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PaulHellard
10-05-2006, 10:24 AM
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-013a.jpg
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/d_ikeler_045.jpg
CGTalk Meet the Artist: Doug Ikeler,
Visual Effects Supervisor, ‘Open Season’
Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Intro by Barbara Robertson.

‘Open Season’ is Sony Pictures Animation’s first CG feature and the first animated feature created at Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Imageworks has scored two Oscars recently for its CG work – a visual effects Oscar for ‘Spider-Man 2’, and a Best Short Film Oscar for the CG animation ‘The Chubbchubbs’. Sony funded ‘The Chubbchubbs’ in part to test whether the studio’s pipeline could handle an animated feature. With ‘Open Season’, Imageworks got the real test – and what a test it was.

‘Open Season’s directors decided to base the style of the film on paintings by Eyvind Earle, an artist who developed looks and painted backgrounds for Walt Disney Studios in the 1950’s. Earle’s distinctive style focused attention on foreground characters with such techniques as reducing background environments to their essence, taking backgrounds out of focus, and using long, raking shadows.

Visual effects supervisor Doug Ikeler led a team of around 250 people at Imageworks who worked on ‘Open Season’. They converted the 2D visual style from SPA’s art department in to a 3D film, animated the film using classic pose-based, non-volume-based animation techniques implemented in 3D software, and allowed the film to be art directed as if nearly every shot was a still painting.

In addition to new layout tools and data management software, under Ikeler’s supervision, Imageworks developed specific tools to handle the demands of the visual style: Fur and cloth that doesn’t break a character’s stylized profile, water simulations that hit the beats, 3D trees that look 2D, rendering tricks for casting shadows that are not accurate to geometry, and much more.



http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-002.jpg

http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-003.jpg
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-004.jpg
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-021.jpg
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/doug_ikeler/OS-011.jpg

Before joining Imageworks, Ikeler was effects designer and supervisor on DreamWorks’ ‘The Road to El Dorado’, and received an Annie nomination for his work on a water system he developed and animated for that film. Prior to DreamWorks, he was a modeler at Rhythm & Hues for ‘Babe’ and at Amblimation, he supervised compositing and digital ink and paint for ‘An American Tail: Fievel Goes West’, and effects for ‘Balto’.

During SIGGRAPH this summer, Ikeler and members of his team taught a course titled, “The Art of Open Season: Traditional 2D Styling with Today’s Bells and Whistles.”

Please welcome Doug Ikeler!

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saeid3d
10-05-2006, 01:10 PM
very very goooooood

morenike
10-05-2006, 02:10 PM
How long was the process between character design and the final 3d model before rigging?

Pick any character to describe.

-Morenike

p0rcupine
10-05-2006, 02:44 PM
Hi, I wanna ask a personal side questions.

How did you end up being you? I mean how did u know that u want to do what u do for life?
How long did it take you to get ur level? Any wise words for cg beginers? any advice?

If you are not busy, I am sure you are :s, can you see my reel and tell me what you think?

Thanks in advnace. I can't wait to see the movie. Not yet playing this side of the world ;)

http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=410368

michaelmarcondes
10-05-2006, 03:02 PM
Really Awesome.
The fur system is fantastic.
How did you manage to render that amount of fur?
How long did a frame took to render, in general?

Thanks and congrats for this great work.

Michael Marcondes

besnik
10-05-2006, 03:56 PM
Incrediby wonderful

se7enthcin
10-05-2006, 04:15 PM
Hi Doug.

thank you for taking the time to do this.

I found the "tricks" for your latest film very interesting. Two questions:

What kind of render tricks did you have to use to cast shadows that were not geometry based?

and What was your first interview to get into the business like?

Razorb
10-05-2006, 04:22 PM
Amazing work, great character animation, beautiful renders all and all nicely done.

I am an Instructor teaching XSI and 3DS Max at a college, although i have had students hired in industry its few and far between. What would you say is the most valuable thing you have learned on your jouney that led you to Sony Imageworks?

Thanks,
Jeff Stalians

crossbones
10-05-2006, 04:41 PM
Loved the film. I did get the feeling that as I was watching it was like still moments were incapsulated as paintings in my mind. The whole team at Sony did an amazing job!

In the pipeline at Sony were their any individuals that took shots on their own or ran together a series of shots and were responsible for those?

What kind of feed back to the animators get when they are animating ( what kind of mesh and rig are they looking at)? Lets say something goes wrong after the fact in a fur simulation where the animator had intersecting limbs and it caused a problem, would the animator be able to fix the mistake later on in the production?

Also Those water simulations were amazing! How did you get it to hit beats?

living_for_cg
10-05-2006, 04:45 PM
Hi Mr Ikeler
its so great we have you here:).
a question i have is that i have always had problem to choose a kind of style for an animation project,it is not that hard for a still 3d image,but when comes to animation i usually loose the main style in production, what majors should i know or do for having the same style in any part of an animation?

Bug_Eyed_Earl
10-05-2006, 05:12 PM
I see Maxon is using a lot of Open Season imagery on their site these days. What of theirs did you use in your pipeline? What else did you use for the unique look?

How was your team broken up into sub-teams (The intro says you had 250 people, how many were animators, lighting, modelling, riggers, etc).

Great work. The first trailer was the very first thing that went on my iPod months ago.

cesarmontero
10-05-2006, 05:25 PM
I really like the story behind Open Season.
And I just loved the approach to manage it.
I'm really looking forward to see it (It is still not shown at Mexico, i'll have to wait!).

