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PaulHellard
05-30-2007, 05:34 AM
http://features.cgsociety.org/stories/2007_05/spidee/s_cook_meet_the_artist.jpg

Spencer Cook
Animation Director
Sony Pictures Imageworks

Spencer Cook recently completed work as animation director on the international hit Spider-Man 3.

Cook previously was animation supervisor on Cursed, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. He also served as lead character animator on Spider-Man (2002) and Hollow Man (2000), both of which were recognized with Academy Award nominations for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

Before he joined Imageworks in 1999, Cook worked as an animation supervisor at Flat Earth Productions on the television series Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles and character animator on the feature film Blade.

As a character animator at Digital Domain, Cook worked on the effects facility’s short film Tightrope as well as on numerous commercial spots and music videos.

Cook began his career as a stop motion animator and worked with New York production studios such as Broadcast Arts/Curious Pictures, Full Blue Productions, Boss Films, Colossal Pictures and Stieffel & Company, where he brought many memorable characters to life in commercials for the Pillsbury Doughboy, McDonald’s, MTV, Budweiser, Duracell, Nintendo, Barbie, Kool Aid and Fritos

In 1986, Cook helped design and animate the surreal imagery in Peter Gabriel’s music video for Big Time and was part of the team that created the inhabitants of Pee Wee’s Playhouse for the first season of the Saturday morning TV series.

Cook holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The School of Visual Arts.

Your questions and comments are welcome,

Please make welcome to CGTalk’s Meet the Artist, Spencer Cook.

adonihs
05-30-2007, 10:19 AM
Hi Spencer!

My question is actually about the Matrix, im probably one of the few that enjoyed the trilogy as a whole, I mean hell, I love it, so how was it working on the film? I mean you guys were doing ground breaking stuff at the time, I def. have to give you and ESC props for that. But yeah, question is, how was it working with Larry and Andy?

zman
05-30-2007, 10:25 AM
Hi Spencer, I just saw Spiderman3 about a week ago and was blown away by some of the shots there. I was wondering what did you find to be the most challanging task / shot in the movie.

Bonedaddy
05-30-2007, 11:22 AM
I'm really curious about the Venom animation setup. It looks like it was incredibly time-consuming. Specifically:

I've read that the basic process was very hands-on, with little simulation, and what appeared to be pretty distinct rigs per tendril. What was the rig like?
Assuming I was reading into the article correctly, there was a very wide variety of approaches for the tendril rigs. How did the work get assigned? Many, if not most, of the animators I've met in my time haven't been well-versed in rigging. But on a timeframe that short, with a workload that big, handing rigs back and forth between riggers and animators doesn't make sense. How did the work get distributed?
What improvements were made to the character rigs over SM 1 and 2?
You've worked on some of the more interesting/difficult shows, in terms of blending FX and character work, so you have a pretty good perspective on how this stuff works. Assuming future shows will require more integration along those lines, where do you see pipelines going, in terms of who does what?
What is still a royal pain in the tuchus for you guys?

Thanks much!

DarkTownArt
05-30-2007, 11:53 AM
Hello there, Spencer!

First of all I am glad you are here to answer our questions. I really admire the work you guys have done on Matrix/Spiderman.
But as much as I loved these animations, I was wondering, if animation itself is a bit overrated in movies now a days.
Please don't get me wrong, I am totally pro animation, especially when it's fabulously done.
But I recently felt a massive lack of story/ content in many movies which basically mainly consited of special effects.

Do you think this might be because people are curious of the possibilities all those "new" options of making your design/ ideas look like real could look on screen, and because they want to find out what's possible and that makes them forget about the content/ story?

Would you say, that Matrix 1 was generally better than the other 2 Matrix movies because there was a clearly defined dose of special effects?
(Rather than having a block buster full of special effects... or would Matrix 1 have looked the same as 2 and 3 if they had more money for the production already?
Is it better to have some delicious effects like the in Matrix 1 invented bullet time to have people talk about forever than a full movie full of effects nobody will recognize for long after watching the movie?
Or is the audience of today, 10 years after Matrix 1 not open for movies with less special effects anymore, because a general seek for new effects has risen?)

I hope my questions and thoughts are understandable, if not, I could try to make them more clear. However, thank you very much for your time! :)

BlackStorm
05-30-2007, 11:57 AM
Hello there, Spencer!

Should We Know how many Software Did you use for Spideman 3 For Mixing and Composting betwin Real And 3D ?

GreenArrow
05-30-2007, 12:23 PM
Hello Spencer,

The animation in Spiderman 3 was stunning and I think even better than the first two installments. So hats off to you and your team.

So my lies around 'Plates'! In shots where Spidey has to animated in Live Footage, I assume a 3d replica of that envorment is created and then Spidey is Animated(correct me if I am wrong).

1:) So how long does it take to complete animation on these shots, before they are aproved by the Director?
2:) Do you and your team have any special workflow for meeting deadlines for these shots?

And Again Great Work on Spiderman 3!

PhuongDPh
05-30-2007, 12:37 PM
just want to say hello, amazing work !http://forums.cgsociety.org/images/icons/icon10.gif
thanks for the inspiration !
I always love Spiderman series

varunbondwal
05-30-2007, 01:53 PM
Hello there Mr. Cook.... loved all your effects.. especially the mud-man in Spidey 3

I want to ask one specific queestion. In the scenes when the objects/characters in the scene are paused and the camera rotates around them. how is it done. I mean.. i've heard of interpolation of some 2d photos to convert it into 3d, but can so many complex 3d shapes be interpolated for so many frames so exactly.
One scene was when Morpheus and the bookmaker were on the truck in the car chase sequence and the truck just as neo comes and takes them away in his flight. Were 3d models made for the truck and characters ???

JamSession
05-30-2007, 01:59 PM
First of all very nice work.

I was just curious, being a creature TD, were there any animation controls you couldn't live with out when working on Spiderman 3.

Sorry for not doing too much research, but was anything motion captured? If so, how was the pipeline from importing motion captured data, to layering ontop hand key data?

CB_3D
05-30-2007, 04:27 PM
Hello there. First of all, congrats to the fantastic work. I just have one quick question that I didn´t see covered in any of the articles.

Are the 3d characters polygonal subdivision models with displacements? In all the making ofs, from Matrix to Superman and Spiderman, it´s always a highres wireframe when the geometry is shown. What I´d love to see one day is the pre-subd basemesh.

Thx for your time

exigolight
05-30-2007, 04:28 PM
Hi Spencer,

I's so glad to see you in forums, to share your idea with people like us. I saw sm3 and it was amaizing!!. great work:) and keep up the good work.. !!.

I saw a demo video of sandman from your site. Can't even imagine how you guys have done it!. how did you'll do the simulation?. have you'll made some scripts to control chunks of sand to animate manually? or is it a faky like total mixture of 3d and lots of compositing?

also would like to know the way you guys have animated that vain sorts of objects which was wraped around spider man to make him dark!!??..

thanx.!

scook
05-30-2007, 06:04 PM
Hi everybody,

Ok, I've got my morning coffee and just logged on. It's such a pleasure to be able to chat with you guys. Thanks to Paul Hellard and Sandy O'Neill for setting this up. I'll start posting replys to your questions shortly. I just wanted to say hello to everybody and thanks for the great questions so far.

Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 06:30 PM
Hi Spencer!

My question is actually about the Matrix, im probably one of the few that enjoyed the trilogy as a whole, I mean hell, I love it, so how was it working on the film? I mean you guys were doing ground breaking stuff at the time, I def. have to give you and ESC props for that. But yeah, question is, how was it working with Larry and Andy?

Hi adonihs,
We worked on Matrix 2 and 3 here at Imageworks. Those shows came to us as "911" calls, meaning that it was close to the end of their schedule and we had to work fast. ESC was the main house. We mostly did sequences with the sentinels and the ships. For me personally it came at a good time. I had been a lead animator on Spider-man 1 and was continuing in the same capacity on #2 but was interested in moving up to a supervisor position here at Imageworks. The other supervisors were booked on other shows so when we got this rush job I said "I'll do it!"
Anyway, to answer your question; They were tough shows because of the short schedule but at that point in the production most of the action/direction was pretty well worked out so there wasn't alot of guess work about what the brothers wanted. The challenge was getting models from another company, rigging them for our pipeline and pushing out shots asap.
In terms of working with the brothers, I met them once during our part in the production. They were very friendly and very clear about what they were looking for. My impression of them is that they shared the same mind. They finished eachother's sentences and were very consistent in their vision. Most of our regular feedback came from vfx supervisors John Gaeta and D.J. Des Jardin.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 06:55 PM
Hi Spencer, I just saw Spiderman3 about a week ago and was blown away by some of the shots there. I was wondering what did you find to be the most challanging task / shot in the movie.

Hi zman,
The most challenging task is difficult to pinpoint since there were so many. One is keeping the character animation looking as believable as possible. This has been a challenge on all the Spider-man moves but more so on this one because of the variety of characters. Animating human characters doing things that no human can do is a very tricky balance.
The goo was challenging because of the evolutionary nature of the design. It had no definitive shape but had to appear to be alive and thinking. This thing was a moving target and it took a lot of effort to bring it to life.
The birth sequence of the Sandman was a great challenge in subtle acting. Sam Raimi wanted a very emotional scene. We mostly had to rely on body language since the face is not fully formed for much of the sequence.

thanks
Spencer

maxspider3000
05-30-2007, 07:24 PM
Hi Spencer,
am so happy that we have the chance to chat a bit with you ... thanks to cgsociety for that ^_^

I didn't prepare any questions yet ... but till I post mine I wanna say hello and pass a little 2 questions :)

- How long did the shot take from you to animate ? I know that there was some complex scenes and some are more simple ... but am focus on the complex side ...
- Did every animator take a shot to animate it by himself ? or there was more than one to animate the same shot ?

thanks again for you kind reading ...

