Advanced Technologies and Software
The list below primarily covers specialized tools and equipment used by professional studios. If looking for info on general computers, consoles, or smart technology stuff, go here.
The Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet is a designer’s best friend. A touch pen can be used to draw much more naturally and faster than using a mouse, though it can take some practice to get used to. However, learning to use this tool will definitely pay off in the long term as digital drawing tablets are increasingly becoming an industry standard.
Drawing Surface Desk
Surface desks are even better best friends for digital artists and designers. They are basically big surface tablets. Unfortunately the leading brand Cintiqs are fairly expensive.
Scanners are kind of finicky, but be nice to them and they might return the favor by scanning your drawings or photos into the computer for digital editing.
This device uses lasers to scan any 3D object and convert it into a digital model that can be edited with computer software or printed as a plastic model. 3D printers are great for fabricating parts and scanning faces and bodies to create digital models. 3D scanners can come in the form of handheld devices, touch pens, or rotary base scanners. Most work by using laser trigonometry, so don’t point the scanner emitter directly into your eyes.
3D printers are used to manufacture 3D designs. Printing dimensions are typically small around 6x6x6 inches. Prints can come in a selection of colors or translucent materials. Multicolored plastic printing is feasible for some companies, but it involves a very complex composition mixing process and it is not yet commercially viable at this time.
Plastic polymers, resins, and sandstone are the most common print materials. 3D prints can also be used to create molds for metal casting. Digital 3D models should be exported as an .obj or.stl file, with the model hollowed out to save resin.
Laser cutters can be used to engrave or cut precise lines in a number of materials, including metal. It is not recommended to test out how the laser works on human fingers..
Inkjet Color Printer
Printing resolution differs from web resolution, so always make sure your files are saved at a high resolution of over 3000 px. Colors should be in CMYK.
A render farm is a network of computers set up specifically for the purpose of performing the CPU-intensive task of rendering. Having multiple computers processing multi-frame renders speeds up the rendering time significantly. Most professional animation and VFX studios have some very expensive and powerful computers in their render farms, not like the DIY IMac Mini example above.
Virtual Reality/Oculus Rift DK 1 and 2
The Oculus Rift Developer Kit 1 was the first working prototype Oculus VR model. It was produced through crowdfunding and released for a limited run in 2013. The DK1’s features were fairly limited at the time of its release, and lack of continued programming support means software compatibility hasn’t improved over time.
The DK 2 was released a year later with an updated system compatible with a wider range of software. This system will likely also become obsolete as more advanced VR systems go into commercial development.
The DK1 and DK2 do still work with some online demo scenes and a very limited number of games on Steam if you are just wanting to test out the headgear to see the potential applications for virtual reality in the near future. However, newer systems are being developed that will most likely use an updated system incompatible with early models. It is uncertain how affordable the new VR systems will be for average gamers, but it is predicted that it may be a few years before VR emerges from being a niche technology.
The stereoscopic OLED display can cause minor disorientation, blurry vision, and nausea.
Any cinematographer or photographer will say that having expensive equipment is never as important as just knowing what you are doing. Nevertheless, the steadicam is really useful for getting rid of irritating shaky handheld camera shots, for more professional filming results.
Full body rigs can retail for anywhere in the $1,000-$10,000 range, so they aren’t cheap. Equipment rentals are usually more economical for independent filmmakers. Handheld steadicams are also available, and they are generally more affordable.
Motion Control Rig
Motion control rigs are monstrous machines that can be programmed or steered with a joystick to deliver precise camera movements with zero shaking. The rigs used in the film and television industries usually have an extendable boom arm and a motorized dolly track..
Depending on the type of scene, lighting setups can get rather complex. Lights need to be positioned where they won’t be in view of the cameras. Different types of lights, screens, and filters can be used to achieve subtle effects.
Motion capture software works similar to 3D scanning and photogrammetry, with the added complication of motion. Dots placed at specific points on the face and body are recorded by cameras and fed into sophisticated coordinate tracking algorithms that translate the information into 3D. The model is assigned corresponding points to match the dots worn by the performance actor. Animators are then able to tweak the vertices of the models as necessary in post-production.
360-degree cameras are a recent tech development that will likely find a niche in virtual reality development. Currently the applications for these devices is mostly limited to 3D mapping projects and experimental filmmaking.