Filoni Talks Second Season Clone Wars
DF: Well, this is the first show I'd ever done in CG. Coming from a 2D world for almost 10 years, I didn't know what to expect. You have a lot of fears about the Uncanny Valley. I was pretty excited by the initial renders we got back, and part of it was me maturing to what are the real possibilities here and listening to the people at ILM and talking with them and telling them my perspective coming from 2D and what I wanted to try and get on screen, and hearing their perspective coming from an amazing photorealistic world. I think that dialogue really started to get better and better as we got along in the series. You look at a lot of animation production and the increase in quality from the first season to the second and third seasons. After creating so much footage, you get an idea of what worked and what didn't.
BD: So what worked and what didn't?
DF: Well, to me, right off the bat, when you look at the animation, a lot of the early commentary was about the wooden feel. People described it as a kind of Thunderbirds feel. I kind of knew going in that we were going to get that because o the angular, slightly edged style to the models. We weren't aiming for photorealism. But the style had to settle within itself once we had these models. And one of the problems with the models was the way they moved, and it had to do with the rigging. It's definitely not one of the more glorified jobs that people talk about but it's critical to the way the animators get the models to move and to have them express. We worked several times on the facial rig, just around the eyes and the nose and the brow to get them to wrinkle or flex or move better. And we started softening a lot of the harder edges that we had on the models. They're still there but they don't have to be so laser precise.
And I have a maquette sculptor, Darren Marshal, which is rare for television, and he sculpted a lot of initial clay maquettes that we based the models of the show on. And when you look them they look very precise, but when you put them under a microscope you see how really imprecise they are. But when you model in CG, of course, you can make these ridiculously perfect lines. And I think we also found that we wanted to vary things more with the models and make them more human. So you'll see an improvement in the quality of the animation as a result of the new rigs. Carl Sansonetti, my lead rigger, worked wonders communicating with the animators to address their needs and how to make the models better. So we fixed a lot of stuff on the fly last year and built some new ones.
BD: This is still in Maya?
DF: Yes, I believe Maya and the proprietary Lucas software that we always use. That's another benefit of our relationship with ILM and all their experience. My CG supervisor, Joel Aron, has been a staple at ILM a long time, and we started working on the show together last season on the episode "Trespass," when I wanted to introduce snow and have it look really interesting and function almost like a character. I showed him how we would've drawn snow or fire on Last Airbender and Joel has changed the way we do effects on Clone Wars. So around mid-season, you'll start to notice that the effects are more stylized and have more shape to them. It blends in with the character animation, which is also stylized.
BD: What's it been like for you using Zviz and how has that tool evolved?