Computer Animation Festival
South Hall K was the home of several CAF production sessions from Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks. The morning kicked off with Sony Pictures Animation’s “Checking in at Hotel Transylvania.” The film took 6 to 7 years in the making and director, Genndy Tartakovsky, was brought in later in the production process. His vision for the film included over-the-top expressions that are commonly found in 2D cartoons. This was a departure from the original vision of the film and presented some challenges because many of the characters had already been built. The session explained how the animators surmounted these obstacles in addition to the challenges presented by the snappy timing.
After the Hotel Transylvania session ended, Sony Pictures Imageworks presented their session, “Travel Behind the Scenes of Men in Black 3.” For those who hadn’t seen the film yet, they started with the movie’s trailer. The session focused on the responsibilities of a VFX Supervisor and explained how interdependent all the various departments of a film are so collaboration is key. The crew faced several challenges which included: working within the MIB look and feel, shooting without a full script and facing location and weather related issues. Next, they reviewed specific scenes and the steps that were taken to bring them to the screen.
A few hours later, Sony Pictures Imageworks kicked off “The Untold Story of The Amazing Spider-Man” with a 3D showing of the trailer. After the trailer, VFX Supervisor Jerome Chen explained that the movie is considered a “reboot”. During his explanation, he described some of the ways that this movie differs from the other Spider-Man movies. Examples included the fact that the film had a new director and new actor to play the role of Spider-Man in addition to a new desire for an organic, naturalistic style to the look and movement. The remaining portion of the session was broken into discussing the animation and final sequences of the film. The animation section included a breakdown of the high school fight scene and the final swing scene of the movie. The final sequences section discussed how to gradually freeze a lizard and how the water effects were created during the sewer fight. The session ended with attendees putting their 3D glasses back on to catch additional scenes from the movie.
The Disney Pixar presentation of Brave reviewed the process of creating the movie from the original art to the CG. The film took 6 years to make and started with the artists taking advantage of the internet to do some
initial research. Later, select members of the crew made two trips to Scotland for reference; this trip armed them with approximately 10,000 reference photos that allowed them to build a richer and more exciting world.
Next, the talk delved into character development. The appearance of the characters was used to help articulate their personality and the talk focused on Merida and the Queen (also known as Mumbear). Merida in particular was designed to maintain a youthful appearance and to be very expressive. Kelly MacDonald, the voice of Merida, was studied carefully as reference because of the differences in her mouth movements due to her Scottish accent. In contrast to Merida’s free-spirited personality, the Queen’s appearance was dictated by her control. Her mannerisms are very contained and her long hair is tightly bond. These same characteristics were carried over into her behavior has a bear.
The remainder of the time was dedicated to the clothing and hair simulations, sets, and lighting the world of Brave.
The line to South Hall K stretched past the Compass Cafe and down the hall toward the West Lobby. Attendees expressed concerns about sufficient seating as they waited for the doors to open for The Avengers session.
The Avengers visual effects were a collaborative effort between Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Weta Digital. ILM started the session with the importance of the digital doubles; they had to have a great sense of realism to pass muster. The discussion moved to the changes in the Iron Man costume and continuing the tradition of finding a new way for Stark to get into his suit. The biggest challenger, however, was The Hulk. Toward that end, they used features of Mark Ruffalo’s face to help bring the character to life and mentioned that the greatest challenge was his eyes.
Weta Digital concluded the session by talking about the work that they did on the movie which included several environmental shots. They covered the importance of maintaining a sense of realism when building environments from scratch. This included being aware of how the light would interact with smoke in an explosion and the surrounding environment.
The “Killzone” games have come a long way in the last 10 years. The realism has improved and that is made possible by the Playstation 3 which is a more powerful console than its predecessor. Despite the more powerful machine, Guerilla Studios still faced some challenges to make sure the game was an improvement in terms of its visuals but still playable. They wanted to create the sense of a larger world, so the different levels are several times larger than those in “Killzone 2.” They also wanted to add more variety and detail, so came up with some solutions to make that possible. The game is broken up into zones so that the next zone is loading while you’re playing. Once you get into the new zone, the previous zone is dumped from memory. In terms of detail and variety, building blocks were created to allow for a variety of levels to be created more efficiently. The building blocks were also nice, because if the source block is modified, the blocks in the game were modified automatically from the source. This also made it easier if the game wasn’t running properly, because the team could check which building blocks were used the most and then optimize that block to help game play. Another technique used was the use of high resolution and low resolution meshes, the high resolution meshes were put to use when the player is up close to an area, but once they reach a specific distance away, the high resolution mesh is replaced with the low resolution version.
