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PaulHellard
11-28-2007, 10:11 PM
http://features.cgsociety.org/cgtalk/meettheartists/kenn_mac/kennmta_t.jpg

Kenn McDonald
Animation Supervisor
Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Kenn McDonald most recently completed work on Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf as animation supervisor. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing all aspects of digital character performance from the moment performance capture is completed through to final animation. In addition he worked closely with the character modeling and rigging teams to develop the look of the characters.

Prior to Beowulf, McDonald was an animator on Open Season, the first feature from Sony Pictures Animation. He came to that project after having been lead CG animator on The Polar Express, the pioneering animated feature which also was directed by Robert Zemeckis. Before that McDonald was a lead animator on Stuart Little 2 and CG animator on The Matrix Reloaded.

McDonald’s other credits include CG animator on Pandemic Studios/THQ’s award-winning combat simulation video game Full Spectrum Warrior and animator on two Imageworks shorts, The ChubbChubbs! (winner of the 2003 Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film) and Early Bloomer.
Read the feature on the CGSociety. [HERE (http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=4336)]

Your questions and comments are most welcome,

Please make welcome to CGTalk’s Meet the Artist, Kenn McDonald.

erilaz
11-28-2007, 11:00 PM
Hi Kenn! I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet (Australia's release is today!), but i'm looking forward to seeing it.:)

As you know there has been a lot of media coverage about the term "performace capture" and an equally large backlash from animators who dislike/fear/trivialise it's use.
I'm interested to hear how you think performance capture benefits and/or detracts from production in general. Are your experiences with the technology a postive one?

Naturally I want to keep the discussion on this area positive and light! I think there has been a lot of confusion over what performace capture actually implies, and to hear from someone in the thick of it will really help to keep peoples minds open.:D

sphere
11-28-2007, 11:03 PM
Congratulations Kenn on your work and thanks for taking a bit of time to answer questions :)

I'd like to know how it was moving from the style and method of animation in Open Season to the one in Beowulf. Was it an easy transtition between the two styles of animation and approach to the work? Also, which do you prefer and why?

And just quickly, what were some of the major issues or complications that arose in animating for Beowulf?

DerLandvogt
11-28-2007, 11:20 PM
Hi Kenn
I saw the movie once in REAL 3D. OH MY GOD! What a great work!
I have just two short question:
How big are the textures you used in this film for example at the face of beowulf.
And did you use a special solution for the hair or a regular plugin?


Thanks a lot for this great movie!
Will see it again this weekend.

This is so amazing!

Regards
Hilmar DerLandvogt

FabioMSilva
11-28-2007, 11:25 PM
Hi Kenn:)

nice movie! it was an very interasting experience to watch it with 3d glasses.

I got a couple questions for ya

1st- What is in your opinion, the greatest achievement in Beowulf in terms of realism and technology.

2nd- What is the thing(also in your opinion) that you think that has not worked so well, or that you havent been totally happy with it.

3rd- what was your favorite character to work on and why?

4th - i read that u guys used some sort of new eye-movement motion capture. can you explain a bit more of the process?

5th- How many polys had beowulf:D ?

well that all for now. looking forward to hear from you! :)

fábio

watermage
11-28-2007, 11:39 PM
Hi Kenn!

Beowulf looks great. (I have to wait for it to get down to my little Island though.)

I would like to know what the most stressful part of your job was like, and how you and your team dealt with it.

Human dynamics is usually ignored I have found when companies take on a big job, and Beowulf must have been MASSIVE.

Cheerio

Dogway
11-28-2007, 11:40 PM
Hello Ken!

Congrats for the movie. I really liked it, it seems to have had a huge amount of work to have it done.

One of the questions is for eyes, maybe the most challenging task. Did you use any special technic to give them "soul"?. From my point of view, main character's chubby partner's eyes are the best, along angelina jolie's (among human models), could you find any special reason?

and last, wich renderer did you use? how long did it take for an average frame to be rendered? did you render in passes?

Thanks, and I hope this makes an start for other full CG movies.

Jose L.

herobix
11-28-2007, 11:45 PM
Hi ken =)

here is some questions from Sweden:
1. what program did you use?
2. why did you make some of the character so highlighted? looked like they allways was oíled in or that they were made of plastic oO just what I think =) (what I have seen on trailers)
3. Can't wait to see the movie

Paul McLaughlin
11-29-2007, 12:43 AM
Were you guys attempting to come as close as you could to creating lifelike cg, or was there some attention paid to the aesthetic of the medium?

I guess this is more of a art direction question, but I think it still pertains to the animation aspect of the film.

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 03:53 AM
Hello Everyone and thanks for the great welcome. It's really terrific to hear that so many people are enjoying the movie. So many artists worked for more that 2 years to bring it to the big screen and it's gratifying that it's being well received.

The questions your are coming up with are very interesting and many of them cut to the heart of the discussion that's happening in the industry concerning performance capture and it's use in CG films. Many of your questions cover similar territory so I'm going to group my answers where I can.

Let's get started.

Kenn

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 04:44 AM
Hi Kenn! I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet (Australia's release is today!), but i'm looking forward to seeing it.:)

As you know there has been a lot of media coverage about the term "performace capture" and an equally large backlash from animators who dislike/fear/trivialise it's use.
I'm interested to hear how you think performance capture benefits and/or detracts from production in general. Are your experiences with the technology a postive one?

Naturally I want to keep the discussion on this area positive and light! I think there has been a lot of confusion over what performace capture actually implies, and to hear from someone in the thick of it will really help to keep peoples minds open.:D


Erilaz,

You've really gotten to the point. I'll try not to be too longwinded in my reply.

My first experience with performance capture was on Polar Express. I was, and still am, fascinated by the possibilities that performance capture presents. PEX, as we called it at Imageworks, was a huge learning experience for all of us involved. As animators, we learned a lot about 'realistic' human performance. By realistic I don't mean photo real rendering and render detail, but the subtlety of the performance, the little details that make for an authentic performance. We did a great deal of animating over the top of the performance capture and every day was like an acting workshop with Tom Hanks.

What we learned on PEX and Monster House, which was the next performance capture film Imageworks tackled, became the starting place for our use of the technology on Beowulf, or BEO as we called it at the studio.

I think the biggest thing we learned on the first two projects and continued to discover on BEO is that performance capture is a tool for the animator. Just as Disney's shot lots of footage for the animators to reference or even rotoscope for their 2D features, we used the performance capture as a starting place for getting the performance that Robert Zemekis wanted up on the screen. Unlimately the video reference of the actor's performance that was shot during the capture session became the target we were trying to hit. The capture data was the starting point. The final performance that the audience sees is the result of a very skilled animator building on that base and using his or her judgement to animate over the performance capture and bring the character to life.

