Tuesday, December 4, 2007  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 productions were?


Tal 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 [McCain].



OSN:           What was it that got you into animation and computer effects in the first place?


Tal 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 the movie?


Tal 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.



OSN:           Compositing 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?


Tal 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.

                   The 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?


Tal 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 the film?


Tal 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?


Tal 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 face?


Tal 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 constantly inspire.



OSN:           Humans are all imperfect?  Where there any times that you needed to work around a compromise where artists have a difference of opinion?


Tal 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?


Tal 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?


Tal 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?


Tal 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?


Tal 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 base with.



OSN:           What other projects have you worked on besides Outlander in the last year?


Tal 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?


Tal 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.

                   You 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?


Tal 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.