TORONTO, March 4 - As Canadian director Chris Landreth returns home from the 77th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood touting an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his landmark work, Ryan, he will be joined by mathematicians from the federally funded Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) network to celebrate the success of the mathematical innovations that contributed to the film's success.
In Ryan, Mr. Landreth chronicles the life of Canadian animator Ryan Larkin using strange, twisted, three-dimensional characters whose bizarre appearances explore how different states of mind affect perceptions of reality. To achieve his vision, Mr. Landreth relied on the mathematical expertise of Karan Singh, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, who is currently leading a MITACS project looking at how math can be used to transform mental concepts into digital models.
Working with U of T masters student Patrick Coleman, Mr. Singh led the development of a mathematical formula, called a cord, that essentially gives physical properties to animated curves to make hair, string, wire and other rope-like objects behave intuitively. The idea was driven by Mr. Landreth, who wanted to manipulate colourful hairs growing from his characters' heads in such a way that they would be able to wrap around objects and move in a way that was believable.
The formula devised by the MITACS team is significant because it enables the hair strands in Mr. Landreth's film to preserve their length, elasticity and stiffness, making them appear alive.
According to Mr. Singh, the efforts of the MITACS project broke fresh ground in the field of animation, and the researchers are now looking to extend their formula to other areas. They are investigating how the new technology can be used in the medical field, for example, to help visualize DNA strands and other highly complex curves. Future applications may also include using the technology to help the automotive industry speed up the design process, which would bring new cars to market sooner, and may one day help children instantly translate their thoughts into three-dimensional images.
MITACS was established in 1999, and leads Canada's effort in the generation, application and commercialization of new mathematical tools and methodologies.