I have always wondered if the animation technology used in film-making uses AI to any extent.


Yes, quite frequently, particularly in crowd simulation. Actors within the crowd are programmed with particular behavior types and will interact with each other to form a more lifelike crowd. The interactions are usually fairly simple, but it is a form of AI. I'm not sure if it is still around, but one of the early programs used for this was actually called "Behavior".

Some procedural animation could also be described as a form of AI as well. For example, when a character needs to walk across uneven terrain, it can be possible to setup a physics simulation and have the character alter their movements to maintain balance. This is really also a form of AI combined with physics simulation.

There are probably others as well, but those are the first two that come to mind as relatively common uses.

  • 2
    Crowd simulation is indeed a big one. For Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, knowing he'd never be able to afford live actors for large crowd scenes, commissioned a crowd simulation application now called Massive, and that application has been used in many movies since (and not just PJ's). There are other ones as well; Pixar created one to plug into Renderman, and it was used for Finding Nemo to simulate the schools of fish in various scenes. That one used a form of neuroevolution to achieve variances in motion between fish.
    – KeithS
    Sep 17 '13 at 0:45

I don't think it's very common. They use animators, which may have set movements, which they can queue at certain times. Self-interactive AI seems like it would take too much time to program and reprogram.

  • This is simply inaccurate. For primary character animation, you are correct. Animators can do a better job of making fluid natural movement, or even more often, motion capture is used for actual actors giving performances, however for digital extras (particularly crowds), behavior is almost always AI driven since it would be prohibitively expensive and unnecessary to do it by hand. IK (Inverse Kinematics) and physics simulation allow for reasonably clean and natural movement to be computer generated since a lot of movement is governed by physics, it just isn't very expressive.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 14 '13 at 15:59
  • More informations can be found here. It also isn't new, Softimage|Behavior was introduced in 2002 and was a rebranding of Motivate made by The Motion Factory. That might not be the first such software either, it's just the first I personally used.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 14 '13 at 16:01

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