Computer Graphics World

March / April 2015

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m a r c h . a p r i l 2 0 1 5 c g w 1 1 character's complexity when the computer couldn't keep up. Johnson, who directed Antz, DreamWorks' first ani- mated feature film, finds the progress exhilarating. "We were the first to use Primo from start to finish," Johnson says. "And it was a profound experience. It made me want to animate again. We used to work with stick figures, then volumes, then color. Now an animator can hit Play and watch a fully rendered version of the character. Seeing details like hair and skin color is part of the work process. Johnson continues: "It's so intuitive. The animators could proceed so quickly from launch- ing a scene to roughing and blocking, I felt I was directing a performance, not the technical cra of animation. With these new tools and the talent of the animation crew, I could direct on an emotional basis: how a character's thoughts might flicker across the face, how to change a walk based on anger or happiness." F R E E D O M F R O M R E S T R I C T I O N S Although it's obvious the world transformed by the Boov is a caricatured version of the real world, Johnson made it clear photorealism wasn't the goal. "I think CG has gotten stuck in a photoreal rut," Johnson says. "We have tools in comput- er animation and an aesthetic that's driven by imitating the real world. We want things to be recognizable as a chair. Or, a teapot. But, live-action crews bathe a set with red light to achieve a monochrome look. They underlight. They use light- ing in a theatrical sense." Thus, Johnson gave lighting artists working on Home per- mission to be theatrical. When a character is friendly, it is bathed with a so rim light. When a character is antagonistic, a harsh underlight creates sharp edges and shadows. "I put a slogan up that said, 'Continuity is for the weak'," Johnson says. "Otherwise, it's easy to get stuck in that loop and stop serving the emotion- al sense of a scene. There's safety in being realistic rather than interpretive. If you're lighting for the narrative, there is a sea of choices. But artists love that challenge. Our artists could use a rim light when they wanted." And with Primo, animators could make decisions based on that lighting. "In a traditional animation pipeline, you have layout, camera, and animation, then you do the lighting," Johnson says. "That's beyond absurd. In live action or on stage, the first thing you do aer blocking is remove the actors and light. Then, the actors make decisions based on the emo- tional quality of the light. With our new tools, anima- tors could block quickly and lighting could play quickly. Encouraging that collaboration was a pleasure." As for layout, even though DreamWorks has a motion- capture studio that directors can use to film animated scenes by physically moving a virtual camera, Johnson preferred to unleash Home's virtual camera from reality. "I'm pretty old school," Johnson says. "When I made Antz, I felt liberated by having a computer camera that wasn't restricted by how sore my knees were or how tall a ladder would go. I don't want to be tied to strong physical constraints. I loved having a virtual camera not tied to reality." Although, given a quick glance, Home might not seem like a wide departure from other animated features. But the colorful, friendly alien invasion, the bubbles, the antigravity interior decoration, the character design, the free- dom to have a little girl act like one, the lighting, and the camera work make this film unique. ■ Barbara Robertson ( is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for CGW. Her recent travel essay appears in "Travelers' Tales" via the Tales To Go app. OH AND TIP'S SLUSH MACHINE-POWERED HOVER CAR TRAVELS PAST BUBBLES USED TO COLLECT AND FLOAT UNWANTED EARTHLY OBJECTS. VIDEO, ART OF FLYING STORY, MUSIC SELECTION STORY: GO TO EXTRAS IN THE MARCH.APRIL 2015 ISSUE BOX. C G W. C O M

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