We’ve hosted a number of discussions on Cartoon Brew about how animating for virtual reality projects is different than animating for traditional linear viewing experiences — for example, here and here — but what we haven’t discussed is how virtual reality tools have the potential to actually change the traditional animation process.

The most exciting example of the forthcoming possibilities can be seen in PoseVR, a new in-house tool developed by Walt Disney Animation Studios that allows an animator to work with a posable rig in vr, which in some ways has parallels to how stop-motion animators manipulate objects in 3d space.

PoseVR was developed last year as part of a studio internship project and was subsequently used in the prouduction of the studio’s first vr project, Cycles. The video below, featuring Cycles tech lead Jose Gomez, and animators Wayne Unten and Alberto Abril, offers a good explanation of what PoseVR does:

The studio further adds:

Removing inefficiency and distractions to allow artists to focus on their craft is one of our core tenets that drives innovation. PoseVR is an experimental project established to demonstrate the potential of vr as a tool to pose and animate cg characters. A multidisciplinary team composed of engineers and animators developed and tested PoseVR to invent a functioning, posable rig in vr and to test assumptions on design and workflow. This informed us how to expand our current workflows while also showing the benefits and potential of vr for our future animation toolsets.

Cycles director Jeff Gipson has said in interviews that PoseVR was used to block out the animation in his short, and then that animation was further refined in Maya.

There are other tools already out there that allow animators to create in vr – Tvori is one of the most evolved tools — but Disney’s PoseVR seems a few steps ahead on the animation side because it was developed specifically for the needs of animators, with the direct input of Disney animators.

Both PoseVR and Tvori are still first-generation tools, but it’s quite clear that vr holds real possibilities for evolving the workflow of cg animation. It’s an area worth further investigation.

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