- Yusuf

okazaky
05-30-2007, 07:53 PM
Hi Spencer,

First of all thanks for responsing our questions, so here's mine:
How long did it take to create the character rigs, especially the one of Spidey?

And as CB_3D mentioned, it would be nice to see a lowres model of Spidey ;)

Best regards,
okazaky

scook
05-30-2007, 08:57 PM
I'm really curious about the Venom animation setup. It looks like it was incredibly time-consuming. Specifically:


I've read that the basic process was very hands-on, with little simulation, and what appeared to be pretty distinct rigs per tendril. What was the rig like?
Assuming I was reading into the article correctly, there was a very wide variety of approaches for the tendril rigs. How did the work get assigned? Many, if not most, of the animators I've met in my time haven't been well-versed in rigging. But on a timeframe that short, with a workload that big, handing rigs back and forth between riggers and animators doesn't make sense. How did the work get distributed?
What improvements were made to the character rigs over SM 1 and 2?
You've worked on some of the more interesting/difficult shows, in terms of blending FX and character work, so you have a pretty good perspective on how this stuff works. Assuming future shows will require more integration along those lines, where do you see pipelines going, in terms of who does what?
What is still a royal pain in the tuchus for you guys?
Thanks much!



Hey Bonedaddy,

Thanks for the questions. We called this creature "the goo" when it's crawling around by itself. It becomes Venom once it merges with Eddie Brock. To answer your questions;
1.Yes, the process was mostly hand keyframed. We tried doing it procedurally in the beginning but we found out quickly that it was going to be tough to get the organic quality that Sam was looking for solely with that technique. The basic rig was mostly spline IK for the tenticles (we called them "pods"). Koji Morihiro and Ryan Laney set up a system of maya shelf buttons that we could use to import pods and build the rig on a per shot basis. The pods included attributes for bulging and pulsing that could also be keyframed. After the keyframe performance was done the fx team added more layers of procedural goo to give it more organic detail.
2. You're pretty close to the mark with your comments here. The goo was a fairly specialized task within the character team. The animators that really excelled at it were the ones with strong technical skills as well as great character animation skills. Koji really helped set the standard for this character. He's a great rigger as well as a great animator.
3. The Spider-man rig has changed very little since the first movie. We have mostly improved the selectable controls to make it more animator friendly but the inner workings of the rig are essentially the same. Our riggers on the first movie (Koji Morihiro, Aaron Campbell, JJ Blumenkranz and Albert Hastings) did such a great job that we haven't found it necessary to make any major changes to the base rig and weighting.
4. I don't know that things will change too dramatically in terms of who does what. In a large studio like Imageworks everyone is very specialized. Partly because everything moves forward in parallel (ie; animation test are happening at the same time as modeling and rigging) so there aren't a lot of artist that could, or would want to switch tasks. Sorry, I don't know if that really answers your question.

5. Time is always the enemy in this kind of work. Sometimes you don't have enough and sometimes you have too much(some shots can be over-worked to the point where you've passed the sweet spot and are not really improving it)



thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 09:22 PM
Hello there, Spencer!

First of all I am glad you are here to answer our questions. I really admire the work you guys have done on Matrix/Spiderman.
But as much as I loved these animations, I was wondering, if animation itself is a bit overrated in movies now a days.
Please don't get me wrong, I am totally pro animation, especially when it's fabulously done.
But I recently felt a massive lack of story/ content in many movies which basically mainly consited of special effects.

Do you think this might be because people are curious of the possibilities all those "new" options of making your design/ ideas look like real could look on screen, and because they want to find out what's possible and that makes them forget about the content/ story?

Would you say, that Matrix 1 was generally better than the other 2 Matrix movies because there was a clearly defined dose of special effects?
(Rather than having a block buster full of special effects... or would Matrix 1 have looked the same as 2 and 3 if they had more money for the production already?
Is it better to have some delicious effects like the in Matrix 1 invented bullet time to have people talk about forever than a full movie full of effects nobody will recognize for long after watching the movie?
Or is the audience of today, 10 years after Matrix 1 not open for movies with less special effects anymore, because a general seek for new effects has risen?)

I hope my questions and thoughts are understandable, if not, I could try to make them more clear. However, thank you very much for your time! :)

Hi Azurelle,
Thanks for the kind comments and good questions. The ideal, of course, is a movie with an interesting story and characters we can care about, otherwise we get a feature length demo reel. I hope that audiences today are more interested in good stories and exciting action scenes(whether stunts or fx) rather than looking for the next great fx sequence. I always get a little nervous when reviewers talk too much about fx for a particular movie. General audiences should be wrapped up in the story and not be on the look out for the newest fx.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 09:32 PM
Hello there, Spencer!

Should We Know how many Software Did you use for Spideman 3 For Mixing and Composting betwin Real And 3D ?

Hi BlackStorm,

We use Maya for all of our character animation. Other software used on the show included Houdini, Renderman, Katana, Bouju, Shake, Syflex and a ton of proprietary tools and software developed in house.

thanks for the question,
Spencer

namekuseijin
05-30-2007, 10:00 PM
What is all this non-sense you guys are talking about? Renders, rigs, motion capture! scrap that! The reason the movie is so realistic is that Mr. Cook and his associates actually went through the trouble of setting up a multidimensional space-time machine and went to a dimension where Spidey and company actually exists, the so called Einstein-Rosen Marvel dimension. There, they were able to convince Spidey and his arch enemies to provide some action for a few million Hollywood bucks plus hot chicks, which were then shot (the action, not the chicks!) from a complex set of cameras strategically positioned. Really simple.

kidding aside, congrats for the amazing work!

scook
05-30-2007, 10:08 PM
Hello Spencer,

The animation in Spiderman 3 was stunning and I think even better than the first two installments. So hats off to you and your team.

So my lies around 'Plates'! In shots where Spidey has to animated in Live Footage, I assume a 3d replica of that envorment is created and then Spidey is Animated(correct me if I am wrong).

1:) So how long does it take to complete animation on these shots, before they are aproved by the Director?
2:) Do you and your team have any special workflow for meeting deadlines for these shots?

And Again Great Work on Spiderman 3!

Hi GreenArrow,
Thanks for the kind words, we always try to learn from our mistakes and improve with each project. It's great to hear that you appreciate our efforts.
To answer your question about "plates". You are correct. A 3D replica of the environment is made but only enough to define the basic geographical parameters of the real environment. The purpose of this is to recreate the camera move for that shot in a 3D scene file, the process is called a matchmove. The 3D environment is used by the matchmovers to judge the size and distance of objects in the real environment. When these variables are known they can accurately match the virtual camera to the real camera allowing our animated character to fit into the plate realistically.
As to your other questions;
1. Every shot is different. Some shots can be done in a week or less. Other shots, like
the first shot in Sandman's birth sequence (over 2700 frames long!), took many, many months to animate. We budget every shot at the beginning of a show, which is basically an estimate of how long we think it will take to animate, add fx, light, comp, etc. Sometimes we come in under that estimate and sometimes we go over.
2. We always try to work as efficiently as possible. Addressing the director's comments and showing an updated version of the shot as soon as possible is usually a top priority. Any technical or administrative issues that get in the way of that need to be dealt with quickly.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 10:16 PM
just want to say hello, amazing work !http://forums.cgsociety.org/images/icons/icon10.gif
thanks for the inspiration !
I always love Spiderman series

Hi LATROMMI-SUINEG,
Thank you, it's always great to hear these comments. I'm very proud to have been able to contribute to Sam Raimi's wonderful films.

Spencer

scook
05-30-2007, 10:24 PM
Hello there Mr. Cook.... loved all your effects.. especially the mud-man in Spidey 3

I want to ask one specific queestion. In the scenes when the objects/characters in the scene are paused and the camera rotates around them. how is it done. I mean.. i've heard of interpolation of some 2d photos to convert it into 3d, but can so many complex 3d shapes be interpolated for so many frames so exactly.
One scene was when Morpheus and the bookmaker were on the truck in the car chase sequence and the truck just as neo comes and takes them away in his flight. Were 3d models made for the truck and characters ???

Hi akhenaten,
Thanks for the compliments. The effect you are referring to is from a sequence in Matrix Reloaded that I didn't work on. All of the bullet time effects were done at ESC. At Imageworks we mostly handled the sentinels and ships in the tunnels. However, I'm pretty sure those were digital models in that particular shot. If anyone knows differently please correct me.

thanks,
Spencer

Terro
05-30-2007, 11:04 PM
Hi Spencer,

My question is a little off beat. I was wondering how important was 2D animation on your journey to your current success. I'm asking because I started out in 3D but have since been drawn to traditional animation. Is there a real benefit these days to have a stong 2D background and how realistic is it's foundation in 3D these days.

Thanks.

scook
05-30-2007, 11:52 PM
First of all very nice work.

I was just curious, being a creature TD, were there any animation controls you couldn't live with out when working on Spiderman 3.

Sorry for not doing too much research, but was anything motion captured? If so, how was the pipeline from importing motion captured data, to layering ontop hand key data?

