27 August 2009

Jim Henson's Creatures Shop wins Engineering Emmy Award

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ has won an Engineering Emmy at the 61st Primetime Emmy Engineering Awards, which was held in Los Angeles on Saturday .

The Engineering Emmy was awarded for the remarkably innovative Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a real-time animation system that allows performers to puppeteer and voice digital characters in real-time, dramatically reducing both animation time and cost.

This proprietary animation system has been utilised for the production of the highly successful, Emmy-nominated animated children’s program “Sid the Science Kid,” produced by The Jim Henson Company and KCET/Los Angeles, and has enabled the Creature Shop to generate 40 episodes of HD computer-generated imagery within a year. Now that's a really remarkable feat in itself.

“When we embarked on this project, we searched for the best technology out there, and NVIDIA quickly became our graphics solution of choice,” said Steffen Wild, director, Henson Digital Puppetry Studio. ”Since then, a great partnership has emerged, enabling us to achieve this new form of creative expression.”

In the studio, live performers are tracked to map their body movements onto digital puppets. Simultaneously, puppeteers who voice the characters also manipulate the facial motion and lip synch, using a special mechanical-input glove device developed for the right hand, and a joystick-type device for the left hand. This occurs with a director, camera and production crews exactly as it would on a live-action set, and comes together virtually, in real-time, using the Creature Shop’s proprietary software which marries the stage components with the show’s digital environments on the fly. This unique process can be replicated for any film, television, game or interactive production.

“We have been developing our production pipeline for the past several years, based on the vision of Jim Henson, who started exploring the possibilities of digital puppetry back in 1989,” continued Wild. “Back then, computers weren’t fast enough to provide real-time feedback. However over the past few years, graphics processors have truly evolved. Today, our viewing software delivers an entire scene in real-time, and its performance is driven by the NVIDIA Quadro FX solution.”

“We are thrilled that The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is recognizing the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio for its remarkable engineering achievement,” said Dominick Spina, Digital Film Technology manager, NVIDIA. “By harnessing the power of the NVIDIA processor, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is truly driving innovation and materially enhancing the creation of television programming.”

To read the full article go to The Briefing Room here!

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