Sharp Stuff

SIGGRAPH’s 41st an­nual Com­puter An­i­ma­tion Fes­ti­val spot­lights cut­ting-edge tech­ni­cal work and the in­cred­i­ble cre­ativ­ity that fu­els it. By Tom McLean.

Animation Magazine - - Siggraph -

Few fes­ti­vals take so tech­ni­cal an ap­proach to an­i­ma­tion as the SIGGRAPH Com­puter An­i­ma­tion Fes­ti­val. Now in its 41st year, the an­nual com­pe­ti­tion again lives up to its rep­u­ta­tion for de­liv­er­ing an­i­ma­tion that pushes the en­ve­lope for both tech­ni­cal and cre­ative bound­aries.

This year’s fes­ti­val will present more than 100 animations Aug. 10-14 at the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre through a se­ries of Day­time Se­lects and in the iconic Elec­tronic Theater. Of those films, a se­lect few have been sin­gled out for awards in sev­eral cat­e­gories. This year’s jury of ex­perts se­lected the win­ners from more than 450 sub­mis­sions.

This year’s jury con­sists of Ken An­jyo, OLM Dig­i­tal, Tokyo; Greg But­ler, MPC, Van­cou­ver; Jim Fo­ley, Ge­or­gia Tech, At­lanta; Evan Gold­berg, Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios, Bur­bank; Ge­orgina Hayns, Laika, Port­land, Ore.; Chris Perry, Hamp­shire Col­lege, Amherst, Mass.; Ja­son RM Smith, SoMa Play, San Fran­cisco; Ja­son Stansell, Sucker Punch Pro­duc­tions, Belle­vue, Wash. Jerome Solomon of Cogswell Col­lege is the fes­ti­val direc­tor.

Best in show went to a stun­ning short film ti­tled Box, di­rected by Tarik Ab­del-Gawad of San Fran­cisco-based Bot & Dolly. The film uses ro­bot­ics and 3D pro­jec­tion to cre­ate a stun­ning syn­chro­nized per­for­mance that was all filmed live.

Since its re­lease on­line last year, Box has earned praise from just about ev­ery­one who’s seen it.

Win­ning the Jury Award is the short Pa­per World from Hun­gary. Di­rected by Dávid Ringeisen and Lás­zló Ruska as a diploma project at Mo­holy-Nagy Univer­sity of Art and De­sign, it also was made for World Wildlife Fund Hun­gary.

The film uses com­puter an­i­ma­tion to recre­ate the nat­u­ral world as though it were made of origami-style pa­per crea­tures and plants. The film is in­tended to rep­re­sent the val­ues of the WWF as a vis­i­ble metaphor on the level of a mi­cro-world.

The Best An­i­mated Short went to the French en­try Home Sweet Home. Di­rected by Pierre Clenet, Ale­jan­dro Diaz, Ro­main Mazenet and Stéphane Pac­co­lat for Supin­fo­com Ar­les, the clever film fol­lows a house as it up­roots from its foun­da­tion and goes for a walk around the world.

Wrapped, made by stu­dents at the Fil­makademie Baden-Wüert­tem­berg, won the Best Stu­dent Project Award. Di­rected by Ro­man Kaelin, Falko Paeper and Flo­rian Wittmann, the film ex­plores the idea that the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of one is the foun­da­tion of an­other one’s life. The world, with its never-end­ing in­ter­play of eat­ing and be­ing eaten, takes on new di­men­sions when the un­ex­pected forces of na­ture clash with the ex­ist­ing struc­tures of our so­ci­ety. The only con­stant is change.

The jury gave the Best Vis­ual Ef­fects award to Grav­ity, the Al­fonso Cuaron fea­ture that won seven Os­cars — in­clud­ing Best Vis­ual Ef­fects.

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The work that won was sub­mit­ted by Frame­store in the United King­dom and spot­lighted the film’s cut­ting-edge ap­proach to cre­at­ing as much as 80 per­cent to 90 per­cent of the im­agery with com­puter graph­ics and then in­te­grat­ing the live-ac­tion el­e­ments seam­lessly.

A video vi­su­al­iza­tion ti­tled Kine­mat­ics, di­rected by Jes­sica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosen­berg of Ner­vous Sys­tem, won the best vi­su­al­iza­tion and sim­u­la­tion honor.

The video vi­su­al­izes Kine­mat­ics, a sys­tem for de­sign­ing and sim­u­lat­ing flex­i­ble struc­tures for 3D print­ing. Kine­mat­ics gen­er­ates cus­tom­ized de­signs com­posed of tens to thou­sands of hinged, in­ter­lock­ing mod­ules. The de­signs are com­pu­ta­tion­ally folded us­ing rigid-body physics into a smaller form for fab­ri­ca­tion by 3D print­ing.

