The most famous baby in the world is not the son of any prince or princess of our times (here a parenthesis and is that the truth that causes me too much laughter that in the twenty-first century there are still kings, queens, princes and princesses … what a joke).
The most famous baby in the world, and that many people can remember, is the baby that first appeared in the digital world, nothing more and nothing less than 24 years ago, which means that many of the people who read this article do not they were born by then.
Today it is very common for many videos to go viral and be shared globally on social networks and messaging applications, but in the mid-1990s, the concept of “viral” was related only to people’s illnesses.
In the fall of 1996, a video appeared of an animation created in 3D showing a baby in a diaper, dancing to the song ‘Hooked on a feeling’. The baby soon became known as ‘Dancing Baby’. TV series like ‘Ally McBeal‘ famous at that time, turned that animation into a mass phenomenon that was forgotten a few years ago, but recently a student, perhaps unemployed in the middle of the quarantine generated by the Coronavirus, brought to life again with an additional advantage and that is that now you can enjoy such animation in the glorious resolution HD.
The most famous baby in the world and a demonstration of the power of 3D modeling software
The video of the baby dancing was curious but also disturbing: those movements were unnatural for a small child, but the truth is that it was an accurate and precise demonstration of what could be achieved with a 3D animation at that time.
The creators of the baby model were the original team that developed the Character Studio application for Kinetix/Autodesk, the company that was already known worldwide for its 3D Studio Max modeling and rendering software.
Those responsible for the baby’s 3D model realized that it was much more striking to make an animation in which he was seen dancing than one in which he could have appeared crawling or walking. That dance to the sound of a cha-cha-cha would eventually become the demonstration of what could be achieved with those two Autodesk programs.
Motion capture techniques were not used for video as is commonly done today, but instead, the developers studied physical models that they automated with interpolated keyframes that were then generated entirely in Character Studio. This was a huge undertaking given the technological limitations of the time.
The video was released in the fall of 1996 and both users and professional animators began to create their own versions of the so-called ‘Dancing Baby’. All thanks to a very famous original file, called SK_BABY.MAX, which would end up being shared in the social networks of the time: Compuserve and its discussion forums, email and various download sites on the Internet.
Probably the most famous appearance of ‘Dancing Baby’ was the GIF animation created by John Woodell, who posted it on the website of the company where he worked and ended up copying it to a lot of websites of users who simply took that animation and made it their own to give a fun touch to their own websites.
Dancing Baby, now in HD
That GIF and that viral video would eventually cease to be relevant, and were somewhat forgotten until in February 2020 a young student from the University of Bolton named Jack Armstrong decided to revive that viral meme.
timescale, rendering the whole thing at 1080p from a viewport angle similar to the one of the original videos. Since the whole model was vertex coloured, I didn't even need to re-map it, the model was EXACTLY as it was in 1996. The result? The video in the source (10/11) pic.twitter.com/eQuhOJ4oxO
— JArmstrongArt (@JArmstrongArty) February 7, 2020
In a Twitter thread Armstrong explained how he had managed to revive that meme. It all started with a question from a friend who asked him to model it on an old sandbox game called Garry’s Mod (GMod) that Valve published in 2006. Armstrong said to himself “why not”, and started a project that turned out to be more complex than he expected.
Especially since he couldn’t find the original model to work from. He finally located a ZIP file on an abandonware website called Vetusware, and after scanning it for viruses, he was pleased to find that the entire 1996 Character Studio 1.0 file package needed to resume the project was in that file.
Among those files, of course, was the coveted SK_BABY.MAX, which included the dance animation. From there Armstrong moved it to GMod, which he did after several hours and with a surprising result: the ‘Dancing Baby’ came back to life more than two decades later, but also in Full HD and at 60 frames per second.
And who knows, perhaps today, that animation will once again become the most famous baby in the world.