Hi JamSession,
Good question. I would not want to lose the IK/FK switch in our rigs. When I'm animating, I prefer posing a character using FK controls as much as possible. The exception, of course, is walking, running or crawling, IK is essential for actions like that. Generally though I feel like I can get more predictable results from FK. IK joints sometimes solve in an unnatural way that needs to be corrected. In our rigs, the animator can choose which one to use at the start of a shot or animate a switch during a shot ie; Spidey is swinging (FK) then lands on the side of a building (IK). I know many other studios have this option in their rigs, Imageworks didn't invent this.
In answer to your second question, we didn't use any mocap for our characters except for facial performances. The reason for this is that usually a shot is animated because a person couldn't really do it. We tried using mocap of a gymnast on Spider-man 1 but it looked like what it was; a trained gymnast going through a routine. Spidey's moves and poses are very specific and atlering mocap info was very time consuming. One thing we do use a lot is reference footage. Sometimes it's video of acrobats and gymnasts or nature footage of animals running, jumping and crawling( I looked at a lot of video of lizards and frogs crawling for ideas when I animated the wall crawl shot in the first movie). We also videotape the actors whever possible and sometimes photograph ourselves acting out a scene. Sandman's birth sequence could have been done with mocap but Sam's ideas for the performance changed over time and it wasn't feasible to keep running back to a mocap stage. We shot Thomas Hayden Church for some shots and when he wasn't available we had one of our animators, Scott Fritts, act out the scene to use as animation reference.

Dutchman
05-31-2007, 12:41 AM
Hello Spencer!
First of all I'm glad to see a fresh new 'Meet the Artist'-session, and even somebody who about who's work is spoken allot these days!

I finally got to see Matrix Revolutions last week, and I must say that this film gave me the (rare!) feel of "yeah, it's really really cool that I do something in VFX in my sparetime"! I think the climatic battle for Zion is one of the best VFX sequences I've seen in a long time!

I must say I enjoyed the questions by Bonedaddy and your answers - they contained very interesting information! (as for the rest of this thread - ofcourse! ;) )

Some years ago I red the VFX-article about Matrix Revolutions here on CGTalk (link (http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=2050&page=2)), and it contained interesting information about the 'superpunch'. I was impressed by the fact it was all hand-animated and full 3D, while it seemed to be possible in a much easier way (cameramapping the head-plate onto geometry, getting the punch into that and some clever compositing, instead of a total 3D-head-recreation with cyberscanning etc). I always thought it had something to do with complex cameramoves, but when I saw the full scene I did still not understand why this all was made so complex (as the move wasn't that more complex then the other bullettime-shots). Did the choice have something to do with the watersplashes, or do I just simply get the complete method wrong?
On the Zion-battle in Matrix Revolutions: was you being responsible for some of the animation? (if so, first of all, congratulations :bounce: ) I wonder how you worked on the 'robot-creatures' where the soldiers are hangin in. Was the scene first completely prevized by you animators, so that the motiondevices where the guys hung on, on set (in a greenscreen stage?) could be lined up? Or are most of the characters you see digital doubles? As this must have been quite a complex scene, as in some of the shots 15+ characters seem to be placed in those devices, which are all moving and fighting...! (I'm sorry if you think this is a unappropiate question to an animator, as this might be more the compositing-side of the story... :shrug: )
You said before that you always have to do things effective, so mainly you'll especially want to be applying the directors vision the most easy. This way the disicions in the process seem to become more and more getting to be postponed to the compositing-suites and editing rooms. For instance the way relighting is these days often possible in a very far stadium after rendering, so that the director can easily change things on the 'final' frame. Do you think animation will also become more judged in the context of the final shot - so the workflow will allow very late changes on the animation? Or do you think that's just not nescessary?
When you look back on the old days (of stopmotion): do you like these hyper-technical than those? Do you think you got another workflow in animation because of your previous stop-motion experience?
I'll be watching SM3 very soon, and I'm sure I'm gonna enjoy your work on it! Thanks for your time, and all the best on your upcoming work! :)
-Gijs

scook
05-31-2007, 01:54 AM
Hello there. First of all, congrats to the fantastic work. I just have one quick question that I didn´t see covered in any of the articles.

Are the 3d characters polygonal subdivision models with displacements? In all the making ofs, from Matrix to Superman and Spiderman, it´s always a highres wireframe when the geometry is shown. What I´d love to see one day is the pre-subd basemesh.

Thx for your time

Hi CB_3D,
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy our work. Since I'm not a digital modeler I asked Koji Morihiro (rigger/animator extrordinare) to help me answer your question. Here's his reply;
"the wireframes presented in making-of's actually are the base polygonal model that the modelers sculpted.
the subdivisioned models only exist in rendering times, so no one really sees them in wireframes and they'll be too dense to tell what is going on even if you can see them."

I hope that answers your question, let me know if there's anything else you want to know.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 02:15 AM
Hi Spencer,

I's so glad to see you in forums, to share your idea with people like us. I saw sm3 and it was amaizing!!. great work:) and keep up the good work.. !!.

I saw a demo video of sandman from your site. Can't even imagine how you guys have done it!. how did you'll do the simulation?. have you'll made some scripts to control chunks of sand to animate manually? or is it a faky like total mixture of 3d and lots of compositing?

also would like to know the way you guys have animated that vain sorts of objects which was wraped around spider man to make him dark!!??..

thanx.!

Hi modelviz,
Thanks for the kind words, I'm happy to be able to chat with all of you. In answer to your question about sand simulation I must say that I agree with you, it's difficult for me to imagine how it was done too! I say that because it was the incredible talents of the sand fx team that pulled that off. I was mainly responsible for supervising the physical performance(body language) of the animated characters so for me to try and explain what the sand guys did would not do it justice. There is a great article on this site where our sand experts Ken Hahn, Doug Bloom, Jonathan Cohen and Chris Allen discuss the details of their art.
I can talk about how we (character animation) and the sand team interacted. Both of our teams worked very closely to create the Sandman in all his forms. Usually the process is much more linear, meaning that we animate the characters, then when we are done we give it to the fx team and they do their thing. This generally works fine for cloth and hair fx but for Sandman the movement of sand and it's interaction with the character required a lot of back and forth between our two departments.
Your second question, I believe, is about the "goo" that wraps around Spidey and stains his suit black. That was also a combination of keyframe and fx animation. One of your fellow posters (bonedaddy) asked a similar question earlier, here's my response that should answer your question as well;
The process was mostly hand keyframed. We tried doing it procedurally in the beginning but we found out quickly that it was going to be tough to get the organic quality that Sam was looking for solely with that technique. The basic rig was mostly spline IK for the tenticles (we called them "pods"). Koji Morihiro and Ryan Laney set up a system of maya shelf buttons that we could use to import pods and build the rig on a per shot basis. The pods included attributes for bulging and pulsing that could also be keyframed. After the keyframe performance was done the fx team added more layers of procedural goo to give it more organic detail.
The goo was a fairly specialized task within the character team. The animators that really excelled at it were the ones with strong technical skills as well as great character animation skills. Koji really helped set the standard for this character. He's a great rigger as well as a great animator.

Thanks,
Spencer

lovisx
05-31-2007, 03:22 AM
hello mr.cook

what is your wishlist for animation rigs? is there anything that you would want in a rig that is really hard to ahieve, or impossible to achieve?

Bracer
05-31-2007, 06:55 AM
Hi Spencer, I had always wanted to ask this question to the people that made spiderman magic possible.

You mentioned you are not the digital modeler, still I was hoping you might to able to help me retrieve the answer from the actual person if you please :D

How do you do the spiderman webbing on the costume ?
It's so perfectly wrapped around with almost no distortion !

Thank you :D

wotanist
05-31-2007, 08:33 AM
Hi Spencer,

I was wondering if there were any sequences that the director demanded which were too difficult to pull off and were dropped because of technical limitations, or would you say that you've met even the most outrageous demands?

My second question is about the CG Spiderman and Sandman? How many animation controls each do they have approximately, and how long did it take for rigging them?

Thirdly, how long did it take to render the most complex scene in the movie? Amongst the characters, I'm assuming that with Sandman's complex shaders, he would have taken the longest to render. Whats the size of the renderfarm?

Finally, What were the specs of the Workstations the team was working on? Despite working on high end workstations, were there any scenes that may have crashed the workstations while working?

Memling
05-31-2007, 08:34 AM
Hi,

Just one simple question :
where can we see the work of E. J. Krisor

His drawings for the movie are very impressive
(really great)

Felicitations

Thank you

anthonymcgrath
05-31-2007, 08:51 AM
hi Spencer

thanks for taking the time out to answer the questions put forth to you. I have a few questions myself:

1. In Spidey3 alot of the animation was more flamboyant than the previous 2 films. By that I mean there are wilder camera angles & more extreme motions in characters in the 3rd film than there are in the first. Have you found you can push the limits of what an audience can expect to see on screen and what a supervisor can 'permit' to be seen on screen between the first film and the 3rd? Have you found that feedback from initial audience screenings has been alot more understanding of what they see compared to say ten years ago?

2. Would love to know about the webbing around spideys suit myself lol!! From some of the previs stuff on imageworks I'm guessing its a displacement map to pull the detail from the final tesselated model?

3. Watching Imageworks birth-of-sandman-making-of video clip on the website still puts my jaw on the table and I've lost count of how many times I've been to the cinema just to see that part of the film. The emotion in the character is truly superb and I was wondering how it felt to you as animation director/supervisor when the final shot was put together - did it strike the same chord with you as Sam Raimi intended because personally it put a lump in my throat, especially where the character collapses into a heap for the first time then later on tries to grasp the necklace with the pic of his daughter in it.

4. What kind of animation is your favourite personally? Is there anything you've seen where you've thought "thats a really original piece of work" (big or small scale). My current fave is the stunning work on the rigs for transformers and I really would love to see how they tackled alot of that.

5. You mention you have used Maya for all your animation. I'm a Maya user myself but play with Softimage XSI in my spare time. the enhancements I've seen in Softimage XSI lead me to think that its by far and away the best package in getting high end effects (specifically secondary motion of hair, fur and cloth on characters) out quickly and I'm looking at switching. Is there anything in Maya you think "bloody hell I really wish it could do that more effectively" Do you or the team use XSI at all in any of your projects at your current place of work?