The CAF Production Session “New Solutions for New Challenges” discussed the challenges of three of their movies. They began with “Cowboys & Aliens” which had over 600 visual effects shots and was made possible with the help of 3rd party vendors. The biggest challenge was creating a realistic world with both an 1870’s western town and aliens. The design of the weapons and aliens were discussed in addition to the techniques employed on-set to maintain eye lines.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” presentation focused on the challenges presented by the mermaids, because of their continual redesign. Other challenges faced were what references to use for the movement of the mermaids and the design of the mermaid’s tail.
The main challenge from “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was destroying Chicago; the talk focused on the best techniques to use to tear down a building.
The Electronic Theater kicked off with “The ABCs of Animation,” an amusing introduction to computer animation that took viewer’s through the various stages of the film making process. The showing was a collection of humorous shorts, commercials, and gritty, thought-provoking pieces. “Hezarfen,” “Sweater Dog,” “Time for Change,” and “Flamingo Pride” had viewers laughing, while “Chernokids” left some viewers unsure how to react. Overall, the Electronic Theater was an eclectic collection that successfully kept tired attendees awake and even allowed them to preview Pixar’s new short “La Luna.”
Did you miss the opportunity to catch this year’s Electronic Theater? Then check out SVR Online! Or would you like to review the Electronic Theater from previous years? Then visit the SIGGRAPH Video Review!
The CAF Production Session “The Smurf-alution: A Half-Century of Character Development” kicked off with a brief history of the Smurfs, who first appeared in 1958 and were later brought to the United States by Hanna-Barbera. Turning the 2D world of the Smurfs into 3D presented some challenges, because their simple cartoon design didn’t hold up in the real world. They attempted to add detail for realism but found that it only made the Smurfs look creepy. After several iterations, the final design of the Smurfs was agreed upon.
After reviewing the stages of the creation of the Smurfs, the presenters reviewed their new on-set data acquisition system which is a combination of HD witness cameras, Smurf stuffies, Trimble laser scanners, and Spheron. The work on the film also lead to the creation of a new lighting pipeline; the new pipeline is highly accurate and is more closely tied to the set lighting than ever before.
The CAF Production Session of “Getting Dirty: Bringing the Digital Feature ‘Rango’ to Life,” overlapped occasionally with the examples and anecdotes of yesterday’s Studio Talk about “Rango.” The overlap though was highly appropriate and hilarious in some instances, because both presentations shared the reference footage animator’s had filmed of themselves.
The inspiration for the characters was a combination of the voice talent and other references. Don Knotts in particular came up again as an inspiration for Rango. When it came to the voice recording process, rather than having the artists record separately, they were brought together so that they could play off each other. In fact, a lot of the movie was acted out so that they could use the footage as reference material. The footage was boiled down to a best of reel for inspiration.
“Rango” is a first for Industrial Light and Magic, because it’s their first animated feature. It is also Director Gore Verbinski’s first animated feature film. It posed some challenges, the biggest of which was creating the look of the film. The characters served as the centerpiece and there were 70 main characters who were created to be viewed up close. They also created 50 additional characters for the background. The initial 2D character designs were turned into 3D using ZBrush to give a rough idea of what they would look like in a 3D environment. The characters were built independently of one another and when they were brought together in a line up some concerns came up and some characters had to be modified. Lighting tests were also done with the characters just as they would be in a live action film.
The session continued with a discussion of the town of Dirt and the fact that they were going for a photographic look. The floor opened for Q&A and it was during this time that it came up that the entire movie was key framed.
The CAF production session, “DreamWorks Animation: The Yin and Yang of Creating the Final Battle in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2,'” was designed to help people understand how the collaborative process works. The process doesn’t have a linear start to finish, instead it is a fluid process that can take filmmakers back to previous steps and back again. The session was even set up to show this process. Rather than having each presenter go in turn, they continually rotated from person to person as the creation process had. They began with the 2D art that was the initial inspiration for the final battle scene. The team then worked on coming up with different versions of how the battle scene would play out. It was during these experiments that they realized that the setting wasn’t visually interesting. The art department came up with an alternative setting which lead to redoing the already completed model of the city to add canals, in addition to going back to the story to make the appropriate changes.
The discussion continued with other considerations such as lighting, color scheme, and water interaction before going into Q&A.
The SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival kicked off another great year on Monday, culminating in the premier of the 2011 Electronic Theater. The annual showcase of the very best in computer animation includes over thirty selections of student work, animated shorts, commercials, and samplings of the year’s very best visual effects work. Among the animations are this year’s award winners: Paths of Hate (Jury Prize), The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Best in Show), and Flamingo Pride (Best Student Project). If you didn’t make it to Monday’s screening, don’t worry, you have three more opportunities: Tuesday and Wednesday night at 6:00pm and Thursday at 10am. You don’t want to miss one of the highlights of the conference and don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a special late addition from Pixar!