Indie Film Week | Shane Acker’s 9: from short to feature film
Acker imposed traditional live-action camera-work constraints on the 3D animators to mimic the effects of a boom and dolly
Most of the character designs for 9 were developed in software, with a few notable exceptions. Clay – and indeed any other medium that worked for modelling – was used in the early stages of some designs, as well as more unorthodox methods.
Producer Tim Burton and director Shane Acker in the production studio
“The twins, for example, are made of a pair of gardening gloves in the film,” says animation director Joe Ksander. “They have a tail: two fingers for arms, two for legs and the thumb as a tail, and then the cuff of the glove is a like a little cowl, making them look like monks. It was difficult to conceive how this would look, so we basically just cut up a real glove and posed it to show where the arms might be and what the tail might do, for instance.”
In terms of camera movement within a scene, the goal throughout 9 was to keep things as cinematic as possible. “In computer-generated animation, the camera can be moved wherever you envision it,” says head of layout Brian Foster.
9’s production pipeline at Starz Animations relied almost entirely on off-the-shelf Maya and mental ray for modelling, animation and rendering
“But we showed restraint, because Shane wanted the camera work on 9 to be handled the way a traditional shoot would be. We had our own camera rig, which very much mimicked what a camera boom and dolly rig would do on a live-action movie.”
Even so, some of the directions proved problematic later on, as VFX supervisor Jeff Bell explains: “Shane loves to move cameras, and there’s a certain budget for the film in terms of locked-off shots versus moving ones”, he says.
Practically speaking, there just wasn’t the time or money to incorporate all the subtle moves Acker wanted, so Bell and his team developed custom tools to replicate these in the 2D compositing process.
“From Maya, basically the layout artist would be able to select the 2D camera and perform those moves, which then got dumped out to disk and recreated in Fusion,” Bell says. “We were able to create backgrounds for a single frame and still replicate exactly what was done in layout.”
(This article was first published in October 2009.)
on Monday, April 23rd, 2012 at 11:55 am under Features, Making of.
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Tags: 9, CG animated short, CG feature film, CG short 9, Indie Film Week:, indie filmmakers, indie filmmaking, Shane Acker, Tim Burton