6. I've seen alot of muscle-based simulations now on various films. Are they easy enough to work with when doing the animation (ie: realtime feedback) on your characters or is this something that is simulated afterward? I watched a making-of on the hulk and it was interesting to see that alot of this is cluster blendshapes in xsi then I watch that vid clip on superman returns and they're using muscle simulations. Which do you prefer as a all-rounded approach to tackling motion on characters?



sorry for the tirade of questions there!
cheers
anthony

kunal
05-31-2007, 11:02 AM
Hello Mr. Spencer. I hope you're doing fit and healthy

I have no questions but rather a much difficult request.
Whenever you meet them, remember to give a special thanks to everyone(again) who pulled in any sort of effort in the "Birth of sandman" .Effects crew, music guys, Animators...all of them .

I saw something that inspiring after quite long
and... I thank you a lot for that:)

exigolight
05-31-2007, 01:34 PM
Hi again,

Would like thank you for taking your time to answer those. Wel, Mr.Spencer I have a another thing to know about. I waited to ask from you guys for long time but I forgot it last time as wel. Anyways here it is!
Through out the spideman series of movies, who is responsible for camera movements? do you'll have a specific person to do that or who ever it is doing the scene working on the camera movement as well ? What I mean is the except of matchmoved cameras..

I've seen some brilliant camera shots in it!!.. can't even think of.!!.
wish you all the best and good luck for your future animation work..

cheers.

scook
05-31-2007, 05:28 PM
Hi Spencer,
am so happy that we have the chance to chat a bit with you ... thanks to cgsociety for that ^_^

I didn't prepare any questions yet ... but till I post mine I wanna say hello and pass a little 2 questions :)

- How long did the shot take from you to animate ? I know that there was some complex scenes and some are more simple ... but am focus on the complex side ...
- Did every animator take a shot to animate it by himself ? or there was more than one to animate the same shot ?

thanks again for you kind reading ...
- Yusuf

Hi maxspider3000,
Thanks, I'm happy to be able to chat with all of you. There were a lot of shots on Spider-Man 3 that took a long time to animate. Sometimes it was for technical reasons like the face replacements in the Peter/Harry alley fight or most of the goo shots. Sometimes it was because the design of the shot and/or the performance of the character changed many times. Sometimes it was because the shot was length very long and in many cases it was a combination of all of the above. One of the shots that was in animation the longest was the first shot in the birth sequence, we called it bs01 (2672 frames long). Just the design of the shot took many months and continually changed as the movie progressed. I couldn't give you an exact amount of time but it took many, many months.
To answer your second question. For the most part one animator would animate a shot from start to finish. There were some exceptions, like the rolling sand grains in bs01. The sand fx team needed help transitioning from static grains to fast moving streams of sand. The best solution seemed to be to keyframe the grains at the beginning of the shot and then transition to particle sim for the rest. In animation we had about 5 animators take groups of grains and keyframe them slowly beginning to roll for about 400 frames, after that the sim took over. Lead animator Bernd Angerer animated all of Sandman's physical performance.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 05:47 PM
Hi Spencer,

First of all thanks for responsing our questions, so here's mine:
How long did it take to create the character rigs, especially the one of Spidey?

And as CB_3D mentioned, it would be nice to see a lowres model of Spidey ;)

Best regards,
okazaky

Hi okazaky,
Thanks for the questions. It's tough to give an exact time frame for this task since the Spidey rig has been tweaked over the years. A rough estimate would be around 4 months.
You can see my answer to CB_3D about the Spidey model. Also, you can see the lowest resolution of the model in the Spidey article on this site. On page 3 there is a movie of the making of a shot we called so02, black suited Spidey on the side of a mirrored building. In the section that shows a wireframe, it's kind of hard to see clearly but that model is a super low res one that we use in animation. It has no deformations so it's very fast to work with. When we send shots to dailies or for Sam we render with the high res model.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 05:57 PM
Hi okazaky,
Thanks for the questions. It's tough to give an exact time frame for this task since the Spidey rig has been tweaked over the years. A rough estimate would be around 4 months.
You can see my answer to CB_3D about the Spidey model. Also, you can see the lowest resolution of the model in the Spidey article on this site. On page 3 there is a movie of the making of a shot we called so02, black suited Spidey on the side of a mirrored building. In the section that shows a wireframe, it's kind of hard to see clearly but that model is a super low res one that we use in animation. It has no deformations so it's very fast to work with. When we send shots to dailies or for Sam we render with the high res model.

thanks,
Spencer

I forgot to mention that that shot was animated by lead animator Peter Giliberti.

Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 06:01 PM
What is all this non-sense you guys are talking about? Renders, rigs, motion capture! scrap that! The reason the movie is so realistic is that Mr. Cook and his associates actually went through the trouble of setting up a multidimensional space-time machine and went to a dimension where Spidey and company actually exists, the so called Einstein-Rosen Marvel dimension. There, they were able to convince Spidey and his arch enemies to provide some action for a few million Hollywood bucks plus hot chicks, which were then shot (the action, not the chicks!) from a complex set of cameras strategically positioned. Really simple.

kidding aside, congrats for the amazing work!

Heh, I wish that were true. That would have been cool.

Spencer

EfrenStudios
05-31-2007, 06:18 PM
Hi Mr. Cook.

Im very glad to have the oportunity to talk with you on this forum, Thank you very much for your time, and thank you to CGTalk too.

I have a simple 2 questions:

1.- The team where you work have a "mix" of nationalities or is all American?. (Im from Mexico, and I always want to know this).
2.- Do you have already a great future proyect (like work on another Marvel Movie or SCFI Movie)?.

Thank you for your time :)

scook
05-31-2007, 06:21 PM
Hi Spencer,

My question is a little off beat. I was wondering how important was 2D animation on your journey to your current success. I'm asking because I started out in 3D but have since been drawn to traditional animation. Is there a real benefit these days to have a stong 2D background and how realistic is it's foundation in 3D these days.

Thanks.

Hi Terro,
That's not an off beat question at all, it's very relevant. I spent most of my career as a stop-motion animator. For me there is great value in studying all forms of animation. If you are drawn (pun intended?) to traditional animation you should go for it, it can only help you become a more well rounded animator. In a way the tool you use to animate is almost irrelavant. If you are a good 2D animator or a good stop-motion animator then you can learn to use those skills on a computer. There is a tremndously rich history of animation styles and techniques going back 100 years. If you are only focused on 3D digital animation then you are missing out on some great learning experiences and inspiration.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 06:58 PM
Hello Spencer!
First of all I'm glad to see a fresh new 'Meet the Artist'-session, and even somebody who about who's work is spoken allot these days!

I finally got to see Matrix Revolutions last week, and I must say that this film gave me the (rare!) feel of "yeah, it's really really cool that I do something in VFX in my sparetime"! I think the climatic battle for Zion is one of the best VFX sequences I've seen in a long time!

I must say I enjoyed the questions by Bonedaddy and your answers - they contained very interesting information! (as for the rest of this thread - ofcourse! ;) )


Some years ago I red the VFX-article about Matrix Revolutions here on CGTalk (link (http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=2050&page=2)), and it contained interesting information about the 'superpunch'. I was impressed by the fact it was all hand-animated and full 3D, while it seemed to be possible in a much easier way (cameramapping the head-plate onto geometry, getting the punch into that and some clever compositing, instead of a total 3D-head-recreation with cyberscanning etc). I always thought it had something to do with complex cameramoves, but when I saw the full scene I did still not understand why this all was made so complex (as the move wasn't that more complex then the other bullettime-shots). Did the choice have something to do with the watersplashes, or do I just simply get the complete method wrong?
On the Zion-battle in Matrix Revolutions: was you being responsible for some of the animation? (if so, first of all, congratulations :bounce: ) I wonder how you worked on the 'robot-creatures' where the soldiers are hangin in. Was the scene first completely prevized by you animators, so that the motiondevices where the guys hung on, on set (in a greenscreen stage?) could be lined up? Or are most of the characters you see digital doubles? As this must have been quite a complex scene, as in some of the shots 15+ characters seem to be placed in those devices, which are all moving and fighting...! (I'm sorry if you think this is a unappropiate question to an animator, as this might be more the compositing-side of the story... :shrug: )
You said before that you always have to do things effective, so mainly you'll especially want to be applying the directors vision the most easy. This way the disicions in the process seem to become more and more getting to be postponed to the compositing-suites and editing rooms. For instance the way relighting is these days often possible in a very far stadium after rendering, so that the director can easily change things on the 'final' frame. Do you think animation will also become more judged in the context of the final shot - so the workflow will allow very late changes on the animation? Or do you think that's just not nescessary?
When you look back on the old days (of stopmotion): do you like these hyper-technical than those? Do you think you got another workflow in animation because of your previous stop-motion experience?
I'll be watching SM3 very soon, and I'm sure I'm gonna enjoy your work on it! Thanks for your time, and all the best on your upcoming work! :)
-Gijs



Hi Dutchman,

I hope you enjoy Spider-man 3, thanks for your questions. unfortunately, I can't answer questions 1 and 2, ESC did the effects for those sequences, Lyndon Barrios was the animation supervisor there. We (Imageworks) mostly did shots of the sentinels and ships in the tunnels. Maybe Lyndon will be featured on "meet the artist" someday.
I can answer question 3, I think. Apologies if I don't answer sufficiently, I'm not sure I completely understand your question but I'll give it a shot. All of the processes you mentioned; animation, compositing, editing are all happening more or less simultaneously during production. As soon as an early pass at animation is done the editors cut it in to check continuity and over all pacing of the scene. Compositors usually start testing lighting and fx comps before animation is complete. Many times there are late changes to animation. That's part of the filmmaking process.
Question 4, ah now that's an easy one. I sometimes miss stop-motion. I grew up on Ray Harryhausen films and love working on table top sets with cameras and lights and real models. I also love what I'm doing now too, it's a different way of animating but the goal is the same; create the illusion that something inanimate is alive and thinking. What I learned from stop-motion was perseverance and keeping focus on the end result.



thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 08:13 PM
hello mr.cook

what is your wishlist for animation rigs? is there anything that you would want in a rig that is really hard to ahieve, or impossible to achieve?

