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Television Media Entertainment

A Photorealistic CGI TV Series Coming Real Soon Now 259

ziggy_zero writes "SoulPix has revealed their project named "SoulFire", a photorealistic computer-generated TV series created entirely with 3ds max. Here's a trailer (it's in German). Looks pretty cool, better than those CGI cartoons I've seen - although definitely not even Final Fantasy quality. Note - apparently the DivX version was encoded using a weird codec that doesn't work on all players, so you might be better off getting the Quicktime version."
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A Photorealistic CGI TV Series Coming Real Soon Now

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  • photorealism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MJArrison ( 154721 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:47PM (#5532997) Homepage
    I just watched the trailer (thank god for slashdot articles "from the future") and noticed that not a single one of the charcters blinked in the entire preview. Whether it's blinking, or speed of limb movement, or A/V sync, minute body motions are going to continue to seperate live action from CGI for a few more years to come. Photorealism exists only in still frames for the time being.
    • Re:photorealism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by indiigo ( 121714 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:58PM (#5533086) Homepage
      Except for still shots. Watch closely in mags in the next year. Cover shots? Ads? No little sidebar saying so-and so is wearing Gap--no sir-- that is a CG complete rendered at 1/2 (and soon to be 1/10) the cost. And you won't know.

      Models revolting, although a model hunger strike wouldn't be very fruitful.
      • Re:photorealism (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Prof.Phreak ( 584152 )
        ...CG complete rendered at 1/2 (and soon to be 1/10) the cost...

        Hmm... If not using a top model for your shots, it will be a long while before a 30 minute photographing session (with some Photoshop touchups later) will be more expensive than months of meticulous work in creating these 3D models.

        Using life human actors is still, for the most part, a lot cheaper than CG.
        • ...CG complete rendered at 1/2 (and soon to be 1/10) the cost...

          Hmm... If not using a top model for your shots, it will be a long while before a 30 minute photographing session (with some Photoshop touchups later) will be more expensive than months of meticulous work in creating these 3D models.

          Using life human actors is still, for the most part, a lot cheaper than CG.

          Except CG Actors do not get fussy, can change their expressions perfectly, can defy gravity at will, can defy anatomical limitations at
    • Re:photorealism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by visgoth ( 613861 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:02PM (#5533109)
      The problem with attempting photorealistic humans is that the closer to "real" you get, the lower the tolerances for what is acceptable are. A creature that is only 50% human looking will be far more "real" looking than a 99.9% accurate looking human. Why? Because each and every human is hardwired to know exactly what a person looks like and moves like. It'll take some time until we get to the point where flesh and blood actors are out of a job.

      That being said, cgi is great for things like Gollum, dinosaurs and other such stuff. It's also great for stunt doubles, where some things are just too damn dangerous to pull off with a real live human.

    • Ok done, ./'ed already.

      You can quit accessing the poor shmucks server now.

      - KBasara

      Don't complain of my spelling, i don't even care.
    • Re:photorealism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:03PM (#5533118) Journal
      I remember reading somewhere that there is a chasm when the models gets too near "realistic." Like from no resemblance to real world (cartoon networks' toonami robot) to "100% human-like" models, the "realism" would scale linearly until you get to about 95%, which the realism just falls because the models simply "don't look right," or something. of course, eventually it would be possible to climb back the chasm to reach 100%, but I suppose that's really hard. =)

      I read this in wired a while back, I believe; and no blinking is not a fault of the CG tech, but rather that of the guys doing this stuff - in better CG things (final fantasy for one - heck even in games they put in blinking characters now), they put in the details.

      Btw, FF (movie) seemed weird and creepy but you CAN'T explain what's no "not real" about it - a good example of the "chasm."

      And for another example - for anybody who seen the promotional video of Final Fantasy X-2 where there is a comparative track between the real singer doing her song and dance number, and cutting to the CG (Yuna) doing the same, you can see how strangely unreal the CG version is - though looking at CG version alone does not necessarily give you the idea.
      • The most obvious thing was the lack of radiosity rendering, which is of course encredibly expensive.

        But if you know how 3d rendering works it's easy to see whats missing, and what was done wrong.
      • You're referring to the Uncanny Valley []. Really interesting idea.
      • Re:photorealism (Score:5, Informative)

        by Thorgal ( 3103 ) <thorgal.amiga@com@pl> on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:58PM (#5533478) Homepage
        Well, it lacked subsurface scattering, which is pretty important thing when rendering stuff like human skin. Check it here [].
        • by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:28PM (#5533613) Journal
          I don't know what you refered to by "it," but:

          I don't think the lack of realism really came from the redering technologies, but rather the modelling technologies.

