Like a situation comedy, "JayJay" uses several cameras that shift the audience's point of view. "We're shooting 11 minutes of production animation a day said Douglas Rask, the show's producer. "It's a volume unheard of in animation."
Modern Cartoons falls short of the Holy Grail of animation :the simulation of human motion naturally. "JayJay" characters relie only on actors faces; their bodies are airplanes. But Mr. Walker thinks the show has achieved a breakthrough. "We've industrialized cartoon production with motion-capture." he said "I have been working toward this for 12 years."
The cable network owned by discovery communications and distributed to 70 million homes, has licensed 26 episodes for each of three years. The partners hope to turn a profit by selling foreign broadcast rights and merchandising. It's a path well trod by characters like Barney and Teletubbies, and "JayJay" has an advantage they lacked. Even before his first regular series, the character was well known to the preschool set.
In the last four years Mr. Michel has sold 250,000 "JayJay" videos that feature some of the same production techniques, mostly using direct-response advertising on two children's cable channels, Viacom's Nickelodeon and Time Warner's Cartoons Network. The learning Channel "is not a destination point for preschoolers" Mr. .Michel said "They have made a big commitment in giving us a time slot."
qualities animators strive for, said Joan Collins Carey, a visual effects producer who is assembling a documentary on computer animation.
"The direction Chris is going is leading the rest of the industry," she said "This is very good for studios who want to kick out content."
To orchestrate all the "JayJay" elements - seven character performers, two walk-on live-action characters, miniature sets and seven model airplanes - meant spending $1 million during the last year converting a missile plant in Oxnard Calif. into a studio. Proprietary software that synchronizes 35 Compaq Alpha NT computers does the job.
films such as the figures who dangled from ropes in "Titanic." Animated films like "Ants" from Dreamworls SKG get there three dimensional quality through the costly, time-consuming process of adding realistic lighting and backgrounds by computer.
Motion-capture makes animation more affordable by speeding production and lowering costs; it also improves production values by giving characters the humanistic
Computer animation is pushing into new territory on the wings of an unlikely fleet of cartoon airplanes - characters in a series for preschoolers that began Nov. 2nd on the Learning Channel on cable television.
Animators who create two-dimensional characters like those in the shows "SouthPark" and "Rugrats" routinely use computer graphics to replicate the hundreds of frames needed to make a character move. But the creators of the new show "JayJay the Jet Plane", are using a method called real-time performance animation in which the facial expressions of as many as seven actors are detected by sensors and fed into computers, giving expressive vitality to animated characters.
The so-called motion-capture technique has never been used for an entire 24 minute show, according to Bruce D. Johnson, a former Hanna -Barbera executive who started Porchlight Entertainment in Los Angeles to create children's programming. "JayJay" is a joint venture of Porchlight and Chris Walker's Modern Cartoons and the characters created by David Michel, a Dallas executive who hopes to convert the airplane stories he made up for his son into al licensing franchise.
Digital motion-capture technology has existed for a decade but it's use has been limited to a single virtual character for video or CD-ROM games and for effects in feature
|Breakthrough techniques at 'JayJay the Jet Plane'|
|By ANDREA ADELSON|
|Chris Walker, executive producer of 'JayJay the Jetplane', CEO of Modern Cartoons Ltd., has developed a camera system that flesh-and-blood actors wear to capture their facial expressions, which are then added to their cartoon counterparts.|
Future of Animation
|On a Wing and a Smile|
|Giving Cartoons Human Expression|
|The creators of "JayJay The Jetplane" have used a technique called motion capture to animate the characters and speed up the production process.|
|Step1 An Artist does a sketch for one of the characters|
|Step2 A wire-frame outline of the character is drawn on a computer|
|Step 3 Texture and shading are added to the wire-frame drawing.|
|Step 4 Using a camera, an actor films his expression, like a kiss.|
|Step 5 The expressions are added to the cartoons characters.|
|Step 6 Details are added to the face and planes to make them blend together.|