I don't see performance capture as a threat to animators. Certainly not as it exists now. It's not a plug and play process. It requires the artistry of several performance capture artists to get the performance data that was captured onto the character rigs before the animators an even begin their work. We had a great team of trackers headed up by D.J Hauck and a very talented group of integrators led by Corey Turner and Brian Doman. And even after they worked their magic we still had a team of animators (nearly 60 animators worked on the show at it's peak) who worked over every shot. If anything these films are creating more jobs.

Whether you like the look of the animation in these films or not is a personal preference I think. It's certainly perfectly valid to say, "I like squashy and stretchy cartoon animation better." I come from a 2d toony background myself. However I can't image doing a movie like Beowulf from scratch. For me the performance capture brings a quality to the animation that would be incredibly difficult and time consuming to animate from scratch. It's the combination of the two that really charges me up. Ultimately it's something of an aesthetic choice you make when you choose to do a film like this with performance capture. I'm still fascinated by the possibilites.

Okay, maybe that was a little long winded, but I love talking about this stuff.

Kenn

EvilEggPlant
11-29-2007, 07:58 AM
Hey Kenn, its an absolute HONOR to have you here, I have been a great fan of your work and i congratulate you on what u have been able to achieve for the industry. /hats off.

I watched Beowulf yesterday and i must say it completely changed my perception of Motion Capture, i mean although there are some rare scenes where u get a hint that the characters were unreal, for the most the job was done Spectacularly which gets me to:

My question: its simple yet debatable , since u have worked on countless feature films, involving both Mocap as well as normal animation... do you believe that the industry will take a turn to Mocap or will each of these types of animation always have a place in the world of feature films. please elaborate if u can find the time :D


once again excuisite job Sir.

Avak O.o

vEEdA21
11-29-2007, 09:31 AM
Hey Kenn,

I just started my new job as an animator for this game studio. I was just wondering, if you can give any tips? Maybe things animators need to pay attention on and what most junior animators tend to lack?

Also, maybe the thought process when creating any animation?

Thanks for being on the forum, pleasure to have you.

Veara Suon

vEEdA21
11-29-2007, 09:32 AM
Hey Kenn,

I just started my new job as an animator for this game studio. I was just wondering, if you can give any tips? Maybe things animators need to pay attention on and what most junior animators tend to lack?

Also, maybe the thought process when creating any animation?

Thanks for being on the forum, pleasure to have you.

Veara Suon

vEEdA21
11-29-2007, 09:34 AM
Hey Kenn,

I just started my new job as an animator for this game studio. I was just wondering, if you can give any tips? Maybe things animators need to pay attention on and what most junior animators tend to lack or what mistake they usually do?

Also, maybe the thought process when creating any animation?

Thanks for being on the forum, pleasure to have you.

Veara Suon

vEEdA21
11-29-2007, 09:38 AM
Hey Kenn,

I just started my new job as an animator for this game studio. I was just wondering, if you can give any tips? Maybe things animators need to pay attention on and what most junior animators tend to lack or what mistake they usually do?

Also, maybe the thought process when creating any animation?

Thanks for being on the forum, pleasure to have you.

Veara Suon

vEEdA21
11-29-2007, 09:57 AM
SORRY! about that...didnt mean to post all that, I press submit alittle too many times, i did try deleting them

noizFACTORY
11-29-2007, 12:33 PM
Hello Kenn,

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to talk to you.

Firstly, much respect to all of you who worked on this feature. You guys earned it.

Having read a lot of negative stuff about the movie, and being disappointed myself when I first saw the trailers, I must say I pretty much liked the film (and I didn't even watch it in 3D). Overall, it wasn't as bad as some people were making it out to be. Some shots were amazingly photoreaslistic, though they were very small in number.

Like other folks in these forums commented, even I found that the cg quality improved as the movie progressed. Did that really happen as your tools and workflow got better and you learnt more from your own experiences or is it just us who feel that way?

Also, the infamous eyes. How did you go about trying to better what you had learnt from The Polar Express? I thought the eyes were much better in this movie though not completely there (did you look at Davy Jones closely for inspiration?). Did you on a personal level see any room for improvement in that department but didn't have any more time to go about doing that?

Also, I was quite surprised that there were a lot of acting bits in this movie. The fight sequences were mostly the much talked about Beowulf vs. Grendl and Beowulf vs. Dragon sequences. The rest of the movie had a lot of acting bits and you guys did deliver in some shots.

Again, kudos to you and your team for trying to push the envelope.

-Sachin

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 01:04 PM
Congratulations Kenn on your work and thanks for taking a bit of time to answer questions :)

I'd like to know how it was moving from the style and method of animation in Open Season to the one in Beowulf. Was it an easy transtition between the two styles of animation and approach to the work? Also, which do you prefer and why?

And just quickly, what were some of the major issues or complications that arose in animating for Beowulf?


Sphere,

I didn't really find it hard switching gears between Open Season and Beowulf. My background is in 2d animation and I come from the Warner Bros. school of what's funny. My favorite Warner director is Robert McKimmson followed closely by Chuck Jones, so Open Season was a treat for me after rolling off of Polar Express. Since I had done Polar Express, going onto Beowulf after Open Season wasn't a big leap. The only time I felt a little schizophrenic was at the beginning when I was splitting my time between the two shows as Open Season wrapped up and Beowulf got started. Once Beowulf was rolling it felt very comfortable.

Major issues and complications? Whoever heard of such a thing? Seriously, I'll cover that in a seperate post after I've had a few days to mull it over.

Thanks for the questions.

Kenn

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 01:45 PM
Hi ken =)

here is some questions from Sweden:
1. what program did you use?
2. why did you make some of the character so highlighted? looked like they allways was oíled in or that they were made of plastic oO just what I think =) (what I have seen on trailers)
3. Can't wait to see the movie


Good Morning Herobix,

We used a custom tweaked version of Maya 7.0 for animating on Beowulf. We also had many many custom tools that were written in house and were invaluable in working with the performance capture and dealing with the large crowd scenes in the mead hall.

We also use a program called Endorphin from Natural Motion. It's hard body simulation package for the human form. You can set key poses and variables like muscle strength and rigidity to finesse the simulations. We used it primarily to give us a starting point for many of the soldiers who get thrashed by Grendal in the mead hall. The use of Endorphine on the show was headed up by Keith Kellogg who was my right hand man on the show. He took some rough tests I had done with Endophin and hammered together a pipeline that allowed us to move our animation into Endorphin, run the simulations and get the new motion back into Maya. Great job Keith.

The look of the film was based on the idea of using available light, so most of the interior shots look like they are lit by torches or a fireplace. There was some hero lighting involved, but the look the VFX Supervisor, Jerome Chen, was going for was natural lighting. It resulted in what I think is great dramatic lighting with lots of dark and light contrast. I don't think the quicktime trailers pick up the subtlety you're going to see in the theater. I think when you see the movie you'll find that the characters look amazing.

Thanks for the questions and let me know what you think of the film.

Kenn

Diependaal
11-29-2007, 02:33 PM
I must say i liked the body animation, it was great, also some of the characters looked pretty real.