          Take the comparison between the real-actress and the CGI (Final Fantasy X-2 promotional video) for example, the lighting and such are all perfectly fine; but you can notice how "rigid" and un-natural the CG character's body moves.

          I think, personally, that during movement, any fancy rendering effects are lost, but the actual movement themselves are the critical "realism" that needs to be addressed.

          For one, human limbs move on a
          1) feed-back system, which would be hard to simulate its complexities simply by dragging the block that says "arm" from here to there,
          2) the feed-back is also has a lot to do with balance, another thing difficult to simulate properly, with such a complex system as the human body.

          Interesting enough, Final Fantasy (the movie) is completely shot with the little humans too; I think it has to do with the fact that we cannot track the positions of the dots perfectly, though.

          It should be possible eventually to do a GPS-esq system where the room has "location transponders" and each "dot" on the actor/actress's body would calculate it's location and send it out wirelessly to a computer somewhere nearby. I think after that, we can see some very good reproduction of human motions.

          just my arm-chair thoughts after watching CG generated stuff for a long time.
          • I disagree that motion is the problem, it's still lighting. The problem is that motion becomes more subtle when your lighting is right, a tiny move which is barely detectable without antialiasing (for example, it's not like the movie had unantialiased scenes) will be nigh-invisible with antialiasing. Likewise, radiosity, or subsurface scattering as it is called which is still just something to do with light.

            If you put lights at the joint locations on a black suit, and put someone in the suit in a dark roo

      • I think part of the reason is that everybody knew it was rendered. When you're looking for a particular pattern you can spot things much more easily. I think Square should have announced that they were making a regular movie and see how long it took the general public (not just the graphics weenies) to catch on to the fact that the people were rendered as well. The general public is accustomed to seeing CG special effects these days, but the having the people be rendered would have been quite a shock.
      • FF did better with "less than perfect" people (like the old guy and the judges/senators/whatever) and their splotchy skin because it looked a lot more natural than the younger characters and their impossibly smooth skin. A few shots of the old guy really jumped out at me because suddenly it looked *perfect*.
    • I just watched the trailer (thank god for slashdot articles "from the future") and noticed that not a single one of the characters blinked in the entire preview. Whether it's blinking, or speed of limb movement, or A/V sync, minute body motions are going to continue to separate live action from CGI for a few more years to come. Photorealism exists only in still frames for the time being.

      Hmm... "Photorealistic TV series"... now what shows do I remember that fits that bill...

      REBOOT "Daemon Rising" []
  • reboot (Score:3, Funny)

    by LinuxCumShot ( 582742 ) <{moc.neibar} {ta} {scl}> on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:47PM (#5532998) Homepage Journal
    i hope its better than reboot
    • Re:reboot (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RatBastard ( 949 )
      Reboot was a very good show. The animation was pretty close to the cutting edge when it was produced and the writing was very well done. It was a very good children's show.
  • Well, the only CGI shows I can think of that I remember seeing recently were Beast Wars and the cartoon version of Starship Troopers. I'm not sure if either of them qualify for any ammount of quality compared to this. Beast Wars was a decent show; I wasn't a big fan of the Starship Troopers one though.
  • What's the point... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:49PM (#5533014)
    ...not to troll or anything, but what makes cartoons and simular endevors neat is that they don't look real. There's a lot to be said for stylized animation. On the other hand when these techniques are used to make shots posible that otherwise wouldn't be (like about half of Episode II) then I appreciate it.
    • I don't know but in every movie I have ever seen that has used CG it looks a little fishy. Things like Spider-man, which is said to have great CG graphics I found rather mediocore when it comes to the look of it.

      I attribute it to the physics. I could be totally wrong, but I think that the world of artist and more importantly, the world of animator is not governed by earthly physics. I think the computer is not set properly to account for the subtleties of the world and the further subtleties of the human e
  • by snitty ( 308387 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:49PM (#5533016) Homepage
    One thing that, as far as I know, hasn't been tried yet is a photorealistic CGI Drama, as in a a serious film with a good point that is CGI. I would be interesting to see if it were a good movie if it were scoffed off becasue it was CG.
  • "Note - apparently the DivX version was encoded using a weird codec that doesn't work on all players, so you might be better off getting the Quicktime version."