Hi lovisx,
Most of the rigs we use have everything an animator would want, it usually boils down to personal preference. I think it would be nice to be able to animate with a hi res model. It's possible now but usually too slow. I guess that means faster computing power. I also would like to interact with the computer with something other than a mouse and keyboard. I've been looking in to other devices but nothing out there really seems to fit the bill yet. It would be great to have a kind of mocap system with gloves to allow us to manipulate rigs in a more natural way.

thanks for your question,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 08:25 PM
Hi Spencer, I had always wanted to ask this question to the people that made spiderman magic possible.

You mentioned you are not the digital modeler, still I was hoping you might to able to help me retrieve the answer from the actual person if you please :D

How do you do the spiderman webbing on the costume ?
It's so perfectly wrapped around with almost no distortion !

Thank you :D

Hi Bracer,
The web lines are basically displacement maps, there's no geometry for them. The pattern is based on the blueprints that the costume department used to print the details on the suits worn by the actors and stuntmen. There was also an extruded curve network on the digital model that kept them from stretching or distorting unnaturally. Thanks to Peter Nofz (digital efx supervisor) for this info.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
05-31-2007, 10:03 PM
Hi,

Just one simple question :
where can we see the work of E. J. Krisor

His drawings for the movie are very impressive
(really great)

Felicitations

Thank you

Hi Memling,
Yeah, E.J.'s stuff is fantastic. You can see a lot of his artwork for Spidey 3 in the new making of... book. It's called "The Spider-Man Chronicles". Grant Curtis, one of the producers for the Spidey movies, wrote it. There are a lot of great photos and descriptions of the entire filmmaking process. Highly recommended.

thanks,
Spencer

Render3Dean
06-01-2007, 01:04 AM
Hi Spencer,

Your work is really amazing. I have a few questions in regards to getting into the 3D animation. When did you first have the desire to try 3D? Did you go to a film school, and if so, which one. What was the process of getting the job at Sony Imageworks?

Also something that I've wondered.

What program(s) do you primarily use? When you got the job, do they accomadate you with the program you're comfortable with (say, perhaps, XSI) and let you animate with that, or do they only use a spefic program, for ease of sharing (i.e. Maya)?

Thanks,

3Dean

CB_3D
06-01-2007, 01:26 AM
And one more from me ;-)

In the Superman space shuttlethrow sequence I saw a musclesimulation running under the Supermanmesh.

Does the Spiderman deformation use Muscle simulation, and if so, is it the muscle system that directly deforms themesh? Or does it only serve as an orientation for the animators?

Or do the Spiderman puppets use only weighting?

Specially in Spiderman, when his limbs go into extreme positions the jointdeformations were perfect, congrats.

If there´s automated compensation/musclesliding etc by what tecniques is it achieved?

Thx again

LavenPillay
06-01-2007, 02:51 PM
Firstly, Mr Cook, HUGE kudos to you an the ENTIRE ImageWorks team. I think it goes without saying that you guys are almost "benchmark" level with regards to the entire end-to-end VFX pipeline.

Secondly, Questions :
1. For the intro fight with Goblin and Spidey, I'm assuming that that was a mix of
a) Live Actors
b) Digital doubles
c) Photographic/Video back plates
d) CG'ed buildings
e) real buildings
Tricky question, but could you tell us what some of the desicion-making process is like for a shot like that ?
I'm thinking its not just the technical considerations, but also time and money budget etc.

2. What were average render times per frame for really complex shots ? I'm just trying to compare to things like Narnia where Aslan scenes took about 9 hours to render!

Thirdly, and i dont mean to contradict what you said, but just suggest a more probable method :

Hi akhenaten,
Thanks for the compliments. The effect you are referring to is from a sequence in Matrix Reloaded that I didn't work on. All of the bullet time effects were done at ESC. At Imageworks we mostly handled the sentinels and ships in the tunnels. However, I'm pretty sure those were digital models in that particular shot. If anyone knows differently please correct me.

thanks,
Spencer

My understanding is that for shots like that, where it appears that time stops and the camera does a "fly around" the subject, what they do is setup an array of cameras (sometimes over 30-40, more ?) in a ring around the subject.

Then, they fire the cameras off all at the same time.
(say, when a person jumps up and reaches the height of the jump)

The result is that you have multiple frames of the subject from different angles, but at the same time. So, you just play those frames back in sequence and it appears that a single camera is moving around the subject in freeze-frame.

Hope that answers your question, akhenaten.

And thanks again for taking the time out of your obviously crazy schedule to answer our questions, Mr Cook.

TheJinj
06-01-2007, 04:03 PM
While it's true that what you describe was truly the method pioneered by a French company for a Rolling Stones clip and then used for the bullet time sequence in Matrix one, I don't think someone could fly over an exploding truck and have that captured by multiple stillframe cameras. It was digital.

Spencer, Thanks for answering all these questions. Here are mine:

1)I have heard that begining animators have a very hard time in the big companies. What's life like for a begining animator in Imageworks? Is any slack given or even possible to give with the tight deadlines? Or do you hire only battle-tested animators that are expected to dive into production from the first minute?

2)Coming from a smaller, generalist team, and hearing your pipeline description here, I wondered what modelers do after the animation has started. Are they all fired after the first couple of months of production? Do they make the animators coffee? Or do they zip around from project to project, working the first month or so on each?

Thank you very much for your time and patience. Your kindness to the community is as inspiring as your work.

Adam.

amitabhverma8
06-01-2007, 06:30 PM
hello their

recently i watched the the 3rd Series of Spiderman Movie. First let me congratulate you the special effects and the camera work is quite outstanding and top notch. so here are my question every thing is quite brilliant. what i would like to ask is that their something called the x factor you know the character like venom and sandman and the darker spidey quite didnt reach at the level of the xtreme goblin aka mr harry osborne. i mean the projection to the character and the way he performed his task is quite impressive in comparison to the other characters. secondly why is that the part of darker spidey is so less. i mean from the point of view that he was projected so much in the trailer and in the posters and in teasers.

secondly what is the difference of doing a shot in a digital world in comparison to doing it in a real world. how do you project so much information and surrounding in so much small time in a digital world.

thirdly what does it take to become a smooth animator and rigger. where can i get the best trainning who do you recommened

finally. do you think their is going to be another chapter in the series. i thought when spiderman 3 was pounded by sandman and venom their was an intresting shot in which he was nearly again caught by the symboite. and i thought wow may be he will go the darker side or turn into something that we never expected. so what is your opinion is their spiderman 4 happening. ?

thank you

amitabh

scook
06-01-2007, 06:33 PM
Hi Spencer,

I was wondering if there were any sequences that the director demanded which were too difficult to pull off and were dropped because of technical limitations, or would you say that you've met even the most outrageous demands?

My second question is about the CG Spiderman and Sandman? How many animation controls each do they have approximately, and how long did it take for rigging them?

Thirdly, how long did it take to render the most complex scene in the movie? Amongst the characters, I'm assuming that with Sandman's complex shaders, he would have taken the longest to render. Whats the size of the renderfarm?

Finally, What were the specs of the Workstations the team was working on? Despite working on high end workstations, were there any scenes that may have crashed the workstations while working?

Hi wotanist,
Most of the considerations for whether a sequence can be done or not involve time and money. There are very few things that can't be done technically given enough time(which equals money). I remember on the first Spidey movie Sam wanted to have a more massive aerial battle between Spidey and the Goblin in the Times Square sequence. It was ultimately simplified because of the expense. Sam got his aerial battle in #3 though.
Concerning your other questions, I'll have to get back to you with the specifics. I don't have that info handy at the moment.

thanks for your questions,
Spencer

amitabhverma8
06-01-2007, 06:37 PM
Hi wotanist,
Most of the considerations for whether a sequence can be done or not involve time and money. There are very few things that can't be done technically given enough time(which equals money). I remember on the first Spidey movie Sam wanted to have a more massive aerial battle between Spidey and the Goblin in the Times Square sequence. It was ultimately simplified because of the expense. Sam got his aerial battle in #3 though.
Concerning your other questions, I'll have to get back to you with the specifics. I don't have that info handy at the moment.

thanks for your questions,
Spencer

thanks for the answer good day

catizone
06-01-2007, 09:34 PM
Hi Spencer,

It's been a while. Nice to see your work being spotlighted! Some very amazing stuff, to say the least. Thanks for this forum.

Best,
Rick Catizone

scook
06-01-2007, 09:35 PM
hi Spencer

thanks for taking the time out to answer the questions put forth to you. I have a few questions myself:

1. In Spidey3 alot of the animation was more flamboyant than the previous 2 films. By that I mean there are wilder camera angles & more extreme motions in characters in the 3rd film than there are in the first. Have you found you can push the limits of what an audience can expect to see on screen and what a supervisor can 'permit' to be seen on screen between the first film and the 3rd? Have you found that feedback from initial audience screenings has been alot more understanding of what they see compared to say ten years ago?

2. Would love to know about the webbing around spideys suit myself lol!! From some of the previs stuff on imageworks I'm guessing its a displacement map to pull the detail from the final tesselated model?

3. Watching Imageworks birth-of-sandman-making-of video clip on the website still puts my jaw on the table and I've lost count of how many times I've been to the cinema just to see that part of the film. The emotion in the character is truly superb and I was wondering how it felt to you as animation director/supervisor when the final shot was put together - did it strike the same chord with you as Sam Raimi intended because personally it put a lump in my throat, especially where the character collapses into a heap for the first time then later on tries to grasp the necklace with the pic of his daughter in it.

