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Animation Goes Daily At KliK

The first animation series to be entirely produced and aired in the same day is here, Le JourNul de Franis Pusse,care of motion capture, key framing and KliK Animation. Heather Kenyontakes a look at their grueling schedule.

kenyonklik01.jpg If you have the Le JourNul. All images © Zéro Productions. kenyonklik02.gif Comedian François Pérusse and his cartoon creation, Sébastien Tobin, the anchorman.

The first animation series to be entirely produced and aired in the same day is here, and keeping KliK Animation more than busy! The Montréal-based 3D animation company has been producing the one-minute Le JourNul de François Pérusse segments every day since the program's premiere on February 8, 1999, and is confident they are helping to forge a new avenue for animation.

From Radio to TV

Le JourNul expands on French-Canadian humorist François Pérusse's radio following. Pérusse first gained attention with 2 Minutes du Peuple (Two Minutes for the People) which was a series of comic shorts for morning radio, parodying the topical events that everyone in the country was following. Airing on Canada's most popular FM station, he became a household name, with his notoriety even spreading to France and Belgium. Over the past few years he has recorded six Albums du Peuple with music label Zéro Musique. Five of the albums have won Félix Awards, Quebec's equivalent of a Grammy Award, for best comedy album of the year and all have gone platinum. Pérusse and Zéro Musique then looked for their next conquest.

"He came to KliK Animation and asked if we could help put him on television," explains KliK technical director and co-founder Laurent M. Abecassis. "That is how this whole thing started." As a result, Le JourNul was born. KliK now brings Pérusse's radio show to television through motion capture and key framing, creating a 3D computer generated piece that looks like traditional cel animation. These "news bulletins" feature up to three characters: an anchorman, TV reporter and sports announcer -- all voiced by Pérusse. Taking on topics ranging from the strength of the Canadian dollar, to the Clinton sex scandal to hockey players, no one is safe from Pérusse's satirical look at the day's news headlines. KliK's Hopping Schedule How does KliK keep to this schedule? The trick is that they are a full-service animation house. Abecassis explains, "We can only do this because we do everything under the same roof; and everyone does their part." Founded in 1997 by himself and Yves St-Gelais, now KliK's president, the company specializes in 3D character design, modeling and animation, but can also produce animation that looks like traditional cel animation using 3D technology. Let's take a look at a typical day at KliK. Our key players are: François Pérusse, creator, writer and voice actor; Normand Rompré, the show's director; Laurent M. Abecassis, KliK's aforementioned technical director; and Zéro Productions, an affiliate of Zéro Musique, which is the show's producer.

3:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.: François picks a current topic in the news, writes the show's script and records all of the dialogue. 1:00 a.m. to 3:59 a.m.: The audio CD is shipped to Normand's home and to KliK Animation. 4:00 a.m.: Audio CD arrives at Normand's house. 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.: Normand gets up to listen to the dialogue and "write" a storyboard. Because there isn't time to create a traditionally drawn storyboard, Normand writes a script that describes all of the character direction and movements in relation to the dialogue, plus all of the camera moves and inserts. 6:01 a.m.: Normand ships the script via e-mail to KliK where the staff awaits its arrival for review. 6:05 am to 7:30 am:

Normand drives to KliK from his home. 8:00 a.m. to 8:29 a.m.: Normand leads the entire production staff, which can be up to 15 people, through a meeting that reviews the storyboard and everyone's part in the production to be done that day. Pre-production is done! 8:30 am to 11:29 am: Everyone goes to their work stations with their work literally cut out for them. It is in these three hours that all of the animation and production is completed. First, Normand works with the actor in order to capture the necessary performance for that day's piece. He must do this in 30 minutes, from rehearsing to final shot! Using the Polhemus Ultra Track Pro magnetic system for motion capture, Normand takes his approved motion and hands it over to the animators. The voice track has already been prepared while Normand was with the actors, so once the animators have the motion they are off and running using Kinetix's 3D Studio Max on NT platforms. Six animators animate the characters' hands and facial expressions which are not done using motion capture technology. Since the same characters and sets are used each episode, no model work needs to be done. Movement is added to the existing models, making the show more quick to produce and less expensive. Two other artists work on lip synching which provides its own special set of technical challenges. Because there isn't software yet on the market that accurately recognizes the unique mouth movements of the French language, the artists must use proprietary software and key frame animation to synch the lips to the quick, hip dialogue. In another part of the building, graphic artists complete the graphics, like the ones that appear over the anchorman's shoulder. Laurent oversees the technical as Normand approves the graphics and animation as it is created. All animation must be completed by 11:30 a.m...and that includes camera angles and moves. 11:30 - 12 noon: Welcome to post-production. Rendering takes place. Some days this will take twenty minutes while other days it can take up to thirty minutes depending on the number of camera angles and characters. 12:01 p.m. to 1:29 p.m.: The near completed piece is edited and all computer graphics are added making it one, complete, beautiful piece. 1:30 p.m.: Another segment of Le JourNul is approved by Zéro Productions and delivered. 6:29 p.m. exactly: The segment airs on TVA, a major Canadian broadcaster. Expanding Animation While Abecassis admits, "It is totally insane," one can tell the studio is having a ball producing the unusual show. "What is interesting for us is that now, this technology is available for other programs. It can be used for sports and news, anywhere they need animation quickly and at a low cost. It is not just for kids. The technology is mature enough now to go on to longer projects, longer than 1 minute, and into different venues," he continues. While the show has only been airing for less than a month, the network is "very satisfied." With a current order for 88 1-minute episodes that will run until July 3, 1999, Pérusse and KliK have quite a schedule to keep.

Heather Kenyon is the Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Magazine.

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