Meet the Artist: Doug Ikeler, Sony Pictures Imageworks

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  10 October 2006
Meet the Artist: Doug Ikeler, Sony Pictures Imageworks

CGTalk Meet the Artist: Doug Ikeler,
Visual Effects Supervisor, ‘Open Season
Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Intro by Barbara Robertson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please welcome Doug Ikeler!

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Last edited by hmedia : 10 October 2006 at 12:39 PM.
  10 October 2006
very very goooooood
  10 October 2006
Development time

How long was the process between character design and the final 3d model before rigging?

Pick any character to describe.

  10 October 2006
Hi, I wanna ask a personal side questions.

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

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

Thanks in advnace. I can't wait to see the movie. Not yet playing this side of the world
Taeyoung Kim
  10 October 2006
Really Awesome.
The fur system is fantastic.
How did you manage to render that amount of fur?
How long did a frame took to render, in general?

Thanks and congrats for this great work.

Michael Marcondes
Just a Pixel in this Big Blue Canvas!
  10 October 2006
Incrediby wonderful
Please Sign HERE ____________
  10 October 2006
Hi Doug.

thank you for taking the time to do this.

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

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

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

  10 October 2006
Amazing work, great character animation, beautiful renders all and all nicely done.

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

Jeff Stalians
  10 October 2006
Loved the film. I did get the feeling that as I was watching it was like still moments were incapsulated as paintings in my mind. The whole team at Sony did an amazing job!

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

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

Also Those water simulations were amazing! How did you get it to hit beats?
  10 October 2006
Hi Mr Ikeler
its so great we have you here.
a question i have is that i have always had problem to choose a kind of style for an animation project,it is not that hard for a still 3d image,but when comes to animation i usually loose the main style in production, what majors should i know or do for having the same style in any part of an animation?
Available for freelance
  10 October 2006

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

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

Great work. The first trailer was the very first thing that went on my iPod months ago.
meltdown digital
  10 October 2006
I really like the story behind Open Season.
And I just loved the approach to manage it.
I'm really looking forward to see it (It is still not shown at Mexico, i'll have to wait!).


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


1) Could you take a look at my shortfilm Sex And The Socket ?
2) Critique on my latest character: Rusty

Fear is the only obstacle that prevents you from doing the impossible

- My Gallery -

Last edited by cesarmontero : 10 October 2006 at 04:46 PM.
  10 October 2006
Hello Mr. Ikeler, thanks for taking your time to do this. I've noticed there seems to be a lot of animal based cg films being released recently, and I was wondering if, while in production, you took note of what some of these other films were doing and adjusted accordingly, or if you disregarded what other films were doing and just followed through with all of your original thoughts and plans. Thanks again!
  10 October 2006

Hello, SonyImagesWork is my Idol
Waiting for Spider Man 3. Good luck to all of you and Mr. Ikeler.
  10 October 2006
Hi and thank you very much for your time.

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


Last edited by Strob : 10 October 2006 at 02:56 PM.
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