4. What kind of animation is your favourite personally? Is there anything you've seen where you've thought "thats a really original piece of work" (big or small scale). My current fave is the stunning work on the rigs for transformers and I really would love to see how they tackled alot of that.

5. You mention you have used Maya for all your animation. I'm a Maya user myself but play with Softimage XSI in my spare time. the enhancements I've seen in Softimage XSI lead me to think that its by far and away the best package in getting high end effects (specifically secondary motion of hair, fur and cloth on characters) out quickly and I'm looking at switching. Is there anything in Maya you think "bloody hell I really wish it could do that more effectively" Do you or the team use XSI at all in any of your projects at your current place of work?

6. I've seen alot of muscle-based simulations now on various films. Are they easy enough to work with when doing the animation (ie: realtime feedback) on your characters or is this something that is simulated afterward? I watched a making-of on the hulk and it was interesting to see that alot of this is cluster blendshapes in xsi then I watch that vid clip on superman returns and they're using muscle simulations. Which do you prefer as a all-rounded approach to tackling motion on characters?



sorry for the tirade of questions there!
cheers
anthony

Hi Anthony,
Great questions, I'll tackle them one at a time;
1. We always try to give the audience something new and exciting in every film we work on. The hope with character animation is that the audience doesn't "understand" what they are seeing. By that I mean that I hope the audience isn't watching the film and saying "wow, that's some good (or bad) animation". We want people to be swept up in the story and situations not looking for effects. In pushing the limits of what we had done before we run the risk of going too far and a shot ends up looking fake, but we don't do this stuff to play it safe. We may not hit a home run every time but we try. There is so much information out there about effects work that I think audiences are pretty savy about what they are seeing. There are certainly more people today criticizing or complementing effects work than there were 10 years ago.

2. You can refer to my reply to Bracer who originally asked the question about webbing but basically you are correct, it is displacement maps.

3. I'm so glad you enjoyed sandman's birth sequence. I was very nervous about that sequence. It's such an emotional moment in the movie that it would have been bad if the audience didn't buy the animation and efx. Personally, I was very touched by it. I think the emotion comes across as Sam intended. The success of that sequence is due to Sam Raimi's great direction.

4. Of the current films I've seen I'm very impressed with Davey Jones from Pirates. That character fit into that world so well and has such incredible screen presence. Kudos to the ILM team. I still get a thrill from watching any of Ray Harryhausen's films. His work is what inspired me to choose animation as a career and I'm still in awe of what he did.

5. For animation we only use Maya. XSI sounds like a great package but I usually think less about the software and more about who is using it. A good animator will get good results from any software.

6. Which system to use depends on the character and who is setting it up. Spider-man is all point weighting (from Koji Morihiro), it has worked so well from the first movie that we have never changed it. Venom had a muscle system(from Erik Miller) and it worked great as well. As long as the final results looks good I'm fine with either system.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-01-2007, 09:39 PM
Hello Mr. Spencer. I hope you're doing fit and healthy

I have no questions but rather a much difficult request.
Whenever you meet them, remember to give a special thanks to everyone(again) who pulled in any sort of effort in the "Birth of sandman" .Effects crew, music guys, Animators...all of them .

I saw something that inspiring after quite long
and... I thank you a lot for that:)

Thanks so much kunal, I will pass along your kind words. It truly was a team effort and I'm happy to have been a part of it.

Spencer

scook
06-01-2007, 09:45 PM
Hi again,

Would like thank you for taking your time to answer those. Wel, Mr.Spencer I have a another thing to know about. I waited to ask from you guys for long time but I forgot it last time as wel. Anyways here it is!
Through out the spideman series of movies, who is responsible for camera movements? do you'll have a specific person to do that or who ever it is doing the scene working on the camera movement as well ? What I mean is the except of matchmoved cameras..

I've seen some brilliant camera shots in it!!.. can't even think of.!!.
wish you all the best and good luck for your future animation work..

cheers.

Hey again modelviz,
The camera work for is usually part of the animation process (if it doesn't involve a matchmove). Many times we get previs or animatics that give us some direction to start with. After that it's part of the character animator's job to animate the camera as well as the character.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-01-2007, 09:55 PM
Hi Mr. Cook.

Im very glad to have the oportunity to talk with you on this forum, Thank you very much for your time, and thank you to CGTalk too.

I have a simple 2 questions:

1.- The team where you work have a "mix" of nationalities or is all American?. (Im from Mexico, and I always want to know this).
2.- Do you have already a great future proyect (like work on another Marvel Movie or SCFI Movie)?.

Thank you for your time :)

Hi Elfren,
I'm glad to be able to chat with you guys, thanks for the questions.
1. Our team, like any other studio, is made up of the best artists from all over the world. It's not important where you were born, if you are good at what you do we want you on the team.
2. There are some other projects in the works now, it's too early to say more than that.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-01-2007, 10:05 PM
Hi Spencer,

It's been a while. Nice to see your work being spotlighted! Some very amazing stuff, to say the least. Thanks for this forum.

Best,
Rick Catizone

Hey Rick,
Nice to hear from you. It sure has been a while. I think the last time we worked together was on the Starship Troopers tv series? That was a pretty fun time at Flat Earth prod. Thanks for the kind words, it's great to hear compliments from someone with your experience.

hope you are doing well,
Spencer

scook
06-02-2007, 01:46 AM
Hi Spencer,

Your work is really amazing. I have a few questions in regards to getting into the 3D animation. When did you first have the desire to try 3D? Did you go to a film school, and if so, which one. What was the process of getting the job at Sony Imageworks?

Also something that I've wondered.

What program(s) do you primarily use? When you got the job, do they accomadate you with the program you're comfortable with (say, perhaps, XSI) and let you animate with that, or do they only use a spefic program, for ease of sharing (i.e. Maya)?

Thanks,

3Dean

Hi Render3Dean,
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the work. I was always interested in character animation from a very young age. Specifically, stop motion animation. I was inspired by the original Willis O'Brien "King Kong" and Ray Harryhausen's "7th Voyage of Sinbad". Somewhere around 11 years old I began experimenting with stop-motion using my Dad's super-8 camera and clay figures and G.I. Joes. I went to The School of Visual Arts in New York City and majored in film and video production. I made a stop-motion short as a thesis project and used that to apply for work with New York commercial animation studios (this was in 1985 before cg animation dominated the animation industry). To make a long story short, I spent many years as a stop-motion animator in commercials and tv shows then in 1998 I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to work on features. The transition from stop-mo to digital animation was not easy at first but I stuck with it. I worked at Digital Domain, Flat Earth and eventually Imageworks where I started as an intermediate level animator.
At Imageworks we use Maya for animation. Every studio has their preferred software, some create it themselves. When you are hired by a studio they will want you to work with their preferred software. Allowing everybody to use whichever software they want would be a nightmare pipeline to try and manage.

thanks for your questions,
Spencer

scook
06-02-2007, 02:02 AM
And one more from me ;-)

In the Superman space shuttlethrow sequence I saw a musclesimulation running under the Supermanmesh.

Does the Spiderman deformation use Muscle simulation, and if so, is it the muscle system that directly deforms themesh? Or does it only serve as an orientation for the animators?

Or do the Spiderman puppets use only weighting?

Specially in Spiderman, when his limbs go into extreme positions the jointdeformations were perfect, congrats.

If there´s automated compensation/musclesliding etc by what tecniques is it achieved?

Thx again

Hi again CB_3D,
Spider-man's deformations are all point weighting from Koji Morihiro. He set it up for the first movie and we have been using it ever since. I'll let him know that you enjoy his fine work.

thanks,
Spencer

Render3Dean
06-02-2007, 02:43 AM
Thank you for your reply. One more question, slightly similar. You may not know the answer, but do they also solely use maya for the modelling (and zbrush of course)?

Once again. Superb Work. Keep it up!

seema
06-02-2007, 04:58 AM
Hi,

I am sorry to ask rigging related questions, but this is my only chance to get some info from you!

ReInsisting on CB_3D 's ques : You said that Koji Morihiro used all point weigting on spiderman Rigs. I would think though that surely there is something else going on ,on top of weighting that helps maintain such believable volume/and gives smooth deformations. Is it some blendshapes that were triggered based on joint rotations/pose or some other technique. If its all only weigting and no shapes , then was it based on multiple joints being pushed/pulled internally,depending on the pose(which would be so difficult to setup m sure) ? Pls share the brief theory behind the setup if posssible :-)

And GREAT work, I was amazed by the technical output of the movie! It continues to inspire me to do much better work everyday!

Thanks for your time

Asiadeep
06-02-2007, 09:41 AM
Great job with Spiderman and Matrix. Each one is ground breaking in its own way and I love all of them. What the next project?

Bhunt
06-03-2007, 05:53 AM
Hello, I just wanted to say what a great film and congrats on such a success. And as many have already posted here, I just wanted to say that my favorite part was the sandman birth. I loved how soft the sand felt and how he was trying to come to grips that "okay im made of sand now.....just need to pick myself and move on" lots of determination in that scene and as a growing animator I hope I can pull something like that off in the future. Great work! Also just wanted to thank you for giving us your time here. Thanks.

-Bryan

hanias
06-03-2007, 11:00 AM
Hi Spencer,

First I want to thank you for your time...

Well I entered VFX field almost 2 yrs ago, I work in Lebanon(Middle East).

The field is evolving here but still not as professional as what u guys do. I'm really eager to learn and improve in this field more. I would like to ask you, is it in any way possible for me to do training in one of the post production companies in the US? If yes how can I reach any, if not then what's your advice for me in order to improve and reach the pro level..

GoldenCamel
06-03-2007, 03:34 PM
Here goes some critics about Spiderman III, its just my opinion thou.

Story was the weakest among the three films, I'd say the first film had the strongest storyline and the most clear to follow, but the third film has too much material and very little time devoted to each as if barely scratching the surface, never letting the audience really get involved emotionaly with anything. For example, the story with the sandman and his daughter and wife, so little screen time is given to them while it could have been a great subject to go deep with.

