Future of Animation: Peering Into A Crystal BallWilliam Gadea 04.11.2017
There’s few things I enjoy more than pretending I’m a latter-day Jules Verne. Why? Because imagining the future is diverting, even if the accuracy of my prognostications over the years has been somewhat short of Nostradamus’s (or Jules Verne.) What follows below are my pronouncements on the Future of Animation. (Mentally add some digital delay to the last three words.)
CGI Will Become Easier to Create
We’ve all seen the output of do-it-yourself animation sites. It’s shakey, but they will just get better. Professionals will always need more flexibility, but these online apps will allow the smart, creative kids in school to create their own stories in ways that can proudly stand on their own. They won’t have to just live in other peoples’ video game visions.
For lower-end CGI production, the licensed asset market will grow and allow professionals to provide impressive quality at a shockingly low price. And CGI software tools will continue develop. While many of the software tools that we use at a studio like IdeaRocket (Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects) are already mature and can do pretty much everything they will ever need to do, the CGI applications (Maya, C4D, 3DS Max) are not like that. There is still room for all of them to become more powerful and more easy to use.
We have all seen how over the last twenty years CGI films have pretty much taken over the family film market. That has been largely thanks to a one-company golden age in Pixar, but also contributions from Dreamworks and other studios. As the generation that grew up with those pictures reaches adulthood a taste for grown-up animation will rise. In parallel with that new demand will be the new ease of creation that we’ve talked about. A new generation of indie CGI auteurs will arise. They will be sometimes quirky, sometimes dark, always interesting, and they will really open up the adult animation market.
It’s impressive how quickly artificial intelligence is developing. (Try a demo of this image recognition application to see what I mean… the accuracy is stunning.) We can expect AI to take over tasks that require data-crunching like ad-buying very quickly. (It’s already starting to happen.) Of course, computers will not be able to touch our souls with subtle narrative any time soon, but I can see them doing lower-end creative – making display ads for local businesses, for example. And I can see a place for tools that assist designers. Maybe it’s something like a grammar-check for design that asks: “Are you sure about this color combination? You might want to check the text hierarchy. And looks like you have separation issues over here!” That seems quite possible because design follows rules just like grammar does. (Although like a grammar-check, it will sometimes best be ignored.)
Voice Interface Plus
It’s pretty clear that we’re heading toward a voice interface with the network. (Keyboards, I will be happy to use you less!) But why limit a voice interface to a microphone and speaker? Animated versions of Siri and Alexa will richen the voice interface we’re heading towards. They wouldn’t just be an animated face; they might also be able to pull images and video, show maps, maybe present text if it’s more helpful than saying it out loud.
The popularity of stop-motion will continue, because it is the anti-CGI: less perfect, less artificial, more touched by humans.
Businesses will appreciate more and more how animation can illuminate concepts better than live-action talking heads. Live action-animation hybrids will grow in popularity. And enterprises will come to realize that they need to centralize their production in order to control their brand identity better, leverage reuse, and reduce risk. Letting each department contract their animation needs separately from the rest of the company will just not cut it anymore.
We are getting to see more and more digital billboards. In five or ten years, it will be more surprising to see a plain billboard than a digital one. Moving imagery will move to other places as well. Clothing designers might use fabrics with animated patterns that are wearable as well as attention-getting.
I, for one, am all in on a Brave New Animated World!