Ever fancied becoming a cartoon character?
New animation software can turn digital videos into smoothly animated cartoons. Computer scientist Michael Cohen, of Microsoft research in Redmond, Washington, honed the prototype on a video of his daughter, Lena.
The software scans the film for prominent objects - such as Lena swinging on monkey bars - then turns that movement into a cartoon. "We're trying to look at the video as a whole," he says, rather than as a series of frames. This gives objects' edges continuity, making them smooth. It also allows complex movements to be translated into cartoon action.
The work was presented at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics meeting in Los Angeles last week.
Cohen's team are not the first to attempt this. Film director Richard Linklater converted his movie Waking Life, about a man trapped in a dream world, into a cartoon. In this case, software and artists picked out objects' edges a few frames at a time, then a computer filled in the missing movement. But as frames varied, so did the objects highlighted by the computer, giving characters wavy edges and making the movie jittery.
The new method gets round this problem by tracking 2-dimensional objects over time. It still requires a person to choose which of the objects identified by the software to animate. The ability to identify and manipulate these items opens up new artistic possibilities, says Cohen. "We are now working on some new tools to bend or move those objects," he says.
"At the moment it's not a consumer level product, more of a professional one," Cohen adds. The method should allow filmmakers to speed up the production process. Cohen's group is seeking to make the process faster and easier so that it can be used at home.