Natarajan explains 3D fundas at TASI session

The wait of nearly 60 days was finally over and compensated in gold by Jai Natarajan in his session on the Why’s of 3d computer graphics. In his now famous soft style, Jai explained why things are the way they are and the never-ending struggle to get exceptional images from our machines just got a little easier. It was a select audience and for those who thought it better than to attend –they sure missed an unforgettable opportunity. It was refreshing to see that in today’s date and time when most computer animators are proud of their under-achievements, there exists a set of fundamentally sound experts who are humble and play down their accomplishments for having worked as technical director at George Lucas’ ILM for movies like Flubber, the Perfect Storm, Star Wars -The Phantom Menace among a host of others Jai’s affair with high end CGI is quite enviable. His presentation was laced with classic humor and he made even the most difficult aspect easy to understand with the help of a well-designed presentation. Numerous flow charts and diagrams clearly explained the actual process of image creation, the calculations and actual number crunching that goes on behind the scenes. How does a computer process the huge data that animators carelessly throw at it? The importance of optimisation in the production pipeline and guidelines to effective and efficient production techniques were neatly outlined and then explained in detail. Jai maintains that while it is childs play to throw equipment at a problem, the real test lies in the ability of a team of artists to work within their means. Even the best in the world at ILM practice this philosophy and he then went on to explain how and more importantly why they did it. Why more machines, more RAM and faster processors were not the answer to better images and quicker turnaround times. He explained that artists who overlook the inner workings, calculations, equations and algorithms and are clueless about the fundamentals are invariably the ones who complain about equipment or the lack of it. These are the characters that try to create images, not with brains but with brawn. Throwing the kitchen sink at a problem may be simpler but not necessarily effective or as in most cases very intelligent. A BE from BITS Pilani followed by a Masters Degree from UCLA and a cinematographers course from the University of Marin, has given Jai enough of grounding to understand and overcome this temptation. At the same time he maintains that while it is not necessary to be a physicist or mathematician to create stunning images every bit of clarity goes a long way in reducing uncertainty, nasty surprises and more importantly stress at the workplace. He outlined the importance of testing and R&D before beginning a project and lamented that this aspect was clearly neglected by most studios. Artists today proudly rely more on their wit and cunning and ability to ‘swing it’ and less on systematic planning, testing and best practices resulting in a waste of expensive resources and time something that studio heads should definitely take note of. Fundamentally glorified typists is what he chooses to call 3d computer artists. For the serious player – Jai’s session was a real treat and even a so-called experienced jock like yours truly learnt a thing or two. A note for the future The next session is scheduled for February 11, 2006 at the Ramnarain Ruia College at 5:30 pm and will feature a behind the scenes look at the National Institute of Design Ahmedabad. Presented by the head of Animation at NID Sekhar Mukherjee, this session will showcase student work and a discussion on course curriculum, facilities at NID among other things. It is a must for students, animation enthusiasts and those wishing to enroll for a course and future in animation.