Vancouver, Wa. - Originating as a virtual studio that farmed production to outside companies, Big Bad Boo Studios has grown from necessity. For its first animated children's program, "Mixed Nutz," a multi-cultural comedy about a group of kids who feel they don't fit in, preproduction was divided between studios in New York and Los Angeles, while animation was contracted to the Philippines. Then, in 2007 and halfway through production of the series, co-founders Aly Jetha and Shabnam Rezaei decided they needed a more centralized approach. They opened the doors of Big Bad Boo as a dedicated production facility in Vancouver, B.C., started their own distribution company called OzNoz Productions, and implemented an all-digital workflow by purchasing 14 Wacom Cintiq 21UX interactive pen displays.
The Cintiq digital pipeline immediately introduced tremendous time savings as Big Bad Boo completed Mixed Nutz, which will soon premiere on PBS and Shaw Communications. The most significant efficiencies were in the storyboarding and layout processes, where paper boards and constant trips to the scanner were completely eliminated. Now, Big Bad Boo has undertaken its first production done entirely with the Cintiqs: 26 11-minute episodes of One Thousand and One Nights, an animated comedy targeting the 6 to 9 age group based on the ancient Persian tales of Shahrzad.
"The Cintiq 21UX displays are crucial to our efforts from asset creation and management to final shipping," says Shabnam Rezaei. "If you compare the storyboard process of Mixed Nutz to One Thousand and One Nights, you see that the Cintiq helped us accelerate production time by nearly 60 percent."
Previously, artists needed to paste pieces of paper on the storyboard panel indicating changes, or draw them in and rescan the board. Now, storyboard revisions are drawn directly onto the Cintiq's 21-inch LCD screen in Photoshop CS4 and Toon Boom Storyboard Pro using Wacom's pen technology, where an animatic is created prior to final animation in Toon Boom Harmony.
"To prepare one or two scenes the old way, including scanning, would take an entire morning," says Layout Supervisor Chris Muzyka. "That process now takes about an hour with a Cintiq."
Artists at Big Bad Boo also appreciate the pressure sensitive pen that allows line weight variation simply by varying the drawing pressure of the pen. This works perfectly for achieving the textures and the rich lines needed for One Thousand and One Nights. Storyboard Artist Gordon Crum notes, "The Cintiq pen's ability to mimic actual drawing on paper, such as the opacity of a pencil or the gradient in a line, is its biggest selling feature for artists."
In addition to dramatic workflow acceleration and new creative options, Aly Jetha cites another benefit of having Cintiqs in the pipeline: higher quality work. Artists using the Cintiq's expansive drawing surface are able to see an entire board at once, leading to better layout decisions, smoother transitions and better animation timing. "A lot of studios are cutting corners by using smaller tablets or the mouse, making it difficult for layout artists to do their job right," he says. "Because of the screen real estate the Cintiq offers, we are not only doing faster work, but better work. I'm convinced of that."