'Staff Playtime' 1985
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Born from the check ground, this little wind-up toy tottered about its checkerboard world for a full 3 minutes. A lousey storyline but the animation was enough to get it accepted for screening at Siggraph USA in 1986.
The model looks simple yet used most of the 750 polygons available within the system. In some views, the rendering algorithm couldn't handle the toy's stick neck when it penetrated its cylindrical body.
The solution? Cleave the body in half and render the rear part first then the other components. The 286 PC grunted along at 8.5 Mhz. I discovered that if I made some of the 'z' sorting decisions for the computer (the rendering alogrithmn worked from the rear-most polygons to the front) by chopping up my model and loading one part at a time, I could speed up rendering times enormously.
Using this method I could break the system's 750 polygon limit. Load in the rear-most part of a model or scene, render it, delete this geometry file from RAM but retain its image, (a 2D image of a 3D model is just as good as the model itself), then read in another bit and render over the top of the first. Being traditional animators, we were used to building up a complete scene cel layer by cel layer in this fashion.
Camera moves were fun as you would have to render each bit until complete before you animated the camera. You also had to change the order in which the parts were used once the camera moved too far behind a model. This technique allowed me to create a billard table with a full set of balls that you could zoom in to. 300 polygons for each shiny ball! Yeah!
'Staff Playtime' was my first attempt at 'character' animation in 3D. After seeing so much mechanical 3D animation and flying logos where the basic principles of the art, which had long been discovered and developed for over 50 years, had been completely ingnored, I set about creating something with a bit of personality.
A toy? Sure. Simple geometry for a simple system. Even John Lassiter used toys in his stories. 'Tin Toy' hit the screen in 1988 and 'Toy Story' followed in 1996. Why toys? You figure it out.