I'm sure you all read my public posting so let's get right to business.
Lately, I've been mentioning how we are in the visual effects phase of the film. I thought it would be of interest to touch upon the process we go through in completing the effects on the film. Granted, there are so many elements involved in the CGI aspect of the film so I'm going to explain things in a simpler, shorter matter as to not bore anyone! In other words, I'm going to skip a lot and streamline this. That being said, it starts with:
An illustration of what the final shot in the film will entail. For the practical shot we are covering here, we didn't storyboard it but it's normally commonplace. For a nice chunk of the film, we had notes, shot lists, and breakdowns of the shots we needed that we bypassed the storyboard phase a lot in the film. With all our notes and breakdowns, and go out, shoot, and come back with".
1.) The Plate:
The plate is the footage right from the camera. It's the empty shot devoid of any types of effects work. In fact, the plate in some instances will have no color correction and look very washed out and dull looking. Below is a uncolor-corrected plate that was shot.
Personally, for reference, I like to send the plates to the artist color corrected since they will send me the final render uncorrected anyway.
In order to get to this point, there's a lot of logistics that have to be taken care of so we can get to a point of filming. So, we now have our plate. This is the plate that will be sent to the artist along with a detailed breakdown of effect and technical info. Next comes:
The Pre-visualization, or previs, is a super rough concept of what I want in the shot. This will allow the 3D animator to get a better understanding of what the shot calls for so they can animate quickly with less blocking errors. In most situations, I make the previs myself. I bring the video plate into either my editing suite or compositing program and do a really quick 2d animation. Below is a previs of the path Sonic has to travel in the plate:
With the previs, the animator now can begin a rough blocking pass on the shoot. They'll usually take the model and have him float through the proposed path he will be traveling and after approval, start tweaking the animation for specific movements and moments. And after a while, we get our final animation.
In this case, after Sonic's run was timed the first time the shot was animated, he was running so fast the shot lasted less than a second. The lead animator, Nigel Seecharan, proposed we'd so something for flare and to eat up some time so it was decided to have Sonic do a brief display of acrobatics and that's what is seen in the shot above.
The animation process is a notoriously long phase because an animator has to account for so much. Their goal is to make a character's movements believable and fluid. Some shots can takes minutes to animate but in Sonic's case, you are looking at hours and hours of tweaking, positioning, re-tweaking, repositioning, and so on until the shot looks good enough. Once it looks good enough....even more work has to be done so that way it stops looking "good enough" and looks great! After the animation is locked:
Rendering the final shot consist of MANY elements. Texturing, lighting, motion blur, shadows, and so on. It could take quite a while to render a shot just because of how much processing is need and in Sonic's case, we are dealing with fur which eats up even more rendering time. The pain in this is mainly the waiting for the results and hoping they look correct. Otherwise, have to re-render and wait some more! After that:
The character is composited into the shot and aside from that, even more work has to be done. We have to digitally remove elements from the shot we don't want like the power lines and change the background so it goes off into the distance....perhaps into one of the South Island zones? Find out that answer in the final render of this shot which is to be shown in the final trailer!
Aside from the many animators working on the film, their works has to be critiqued carefully by Visual Effects Supervisor David Horowitz who will then continuous offer notes and feedback on how to improve specific models and animations so they remain of the highest quality all while keeping me updated on where everyone stands.
In short, the effects process is a pretty long and tiring one. It's currently the last obstacle before releasing the film to the public. Once all is set and done, the time will come when the film will finally hit the internet and it might be sooner than you think!