Milton workshop: animated model
From simple blueprints, Randy Levere created a life-like animated model of the dream workshop.
"Cut! That's a wrap." Those were the words I'd waited to hear since my days working as a student animator for civil engineering projects, and I finally heard them from This Old House director Russ Morash, shooting an episode for the Milton project. Memories of narrowly-avoided speeding tickets on the way to Milton and late-night hours waiting for the computers to complete the animation faded as the camera rolled, the questions flew at me, and I answered. I guess I'll take it as a good sign that we finished our scene in only one take. This Old House's 1995 Napa Valley project had piqued my interest in virtual reality technology. With a budget of approximately $35,000, "virtual space designer" David Munson from the giant architecture firm HOK walked viewers through a kitchen that did not yet exist. At that point I knew that my business plan of providing much the same service at a drastically reduced cost needed an audience. TOH producer Bruce Irving's positive response to our demo confirmed my impression that there is a niche for such services. Once we agreed to lend a hand on the Milton project, we started working from a few sketches of the dream workshop. A simple floorplan on graph paper came buzzing through the fax machine accompanied by an enviable list of power tools. The process was set in motion. The process of creating a virtual world is similar to real-world model making. Using an array of 2D and 3D software tools, we create 3D geometry, applying colors and materials such as brick, wood, even grass, developing lighting conditions for the model and then animating appropriate elements. The final product is a series of still images stitched together to create an animated movie. The computer generates each individual frame of the animation. In this case, the virtual dream workshop tour, lasting about two minutes, contained close to 3000 frames. Creating the final rendered animation took us 18 hours. Once the movie was complete, we transferred it to a high-powered laptop capable of multimedia playback. It was a perfect setup: we simply popped it open on site, let it run, and everyone could see the look and feel of the proposed workshop. The folks at This Old House found the service helpful in their design process; upon seeing the animated space, they decided to replace a window with a pair of French doors. That's just the kind of service I hoped to provide. With our segment complete, the next occasion for us to meet with the This Old House crew would be to celebrate at the wrap party. As nice as the workshop had turned out, we brought sleeping bags in hopes of camping out in the media room. Unfortunately, it was standing room only.
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