Golden Age Homage:

Animation Magazine - - Features -

The team re­spon­si­ble for the film’s vis­ual style used flash frames, thought bub­bles and half-tone light­ing to evoke the feel of the pages of clas­sic comic books of the past.

Visu­als That Pop

One of the spe­cial things about the new movie is that it uses CG an­i­ma­tion in a way that has never been seen in a movie be­fore. As Miller points out, “I think Spi­der-verse’s re­ally unique vis­ual style is some­thing that has never been done be­fore. And an­i­ma­tion is such a per­fect medium to do that. This movie has re­ally pushed the bound­aries of what’s just tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble in or­der to make it feel like ev­ery frame is a paint­ing. The peo­ple at Image­works did an amaz­ing job: our pro­duc­tion de­signer Justin Thomp­son and the whole team are such tal­ented artists and their love and their tal­ent and pas­sion shows in ev­ery frame of this movie.”

“I looked at the early de­vel­op­ment art that had been cre­ated for the movie and felt that, while they were quite beau­ti­ful, we could re­ally go farther and ex­plore the comic-book lan­guage more,” says Thomp­son. “I learned how to draw by em­u­lat­ing the art­work I loved in comics, and Spi­der-man was a char­ac­ter that I loved from an early age. That’s why I was re­ally ex­cited when Chris and Phil told me, ‘ What if you were given carte blanche and could make an an­i­mated movie based on a comic book … What have other movies al­ways got wrong? What would you do in­stead?’”

Thomp­son says what most movies of­ten get wrong is how su­per slick and glossy their comic-book uni­verses look. “Comic books are ac­tu­ally quite gritty in the way they’re made,” he points out. “One of the things that ap­pealed to me as a young boy was that I felt as if they gave me a win­dow though a mys­te­ri­ous, darker world. The su­per­heroes were deal­ing with the same prob­lems that I was deal­ing with, but the stakes were much higher. Miles’ ac­tions lead to the death of some­one very dear to him, and we didn’t want to down­play it. We didn’t want to short­change that and turn this into a fam­ily film where ev­ery­thing is brightly lit and cheer­ful.”

The tech­ni­cal wizards at Sony Pic­tures Image­works set out to recre­ate the tac­tile, gran­u­lar feel­ing of graphic nov­els, even go­ing as far as recre­at­ing the dot-print­ing process used in older comic books. “You re­ally feel the artistry as you turned the page,” re­calls Thomp­son. “I know that one thing the com­puter does re­ally well is re­al­ism. But we wanted to bring our own dis­torted ver­sion of re­al­ity to an­i­mated life.”

Thomp­son points out the re­sult of their work is a com­pletely fresh Cg-an­i­mated movie that looks like noth­ing au­di­ences have seen in the past. In fact, each frame of the movie took four times as long to make than a frame of a typ­i­cal an­i­mated movie. “Our goal was to break the tra­di­tional CG rules where ev­ery­thing is ex­act, pho­to­real and per­fect,” he notes. “We wanted to in­vent our own unique vis­ual lan­guage, rich with its own stylis­tic el­e­ments, color palette and shapes — a world where you can def­i­nitely no­tice the choices made by the artists in ev­ery frame.”

Play­ing with Tex­tures and Light­ing

As art direc­tor Dean Gor­don, who also worked on the two Cloudy with a Chance of Meat­balls movies with Lord and Miller, ex­plains, “The na­ture of tech­nol­ogy and 3D tends to fight the graphic look. We worked on paint­ing the tex­tures and mapping them on to get a grit­tier feel through the film. We used gra­da­tion and broke down color val­ues into ar­eas and cre­ated shorter tran­si­tions be­tween them to get a more il­lus­tra­tive feel in the scenes. We brought the same ideas for the char­ac­ters’ skin tones. Hav­ing the skin tones fit in the same en­vi­ron­ment and use the same hatch­ings we see in comics el­e­vated that il­lus­tra­tive el­e­ment.”

An­other way to get the comic-book feel was to play with the light­ing of scenes through­out the movie. “There’s a ten­dency in an­i­mated movies to go for bright light­ing,” says art direc­tor Pa­trick O’keefe. “We looked at a lot of dif­fer­ent kinds of pho­tog­ra­phy and looked care­fully at the way light bleeds into the edges of the film. We were al­lowed to go as dark as the se­quence needed to be. A char­ac­ter might be in a black sil­hou­ette with rim light­ing. We used dark shapes, with just glimpses of light in the dark­ness. It re­ally ex­tended the range of what we can put up on the screen.”

Se­nior an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Joshua Bev­eridge, an alum of many movies at Sony — in­clud­ing Sea­son, Surf’s Up, Cloudy 1 and and Ho­tel Tran­syl­va­nia 1 and — points out, “Our big chal­lenge was cre­at­ing that bal­ance be­tween be­ing car­toony and re­al­is­tic. To de­liver the best rep­re­sen­ta­tion of comic books to an­i­mated life, we had to break and over­haul our way of look­ing at things. It led us to frame mod­u­la­tion to get this crunchy, crispy ver­sion of pop art. When you do Spi­der-man in live ac­tion, it never feels com­pletely be­liev­able be­cause we had to deal with real physics to put him in these fan­tas­tic poses. But an­i­ma­tion al­lows us to break physics. You don’t want to be too choppy and not too smooth. You want crisp pop with ag­gres­sive clar­ity. At Sony

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