Aldo like all 3d films, also this one.., the facial animation ruins it all, it was pretty rigid, the facial movement was just the front part of the face. I'm really surprised why the ears for example wernt animated at all.

especially the scenes with the John Malkovich character, the facials where like a mask.
now my question is why wernt the ears animated with the jaw, to give that much more realism to the facial animation ?

Because this movie was basicly only done to just see what could be done with 3d.
And i must ad, not to come over as a total critic only, that it was way better than for polar express. or any other in this league, up till now.

herobix
11-29-2007, 05:00 PM
A question that popped out of my head is not about Beowulf, it is about polar express, my old teatcher told me that it was done in Cinema 4D, is that right?

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 05:29 PM
Hello Ken!

Congrats for the movie. I really liked it, it seems to have had a huge amount of work to have it done.

One of the questions is for eyes, maybe the most challenging task. Did you use any special technic to give them "soul"?. From my point of view, main character's chubby partner's eyes are the best, along angelina jolie's (among human models), could you find any special reason?

and last, wich renderer did you use? how long did it take for an average frame to be rendered? did you render in passes?

Thanks, and I hope this makes an start for other full CG movies.

Jose L.

Hi Jose,

Great question. The eyes were an aspect of the animation that we really concentrated on. I wanted to make sure they were really alive in the animation. We approached the task from three directions.

The look dev team did a lot of work creating the textures and shaders and working out just how to light the eyes to make them convincing. They made major advances compared to what has been done in previous films.

In animation we spent a terrific amount of time in reasearch. We also had in a guest speaker who is an expert in the physiology of the eye and has also done a lot of research on the psychology of eye movement. What we came away with was the understading that it's not the large eye movements that create the feeling of life. It's the small movements called saccads and micro saccads. These are small adjustments to the eye that are both voluntary and involuntary. They are often almost imperceptible.

A few months earlier a small team of technical wizards had started development of the ElectroOccularoGraphy system to capture the actors eye movements on performance capture set. We called it EOG for short.

The EOG system uses 4 small electrodes placed around one eye to capture the electrical impules of the muscles that move the eye. The data is converted into curves that we applied to the eyes of the digital characters. The EOG data really showed us just how much the eyes are moving all the time. Like the performance capture, the EOG was a great starting place for the animators. Sometimes we were able to use it right out of the box with minor adjustment to the eyeline. Other times the EOG was more of a guide to the performance, but we always tried to use the data on some level to keep that subtle life in the eyes.

When all of these elements came together I think that we made a big leap forward in the look of the eye animation and were able to express some of that "soul" you mentioned.

Kenn

JLLilley
11-29-2007, 06:15 PM
I saw the movie twice in RealD 3D loved it. Some of the best human animation in a movie I have seen to date.

Congrats to you and the team at image works for doing such a great job on this film. Love the detailed textures especially Grendal with those 4k and 8k textures he looks great. The performances were some of the best I have seen in a CG movie as well so congrats to the voice actors / motion capture.

My question is with the advances in todays hardware I am curious what type of Render times per frame you guys were seeing with this film and its extensive amount of detail? And how do those times compare to with past projects?

Also I read you used renderman. What type of hardware was needed / used to produce such a amazingly detailed film in the alloted time frame?

And lastly what programs / skills would you recommend aspiring artist here on CG talk learn / acquire to further there careers to someday work on films like this?

Thanks.

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 10:27 PM
Were you guys attempting to come as close as you could to creating lifelike cg, or was there some attention paid to the aesthetic of the medium?

I guess this is more of a art direction question, but I think it still pertains to the animation aspect of the film.

Hi Paul,

That's a really good question. Our mandate from Bob Zemekis was to be as true to the actors original performances as possible. That meant really paying attention to small details, particularly in the facial performances. As the VFX Supervisor, Jerome Chen, was fond of saying, "Details, details details." It became our mantra. We used the performance capture as a base to work from, but it was really the HD video reference that was shot on set that we used as our final guide. We did push expressions or performance to make sure the actor's intent came across, but it was often very subtle. We spent much of our time just studying the performances and the way the actor's faces moved. We were constatntly updating our facial animation rigs to get new shapes and expressions as we moved through the show. One thing I do want to make clear though is that we were not trying to fool people into thinking that was really Anthony Hopkins up there. There is a level of stylization to the movie, but ultimately, the film ended up look more 'real' than was originally planned.

The level of detail in the animation eventually had an effect on the style of the final rendering. Jerome and the lookdev artists started looking for what was missing. The more detail we put into the animation and the look, the more apparent it became to us that elements were missing. During this phase of production we worked back and forth until we came to the final look of the film, revising the level of detail in the animation and the rendering. Eventually we even ended up with peach fuzz on the character's faces.

Details, details, details.

I hope that answered your question.

Kenn

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 10:31 PM
Ooops, duplicate post.

Sneakybunny
11-29-2007, 10:45 PM
Wow Thankyou Kenn for giving you time to answer everyones questions, Im off to see Beowulf Tonight in 3D W00t!.

just Three quick questions on animation, My main big questions where already answered in your replies (thanx)


1) In your experince in animation has there ever beens times where you had to animate in software other than maya like XSI, Max or motionbuilder?


2) Also whats your thoughts or advice for young animators that are aiming to get into the film industry as animators that are using software other than Maya, is worth continuing with your native software and learn it well or would learning maya for it animating side be the better way to go? (As studio max user im stuck on this fence of wanting to be a animator for VFX & Highend Film, but woundering if i should be changing software for maya melscripting pipeline)

3) As someone who had a chance to play with motion capture & software that went along with it(2004). Whats the sort of skills sets to the motion captures artist need to have in this day and age?

Cheers Jay

Sneakybunny
11-29-2007, 10:47 PM
double post

kennmcd
11-29-2007, 10:55 PM
Ooops. Duplicate post.

Sneakybunny
11-29-2007, 10:58 PM
double post

rubenmontecinos
11-29-2007, 11:53 PM
Hi Kenn:

Thank you by the response.
I hope that my question isn't late.
I admire your work in the eyes model.

How was the human modeling? Are they exactly to the original about measures? or you were exaggerating some characteristics to get more realism in them?

How is the shoulders position in zero position body in the models? Is there a different work?

Is complicated legally for the actors to authorize 3D models of them?
It looks great regarding the future... to get a digital library of 3D actors and motion capture of these awesome actors. ...I want to see a Casablanca 2.0 or a Metropolis 2.0 movie :)

mkapfhammer
11-30-2007, 05:38 AM
Kenn!

Hey thanks for all the great feedback to the posts. Glad you decided to do this!

I'd also like to congratulate you on the final product. There are always shots that you don't have time to push as far as you'd like, but the tremendous amount of work you and the team put into the film shows. If you could please pass on a 'thank you' to the folks that really tried to make the facial animation as strong as possible. I don't think people realize how exceeding difficult it can be to get that facial performance to hold up to the level of detail in the body data.

