Cebit 2012: Hollywood-style 3D animations for everyone

3D movies like “Toy Story“ or “Transformers” are based on everyday objects that are able move like humans. The creation of such 3D characters is done by skilled artists in tedious manual work. Computer scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have developed two computer programs that can accomplish this in mere seconds and are easy to be handled even by amateur users. The researches present their unique software for the first time at F34 in Hall 26 at the Cebit from March 6th to 10th.

In the 3D movie „Toy Story“ „Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear“ makes us laugh and in „Transformers“ cars and trucks amaze the audience by turning into robots and then fight each other, agile like a sport boxer. Their spectacular movements on the screen are hand-crafted, taking a lot of time, regardless of the hardware involved.

After creating a static digital representation of the character, the ability to move is achieved by "rigging" of the character, i.e. a motion skeleton is manually define and is attach it to the individual components of the character.

Max Planck Institute researchers have developed two novel approaches that simplify these two important steps of the creation process and are the first. Thorsten Thormählen from the MPI for Informatics, head of the research group „Image-based Analysis of 3D Scenes“ explains: „It has never been easier to create and animate a custom 3D character“, having ambitious amateur movie makers and game developer in mind

Thormählen‘s software uses databases like Dosch Design, Turbosquid or Google Warehouse. Either free or for a small fee they offer data sets that define the shape of a character or an object. That way the users do not need to create their own 3D model, but cannot customize them either.

This is where the first of the two novel algorithms comes in. It splits the 3D models in the database cleverly into components and remembers how they were connected. The user then can choose two of the processed models that he wants to combine into a new and unique model. Thus for example an amateur designer can assemble their own ultimate robot for a video game. With a slider the designer can decide in real-time how much of component A or B to use, always able to view the resulting combination. To make sure that only fitting components can be exchanged, e.g. the arms of A with the arms of B, the program uses segmentation based on indentified symmetries. “This even works, if you want to create James Bond vehicle out of a motor boat and a plane”, Thormählen says.

Finally, the newly created model can be animated with another algorithm. All one needs is a defined movement sequence and a target skeleton to execute it. These are freely available on the internet, too, for example at the Mocap Database, maintained by the Carnegie Mellon University. The software developed by Thormählen‘s research group applies the movement and the skeleton to the 3D model. This is done by a clever algorithm, that is able to identify a similar skeleton including the appropriate joints in the target model. The movement will be then transferred to this skeleton that animates the model. This makes it possible that within seconds the clunky astronaut figure of Toy Story star „Buzz Lightyear“ moves on the screen like Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee.


See also:

A. Jain, T. Thormählen, T. Ritschel, H.-P. Seidel: „Exploring Shape Variations by 3D-Model Decomposition and Part-based Recombination“ Comput. Graph. Forum, Volume 31, Issue 2, Proceedings of Eurographics 2012 (accepted) Cagliari, Italy, 13-18 May 2012
G. Bharaj, T. Thormählen, H.P. Seidel, C. Theobalt: „Automatically Rigging Multi-component Characters“ Comput. Graph. Forum, Volume 31, Issue 2, Proceedings of Eurographics 2012 (accepted), Cagliari, Italy, 13-18 May 2012

For further information please contact:

Thorsten Thormählen

Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik


Phone: +49 681 9325 417


Gordon Bolduan


Exzellenzcluster „Multimodal Computing and Interaction"

Phone: +49 302-70741 / Cebit. 0511 89597046




newsarchive >>