QUESTIONS:

1) How would you describe your work enviroment?(a pic would be great)!
2) How balanced is life at your work (health/work/personal time)?

CRITIQUE:

1) Could you take a look at my shortfilm Sex And The Socket (http://cesarmontero.cgsociety.org/gallery/) ?
and/or
2) Critique on my latest character: Rusty (http://cesarmontero.cgsociety.org/gallery/378084/)

Thanks!!:)

SteveKey
10-05-2006, 06:17 PM
Hello Mr. Ikeler, thanks for taking your time to do this. I've noticed there seems to be a lot of animal based cg films being released recently, and I was wondering if, while in production, you took note of what some of these other films were doing and adjusted accordingly, or if you disregarded what other films were doing and just followed through with all of your original thoughts and plans. Thanks again!

PhuongDPh
10-05-2006, 07:11 PM
Hello, SonyImagesWork is my Idol http://forums.cgsociety.org/images/icons/icon10.gif
Waiting for Spider Man 3. Good luck to all of you and Mr. Ikeler.

Strob
10-05-2006, 07:12 PM
Hi and thank you very much for your time.


I would like you to write a bit about the softwares you used for Open Season to create the special effects. And how does a big studio like sony decide to create a new software instead of using an already existing solution. And also please talk to us about the pro and cons of integrating a new software in a pipeline for special fx.

Thanks

DuttyFoot
10-05-2006, 07:37 PM
open season was pretty cool. i loved the overall look.
for anyone who is interested i found this link on open season

http://mag.awn.com/OpenSeason/

MVDB
10-05-2006, 09:34 PM
Well hello there Doug! Thanx for taking the time!

How does it feel to have 250 people working for you? A big responsibility I guess.
Can't get enough of those 3D animations! Lovin' the characters as well as the total look of this movie (creates a mood/atmosphere right away). The story and the characters, that's what's the most important for succes, right?
If you have the time, I would like you to look at a image I've done. I hope you will tell me, what you think is missing, so this pic/image could be stronger..

http://mvdb.cgsociety.org/gallery/340804/

Wish you and your crew all the best and hope you'll keep us amazed, with all that's possible in the digital world!

LucentDreams
10-05-2006, 11:13 PM
what were some of the logistical considerations in making a 2D stylized film that also had to play in a Stereo format. Seems like quite a challenge already to make a 3D film look more 2D, and then to take that and play it in stereo (3D IMAX DMR).

Also, did you use any sort of a frontal projected grid deformer to help mold the 3D geometry into the ideal 2D poses?

Sat through April's Painting Demo several times at siggraph this year, found the techniques used there to be very innovative.

Saw it opening day in Imax, and thought you guys did a brilliant job.

DougIkeler
10-06-2006, 01:08 AM
Hi everyone! So many good questions to answer already! Thank you very much for all the compliments. We are obviously very proud of our movie J . There are a few questions of “how did I get to this place in my career”. That seems like a good place to start. I’ll start by telling you something about how I got to my position and hopefully that will answer a few of the questions all at once. After attending San Diego State for Information Systems I quickly realized that the computer business wasn’t for me (no-duh huh?), and I took my computer skills to art school where I studied graphic design. My first job in the “business” was at a studio that colorized black and white movies. Needless to say, this isn’t what I thought I’d be doing initially, but it was work using digital imagery on a computer.

Se7enthcin (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=145100) asks “What was your first interview to get into the business like?”

I was interviewing to be a colorist (painting frames one by one all day) and as it turns out the woman who hired me liked that I wore leather bracelets, REALLY. So, go figure, I wasn’t hired for my talent, maybe she liked my portfolio as well. That was the opportunity that got me in the door and after two years of working with this technology we conformed it to be a digital ink and paint system for animation. That took me to London where I worked at Amblimation on American Tale 2 and Balto as a supervising compositor. I was in London for 4 years and then returned to Los Angeles where, after spending six months teaching myself 3D using the original 3D Studio (Max), I got a job at Rhythm and Hughes as a modeler. After working on Babe and Waterworld, I was hired by the then start up Dreamworks. And while at Dreamworks, I worked on Prince of Egypt, El Dorado, Spirit, and Sinbad as an effects artist and supervisor. It was after Sinbad that I joined Sony in the role of Visual Effects Supervisor for their first animated movie. So, mostly I was lucky—even my mom says this. But once I was in the door I excelled at what I did best, turning around images as quickly as possible, giving directors the most choices possible.



Porcupine asks “did you know that you always wanted to do this?” The answer is honestly – no, I thought I would be in advertising or something. You have to understand that in 1988 there wasn’t much of a digital imagery business so it didn’t really seem like a likely career. But once I started, it was the only job for me. And everyday, I feel lucky to have this job.



Razorb asks “What would you say is the most valuable thing you have learned on your journey that led you to Sony Imageworks?” You will be pressured to decide which area of CG you prefer to work in, and you need to make this decision. The larger studios don’t really hire “generalists”, rather they want to know if you are a modeler, lighter, rigger or whatever. Pick what you enjoy and excel at the most and then when you get into the company you can explore the other areas. Don’t be afraid to change your mind once you experience a job that doesn’t seem to fit you. Every discipline in CG animation has its benefits and rewards. Find the one that fits you the best.



From Buffichar: “How long was the process between character design and the final 3D model before rigging?” Roughly the answer is a month. We do al of our characters and all of our rigging concurrently, in other words as the first model finishes, it goes into rigging, and the next model follows subsequently. We may have five models in modeling at the same time with the previous 5 models in rigging. Obviously, the more important the character is to the story, the more time it gets in character design. We spent about 4 months on Boog and Elliot in modeling and most of our secondary characters went through in a month.