    To me this seems to be the biggest problem in adopting these new compression techiques for audio/video(ogg vorbis/ DivX etc.)
    • Note - apparently the DivX version was encoded using a weird codec...

      there's nothing weird about, 5.02 or lower has trouble playing files encoded with 5.03 so you need to upgrade if you don't have it. or use quicktime
      • there's nothing weird about, 5.02 or lower has trouble playing files encoded with 5.03 so you need to upgrade if you don't have it.

        No, there is something wierd about that, as long as the major version number is the same, it should be playable. If 5.03 cannot play on a 5.02 player, then it should have been called DivX 6.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:52PM (#5533035)
    I'm sorry, but this TV series is not anime. As a member of the geek community, I believe we should stand up and say "NO!" to the non-Japanese people who wish to animate stuff.

    --M. Oshii

  • The details (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spytap ( 143526 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:52PM (#5533039)
    ...are the reason CGI from Pixar, although less than photorealistic (and with a definite cartoony primary-colored look) can feel more photorealistic than projects where a company tries to fool the eye using computers.
  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:55PM (#5533053) Homepage Journal
    ...the actor's guild on strike against beings that do not exist.
    That will be a triumph of surreal/dada-ism.
  • Wow! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by msaulters ( 130992 )
    Final Fantasy, the TV series.
  • Uh-oh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by yozzle ( 628834 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:58PM (#5533076)
    Soon we'll have to deal with a computer generated version of Friends.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:59PM (#5533090) Journal
    although definitely not even Final Fantasy quality

    Many fans' primary beef with the FF movie was the thin plot, not the lack of impressive CGI. For a movie, a lot of effort can be invested in minute details etc to render with realism.
    For a TV series, I would expect less quality simply because there is less time to rollout, and continuous rollouts as opposed to one big event.
    • Odd, I'd assume that serieses would be done much better than a movie as far as nuances go. Being in a series, you'd get more feedback about what works, what doesn't... You'd also have the experience of learning some 'tricks' for certain characters/situations.

      It wouldn't be immediate, but the Simpsons started out looking terrible. Even South Park has had noticable improvement over time.
      • Indeed. And as opposed to the simpsons (or at least a greater expected), there's also a strong correlation between CGI and technology. So as technology for digital imagery and 3d, etc becomes more advanced, we can probably expect much more realistic artistry as the capacity of digital storage increases (I'll bet it takes huge space to store all the meshes, textures, keyframes, etc) - as well as of course the graphic equipment.
    • Thin plot? No, it was a Japanese writer and a Japanese director trying to get an eastern concept across to a western audience. It takes several viewings to get the "plot" of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, but it's there and very deep. The majority of the people watching it just didn't get it.
      • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:52PM (#5534296)
        Definitely true. I was waiting for someone to say it.

        My girlfriend is not a sci-fi geek, doesn't play videogames, isn't interested in fantasy at all. She was easily able to grasp the FF plot, and thought it was really quite good. The critics might not have gotten the plot, but if you tried to put it in a Japanese context, it made a lot of sense. Gaia, life force, spirits - not Western concepts, but if you know of them, the story made lots of sense.

        I own the DVD, and it is one of our favorites. I don't regret the buy at all.

        • I don't know ... I "got" the plot (though it seemed a bit hokey to my Western-trained mind), that wasn't my issue with the movie.

          My problem was the formulaic and completely uninteresting script. Within moments of each new scene, it was easy to guess what would happen in the next five minutes. There were times in the movie when I could predict the dialogue right down to the timing. The lines (and actor's delivery) of the trecherous general were especially pathetic; he was like an amalgam of every bad mov
        • Gaia, life force and spirits are not Western concepts? Like how? What about writing down the Chinese characters for each one and testing it out for us to see?
  • Mirrors yet? (Score:2, Informative)

    by nstrom ( 152310 )
    Connecting to failed: Connection timed out.

    These people put their hundreds of megs of downloads on one single HTTP server, and expect it not to crash and burn? Did anyone get a copy of this to mirror yet?
  • by thadeusPawlickiROX ( 656505 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:05PM (#5533132)
    Don't get me wrong, the visuals are nice and all. But the motion seemed really forced and awkward. I don't mean to put the show down, but realism is more then a pretty picture; details that are left out seem blatently obvious. Lack of skin texture gives it a nonrealistic feel, the sense that the mouths and words didn't match up well, and the way that the characters moved seemed very strange, almost like they were staggering around (especially in the concluding shot of the trailor). I think that the animation definately is good, and could be really successful in creating a good show. It's unfonate that a few things could detract from well done CGI images, but that seems to separate the average CGI animation from the extremely realistic.
  • What a strange IP.

