A Feature 3D Film: How Many Setups?

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  12 December 2004
Question A Feature 3D Film: How Many Setups?

I have been wondering how many setups a film like the Incredibles or any Pixar Feature has in it?

I realize this depends on your script, but has anyone bothered to figure out (count) how many setups go into a 90 min film?

I have a script written and I am planning on doing a short that will later tie into a longer form piece. But I want to get my head around something as complex as a Pixar feature.

Maybe Sam Chen can tell us how many setups he used in Eternal Gaze?

"What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof"

Christopher Hitchens
  12 December 2004
I agree that would be good to have on this forum. Please everyone, share your Industry experience.

<<I have been wondering how many setups a film like the Incredibles or any Pixar Feature has in it?>>
What do you mean by setups? Do you mean just the general preperation like storyboarding?
  12 December 2004
as much as reuse is a very encouraged word for studios
It always seems like it ends up a per shot production.
sure you can copy over some stuff from the "key" shots, but there is always tweaking.

Plan ahead to minimize the amount of work that goes in to each shot.
Kory Heinzen
VisDev Artist
My Blog
  12 December 2004
While not a feature at the level of The Incredibles, we just wrapped up a direct to video 70min DVD movie and used roughly 21 different locations. Some of the locations were actually sub-sections of larger ones, cut down into individual CG assets to maximize efficiency. We used about 30 unique characters and approximately 20 unique vehicles. Dozen and dozens of unique props as well. Roughly 1400 shots/scenes. For a movie of larger scope and budget we probably would have come close to 150% of the above numbers for the same run time. The DVD movie we did before this one was about 150% of the numbers I just listed.

Hope that helps.

keith lango
animator, storyteller, teacher
  12 December 2004

when you say "setup" did you mean it in the traditional live-action filmmaking way? ..as in camera/lighting setup? if that's the case, it's obviously nice to recycle and have lots of shots per setup to maximize efficiency. But this will vary (as you said) so much on what kinda movie you're making. "My Dinner w/ Andre" can have 3 setups for the entire movie (master, plus 2 over-shoulders) while The Incredibles is a movie that hardly sits still and will have way over 1,000 setups to say the least. The thing to keep in mind is, in CG, a change of setup is relatively cheap compared to live action.. meaning you can go from a master shot to a crane, to a dolly easily with most softwares today. On the other hand, for live-action, it's crazy! The gaffers and grips have to run around and literally build camera tracks and move heavy equipment to "setup" the new lighting and camera foundation, etc. Crazy!

so given that, people can tend to overuse this freedom in CG, resulting in crazy-ass gratuitous camera movements and flybys. always let the story drive the camera movement and setups.

to answer your question, Eternal Gaze had a total of 220 shots in about 15:00. Because it's almost always moving (although sometimes imperceptibly), most of the shots were separate setups and hardly ever recycled. This is also because of the particular story I was telling, and never because of cost/effort saving reasons. This luxury is one of the aspects I love about CG filmmaking. So it's safe to say # of shots ~ # of setups for me. Hope that helps.
Sam Chen
Independent Filmmaker & Animator

Last edited by SamChen : 12 December 2004 at 09:30 AM.
  12 December 2004
Thumbs up Thanks for the responses!

Sam - thanks for that info.

I was referring to 'setups' in the traditional sense, but it seems people are using the word - reuse or recycle a setup.

What I was trying to get at, and I think you answered it, was how many shots/setups/scenes goes into a short or long form cg film.

I mean what you've done is where I would like to be at, a completed short and then move onto a longer piece.

I think a lot of people are dreaming of their own film, completed by themselves, just like you accomplished in Eternal Gaze - which is great!

Thanks and good luck on your next project.
"What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof"

Christopher Hitchens
  12 December 2004
It's been a while, but I really liked the move _Cube_. It was a fast-moving science fiction thriller that took place in a single room (the filmmakers would do tricky things with the color of the panels (lighting? or whatever) to make it look like a different place).
  01 January 2006
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