Animating astronomy concepts
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  1. #1
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    Animating astronomy concepts

    Greetings conceptart.org! I work at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado. Although I mainly do research and data analysis, I have a limited background in 3-d modeling/animating and some folks in the department have asked me if I could produce animations of theoretical concepts involving invisible phenomena such as gravity waves and black holes. These animations are to be used as visual aids for efficiently and comfortably relating information about the behavior of astronomical objects to audiences at scientific conferences and students in graduate classroom settings. Audiences best relate to animated visual depictions as opposed to spoken explanations of equations and dynamic 3-d geometries accompanied by stagnant overheads!
    I've worked with 3DSMax and Bryce on a limited basis, and I need to recommend a software package for the University to purchase so I can begin work on these animations.
    I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience doing anything close to this type of modeling/animating...or maybe someone could direct me to an artist who specializes in depicting scientific concepts? The animations I'm producing don't have to be mathematically accurate, so no supercomputers or anything like that...
    Imagine this animation: a simple sphere, representing a black hole, with translucent undulating "sheets" of gravity waves pouring out from the black hole into space, accompanied by arrows and labels and such. Ignoring the details, that's the kind of stuff I'll be doing. I just want to make sure I choose the right app for my work! I'm sure anything would do, seeing as how most 3-d programs could easily handle these simple animations. Perhaps something user-friendly would appeal most to the University...something that a novice could pick up and use with a little practice after I'm gone.
    All comments are much appreciated!!

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    I might consider useing something like Flash for a project like this. It's a fairly easy program to learn (if you've got some time and are already familiar with timelines and how graphics programs work) and could create what your after. It's a 2d vector program, but I think you could pull off some 3d depth with it. I also think it might be a good choice because it doesn't sound like you want to get real detailed with your objects.

    You can also add mathematical effects to the animations, which would allow you to change the speed of objects, incorporate physics, etc. on the fly.. even during a presentation.

    It's also a good choice for presenting online if you decided to eventually do that.

    If you do have your heart set on 3d there are programs out there (plasma, vecta 3d, Amorphium Pro) that can also export to a Flash friendly format. I think even 3d Max does that too..

    I'd use Flash for a project like this anyway... then again I know only a little about 3d packages. But you can download a 30 day trial of Flash for free so what the hell. Go to www.macromedia.com to download and learn more about the software if your interested in it at all. You can also go to www.flashthief.com and www.flashkit.com to see a gallery and tutorials (although this software is mainly used for online multimedia, and that is what these sites mainly feature, so they might not give you a full appreciation for Flash's full potential).

    Last edited by oglzogl; March 12th, 2003 at 11:51 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Flash..good idea! I was so caught up in thinking 3-d that using Flash to animate didn't cross my mind. I have some experience with Flash already, so it seems like a good way to go, for now.
    However, I think that there will be projects in the future requiring a more refined, "pretty" look to them. Flash is definitely looking like a good option for my immediate projects, but I still might have to go with 3DSMax or something when my boss starts asking for more, well, stunning visualizations.

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    Maybe using Maya for the 3D but it is very expensive but also the best, lightwave 3d ain't bad aswell and 3DSMAX is the common thing... so why not get some info on some 3D software... would be a good idea!

    An artist cannot fail, it is a success to be one.
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