Mary and Max: Elliot and Clayography
"Animating on Mary and Max was so unique from all my previous experiences. I'd just stepped off two features: Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and $9.99. I love this about animation: each experience whilst draws on your techniques, always offers new challenges and creative opportunities… We had a lot of freedom to instill our own personalities and ideas into the film. My personal satisfaction was being in a position to animate the climaxes of the film, the intrinsic plot points. The other five animators I worked with on Mary and Max all came from various backgrounds and had different strengths and weaknesses. It was a treat to see them all flourish in their first feature role. "
Meanwhile, the unique pipeline for this $7.3 million feature was created by Henry Karjalainen, the post-production producer. "What we had for Mary and Max was the newest digital technology meeting the oldest film form," Karjalainen suggests.
Three key pieces of software were utilized: Stop Motion Pro (developed by Melbournians Paul Howell and Ross Garner) for image acquisition; rawMotion from XDT for image processing; and Post Content Management System developed by Karjalainen. The software allowed them to shoot uncompressed high resolution RAW digital data, process the RAW data and then track the data and metadata through to delivery.
"The animators capture a 'live' frame and a high resolution RAW file of the characters simultaneously, using Stop Motion Pro and the Canon EOS 1D Mark III and 1DS Mark III cameras," Karjalainen continues. "The cameras have a function called Live View, which has revolutionized stop motion animation. For the first time, it allows the animator to see a live feed straight from the camera sensor. Previously, when shooting on film, you needed to have an external device, a CCTV camera that would feed back to a video split.
As each frame is captured, Stop Motion Pro stores a high resolution JPG preview image that can be viewed within the application. As you scrub through the Stop Motion Pro timeline, you are able to see not only the previously captured frames but also the 'live' frame, so the animator can tweak the puppets or any other aspect to modify the frame they are about to capture.
"The RAW images were then processed in-house by XDT's 'rawMotion' software, which renders them very quickly and lets us see the final product in minutes. RawMotion provides access to a wide range of formats processed from the original camera RAW files: from 6K, 4K, 2K, HD, SD, down to MPEG4 movies, JPGs and TIFFs. Often the 4K and 6K files were used in visual effects where artists were able to extract a 2K slice out of the larger image.
"Each RAW file represents over 10 megapixels or 4K of pure uncompressed data recorded straight off the camera sensor. With the 1DS, we can process our images at 6K which is unheard of in this country for motion picture formats.