DreamWorks Unleashes the Dragons
The biggest shift for us, even for the studio, was the moment Stoick pays a surprise visit to Hiccup while he's working in his little workshop and they have that misunderstanding. It's lit by just a couple of candles and so much of the frame is cast into shadow. And previously at DreamWorks Animation, and also, I think, for animation in general, the feeling is that if you're creating all these props, you want to see them. As a result, animated films are notoriously over lit and Roger's approach is to actually take away lights. So we ended up with just a couple of local light sources and deep rich shadows on screen. We were all a little nervous in showing this to Jeffrey Katzenberg and the studio brass, but they completely welcomed it because they hadn't seen it before and knowing that Roger was involved, they completely embraced this consistent richness."
"He brought in a lot of photographic reference and was very keen to capture that northern latitude light where the sun is very low and tends to be overcast. There's a nice variety in the training sequences as well. We had three different training sequences with their own lighting set ups. The first one is very wet as though a rainstorm has just passed by, which is nice because it doesn't really match the vibe of what's going on. Sometimes you wait for sadness to have rainfall and we wanted to play against that."
And what was it like working in 3-D for the first time?
"One of the first things we did was see a screening of Coraline with Roger Deakins," Sanders offers. "There were some amazing things they did with that in 3-D and they weren't limited by shots that were overly dark or by shots that had to have a deep focus or by quick pacing. And what we realized is that 3-D is a very accommodating thing: For example, at the end of freefall, when Hiccup gets back up on the dragon and has to shoot through all those sea stacks, there's some very fast cutting there. And you just flatten out those moments for 3-D so you don't get assaulted. So 3-D enhanced what we wanted to do story wise. It's so engineered into the pipeline that everybody's thinking about it and doing two things at once."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.