Character Animation Technologies Launches Character Animation Toolkit

Character Animation Technologies Ltd. of Dunedin, New Zealand, announced the worldwide availability of the company's first product offering, Character Animation Toolkit (CAT) Version 1.0. Designed for animators by animators, CAT is a fully integrated next-generation character animation system plug-in for Discreet's 3ds max. CAT provides production-proven technology to animation professionals in film, video, broadcast and games development, who are seeking overall speed, efficiency and flexibility in creating fully customizable rigs and animation sequences.

CAT Version 1.0 is currently available as a plug-in for 3ds max 6 at a cost of $995. The software can be purchased directly from Character Animation Technologies at www.catoolkit.com and through select Discreet Resellers.

"CAT Version 1.0 delivers on our commitment to introduce a brand new paradigm that empowers artists with the most comprehensive, intuitive character animation system available today," said Character Animation Technologies' ceo/co-founder Scott Pearson. "We are thrilled by the tremendous reception that CAT is receiving from the worldwide animation community. As a result of our extensive alpha and beta programs, which enlisted the expertise and feedback from some of the animation industry's top talent, we are happy to report that several of our beta testers have already been using CAT beta successfully in production, creating the results they expect in a fraction of the time they are used to."

According to Philip Taylor, cto, co-founder and lead software developer at Character Animation Technologies, CAT was born out of the frustration he experienced while animating THE MOST EXTREME, the flagship television series for the Discovery Channel's ANIMATION PLANET, for which he and Pearson both received an Emmy Award nomination.

"Creating more than 10 minutes of animation per episode on THE MOST EXTREME under very tight deadlines inspired me to create a toolset intended to reduce as much of the repetition, drudgery and technical headache associated with character animation creation as possible," said Taylor. "CAT, the culmination of these efforts, is based on a powerful, open and expandable underlying architecture that promises to provide users with an intuitive, easy to use character animation system that not only fosters artistic expression, but also provides animators with benefits that are realized in realtime."

CAT is a comprehensive, fully customizable rig that supports the creation of any number of limbs, for any configuration. It features a parametric motioncycle system that does not limit the animator's creativity; intuitive keyframe controls that can be assigned to all 3ds max animation controllers; a powerful mocap importer that supports popular motion capture formats; and a non-linear animation system that allows animators to use all of the above at once on different parts of the rig simultaneously.

Additional key features of CAT Version 1.0 software include:

CATRig - allows for fully flexible animation rig creation quickly and efficiently. Rig configurations can also be loaded and saved out for future use with the Rig Preset Manager. CATRig enables animators to load in the rig closest to their requirements and edit from there, saving ample time in the rigging process. Users can create as many spines, heads, bones, spine links, bone segments, tails, fingers and toes they could ever use.

CATMotion - is a fully flexible parametric motioncycle system used to create complex animations, complete with secondary motion, including walking, jumping, galloping and any other gaits the user could want. It works equally well on all rigs, from humans to animals to insects. Animators can load and save CATMotion presets to create libraries of motioncycles to avoid repetition, which can then be reused on other rigs. Using CATMotion, animators can create motioncycles that would be very difficult or even impossible using standard IK solutions.

Layer Manager - supports the creation of an unlimited number of layers to afford seamless animation from a variety of sources, including CATMotion, keyframe animation and mocap data. A powerful nonlinear motion data editing system, the animator can stretch and squash motion data, blend between clips, key whole character poses, and "collapse animation to layer." Relative layers allow for non-destructive editing of existing animation layers.

Clip Manager - saves out animation layers as clips for reuse. Clip Manager imports CAT clip files and mocap data; supporting two popular mocap formats, HTR and BVH. Use in combination with "collapse to layer" to save out whole animation as a single clip.

Pose Manager - allows animators to save out rig poses for reuse, and load them in later.

Keyframe Animation - allows animators to intuitively manipulate the rig in realtime, directly in the viewport. All rig elements can be assigned any 3ds max animation controller, including scripts, LookAt constraints, Position Constraints and Bezier Float controllers.

Character Animation Technologies Ltd. (www.catoolkit.com), established in October 2002, is a developer of next-generation, high-end, affordable and efficient character animation software applications.

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