SANDDE is an animation program that enables animators to draw in 3D space, for realz. You know, like grab-a-pen-and -start-drawing- in-several-planes-simultaneously-3D.

When I was learning perspective drawing, this would have been The Best Cheat Ever.  Nothing short of miraculous. Wave the supplied wand and your drawing materializes in front of you- like you could reach into it. With this set up, YOU CAN. The folks at IMAX have been very busy bee’s indeed for a long time; but little did I know (aside from the award-winning films, visual effects work, and stereoscopic post-work they’ve been doing) that they had this giant sized gem named SANDDE in the curtains. Shiney.

From the website, here’s the skinny:

SANDDE is an immersive, stereo-3D animation tool that allows you to create 3D content with all the freedom, flexibility, and graphic delights of traditional hand-drawn animation. You draw with a Wand (a motion-tracking device), and the drawing floats in the space in front of you.  It takes form as a real-time trace of your movements.” For realz.

SANDDE was initially developed at IMAX Corp with the support of those purveyors of fine animated filmmaking, The National Film Board of Canada. Later, things gelled commercially for SANDDE at Janro Imaging Lab in 2007, under license from the IMAX folks, and dare I say it? Animation history was made.

Who IS the Wizard behind the Curtain?

Mr. Roman Kroitor, co-founder of IMAX Corp and founder of Janro Imaging, is a Canadian filmmaker with ties to the National Film Board that reach back into the 1940’s. MR. Kroitor aside from inventing the SANDDE system, has written, produced and directed over 70 films during his career, when he’s not changing  the world of imaging technology in the biggest way possible.  MR. Kroiter is that guy I want to be when I grow up. Who else? This is the man that originated The Force. Yes, THAT Force.

SO, back to the wonder that is SANDDE;

SANDDE features some unique and powerful animation methods that allow you to draw and define action timing with live gestural recording–simply by moving the Wand in space.  Because you use your own hand, there is an organic feel to the action.  You can produce a sense of weight and emotion in your work, precisely as you feel it. You can even animate “live” to a sound track, or in slow-motion, to create action timing that is just the way you want it. Of course, SANDDE also supports frame-by-frame animation and in-betweening. In addition to stereoscopic 3D animation, SANDDE can be used for 2D animation, as a 3D storyboard or sketching application, or to create 3D artwork.”

Man, I can’t wait to get my hands on this. Dare I dream– a version for the iPad in the future??  Only the Wizard can tell.

Here’s some of the stereoscopic goodness found in the SANDDE

This thing is soon to be released for individuals, so jump on over the site and sign up for a select few Beta licenses- as of today, the window of opportunity is still open.

Still here? Ok, then here’s more on the scoop. SANDDE works with any stereoscopic display, so what you’re seeing is what you’ll be getting, exactly what the audience will see.  No more guessing about stereo parameters, no time-consuming trials to get what you want. Awesome abounds.

You can draw several key poses, then record a control path, combining the poses to create complex animation sequences. Another option is to just reach in to the work space, literally, and drag your drawing 9or a part of it), and drag it around on the path you want it to follow, in stereo 3D space. Cray-zee. But wait, there’s more! Time for some squash and stretch? Have at it with the Warp tool, enabling you to define a spine, assign it to your drawing,  and distort things to your hearts content. There’s a bunch more to cover, so head on over to the main site, look around and sign up for a beta license. This will rock your Sponge Bob socks.

Only thing I see being a potential rain cloud on the horizon is the amount of equipment, technical specs and generally stuff you’ll need to maximize SANDDE’s potential. I’m figuring this won’t be the first choice for enthusiasts outside working professionals or grant-getting animation filmmakers, but it’s worth looking into, no?

Here’s one take from one super-duper, in-the-know animation pro I respect whole heartedly– Award-winning Canadian animator Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist). Sylvain sums up SANDDE for the rest of us, the standing slack- jawed masses; “It’s like walking around in your dreams.”

I’m still drooling. You?