From se7enthcin (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=145100) “What kind of render tricks did you have to use to cast shadows that were not geometry based?” This is actually a very simple technique called gobo matting. In traditional film or stage lighting, a gobo is a card with shapes on it that is placed in front of the light to give interesting shadows within the set. We did the same thing. We made shapes that would complement the design of the set and cast shadows from them and often turned off the real shadows that would have been cast from objects in the sccene. For example Elliots horns are complicated shapes and the shadow they cast is even more interesting. So when you see the movie, look for these shadows under Elliot as he is tied to the hood (bonnet—see I was in UK) of the truck. They aren’t there.





From Crossbones: Loved the film. I did get the feeling that as I was watching it was like still moments were incapsulated as paintings in my mind. The whole team at Sony did an amazing job!



It’s great to hear that the movie left you remembering paintings because that’s exactly what we tried to do. Without going into too much detail, we basically treated each shot compositionally as if it were a Photoshop file. We relied heavily on the composite to get our final approval. By that I mean we used Renderman’s AOV’s (multiple image outputs) to render as much as possible separately. All characters, lights, shadows, props, ambient occlusion, depth maps, and even regions within character were rendered separately and put together in the composite. This gave us the ability to tweak each element as much or as little as we desired. The lighting was added together in the composite resulting in an image that would be the same as rendering it all at once. It sounds like a lot of work but it gave us the ability to compose the lighting for each shot specifically.



“In the pipeline at Sony were their any individuals that took shots on their own or ran together a series of shots and were responsible for those?

Our studio, and most CG feature studios, uses the CG Supervisor/Sequence Supervisor design that is, one GG Supervisor leads a group of artists to the completion of a sequence in a movie. The main benefit being those artists get a feel for that sequence and it gives the continuity and efficiency that we desire.





What kind of feed back to the animators get when they are animating (what kind of mesh and rig are they looking at)? Let’s say something goes wrong after the fact in a fur simulation where the animator had intersecting limbs and it caused a problem, would the animator be able to fix the mistake later on in the production?



Let’s start with the case of furred animals. Because the hair happens at render time, the animators don’t see it when they’re animating. We give them what we call a “volume stand in” that roughly represents the volume the fur will fill in. This is just a guess so there will always be the potential for interpenetration problems as well as shapes the animator didn’t expect. We use a system called “Kick Back” that basically, when it’s decided that a fix is needed, that shot goes on hold and the character gores back to animation to be fixed. This same example holds up for cloth and any unexpected deformations.



michaelmarcondes (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=184335) Asks:
The fur system is fantastic.
How did you manage to render that amount of fur?
How long did a frame took to render, in general?



Imageworks has a really strong hair system that was developed over the course of the Stuart Little movies. Darren Lurie, one of the 4 CG Supervisors on this movie, and Chris Yee our Hair Lead, were integral into developing the look for Boog. The early tests that they provided were so successful that the appetite for what we could do with hair kept growing. It gave us a very high benchmark for what we should expect our characters to look like. We then had a whole team of artist who provided dynamics as well as shot specific combing for things like character interaction or even just design changes if a shot needed it. THEN…we made all the characters wet! That was essentially a whole other pass through hair look dev for all characters. This included new dynamic attributes and shaders.

Boog had the most fur and one HD frame of Boog took about 45 minutes. That wasn’t that difficult to deal with. Our biggest problems occurred when we had to render many furred animals all at once. There is a shot of a bunch of squirrels up a tree. That took forever to render and often failed with memory problems. We kept trying to reduce hair count until you noticed they looked different and then split it up into Z comps when necessary.

cgnetworks_le
10-06-2006, 02:16 AM
Hi, Doug,

I, overhere in Australia, havent got a chance to watch the moview yet but the trailer looks really promising. Can I have a few question for you?

To be a VFX supervisor, the man at the highest ranking in the production, how do you find your balance between the art and technology? Do you consider one important than the another? And I think you worked your way up from a junior artist to a highly-respected VFX supervisor. So, do you see any change in the way you look at VFX works?

Also, thesedays, many artists are jumping around VFX for film, cartoon and video game production. What do you think are the challenges, advantages and disadvantages of those coming from different production pipelines? I believe a lot of SonyImage's artists are there for many years focusing on realistic animation and rendering. Did you have to spend some times with the crew to get used to this cartoony, squash-and-stretch style of animation?

Thank you very much for spending time with us.
Richard.

Winner
10-06-2006, 03:42 AM
Hey Doug,

I realise you worked in the effects department, but maybe you could shed some light on an element of animated features I find very interesting right now:

I've been animating for about 6 years, and I'm used to working with very loose blocking and working in a more straight ahead manner... which leads me to my question; I would like to know if the animators were generally required to conformed to a specific method of animating their shots ? ... to be specific, was it common for shots to be blocked in heavily, with progressive levels of detail that would be signed off in stages, or were shots approved less rigidly on an initial key pose blocking pass, that would allow more options for animators that like to work straight ahead ?

tinalee
10-06-2006, 04:32 AM
Hi Doug,

I am amzed by your detailed 3D works. they are great indeed. well, i have only been learning maya for a year and now i am working on a scene modelling project in my school. So hopefully you could answer some doubts i have in doing my project .

I would like to know what is the best way to model sofas , curtains and other furnitures... as i seem have litte idea in doing this.

would be thankful if you can help me in any way you can.... thanks!

Drake83
10-06-2006, 10:12 AM
Hi Doug!

