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March 2011

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C O V E R [ cont. from 17 ] fluid simulations. The studio’s proprietary Zeno application allowed for the creation of hair and feathers. “In typical ILM fashion,” explains Alexander, “we render all the shots in a lot of different layers so there’s more control over the composite, and if there’s an error in one of the layers you don’t have to re-render the whole shot, just that layer.” ILM has migrated over the years from their in- house compositor CompTime to Shake to Nuke. “We relied pretty heavily on compositing on the show.We did all the depth of field and the defocusing. The compositors added a lot of the atmospheres: lens flares, dust, that kind of thing.” S T O R Y One of the pipeline improvements ILM imple- mented for Rango was a new group called Pre-flight. For example, a sequence goes in and has initial light- ing done on, then the pre-flight team gathers informa- tion, troubleshoots and runs every shot to make sure it’s actually working.They then pass the shots off to the technical directors to do the actual lighting.This increases the efficiency because when the TDs get their shots, they actually work. In the asset management department, they set up a new error checking measure. There’s a lot of crossover information between departments, anima- tors, and cloth simulation people. For cloth simulation, the artist creates a RenderMan movie called a “make- R E A L I T Y [ cont. from 22 ] matches pretty well in online.” Each episode of Work of Art is based around the contestants’ par ticipation in a specific ar tistic chal- lenge and is shot over a three-day period.The first shoot day captures the contestants arriving at a loca- tion and getting their challenge for that episode.The second day is a work day, in which the contestants create their art. The third day is based around an elimination ceremony. The show captures a ton of footage. Four cam- eras run simultaneously throughout the 16-hour days. For the elimination ceremony, as many as nine cameras are used. “In post, we edit things together and try to find dramatic act breaks that work consistently through the series,” Lichtenstein explains.“We determined that Act 1 will be morning wake ups and challenge delivery. Act 2 will be the work room — the stress T V of their projects.” Magical Elves edits on Avid Media Composers — both Mac and PC.The studio recently upgraded to Version 5 software. According to Lichtenstein, approximately seven editors will contribute to a show.“We will sort of front load an episode,” he explains.“Let’s say we start on Episode 3.We’ll put four or five editors on that one episode, and they will each be cutting an act to get it to a first cut fairly quickly. As that episode gets closer to being finished, we’ll move some editors off and leapfrog on to the next [episode] while two or even one editor will address the final notes.” In Season 1, Lichtenstein found himself editing the gallery, which highlights all of the completed works of art. “It is challenging to convey to the audience the scope of these pieces of art,” he notes. “In pro- duction, fortunately, they would shoot each of these A U D I O [ cont. from 33 ] similar to cues used in the film, much of it AC/DC, and Kirchner was tempted to get permissions to use it.“That took about two hours to determine it was going to be too much trouble,” he says. “So it helps to have access to folks who are good composers.” Engineer Gary Miranda composed the score, a metal-based rock theme, in five days, scoring in MIDI and then circling back to replace parts live.“We composed in F O R pieces of art from various angles — extreme close- ups, full shots and even wide shots with a jib. It helps the audience to see the scope if you edit together all of the different angles of the art to make sure it is represented well.” Audio is posted in-house on a Pro Tools system. Magical Elves has an Avid Unity for centralized storage. Offline editing is performed at 10:1 MFX resolution and is then sent directly to an Avid Nitris DX, where Pepe Serventi handles assembly and color correction. Titles for Work of Art are provided by Brkly ( in Los Angeles, which has also worked with the studio on Top Chef. An in-house graphics person also contributes to the show. At press time,Magical Elves was working on Brax- ton Family Values, an upcoming WE reality series that focuses on the lives of recording artist Toni Braxton and her sisters. It will include 10 episodes. G A M E S surround,” says Kirchner.“That’s always an interesting challenge, because you’ve got to think in terms of sounds that are going to happen outside the stereo field, so we provide a discrete stereo mix, and a discrete sur- round mix,and we leave it up to the game developer as to how they want to proceed from there.” For Foley, Kirchner and crew encountered every sound designer’s favorite — the “eureka” moment.“It was one of those things where you’re walking around the space and you’re thinking where you’re going to get that sound for when Iron Man battles the giant mon- ster,” says Kirchner,who uses Pro Tools, and for Foley the Sennheiser 416 and Neumann’s U87 and KMS 105. “You see some toys over in the corner, these plastic toy robots that have cool servos in them, they’re three feet tall, like mini Stormtroopers, and if you don’t turn them on, the servos in them make some cool sounds, and that’s another for the library.” take,” and that goes into the pool where another artist down the line can get visual confirmation that the shot is correct. Running these RenderMan movies every night could show problems like refractions or whether the characters’ corneas are turned on or off. Alexander and Hickel are pleased with Rango. Hickel praises the unique look, story, and sense of humor, and the fact that they struck out into an area away from mainstream animation. “All the pipeline changes that were made all work for our visual effects side too,” notes Alexander.“These efficiencies apply right back to the other films that ILM is working on.We’ve taken on something this large scale, optimized our pipeline and it can help all of the shows now.” March 2011 • Post 47

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