Ironically, it is the realistic three-dimensional quality of ReBoot’s computer-generated characters that make its animation unique. The member’s of ReBoot’s cast behave, move and speak like actors in any television show. But ReBoot’s characters exist only as digital information – complex mathematical equations that imitate life. Like the concept of the show, until the digital information is transferred to tape, ReBoot’s characters and the city of Mainframe exist only inside of a computer and it all comes to life when the members of the crew boot up their machines at the studio.
ReBoot’s graphics are created on SGI Silicon Graphics hardware using Softimage, the software that brought the dinosaurs back from extinction in Jurassic Park. As the show was being developed, the software was customized in-house to emulate very natural facial expressions, hand movements and lip synchronization.
Because the computer programs required to execute the animation were being developed and written during their production, the initial episodes of ReBoot required 18 months to complete. Now that these programs are up and running, the studio can create two episodes within a six-week period – generating up to two minutes of completed animation per day.
Producer Christopher Brough has watched the project, the technology and the characters develop and grow for four years. “One of our greatest accomplishments is that we managed to combine cutting edge technology and the age-old art of story telling. ReBoot delivers what you would expect from a computer – the astounding action sequences as seen from inside a computer game – with scenes of drama, humour and even a little tenderness, which you wouldn’t generally associate with a product generated by machine.”
“When people hear the term “computer-generated animation”, they tend to think that the computer somehow does the work. A computer is simply a tool for an animator. ReBoot is made by people – for people.” says Phil Mitchell, Ca-creator and Supervising Animator. “The human qualities exhibited by the characters and inherent in the storylines reflect the contributions of everyone involved in ReBoot.”
ReBoot’s scripts are written to be easily understood by children, with a wink and a nod to the adult viewers. The citizens of Mainframe speak in a high tech dialect that incorporates computer terms that have crept into the everyday language of the automated age. Bob complains when a task is not his ‘function’. Enzo is encouraged to ‘cut and paste’ the truth. When Enzo gets discouraged, Dot counsels him not to ‘quit file’ so easily.
ReBoot is produced entirely in one location; a dedicated CGI facility in Vancouver, British Columbia where a crew of more than 30 talented animators busy themselves with the enormous task of delivering 23 half-hours – more than 600 minutes – of CGI to the world. The sheer volume of 3D animation used in ReBoot is unprecedented.
When asked about specific challenges encountered in doing a weekly series completely in CGI, Brough replied, “It’s rendering. It’s getting an enormous volume of animation out of the computer and onto digital tape. And managing all the data files, which is always a daunting task.”
ReBoot is recorded in surround sound. Gavin Blair, co-creator and Supervising Animator explains, “We are using advanced technology to create animation that looks completely different than anything that has been seen on television before. The sound had to complement the visuals and meet the high standards of the animation. So we decided to use surround sound.” It takes about 200 hours to customize the sound for each episode of ReBoot.
Such an ambitious undertaking requires the marriage of both creative and business minds, which led to Alliance and BLT becoming involved in ReBoot. As co-producer of ReBoot, Alliance brings to the project their business acumen, entertainment industry relationships world-wide and production experience. The leading entertainment company in Canada, and one of the largest independents in the world, Alliance produces, distributes and finances feature films and television programs in all media throughout the world.