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February 2016

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Page 32 of 51 31 POST FEBRUARY 2016 For Norm of the North, Splash Entertainment proves that ingenuity and determination can lead to success also used The Foundry's Hiero shot management, conform, edit, and review solution extensively, for basic editing and shot review, "which considerably smoothed the follow-up on the shot versioning," says Mathieu. WHAT A CHARACTER! Norm is a polar bear with a big person- ality. But he is complex in other, more technical ways. He has the ability to walk on two legs when taking on human at- tributes, such as dancing, and of course, embarking on his NYC adventure. When he is in polar bear mode, he is a quad- ruped, such as in scenes where he is interacting with his father. In addition, Norm is covered in thick, white fur. In fact, a number of the charac- ters in Norm are furred creatures, includ- ing Norm's sidekicks, a trio of lemmings, as well as caribou and other lemmings. To handle the fur, the Assemblage artists used Joe Alter's Shave and A Haircut hair modeling and animation software. Norm had roughly 1.5 million hairs. If this wasn't complicated enough, he was often wearing clothes or interacting with props. In a storm sequence, the fur was wet, presenting a separate challenge. As a result, the character had various grooming requirements, depending on the situation and scene. The number of furred characters in a particular scene affected how the shot was rendered. At times, the crew used cloud rendering, giving them access to several thousand render blades. "We also created simpler shaders to imitate the fur for background charac- ters in some of the shots of the Norm crowning sequence with all the furry characters in the cavern," says Mathieu. The evil villain, Mr. Greene, meanwhile, is a new-age executive-turned-guru with long charcoal hair. Animators gave him a lot of cartoony squash-and-stretch capabilities, with extreme poses, antics, expressions, and so forth. Assemblage created these models using an Autodesk Maya-based pipeline. Animation was done in Maya, as was the lighting. Maya's built-in Arnold (from Solid Angle) was used for rendering, while The Foundry's Mari was employed for texturing and the company's Nuke for compositing. On the hardware side, Assemblage used dual-Xeon workstations with 32GB of RAM and Nvidia graphic cards. The network architecture at the studio relied on Isilon storage, which offered efficiency and stability. Some scenes even required crowd control — to handle the mobs of peo- ple and the heavy car traffic in NYC, for instance. This was done with Golaem Crowd simulation software that's built into Maya. "The extensive use of crowds in NYC pushed us to find different solutions for the dancing sequence in the city, without compromising the quality. For example, lots of animation cycles were generated to fit the mood of the crowd at different parts of the plaza sequence. We sent the cycles to Golaem, which handled the crowd on a shot basis," explains Mathieu.

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