    It's also quite slashdotted.
  • by sheetsda ( 230887 ) <> on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:09PM (#5533155)
    Why are we shooting for photorealistic CG TV shows? I can understand the use of CG technology for putting characters in dangerous situations where actors can't be used, or creating shots that would be difficult or impossible to attain through other means. But why have total shows created of it, are actors *that* much more expensive than the combined cost of the brilliant artists and voice actors? Sure its a cool use of technology, but why is this going onto TV rather than staying on a geek's drawing board somewhere? As someone else already pointed out, they haven't got it quite right yet, with lack of blinking and other minute movements. What's the motivation behind this type of project, aside from the "cool hack" factor?
    • But why have total shows created of it, are actors *that* much more expensive than the combined cost of the brilliant artists and voice actors?

      It's not just the actors. Don't forget the props, film equiptment (and that stuff is very expensive), transport, and a whole other collection of little things that you don't have to muck around with in CGI.
      Chances are, the may already have the abilities to do CGI anyway (for SFX). So they might not be spending a lot of money on somehting new, just an expanding wha

    • Every single story about some dude porting Linux to his remote control, or jamming an atx motherboard into a PSOne case, or creating a working rocket out of a LEGO Mindstorm set gets all these asshole responses questioning why someone would do something like that, and it's getting pretty annoying. Those people mentioned above do it because they can... because no one has ever done it before and they want to see if it can be done.

      You say this shouldn't have left some geek's drawing board but I doubt the draw
    • Basically, no limitations. With CG you can set up the shot you want, the setting you want, the people you want, without any need for those things to actually exist.

      I agree, it shouldn't be done just because it's cool. For example, I think Shrek was far more impressive than FF because it worked as a film in it's own right -- the technology was secondary to the story.

  • by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:10PM (#5533162) Homepage
    Like Invader Zim, South Park, and Futurama, where they use 3D effects for effect, not as a central element of the show.
  • DivX 5.03 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Longinus ( 601448 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:11PM (#5533169) Homepage
    "Note - apparently the DivX version was encoded using a weird codec that doesn't work on all players..."

    Accordingly mplayer the trailer was encoded with DivX 5.03, so if it doesn't work for anyone, they probably just need to upgrade DivX to the latest version.

  • Cost Effective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm wondering if animated shows like these can attract enough viewers to become viable to produce. I know many recent CGI movies and televison shows have disappeared because their expenditures were higher than their revenues. Lets hope the same doesn't happen to "SoulFire" that befowled "Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within", "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genious", and "Star Wars: Episode II".
  • by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:15PM (#5533203)
    Several thousand slashdotters downloading a 60 meg video file, I wonder how long their server will exist as matter in the solid state.

    Also, they'd better start working on their lip-syncing, it's quite horrible.

  • by cyber_rigger ( 527103 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:20PM (#5533241) Homepage Journal

    It's probably just me but I like the low tech cartoons.
    They seem to have more character.

    I like the hand drawn style of Betty Boop, the claymation style like Wallace and Gromit, paper cutouts (or Sgi computer simulations of) like South Park, and the puppet animations like the works of George Pal. []
  • Final Fantasy wasn't photorealistic. This isn't as good as Final Fantasy. That means this isn't photorealistic.
  • BitTorrent Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by nstrom ( 152310 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:24PM (#5533271)
    I managed to get the file, so here's a mirror using BitTorrent []. If you don't know what BitTorrent is, first go to the BT site [] and download and install the client (Windows/OSX/Unix versions available).

    Please keep your BT window open for as long as possible (at least an hour or two) after your transfer completes. Thanks!

    BT link for DivX (35MB file): .torrent []
    • Re:BitTorrent Mirror (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joe_bruin ( 266648 )
      awesome. i've been looking for a good reason to try bit-torrent, and it looks like this is it. thanks for setting it up (currently at 57 kbps and rising). perhaps slashdot integration (as a slashdot effect solution) would be a good idea.
      • agreed. Based on your post (which means that it could almost be a reverse-slashdot effect), I tried it. May have taken a little longer than normal, but very cool. Uploading at 11 now.
  • I much prefer the mod_perl and ASP ones.
  • Be gentle... (Score:5, Informative)

    by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @08:26PM (#5533283)
  • CGI TV? (Score:2, Funny)

