Basically the main challenge that studios must face today is to optimize the quality/productivity equation.
For season 2 of The Mysterious Cities of Gold series, Blue Spirit Productions developed specific tools for harvesting and referencing object libraries as well as a system for managing media and in-house production tracking.
Cube Creative, for its second season of Kaeloo chose to rethink its production organization and the fully automated rendering/compositing phase.
Digital Graphics, which handled the watercolor rendering of Ernest & Celestine, developed SoftAnim, a software package to automate coloring work.
Has previsualizing now become soluble in animation, after being long confined to the video game and movie sectors? For Duncan Burbidge, from The Third Floor, and Daniel Gregoire, from HALON Entertainment, the answer is yes: elimination of production process borders, increased pipeline flexibility, re-use of assets from libraries for production cost optimization, and more. For HALON, the best previsualizing is the one that's totally transparent to the director.
The South African feature Khumba typifies the emergence of new animation territories which have benefited from the expertise of more historical players.
The same can be said for The Congress which relies on the experience of the Belgian Walking The Dog studio for its animation.
As for Cafard, it has preferred an artistic and technical choice, mocap, which allows it to stand out in spite of a tight budget.
Oggy and the Cockroaches, the Film draws the best from another type of expertise – the production of series – while still accentuating sound design.
First founded in Denmark in 2006, Copenhagen Bombay has become a holding company that covers development, production, distribution and sales of its IPs, for which it holds the entire rights chain in a virtuous trans-media-oriented ecosystem. Thanks to its operational synergy, Copenhagen Bombay is able to keep a cap on its production costs and develop new multi-platform projects of international reach.
VFX and animation have more and more in common now, not only the tools and skill-sets but also the methods. For Jordi Bares Dominguez, the rendering phase as it stands today needs to be totally revamped. Buf produced no fewer than 400 animation frames of snow in extreme conditions. Framestore, conversely, concentrated its efforts on simulation of an arterial lava flow for Iron Man 3, and MPC detailed the effects of Prometheus with outstanding complementarity between keyframe animation and motion capture.
Because innovation is a growth lever, several companies have taken up the challenge of developing in-house tools to optimize their production. GameFusion developed a system for automatically generating characters, Cyber Marionnette, ideal for crowd scenes in feature films or series. Alkymia is offering both a new facial motion capture helmet and an iPad app for saving and cataloguing a production's media. Game Audio Factory and SolidAnim have allied their mocap and sound talents to develop a Kinect-based device for simultaneous facial motion capture and voice recording. Last of all, Mercenaries Engineering has unveiled a new Path Tracing render engine called Guerilla Render.
After 17 years at ILM, Hal Hickel can minutely detail the type of organization required for good production flow, with a trio composed of: producer, VFX supervisor and animation supervisor. While the studio continues to do innovative work, especially in motion capture with real-time rendering, the fact remains that forced-march development is no longer an aim in and of itself, and that off-shelf tools often suffice.
For Kristof Serrand, the ideal configuration to target when developing animation characters is:
- Adapting the characters created by the designers, to make them more "animatable";
- Exploring the character acting with the director;
- Establishing sturdy references for the animators;
- Generating materials for the work stations upstream and downstream along the pipe;
- Testing the voices of the actors or ideal cast.