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Old 11-29-2007, 11:53 PM   #31
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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
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Last edited by rubenmontecinos : 11-29-2007 at 11:59 PM.
 
Old 11-30-2007, 05:38 AM   #32
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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?

Thanks again!
 
Old 11-30-2007, 05:40 AM   #33
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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!
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Old 11-30-2007, 10:26 AM   #34
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Hello Kenn! You've an amazing career 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!
 
Old 11-30-2007, 07:04 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FabioMSilva
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


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.

Last edited by kennmcd : 12-02-2007 at 02:42 PM.
 
Old 11-30-2007, 07:26 PM   #36
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Kenn McDonald
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This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilEggPlant
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


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
 
Old 11-30-2007, 10:26 PM   #37
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watermage
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
 
Old 11-30-2007, 10:38 PM   #38
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Kenn McDonald
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FloydBishop
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

Last edited by kennmcd : 12-02-2007 at 02:45 PM.
 
Old 12-01-2007, 12:19 AM   #39
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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!
 
Old 12-01-2007, 04:58 AM   #40
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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?
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Old 12-01-2007, 05:30 AM   #41
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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.
 
Old 12-01-2007, 02:25 PM   #42
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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
 
Old 12-01-2007, 10:45 PM   #43
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noizFACTORY
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
 
Old 12-02-2007, 01:13 AM   #44
kennmcd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sneakybunny
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
 
Old 12-02-2007, 03:53 AM   #45
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
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Cool Behind the Scenes

Quote:
Originally Posted by mkapfhammer
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?

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
 
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