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Old 11-28-2007, 10:11 PM   #1
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Meet the Artist: Kenn McDonald



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]

Your questions and comments are most welcome,

Please make welcome to CGTalk’s Meet the Artist, Kenn McDonald.
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Last edited by PaulHellard : 11-28-2007 at 10:43 PM.
 
Old 11-28-2007, 11:00 PM   #2
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Martin Brennand
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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.
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Last edited by erilaz : 11-28-2007 at 11:06 PM.
 
Old 11-28-2007, 11:03 PM   #3
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Shane Richards
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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?
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Old 11-28-2007, 11:20 PM   #4
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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
 
Old 11-28-2007, 11:25 PM   #5
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Fabio M.%2BSilva
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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 ?

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

fábio

Last edited by FabioMSilva : 11-29-2007 at 12:01 AM.
 
Old 11-28-2007, 11:39 PM   #6
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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
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Old 11-28-2007, 11:40 PM   #7
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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.
 
Old 11-28-2007, 11:45 PM   #8
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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
 
Old 11-29-2007, 12:43 AM   #9
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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.

Last edited by Paul McLaughlin : 11-29-2007 at 12:53 AM.
 
Old 11-29-2007, 03:53 AM   #10
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Talking Thanks for the warm welcome.

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
 
Old 11-29-2007, 04:44 AM   #11
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Wink Wow, first question out of the gate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by erilaz
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.



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

Last edited by kennmcd : 11-29-2007 at 06:45 PM.
 
Old 11-29-2007, 07:58 AM   #12
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Respect :D

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


once again excuisite job Sir.

Avak O.o
 
Old 11-29-2007, 09:31 AM   #13
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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
 
Old 11-29-2007, 09:32 AM   #14
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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
 
Old 11-29-2007, 09:34 AM   #15
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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
 
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