Getting back into Softimage XSI (the 3D Software) was a challenge for me, and there were a lot of questions flying around between the animators about how to do things. For a while it acts like a creative block, stopping you from greeting your ideas to the screen quickly, but time passes, you stick with it and the barrier lowers and the creative flow speeds up. Eventually we were working at quite a fair pace churning out shots. Now that I’m back from the island and using Maya again for most projects it can be difficult getting back into XSI mode again. It makes you realize how valuable that solid block of time was to focus on one workflow. Switching workflows regularly just slows you down and requires a ramp up time for each, so you tend to get less work done overall when you have to do things that way.
Anyway, back to the island and Lucas was having to focus on rigging polish for the main character so that the Animators could get started. So I had a bit of free reign to work on some big sequences on my own, creating the shots in 3D. This is essentially the Previs and Layout stage. I put very little time into finessing the details of the animation and focused instead on the shot setup, the way the shots cut together, the camera movement and what was needed in each shot to tell the story. I’d move on as quickly as I could to get enough footage in the timeline so that we could review the film. Our goal was to get the entire film roughed in over the first couple of weeks and we came in pretty close.
Once the Animators were up to speed and the kinks were out of the character rig, Lucas was able to join in the shot creation process again and we sat on the sofa working side by side. The efficiency in this can not be stressed enough. We bounced ideas back and forth really quickly, saw what each were doing and quickly got on the same page making shots that complimented each other in a similar style. It was a big bonding moment for each of us, I think. We’d circled each other as filmmakers for years and swapped stories but it was really incredible to be working side by side like that for the first time. A very memorable moment for me in my career and it made it all worth while.
I have a pretty large collection of film soundtracks so we had plenty to choose from to flesh out the temporary score. With that and a few key sound effects in place we soon had our first watchable animatic. There were still a few storyboard panels representing the character shots, which could be a bit jarring to people not used to seeing the jump in styles but we converted them over to 3D in due time. We had a TV mounted on the wall and a long HDMI cable so we gathered the team and put it up on the big screen. This was a great chance to record the event and capture everyone’s reactions so I would recorded video discreetly while everyone watched the film for the first time. The lights went down and we hit play. Hearts were pounding as we waited to see where all this was going. Was it worth the trip? Were we stuck on an island with a mad man for another month with no way to escape? When were we going to get to see Netflix again? Was it worth missing the latest season of [insert favorite TV show] for? Was my hamster starving for nothing? [kidding]…. Patience… all will be revealed.
Part 4 is coming tomorrow and will detail some of the greatest challenges film-making In the mean time check out the campaign which includes other videos about the project. Please feel free to share the story.