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September 2018

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www.postmagazine.com 31 POST SEPTEMBER 2018 T he beloved ghouls from the Hotel Transylvania franchise are back, bringing their unique sense of fun and animated style to the big screen for the third time under the direction of Genndy Tartakovsky and his creative teams at Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks. In Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Tartakovsky takes the characters — and anima- tors — out of their comfort zone with exotic (and challenging) locations beyond the familiar hotel grounds, and with new characters introduced into the mainstay monster cast. "This film is a lot bigger than the first two films — it eclipses them in scope and scale," says Tartakovsky. "There are all kinds of new locations. We get to see the Bermuda Triangle, the lost city of Atlantis, an underwater volcano. These are grand- scale places that monsters can go to take a break. It's a comedic spectacle." The adventure starts when Drac's daughter, Mavis, books a luxury monster cruise so Dracula, who spends his time planning vacations for others at his hotel, can get some R&R himself. Once aboard, the usually overprotective father falls for the ship's cap- tain, Ericka, who seems perfect — a little too perfect. Mavis becomes suspicious, and rightly so, as Ericka is hiding a deadly secret. She is a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing, an ancient nemesis to Dracula and the other monsters, and she has far darker inten- tions in mind than rosé and romance. Once again, Tartakovsky brings his unique sensibility to the film's animation, with its pushed, Tex Avery-like cartoony style. "Poses are pushed really far, and when you're doing that in com- puter graphics, it can obviously cause a lot of consternation and headaches down the pipeline as animators try to hit these incredible poses Genndy is expecting," says Michael Ford, visual ef- fects supervisor. "Genndy's animation style really breaks physics. So, the question is, how do we use our tools to unbreak it?" Striking a Pose Starting with the original Hotel Transylvania in 2012, the artists began developing body and facial rig techniques and tools that allowed them to create the action in accordance with Tartakovsky's style. "We're putting in a lot of extra controls and deformers that give the animators the flexibility of creating all these different poses," says Ford. "On top of that, we have what's called our Tweak system, so we can basically add any number of additional deformers and layer those to work in parallel with our rig. So an animator can be using the standard controls they have on the rig, but if they need something really specific in terms of pose, they can actually sculpt it themselves and add it in — whether they use it for the whole shot or on just one frame — to build the look they need based on what Genndy wants." The animators also used a new tool called Pose Stamp, whereby artists create a pose and then "stamp" it, duplicating a piece of a character (such as a limb) and then placing that in slightly different positions to achieve a speed-blur effect seen in traditional 2D animation. Characters with Character Many characters from the first two films are back, but since it has been three years since the last film was released, they needed some updating, partic- ularly when it came to shaders. For the most part, Dracula has the same rig from the original movie, though it had been upgraded slightly for the sec- ond film, and yet again for the third. "We basically have new controls and new functionality. We also made slight modifications to some of the textures and some of our newer CFX tools," he says. "They weren't huge modifications, but everything got a slight upgrade where needed." Also, the monsters received a new wardrobe for their cruise. Sometimes this made things easier for the animators, sometimes not so much. Dracula ditches his trademark cape — practically a character itself — for shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Mavis, on the other hand, dons a loose-fitting sundress that required the animators to work more closely with the simulation department to make the garment relax appropriately. "In a Hotel Transylvania film, the cloth and hair team (CFX) kind of take it on the chin a little be- cause of these really extreme character poses. The CFX team has pushed to adhere to the rule sets that we make for the characters," says Ford. While a small amount of internal detail is added to the cloth, such as for Drac's cape, the focus is on the silhouette. To this end, the CFX team uses a variety of tools, including a cloth cache compositor, whereby the artists simulate specific frame ranges for the cloth using different settings and combine and blend those frame ranges together to create a Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks have brought the Hotel T ghouls back to CG life.

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