    by FsG ( 648587 )
    I knew Perl/CGI could do anything.
  • An earmark of good animation is that it has an illusion of reality to it. This is why Pixar Studios' product, although more "cartoony", is very convincing. There are all sorts of little details included. After watching the trailer (I believe that someone else mentioned this as well), I noticed that not one of the characters blinked. There's also an overall feeling of "not quite right, somehow." Air, human skin, and various other surfaces, all bend light in distinctive ways. CGI figures, no matter how wel
  • Sweet idea! (Score:2, Informative)

    by ( 591224 )
    Tonight on "SoulFire", a malformed HTTP request header sends our lovely Daemonettes into a (kernel) panic! Is it a malicous attack by the raging Mozilla monsters? We thought they were destroyed before, but they have risen again like a Phoenix from the ashes. It couldn't be the insidious Internet Exterminators with their sneaky sidekick Eula (since everyone knows I.E. crashes before doing anything useful). Go on Safari with The Mod_Perl Squad as they save the day again - Konquerors of the Common Gateway
  • As long as nothing moves. As soon as the characters start moving, I start suffering from massive cognitive dissonance, and I'm left with a feeling of "gee, that's too bad" for the creators. I guess realistic motion is too hard? I noticed the same thing in the Final Fantasy movie.
  • CG? CGI? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vex24 ( 126288 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:33PM (#5533628) Homepage
    I know what CG means (Computer Graphics)... but what does CGI mean in this context?
    • Re:CG? CGI? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      CGI = Computer Generated Imagery
  • As someone who does this sort of stuff for a living, I doubt that the animation will toe the mark. The more realistic the characters, the more realistic they'll have to move. Mocap can only go so far, and it won't nail down the facial animation.

    Final Fantasy blew through a couple of hundred million and the characters still looked stiff. A budget for a series is a small fraction of that. These ultra-real feature quality characters animated on a TV budget and deadlines simply will not work.

    I would LOVE
  • shouldn't the production costs go down? I don't know if SoulFire is using all "in house" production or having other people do it for them, but I would think that once you've got the whole things set up, it should get cheaper to make afterwards.
  • Having watched this trailer, it's still far from what Blizzard North did with the WarCraft III movies.

    The Soul Fire characters aren't nearly polished enough. Stiff limbs, odd walk, no blinking...

    Nay, my breath is held for if (when?) Blizzard North makes a full-motion picture.

    -- Tino Didriksen /
  • by Michael Snoswell ( 3461 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:09PM (#5533786) Journal
    Just discussing this at work yesterday and we all agreed the stunning realism of Feathers McGraw just as he walked into the house for the first time and looked at Grommit was a pivotal moment. How they make a lump of plasticine (clay) act so lifelike is a true art. There's a lot to do with the timing, camera angle, script, etc etc that's missing from things like FF (movie, cutscenes etc).
  • Quick and Easy CG (Score:2, Informative)

    by lucasw ( 303536 )
    The marks of lower-budget CG:

    Few characters or computationally intensive objects on screen at any time.

    Short range of vision, caused by weather effects, darkness, or short twisty hallways.

    Lack of or extremely simplistic collisions: Characters shoot each other rather than getting into a wrestling match.

    Characters lack emotion: no complex facial skin folding and animation required, just basic lip movements for near-deadpan speech.

    Simple physics: exploding objects are obscured by the fireball rather

  • I mean, it seems like such a pointless endeavor. Why not just use live actors? If you're going to make an animation, make an animation. Art trying to imitate reality is a pointless and silly thing.
    • The best example I can think of showing the uses of photorealistic animation is Lord Of The Rings. In The Two Towers most of the background fighting by the armies were all CG "actors." Imagine the cost of hiring extras, training them, costuming them, then shooting the scenes. Another use is the elimination of "all Aliens have different noses, ears, and head ridges" that all of the Star Trek series seems to suffer from. Gollum from LOTL is a good example of this. A live actor provided the voice and basi

  • by The Bringer ( 653232 ) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:01PM (#5534052)
    ... Duke Nukem Forever has been redesigned as a 'photorealistic CGI' TV Series and will be hitting local channels in the near future*

    *time subject to change
  • Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by MudDude ( 212365 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @04:17AM (#5535186) Homepage
    Seeing as Babelfish is kinda impossible to use on this one, I thought I'd post a translation for those who are not fluent in German.

    Every story has a beginning,
    But this seems to be the last page.
    It is a kind of ... prophecy
    Here it says: be without fear,
    be fearless and open.
    For someone will come to change everything
    Either for the good or for the bad I dare not say,
    for it is up to you to decide
    You will recognise the carrier of fire.

    Hmm, sounds a bit like Wheel of Time to me. (and possibly a hundred other books)

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM