By: Claudio Kienzle

The top-rated PBS children's series "JayJay the Jet Plane" brings pre-schoolers into the light-hearted, animated world of Jay Jay and his friends - endearing, personable airplanes that share adventures, friendship and song. But "Jay Jay the Jat Plane" is not an ordinary cartoon. It's unique because these characters perform and interact with all the energy and spontaneity of a live show.

Produced at Modern Cartoons in Los Angeles, "Jay Jay the Jet Plane" uses a proprietary "Ensemble style" animation platform based upon magnetic and optical motion capture systems that track the body, hands, and facial movements of up to seven actors simultaneously, each of whom brings a different airplane character to life. Rather than drawing the animation frame by frame, these characters act naturally and express facial emotions the way their actor counterparts do, in real-time.

Shot live-to-tape on Modern Cartoons' soundstage, the motion capture performances that animate JayJay and the other airplanes are blocked rehearsed, and directed like any live TV show. When the cameras roll, the director watches the 3D animated scenes unfolding in real-time, and directs live switching between camera views to produce a half hour episode comprised of 12.5-minute stories.

A Rush to Creativity

While the real-time production style moves at a fast pace, the show's aggressive schedule is truly accelerated by powerful Windows based desktop systems from Discreet, including two edit non-linear editing systems, a seat of combustion for paint and visual effects, and 3ds max systems for 3D animation.