So this is a long list... I greatly appreciate any comments you can make time for!



The film was really actor driven. What kind of preparation did they have to go through for a shot? Did you work with them directly?

Like one of the questions mentioned earlier, mocap gets a lot of hate from animators. The one thing I try to point out is that it's often frustrating dealing with the data if your software doesn't have the right tools to help modify and complete the performance.
You mentioned having a lot of customs tools to help out. If you're allowed to talk about them, please elaborate on the most useful and the most interesting of them.

I can't help but wonder what the previz process was like on the film. Was mocap used at all for that? Weta seems to really like mocap to help with planning their live action.

What was the workflow like for going from previz, selecting takes and integrating them into the final shot? Happy Feet used a good deal of mocap and is said have had its editorial, camera and take/motion selection processes woven pretty closely together (http://www.xsibase.com/articles.php?detail=126). Did your team need/use a similar solution?

As I was watching Beowulf, I felt a little like it was a live action film that was enhanced with animation (interaction of visuals and more freedom with cinematography, etc). What was the overeall thought process like when approaching the film?

Haha. Ok, so my last question is...
What was your most memorable moment during production? :D

Thanks again!

FloydBishop
11-30-2007, 05:40 AM
I saw the film last night in Real D and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here are some questions in no particular order:


What is the turn around time on a shot, from the standpoint of animation?
What was your most challenging shot or sequence in this film?
As an animator, are you able to choose from different takes, or is that decided before you begin your part of the process?
Are you using any off the shelf software for this, or is it all proprietary?
I guess that's it for now. Nice work on the film. Hold your heads up high, especially during the Oscars!

jhuasdas87bd
11-30-2007, 10:26 AM
Hello Kenn! You've an amazing career :bounce: I want to ask that is script's (whether its written in max or other program) role in animation very much? Also, are you writing scripts for some motions? I mean making patterns of some motions or effect-react things? Sorry if my english is not clear :) And good luck with your career!

kennmcd
11-30-2007, 07:04 PM
Hi Kenn:)

nice movie! it was an very interasting experience to watch it with 3d glasses.

I got a couple questions for ya

1st- What is in your opinion, the greatest achievement in Beowulf in terms of realism and technology.

2nd- What is the thing(also in your opinion) that you think that has not worked so well, or that you havent been totally happy with it.

3rd- what was your favorite character to work on and why?

4th - i read that u guys used some sort of new eye-movement motion capture. can you explain a bit more of the process?

5th- How many polys had beowulf:D ?

well that all for now. looking forward to hear from you! :)

fábio

Hi Fabio,

In the order you asked..
1) It's hard to narrow it down to one single achievement. We broke new ground in so many ways on Beowulf. In animation we certainly set the bar much higher in terms of believable human performance. The same goes for the rendering of humans. I think we also did a great job on the dragon. We really wanted him to have mass and scale and feel like a dragon that size would feel in the real world.

2) I wish we'd had more time on the horses. There are a lot of scenes where they work fine. In some others they don't feel as convincing. In any project this size you have to decided where to spend the time you've got. Time is your most presious commodity.

3) It was definately the main man, Beowulf. Beowulf encapsulated everything we were trying to accomplish on the film from rig setup to performance and finally the look dev and rendering.

4) Check out my response to Dogway.

5) A Little over 66,000 for Beowulf by himself. That's the hi res. We used a much lighter version to animate with.

kennmcd
11-30-2007, 07:26 PM
Hey Kenn, its an absolute HONOR to have you here, I have been a great fan of your work and i congratulate you on what u have been able to achieve for the industry. /hats off.

I watched Beowulf yesterday and i must say it completely changed my perception of Motion Capture, i mean although there are some rare scenes where u get a hint that the characters were unreal, for the most the job was done Spectacularly which gets me to:

My question: its simple yet debatable , since u have worked on countless feature films, involving both Mocap as well as normal animation... do you believe that the industry will take a turn to Mocap or will each of these types of animation always have a place in the world of feature films. please elaborate if u can find the time :D


once again excuisite job Sir.

Avak O.o

Hi Avak,

Thanks for the kind words about the movie. It's exciting that so many people are enjoying it.

I been in many conversations about the topic you've brought up. I've heard convincing arguments on both sides. Just look at how CG features pretty much wiped out big budget traditionally animated features. Or so I've been told. I think it has more to do with the entertainment value of the films than how they are made. Sure, newness does bring in the audiences, but if you made a really entertaining 2d feature, I still think you'd do well at the box office.

As far as mocap movies doing away with key framed films, I don't see it happening. There are many mocap movies in the works out there, but most of the projects I've heard about are being done by directors who normally wouldn't be directing a regualr animated movie. I think that perfomance capture is bringing new people into the animation fold and that's a good thing. They see a new way to use animation that is very director friendly and they want to be part of that. That means more animated projects because I don't think Pixar or any of the other CG feature players are going away any time soon.

Kenn

kennmcd
11-30-2007, 10:26 PM
Hi Kenn!

Beowulf looks great. (I have to wait for it to get down to my little Island though.)

I would like to know what the most stressful part of your job was like, and how you and your team dealt with it.

Human dynamics is usually ignored I have found when companies take on a big job, and Beowulf must have been MASSIVE.

Cheerio


Hi Dele (or Watermage if you prefer),

The title of this post is a quote from a song by one of my favorite musicians, Warren Zevon. Just to set the mood for this post.

There is definately stress involved in making these movies. The biggest stress inducer on Beowulf was the schedule and just getting the job done on time while still maintaining a high level of quality. However, I think we managed it pretty well. I had an amazing team of animators, almost 60 at the peak of production, and they were really a joy to work with. We all tried to keep a very positive attitude through show, even when something broke or a surprise popped up.

There were 6 people in particular who I really leaned on. My leads. Keith Kellog was my right hand man and in the film is credited as Supervising Lead Animator. The other leads, in order of appearence, were, Stephane Coutore, Alice Kaiserian, Les Major, Jeff Schu and Stephen Enticott. They were great dealing with much of the day to day stuff, allowing me to look at the bigger picture and concentrate on performance.

I'm a big proponent of staying calm when it hits the fan. It's okay to vent, or even panic, but not in front of the crew. I saved it for my office.

I think the biggest thing we had going for us on Beowulf was that most of the crew were genuinely excited about the movie. We were all working at an exceptional level and I was amazed at the quality of animation that each and every animator was turning out and they were amazing each other. That went a long way toward getting us through the crunch.

Kenn

kennmcd
11-30-2007, 10:38 PM
I saw the film last night in Real D and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here are some questions in no particular order:




What is the turn around time on a shot, from the standpoint of animation?
What was your most challenging shot or sequence in this film?
As an animator, are you able to choose from different takes, or is that decided before you begin your part of the process?
Are you using any off the shelf software for this, or is it all proprietary?
I guess that's it for now. Nice work on the film. Hold your heads up high, especially during the Oscars!



