Meet the Artist: Grant Freckelton, Animal Logic

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  03 March 2007
Hi Grant,

This was a visually stunning film and unlike one I've seen before. The scene I felt was most beautiful was the one with the Oracle. I read a bit about the making of that scene but wondered if you could describe how you conceptualized the scene, and how you approached its realization - were there other visual solutions you considered? How much trial and error was involved in its creation?

Also, is it your personal preference to see more films crafted in this way, almost like moving illustrations? Many of the scenes looked like paintings, as I'm sure was the intention. In your opinion, is this direction / style a vast unexplored territory, or one with limited range?

Finally, amongst visual artists and illustrators, who are your greatest inspirations and why?

Thank you for your time.

Korpus School of Art + Gallery
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Last edited by Rebeccak : 03 March 2007 at 02:34 PM.
  03 March 2007
Originally Posted by Rebeccak: This was a visually stunning film and unlike one I've seen before. The scene I felt was most beautiful was the one with the Oracle.

I agree with you! It looks like it was filmed underwater to me
  03 March 2007
off topic, but have you guys by any chance seen the kate moss projection that alexander mcqueen had during his a/w 06 show? very impressive... the oracle scene reminded me of that as well as the portishead video cunningham did.
the older i get, the more life starts to make sense, and the less i care.
  03 March 2007
One quick question:

Given the success of 300, are you going to be (or do would you like to be) involved in Zack Snyder's next project: The Watchmen?

The first still he released as a teaser seemed to use a similar visual style and process.

Edit - I mean this pic:

Last edited by Venkman : 03 March 2007 at 08:19 PM.
  03 March 2007
Red face Congrats

Greetings Grant! As far I have seen fromt the trailers the movie is flawless good work there!
Did you added some sort of a personal touch to the movie (ex. some visual easter eggs?)
__________________ - my portfolio | "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." - Salvador Dali
  03 March 2007
Thumbs up Cool work

Hi and many thanks for taking the time out to answer our question.

It's not been released here yet but I have seen the trailors and it looks like a piece of art, can't wait to see the film although I wished they would have asked you after everybody had a chance to see the movie:

A question: I use Vue Infinite for my art, did you use it for any scenes and do you intend to include it in future films like ILM.
  03 March 2007
Great article, Great Film, Great Work

I was just wondering if you could go into a little bit more detail regarding the "crushing" process you talked about as I am assuming this is the key factor that establishes the look with regards to the live motion!

Last edited by JoyInc : 03 March 2007 at 11:21 PM.
  03 March 2007

Hi guys,

Grant is, as you imagine, very busy with all kinds of business and Animal has assured me he is cool, and will begin replies and answers this afternoon.

All is in hand.
Fmr Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.
  03 March 2007
some answers

Hi to everyone,

Firstly, thanks for all the questions, I'll do my best to answer some of them.

Secondly, hi and thanks to all the ex Animals posting here.

Thirdly, credit where it's due... WB supplied CGSociety with a bunch of imagery from a bunch of different sources, which were published with the article on myself. Included were some lovely sketches of elephant concepts. These sketches were produced by a super-talented concept artist named Ben Kovar back in early pre production here at Animal Logic. So all credit to him for those drawings, he drew them. There were a lot of artists who contributed to the look of the film and they all deserve tonnes of praise.

Which brings me to answer the question from Fl3wk.

Fl3wk, regarding other concept artists.... the answer is a big YES, there were a several concept artists in several departments and vendors. In pre-production, before the film was greenlit, Animal Logic had myself, Ben Kovar, Marco Nero and Michael Halford producing concepts. I know Zack had Dan Milligan do some colour concepts as well, not to mention his frick'n awesome storyboards. The makeup dept has several guys doing cool creature concepts, I don't know their names, sorry! In the Art Department, I shared an office with Meinert Hansen, who worked under Jim Bissell, producing illustrations. There was also set designer Brent Lambert, who does the most amazingly intriciate diagrams for props and sets. (and there were a whole heap more in the art department, as well). In post production, I was left to my own devices because the art department had wrapped, however all the VFX vendors had their internal art departments as well. I know that Hydraulx had Alp Altiner doing some stuff, Animal Logic had Evan Shipard, and I'm sure there are a whole lot more whom I never got to meet. So all credit to every artist that worked on the film, in every department.

se7enthcin, regarding eye treatments:
To your fiance: Well spotted! Early on we experimented with colour treating the eyes to make them brighter and comic-bookier... but mostly the result seemed kind of strange... think 'The Mandarin' from the Thunderbirds. HOWEVER, we did treat the eyes in a few, but not all, of the shots. We found that the natural shadowing from the brow, combined with crushing the footage, meant sometimes the eyes would go too dark. To counteract this, some of the artists roto'd the eyes and bumped them up a bit to compensate. In other circumstances, the eyes looked different simply because of the work of the makeup department.

If your portfolio is good, and you shop it around like crazy, then eventually you'll get a job. Just make sure you cover a wide variety of subjects.

Titan: regarding 8 ft tall Historically Inaccurate Xerxes:
Generally they were shot seperately and comped back together, there were a few 'forced perspective' in camera moments too. VFX Supervisor Chris Watts did a lot of math to figure out correct camera angles, size relationships, eye lines etc. Chris is a math genius. Refer to the latest Cinefex for more info!

Regarding achieving a constant look, we had a pretty good blueprint in terms of the comic book. Beyond that it comes down to Zack giving a lot of direction, and artists like myself turning that direction into visual material (whether it be style guide, concept art etc) which is then spread amongst the crew. One cool thing that Chris Watts set up was a web based database called 'Leo' that allowed everyone on the crew to access the imagery we were creating, which meant every vendor saw what every scene in the film looked like. That was instrumental in bringing the look of the film together.

