NSCAD scores unique 3D animation technology

Animator Peter Stephenson finds a new home at the Nova Scotia College for Art and Design.


Peter Stephenson uses a joystick to draw using the Stereo Animation Drawing Device. Photo: Chris Muise

NSCAD animation students have a new toy to play with.

Peter Stephenson, professional animator and part-time university instructor, has moved his work back to the city, and he brings with him a unique and sophisticated 3D animation program.

"I used to live in Montreal, and I took a job for a company that was creating 3D content for IMAX movies," said Stephenson. "My family lives here in Nova Scotia. I wanted to be back here instead of commuting back and forth, so I convinced [my employers] to bring a studio down here so I can work out of here." Stephenson uses the software on small projects, so he can work solo.

The software, called the Stereo Animation Drawing Device, allows the user to draw in three dimensions as seen through 3D glasses. Using a joystick tracked by a motion sensor, the user can draw on the Z axis away from and towards themselves.

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Animator Peter Stephenson stands in front of the screen focused on by dual projectors. Photo: Chris Muise

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To see how this marvel of technology works, check out this video.

Only eight machines like it exist in the world, each costing between $30,000-50,000. The software is the property of the Stephen Lowe Company, a commercial company that makes IMAX movies, and has been constantly updated since its creation in 1997.

"When I first started, you couldn't save anything," said Stephenson. Stephenson, an employee of the Stephen Lowe Company, has worked on a short film, an IMAX feature, and several smaller projects using the tool.

NSCAD is an ideal location for a studio like this, Stephenson said. NSCAD is more eager to experiment with new tools and technology than some other schools in the area.

Nathan Ryan, head technician at NSCAD's Film Academy building, says the software is a great opportunity for film students, and will open new doors for them.

"I think it's great, because it's a new form of filmmaking we haven't had the chance to explore," said Ryan.

"The benefit for NSCAD is that we needed a location, but the people who are developing the software were looking to expand their user base," said Stephenson. "What better place than an art school?"

Stephenson is left to his own devices right now, but he will be teaching a class with the software in January.

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