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'Open Season' Layout

In the sixth Open Season production diary, Sony Pictures Animation chronicles the layout process under the supervision of James Williams.

From the AWN/VFXWorld Exclusive Open Season Diaries.

Layout planned the details of the raging water before animation and effects began for the sequence, in which Boog and Elliot are chased by the villain during a flash flood. All images © Sony Pictures Ent.

Early in the pre-production stage of Open Season, there were many discussions about what the cinematic style of the movie would be. Since much of the movie takes place in the woods, the layout department, under the leadership of James Williams, originally considered shooting the movie with very organic hand held cameras. But as the pre-production artwork was so influenced by the highly stylized work of Eyvind Earle and the design of the outdoor environments contained such formal compositional elements, the layout team decided to minimize camera movement and to find camera angles that would augment this stylistic choice. This effect is particularly apparent in the sequence where Elliot is confronted by his nemesis, Ian. Great attention was paid by layout in arranging each incidental animal to frame the action of the main characters, and the slightest modification in the camera would have spoiled the effect.

But Open Season also has its intense action sequences. On one occasion, Boog and Elliot are clinging to a log while being buffeted by a flash flood while being chased by our villain in a truck. No static shots in this one. Here, layouts job was to make the audience feel like they came along for the ride. This involved meticulously planning the direction and speed of the raging water before animation and effects began and then finalizing the camera only when the animation was complete. This ensured that the camera moved as chaotically as the action but still managed to keep the subject in frame.

Another challenge was the huge disparity in height between the main characters in Open Season. For instance Boog is huge, around seven feet tall, but Elliot is only five foot tall. Natural single shots from Boog to Elliot would have Boog as the domineering upshot and Elliot in an obsequious downshot. But at various times in the movie Elliot takes the leadership role away from Boog and we needed to underline Boogs lack of authority and Elliots growing power. To do this layout incrementally changed the camera angles on Boog and Elliot, as the sequence progressed until Boog was being dominated in a down shot and Elliot raised in stature in an upshot.

The river rapid chase was a unique challenge for the layout artists because the water effects were added after the cameras had been placed into the environment.

One of the most interesting scenes to compose in Open Season was a monologue that Shaw gives while driving into the woods. Originally planned as a series of shots, we reinterpreted this into one continuous shot that orbits Shaw. We were really happy with the outcome and this type of move became a motif for the character.

The river rapid chase was a unique challenge for the layout artists because the water effects were added after the cameras had been placed into the environment. In order to properly compose their shots, the artists had to visualize how the shots would look once the water was added by effects.

Various artists at Sony Pictures Animation, who worked on Open Season, have contributed to the writing of this series of production diaries on the making of the film.

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