COOL IMAGES: Moving Pictures

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Science  19 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5405, pp. 1079a
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5405.1079a

A somersaulting diver, cyclists swerving around an obstacle, a swishing basketball net: It's all fodder for computer animation experts at Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization, and Usability Center (GVU). Although some animators now take shortcuts like manipulating data recorded from human actors, even today, skilled experts in this field draw scenes frame by frame—a painstaking method used to make the movie A Bug's Life. GVU's Animation Lab has championed a third technique: They create computer models that “build on the physical principles” of moving things, says team leader Jessica Hodgins, such as the weight of a person's arm or the stiffness of a rope. Such animations might be used to create virtual environments for training emergency workers, for example; Hodgins's group has even debuted a few movies at international film festivals. Decide for yourself how closely the simulations approach reality at the group's site, which features flicks of everything from runners to a skirt rippling in the wind.

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