Hi Floyd,

1) The avarage turnaround time was 5 to 7 days. That would have been for a 6 to 8 second shot with 1 or 2 characters. Up to the sky from there.



2) The Beowulf at sea shot was a pretty good one. There was a lot of back and forth with the effects team on the water and boat choreography and I think 4 different animators worked on it.

The Grendal and Dragon sequences were also very challenging. We actually blocked them out in large sections combining performance capture beats that Bob Zemekis had selected and lots of key frame animation. Then we gave those to Bob and he and his cinematographer sat down and broke it down into individual shots and put in the final cameras. Then the shots came back to us for the final animation. It was an elaborate process, but it resulted in some great action sequences.



3) Bob Zemekis and his editor chose the performance capture beats that we used.



4) We used Motion Builder and Maya 7.0 along with lots and lots of proprietary software.



Thanks for the questions.



Kenn

thoughtcriminal
12-01-2007, 12:19 AM
Hi Kenn,

Thank you for taking the time and answering our questions!

When you take the most challenging shots the animators had to work on - what do they have in common? - or maybe more simply put - what are the common causes for complication and inacuracies in the motion capture process?

Working so closely on CG characters based on real actors and their performances, were there any difficulties resulting from the gap between wire-frame and flesh-and-bone?

...I can't help asking what was the weirdest sentence that had the word "Angelina" in it.

Finaly, what was Bob's involvment in the process? Was he present at the mo-cap stage when the lead roles were captured?


I have many more questions but I guess that will do for now!

Cheers mate!

iadagraca
12-01-2007, 04:58 AM
i haven't seen the movie yet(my mom doesn't care to see it), but from the trailers and previews i've seen, you got angelina jolie's lips perfect! (1) what was the process of modeling her? (2)did she come and you took pictures and did sketches,(3) and did she hang around while your guys were modeling her? i' ve seen modeled people like in spiderman but i never knew how it went along. also they werent animated close up as well, just at a distance...btw(4) was angwlina animated by animators or was she face captured? and my last one (5) do you think it was easier for the movie being fully 3d or would it have been better mostly 3dcg?

FaintLight
12-01-2007, 05:30 AM
Hi Kenn,

Thank you for taking the time and answering our questions.

I'like to know what kind of renderer you guys used for characters,
mental ray, renderman , or mixture of them?

Recently, I used mental ray for personal project, but it takes a long time
for subdivision, and motion blur, after I add details to characters I made.

So, I'd like to know how you guys optimize rendering process, even after
you created so detailed characters with very high quality animation.

neudecker
12-01-2007, 02:25 PM
Hi Kenn, great job ,great done.
Is there any inside or productons views or at least behind thw scenes to get an image how you guys worked on that?
Regards
Piet

kennmcd
12-01-2007, 10:45 PM
Hello Kenn,

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to talk to you.

Firstly, much respect to all of you who worked on this feature. You guys earned it.

Having read a lot of negative stuff about the movie, and being disappointed myself when I first saw the trailers, I must say I pretty much liked the film (and I didn't even watch it in 3D). Overall, it wasn't as bad as some people were making it out to be. Some shots were amazingly photoreaslistic, though they were very small in number.

Like other folks in these forums commented, even I found that the cg quality improved as the movie progressed. Did that really happen as your tools and workflow got better and you learnt more from your own experiences or is it just us who feel that way?

Also, the infamous eyes. How did you go about trying to better what you had learnt from The Polar Express? I thought the eyes were much better in this movie though not completely there (did you look at Davy Jones closely for inspiration?). Did you on a personal level see any room for improvement in that department but didn't have any more time to go about doing that?

Also, I was quite surprised that there were a lot of acting bits in this movie. The fight sequences were mostly the much talked about Beowulf vs. Grendl and Beowulf vs. Dragon sequences. The rest of the movie had a lot of acting bits and you guys did deliver in some shots.

Again, kudos to you and your team for trying to push the envelope.

-Sachin

Hi Sachin,

Thanks for the kinds words.

I've talked quite a bit about the eyes in other posts so I won't go into it here again except to say that it was a high priority for use to improve on what we had done on Polar Express. Looking back on our approach on Beowulf, I think we made a big leap forward, but there are still shots where the eyes aren't quite there. I look at those shots and I know we have a lot of eye animation in there or we used the EOG, but they still feel kind of, well, dead. I don't like using that word, because I don't think any of the shots in the film are "dead", but there are shots where the eyes still don't feel quite right. It's something that I will look at over and over again and plan to tackle on my next project. Still, all in all, I think the animators did an amazing job bringing the eyes to life.

Your other question is a really good one and something that doesn't get talked about much. There are 4 phases in an animated film production, in my world anyway.

In the first phase you are setting up the rigs and pipeline and doing you first test shots. These shots tend to get worked over a lot and usually end up looking pretty amazing.

In the second phase the rigs are mostly done, the pipeline is coming together and it's time to start making the movie. This phase starts out slow and some of the shots might not be as sweet as the earlier test shots. The rigs are being shook down and tweaked and the animators are getting in sync with the characters and the supervisors.

Then comes the third phase. Everything is rolling you hit that sweet spot where you aren't going too fast, everything is working pretty well and the characters are well established. This is usually the longest phase and is where the great stuff gets done.

The fourth phase is the "get 'er done" phase. Everyone puts the petal to the metal and works as fast as they can. On Beowulf we had some of our most complicated sequences to do at the end, but the animation team really stepped up and kept the quality coming. I'm really proud of them for doing that. Unlike many movies where the quality starts to suffer near the end, I think on Beowulf it continued to get better right up to the last day.

I hope that answered your question. At least it gave me the opportunity to brag on my crew.

Kenn

kennmcd
12-02-2007, 01:13 AM
Wow Thankyou Kenn for giving you time to answer everyones questions, Im off to see Beowulf Tonight in 3D W00t!.

just Three quick questions on animation, My main big questions where already answered in your replies (thanx)


1) In your experince in animation has there ever beens times where you had to animate in software other than maya like XSI, Max or motionbuilder?


2) Also whats your thoughts or advice for young animators that are aiming to get into the film industry as animators that are using software other than Maya, is worth continuing with your native software and learn it well or would learning maya for it animating side be the better way to go? (As studio max user im stuck on this fence of wanting to be a animator for VFX & Highend Film, but woundering if i should be changing software for maya melscripting pipeline)

3) As someone who had a chance to play with motion capture & software that went along with it(2004). Whats the sort of skills sets to the motion captures artist need to have in this day and age?

Cheers Jay

Hi Jay,

Three great questions.

1) The first program I ever animated in was 3d Studio Max. I took a class and modeled a robot and did a little animated film. Shortly after that I was hired at Imageworks and started working with Maya and since then I haven't worked with any other program. Except for a little bit of tutorial work in Motion Builder to become familiar with how it works.

