Animator

Once the character or creature has been designed, the animator is the one to bring it to life. While similar to the animator described in Chapter 7, a CGI animator does things slightly differently.

The CGI animator is responsible for every movement. Once the character has been imported into the computer, the animator starts the process by using what's called a wire frame of the creature. This is a rough approximation of how the final creature will look, with all the grid lines mapped out. The wire frame allows the animator to see how everything attaches together.

This becomes very important because unlike traditional animation, in CGI when you move one part of the body, the computer automatically moves other parts. Now it's up to the animator to make sure they're all moving correctly.

For a known creature, say a lion or elephant, as in Jumanji, the animator observes the animal as much as possible, either through films or field trips to the zoo or, in some cases, having the animal brought to the studio. When the creature is an alien life form, such as Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars episodes I and II, then it's up to the animators and director to figure out how it would move.

With all that established, the animators start to work. They create key frames and then allow the computer to fill in the rest. This process isn't as easy as it sounds, though. Since the demands are for computer-generated creations to look more and more lifelike, the animators must carefully detail every little bit of movement, creating separate key frames for different body parts, since they don't all move at the same speed or at the same time.

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