Stu­dio Ne­ces­si­ties Es­sen­tial of­fice items for keep­ing your mind and body on track to­ward reach­ing your goals.

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities - By Martin Gre­bing

Here is a list of valu­able as­sets that no in­de­pen­dent an­i­ma­tor should be with­out. Ex­tra mouse and key­board: Al­ways keep an ex­tra mouse and key­board handy. If you’ve ever had a mouse or key­board break on you in the mid­dle of a ma­jor project, the level of panic and feel­ing of ut­ter help­less­ness that you ex­pe­ri­enced has prob­a­bly never been matched be­fore or since.

Long-use rated of­fice chair: Not only do you need to find a chair that is com­fort­able for your height, but it needs to be a long-use or ex­tended-use rated chair to help avoid achy necks, backs and arms after pulling long shifts.

Mas­sage pad for your chair: Peo­ple typ­i­cally store their stress in the neck at the base of their skull and in their lower back. And when it comes to an­i­ma­tion, long hours and stress­ful sched­ules tend to go hand-in-hand. There are an as­sort­ment of af­ford­able mas­sage pads avail­able that are more than worth the price.

4K mon­i­tors: For those of you in the dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tion world, in­vest­ing in 4K mon­i­tors will lit­er­ally in­stantly in­crease your pro­duc­tiv­ity. With four times the dig­i­tal work space of a com­mon 1080p mon­i­tor, after us­ing a 4K mon­i­tor for the first time, you’ll won­der why you didn’t try it sooner.

Dif­fused key­light: The main source of light in your stu­dio should not be sear­ing down on you and your desk, but rather a softer, dif­fused light that is bright enough to keep ev­ery­thing leg­i­ble yet soft enough to be pleas­ant and free from glare.

At­mo­spheric light­ing: Whether you pre­fer a lava lamp, disco ball or plasma globe, keep a kitschy light handy for when you feel like adding an ex­tra spark to the mood of your stu­dio.

Good speak­ers with sub­woofer: An­i­ma­tors are of­ten re­quired to pro­duce and de­liver a fi­nal prod­uct that means work­ing with sound. It’s a must to have a good qual­ity sound sys­tem to ad­e­quately proof and ex­pe­ri­ence the au­dio tracks.

Nice set of head­phones: The only way to truly hear all the sub­tleties of a sound­track is with a nice set of head­phones. In ad­di­tion, this pro­vides a more im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence if you sim­ply want to block out sound waves from the rest of the world.

Mu­si­cal in­stru­ments: Chances are, if you’re an artist, you may have mu­si­cal ten­den­cies, as well. Keep a gui­tar, vi­o­lin, drums, harp or in­stru­ment of your choice handy for much-needed re­lax­ing breaks, It’ll help you get your mind off work mo­men­tar­ily while still keep­ing the cre­ative juices flow­ing.

En­ergy drinks: Green tea, cof­fee or Mino- taur, you may need to have your pre­ferred liq­uid boost avail­able for those long nights.

Art desk: If you’re stuck and can’t seem to get un­stuck, try get­ting away from the com­puter and sit­ting down at an ac­tual art desk to draw, sketch, doodle and write ideas out by hand.

White­board: Keep­ing im­por­tant notes, ideas and plans highly vis­i­ble and eas­ily ed­itable is key for any in­de­pen­dent an­i­ma­tor. In­vest in a large white­board and nev­er­more lose notes scrawled on Post-It pads. Take a clear photo of the board be­fore eras­ing.

Wall cal­en­dar: Be­ing con­stantly aware of the cur­rent day, what’s planned in the up­com­ing week, and fu­ture key mile­stone dates is es­sen­tial. Buy a wall cal­en­dar and hang it on the wall above your mon­i­tors for easy ref­er­ence.

Fam­ily and friends pho­tos: Noth­ing warms up a stu­dio space like pho­tos of fam­ily and friends. Be­sides, that Water­world poster is get­ting a lit­tle worn.

Email and dig­i­tal of­fice cal­en­dar: In ad­di­tion to a wall cal­en­dar, us­ing a dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent is a must. Hav­ing your email or sched­ul­ing soft­ware of choice filled with re­minders is an ex­cel­lent way to keep you on track and on top of mul­ti­ple projects and tasks.