Regarding the workload, we had a lot of time to do the post work. Pre, and actual production, were insanely tight deadlines but much of the work I needed to do was focused on the last 10 months. As for being a challenge, every project is a challenge in its own way, but 300 was definitely a project where I learnt a hell of a lot.

Regarding the Leonidas 'Freelance' or 'Crazy Horse Shot', it's all 100% pure Gerry. Refer to Cinefex or for in depth breakdowns of how that sequence was achieved.

And the boat FX? Full credit to Scanline in Germany. Those guys are CG fluid geniuses. The bulk of the time of those shots were spent tweaking the comping end of things, because their CG water looked pretty much perfect from very early on. Again, refer to Cinefex for more in depth technical details.

Regarding sets, and 'filling in' bits of the comic. There were a few sets, namely Sparta, and the ground plane for Thermopylae. Like myself, production designer Jim Bissell and his art department, studied the comic like crazy to try and match the look. As for filling in the missing bits of the comic, Zack was the man that filled in the blanks. He knew that for the oracle scene, he wanted to extend it into a mystical and sexy dance routine, with the smoke interacting with the dancer. He boarded everything himself, and Screaming Death Monkey produced the FX.

Regarding colour grading and 'The Crush'. Larry Fong and Zack developed the 'crush', which isn't anything technically complicated, but it was a clever aesthetic choice in terms of trying to relfect the contrasty, inked feeling of the comic. You can pretty much do it in photoshop on a still frame, you just bring up the Levels, grab the black and white points and 'crush' them towards the mid point. Then you may want to gamma down a bit. This results in a lot of constast, but it also ups the saturation, so to compensate you desaturate a little bit. Then you futz with the colour balance. A lot of the FX vendors applied this to their shots, but because we knew Zack would want to play with things in the DI, (ie the final pass at grading the film), so all the vendors 'half crushed' their shots. During the DI, colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld, Larry and Zack tweaked the shots, adding more crush, clipping, and balancing the colours on a shot to shot basis.

Re: After Effects, I'm not really a hard core film compositor, but I find it ideal for the sort of moving conceptual work that I occasionally do. And yes, some of that vinegar ended up in the final film. Particularly in Hybride's batte 2 (vs the immortals) and when young Leonidas beats the snot out of that older Spartan kid.

You can get into the VFX industry through a variety of routes, from a heavy technical to a heavy artistic background. The best thing is to try and marry the two together somehow. As for how I got into the industry? I made a portfolio and shopped it around, eventually Animal Logic gave me a job.

Thanks. 300 was a fun film to work on. I know nothing about SoCal schools, sorry. As for being nervous when I first started? Definitely. If I wasn't worried about failing, I wouldn't of worked so hard to try and get my break.

Was I ever on set for filming? I was at the studio while they were shooting, but my office was upstairs. I would be down there occasionally but this was mostly to show Zack or Chris Watts stuff. Once production had started I generally worked on dailies footage which was provided as HD quicktimes.
  03 March 2007
Cooool thanks for the answers Grant!
Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him."
James Allen
  03 March 2007
Hello Grant,

I am Greek my self and I must say I am really honored by the film. Frank miller is a god and Animal logic is a perfect tool.
I've seen the film and I am going to see it 2-3 times again. I am most amazed by the color you achieve and the choreography, those battle "dances" was just incredible and the way you play with slow/normal motion, Oo man those shots..., and the ending seq was just outstanding. Needle to say about the oracle seq- are you serious out there, I almost stand up in the theater and yelling.
Anyway you can see I loved the movie (hehe).

Can you please tell me after receiving the HD quick times as you've said, how much time you spend to make the final shots and what was your pipeline?

All the respect to the artists who worked on this film and thank you for make it look the way it looks.
Reality is overrated...
  03 March 2007
Hi, Grant Freckelton

This is Walid from Libya working in this field (CGI) since 1994, trying my best to learn from the best.

Its wonderfull work very nice movie just one Quz whats the Applications and the platforms that uesed in this film ( plz dont till me its a top secret)

thanx and i am so glad that i am asking you.

Walid Al Zayani
3d-2d Graphics Designer, Animator & VFX Maker
  03 March 2007

Thanks for the answers. I saw the movie yesterday in the pre-premiére. I didnt know what I was going to see in the cinema, just knew the headline "300". Just after 10 minutes of the film I told my friend that:" Hey, it's all about the special effects! Just my intrest". About the movie, the story was weak and too much action can be tiresome for some audience...anyway thats not the case. The artwork in this movie was great! I loved the glossy eyes and scene with oracle - truly beautiful how magic comes real! And those colours! Inspirational. One thing disturbed me tho. How the blood erupted from the bodies, slow motion or not, it more felt like some mush not liquid...I havn't seen the comics tho, maybe it was a must be. Could have been different solutions maybe, this and that and maybe even ON the camera like in "Braveheart". Good work, the worlds next step in quality.
<º))))><.·´¯`·. ¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º>

  03 March 2007
Hi Mr.Grant, first of all great job on the visuals! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will as soon as it's out in the theaters here in Jordan.

my Q:
I really liked the story of how you got imployed... by the net I mean. Is it a usual path for artists or is it just a gamble?
And another thing, is it possible for someone who didn't study visual effects or art in a school ( say a computer student ) to work as an artist for a big studio if he had the talent? and self taught?

  03 March 2007

I want to watch "300", great work !
I love many works by Animal Logic

Congra Grant Freckelton !
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