http://outlander.solsector.net/ has been online for nearly a year. In that time, we’ve had a number of exciting
updates for everyone as we’ve kept a keen eye out for news on Outlander’s
production. One of our early updates
was an interesting look into the animation process on the film. We got in touch with Tal Peleg
and he shared with us some insight into what it takes to animate a scene
involving the Moorwen and some of the challenges
involved. Nearly a year later, we
figured it would be a good idea to catch up with Mr. Peleg
and see what he’s up to now. Tal was
kind enough to play along. You can catch
up on the previous interview here and check out samples of his work on
his website here.
OSN: Hi Tal, it's been a while since our
last interview, Can you remind us what your duties on Outlander at spin
Peleg: Initially, before everything was
settled, I was actually designated to be the character animation director, but
partially because I couldn't relocate outside my hometown, I stayed in
[California] as a character animator. Before I worked on
pre-visualizations of various shots, I did a little animation R&D on the
creature with David [Kuklish] and Howard
OSN: What was it that got you into animation
and computer effects in the first place?
Peleg: I'm originally a painter. All my
childhood has been revolving around drawing, painting (and playing games).
Throughout the years it evolved to animation, starting with the classic flip
books in school. Altogether, it was a pathway to the CG realm. I go into a lot
further detail in my site.
OSN: You mentioned to me earlier that you
have since not been working directly for Spin Productions. How was it you came to doing compositing for
Ascendant Pictures itself as well as digiscope for
Peleg: There was a need for an
"artistic" compositing work that isn't the usual layer slap-on, rottoing or color keying. So while Spin was occupied with the
loads of effects shots, I was assigned to handle a couple of scenes of special
attention. I can't really go too much into the detail of the shots, but it
involves 2D animation, interactive lighting and all sorts of creative things
that realistically affects live action actors and
their environment. Hopefully I could get my hands on these shots after the
movie is released and post some online.
is pretty much the last stage - not including sound - of the effects work isn't
it? How many of Outlander's scenes did
you help finalize?
Peleg: Depends what kind of compositing.
Generally, you could sort of divide it into a couple of compositing constructs;
one is gathering elements rendered by other departments / artists, slapping
them on together, color correcting them and with other post processing touches
you have a presentable vfx shot. It's not as easy as
it may seem since there may be tracking or stabilizing issues, to name a few,
but overall it's more or less the core of compositing.
other construct involves strong creativity. You are handed a completely raw
shot to paint or animate on top, while tweaking everything from the ground up
yourself. That means painting and animating proper lighting / or shadows when
adding fire or lighting, for instance. One of the scenes I was assigned to, had about a dozen of these shots.
OSN: How important is it to you to be able
to work closely with the producers and directors of a movie when you are
animating and compositing?
Peleg: Extremely important. While
previously working closely with directors and vfx
supervisors, my experience with Howard and partially with Chris [Roberts]
on Outlander reassured the creative bond.
We were able to knock out specific and special shots far more efficiently.
OSN: I know you’ve played around with some
of the animations of the Moorwen just as a personal
side project. How much of your own ideas
and personality were you able to incorporate into the actual animations used in
Peleg: There aren't
much, not substantially, mostly due to the scale of teams and my time with
Spin. Also, there is a fundamental character behavior guidelines
which typically gets set prior to the pre-visualization phase. Sometimes the
R&D is still noodled with during the prevising, but even then ultimately it's what the director
or producers want. To create a shot from scratch (based on the animatics of the film) without it ever getting considerably
tweaked, is a bit uncommon. Typically a shot goes through a few drafts before
it's presented to the director / producers. Gladly, some of the key shots in
the story I animated remained virtually identical throughout all the way and
their final output looks awesome. I was able to retain more of my design
choices while working directly with David, Howard and Chris. I'll post some of
these shots on my site when I can.
OSN: Is it important to you to be able to
express yourself to some degree in projects like this that rely on such a big
team of artists to finalize?
Peleg: Yes. Everyone wants to express
themselves as much as possible. But ultimately it's those who have both strong
creative and communication skills that stand out. My aim is high and I hope
that sooner than later things will snowball faster.
OSN: How do you feel about your work on
Outlander in retrospect? How did it
compare to other projects you've worked on, and what unique challenges did you
Peleg: I think the biggest CG challenge
was the project's scale. There were tons of vfx shots
to complete in a certain amount of time, and most of which were of high
difficulty and standards. That included an intense amount of 3D work,
compositing and matte paintings. Production for both Ascendant and Spin was on
overdrive since the day Outlander was filmed in Halifax. In retrospect, my
experience on Outlander in comparison to previous projects was like working on
a "Next-Gen" gaming title. It's a whole new experience. Aside from
the intensity, it is the quality and production level that we had to maintain
throughout the film. The look and feel of the outcomes
OSN: Humans are all imperfect? Where there any times that you needed to work
around a compromise where artists have a difference of opinion?
Peleg: Depends on the situation, the
position in the company and other factors, usually it doesn't happen - unless
you're permitted to try out your own version. That generally happens during the
R&D session when, as an animator, you try out various animation cycles of a
character and present it to the client / supervisor. Typically, while in pre
production (like prevising) or post production,
almost everyone has to follow a set of guidelines.
OSN: On the
technical aspect, what kind of equipent and software
solutions do you use on projects like Outlander?
Peleg: Maya for all the 3D stuff, some
After Effects, some Flame, some Digital Fusion, Photoshop, Final cut and more.
OSN: Were there any hardware/software
limitations that needed to be overcome?
What kind of solutions needed to be developed for this project?
Peleg: Well, there's always a need for
more processing power for rendering. Typically that is the usual hardware
issue. As for Software, it's not necessarily buying a whole lot of licenses,
but rather setting up the pipeline between every department. Setting up,
maintaining and troubleshooting the pipeline [the ability to
transfer large amounts of data quickly],
which is the bloodline of a CG house, is pretty much one of the main anchors
for a project's success.
OSN: Have you seen any cuts of the
film? What were your impressions?
Peleg: Yes, I have seen cuts of the
film. I will keep my impressions to myself of course. But I will tell you I've been
a fan since I was first introduced to it in late 2005. And that's late.
OSN: Do you try and keep up with your
workmates from the project?
Peleg: Occasionally I do. Once I joined
Ascendant Pictures and later on spanned to Digiscope,
I met with David Dodson (Editor) and other wonderful individuals who I touch
OSN: What other projects have you worked
on besides Outlander in the last year?
Peleg: I pulled off a few splash pages
on an indie graphic novel (hopefully I could do some more splash pages and the
actual cover), a short music video, and some work on (another) battleground
show. When I get some free time, I will try to post some of the work online,
including sample work from the comic book.
OSN: Do you have any advice for aspiring
computer artists looking to enter the field?
Peleg: Actually two, in order to have a
successful career you have to have a strong artistic eye and a portfolio to
back it up. Then comes the experience. Without the
experience, even as an intern, you won't get anywhere initially unless your dad
owns Pixar. It's an exaggeration, but just to make a point.
can't have one without the other. You must be diligent and never stop trying,
because nothing is ever a smooth sail.
OSN: Any thoughts in conclusion?
Peleg: Thank you for your great
interest in my part on Outlander. I've been a great fan of the film since I was
introduced to it. I would also like to thank the readers and fans for
supporting and keeping the flames of such sweet project. I honestly can't wait
to be surprised with a teaser or a trailer in the movies in one of these days.
OSN: Thanks for your time Tal.