On direction, while I may not be quilified to criticise, as a mere member of the audience, I found some of the action sequences too crowded, the cutting and continuity was sometimes too hard to follow, specialy on the fight with harry and pete in the alleys, it was like they tried to pack in too much goodies into that sequence that it spoiled it all.

On animation, there was some minor stuff, one during the sandman born scene while hes getting up and falling, i think it would have needed more polish, it felt to me that it was somehow rushed in animation. also some of the shots with spidy just screamed computer animation, as they were too clean and perfect to fit into the live action set. As it is with CG animation in live action films, sometimes you need to add those little imperfections, like a few unclean arcs or maybe mess up those slow in/out a bit to make it more life like.

animation of the sandman in the final battle could have been better, I would have personaly added more weight and force to his punch. it was there but could have been pushed more to add more impact.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but the first spiderman remains my favorite.

scook
06-04-2007, 07:32 PM
Firstly, Mr Cook, HUGE kudos to you an the ENTIRE ImageWorks team. I think it goes without saying that you guys are almost "benchmark" level with regards to the entire end-to-end VFX pipeline.

Secondly, Questions :
1. For the intro fight with Goblin and Spidey, I'm assuming that that was a mix of
a) Live Actors
b) Digital doubles
c) Photographic/Video back plates
d) CG'ed buildings
e) real buildings
Tricky question, but could you tell us what some of the desicion-making process is like for a shot like that ?
I'm thinking its not just the technical considerations, but also time and money budget etc.

2. What were average render times per frame for really complex shots ? I'm just trying to compare to things like Narnia where Aslan scenes took about 9 hours to render!

Thirdly, and i dont mean to contradict what you said, but just suggest a more probable method :



My understanding is that for shots like that, where it appears that time stops and the camera does a "fly around" the subject, what they do is setup an array of cameras (sometimes over 30-40, more ?) in a ring around the subject.

Then, they fire the cameras off all at the same time.
(say, when a person jumps up and reaches the height of the jump)

The result is that you have multiple frames of the subject from different angles, but at the same time. So, you just play those frames back in sequence and it appears that a single camera is moving around the subject in freeze-frame.

Hope that answers your question, akhenaten.

And thanks again for taking the time out of your obviously crazy schedule to answer our questions, Mr Cook.

Hi Laven,
The Peter/Goblin fight (we called it pg sequence for short) was a mix of everything you mentioned. Some of the decisions of what technique to use were based on things like; how well do you see the actors, is it possible to shoot on location, is it possible for the actor or stuntman to perform the action. To clearly see the actors, some of the action was performed on a stage in front of a bluescreen. In animation we could manipulate the bluescreen plate to enhance the motion. In some cases we comped the actors face onto the animated character. This was a tricky process that involved animating the character then using that motion to program a motion control camera to photograph the actor's face with the proper perspective changes. For some of the more complex action that no person could perform and no camera rig could photograph we went all digital. We tried to mix up the techniques and see the actors as much as possible. Time and money always figure into the decisions as well.
As far as render times; we generally render a shot in separate passes (and comp them together) so it's difficult to quantify a time per shot or per frame. One general rule though is that if an element takes more than 2 hours to render then every effort is made to reduce that time. There were some shot elements that took as much as 7 or 8 hours to render. I hope that answers your questions.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-04-2007, 08:02 PM
While it's true that what you describe was truly the method pioneered by a French company for a Rolling Stones clip and then used for the bullet time sequence in Matrix one, I don't think someone could fly over an exploding truck and have that captured by multiple stillframe cameras. It was digital.

Spencer, Thanks for answering all these questions. Here are mine:

1)I have heard that begining animators have a very hard time in the big companies. What's life like for a begining animator in Imageworks? Is any slack given or even possible to give with the tight deadlines? Or do you hire only battle-tested animators that are expected to dive into production from the first minute?

2)Coming from a smaller, generalist team, and hearing your pipeline description here, I wondered what modelers do after the animation has started. Are they all fired after the first couple of months of production? Do they make the animators coffee? Or do they zip around from project to project, working the first month or so on each?

Thank you very much for your time and patience. Your kindness to the community is as inspiring as your work.

Adam.

Hi JinJ,

Thanks for the questions, here you go;

1. We are always on the look out for talented and enthusiastic young animators. It's important to have a mix of veterans and beginners on each team. Where else will the beginners get the experience to become veterans one day? We have a training department here that helps get new folks up to speed on software, tools, pipeline, etc. It also depends on the time frame for the show. We probably wouldn't have too many junior animators on "911" shows since we do have to push stuff out quickly. However, there are shows with a schedule of a year or more where juniors have time to ramp up to speed. Also, a junior animator would probably do more simple shots in the beginning.

2. At Imageworks, once a modeler is done on a show we box them up and put them in storage. I'm kidding of course, ideally what happens is that they move on to another show. If there isn't another show in house they can take a vacation, work on some internal projects or go to work at another studio. It all depends on the indivdual and the state of the facility at the time.

hope that answers your questions,
thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-04-2007, 08:06 PM
Hi Laven,
The Peter/Goblin fight (we called it pg sequence for short) was a mix of everything you mentioned. Some of the decisions of what technique to use were based on things like; how well do you see the actors, is it possible to shoot on location, is it possible for the actor or stuntman to perform the action. To clearly see the actors, some of the action was performed on a stage in front of a bluescreen. In animation we could manipulate the bluescreen plate to enhance the motion. In some cases we comped the actors face onto the animated character. This was a tricky process that involved animating the character then using that motion to program a motion control camera to photograph the actor's face with the proper perspective changes. For some of the more complex action that no person could perform and no camera rig could photograph we went all digital. We tried to mix up the techniques and see the actors as much as possible. Time and money always figure into the decisions as well.
As far as render times; we generally render a shot in separate passes (and comp them together) so it's difficult to quantify a time per shot or per frame. One general rule though is that if an element takes more than 2 hours to render then every effort is made to reduce that time. There were some shot elements that took as much as 7 or 8 hours to render. I hope that answers your questions.

thanks,
Spencer


I just found out some new info about render times from Michael May, one of our coordinators. Some of the very complex sand shots took as much as 12 hours per frame to render.

Spencer

JBoogie
06-04-2007, 11:20 PM
Mr. Cook,

To start, I just want to say thank you. You and your team have done a magnificent job with the Matrix movies, as well as the Spiderman movies (super huge ridiculous spiderman fan since I was born). Your fx are greatly inspiring and amazing! I have always had a passion for animation and I am getting ready to attend AAU online at the age of 26 (military service after highschool). I feel like I am a bit behind the curve because I have very little knowledge in the 3D animation world (messing with the downloadable version of 3DS Max as of late) and the animation/production language used. If you wouldn't mind, I would just like to get your advice on some of the possible obstacles/problems that I may encounter as someone starting out "this late in the game" so to speak. Thank you ahead of time and keep the amazing work coming! Take care!

J

jpiazzo
06-04-2007, 11:37 PM
Spencer,
Congrats on great work and great career.

Joe Piazzo
SVA Film, 1984

scook
06-05-2007, 03:13 AM
hello their

recently i watched the the 3rd Series of Spiderman Movie. First let me congratulate you the special effects and the camera work is quite outstanding and top notch. so here are my question every thing is quite brilliant. what i would like to ask is that their something called the x factor you know the character like venom and sandman and the darker spidey quite didnt reach at the level of the xtreme goblin aka mr harry osborne. i mean the projection to the character and the way he performed his task is quite impressive in comparison to the other characters. secondly why is that the part of darker spidey is so less. i mean from the point of view that he was projected so much in the trailer and in the posters and in teasers.

secondly what is the difference of doing a shot in a digital world in comparison to doing it in a real world. how do you project so much information and surrounding in so much small time in a digital world.

thirdly what does it take to become a smooth animator and rigger. where can i get the best trainning who do you recommened

finally. do you think their is going to be another chapter in the series. i thought when spiderman 3 was pounded by sandman and venom their was an intresting shot in which he was nearly again caught by the symboite. and i thought wow may be he will go the darker side or turn into something that we never expected. so what is your opinion is their spiderman 4 happening. ?

thank you

amitabh

Hi amitabhverma8,

Thanks, I glad to here you enjoyed our work. Thanks for the questions.

I think your first question is more of a personal preference. We animated all of the characters the best way we could to fit their indivdual personalities.

As to your second question, the amount of screentime for dark Spidey was based on the story that Sam Raimi wanted to tell. The advertising did focus alot on dark Spidey, mostly I guess because it's a new element that audiences didn't see in Spider-man 1 and 2.

To create a photo-real looking environment digitally it's best to use as much real photography as possible. Scott Stokdyk, our visual effects supervisor, tries to design fx shots to include as much real elements as possible. Most of the time it's a mix of plate photography, hi resolution stills, skillful model making, texture painting, matte painting, lighting and a critical eye for detail.

The best advice I can give to improve as an animator is this; animate what interests you not what you think other people want to see. Whether it's cartoons, photoreal monsters or spaceships, you'll do better work and be happier if you follow your interests. Also, study real world reference. Act out an action in front of a mirror or, better yet, videotape youself and study it frame by frame. If you are animating a creature, find an animal in the real world to get ideas from. Find nature footage of that animal and study it frame by frame and apply that to your animation. Read animation books like "The illusion of life" or Richard Williams "The animator's survival kit" for basic animation principals. Most of all...animate, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, be your own harshest critic and study human and animal body language.

Finally, I'm pretty sure there will be a Spider-Man 4. I don't have any inside information on this yet but a basic rule in Hollywood is that if a movie makes money the studio will want to do it again. There are still tons of great Spidey stories to tell.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-05-2007, 03:31 AM
Originally Posted by wotanist
Hi Spencer,

I was wondering if there were any sequences that the director demanded which were too difficult to pull off and were dropped because of technical limitations, or would you say that you've met even the most outrageous demands?

