Sunday, January 21, 2006

With Outlander having finished principal photography, decided to sit down (figuratively via e-mail) with Tal Peleg, one of the animators working on the computer generated creature effects for the Moorwen.  Obviously contractual agreements means he can’t reveal many details about the creature itself but I’m sure you will all find what he had to say insightful and interesting.  Often the work of individual animators gets overshadowed by the principal actors, directors, and screenwriters so we were only too happy to help provide some insight into the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.   As background, and for insight into the process of creating the Moorwen, we also highly recommend you - the reader – visit his web site and have a look at the Minotaur samples.




OSN:           How did you become invloved with the production as animator?  What special skills do you bring to the table that will help make Outlander a success?


Tal Peleg:    Prior to Outlander, David Kuklish (Visual Effects Supervisor) and I carry years of collaborative expertise on past comparable CG shows.  Our latest major project was involving a very similar idea of a CG built character and overall concept; the LGF feature, Minotaur. As an animation director, developing the creature closely with Jonathan English (Dir.), and the VFX supervisor, while being one of the only creature animators on the show, I was able to acquire a great deal of both managerial and artistic experience under heavily pressured schedule. The visual effects on Minotaur were carried out by a small team in Double Edge Digital, on an incredibly low budget. As a result, towards the end of the animation work I started compositing shots, extending my coordination with the rest of the CG departments such as compositors, texture artists and lighters. Additionally, I am a self taught animator and a painter. As far as my memory can stretch back, I was passionately painting and animating to a wide varieties of comic books, cartoons and motion pictures heroes. As a child, one of my all-time favorite inspiration bomb cartoons was what is known as La Linea. It was so simple and entertaining that I started animating stick figures on notebooks and thick school books for years to come. Interestingly enough, it actually helped me build strong foundations of timing in animation. Although I had a good natural starting point, constant practicing was always half the job to reach the higher ground of professionalism. Ultimately, my portfolio and professional background have pleased Howard, which ensured me a spot in Outlander as one of the earliest key animators on the film. Of course past the film's release, I plan on following the theme of Minotaur in my site and reveal some of my personal animation work of the Moorwen, but this time with a substantial increase in animation detail, length and character.



OSN:           Your work on Minotaur looked very good in the samples on your website.  How are you finding the work on Outlander compares in complexity?   What all is involved in modeling and rendering each given scene?


Tal Peleg:    Thank you for the compliments. Surprisingly, the Moorwen's animation wasn't more complex than that of the Minotaur. In fact, due to striking resemblances in style and physique, we were able to mimic the fundamentals of the R&D of Minotaur onto the Moorwen temp-basic build with few modifications, and skip right into the pre-visualizations phase. This has been a major help. However, Outlander is a heavy duty CG work. The main difference in the shows was the overwhelming amount of CG shots in Outlander as a whole, which required a much larger library of animations and consistency in triple the sequences. In "Ask the dust" (2006), for instance, I worked long months with a team on a mere handful of shots. We had to track in a photo-real matte paintings of an authentic detailed neighborhood in Hollywood that was originally a 3D render with matched lighting settings (which is by itself an incredible amount of work), as well as track in bridges, street lights, tons of electric wires, trains, cars, birds, and even CG people, all while the original shoot was an unstable camera without any blue screens. That is an example of how complex shots can get. Additionally, the Minotaur itself is a far cry simpler creature than the Moorwen. While the Minotaur was overall a basic beast with relatively limited features, the Moorwen carries lots of distinctive attributes that require extreme detail work on many levels, aside from animation. It's a really cool looking creature, people will love its innovative concept (it can easily make a unique action figure). If you had the Minotaur and the Moorwen's clay work side by side on a turn table, you wouldn't be able to tell what's more sophisticated, as they are both super-terrifying and amazingly designed. But once they are fully textured and shaded it's a different story. I have already seen images and video footage of the Moorwen floating around the net, mostly official presentations of the Tatopoulos Studios, where you can see the entire creature from head to toe, but (gladly) all the special info is heavily clouded. I think people will be blown away once they see it in the movies.



OSN:           Every film has it's own challenges.  What in particular would you point out as having needed particular attention?


Tal Peleg:    When David first introduced me to Outlander's screenplay, storyboards and the animatics in late 2005, he pointed out something extremely challenging with the implementation of the final look of the Moorwen. Typically there are lots of challenges involved in a Sci-Fi movie, but this particular one is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of the entire visual effects production. It's not the usual required blue screen dust puffs or puddle splashes that are later composited in accordance with the creature. It's something different, way more interactive and sophisticated. You'll have to wait and see.

                   As far as animation, the thing that required thorough attention was the development of the creature before and during the shootings. The creation of animation indexes was as important as hitting the pre-visualization deadlines. Building solid characteristics in advance, isn't only essential contractually, but is highly beneficial in the long run for the post production work; to me, the most imminent benefit is the practice. Animators gain good practice by using the rig and building animation, which leads to feedback with the rigging team. Eventually, it narrows down to an approved core look, that can be imported or referenced, and in rare cases it can even be used as a platform for further animation evolvement. Most importantly, having assets of animations approved and ready to import into a scene (like on Minotaur), cuts the work into half the time. Due to the weight of shots in Outlander, this has been one of the top crucial challenges.



OSN:           It's our understanding is that shooting has wrapped and that SPIN productions has been working hard on the Computer effects since October?  Can you comment on the level of work done and how much work there lies ahead before it can be considered complete?


Tal Peleg:    Spin Productions has already shifted gears into post production. I cannot comment on when the project will be completed, but I will say that the level of work has been significantly ramping up since October. There is an incredible amount of technical animation, scripts, particles, shading and lighting, tons of compositing and matte paintings. A lot to look forward to.



OSN:           Thank you very much for your time