Books: The Il­lu­sion of Life, by Frank Thomas and Ollie John­ston; Car­toon An­i­ma­tion, by Pre­ston Blair; An­i­ma­tion: From Script to Screen, by Shamus Cul­hane; Warner Broth­ers An­i­ma­tion Art, by Jerry Beck; an as­sort­ment of Christo­pher Hart books; an as­sort­ment of mar­ket­ing books; and Rebel with­out A Crew, by Robert Ro­driguez.

Vi­sion board: A vi­sion board should al­ways be, well, highly vis­i­ble. But it also needs to be ac­ces­si­ble so you can eas­ily add or mod­ify the pho­tos of your life and ca­reer goals as needed. Dur­ing that 11th hour push when your last nerve is wear­ing thin and you’ve just run out of cof­fee, a quick glance at your vi­sion board may be all it takes to give you enough mo­ti­va­tion to re­group and march on­ward. [ Martin Gre­bing is pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion and can be reached via­ny­bonean­i­ma­tion. com.

Un­like a group of ex­plor­ers and sol­diers sur­vey­ing an un­char­tered is­land filled with mon­sters, In­dus­trial Light & Magic se­nior VFX su­per­vi­sor Stephen Rosen­baum ( Avatar) and vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Jeff White ( Trans­form­ers: Age of Ex­tinc­tion) were wellaware of the pres­ence of a gi­ant ape when col­lab­o­rat­ing with film­maker Jor­dan Vogt-Roberts ( The Kings of Sum­mer) on Kong: Skull Is­land.

“The thing that we were the most wor­ried about was hon­or­ing the in­cred­i­ble film legacy of King Kong,” says White. “We wanted to make sure that this it­er­a­tion did some­thing new but at the same time was a nod back to the orig­i­nal 1933 in­car­na­tion.”

A sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture was go­ing from the tra­di­tional pri­mate, which spends most of its time on all fours, to one that is bipedal. “Pro­duc­tion de­signer Stefan Dechant had al­ready done a tremen­dous amount of Kong’s de­sign,” says White. “Kong was go­ing back to be­ing a movie mon­ster, not just an over­sized go­rilla. We also had ILM art di­rec­tor Aaron McBride it­er­ate on the de­sign, which was then moved into mod­el­ing. Usu­ally, you want to get ev­ery­thing solved in 2D be­fore spend­ing the time in 3D, but for this par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter it was im­por­tant to start in 3D and to fig­ure out how much a long or wide lens af­fected the shape of the space. That work was done by Kr­ish­na­murti Costa (ILM lead crea­ture mod­eler) and was a key part of get­ting the Kong de­sign over the line. But as soon as fur was put on, the model com­pletely changed. It cov­ered up so much of the anatomy, and al­tered all of the key ac­tion lines, that we had to go back and make sure that the fur worked with the de­sign.”

An­other chal­lenge was con­vey­ing the scale of Kong. “It was real chal­lenge be­cause he’s never in a city en­vi­ron­ment,” says White. “One of the things that helped tremen­dously was that Kong spends so much time in the water be­tween his bat­tle with the squid and the fight at the end of the movie. The fact that he is splash­ing around in five feet of water pro­vides a vis­ual cue that en­ables you to un­der­stand the size of these crea­tures.”

Tricky In­ter­ac­tions Cre­at­ing sim­u­la­tions was a ma­jor is­sue, such as hav­ing fur in­ter­act with water. “Kong’s hand or foot would be hit­ting the water at 50 to 60 miles per hour and our first pass sim­u­la­tions would es­sen­tially be a wall of white water cov­er­ing the two char­ac­ters, which doesn’t make for in­ter­est­ing shots,” White says. “We spent a lot of time di­rect­ing and carv­ing away the water sim­u­la­tions so we al­ways left the char­ac­ters some­what clear but never in a non­phys­i­cal way. We put birds into the shot as well as a lot of de­bris and mud in his hair with the goal of mak­ing sure that the au­di­ence un­der­stands that Kong is 100 feet tall.”

