Peter Chung Breathes Life into FireBreather
RD: This film has a lot of action in it. What was your approach in balancing the action with the character development?
PC: A lot of movies have elaborate action sequences but you don't feel involved in them. You don't have much invested in the characters or the stakes aren't there or you don't care about any of the characters involved. When the action does take place in this movie the characters feel apart of it. It doesn't feel gratuitous. It all feels like it's motivated by what the character has to achieve. For that reason I think the action scenes are a lot more affective. A lot of the action is concentrated toward the end and it feels natural. It's not action for the sake of action, but it's accomplishing something for the story.
PC: The action scenes progressive from there. When he eventually fights the monsters the monsters are like bigger versions of the bully.
RD: What were some of your influences on this project?
PC: Since this was my first full CG movie, I looked at a lot of examples of different styles of computer animation. Game cinematics are a good source of reference, since they are usually so condensed in terms of showing a lot of designs, action and effects in a short time. I can't say they were a direct influence on the style of FireBreather, so much as an inspiration of what could be achieved technically.
I personally enjoy the look of computer generated imagery. I don't think it is inherently any less "organic" or "personal" than imagery rendered in any other medium, like so may animators seem to think. Many CG films come across that way, but only because of the way the makers use their tools. Hand-drawn animation can look cold and mechanical if everything is done in straight lines. The way bad CG is done is the equivalent of a 2D animator drawing everything with a ruler. A good CG animator is one who doesn't rely too much on the computer to define the motion. There is a particular feeling that good CG can give that is unique to the medium, and I'm interested in exploring that area further in the future.
RD: What were the challenges of capturing the design style of the comic in CG?
PC: Once the decision was made to do the movie in CG, it became more important to create a consistent and appealing visual style that stood on its own rather than to convey the look of the comic. The comic has a strong graphic style, which is characterized by high contrast lighting, solid black shadows and very bold use of color. For a movie with a running time over an hour, the visual style should establish itself at the beginning, but should cease drawing attention once the story hooks your interest. At that point, the use of lighting and color can continue to accentuate the emotional flow. Barry Jackson, the production designer, paid a lot of attention to providing a progression of a wide range of moods.
RD: What was the biggest challenge on the film?
PC: The story has a large scope and scale and trying to capture that with a limited budget and production schedule was difficult. Knowing how far to go in adding detail. I feel at a certain point you can keep adding on more and more detail and to do so costs time and money. But I feel if the story is engaging enough when you go beyond a certain point of detail it's not necessary. It's trying to find that line.