My second question is about the CG Spiderman and Sandman? How many animation controls each do they have approximately, and how long did it take for rigging them?

Thirdly, how long did it take to render the most complex scene in the movie? Amongst the characters, I'm assuming that with Sandman's complex shaders, he would have taken the longest to render. Whats the size of the renderfarm?

Finally, What were the specs of the Workstations the team was working on? Despite working on high end workstations, were there any scenes that may have crashed the workstations while working?


Hi wotanist,
Most of the considerations for whether a sequence can be done or not involve time and money. There are very few things that can't be done technically given enough time(which equals money). I remember on the first Spidey movie Sam wanted to have a more massive aerial battle between Spidey and the Goblin in the Times Square sequence. It was ultimately simplified because of the expense. Sam got his aerial battle in #3 though.
Concerning your other questions, I'll have to get back to you with the specifics. I don't have that info handy at the moment.

thanks for your questions,
Spencer

Hi again wotanist,

I can't give you too many specific answers to your other questions but I'll pass along what I can. The most complex sand scene took close to 12 hours per frame to render. We use a linux os on our workstations. Scene crashes are an unfortunate part of working on a computer. Sorry I can't be more specific.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-05-2007, 03:38 AM
Hi,

I am sorry to ask rigging related questions, but this is my only chance to get some info from you!

ReInsisting on CB_3D 's ques : You said that Koji Morihiro used all point weigting on spiderman Rigs. I would think though that surely there is something else going on ,on top of weighting that helps maintain such believable volume/and gives smooth deformations. Is it some blendshapes that were triggered based on joint rotations/pose or some other technique. If its all only weigting and no shapes , then was it based on multiple joints being pushed/pulled internally,depending on the pose(which would be so difficult to setup m sure) ? Pls share the brief theory behind the setup if posssible :-)

And GREAT work, I was amazed by the technical output of the movie! It continues to inspire me to do much better work everyday!

Thanks for your time






Hi seema,

Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you enjoy our work. The best person to answer your question is Koji himself, so, ladies and gentlemen...Mr. Koji Morihiro;

It was all done with point weighting, basically.
Most of the deformation is done with Maya clusters applied directly onto the geometry
and there are also a few Lattices whose points are driven by clusters.

There are several hundreds clusters placed over Spidey's body.
And each of them works as a virtual muscle whose movement is
triggered by the animation joints via Maya expressions (equations).
For example, there are clusters placed and weighted around his biceps that get triggered by
the elbow rotation, and as a result these cluters give a nice bicep bulge effect.

The idea behind this technique is that I was convinced the best way to get the most believable deformation
was to have geometry precisely sculpted(weighted) at as many poses and have them interpolated as real muscles and skin would move.
To achieve both precise shapes and realistic interpolations, I found combinations of clusters and expressions work very neatly.

scook
06-05-2007, 03:42 AM
Thank you for your reply. One more question, slightly similar. You may not know the answer, but do they also solely use maya for the modelling (and zbrush of course)?

Once again. Superb Work. Keep it up!

Hi Render3Dean,

It's pretty much Maya, I think there may be other programs involved to translate 3D scans into a usable format.

thanks,
Spencer

LavenPillay
06-05-2007, 10:28 AM
Thanks for the reply Mr Cook.

Since this is a rare opportunity, I'll be extremely pleased if you could answer a few more questions :

1. What particular (art/animation) influence(s) do you guys use for Spideys movements ?

I felt that the aerial fight sequences had a (awesome) anime feel to them. In the sense that it was beautifully planned and stylishly executed.
Curious as to how, who and by what you guys are influenced and inspired by when choreographing Spidey-Moves.


2. On a personal note, who would be your Villians Of Choice for the next Spidey movie ? ;)

scook
06-05-2007, 09:16 PM
Great job with Spiderman and Matrix. Each one is ground breaking in its own way and I love all of them. What the next project?

hi Asiadeep,
Thanks, I'm happy to hear you like our work. I'm not sure what my next project is. There are some very cool projects on the horizon here at Imageworks but it's too early to mention any by name.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-05-2007, 09:19 PM
Hello, I just wanted to say what a great film and congrats on such a success. And as many have already posted here, I just wanted to say that my favorite part was the sandman birth. I loved how soft the sand felt and how he was trying to come to grips that "okay im made of sand now.....just need to pick myself and move on" lots of determination in that scene and as a growing animator I hope I can pull something like that off in the future. Great work! Also just wanted to thank you for giving us your time here. Thanks.

-Bryan

Hi Bhunt,

Thanks for the kind words. I was most nervous about the birth sequence, there were so many complex elements that needed to work. I'm glad you liked it.

thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-05-2007, 10:02 PM
Here goes some critics about Spiderman III, its just my opinion thou.

Story was the weakest among the three films, I'd say the first film had the strongest storyline and the most clear to follow, but the third film has too much material and very little time devoted to each as if barely scratching the surface, never letting the audience really get involved emotionaly with anything. For example, the story with the sandman and his daughter and wife, so little screen time is given to them while it could have been a great subject to go deep with.

On direction, while I may not be quilified to criticise, as a mere member of the audience, I found some of the action sequences too crowded, the cutting and continuity was sometimes too hard to follow, specialy on the fight with harry and pete in the alleys, it was like they tried to pack in too much goodies into that sequence that it spoiled it all.

On animation, there was some minor stuff, one during the sandman born scene while hes getting up and falling, i think it would have needed more polish, it felt to me that it was somehow rushed in animation. also some of the shots with spidy just screamed computer animation, as they were too clean and perfect to fit into the live action set. As it is with CG animation in live action films, sometimes you need to add those little imperfections, like a few unclean arcs or maybe mess up those slow in/out a bit to make it more life like.

animation of the sandman in the final battle could have been better, I would have personaly added more weight and force to his punch. it was there but could have been pushed more to add more impact.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but the first spiderman remains my favorite.



Don't sugercoat it man, tell us what you really think :-) Actually, I appreciate hearing what didn't work for people as well as what did. That's the thing about character animation, every human being is hardwired through millions of years of evolution to be sensitive to human and animal body language. It's a gut reaction, an person doesn't need any training in animation to spot something that doesn't feel right. As animators we try to find a balance between the fantasy and the reality of an action. In movies like Spidey 3 we are creating events that couldn't happen in the real world so part of it is very subjective.

thanks for the comments,
Spencer

scook
06-06-2007, 02:29 AM
Hi Spencer,

First I want to thank you for your time...

Well I entered VFX field almost 2 yrs ago, I work in Lebanon(Middle East).

The field is evolving here but still not as professional as what u guys do. I'm really eager to learn and improve in this field more. I would like to ask you, is it in any way possible for me to do training in one of the post production companies in the US? If yes how can I reach any, if not then what's your advice for me in order to improve and reach the pro level..


Mr. Cook,

To start, I just want to say thank you. You and your team have done a magnificent job with the Matrix movies, as well as the Spiderman movies (super huge ridiculous spiderman fan since I was born). Your fx are greatly inspiring and amazing! I have always had a passion for animation and I am getting ready to attend AAU online at the age of 26 (military service after highschool). I feel like I am a bit behind the curve because I have very little knowledge in the 3D animation world (messing with the downloadable version of 3DS Max as of late) and the animation/production language used. If you wouldn't mind, I would just like to get your advice on some of the possible obstacles/problems that I may encounter as someone starting out "this late in the game" so to speak. Thank you ahead of time and keep the amazing work coming! Take care!

J





Hi hanias and JBoogie,


I'm going to answer your questions together since you both have similar requests.


You can find contact info for studios on the internet. Just type the studio's name in Google and go to their website. Most will have an "employment" section that will give you an address to send demos to. Here's one to get you started;
http://www.sonypictures.com/imageworks/

Make sure your demo is vhs or dvd in ntsc format. Most studios get tons of demos everyday so don't expect a quick reply. You can follow up with a phone call to the HR department. Make sure your demo and cover letter are clear about the position you want; modeling, animation, lighting, etc. You can also inquire about internships which can usually be a good foot in the door if you are just starting out.


I know what it's like trying to make that initial contact and it can be intimidating and/or frustrating. If your demo is specifically character animation you can mention my name in the cover letter and I'll be happy to take a look at it. Please only send me character animation demos though.

To JBoogie, the best thing you can do is animate, animate and then animate some more. One of your fellow posters ( amitabhverma8) asked a similar question, here were my suggestions to him;

The best advice I can give to improve as an animator is this; animate what interests you not what you think other people want to see. Whether it's cartoons, photoreal monsters or spaceships, you'll do better work and be happier if you follow your interests. Also, study real world reference. Act out an action in front of a mirror or, better yet, videotape youself and study it frame by frame. If you are animating a creature, find an animal in the real world to get ideas from. Find nature footage of that animal and study it frame by frame and apply that to your animation. Read animation books like "The illusion of life" or Richard Williams "The animator's survival kit" for basic animation principals. Most of all...animate, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, be your own harshest critic and study human and animal body language.

The software you use is not as important as developing good animation skills.


I hope this helps, I look forward to seeing all of your great work in the future.


thanks,
Spencer

scook
06-06-2007, 02:33 AM
Spencer,
Congrats on great work and great career.

Joe Piazzo
SVA Film, 1984

Thanks Joe, good to hear from you. Hope all is well with you.

Spencer

PaulHellard
06-06-2007, 02:43 AM
Last drinks!

Thank you everyone who have participated in this tremendous open Q&A with Spencer Cook on his amazing career. Thanks also to Sandy O'Neill from Sony Imageworks for making this possible, and most definitely, Thank You to Spencer Cook for making your time available.