Putting Jonah Hex in Motion
IK: We used After Effects and Cinema 4D. Jonah Hex is a really good example of why we use After Effects. If you do a side-by-side comparison of what the panel originally looked like and what it looks like in the animation, we do a lot with depth of field, stylization and particle additions. We want to respect the original artwork, so we can't go in a full-run cycle: it's not full animation. And so the feeling that we want to get comes through the stylization of the piece. It's great to use After Effects because you have a lot of control over your stylization. The artist needs to have a strong animation background, but also a strong stylization background. How can we vignette this? How can we pull the viewer's attention to a certain moment to make this read as fully animated as possible?
With Cinema 4D, what we'll do is project a 3D texture onto a scene. There's a moment when Doc Williams is digging up a grave and it's texture-projected on: we'll do the grave, we'll do the tombstone and it keeps the painterly feel by doing a camera matte projection. Just like they do in a feature film for a matte painting background, we do the same for a lot of Motion Comic work.
BD: What's the process like?
IK: In a perfect world, we record all the dialogue first -- that really sets the pace for our work. Depending on the writers, sometimes the comic books are very heavy on narration and inner thoughts, which don't always play well. Sometimes we have to edit for time. We'll do camera moves in the Avid; reformat the panels for a widescreen environment. That's exported so our artists can start breaking it down, redrawing characters. They save a Photoshop file, which has different layering for hair, backgrounds, arms. They have a tight turnaround and break the shots down in two or three hours. We have the frame lengths entered in and the artists will start doing their first pass at animation. The animation for each frame is done in about two to three hours and maybe an hour for revisions. Scenes will be stylized, such as making a sunset play well. What glows are we using? What particles are we using to create a nice foggy environment? Certain epic shots will take six hours. We'll cut in the Avid and do reviews. Add then add sound design and music.
BD: Where do you see Motion Comics going? 3-D?
IK: 3-D is a definite possibility in the future. It's the fine balance of how far you go with the animation and then break out of the motion comic world. The amount of work that goes into Jonah Hex and some of their other projects, the line is really blurring. As soon as you get the lip flaps going, you're in full animation. But do you add a run cycle? Yeah, we are doing that in some of our upcoming projects. And it's basically turning into full animation from a printed comic.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.