33-Yr-Old NJU Professor Gives Jue Ji Tech Support  

Combining research with film production by NJU and Yuanli Animation Studio 

Jue Ji, the first China-made movie with the technology of computer graphics, has recently been running in various cinemas. Appearing as CG producer at the end of the movie are the names of Professor Cao Xun and his students Zhu Hao, Ji Shengyu and Jin Weishen.  

One big attraction of the movie is the application of a 3D scanning system in its making. The system was developed with the cooperation between Professor Cao’s team from Nanjing University and the Yuanli Animation Studio of Jiangsu Province.  

The system reproduces effective and precise digital 3D images, and this marks a key and fundamental stage in the technology of processing computer graphics.  

The technology is based on the research on 3D+matrix filming conducted by Cao Xun, a professor from the school of electronic science and technology. It is also one of the great achievements made by the Center of NJU-Yuan Li 3D Technology of Filming, co-founded by Nanjing University and the Yuanli Animation Studio of Jiangsu Province. 

The 3D+ technology has realized single-shot synchro shot while capturing 3D models, according to Cao. Its precision has reached to the sub-millimeter level. It is “fast,” “faithful” and “accurate,” far beyond the traditional laser 3D scanner.

With this system, all the roles played by Fan Bingbing, Wu Yifan, Guo Caijie, Yang Mi, Wang Yuan and so on in Jueji are all 3D-digitalized. This is a breakthrough for Chinese films.

What’s more, this film was all shot in Nanjing within a short period of time. In the future, with the development of technology, people will make much improvement, said Cao Xun.

In addition to film making, 3D + technology can also be applied to the protection and reconstruction of cultural relics, industrial 4.0, virtual electricity providers’ show, video games and so on.

For example, Professor Cao Xun’s group once helped with the 3D reconstruction of the Dazu Rock Carvings, a UN World Cultural Heritage. Academician Chen Jun, president of Nanjing University, once tried the 3D technology by himself in the laboratory, where his cartoon 3D model was constructed through the 3D printing technique.

The engineering center jointly established by Yuanli Cartoon and Nanjing University is one of the few school-enterprise joint laboratories in China that focus the research on the application of 3D technology to film animation, games and VR as its researching area.

The center’s on-campus director is Professor Cao Xun, and its off-campus directors are Zhao Rui, CEO of Yuanli Cartoon, and Shawn B. Dunn, an experienced Hollywood technician.

Now, there are few technicians in the world who are able to realize 3D reconstruction in film making. Among them are Cao Xun and Paul Debevec, an Oscar winner for his technique in Avatar.

“I took a different path from Paul Debevec, although they both look like a ball from outside,” said Cao Xun.

The most difficult part of the research is to catch subtle facial expressions, according to him. So he will focus on accurate expression-catching in the future.

He also said that many film companies and directors have shown the willingness to use this new technology in their works. The joint laboratory has begun to try some more advanced technology to promote the efficiency and quality of film making.  

The reporters found that 33-year-old Cao Xun has won 29 international and national patents.

He has many ideas about the application of research results. In his opinion, the market demand and the creative idea itself are of great importance to the application of research results.

“The key to such application is to realize the top-down vertical integration,” said Cao, “that is, moving down from an initial creative idea to the key technological breakthrough and finally to the product prototype, which will be applied to the industry. One step is closely followed by the other.”

As one of the four nationwide model universities, Nanjing University has provided an outstanding platform and environment. Many advanced technology can be seen in laboratories on campus, and such research is of great significance to scientific application and industrialization.

(the news center/Li Lingxiao, Liu Xiaoyi)

Introduction to Cao Xun

Cao Xun was awarded a bachelor’s degree in 2006 at Nanjing University’s School of Electronic Science and Engineering and a doctoral degree of engineering at Tsinghua University. His main research area is image and video processing, computer vision, and computer graphics. He was the host of many national research programs including the National Special Equipment. His research on spectrum camera was included in the annual research report of EuroGraphics, and his 3D video was published on the homepage of IEEE Computer Now. His research findings have been utilized in many areas such as film making and industrial examination. His achievements include:

  • First prize of the 2012 National Technology Invention Award

  • First prize of the 2011 Ministry-of-Education University Scientific Research Outstanding Achievement Award

  • The National Outstanding Youth Science Fund

  • Microsoft Scholar

  • Ministry-of-Education Doctoral Graduate Student Award

  • Nanjing University May-Fourth Youth Medal

  • Jiangsu Provincial Six Talent Peaks Award

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