Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 c g w 6 1 dangerous Katarina Rostova, as Liz is forced to choose sides in the deadly game between Red and Katarina. Shooting in New York was only partially complete when the cast and crew were sent home. During brainstorming sessions, series creator Jon Bokenkamp and executive pro- ducer John Eisendrath mulled over a number of options, including a live cast reading to fill in the missing shots. Then they pondered whether a hybrid live-action/animation approach would work. Aer all, The Blacklist has been made into graphic novels in the past – not such a large leap given the show's pulp-fiction feel to the various blacklisters and even Red himself, who dons a signature trench coat and fedora. Eisendrath knows Ron Frankel, owner of visualization company Proof, Inc., and approached him to see if the idea was doable and to seek general advice and information due to their unfamiliari- ty with the medium. Aer a great deal of discussion, Bokenkamp and Eisendrath decided to proceed, and hired Proof to help them end the season with Episode 19, which would be fleshed out with animation by Proof, whose own staffs in Atlanta and London were under stay-at-home orders and working from home. According to Proof producer Patrice Avery, all the characters with unfinished parts became animated, which included all of the main and featured casts. "It was pretty much, 'Here is what we've shot so far, and this is what we need.' So, sometimes we were transitioning from a close-up of Liz to an animated Liz," she explains. "It was a matter of making it work with what we had [filmed]. It was an interesting ride, that's for sure." The episode begins with an introduction by the cast explaining the reason for the hybrid direction. Then throughout, there is an animated morph from the live-action into the CGI. And within the animation itself, comic-book chyrons are sometimes used to provide context and to emphasize subtle emotional beats. The use of the two methods is split nearly 50/50, with approximately 22 minutes of live action and 21 minutes of animation. "We all knew the aesthetic Jon Boken- kamp was going for and found it fairly straightforward to adapt their ideas," adds Adam Coglan, visualization supervisor at Proof in London. Because of the comic-book/graphic novel series, the showrunners had an aesthetic in mind; they also pointed to animated films such as those by Richard Linklater (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly). "They were fond of rotoscope-style animation, and were familiar with the work at Proof," says Matt Perrin, senior visualization supervisor at Proof in Lon- don. "That was kind of the jumping-off point for us, and we developed the look from there, creating our own toon look that was more sophisticated [than what we use for previs] and more in line with what they wanted." The work was indeed a departure from the typical animations Proof usually does for visualization work. Yet, most of the anima- tors there, including Perrin and Coglan, had at one time or another worked on projects for final delivery. And as both point out, although the visualization work is intend- ed as a pre-production planning tool, the quality has grown quite sophisticated in recent years. But, it was not quite ready for this prime-time application. To this end, the Proof team in Atlanta began develop- ing special shaders for the imagery within Autodesk's Maya. "Because we were pitching for final delivery on a show for broadcast rather than for previews, we had to redevelop our toon shader to add more detail to the models and to get a closer likeness to the actors with hatching on the faces," says Coglan. Animation Meets Live Action Due to time restrictions – the team of 30-35 artists and TDs (20-plus in London and 10-15 in Atlanta) had just over five weeks to complete the work – there was no time to devise an entirely new process. "We had to rely on what we had done all along, and use that as a model and adapt as we went along," adds Coglan. The toon-style animation meshed well with the series' spy drama theme. Proof generated CG versions of the actors with unfinished parts in the episode.

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