Computer Graphics World

March/April 2013

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n n n n CG Animation DeMicco: We did something sort of cool. What danger does the family encounter? DeMicco: All sorts. The world is changing underfoot. That's the big danger chasing them. There are the menacing piranhakeets and another danger, the macawnibor. Sanders: The villain in this movie is change, and the embodiment of that is the collapsing continent pursuing the characters. So we try to do that in fresh ways. Rifts, vents, lava, shock waves that chase the Croods. But, that's a faceless threat. We wanted an identifiable face and character that would chase them. So I designed Chunky, the death cat. He's our take on a sabertoothed tiger. He's like the crocodile in Peter Pan. He catches Grug's scent almost immediately and follows him all the way through the film. Did animators always block scenes before layout? DeMicco: Not before every scene, but it was an opportunity to be downstairs with the phones off, and sit with production design, animation, and layout in the room at the same time. It helped us get together and talk about a scene, what was the important part, what Were there any particularly interesting applications of computer graphics in the film? Sanders: One of the problems was creating tar. The [CG crew] did a brilliant job. They got the consistency we hoped for. It was actually a cloth simulation that they adapted. One of the guys said something interesting: We can do anything, but we can't do everything. CG has come to a point where they can make it. But there's a limit to how much. DeMicco: The crowds department was run by one guy, Spencer Knapp. You'll see something very interesting in the piranha bird sequence. He fashioned it after the swallows in Northern Europe and tried to replicate their graceful nature with these birds. It was in the dynamics; he was constantly looking at the dynamics. When they first take off, it's beautiful. Inspiring. Lovely to watch. Then they turn deadly. Everyone was DreamWorks' CG crowds department referenced swallows to create dynamics for the deadly piranha birds. ficult is that there weren't specific destinations they needed to arrive at. The most important things going on are changes happening within the family. The adventures they go through are interchangeable. The challenge for Kirk and me and the story crew was to get the right balance of action and emotional moment during the journey. We discarded a lot of sequences because others worked better. To some extent, the places they go are meaningless other than sparking reactions among the Croods. How did you divide the work between the two of you? Sanders: For the most part, we had two sets of eyes on everything. The one thing we divided was the writing. One of the most important things with co-directors is that you need similar sensibilities, and Kirk and I have similar sensibilities. We'd sit across from each other and divide the sequences up for writing. Then, we'd trade pages and comment and change each other's pages. As long as the scenes plugged into the outline we had worked on together, it worked. That was the one thing that was collaborative. Did you have any particular technical challenges in making the film? Sanders: The gigantic challenge was building the world. There are no man-made features. No buildings or things like that. Everyhing in t our movie is an exterior. Even the inside of the cave is natural. So that was a large problem. We also employed matte paintings to fill out the world; we have some effects that are giant matte paintings. DeMicco: The other thing was the characters. Usually there are crowds of extras in a CG film. This film has a low population of characters, but the characters are on screen all the time. It's an ensemble comedy; everyone is a lead. There are seven main characters plus 21 creatures. So, choreographing the comedy and the action was an interesting challenge for the animators. 34 Did you ever use motion capture? We started with storyboards, but the animators did motion capture to help block the scenes. So when the layout artists started, they knew where the animators wanted interaction. There's a sequence where Grug is trying to keep fire away from the family. It's a physical sequence and the motion capture gave us great reference footage. It's light and quick for the animators to do motion capture. They can show it to us and ask, 'What do you think?' Grug's daughter Eep's curiosity caused the family to leave the cave. Modelers referenced swimmers to create the CG character. we were looking to say. With storyboards, the artists might work hard on blocking a scene for the two characters talking, but the five behind might be round circles, and that might not be helpful to the animators. It also helped production design. We could talk about if we really needed to go to that side. taken by the birds story-wise, but also for the animation, the way the dynamics move. The fluidity, the poetry was amazing. n Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World. She can be reached at March/April 2013 CGW0313-Croodspfin.indd 34 3/14/13 12:43 PM

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