Oscar 2012: Weta's Sebastian Sylwan Talks Apes, Art and Technology
DS: You guys have a history with this type of performance capture, the animated performances of key characters going back for Gollum and King Kong. Does having a central character done completely in CG put any additional pressure on you?
SS: I think there is always extra pressure. Every movie comes with an extra set of challenges. And I think it’s always going to be that we are doing the best possible at that point in time. We are always going to push the boundaries and do a little bit more than what was requested, to have a better character or something that has not been seen before and just do a step further. We try to take one or many steps further in every project we tackle.
DS: What are some of your biggest technological improvements and advancements in the last few years?
SS: Well I don’t think that there is any area that has been left untouched. There are definitely areas in which we have focused. Characters and their skin, the way they are represented, animated, hair, cloth, water, simulations, pretty much the way we capture scenes, virtual production and virtual camera, virtual cinematography. I think that there is really not a single area that we haven’t tried to push the boundaries a little but further.
DS: Do you see greater growth in any particular area?
SS: I think they all grow. All these areas grow organically and, to a certain extent, have to. You cannot perfect animation without perfecting the look of a character and making sure that the way light hits it and reflects off it is consistent with the way the skin moves. So in all of these we are trying and pushing the boundaries of verisimilitude. We are trying to make a more and more realistic model, doing so with more control whenever possible, so that we can not only do things realistically, but also bend reality, to a certain extent, to the will of the creative intent. To the will of communication.
DS: Where do you see Stereoscopic 3-D headed at the studio?
SS: I think Stereo is another tool in the creative arsenal. When used properly, it can help tell a story, it can help immerse audiences in a world, it can help as a narrative tool. I think that there is the challenge for Stereo of going where it’s “just something that needs to be there” and the necessary care is not put into its application.
The policy of the studio is doing stereo well, like the policy of the studio is doing movies well. Stereo takes a lot of experience and a lot of attention to be done properly.
DS: How does harnessing all this massive technology give Weta a competitive edge?
SS: Well the real competitive edge at Weta is the artist that makes the final images. What we provide is a way for them to do that in a much more efficient manner and to convey pieces that actually make a believable world and a believable character. So it is definitely a matter of efficiency, making the same process faster or delivering a different and better result.
There is always a new challenge. There is always a new way to render a particular scene or there is always a better way for an artist to express that creative intent. So what we are giving them really is the ability to express those emotions that will tie with the audiences.