The Oscars: Finding The Lost Thing
AR: There was definitely discussion about which technique to use and this goes back seven years. I think it was just at that point where it seemed that 2D was dying and all the studios were doing almost everything in CG. And right from the get-go, I was concerned that we were going to be able to capture Shaun's look in CG. We didn't have the money for stop-frame. But we found the challenge of making it 3D quite appealing. If we could just get the textures right, and Shaun put tons of work into that. You did a lot of the painting yourself for the texture mapping. So once we knew we could do that, it seemed like the right route to go.
BD: What software did you use?
ST: XSI[Softimage], I think, to animate.
AR: That's right: the London studio had been XSI-based. But I think there was a little bit of Maya, too, at some point.
BD: So why did it take seven years to make?
AR: It was a key decision because we were trying to do it with the studio in London. We tried to do it with the studio, which I own, it was remarkably hard to get time and space. And then, just thinking about it, the decision came that the only way to get this made was by sending it over to Australia, where Sophie, the producer, could keep a close eye on it where Shaun was based. And they put together a fantastic, tiny team. That's what really got it moving.
ST: Leo is from Melbourne, which is where the production became based, and Tom worked a little bit in Sidney and Melbourne, but for the bulk of the project, he was based in Edinburgh. It was remarkable that we were able to work closely with Tom, even though he was only physically present to do the final compositing checks [in Nuke].
BD: Certainly the most stunning sequence is the home for all these misfits. What was it like populating it with all these interesting looking creatures?
ST: I guess I really love that kind of crazy, imaginative stuff by nature. But I really dislike anything goes fantasy worlds -- I like things to have a certain restraint and believability. In this case, that scene was more or less the first we completed on the film. One of the reasons was because it was so difficult, so, we thought, if we could pull this off, it would put us in pretty good stead for the rest of the production. Secondly, if we made any blunders, it wouldn't hurt the rest of the film. We did start putting that together in 2007 and I was sitting with Tom in the studio in Sydney and we were adjusting colors and moving little pebbles around, so it was like a really intense proving ground. That little sequence also helped us apply for funding from Screen Australia and to get people interested in the film as a whole.
AR: Yeah, when we all saw it, we knew we had something.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.