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Real World Case Study 1: The Millennium

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This sample chapter from 3ds max 4 Media Animation examines the real-life exploits of author John Chismar as he creates animation for MSBNC's coverage of the millennium celebration.
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We can all fondly look back to 1999 and remember the excitement surrounding the "historical" moment when the clock struck twelve midnight, bringing us into the year 2000. The months leading into the millennium left most people in the world questioning their computers' Y2K compliance. If that wasn't enough, the media heightened our awareness of terrorist plots and national safety and reminded us how much our lives depend on computers.

Although some people simply shrugged off the warnings and continued as normal, others took them seriously and stocked up on bottled water, flashlights, batteries, and franks 'n' beans. I am sure we can all remember exactly what went through our minds during those times. I will always remember exactly where I was during the days leading into the new century—staring at a computer screen wondering how I was going to get all my work finished.

The dawn of the new millennium didn't bring most of the world much of anything; however, it did provide me with some absolutely beautiful O.T. checks.

Ready, Set, Go!

In my opinion, there are two types of news: expected news and unexpected news. As you probably already figured out, expected news is an event like a football game. Unexpected news, on the other hand, is what the news industry thrives on. When something incredible catches the world off guard, they report it and rake in the ratings.

The millennium was a little bit of both though, because the unexpected eerily loomed over Y2K's head. We saw it coming; we all knew it was on December 31, 1999. You would think we would start making the graphics months in advance. Yeah, you would think that, wouldn't you?

The reality of life, work, and the world, however, held much more in store for me. Yes, anyone could see that the big day was getting closer and closer, but there was plenty of other work I needed to finish before I could start creating the graphics for the project. By the time I finished all my work and was ready to start the graphics for the millennium, I had three weeks until the big day.

Right around the time I was getting geared up to create the Millennium animation for MSNBC, NBC News was finishing up their title animation. I needed to see what they had produced before I could start creating the animation for MSNBC, because the two had to appear to be part of the same package.

The Creative Director, Sam Mandragona; the Assistant Creative Director, Joe Dettmore; and I examined what the graphics department for NBC News (New York) had cooked up for their look (see Figure RW1.1). We needed to incorporate into our animation the logo design that had been created at NBC News.

Figure RW1.1 The design NBC News used for the Millennium.

After looking at the logo, Joe, Sam, and I brainstormed ideas for the animation. What we came up with was, in a nutshell, clocks and globes.

I created more than thirty animations of the earth spinning, illustrating the individual time zones. Each time zone was highlighted with texture maps and volumetric beams. These took a great deal of organization, attention to detail, and time. When I finished the time zone animations, I moved on to creating the open.

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