Computer Graphics World

Winter 2019

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w i n t e r 2 0 1 9 c g w 2 9 to a martini glass – a small nod to the spy trope, Quane points out. Then they selected the movie's color scheme: a cold blue (for Lance) representing isolation, yellows/oranges (for Walter) representing teamwork, and reds (for villains) reserved for danger. "We found that being true to that color theory, whether in the location work or the characters' cos- tuming, really helped ground the storytell- ing," says Quane. "You probably don't notice it consciously, but you feel it as you watch the movie." Code Breakers Both Bruno and Quane contend that Spies in Disguise is very different from other films by Blue Sky, especially known for the Ice Age series, but also for a number of uniquely styled features including Rio, The Peanuts Movie, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, and Epic. "Nick and I wanted to make something that stood out in a slightly different way, but still be a Blue Sky film," says Quane of the studio's 13th animated feature. "We were going for something less vaudevillian than the Ice Age movies, and something more genre-specific." Because Spies in Disguise is a contempo- rary film, not a period piece, the crew was given more flexibility in the lighting, giving the team a chance to play with practical lighting in the composition. "We challenged how we used the light and shadow in revealing the characters and also how we used focus," says Quane. "It also gave us a lot of flexibility technically. We wanted to push and chal- lenge the studio to reach beyond some of the things it has done technically in the past, and everyone rose to the challenge." The directors also approached the filmmaking with high cinematic aspiration in terms of the direction, the way the film was lit, and how it was shot, working with Cinematographer James Williams to bring a live-action feel and excitement to the animation. To ratchet this up further, the compositors worked especially closely with the lighting team to infuse Spies in Disguise with that gritty feel one would see in a [Rog- er] Deakins movie. "We're not just shaping the lighting, we're also trying to make sure you get some of those aberrations you'd get from a lens, so the image doesn't look perfect and pristine, as most CG images do," explains Bruno, not- ing the group incorporated a little film grain as well, giving it a live-action feel yet still retaining the whimsy of an animated film. The directors also wanted to take advan- tage of the voice actors' talent by integrating more comedic improv – again not oen done with animated films. "Oentimes it's hard to be spontaneous with animated films because everything is so preplanned," Bruno points out. "We worked really hard with our writers and sat with Will Smith and Tom Holland to make sure we had a good blueprint for the script, but we would also deviate from that. Be- cause, at the end of the day, this is a buddy comedy and you want it to feel as if these two characters were together, genuinely bouncing lines off each other, getting that rhythm you would get with a good friend, even though they [the voice actors] were not in the same room." New Intelligence The animation style of some Blue Sky films, such as Ice Age, Rio, and Ferdinand, is super cartoony and filled with lots of poses. How- ever, that aesthetic was pared way down for this project. "We had to find that middle ground between the cartoony Rio and the more realistic Epic, and then balance that with characters that could perform both styles," says Jeff Gabor, animation super- visor. For instance, Lance and Killian are very contained characters in terms of their realistic, more relatable acting, and then you have characters like the pigeons Crazy Eyes and Jeff aka "Fanboy," which are more squishy squashy and bring a bit more levity to the story." According to Gabor, Spies in Disguise incorporated some new technology, espe- cially in terms of the character rigs, which were developed in Autodesk's Maya. "We developed rigs that could be broken up into smaller parts and then processed by the computer at the same time. For the first time, this gave us rigs that were faster than 24 fps," he says. As a result, the artists could iterate more. In addition, the group developed a new pipeline for handling background characters and for generating large crowds. "That's something we started on this movie, and it's now leaps and bounds past where we started," says Quane. Undercover Operative Like so many spy characters, Spies in Disguise's Lance Sterling is flashy and well known – which flies in the face of being a SCIENCE GENIUS WALTER BECKETT WITH LANCE STERLING BEFORE LANCE'S TRANSFORMATION.

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