A new mon­ster serves as the main ad­ver­sary for Kong. “Jor­dan had a solid idea of what he was look­ing for with the Skull Crawlers, but we did do sev­eral mod­i­fi­ca­tions as we got into pro­duc­tion,” says White. “We were con­stantly pos­ing the big Skull Crawler to­gether with Kong to make sure that it felt like a wor­thy ad­ver­sary. ILM an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Scott Benza spent a tremen­dous amount of time try­ing to fig­ure out how a snake-like crea­ture with arms would move. It was im­por­tant to Jor­dan that the Skull Crawlers moved in a weird way that didn’t feel too awk­ward. The Skull Crawler had to be able to do in­ter­est­ing fight moves and in par­tic­u­lar, uti­lize its tail as an ad­van­tage against Kong. There are al­most some judo-like throw moves the Skull Crawler does with Kong that Scott came up with, which I thought were fan­tas­tic.”

Fire has a big role to play in the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture. “There is a se­quence where Pre­ston

Packard (Sa­muel L. Jack­son) lures Kong to this lake, and then sets the whole thing on fire,” says White. “It was in­spired by some of the na­palm im­agery from the Viet­nam War. A man­made lake was built in Hawaii so that we could shoot the fore­ground and Packard. Spe­cial ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Michael Meinar­dus put flame bars all over the lake and cre­ated a sub­stan­tial amount of fire. We ended up need­ing to grow the fire quite a bit in or­der for it to feel big enough to stop a 100-foot tall crea­ture. How­ever, we wouldn’t have been able to get it to look as good with­out that prac­ti­cal ef­fects com­po­nent there.”

Kong Don’t Surf Real Huey heli­copters were ro­to­scoped out of footage shot in Hawaii and placed over the back­ground plates cap­tured in Viet­nam for an aerial scene that harkens back to Apoc­a­lypse Now. “It’s tough be­cause by the time you’re down to a sun ball ex­po­sure, ev­ery­thing in the fore­ground is gen­er­ally a black out­line,” White says. “It was a lot of work to find the right bal­ance to keep those heli­copters look­ing real.”

The movie called for an oth­er­worldly feel for Skull Is­land and the ini­tial storm the ex­plor­ers fly through. “It was done by a com­bi­na­tion of our gen­er­al­ists, ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion teams,” says White. “Jor­dan let us push color to in­ter­est­ing direc­tions. For ex­am­ple, some of the light­ning is al­most pink­ish pur­ple. It was good be­cause so much of the movie is this or­ange warm sun­set and green feel.”

Not all of the at­mo­spher­ics were in­ten­tional. “We had about three weeks straight of no sun in Viet­nam but rather than that be­ing a de­ter­rent to the project it was some­thing we em- braced as this moody, stormy, dark weather pat­terns that you would get on Skull Is­land,” he says.

A large veg­e­ta­tion li­brary was pro­duced to as­sist with the in­te­gra­tion of the CG crea­tures with the live-ac­tion plates. “We were al­ways leav­ing room for them to have some im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, whether it’s knock­ing a tree over or hav­ing rocks break off of a cliff when they land,” says White.

“The squid se­quence was one of the most dif­fi­cult that we did on the film,” says White. “The Davy Jones-style squid has ten­ta­cles and suck­ers mov­ing over Kong’s hair, which had to be sim­u­lated to­gether along with all of the water. It took us sev­eral months to put to­gether a close-up shot of Kong chew­ing on a few ten­ta­cles be­cause of all of the in­ter­play that was in­volved.”

The cli­matic bat­tle needs to be seen on the big screen. “I’m ex­cited for peo­ple to see the fi­nal fight be­tween Kong and the Skull Crawler,” says White. “It’s in­cred­i­bly unique, and the fact that we went to this real lo­ca­tion with ev­ery­body wear­ing waders and got right in the muck to do the shoot adds a lot of tex­ture to the scene and helped to keep it look­ing au­then­tic.” [

To keep with the mo­tion-cap­ture theme, I re­vis­ited the Per­cep­tion Neu­ron after first

Mod­el­ing King Kong and giv­ing him a sense of scale were ma­jor ef­fects chal­lenges for ILM.

Jeff White

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