One thing that has always amazed me is how they were able to make the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park realistic. Looking through articles and PDFs, I came across the Dinosaur input device (now called Digital input device), or DID. Some notable differences between a stop-motion puppet and one that has the input devices is that:

1. The armature is 3 times larger in order to accommodate the servos and sensors.

2. No Ball and socket joints. All joints are hinges, swivels, and universal. The encoders can only sense a single axis.

3. Very precise (if built right).

4. The resulting animation lacks the artifacts of stop-motion animation, the pops and jerkiness, and yet retains the intentional subtleties and hard stops that computer animation often lacks.

Note: If you guys decide to comment on this post, please keep any CGI bashing you might have to a minimum.

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I agree, I always thought the CGI in both Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers is some of the best ever seen - right up to today. Not sure if it's because of the input devices, or if this statement might hold the key:

"Adds Trey Stokes, animation supervisor: "We tried to give the sense that these are real creatures that exist in the same world as the humans, so they`re living under the same gravity and have to obey the same physical laws."

 

From this article on ST: http://www.angelfire.com/film/philtippett/articles/realtroopers.html

 

Let me repeat the important part of that: "living under the same gravity and have to obey the same physical laws."

 

ie, not leaping around too fast as if they weigh about as much as a field mouse with the leg power of a full-size kangaroo. Very few fantasy creatures in today's Cg films actually obey anything like realistic laws of physics (if any). Do the producers not understand that the less realistically the creatures move, the less believeable they are? And therefore the less powerful? 

I really liked the creature designs for Avatar. Many CGI creature designs seem to look very similar, like the designers are all copying each other. The creature designs in Avatar were very creative.

Interesting. I am glad to see this post here. I did not think I would find anything on the topic. I have made a recent purchase of one of these Digital Input Devices. Mine is a human figure rather than a Dinosaur. I hope to use it along side my traditional Stop Motion Puppets for a different effect. Anyone know how to make one of these work? What equipment do I need? I just have the figure mounted on a stand there is a length of wires... (I hope that I have made a "good" purchase) I will post a photo if anyone is interested in seeing it.

On a google search, this document pops up http://graphics.pixar.com/library/DinoInputDevice/paper.pdf . Basically, in each joint you have a digital encoder, that translates the position of the joint to a series of numbers. These numbers are decoded by an interface, and then sent to a computer that transforms the numbers into rig positions in a 3d CG system like Blender.

@Angela, you have to find out how the encoders work(what signals do they give), find eventually a data sheet online and figure out how they work, build some custom HW, Arduino would be a choice or Pi or even a custom controller since you have multiple encoders and then write some SW to go with this HW and magically transport all your data over a serial line to the computer. Since you will work with the device similarly  like you would do with a puppet in SM, the interface will not be very fast( and that is good because it will be a little cheaper) but it will still require a fair amount of HW and coding.

Did the device not come with instructions? That seems very strange - assuming it's one of the consumer devices that I remember seeing advertised when I used to search for info on the subject. Unless maybe somebody bought one and is now selling it used without the supporting materials. 

What kind of connections are on the ends of the wires? Something common like usb? 

Hi Iulian & Strider,

Thank you both for your replies!  Iulian, Wow this Pixar Paper, is something to study. I am glad for the link, Thank you. So, I may have to build a controller box and write software. What a Project. First I need to find out which Studio made my DID. That might help with some of the technical information. Strider, Unfortunately No instructions included. My purchase was a bit of a risk. But maybe a good one? :) I am told it is a Professional DID that was Studio made. All of the ends of the wires are enclosed in a little black box type housing. (I will post photos.) I would like to find a vintage controller box and use existing software if possible. I saw the Amazing Phil Tippett auctioned off some of his vintage equipment recently...  However, I may have to go the other way. 

Here are the photos of my Studio Made DID. I do wish that the hands were articulated, they are paddle style no fingers. The second photo shows the wires in the small black box housing. Please let me know if larger images are needed. 

HI,

from the pictures the blue elements are rotary encoders. I see they have part numbers and codes on them so it will be easy to find the data sheet for them and the interface mode. At that size, they are most likely absolute encoders but the data sheet will tell you what model exactly they are and how to interface with them. The black box is just a housing for the connector as far as i can tell.

Regards,

JD

Ok, that is some serious equipment, not at all like the simplified consumer models I remember seeing years ago. You're very lucky Iulian is responding. Best of luck with it! I hope you're able to get it all connected up and working, and I guess you'll just have to do finger animation digitally. 

 Hi Iulian,

Ah, Thank you for that information. This is very good to know. So with the rotary encoder numbers and codes I can look up the data sheet which will give me the interface mode and I can start collecting the hardware components I need for the controller box and writing the software? Seems less daunting now. However, this is going to take some time.  

Hi Strider,

Indeed.   Yes, it is more than I expected. I looked for a consumer model also. I did find one that I was interested in, unfortunately, too costly. By chance I found this one. It is going to take some work on my part, but I think I have made the better choice.

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