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Ever wondered why so many computer generated characters in movies these days are naked, or near enough to it? Alternatively, if they're not naked, everyone seems to wear cloaks and robes.

The main reason is because realistic clothes, that is, clothes that appear to drape and move and be natural, is an extremely difficult cinematic thing to pull off. To say that there's a mass of mathematics and algorithms behind achieving it is to totally understate the feat.

Enter Wellington-based American Sebastian Marino, who has an applied mathematics and computational physics background, as well as an Academy Award for his clothing simulations in the 1999 Star Wars movies.

He's just finished a two year gig at Weta Digital, and is about to take his and UCLA colleague partner Professor Joseph Teran's learnings in the virtual world and apply it to our everyday reality. It is sort of the reverse of what happens in actual life!

Their recently formed company, 77 Pieces, is about to launch a CAD-based software program that can take two dimensional patterns and model how the resulting structure/item will move and act in a three dimensional way. What's more, users can tweak the 3-D version, and the program will backwards calculate how the 2-D pattern will need to be modified to achieve the outcome.

In short, "we provide the ability to make the pattern and analyse the structure and understand what it is going to do," Marino says. "That could be anything from a T-shirt to an inflatable wing, and knowing how that will react."

There are a large number of vertical and horizontal markets, from upholstery, automotive and aerospace applications that the software is suitable for. Not surprisingly though, the first field that 77 Pieces is to target is the clothing industry.

As well as clothes being something of interest to virtually everyone, the other reason "is because no one gets killed if something goes wrong," Marino says. "We'll look at the building industry and engineering later."

The program seamlessly (unintended pun) links the 2-D pattern with a visually appealing user-interface, allowing a realtime view of the garment draped on a human mannequin, which can also be a moving model if required- something no one else has so far managed to do.

"One will update the other," says Marino. "Tweak a saggy bottom in 3-D, that will go back to the pattern."

The program also solves another fashion problem - 'grading'. "Ours allows you to take a basic pattern and change the dimension of the design as people don't scale linearly," he says. The pattern can be adjusted to fit from extra small through to extra large.

"We're trying to endow our schematics with purposeful information so that working with one of our diagrams they can be anywhere on the small to large continuum at any time," says Marino.

"Another feature is that a build-up of information at the meta level starts to make numerous assets that can be repurposed later." In English, this means a feature such as a pocket or collar size and shape, can be plucked and placed at a later stage on another garment.

Marino says 77 Pieces is about to launch the Beta version of the software, for colleagues and associates to test and assist in de-bugging, before a launch to the world through traditional CAD distributors.

(Note; more sticK stories to come on this and other aspects of the company's go-to-market plans).

2-D to 3-D and back again - making virtual real (77 Pieces)

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