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The Art and Science of Computer Animation
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ISBN 9781871516715
Paperback 320 pages

Published February 1997
Imprint: Ablex
Books by Stuart Mealing

Computer animation represents the union of art and computer science in the pursuit of realistic simulation, special effects and fantasy. It is a heady mixture of visual poetry and mathematics, a discipline which can be approached from the directions of science, art and simple curiosity. The book bridges the gap between the designer/animator and the scientific programmer.
For all who require a comprehensive - and comprehensible - introduction to the specialised techniques and technology used in this field, including students and practitioners in animation, graphic design, computer science, and those in television, film, fine art and scientific visualisation. The book is intentionally broad in scope and provides an overview of computer animation from basic principles.
Hardware and software levels from the micro to supercomputer are also considered. Contains a full glossary of the terminology in current use and a comprehensive bibliography.


• The nature of animation
• Applications of computer animation
• Basics of computer graphics
• Movement control
• The human/computer interface
• Hardware considerations
• Software
• Language considerations
• State of the Art: Simulation; Soft Modelling; Behavioural Animation; Synthetic Humans
• The Future Today.


One definition of animation is that it is 'the condition of being alive'. This book tells how computers are being used to breathe life into static images and dry data.

Computer animation is a heady mixture of visual poetry and mathematics, a search for the realisation of impossible dreams and a genuine tool for visual enlightenment. It is a discipline which can be, and is, approached from the directions of science, art and just plain curiosity. This book aims to make understandable to the reader from any of these backgrounds, the means by which computer animations can be created and the rich potential of the medium as a whole. It is a book about what can be done, what will be done and how it might be done. It presents an overview of the whole of the new, challenging, and above all exciting area of computer animation.

There is a large, and fast growing, resource of books dealing with the mathematics, geometry and programming of computer graphics, but few of them deal at any length with animation. This book aims to be both comprehensive enough to describe the many ways in which computers can be used in the production of animation, and general enough to be of equal use to the mathematician, programmer, designer, artist or to any reader with a particular interest in this emerging discipline. It will discuss the general principles of creating moving images on a computer, investigate the growing number of applications of the medium, review the current state-of-the-art and consider its future. These subjects will be approached without the presumption of prior expertise on the part of the reader, and will thus provide a foundation from which to approach the more specialist sources which are cited in the text and listed in the bibliography. For this reason readers coming to the book with a particular expertise may feel able to pass by chapters outlining the basics of their subject. (For the reader who wilts at the thought of mathematics it is worth pointing out that good computer systems make their methods transparent to those who prefer not to know.) In particular, the proceedings, course notes and videotapes of the annual conference of SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics of the Association of Computing Machinery) are strongly recommended and are often mentioned in the book.

It is obviously not possible to deal fully with every development within the discipline, and the necessary abbreviation sacrifices detail in favour of a broad general understanding. To anyone who finds the work of years summarised in a paragraph I apologise. In some cases I have described relatively few examples from a popular research area, with the intention of giving a flavour and local understanding of the work, which the reader can choose to follow up in greater depth using the bibliography. For instance, whilst I select only a couple of examples of work being done in the area of facial animation from the many approaches that have been developed over a number of years, I hope it is sufficient to suggest to anyone new to the area both the breadth and rigour of the research field as a whole. It will also be noticed that in some cases two spellings of a word occur (e.g. colour & color, modelling & modeling). This is because the book is written in England, but retains the native spelling in references from American sources.

The book falls into two main parts. Part one explains the background and basic science for computer animation, whilst Part two moves up a level and deals in greater detail with some of the latest developments in the area. It is arranged as follows: Chapter 1 considers the nature of animation, traditional techniques and the role of the computer. Chapter 2 describes the varied applications of computer animation from TV graphics to flight simulation and from scientific visualisation to special effects. Chapters 3 to 8 deal with the basic principles of computer graphics, movement control and with hardware, language and software considerations relevant to computer animation. Chapters 9 to 12 look at the current state-of-the-art in the discipline, and include issues such as soft modelling methods, dynamic animation, artificial intelligence and the construction of synthetic humans. Chapter 13 looks at future developments, and extrapolates from the material that has gone before, to make suggestions about applications of imminent hardware and of virtual reality. Appendices, a glossary of terms and a comprehensive bibliography conclude. In order to emphasise that the book is applicable to work on any size of computer the illustrations show images produced on a range of machines.

As well as hoping to explain and demystify, I would like to share with the reader my own excitement in this rapidly developing medium and my belief in the significant role it can play in a wide range of areas. There is no conflict between computer animation being serious and being fun. It is a good moment in time to be able to review the discipline, as it has survived most of its teething problems and has come to be recognised as offering a new dimension in the presentation and dissemination of information in science, commerce, education, entertainment and art. It represents one of the biggest growth areas in computing, and, to bring to full maturity, will need the dedicated attention of enthusiasts with the vision and understanding to work across the many discipline areas it encompasses. I hope this book can contribute a little to their efforts.

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