2) This is a great question and therefore very tough to answer. Ultimately if you've got a great reel it doesn't matter what program you've used to create the animation. Your reel shows that you can learn a program and can animate. However, if you want to work on your scripting skills, which I highly recommend, you might consider switching to Maya if you plan on working for one of the big feature or FX studios. Most of the biggies I now of use Maya. There are a lot more jobs in games however and they use Max and XSI a lot. Your final choice is going to come down to what you really want to do in your career. How's that for a whishy washy answer?

3) I've worked with many mocap artists over the last 5 years and one thing is very clear. The best mocap artists have a great eye for detail and an understanding of the dynamics of human locomotion. They don't necessarily need to be good keyframe animators, some are and some aren't. But they do need to understand performance.

Kenn

kennmcd
12-02-2007, 03:53 AM
Kenn!

Hey thanks for all the great feedback to the posts. Glad you decided to do this!

I'd also like to congratulate you on the final product. There are always shots that you don't have time to push as far as you'd like, but the tremendous amount of work you and the team put into the film shows. If you could please pass on a 'thank you' to the folks that really tried to make the facial animation as strong as possible. I don't think people realize how exceeding difficult it can be to get that facial performance to hold up to the level of detail in the body data.

So this is a long list... I greatly appreciate any comments you can make time for!



The film was really actor driven. What kind of preparation did they have to go through for a shot? Did you work with them directly?

Like one of the questions mentioned earlier, mocap gets a lot of hate from animators. The one thing I try to point out is that it's often frustrating dealing with the data if your software doesn't have the right tools to help modify and complete the performance.
You mentioned having a lot of customs tools to help out. If you're allowed to talk about them, please elaborate on the most useful and the most interesting of them.

I can't help but wonder what the previz process was like on the film. Was mocap used at all for that? Weta seems to really like mocap to help with planning their live action.

What was the workflow like for going from previz, selecting takes and integrating them into the final shot? Happy Feet used a good deal of mocap and is said have had its editorial, camera and take/motion selection processes woven pretty closely together (http://www.xsibase.com/articles.php?detail=126). Did your team need/use a similar solution?

As I was watching Beowulf, I felt a little like it was a live action film that was enhanced with animation (interaction of visuals and more freedom with cinematography, etc). What was the overeall thought process like when approaching the film?

Haha. Ok, so my last question is...
What was your most memorable moment during production? :D

Thanks again!

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for the kind words. I'll be sure to pass them along. It really is great to hear that people are enjoying the film. We thought we were working on something good while were were making the film, but you never know until it comes out.

Now on to the questions.

I personally didn't have a lot of face to face time with the actors. I met many of them and had a memorable night drinking with Ray Winstone, but my on set time was very limited. Bob Zemekis worked very closely with the actors. Capturing a scene was very much like a run through for a stage play. The entire scene was captured in one take. They might do a scene 3 or 4 or 5 times then move on. No need for pickups. Bob would place the cameras later. Many of the actors really liked this approach. Anthony Hopkins was the first person I heard who likened it to being in a stage play. Angelina Jolie in paticulr enjoyed the process. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically she said that it was freeing. She didn't have to worry about where the camera was or how the light was hitting her. She could focus entirely on the other actors and her performance.

Bob worked very closely with the actors. Instead of being behind a bank of monitors, he was sitting just a few feet outside of the capture volume. He watched the performances first hand. After a take he could just step into the volume, talk with the actors, give notes, whatever, then they could go again very quickly.

A set could also be struck very quickly and a new environment put together. No moving cameras around or relighting a scene. All of that came later. It was really amazing to watch the actors work on the days that I was on the set. They were acting for the whole day. There was very little sitting around and waiting.

Previz was done using the performance capture. We basically captured everything in the script. Bob chose the takes he liked based on what he saw that day on the set. The body motion was then tracked and solved and put on low poly characters with video game type textures on them to identify who they were. Bob place virtual cameras in these scenes and started breaking down the film into shots. It's a very organic process and I think one of the big reasons why Bob likes doing the performance capture movies. It gives the director an amazing amount of freedom in how he wants to tell the story visually.

The approach we took to animating over the performance capture was based on methods we developed on Polar Express. I had worked very closely with the rigging and pipeline teams on that film and what we did on Beowulf grew out of those experiences. Without going into too much detail, the approach is based on layering. Animation on top of performance capture. The body and facial rigs are designed to allow the animator to blend performance capture with animation, turn down the mocap, turn off the mocap, switch from mocap to animation and back to mocap again and so on.. I'm not a big fan of just automatically grabbing a few frames from the performance capture for timing and poses then blow away the mocap. I think you really lose something there. There are times when that is appropriate, but most of the time, with a little thinking and planning you can combine the mocap and the animation to get a result that neither could achieve alone. That's what fascinates me about these films. The possibilities that are still untapped. We haven't even scratched the surface.

Kenn

DiamondBlue
12-02-2007, 05:11 AM
Hi Kenn,

I am currently a senior in highschool and am planning on going to the Art Institute in Orange County California to major in Media Arts and Animation. I reside in a small town in Oklahoma that has very little information on the art field and so I was wondering if you could possibly clearify things about two college majors. I want to work in the field of Visual Effects and I was of course looking at the Visual Effects and Motion Graphics major. In California, however, they no longer have that major because of lack of interest. So, I started to look at the Media Arts and Animation and saw that you can become a "Computer-Generated Effects Artist" through that major. Is that the same thing as a Visual Effects Artist or are they different? If they are different, will the Media Arts and Animation major allow me to become a visual effects artist? What are the differences in the Visual Effects and Motion Graphics and the Media Arts and Animation majors regarding the visual effects field?

Any information you caould give me on this would be highly appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

Liz

mkapfhammer
12-02-2007, 07:18 AM
Kenn,

That's much more than I expected to get answered! Glad to see the enthusiasm in the reply.

All the best to you and the team on the next project!

Cheers,
Matthew

dave247
12-02-2007, 07:52 PM
I just watched to movie last night. It wasnt like the graphics were all show-offy and spectacular, but they were still amazing and realistic. I think the story was quite moving and emotional and the fact that it was in 3D didnt take away at all, and I felt emotionally connected to the characters. I loved the movie.

Such a Good job!!!

Sneakybunny
12-02-2007, 09:22 PM
Hi Kenn, again... lol i usually limit myself one post on these types of Q&A's but i have to say unbelievable work! as this could be the 3D glasses and the imax talking but i was in total awe.

His maybe a big ask and also the fact you alreadly answered in previous but i replies but in But..

1a) your own words could you describe what a average day(or even a week) in your life and whats its is like ?

1b) What you expect the recieve as a animator and what is expected of you and your department?

2a) Also if you can explain Sony imageworks pipeline as best you can do give a better picture for everyone as its a rare chance for a person with your talents is here online to answer questions, even if it just animation department but any other areas eg modeling, texturing would be fantastic?