Just would like to know:

What do you expect from the future of animated features?
What do you expect from your own future (maybe with Sony or wherever you want)? Any idea?

Thank you in advance for your answers.
Cedric

Pasargad
10-06-2006, 11:22 AM
Nothing to say, very good.

mediaramas
10-06-2006, 02:01 PM
no question, just want to say I really admire your work Doug and I can`t wait to see Open Season

Luks
10-06-2006, 04:25 PM
Fantastic fur, i like it very much.

Doug, what you think about the new programs of computer graphics, like 3ds max9, maya 8, lightwave 10, what you think about the new features of these new programs?

Libor
10-06-2006, 05:29 PM
Hi!

Well I d like to ask about pipeline in Imageworks. I mean what kind of sw platform do you use inclusive misc apps like maya etc.

Another question is regarding characters. Do you use any muscle system for them (maybe a bit silly question - maybe its already standard in every single feature film.) is it custom inhouse technology or not?

Thank you very much for your time Doug.


Libor

se7enthcin
10-06-2006, 05:54 PM
Thank you for your replies. I had a feeling you used gobos (it was the first thing that crossed my mind but I wasn't quite sure). I am please to hear that gobos are actually being used in animation. I haven't heard anything about gobos in 3D films and it's nice to know that easy tricks that are pretty render friendly like this are yielding excellent results.

Another question for you.

If there where one tool in 3d or otherwise that would benefit you or you feel would benefit an animation team or vfx team. What would that tool be? Or/and if none come to mind, is there a specific set of tools that you feel you cannot do without?

Tenchi
10-06-2006, 07:58 PM
Hi Doug!

I was wondering if you could tell me what sort of hardware you guys run down there? Specifically displays, is it true studios like yourselfs still use CRTs? Which I can understand. It would be good to know what the pros run at work and at home!

Cheers

DougIkeler
10-06-2006, 08:07 PM
living_for_cg (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=133793) asks:

a question i have is that i have always had problem to choose a kind of style for an animation project,it is not that hard for a still 3d image,but when comes to animation i usually loose the main style in production, what majors should i know or do for having the same style in any part of an animation?

I am only guessing, but it sounds like you need to find a style that suits the way you work.

I know it’s difficult as a student trying to make a short that requires you to wear all the hats of production. I think for the benefit of your portfolio you should tailor the requirements of you project to only use those parts of production you feel comfortable with and enjoy. You will always end up spending the most amount of time on the thing that is the hardest for you to do and you probably wont be happy with it anyway.

Otherwise developing an artistic style to your artwork and animation really is the result repetitive projects (personal or professional). Courses you could be taking…Life Drawing, Composition, and any Animation classes focusing on timing.



Bug_Eyed_Earl (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=1027) asked: (nice avatar Earl)

I see Maxon is using a lot of Open Season imagery on their site these days. What of theirs did you use in your pipeline? What else did you use for the unique look?

How was your team broken up into sub-teams (The intro says you had 250 people, how many were animators, lighting, modelling, riggers, etc).



We used the Bodypaint portion of Maxon for all of 3D texture paining.



The basic production structure for Open Season is as follows: (numbers are from memory)

Layout-- 15 artists (10 rough layout and 5 final layout)

Animation ---4 teams each led by supervising animator, each team is about 15 people.

Character Rigging and Support – 10 riggers and 5 support artists

Hair – 16 artists

Cloth – 7 artists

Effects – 18 artists

Texture Painter/Surfacers – 8 artists

Matte Painters – 5 artists

Shader writers -- 2

Software Developers -- 5

Lighting – 4 Teams supervised by CG Supes. Each team had approx 20 artists.



+++ various pipeline and support technicians.



cesarmontero (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=153841) asked:

1) How would you describe your work enviroment?(a pic would be great)!

2) How balanced is life at your work (health/work/personal time)?

We are situated near the Columbia and Culver Studios lots, so it is definitely a movie making atmosphere. Our actual 5 buildings are grouped together and each has its different emphasis. I am located in the Imageworks main building where most of the digital artists are located. My office is in what we call a Pod. I have the digital producer and most of the production coordinators around me. My office is also a sweatbox. That means that we do approvals with the artists in here. There is a nice large screen on one wall with a 2K projector that is driven by a linux box. The other buildings have the Art department in one, Sony Pictures animation in another, training in another.

How balanced is life at work? Good question. As a VFX that is what I hope to do the most for my team. With proper planning and management of expectations, we should be able to maintain realistic working hours so that everyone’s personal time is just that. It went pretty well on our first project. There was some overtime, but not near as much as we have worked in the past. Personally, I have a family, so it is very important that I don’t miss out on watching my kids grow up. No way that is going to happen. I expect the same for everyone on our production and we work very hard to make that happen.



SteveKey (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=57811) asked:

I've noticed there seems to be a lot of animal based cg films being released recently, and I was wondering if, while in production, you took note of what some of these other films were doing and adjusted accordingly, or if you disregarded what other films were doing and just followed through with all of your original thoughts and plans.

We are getting this question a lot lately..go figure.

I have many friends that work at the other studios so I had some sense of what they are working on. But that is really all, just an overview of story and characters. No specifics.

These movies take about 3 years from start to finish. You really cant try and second guess what the other guy is doing. Because it is really hard to try and make a good story alone, you cant be readjusting as you go. 3 years ago we did have an inclination that there were some other animal movies coming out, but beyond that we didn’t know too much.



