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Project BW is a fully 3D-rendered 35mm film, created using true black and white duotone, with no intermediate shades of gray.  Using a Vicon optical motion-capture system to capture performances from real human actors and actresses (as shown below), a two and a half minute theatrical trailer was animated and rendered in Alias Power Animator 7.0 and 7.5.

Olivier Renouard, the Animation Director of Project BW, provided 3dRender.com with the information, stills and animation below.  Be sure to visit Olivier's cool web site at www.drone.org to see more of his 3D work, and also see Project BW's web site for more information and full production credits.

A motion Capture performer (top) creates a pose for the 3D shot below. Click to download Quicktime of Rendered BW Animation (1.1 Meg)

Behind The Scenes

Olivier Renouard describes the motion capture and animation process: "We got great quality material from the motion-capture shooting. However, there were no motion editing tools (like Filmbox) available to us at that time, so it was an occasion to learn a lot of things about motion, the hard way.

"The reason we chose an optical capture system (rather than a magnetic one) is that you get more nuances with optics.  The actor doesn't have to "overact," as it seems always the case with magnetic systems.  You can also do a variety of shots with the cordless optical system that would be impossible using wired magnetic systems: multi-actors shots, capture the motion of items exchanged between actors, we even motion-captured a juggler in action.

"I've had the occasion to work on Filmbox since and I found it to be a really good system for motion retrieving and editing.  I've heard that Vicon designed a system of their own called Moebius, but I've never had the occasion to test it.

"The facial expressions and finger movements were not captured but keyframed. I used a midi controller plugged in as an animation control device.  That way I could map specific facial expressions or bone rotations to different midi faders and have a sort of "control box" for the whole character.

"I also used some skeleton-controled blend shapes to sort out deformations that would not behave properly with a basic skinning.  For instance, the walking girl skirt circles through three shapes depending on the angle between her legs.  The is one "base shape," then one morph target used when the left leg is extended forward, then one other when it's the right leg's turn.  That way I could make the skirt deform and fold in way that I couldn't achieve with basic skinning.  The morph is then linked to the bones rotation by an expression. (Click Here to see a 0.1M animated GIF of the woman walking in wireframe.)

A two-tone gradient was used as a shading map to replace the original shading with a duotone. (Demonstrated here with a Maya screenshot.)

"There is no specific post-process used.  The "all or nothing" black and white render was obtained though the use of shaders called "shading maps" that are present in both Alias and Maya.  The principle is that the renderer will perform a look-up in a pre-defined color ramp (gradient) depending on the total illumination received by the surface point being rendered.  If the ramp is a black to white ramp with no blending, then where illumination exceeds an arbitrary level, the color jumps from black to white.

"You have to work a lot on lighting, using mix of realistic and "fake" or linked lights.  The comics of Frank Miller, "Sin City," were a great source of inspiration and teaching in how to tune such specific lighting for a mix of realism and expression.

"This rendering method is very unforgiving for the models.  The surfaces have to be very smooth and continuous, otherwise you'll get black lines popping in and out and discontinuity points.  That's one of the reason that made me design the characters using nurbs.  The other one is that polygon tools on NURBS-based Alias Power Animator used to be real crap."

Downloads: (links same as above) Click to download Quicktime of Rendered BW Animation (1.1 Meg)Click Here to see a 0.1M animated GIF of the woman walking in wireframe.