on: Monday, February 25, 2002
Cyber stuntmen closer to reality
LOS ANGELES —
The gangly skeleton pauses at the top of the staircase
and then, fearlessly, dives headfirst, crumpling in an
apparently bone-jarring fall.
Faloutsos chuckles as he replays the clip on his laptop
computer. Again and again, the UCLA scientist commands
the virtual character to dive.
|Petros Faloutsos is working with a
projected computer image of his prototype stunt
skeleton diving headfirst down a staircase at his
office on the UCLA campus.
is primitive, the technology complex.
initial command to jump, the fall is completely
unscripted. Physics, not the computer animator's mouse,
controls the action.
a prototype, Faloutsos believes his animation program
will one day allow virtual stunt artists to replace
their flesh-and-blood counterparts in performing
otherwise deadly feats of derring-do.
The brief clip
is a glimpse into the nascent field of physics-based
animation. The technique, whether used for movies or
video games, strives to create a virtual world
consistently guided by the same physical laws that give
order to the real world.
"It's the Holy
Grail of character animation. Everybody wants to do it,
but there's not a whole lot of it out there right now,"
said Damien Neff, senior artificial intelligence
designer for NFL Fever 2002, a Microsoft video game that
makes limited use of the technique.
physics-based animation techniques have been used to
render inanimate things like the waves in "The Perfect
Storm" or the shock of blue hair that coats James P.
Sullivan in "Monsters Inc."
technology matures, real stunt artists have mixed
positive side and a negative side: To talk positive,
it's made it safer to do a stunt — you don't have to lay
your neck out on the line as much as you used to. But
it's taken some cash away also," said Ben Scott, a
Hollywood stuntman who works on the HBO series "Six Feet