Strob (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=28242) asked:

I would like to write a bit about the softwares you used for Open Season to create the special effects. And how does a big studio like sony decide to create a new software instead of using an already existing solution. And also please talk to us about the pro and cons of integrating a new software in a pipeline for special fx.



Wow, that really could take a while to do this question justice. I’ll try and give the short answer.

We use Houdini for our Special Effects. We use Renderman with a proprietary lighting interface to render. We use Maya for just about everything else. Sounds easy right?

Nope. The real flexibility to our system comes from in-house plug-ins, scripts and general “glue”. We customize just about every step of the process. The main reason this is done is for reasons like reusability, efficiency, and to achieve the highest level creativity. Every show usually has to take on a new (or new version) software. This can be painful and difficult, but the rewards are usually achieved in the next project. As long as you don’t change too much at once it usually goes well.



LucentDreams (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=3402) asked:

what were some of the logistical considerations in making a 2D stylized film that also had to play in a Stereo format. Seems like quite a challenge already to make a 3D film look more 2D, and then to take that and play it in stereo (3D IMAX DMR).



The conversion to stereo was actually done by another team who specialize in doing this. They were using our data though obviously. Besides the fact that we really never set up the composites to be done in stereo (stereo was an after thought) the main problem was the amount of 2d tricks we were doing in the comp. Roto mattes and extensive filtering made it tough on the guys who were doing the conversion. Honestly though, they kicked butt. They were finaling over a hundred shots a week to get this thing done for IMAX.



Also, did you use any sort of a frontal projected grid deformer to help mold the 3D geometry into the ideal 2D poses?



No, our “Shaper system” used circular cross sections to deform the character pose. It had no sense of screen space. In other words, the animator pushed and pulled the cv’s on the deformer rings (there were about 10 from head to toe) to shape their poses. The rings had about 6 cv’s usually and that was enough to handle all views that’s you may see the character from.





cgnetworks_le (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=100660) asked:
To be a VFX supervisor, the man at the highest ranking in the production, how do you find your balance between the art and technology? Do you consider one important than the another?



Art or Technology?

Yeah, I still don’t know the answer to that question even though I have been asking it for 17 years. As always it comes down to the artist in the seat. Those who are the most successful usually have found just the right balance of both.



And I think you worked your way up from a junior artist to a highly-respected VFX supervisor. So, do you see any change in the way you look at VFX works?



One of the first things you have to come to terms with when you enter supervision is that you are not on the box anymore. It is very easy to feel your worth and contribution when you see the exact pixels you made on the screen. As a supervisor and eventually VFX, I had to find my pride in my team’s work and my worth in what I could do for them to make their work as good as possible.






Also, thesedays, many artists are jumping around VFX for film, cartoon and video game production. What do you think are the challenges, advantages and disadvantages of those coming from different production pipelines? I believe a lot of SonyImage's artists are there for many years focusing on realistic animation and rendering. Did you have to spend some times with the crew to get used to this cartoony, squash-and-stretch style of animation?

I think jumping around the various CG business’ is fantastic. Everyone should do it, it makes you a more versatile asset. I mean it:wavey:. It did take a while to adapt to the style of our movie, but that is usually the case on most productions I have been on. Every movie is a new beast.



Winner (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=172999) asked:

I've been animating for about 6 years, and I'm used to working with very loose blocking and working in a more straight ahead manner... which leads me to my question; I would like to know if the animators were generally required to conformed to a specific method of animating their shots ? ... to be specific, was it common for shots to be blocked in heavily, with progressive levels of detail that would be signed off in stages, or were shots approved less rigidly on an initial key pose blocking pass, that would allow more options for animators that like to work straight ahead ?



Our animators worked both ways. It really depended on the performance of the shot and to some extent the individual who was animating. Big performances with large sweeping motion for example, they usually blocked out. The Directors would approve the blocking on shots like this and they may see the shot several times before it went to final animation. Talking head shots could often be animated straight ahead as I saw it.





Drake83 (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=161790) asked:

What do you expect from the future of animated features?
What do you expect from your own future (maybe with Sony or wherever you want)? Any idea?

Well I think we all know that there wont be as many talking animal movies in our future.

That is after the 2 rat movies and the 2 penguin movies come out:D. I do hope that there is a day when a movie like Final Fantasy has a bigger audience. I am not saying whether it was good or not, it just didn’t seem like the public was ready for it.

My next project at Sony is Hotel Transylvania a monster comedy. After that? Who knows? I am pretty sure that I will stay in animation for a while though.

EzequielM
10-06-2006, 10:00 PM
Hi! i cant wait to get to the theater to see this piece, it seems amazing


My question would be about a subject that is not very common to read about in the web:

How do you handle the shading/lighting workflow? how about the surfaces/characters shaders with diferents kind of light moods that still have that continuity in the look-and-feel?

i dont know if my question is a little dumb, but i wanted to know because a had a hardtime myself with that subject lattely when trying to get a specific look that feels the way i want with diferents lights moods

Keep on the explendid work!!

And thanks in advance :)

Diesel1064
10-06-2006, 10:03 PM
Hello Doug,

I am a beginner CG artist and attempting to make the transfer from military to civilian world. I am currently working towards my Bachelors in CG art and design and will graduate within a year. For someone who would like to start on the right track is there a specific CG software to start out with? I have a choice of 3Ds Max or Maya with my college and I have chosen Maya due to the fact that I would like to get into the film industry. Should I invest in Maxon Cinema 4D or New Tek Lightwave 3D also? I read what you wrote about how it is better to be an "expert" in a field instead of a generalist. Is it the same with software? Thanks for answering our questions here and great job on the movie!!

