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HEARD ON THE BEAT

Whistling a New Toon: This ain't your father's animation.

March 31, 1997|KAREN KAPLAN

That was the message of last week's World Animation Celebration in Pasadena, a multipurpose festival for professionals, novices and fans. Advances in technology have produced a renaissance in animation, boosting quality while making the tools easier and cheaper to use. As a result, more than 10,000 animators of all stripes attended the weeklong festival, which featured screenings, competitions, tutorials and workshops.

"There's an incredible amount of interest in animation again," said Jay Roth, president and chief executive of Electric Image, a decade-old Pasadena firm that makes software tools for animators. "Technology has made animation a reasonable thing to attempt compared to before. You can do this from home."

Indeed, the festival's New Animation Technology Exposition drew hundreds of "animageeks," all eager to check out the latest developments. One of the more cutting edge demonstrations was offered by Tom Tolles, a co-founder of House of Moves, a motion capture studio in Venice.

At House of Moves, actors are outfitted with about 30 "markers," then filmed in all directions by seven cameras. A computer program records the way the markers move, then uses that data to draw a skeleton whose motion is truly lifelike. The company's motion capture work is currently featured in a Nike commercial that depicts a teenager playing a game of virtual tennis with a computer simulation of Andre Agassi.

Among the most ardent animation supporters at the festival was Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone.

"We may well be on the brink of a second golden age in animation," Redstone said in a keynote address Friday evening. "We want to create a generation of animators who will rise to the challenge."

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