“When Fern gully was complete we had used four tons of paint on 150,000 cels, which is a good vote for computerised ink an paint,” said Bill.
Computer animation was used on flying sequences in Fern gully Detailed 3-D computer models were built for all the characters in the sequence. Software capable of edge detection and line removal was used to turn them into drawings. “You have to build them as if they are solid, and people who see them say they look great. However, this is not what we want because the style of our movie was a cartoon film. We had to build it with great detail in order to render it as a drawing,” explained Bill.
The computer can draw a complicated scene in a couple of minutes and enable the director to undertake shots that would not normally have been considered.
Tina Price, of Walt Disney Feature Animation – USA, spoke about how they use computer enhanced techniques for their animation. “I use the term computer enhanced animation rather than the more familiar computer animation because I feel the term computer animation can be misleading, possibly leading you to think the computer is doing the creating and the animating. In my experience that is not the case,” said Tina Price.
Having used computers for the past ‘seven years to create animation gave Tina a great deal of respect for the pencil. The pencil technology has remained relatively constant over the years, so when picking up a pencil to create images an artist can be fairly confident that the lead will be at one end and the eraser at the other. “You are not afforded this kind of consistency when using computers,” said Tina Price. “When working with computers to create animation you are working with an evolutionary tool that is constantly changing. It is analogous to a pianist having his keyboard arranged before every concert.
Disney’s first use of computer technology in a feature film was in 1986 on The Great Mouse Detective. The design decision then was to use a 3-D computer camera to move around and inside the environment of the clockworks of Big Ben. Six years later the directors of Beauty and the Beast wanted to use the living camera to push into the ballroom and move around the characters in a 360 degree crane shot. “Even though the basic procedure of building the set on the computer and animating the camera are similar ideas on both productions the approach to the shot on Beauty and the Beast was very different because the software available is completely different now. Also rendering and colour tools have evolved greatly,” explained Tina. “As an artist using computers you are never afforded the opportunity of being a seasoned expert with this tool because it is always changing and evolving. You must be willing to remain abreast of the latest advances in the technology. Any creative decisions you make when designing images and animation using a computer are no longer directly dictated by the story and how qualified an animator you are, but are dictated by where the technology is at the time and how proficient you are with it.”
In 1992 the directors of Aladdin approached the computer generated images department with the proposal to use computer technology for the magic carpet. The first step was to design the carpet pattern with a digital paintbox. The next step was to see if they could map this pattern on a carpet shape using computer techniques called texture mapping. Then they had to see if it could be put onto animated shapes. The first test through to final film showed the chosen software to be very labour intensive and would not be useful in a production environment. They did the same thing with another software package taking it through to film. This time the carpet looked too thin so they wrote some in-house software that, in a post process, would create a six-sided thickness that you see in the final result. They also noticed that in extreme poses the texture map of the carpet pattern was very distorted, so more in-house software was written to enable the computer to evenly distribute the painting on the carpet no matter how it was rolled up or stretched.
Tina Price finished by pointing out there are no single efforts in creating images like the ones seen in Aladdin, it is the work of a massive amount of people, technicians and artists, coming together to try to create the single vision of the director and produce entertaining films.
Annecy Prize Winners
Grand Prix: Le Fleuve aux Grandes Eaux. Frédéric Back: Canada
Special Jury Prize: The Village. Mark Baker: UK
Best Short Film (joint first prize):
The Dream ala Ridiculous Man. Alezander Petrov: Russia
The Sandman. Paul Berry. Cohn Batty: UK
Best First Film: Little Wolf. An Vrombaut: UK
Special Distinction for Humour: Adam. Peter Lord : UK
For Artistic Quality: Screen Play. Barry Purves: UK
Computer Generated Images: Gas Planet. Eric Darnell : USA
Educational Film: Twelve Mosquitoes and Five Men. Ke-xuan Ma : China
TV Series up to 12 minutes: Joe’s Apartment. John Payson: USA
Commercials: FaiLa Casa Giusta. Mario Addis : Italy
Credits, Trailers etc: Leader II F & VC. Benk Beumers: Netherlands
Ministry of Youth & Sport Prize: The Sandman. Paul Berry, Cohn Batty: UK
Ministry of Agriculture Prize: Little Wolf. An Vrombaut: UK
Audience Prize: Adam. Peter Lord: UK
Best Feature Film: Porco Rosso (93 minutes). Hayao Miyazaki: Japan
ASIFA Prize: Yoji Kuri Japan – for his entire work.
Special Award for Encouragement by the Selection Committee for Student Films: Sarah Crawford, Stephen Seuter, Robert Meek, Cohn Ralph from Duncan of Jordanstone College of
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Printed in Animator Issue 31 (Spring 1994)