Dave

Climax
10-07-2006, 01:08 AM
Hi Doug, Congratulations on your work! I have a simple couple questions:
What Software did you use and why?
How long did the longest scene and frame took to render?
At what resolution did you render the final images?
After having the rendered images are they printed to film or how is that process?

Thank you for taking your time, i love your work keep it up!

JohanGold
10-07-2006, 08:16 PM
it's really really good

good job

cjs1106
10-08-2006, 01:22 AM
oooo................. i like!

i12bsuperman
10-08-2006, 06:31 AM
hi Doug Ikeler,
i love it! :) and thanks to your talk and sharings at Siggraph06. i was there in your talk! amazing! :) i love the "shapper" that you all used to define the shapes of the characters! amazing! :) cant wait for the show in theater.

yoni-cohen
10-08-2006, 02:01 PM
hi Doug Ikeler,
First of all I`ve been waiting for this movie since your siggraph trailers caught my eyes.
I wanted to know more about your asset management in general and example of tools.
what did you find working best for this type of a feature what went wrong and how could this part of production be even smoother.

Thanks!!

yolao
10-09-2006, 01:50 AM
Hi Doug

Great to have you here, you guys did a great job with open season:thumbsup:.

I want to ask you about the hair.

-How do you iluminate the hair?...do you use image base lighting with HDR images?...

-If you do use HDR image to iluminate the hair can you explain a bit about that and how the hair was render it?

thanks a lot for your time.

Cheers

dren
10-09-2006, 02:17 AM
Thank you for your time. :) I'm just wondering where you went for your education and how long it took to get your full education.

Thanks!

chikoritaKun
10-09-2006, 02:20 AM
i like most the water...the fur also very nice.cant wait for the open season opening in cinema

octobomb
10-09-2006, 03:07 AM
first off i want to say that the stylization in the movie rocked. It reminded me alot of the olden day cartoons i loved as a kid, except 3d.

I was wondering about the stylized human characters. Like the stylization of the hair of Beth the Park Ranger. Most films have straight hair... but beth had a very wavy feel to it? was it Maya hair? polygons with a texture? a rig? It just looked so good for wavy hair.

Thanks for your time!

thoughtcriminal
10-09-2006, 04:28 PM
Hi there!

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed every second of the movie, I went with friends and watching the show made me proud knowing that I work in this industry.

I have a couple of questions:

1. How big was your influence as the VFX supervisor, on creative decisions made by the film director?

-In the Siggraph course, you mentioned that the backpack naturally posed a huge technical headache, but you had to make it work anyway - I wonder if in other cases you managed to reduce production time by avoiding curtain issues...
-For me it was appearant in some sequences in the movie:
a.When Eliot and Boog walk around in circles in the grass, and flatten out the area in which they later sleep on = avoid intersections.
b.The Flood sequence had some very strong camera moves, which kept visual water-creature intersections to a minimum.

2. Do you see yourself directing a movie in the future?

-This might be a strange question, but I'm asking this because although I'm practicaly doing VFX Supervision currently, I came to the industry with a belief that my true mission is telling stories interestingly and passionately working as a film director. I also believe that a good VFX sup, is using a mixture of techincal qualities, managment qualities, AND the same kind of creativity that makes a good film-maker. I wonder if you agree.

3. Can you tell a little about the flood sequence - how did you plan it out, carry it through set design, modeling, layout and all the way to final compositing?

-I got a glimps at the technologies you used to make this sequence work, I would be happy to get a deeper insight of the proccess...


4. Are the same water simulation technologies being used on "Surf's up"?

I'm asking this because from the look of the trailer (Which is amazing, BTW), it seems like the movie is going to have a lot more fluids simulation than "Open Seazon", and I wonder if the solution displayed at Siggraph is not too heavy production-wise for such a film.

5. How do you see the future of high-budget feature CG films, now that much-lower-budget films are proving to be successful at the box-office?

- And could you please elaborate more on your belief that CG films are starting to become more mature, Are we going to see R-rated CG features in the future? Isn't that realm allreay dominated by live-action movies, with living, breathing (Half CG allready), actors?

Hehe, Oops, sorry for the amout of questions...

Thanks for having this session - I can't wait to answer some questions myself someday ;-)

Take care and good luck in the future!

Ahmattu
10-10-2006, 10:10 AM
Hi Doug, great work man!

I have maybe a strange question:

from your experience, is there any "age" limitations for a person who want to work "as a pro" in this industry (cg animation), if he spent lots of years in research then found that this industry is his world!, I mean in other words, do the employers consider the age of the candidate, and how they think about this point?

many respect and thanks

Winner
10-10-2006, 05:57 PM
Thanks for the insight Doug, appreciated.

DougIkeler
10-10-2006, 08:29 PM
EzequielM (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=7204) asked:

How do you handle the shading/lighting workflow? how about the surfaces/characters shaders with diferents kind of light moods that still have that continuity in the look-and-feel?



If I understand the question correctly, you are asking how do we change mood/look of the lighting and the characters that it affects and still maintain continuity.

We do what we call “sequence lighting” that means that our Art department paints color keys from a few of the important shots within a sequence. A sequence is defined by a series of shots within a given location, within a particular part of the story line. The lighting “rig” is set up to match those color keys and then that rig is used for the remainder of the sequence. The most important continuity is within a sequence as compared to the whole film. Most of our shader standards (character) are setup up in a very ambient and “average” situation so that they respond well to most of our lighting rigs that we apply. That might be where you want to look first as this is a common problem, that is, setting your characters initial look up with lights that are too extreme to handle different situations.