2b) Like how many numbers of people work under you (and vise versa)and the leadership structure?


im sorry if i got cared away with the question but after seening the BEO movie i was so humbled by the fact your here with us answering the community's questions.

And want to pass on a big thankyou on to you for your time and for making a cool cg movie.

jay(your humbled admirer)..

all the best for 2008

timothyc
12-03-2007, 05:33 AM
Hi Kenn

I was interested in your earlier comments about the transition from the 'toon-styled character animation in Open Season to the realism of Beowulf.

I remember listening to Randy Cook give a talk about the character work in Lord of The Rings. One of the things he touched on was the need to avoid many of the established principles of 2D animation that have become instinctive in most animators. For example, anticipation: if a character needs a "surprise" expression it would be a mistake to drop the eyebrows momentarily in advance of raising them into the full "surprise" pose, the way we normally would for a 'toon character.

Another theory, the origin of which I've long since forgotten, says that the 'toon style places most of its emphasis on the held pose (and progresses by means of the pose-to-pose principle), whereas in realistic work it's the movement between poses that requires special attention. I've always placed a lot of merit in this philosophy; in realistic stuff you always need to watch out for "spliney" character movements and tweak those curves ever-so-carefully. You can't hide that splineyness with 3 or 4 or 5 frame "snaps" between poses, something that in traditional work is the lifeblood of energetic, dynamic characters.

Do you have thoughts on this?

Moving on a bit: I'm a 3D character animator (with 2D training) thinking about mapping out the future of my career. I think mocap and performance capture is going to become a vast new territory for animators. If you were auditioning reels for character animators in a realistic show, what special things would you be looking for as opposed to a "toon" production? Do you think the required training or background of candidates is different? If someone wanted to specialise in the realistic form, what advice would you give? Or is specialisation not even advisable or necessary?

Thanks

Tim

kennmcd
12-03-2007, 07:56 PM
Hi Kenn:

Thank you by the response.
I hope that my question isn't late.
I admire your work in the eyes model.

How was the human modeling? Are they exactly to the original about measures? or you were exaggerating some characteristics to get more realism in them?

How is the shoulders position in zero position body in the models? Is there a different work?

Is complicated legally for the actors to authorize 3D models of them?
It looks great regarding the future... to get a digital library of 3D actors and motion capture of these awesome actors. ...I want to see a Casablanca 2.0 or a Metropolis 2.0 movie :)

Hi Ruben,

The models were based on measurements and scans of the actors. In most cases the modeler stayed very close to the actors measurements. In the case of Hrothdar, played by Anthony Hopkins, the modelers went in and adjusted his mass to make him, well, basically into a big fat jolly guy. Beowulf's model was based on a scan of a body double, but was extesively reworked.

I don't know what the legal issues were involving the actors. That's way outside my department.

Kenn

kennmcd
12-03-2007, 08:22 PM
Hello Kenn! You've an amazing career :bounce: I want to ask that is script's (whether its written in max or other program) role in animation very much? Also, are you writing scripts for some motions? I mean making patterns of some motions or effect-react things? Sorry if my english is not clear :) And good luck with your career!

Hi Alper,

In the animation department we use a lot of mel scripted tools to work with the mocap and animation, but really don't do many simulations. We had a rig based jiggle simulation that we used extensively on Beowulf , Grendal's Mothere and King Hrothgar. However it wasnt based on scripting.

Kenn

kennmcd
12-04-2007, 12:01 AM
Hi Kenn

I was interested in your earlier comments about the transition from the 'toon-styled character animation in Open Season to the realism of Beowulf.

I remember listening to Randy Cook give a talk about the character work in Lord of The Rings. One of the things he touched on was the need to avoid many of the established principles of 2D animation that have become instinctive in most animators. For example, anticipation: if a character needs a "surprise" expression it would be a mistake to drop the eyebrows momentarily in advance of raising them into the full "surprise" pose, the way we normally would for a 'toon character.

Another theory, the origin of which I've long since forgotten, says that the 'toon style places most of its emphasis on the held pose (and progresses by means of the pose-to-pose principle), whereas in realistic work it's the movement between poses that requires special attention. I've always placed a lot of merit in this philosophy; in realistic stuff you always need to watch out for "spliney" character movements and tweak those curves ever-so-carefully. You can't hide that splineyness with 3 or 4 or 5 frame "snaps" between poses, something that in traditional work is the lifeblood of energetic, dynamic characters.

Do you have thoughts on this?

Moving on a bit: I'm a 3D character animator (with 2D training) thinking about mapping out the future of my career. I think mocap and performance capture is going to become a vast new territory for animators. If you were auditioning reels for character animators in a realistic show, what special things would you be looking for as opposed to a "toon" production? Do you think the required training or background of candidates is different? If someone wanted to specialise in the realistic form, what advice would you give? Or is specialisation not even advisable or necessary?

Thanks

Tim

Hi Tim,

I agree with Randy to some degree. The thing is that those 2d, cartoony principles came from studying real life. They are exaggerated in toony animation, but they are still there in realistic motion. We used them quite a bit in Beowulf to give the performances a little extra life. Much of the time those little anticipations were already there in the actors performances. The performance capture didn't always pick them up, but if we often saw them in the video reference and added them in the animation. They do have to be subtle though. If you telegraph too much then it becomes a cartoon.

I agree 100% on the concept of pose to pose versus animation that is constantly in motion. It's one of the aspects of realistic motion that makes it so hard. That splineiness that you talked about. You need that 'noise' I spoke of in another post that performance capture gives you. It's not really noise and it's certainly not random, but there is a low level hum to all of us that must be taken into account if you want your animation to be believable.

Yes. performance capture is going to be around for a while. I don't think it will supplant keyframe animation, but there are a lot of mocap projects getting started. When I look at an animator for a mocap show the first thing I want to see is just good solid animation. It doesn't matter if it's realistic or cartoony. I'm looking for a solid understanding of basic animation principles and an eye for detail. Seeing mocap related experience helps, but solids skills and a good attitude count for a lot more. I always ask a candidate how they feel about mocap. Their response tells me a lot about how they will do on the show.

Kenn

timothyc
12-04-2007, 09:17 AM
I agree with Randy to some degree. The thing is that those 2d, cartoony principles came from studying real life. They are exaggerated in toony animation, but they are still there in realistic motion.

Kenn

Yes.

Well perhaps I over-paraphrased what he was trying to say. The way he really framed it was as a warning that in photorealism you can't rely on 2D cartoon "tricks" to bring your characters to life. As you said, a lot of it is exageration. Stretching the length of an arm in the act of throwing a ball exagerates the effort of the activity. Backing your character up before walking him forward exagerates the initial thrust.

