- Posted by info 31 May
How the Simpsons Made an Animation Go Live
Never in the history of animation had there been a live broadcast, but yet again iconic show the Simpsons broke new ground with a live segment in their episode “Simprovised” on the 15th of May 2016.
The comedy show has always kept up with the times, switching from their original cel animation style to digital ink and paint animation in 2004, and now using early access to the latest Adobe technology to animate their characters live on air.
Nearly twenty years ago, the Simpsons joked about live animation in “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”, when Homer became a character in the Itchy & Scratchy Show. Homer asks about acting live for a cartoon, to which the reply is “Very few cartoons are broadcast live. It’s a terrible strain on the animators’ wrists”. Yet here they are, animating live on air.
The live segment showed Homer Simpson, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, sitting in a sparse office as he took questions live from the audience. Other fan favourites also made an appearance, such as Lisa Simpson, Mr. Burns and even Bender from Futurama, another show by the Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening.
After watching the segment, audiences were left wondering how the show’s producers pulled it off, and the answer was relatively simple. The team used Adobe Character Animator, which is a part of Adobe After Effects, to create the three-minute long segment. Homer’s mouth movements were done through realistic lip-synch and keyboard-triggered animations, and the other characters featuring in the segment were all pre-animated.
Adobe Character Animator, which will be installed in the next version of After Effects, will allow animators to bring still images from programmes like Illustrator or Photoshop to life. The software will capture an actor’s performance through a camera, synchronizing the mouth movements to the actor’s speech, and then the animators can control all of the aspects of the character’s movement with the mouse and keyboard.
Cinema Blend believes that this software could represent the future of animation, and that the technology that lies at the core of Adobe’s Character Animator software could change the way in which animation is brought to audiences. Audiences were amazed by the segment, so it’s not difficult to imagine other shows trying the programme out in the future.
The technology is, however, limited- there were only a certain number of lip movements and motions that Homer could make, said executive producer, Al Jean, and if the segment ran for more than three minutes, it would begin to feel repetitive. This technology will certainly advance over the coming years, and animators will likely soon be able to animate whole episodes using features like Adobe’s Character Animator.
Only time will tell whether live animation will become the norm, or if it is simply a passing fad, but a great response to the Simpsons’ segment certainly indicates good things for the future of Adobe’s technology, and for live animation itself.
Watch the Simpsons Live Segment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM9o6dKpWB0
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