In This Corner of the World
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With well over 500 voice acting credits, ranging from Nancy Drew to World of Warcraft, you probably know Lani Minella’s work, even if you don’t know her name.
Animation Magazine: How long have you actively been a voice actor?
Lani Minella: (In a decrepit, old voice) Over three decades, darlin’.
Animag: So, what’s the secret to longevity in the voice-acting industry?
Minella: I don’t have a life, that’s how. ( She laughs and returns to normal voice.) I have made this my commitment. I have always wanted to be in an animated movie and got kind of distracted into games, but that goal of achieving that animated movie is still my carrot that keeps me going.
Animag: Because they often operate behind the scenes with very little recognition, do you feel voice actors are the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry?
Minella: That may be true in some cases, but I actually think animators are not recognized nearly enough for what they do and the talent they bring to the table. In my opinion, it’s the animation that really helps a game or movie stand out.
Animag: Name a few of the higher-profile projects you’ve worked on that you really enjoyed.
Minella: Rugrats: All Grown Up and Justice League. And a lot of the Blizzard games — like all the World of Warcraft series; Starcraft 1 and 2; Diablo 1, 2 and 3; Hearthstone; Soul Calibur, as Ivy; (in Nancy Drew voice) Nancy Drew for 16 years; Rouge The Bat, Sonic The Hedgehog; Mortal Kombat, as Sindel and Sheeva; a lot of characters from Star Trek Online; Neverwinter (Dungeons & Dragons); and Skyrim. (In evil, raspy voice.) I really love being end bosses and monsters and (monster shriek) all the little creature things, and I have to thank Blizzard a lot for bringing me in for several things like that, and I wish they’d do it more!
Animag: How important is reputation to ensuring that you continue to have work or that you get good gigs?
Minella: Having a good reputation is great, and I’m thankful that I do have a good reputation because one bad apple or one bad experience can ruin the whole bunch.
Animag: What attracted you to this industry in the first place?
Minella: I was always the class clown because I think that I wasn’t challenged mentally a lot in classes, so I would imitate and mimic things. I got into radio and morning drive, where you had to be characters of whoever was in the news and the weirdest stuff. Like, they’d say, “This is the first day of the lottery so (in Dr. Ruth voice) make up something like Dr. Ruth telling you To experience Lani Minella’s talent and her industry insights, listen to the 30-minute interview at www.funnyboneanimation. com/ Lani_Minella.html.
our solar system; imagining the first unicellular forms of life in all their majesty and motion; and reconceiving extinct animals and convincingly blending them with analog equivalents where they exist today.
They brought in Louisiana State University researcher Dr. Werner Benger to help create a realistic, dimensional rendering of a black hole. Although it’s completely CG, it contains a photographic basis from the Milky Way as a background, according to Glass.
“It (the VFX) turned out well given recent advancements in scientific visualizations,” says Glass. “It’s like a photographic image that includes lens aberrations and all the stuff that we do in compositing. They do that so they can compare it with the satellite imagery of space. As a result, there are a wider selection of simulations that are much more beautiful and interesting.”
The cellular work benefited from the efficiency of some of the better renderers (including V-Ray), dealing with high levels of translucency in those kinds of environments.
The microbial realm was a particular favorite for Glass. “It’s a great combination of trying to build worlds that are familiar and playing off familiarity (with more dynamics),” he says.
The creature work was also vastly improved from The Tree of Life. The subtlety of skin texture, muscle movement and the response to light is much more convincing. There’s a mother and child Parasaur in the Red Woods and on a beach; a Gorgonopsid (a large, four-legged, dog-like creature) in the desert; and the flying Pterosaur.
“Terry has strong core rules: keeping camera movement limited and play in depth rather than cross frame,” Glass says. “Initially, it feels quite constrictive but inevitably it pro- duces some very strong visuals. Terry likes to get in there and feel the experience and make sure that you’re rooted in scientific truth.”
Much of the VFX work was chemical- and water-based, with Glass and the filmmakers “dropping various fluids and materials into tanks, letting them merge and come to a place they felt best depicted what they were seeking.”
For a scene depicting an early life form, for instance, they used egg yolk, glycerine and other solutions: “What it conjured for us,” Glass says, “was this idea of the first moment of will or identity, the idea that at some moment before life really existed, that something twitched.” [ Bill Desowitz is crafts editor of IndieWire (www.indiewire.com) and the author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com).
Cities are crazy, complex, organic creatures. When it comes to building and designing them from scratch, there isn’t a good way to approach it. Take a 2,000-yearold city like Cairo, for example. You are talking about a gajillion decisions from individuals and committees on where to put streets, where to build buildings, how to fix the dock after the last flood, etc. A city is an evolving entity, and there is no way one artist is going to recreate that — at least not from scratch. And don’t think that recreating a real city is much easier.
CityEngine provides tools for generating cities, both fictional and real. It is developed from a company called Esri, which has been in the business of geographic information systems for nearly 50 years. And they’ve collected an enormous amount of data and developed algorithms for analyzing that data. They do this for companies and governments interested in how geography affects their functionality. But someone put together that all this data would help the visual effects industry, because we are always creating these things — and generally it take a lot of work.
The engine within CityEngine allows for either importing existing ArcGIS data from the Esri database — like if you want to destroy a fictional skyscraper in place of an existing building in Los Angeles. Both the 2D information and building footprints, and any existing 3D data with textures can be imported. Or, say you wanted to figure out a totally new (or old) city like ... Troy. You could take the topography and generate a city pattern with new footprints.
Buildings and structures can be generated dynamically with a set of rules to determine and randomize height, facades, roof-styles, etc. And the geography can be customized if needed. And these fill into the original footprints, to populate a fully fledged city — which can then be exported to numerous 3D programs through an FBX exporter.
Most of the applications for ArcGIS and CityEngine are for visualizing functional aspects. (You can even determine heat contribution from the reflections off of a new, yet-to-be-built building, which is kinda cool.) But this means that its not an “export and render” type of tool. You’ll still have to put in some time to make it pretty. But by removing the decision-making from the layout process, I can see CityEngine saving weeks if not months of development time — and then you can take the time to make it look pretty. [ Todd Sheridan Perry is a visual-effects supervisor and digital artist who has worked on features including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at email@example.com.
“Animation & Acting,” “The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar,” “Deep in the Kelp,” “Casual Carpool” (hitch a ride with Stanton and the cast), “What Were We Talking About?” (story development), “Creature Features” (the cast talk about their character species) and deleted scenes. Just keep watching, just keep watching ... . and featurettes “Japanese Inspiration,” “Corners of the Earth” and “The Myth of Kubo.” Blu-ray ($34.98) and Blu-ray 3D ($44.98) packs tack on an introduction and epilogue by Knight, “Mythological Monsters,” “Braving the Elements” and “The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music.”
DVD and Blu-ray ($29.98) include an interview with directors Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, “One Heck of a Plan,” “The Making of Phantom Boy” and more from GKIDS.