Projects with Character
Issue: Volume 38 Issue 2: (Mar/Apr 2015)

Projects with Character

Lately, classic fairy tales have been getting modern makeovers. Consider last year’s Maleficent, a live-action retelling of the story about Snow White and the seven dwarfs. While the Brothers Grimm published the German tale nearly two centuries ago, the version I remember most is Disney’s 2D animated movie. It was always a treat when it aired on television, well before home releases existed.

This year, the classic Cinderella movie received a romantic retelling, also in a live-action film format. The new release is a visual masterpiece. The costumes are wonderful, and the ball gowns elegant. The environments are expansive, the personalities colorful. And the magic, well, it’s enchanting. Although this is a live-action movie, there’s plenty of digital magic to behold.

Assuming the role of the filmmaker’s fairy godmother of sorts was Moving-Picture Company (MPC), which waved its digital wand and introduced CG characters into the various scenes. They created the helpful 3D mice, and then turned them into horses. They also produced a lizard and a goose, and made them into coachmen. And, they grew a giant pumpkin and turned it into a gilded coach. While the animated characters do not have starring roles, they, too, generated magic on the screen. Be sure to read about how the effects were done in “Of Mice and Acumen” on page 26.

Indeed, there have been a number of digital characters in live-action films of late. In “Creative Robot” on page 20, we detail how Chappie, the lead character in the feature with the same name, was built. In an unusual move, Image Engine made a generic 3D model of a so-called robotic Scout, using designs from Weta Workshop. Weta Workshop then printed the model, with Image Engine adjusting it as needed. This was no ordinary 3D print, however. The final model comprises nearly 2,800 objects!

Let’s not forget the cute children’s movie Paddington, whose main character is also a CG creation. Framestore built the bear and used its proprietary hair system to create its coat of fur. Then they were challenged with making sure Paddington was well groomed for his various scenes, whether they involved wind, water, or even Sellotape. Be sure to read “CG Laid Bear” on

Digital characters take many forms, as is evidenced in “Spot On” on page 12, which presents some rather unique stars in a number of television commercials. In one, computer-generated T-shirts are made to resemble a flock of migratory birds. A car commercial pits actual vehicles against CG monsters. In another, two CG animals find themselves in a classic race, but soon one of them finds himself in the driver’s seat of an actual car.

Today’s digital characters are more complex than ever in terms of their looks and emotions. They are highly detailed and animated with precision. They assume lead roles as well as supporting ones. They are serious, funny, and engaging. And in this issue we recognize them and their creators for the stars they are.