We live in an era of ubiquitous video, animation and advanced graphics. It’s hard to fathom the progress that has been made over the last 10 to 15 years, how much work is carried out by computers today, and what can be achieved by the authors of modern day cartoons, advertisements or amateur videos on countless YouTube channels. In the early 2000s, we saw animated films such as ‘Toy Story’, ‘Shrek’ and other big Disney or Dreamworks movie studio productions. Back then, anyone trying to create animation at home faced a huge challenge, but the tools available from companies like AMD have been key to facilitating the animation revolution.
In 2003, when the first 64-bit consumer processor – Athlon 64 – was launched, AMD held an animation competition to illustrate the new levels of quality and capabilities this brand new technology offered. Daniel Zdunczyk, from Poland was the competition winner with a project entitled “May 1”. His animation took the jury by storm and won him the latest (at the time) AMD-based computer and a $6,400 prize.
This was just the beginning of an ongoing cooperation between AMD and this excellent artist. Interestingly, he used the prize money in the best way possible. By combining his creativity with entrepreneurship, Daniel developed the Virtual Magic studio, which has since become a regional Polish leader in video animation. Over the years, the company has completed a number of innovative projects, such as ‘Kajko and Kokosz™’ video (a Slavic equivalent of the Asterix and Obelix™ adventures), 3D movies such as ‘History of Cieszyn™’, and 5D movies such as ‘Asylum ™’ and ‘Mysterious Underworld™’. In addition, Virtual Magic Studio has also produced animations for entertainment venues, including Prehistoric Oceanarium, allowing visitors to view million-year-old animals on a screen as if watching through a window. Throughout the years, AMD has supported these efforts by providing access to the latest multi-core processor technologies and graphics accelerators.
Excitingly, the most ambitious project was yet to come – an animated children’s feature film that combined hyper-realistic 3D set design with traditional 2D cel animation. These were a few of the creative techniques that Daniel used to film his latest enterprise, ‘Golden Drops™’.
“This style is consistent with the global trend of returning to hand drawn characters combined with modern 3D animation,” explained Daniel Zdunczyk, director and animation supervisor at Virtual Magic Studio. “This unique combination has an extremely innovative effect but with the spirit of the old-time hits, such as ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Space Jam’. While this process placed much higher demands on hardware, we were fortunate in having AMD support and technologies. The only limits we had came from our own imagination.”
Over the four year development taken to create the movie, Virtual Magic used a variety of animation tools: 3DSMAX® for 3D objects; Real Flow® for simulating water; Toon Boom® for 2D characters; and Adobe After Effects® for post-processing. At each stage of the creation process, the studio used AMD hardware, including multi-core AMD Opteron™ processors and the latest AMD FirePro™ professional graphics cards to render the most compute-intensive forest landscape scenes in real time.
Animating, tracing and coloring the characters was also much faster thanks to multi-threaded processing for the 16-bit high resolution bitmaps conversion process. The complexity of the project was particularly evident when merging animations that resulted from two distinct techniques. Countless layers and components added up to terabytes of uncompressed data essential to the creation of crystal clear images. The accelerated process enable by AMD FirePro graphics allowed massive amounts of data to be efficiently processed and artists to see changes almost immediately.
“It’s amazing to see the results of this cooperation between AMD and Virtual Magic, especially since we know where these ambitious developers started from, and what ideas and needs they had from the beginning to the present day,” said David Watters, director of ISV product relationships, AMD. “AMD’s commitment, simply put, is to support creative artists, so that they can give free reign to their imagination without concerns about their hardware keeping up, so that they can create incredible and beautiful visions.”
Virtual Magic has completed this ambitious ‘Golden Drops’ project with the help of a former Hanna-Barbera® employee, Artur Maka. The uniqueness of the film comes not only in mixing 2D and 3D techniques, but also by being an enjoyable family romp featuring fast-paced action and positive emotions. The film has just started being shown at festivals but it has already won the ANIMATION FEATURE FILM – JURY category at the Dada Aaheb Phalke Film Festival in India and the BEST ANIMATION category at the New Media Film Festival in the U.S. The film is scheduled to be shown in selected cinemas this fall to continue to delight children and parents of all ages based on the innovative technologies from AMD.