Animata is a real-time animation software for live performance, with the aid of which we can easily create scenes with virtual puppets. Creating and moving characters is as simple as loading an image and attaching a skeleton to it. Images can be placed in different depths of field so that they have a three-dimensional effect. We can move among the layers of various depth, creating a spatial effect, with the help of the camera, covering various segments of the scenes. The characters’ movements are controlled by external devices. Combined with a pattern recognition system, the characters might even be controlled by live actors. Furthermore, Animata allows a multi-user collaboration via the internet, thus providing an opportunity for the collective editing and creating of the performance.

This software is designed to create an interactive background for theatre, music and dance performances, and it can also be used for the visual design of promotional screenings.

In contrast with the traditional 3D animation programs, creating characters in Animata is quite simple and takes only a few minutes. On the basis of the still images, which serve as the skeleton of the puppets, we produce a network of triangles, some parts of which we link with a bony structure. The bones’ movement is based on a physical model, which allows the characters to be easily moved.

Animata is a dynamically developing application, which provides us an opportunity for building characters, either with the co-operation of users, or by following the modifications of the image automatically. The simulation that controls the system works well, and the interface can be extended gradually.

The software can be run on multiple operating systems, like Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and Windows. In the near future, we plan to develop collective control by external devices. The animation of the characters, camera movement, and other special visual effects will be controllable by cell phones, or through multi-touch-screens or sensors. We would like to connect Animata with widespread programming environments (Max/MSP, Pure Data, EyesWeb) used by multimedia developers and artists, in order to make use of the possibilities of these applications in the fields of image editing, sound analysis, or motion capture.

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