Best Game went to The Crew, di­rected by Maxime Luère, Do­minique Boidin and Rémi Kozyra of France-based Unit Im­age, while Best Real-Time Graph­ics went to the game Ryse: Son of Rome, di­rected by Chris Evans, Peter Gorn­stein and Martin L’Heureux of Cry­tek in Ger­many. Ryse is an eight-hour game with an ad­di­tional 110 min­utes of lin­ear sto­ry­telling con­tent.

And the best com­mer­cial ad­ver­tise­ment went to an ad called “The Pony,” pro­duced for Three, a mo­bile-phone and broad­band provider in the United King­dom. Di­rected by Dou­gal Wil­son for Blink Pro­duc­tions, the film fea­tured VFX work by MPC to cre­ate an ad in which a pony dances and moonwalks to a Fleet­wood Mac tune. The pony’s bouncy moves were cre­ated us­ing a photo-real CG dig­i­tal dou­ble and ex­ten­sive R&D to trans­late hu­man move­ment to a horse.

The Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences rec­og­nizes the SIGGRAPH Com­puter An­i­ma­tion Fes­ti­val as a qual­i­fy­ing fes­ti­val. Since 1999, sev­eral works orig­i­nally pre­sented in the fes­ti­val have been nom­i­nated for or have re­ceived a Best An­i­mated Short Film Academy Award.

very savvy with tech­ni­cal stuff. And he’s very agile in that he can build with his hands while he’s do­ing some other things.”

In fact, when the Guardians make a wild prison escape early on, Rocket as­sem­bles bat­ter­ies from the tower while tak­ing off in a craft. “And the way we played it was ex­actly what we dis­cussed dur­ing that meet­ing (about rac­coon be­hav­ior). We had a lot of close-ups (and in 3D) so the level of de­tail had to be very high. I think the chal­lenge was more about the per­for­mance and dis­play­ing the eyes and in the eye­lids and the re­flec­tions. We played around with the level of color. When we wanted more emo­tion, we ac­tu­ally made the eyes a lit­tle darker. For some rea­son, that made him more child­ish. Also, he has that mask on his face so it was im­por­tant that we played around with the eye­brows. At times they were al­most go­ing on top of the eye­lids.”

Rocket’s walk — or strut — was im­por­tant as well. Most of the time, Frame­store had him walk straight up on two feet but then run­ning

on all fours and go­ing as fast as he can when he’s in bat­tle. “And that was part of the idea of keep­ing some of the an­i­mal­is­tic qual­i­ties in his an­i­ma­tion,” Ceretti says.

Groot Dou­ble Gunn-ed

There were stand-ins for both Rocket and Groot, but, in­ter­est­ingly, Rocket’s stand-in was the direc­tor’s brother, Sean Gunn. “We had Sean with us in ev­ery sin­gle Rocket shot with wit­ness cam­eras to make sure that the eye lines were cor­rect and the other ac­tors had a proper ac­tor to re­spond with.”

Of course, Groot is a lot less ex­pres­sive and more styl­ized and had his own set of an­i­ma­tion chal­lenges. MPC came up with a very com­pli­cated fa­cial rig. His eye­lids are re­ally de­tailed along with the sock­ets and the way they move with the eyes was cru­cial.

But be­cause Groot’s a tree and made of wood, the big­gest con­sid­er­a­tion was how much to make him bend. “We wanted the wood to be pretty stern and not look rub­bery,” Ceretti says. “So for the body, we have th­ese pretty big ex­te­rior plates that are pretty solid and don’t bend, and then we have the in­te­rior rig in place with all the branches and twigs kind of slid­ing and pulling the over­all struc­ture of his body like mus­cles. The vines are more bend-y.”

For the branches that act as Groot’s arms and legs, he has the ca­pac­ity to make them grow on the spot, and that’s where he de­rives his in­cred­i­ble strength when grab­bing bad­dies or mak­ing his escape. “We tried to keep a lan­guage that’s con­sis­tent through­out so we looked at time-lapse pho­tog­ra­phy for how plants and trees grow. But we tried to keep it nat­u­ral with slightly stronger wood.”

Rocket and Groot ap­par­ently form quite a strong bond, but you’ll have to see the movie, out Aug. 1, to ex­pe­ri­ence how that emo­tional arc plays out. Bill De­sowitz is owner of Im­mersed in Movies (www.billdes­owitz.com), au­thor of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­masked.com) and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Thomp­son on Hol­ly­wood and An­i­ma­tion Scoop at Indiewire.

“The Pony”

Op­po­site top: con­cept art for Rocket and Groot. This page: fin­ished ver­sions of the char­ac­ters and a look at film­ing on set for Guardians

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