic keeps up its pace.
Digital Magic, of Chennai, India, is the inventor of ToonPet, a real-time 3D cartoon animation system that uses NVIDIA Quadro K5000 GPUs to create amazingly realistic, interactive characters.
At a recent industry conference in Bangalore, Digital Magic set up a wall-sized screen that lit up with a well-known mythical figure when people would approach. The figure invited guests onto a stage and then proceeded to greet them personally and engage in light conversation. The figure was so realistic and the interaction so fluid, that many wondered if it was really in the hall with them.
The ToonPet “virtual host” was convincing due to its highly refined texture, lighting, particle reflections and body movements — the wheelhouse of visual computing. The project was born from an effort to make visual production tools easy for artists to use, not exclusive to the tech-savvy. And to wring out the many inefficiencies from the typical 3D animation production pipeline.
ToonPet (which stands for “carToon pupPet”) incorporates motion capture, real-time lip syncing and facial expressions, and high-quality renders fed directly to a telecast in HD quality — in normal or 3D stereoscopic mode.
Enabling the virtual host to understand what people are saying, and replying accordingly, adds another fascinating dimension of realism to the display — and further ups the computing power requirements.
From animation and post-production to visual effects, ToonPet provides artists with real-time feedback so they can be productive in the moment, instead of sitting around waiting for images to render. Add 10 layers of color correction tools applied with heavy blur — and without the Quadro K5000, it’s almost impossible to expect playback at 24 frames per second without a dropped frame.
ToonPet also allows playback of completed scenes in real time, which is critical for budget productions, where the idea of “time is money” has never been truer.
NVIDIA Quadro allowed Digital Magic to meet the scale and complexity of their ambitions, which is to push the boundaries of the possible. Saturday mornings may never be the same.