After the team had
brought the characters up to a high level of stylized realism, they also
needed to bring the environments up to that same level. It was a
big challenge because the film predominantly takes place in an outside
world that is fairly rich and detailed, he noted. We wanted
to make sure that the environments were alive and they didnt feel
like static matte paintings. We wanted leaves to be blowing in the wind,
grass to be blowing and interacting with characters. In rendering that
is a big challenge because you have hundreds of thousands of blades of
grass in a scene and millions of leaves and an inordinate amount of data.
So the rendering computation times were much greater than they had been
Fiona and Shrek
In terms of
traditional visual effects, one of the major hurdles was creating fire.
Its set in medieval times and fire plays a big role,
Bielenberg said, and being a fairy-tale we have to have a fire-breathing
dragon. In the beginning we considered using live-action elements, which
is the traditional approach. Very rarely has CG fire been used in a major
way, but we decided early on to use a CG approach. We studied backdrafts
and live-action fire, and then for torches we looked at Olympic footage.
We analyzed the fire frame by frame, and then figured out ways to render
it. That was very successful and is pretty groundbreaking for CGI.
To create realistic
fluids in such scenes as Shreks mud shower the team used PDIs
Academy Award-winning Fluid Animation System (FLU). With this as a basis,
the team refined and customized the system to produce complex fluid
interaction with characters and simultaneous simulations of fluids with
Supervising animator Raman Huis tasks included, working
on realistic human characters like Fiona and at the same time working
with a big range of characters that are so different, he stated.
We have a big ogre, a human, a donkey, a dragon and they all have
different set-ups for us to animate.
Hui supervised a team of 25 using in-house software called e_motion.
We did a lot of work on character and set-up, and then kept changing
the set up while we were doing the animation, he noted. In
Antz we had a facial system that gave us all the facial muscles under
the skin. In Shrek we applied that to whole body. So if you pay attention
to Shrek when he talks, you see that when he opens his jaw, he forms
a double chin, because we have the fat and the muscles underneath. That
kind of detail took us a long time to get right.
Most of the animators on Shrek are the same animators who worked
on Antz, so the good thing was that we had much better experience when
we started on Shrek, he noted. We know how the pipeline
works. We know what we can do to get things done. And Jeffrey Katzenberg
was really excited about the project and really wanted us to do good
work so he gave us more time on this project. We ended up spending more
time animating than we had on Antz and it shows.
“When I watched the whole [film] put together,
I really cared about [the characters]. It's weird, because you animate
characters everyday, and then suddenly when you see them get cut together
it comes to life.” — Raman Hui
said Hui, is cutting-edge animation, and Im so proud of
being part of this project because I think its a great story and
I like all the characters. When I watched the whole [film] put together,
I really cared about them. Its weird, because you animate characters
everyday, and then suddenly when you see them get cut together it comes
to life. It has nothing to do with you; they are just there by themselves,
trying to solve their problems. Its a great feeling.
In terms of visual effects, Bielenberg agreed that Shrek is a
giant leap forward from what they did in Antz.
At the start, the directors said they wanted it to be five to
10 times the complexity of Antz, and it is.
One of the things that was significant was that the story team, the
production designers and directors worked without worrying about the
constraints of computer animation. They designed and told the story
that they wanted to tell without worrying whether it was difficult or
possible and then they could pass that onto us and that certainly pushed
us to push the envelope, which is what we did.
Warner agreed that the team succeeded in what they set out to do, and
added that the biggest problem was, combining all this technology
that had never been used before into a schedule that was fairly aggressive.
Two and a half years is not really a long time for an animated film.
Its very hard to budget a production like this based on new technology,
but we actually brought it in on time and budget.
I think Shrek has changed the paradigm of what a CG animated film
is, he summed up. Have we broken into new ground? Absolutely
for about ten minutes. But then the next CG film will come along
and do it all over again. Thats whats so exciting about
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