But some tricks are substitutes for realism that, for whatever reason, is not able to be achieved. For example, in Jurassic Park the T. Rex ran by pounding its feet into the ground. I don't know about you but I thought it looked pretty good. It sure looked massive and powerful and dangerous. But then I saw the spinasaurus in Jurassic Park III and that looked so much better! What happened between those two movies was the development of dynamic muscle sims. Apparently, the exagerated pounding was a deliberate artistic conceit to make up for the lack of dynamic musculature. Once their rigging technology grew to include rippling muscles they could forego the "interpretive" animation and go for the real McCoy (and feature the dinosaur in daylight, to boot).

I think that's what Randy was trying to say. In cartoons (and dinosaur scenes that take place at night), where some things are lacking you can make up for them by substituting something else. But you usually can't get away with that in photoreal stuff. Or you can try it on anyway and risk a trip to Uncanny Valley.

Speaking of which, I have a theory!

I think the Uncanny Valley is not a chasm that needs to be leapt over in a single bound, but rather, it's more like uneven ground that requires the CG team to form a line abreast and advance in synchronised paces, one step at a time :o)

Let me explain:

As a representation of a human being, Homer Simpson is not much better than a stick figure. Let's say he rates only 10% on the realism scale. But he works. That's because his proportions are 10% real, his texturing is 10% real, his movements are 10% real, his behaviour is 10% real, etc.

Similarly, you can look at a more realistic animated human like Max Steel (from the kids TV show). He was much more realistic: say, 60%. But once again, he was 60% all the way through: 60% realism in modelling, 60% realism in texturing, 60% in facial animation, etc. So, for me at least, he worked.

The problems start to occur when there's a mismatch in one or more of those realism factors. If you look around at some of the CG humans viewable on the net, there's really nothing more creepy than a cartoonishly modelled human (even if only ever-so-slightly cartoonish), but with photoreal skin texture... br-r-r-r-r! What happens when you get even closer to the photoreal end of the scale is that the matchups between those component parts need to have so much more parity.

So steering realistic characters around the Uncanny Valley doesn't mean a sudden exponential increase in realism on all fronts, merely that you maintain tight control of all your design factors and don't let one aspect get ahead of the others - even if a technological advance in that one area allows it to.

As you can probably tell, I spend far too much time thinking about things like this. Anyway, that my theory, of which I reserve the right to disown at any time :o)

cheers

Tim

kennmcd
12-05-2007, 01:47 AM
Yes.

Well perhaps I over-paraphrased what he was trying to say. The way he really framed it was as a warning that in photorealism you can't rely on 2D cartoon "tricks" to bring your characters to life. As you said, a lot of it is exageration. Stretching the length of an arm in the act of throwing a ball exagerates the effort of the activity. Backing your character up before walking him forward exagerates the initial thrust.

But some tricks are substitutes for realism that, for whatever reason, is not able to be achieved. For example, in Jurassic Park the T. Rex ran by pounding its feet into the ground. I don't know about you but I thought it looked pretty good. It sure looked massive and powerful and dangerous. But then I saw the spinasaurus in Jurassic Park III and that looked so much better! What happened between those two movies was the development of dynamic muscle sims. Apparently, the exagerated pounding was a deliberate artistic conceit to make up for the lack of dynamic musculature. Once their rigging technology grew to include rippling muscles they could forego the "interpretive" animation and go for the real McCoy (and feature the dinosaur in daylight, to boot).

I think that's what Randy was trying to say. In cartoons (and dinosaur scenes that take place at night), where some things are lacking you can make up for them by substituting something else. But you usually can't get away with that in photoreal stuff. Or you can try it on anyway and risk a trip to Uncanny Valley.

Speaking of which, I have a theory!

I think the Uncanny Valley is not a chasm that needs to be leapt over in a single bound, but rather, it's more like uneven ground that requires the CG team to form a line abreast and advance in synchronised paces, one step at a time :o)

Let me explain:

As a representation of a human being, Homer Simpson is not much better than a stick figure. Let's say he rates only 10% on the realism scale. But he works. That's because his proportions are 10% real, his texturing is 10% real, his movements are 10% real, his behaviour is 10% real, etc.

Similarly, you can look at a more realistic animated human like Max Steel (from the kids TV show). He was much more realistic: say, 60%. But once again, he was 60% all the way through: 60% realism in modelling, 60% realism in texturing, 60% in facial animation, etc. So, for me at least, he worked.

The problems start to occur when there's a mismatch in one or more of those realism factors. If you look around at some of the CG humans viewable on the net, there's really nothing more creepy than a cartoonishly modelled human (even if only ever-so-slightly cartoonish), but with photoreal skin texture... br-r-r-r-r! What happens when you get even closer to the photoreal end of the scale is that the matchups between those component parts need to have so much more parity.

So steering realistic characters around the Uncanny Valley doesn't mean a sudden exponential increase in realism on all fronts, merely that you maintain tight control of all your design factors and don't let one aspect get ahead of the others - even if a technological advance in that one area allows it to.

As you can probably tell, I spend far too much time thinking about things like this. Anyway, that my theory, of which I reserve the right to disown at any time :o)

cheers

Tim

Tim,

I like your theory about crossing the uncanny valley. A shortfall on any front will pull the viewer out of the movie. He will become aware that he is watching a cg character. I'm still not sure the uncanny valley exists per se, but I do think you're onto something there.

Kenn

RotFox
12-05-2007, 05:19 AM
Ok, so here I am half way through my two year technical art course, but I have the feeling that I could probably have learn't everything so far on my own. My question is thus, how acceptable is self tought students as opposed to those more traditionally tought?

In my opinion, I'd have thought that having the drive to learn the techniques used in the field through your own self discipline would be more impressive? Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

~Thanks http://www.gameartisans.org/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

kennmcd
12-05-2007, 11:52 PM
Hi Everyone,

I've been getting a lot of questions about rendering, textures and cloth and hair, which are outside my area, so I've gone to the experts for some answers. I spoke to Theo Bialek and Francis Liu, two of the CG supervisors on Beowulf, and they filled me in.

Cloth and hair were done in Sony Imageworks proprietary software.

Lighting was done in Katana which is proprietory software as is Bonsai, our compositing program.

Cinema 4D was used to handle our matte paintings.

Now on to render times. This turned out to be a pretty complicated question, but Frankie broke it down for me very nicely. Environments generally took around 1 1/2 hours perframe. An individual character was between 30 and 60 minutes per frame. On top of that there are shadow passes and effects and lots of other stuff that is a mystery to me, but make the shot look really cool. All together the render time for a frame, with everyting in it, varied widely. For a simple one or two character shot it could range from 20 to 30 hours per frame.

Thanks to Theo and Frankie for the information.

Kenn

PaulHellard
12-09-2007, 10:03 AM
Time to wind it up!

I am sure everyone reading will join me in thanking Kenn McDonald for giving his time in this enthralling 'Meet the Artist' thread. His work as Animation Supervisor on Imageworks' 'Beowulf' is part of film-making history, as are many of the techniques and technologies we have discussed here.

Thank you all who took part and thanks also to Rachel Falikoff from Sony Pictures Imageworks for helping organise.