Forensic Computer Animation

Forensic animation is the practice of turning factual reports and detailed statements from eyewitnesses, police investigators and forensic experts into 3d animated crime scene recreations or accident or disaster reconstructions. With the onset of new developments in technology, forensic animation can be created and processed at faster rates than ever before. Improved processing power and more sophisticated 3D software packages means there are more tools available to produce realistic 3D forensic animation more quickly.

That said, in forensic computer animation it is essential that the elements created for a crime scene recreation use custom modeling so that the elements match those at the crime scene exactly. This is the only way to preserve the accuracy of the forensic information and create a 3D animation of an event or scene that is useful for litigators in a courtroom.

Also used for something known as demonstrative evidence, 3D computer animation cannot be used to "prove" a case but, can be used to visually support the verbal testimony of an expert witness. Since the information they relay in court is often complicated and pertaining to a specific industry, legal animation is a tool used to help jurors understand and retain information presented by these witnesses.

Scientists from a wide variety of disciplines may be involved in the creation of a 3D crime scene reconstruction depending on the case. Accident reconstructionists, forensic medical experts, weapons experts, engineers etc. are often used to explain key arguments. Forensic animators must take all the fact filled reports and information from these experts and use that as reference to recreate the crime, accident or crime scene.

Thanks to the wide spread use of 3D animated computer graphics in television, film, video gaming, etc. jurors today will likely have expectations of a higher degree of realism. Crudely created animations will not be appealing or credible to an audience of jurors today. Poorly rendered animations by inexperienced animators have given this visual tool a bad reputation in some instances. Animators experienced in forensics will spend over half of their project hours researching and double checking the accuracy of the facts they are animating. The best forensic animators also understand a broad range of technical fields and can quickly assimilate information about new subjects and represent stated events accurately.

The testimony of expert witnesses needs to be considered as the basis of the animations with the witness directly advising on the authentication of the information in the animation. The animation must be disclosed to the opposition in plenty of time for opponents to cross examine. A forensic animator may be called to testify that their work was created with accuracy and adherence to the rules governing demonstrative evidence.

Reputable animation studios with experienced artists, especially those with experience in informational work such as forensics, litigation, news, informational programming or documentaries will have the kind of experience needed to ensure that the work will be 100% accurate and therefore admissible in court. Clear objectives, a solid work schedule which includes stages at which the animations are approved by the client are all benefits of working with experienced animators.

Pricing of forensic animation projects is hard to generalize as each project has a unique set of requirements. Generally, the higher the degree of realism, the more complex the objects are and the number of times the scene must change are all determining factors. Some elements, such as water, fire, explosions are harder to create in 3D as they do not have solid, easy to build geometric shapes. These types of elements take longer and that will be reflected in the price. Some animation studios charge hourly rates while others propose flat rates per project. Other studios calculate a general fee based on a price per second of animation needed.

Changes always impact the cost so it is important to have the objectives clear from the beginning. Changing the point of view of the camera slightly does not impact the cost as much as adding new elements to a scene or changing the scene or location altogether.

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