VR is up to 34% faster
New research shows VR is up to 34% faster, more satisfying for professional animation compared to normal user interface
Animation experienced arguably its first massive disruption when studios moved away from physical models and hand-drawn animation that dominated the majority of the 20th century to computers and CGI starting in the late 80s and 90s. Now that VR is finally achieving mass adoption through the increased popularity of consumer headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the recent Valve Index, are we on the verge of the second mass disruption in animation production?
Many people consider VR only as a consumer product, however industrial and professional applications are increasing by the week. As recent production of The Lion King and John Wick 3 have shown, VR increasingly has a place in revolutionizing filmmaking and animation. Now, researchers at the Polytechnical University of Torino (Politecnico di Torino) demonstrated consistent, statistically significant improvements in speed, accuracy, and ease of learning for 3D animation workflows in VR over traditional mouse-and-monitor inputs. This research demonstrates that VR is more than just a gimmick or experiment in emerging technology, but actually has the capability to spark the next major disturbance of 3D CGI pipelines while simultaneously speeding the whole process up.
The researchers tried a variety of tools including MARUI PlugIn and VR Blender, and found across-the-board increases for both amateurs and professionals in speed and ease-of-use with increases in precision in some cases. They comment that for professional users (with experience in Blender but not VR), “users were 32% faster in the Rigging task, 28% faster in the skinning task, 34% faster in the Posing task, and 15% faster in the Complete pipeline task.” In addition to working faster, users were just as accurate across all tasks, with the exception of the skinning task, where users were 39% faster when using VR. The researchers add, “This result is particularly interesting, since PRUs [professional users] had signiﬁcant expertise with Blender, but it was the ﬁrst time that they worked with the VRI [virtual reality interface]. Motivations appeared to be related to a higher learnability and usability of the VRI.”
“Differences in accuracy were statistically signiﬁcant only for the Skinning task, in which the VRI allowed users to be more accurate(47%) than with the BNI [Blender Native Interface] (p= 0.0005). For the other two tasks, no signiﬁcant difference was found between the BNI and the VRI…Concerning animation precision, statistically signiﬁcance was found only for the Posing task, where users were more precise (94%) with the VRI than with the BNI(p= 0.0001).”
In addition to the significant increases in precision, speed, and accuracy, “the VR interface was perceived as easier to use (p= 0.0296 for NPUs and p= 0.0223 for PRUs) and to learn (p= 0.0007 for NPUs and p= 0.0001 for PRUs). These results suggest that VRI can be used by users with different levels of expertise in the ﬁeld of computer animation and VR. Regarding the remaining aspects evaluated, both NPUs and PRUs expressed a higher appreciation for the VRI than for the BNI. The VRI was perceived as closer to the “wonderful” item (p= 0.0082 for NPUs and p= 0.0095 for PRUs), more satisfying (p=0.0034 for NPUs and p= 0.0004 for PRUs) and stimulating (p= 0.0001 for NPUs and p= 0.0012 for PRUs). Moreover,as found also through objective measurements, differences in terms of perceived operation speed were statistically signiﬁcant (p= 0.0075 for NPUs and p= 0.0103 for PRUs) with higher scores assigned to the VRI.”
These results indicate that for professionals and new users alike, learning and picking up animation using VR itself will be faster than learning the native interface of a complex software like Blender, making VR an ideal environment for students and beginners learning to animate.
Overall the results are very positive for the animation industry as a whole, offering VR as a solution to increase the precision (up to 94% more precise), accuracy (up to 47% more accurate), and speed (up to 34% faster) of common 3D animation tasks, all while being easier to adopt and learn. The only question remaining is which VR tool will take on the mantle of the most professional and powerful tool for animators. VR Blender and BlenderXR are two great options for fans of the popular open-source software, and MARUI PlugIn is another excellent choice for users of Autodesk Maya which also enables modeling in VR. Whichever tool becomes the leader for VR animation and modeling, it’s clear that tool stands to benefit from first mover advantage in a potentially extremely disruptive new sector of professional production.
For artists and animation studios, VR harkens back to more traditional methods of animation involving manipulation in three-dimensional space. Lost in the mass adoption of computers as the tools of choice for animators is the fact that we went from being able to work intuitively in three dimensions with physical puppets and models to needing to create 3D objects with 2-dimensional tools: mouse, monitor, and keyboard. In other words, while the transition to computers increased the power and scope of what could be animated, it came at the cost of the fidelity of the input from the artist. Whereas artists used to work physically in 3D space — the real world — they were now confined both in input (mouse) and visualization (monitor). The art went from being something you could touch and manipulate, to something you have to view through a window. Virtual reality provides the natural bridge to bring both 3D inputs and visualization back to animation pipelines while still maintaining the full power of computer effects and animation.
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If you’d like to try out animation, modeling, and/or VFX work in VR using Autodesk Maya and/or Blender, check out MARUI plugin
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