Diesel1064 (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=233911) asked:

For someone who would like to start on the right track is there a specific CG software to start out with? I have a choice of 3Ds Max or Maya with my college and I have chosen Maya due to the fact that I would like to get into the film industry. Should I invest in Maxon Cinema 4D or New Tek Lightwave 3D also? I read what you wrote about how it is better to be an "expert" in a field instead of a generalist. Is it the same with software?



I personally would just dive deep into maya. You could have done the same with Max, but Maya is a good choice for film like you said. I would augment it with a compositing package (shake or whatever you like) and just stick to that.



Climax asked:

How long did the longest scene and frame took to render?
At what resolution did you render the final images?
After having the rendered images are they printed to film or how is that process?



I think our longest frame was something like a 40 hours to render….didn’t happen too often.

We rendered at HD 1:66 , 1920x1156.

We delivered in 2 formats, digital cinema (which was just the HD files converted to cineon files) and film which used a film recorder that exposed the digital files to film, then print as usual.



yoni-cohen (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=9149) asked:

I wanted to know more about your asset management in general and example of tools.
what did you find working best for this type of a feature what went wrong and how could this part of production be even smoother.



This would really take a huge amount of explaining, so rather I will just tell you where we used asset management.

All geometry, both as a component and a hierarchy, is managed as it is loaded into maya.

That geometry carries shader assignment, maps, etc into the scene render.

All other assets like images, scripts, particle data etc. go through versioning and publishing controls.

All scene information and history is controlled by a production tracking system that is integral to getting things done right and on time.

Sorry I cant be more specific.



yolao (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=130448) asked:
-How do you iluminate the hair?...do you use image base lighting with HDR images?...



No, we didn’t use HDR. Our hair is rendered through Renderman using RiCurve as the primitive. This allows for mostly normal rendering as if it were just another piece of geometry in the scene. There are two majors differences to that: The shading down the length of the shaft of hair comes from deep shadows and since the hair is not part of the ambient occlusion data that we get, we cheat that by looking up ambient occlusion for each hair from the surface below it.





Octobomb asked:
I was wondering about the stylized human characters. Like the stylization of the hair of Beth the Park Ranger. Most films have straight hair... but beth had a very wavy feel to it? was it Maya hair? polygons with a texture? a rig? It just looked so good for wavy hair.



It is not maya hair, but we use maya hair as an interface for what we are going to render through renderman. IOW, the hair artist combs, adjusts length and density, and builds volume all through Maya GL hair representations. We then have proprietary software that converts it for renderman as well giving it characteristics, like the waviness that you pointed out, for the render. Hair at render time is around 100 to a thousand more hairs than the hair artist is working with.



Ahmattu (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=83950) asked:
from your experience, is there any "age" limitations for a person who want to work "as a pro" in this industry (cg animation), if he spent lots of years in research then found that this industry is his world!, I mean in other words, do the employers consider the age of the candidate, and how they think about this point?



No, not really. Our studio has an age range of about 18 to 60 years old. This industry is just now getting to be more mature, it used to be that everyone was young because the industry was young. Of course there may be an age where you really cant imagine sitting at a computer for 8+ hours straight. :)





thoughtcriminal (http://forums.cgsociety.org/member.php?u=54295) asked:

WOW…I’ll do my best to answer all your Q’s, but I may start losing feeling in my fingers……:)
1. How big was your influence as the VFX supervisor, on creative decisions made by the film director?

-In the Siggraph course, you mentioned that the backpack naturally posed a huge technical headache, but you had to make it work anyway - I wonder if in other cases you managed to reduce production time by avoiding curtain issues...
-For me it was appearant in some sequences in the movie:
a.When Eliot and Boog walk around in circles in the grass, and flatten out the area in which they later sleep on = avoid intersections.
b.The Flood sequence had some very strong camera moves, which kept visual water-creature intersections to a minimum.



My job, almost more than anything else, is to let the directors know what their options are, both technically and creatively given the possibilities and limitations of our software.

My experience allows me to pull from a bag of tricks (as you noted) as well as aesthetics that have worked for me in the past. There are times, like the back pack, where given all the data I can muster the directors still feel it is that important and that savings will have to be found elsewhere to compensate. Every day is a negotiation to some degree. There are times when it was my idea and there are times when what you see is all that the time and budget would allow . Mostly , we are able to deliver what the director s ask for.








2. Do you see yourself directing a movie in the future?

-This might be a strange question, but I'm asking this because although I'm practicaly doing VFX Supervision currently, I came to the industry with a belief that my true mission is telling stories interestingly and passionately working as a film director. I also believe that a good VFX sup, is using a mixture of techincal qualities, managment qualities, AND the same kind of creativity that makes a good film-maker. I wonder if you agree.



This is definitely an avenue to directing if you have that talent. Me personally I am not sure, I haven’t spent much time in story and that is a crucial part of directing. Never say never though, because I said I would never be a VFX.

3. Can you tell a little about the flood sequence - how did you plan it out, carry it through set design, modeling, layout and all the way to final compositing?

-I got a glimps at the technologies you used to make this sequence work, I would be happy to get a deeper insight of the proccess...





Too much to type…. But as someone else pointed out go here:

http://mag.awn.com/OpenSeason/ (http://mag.awn.com/OpenSeason/)

That should give you most of the answers.



4. Are the same water simulation technologies being used on "Surf's up"?

I'm asking this because from the look of the trailer (Which is amazing, BTW), it seems like the movie is going to have a lot more fluids simulation than "Open Seazon", and I wonder if the solution displayed at Siggraph is not too heavy production-wise for such a film.



We did do a hand-off to Surf’s Up as they would be using Houdini as well. I believe they used a lot of it and then continued to develop a lot more.

vANON
10-10-2006, 11:51 PM
Hi, nice of you taking the time to answer all these questions. Really enjoyed the movie :)

I'm qurious about how you manage the hours at work versus hours away from work. When working on a project for example. Say you have four weeks to go from start to finish with a group of people. Do you manage to stay within the 8-9 hours a day barrier and having the weekends off, or do you, as i do, tend to work waaay beyond those limits, like 15-18 hours a day + some eventual sleep-overs at your desk, taking you job home with you etc., just to get the job done faster and/or better?

I find that most people do this, sacrificing any life they might have outside the current project.

Thanks again!

- Marcus

ma11JoseG
10-12-2006, 08:36 AM
Hi, Doug.

I'm very curious about the techniques you used to achieve the awsome 2D/Graphic style of the BGs and all enviroments. How did you get pretty organic things to look this designy and stylized? I mean rocks, the trees, close to camera mountains; the enviroments in general.

Thanks for sharing the wisdom!

PS:OK, I've read the AWN piece, that was very informative. It covers pretty well what I asked, so let me be more specific then:

What modelling and texturing considerations were taken to achieve the style when you created the library of the most detailed (Close up) enviromental elements?

lcooperdesign
10-12-2006, 01:52 PM
Hi Doug,

I really appreciate the time that you have spent answering all of our questions, (have you developed RSI yet??)

How do you juggle your commitments to 3D with life outside the studio? I'm dedicated to learning Character Animation but also feel you need to have an active social life to appreciate the world around you in order to convey life through a flexible sculpture to good effect.

What I'm saying is basically, I feel sorry for my girlfriend staring at the back of my head whilst I follow my dream. Do you have the same problems and how do you deal with them?

Cheers,
Lewis Cooper

jorgepasopa98
10-12-2006, 09:50 PM
Hi Doug and thank you for sharing this info with all of us.

I really admire your work and love the work you did for the Road to el Dorado.

I will extend an open invitation to visit the South Florida Siggraph Chapter based on your availability.

Our chapter has being blessed with guest speakers from all the major studios, such as Tippet, ILM, Rhythm and Hues, etc.

Please let me know if you would be interested and I could arrange for your visit.

Many thanks,

Jorge Castillo
fll.siggraph@yahoo.com

Gemini82
10-12-2006, 09:51 PM
Hi,Doug

I just have to say thank you for posting in big bright yellow. It really helps when your scanning for the featured artists responses. A little off topic but just had to bring it up.





P.S. Now back to the regularly scheduled questions.

ThreeDFineArtist
10-12-2006, 10:04 PM
Hi Doug,

This question isn't real personal, and isn't intended to belittle anyone or make anyone look bad. So here it goes. Before I ask the question, I just wanted to say that I loved the film and it was pretty funny. The concepts were great and I loved the fur and water effects.

So here it goes. A few years ago for a college AE assignment, I was supposed to create an animation doing mostly superimposing. The teacher said we could use animated videos or still shots in AE to make our animation. I was inspired at the time to make this short animation. Keep in mind, I was still very much a novice at animating and knowing nothing about riggin or textureing and most the characters were bought online. I just knew that I loved bringing art to life.

The animation I did involved a bear, a rabbit, skunk and a gopher out in the woods, along with all the other woodsy creatures. I always loved the Joke about the bear and the rabbit in the woods doing their "when nature calls" thing. So I decided to make this Joke come to life in an animation. To say the least I feel that the ideas and concept came out pretty well, but the animation turned out a bit choppy. I was proud of it at the time, but have since gotten a lot better at animating and have experience with rigging, texturing and modeling now.

Anyhow, when I saw Open season, I couldn't help noticing a few similarities in that movie to my short animation in certain parts of the film. Now don't take offense to this, and I won't be angry but I would be honored if some of the ideas of Open Season did actually come from other sources and ideas on the web just to elaborate on more in the film such as my short animation. I was wondering if someone from the studio did some web surfing one day and saw my animation on youtube or my personal website, and was inspired from it and decided it would be funny to add some of these ideas in the film for humors sake?

Disclaimer: This question was not intended for a publicity stunt nor to acheive any kind of ownership/recognition. I just couldn't help noticing similar ideas in the film as my animation. It was done for a school project back in 2003. Thankyou.

Sincerely, John Trimble

to see this animated short, you can go to http://www.artistitouch.biz/Videos/Flash/3D_Animation_PottyTrained_HD.html it is about 26.mb so perfect for broadband users.

Heres the link for Dial up users at 4.mb in size http://www.artistitouch.biz/Videos/Flash/3D_Animation_PottyTrained.html Just keep in mind the picture quality isn't as great in the lowbandwidth version.

tomkun
10-13-2006, 12:51 AM
Hi Doug,

Im a student and currently starting to work on the pre-production of my short film which also feature animals.
I wanted to ask about the design of the animal characters in Open Season.
How did the character some to this design and how do you start thinking of the style of your characters and film?

Im having hard time with this field, hoping you'll be able to help me with some guiding.

Thanks in advance,
Tomer.

P.s.
Looking forward to see the film,
I know I'll enjoy it.

PaulHellard
10-13-2006, 10:50 AM
Sorry guys, this Q&A has now closed.

Thank you to everyone who came in to ask questions, and a big thank you to Doug Ikeler for your time and effort in answering our questions.

Paul