ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.12 - MARCH 2000

Walking With Dinosaurs
(continued from page 4)

Compositing
Walking With Dinosaurs' look depended a great deal on how the images would be managed in post-production. To accomplish this, FrameStore enlisted the use of five Quantel Henrys and five Discreet Logic Infernos. Why the two competing technologies? Milne answers that, "Where both do similar sorts of things, both do slightly different things very well. We saw it to our advantage to use both for this production."

FrameStore packed along a bluescreen to capture bushes and rocks as they traveled the globe. © BBC/Discovery Channel.

As described on the FrameStore Website, compositing for the production consisted of taking all of the 3D elements (or the different 3D parts of a shot) and rendering them to tape, with up to 5 layers (or photographic passes) for each of the dinosaurs made. The layers themselves consist of a color layer, and one of each for the form, shadow, highlight, and secondary shadow passes. At each stage of adding these individual layers together, careful adjustments are made to ensure that the dinosaurs' shading and shadow density match those of the live-action background plate. After this, the bluescreen elements such as extra tree ferns, rocks and other foreground items are added to complete the final image.

The Crytoclidus will be swimming in the minds of viewers for years. © BBC/Discovery Channel.

To this are added the final bits of post activities such as sound effects, music and titles and voila! The stuff of every kid's imagination -- real live dinosaurs. Well, sort of, anyhow.

An interesting side note is that the series is "future-proofed." Haines and company saw to it that the emerging 16:9 screen format of HDTV was reckoned with so the entire show was done in that format and later resized to 4:3 (regular TV format) with an anamorphic lens (sort of like the old Panavision to Telecine process).

I highly recommend this show to all you readers, whether you are dino-nuts or not. Just by virtue of its fantastic CG and seamless compositing, it should appeal to the most die-hard animation fans. It is an incredible feat that the BBC has produced this series at all, regardless of cost. It is mind-blowing that it looks as good as it does and was done for so little money. Watch it and judge for yourselfmaybe I'm not the only one who'll watch it with at least one light on in the house!

Walking With Dinosaurs is coming to the Discovery Channel on April 16, 2000 (7-10 pm ET/PT). Check local listings for exact times.

Eric Huelsman is the over-paid, underworked er -- that's underpaid, over-worked -- guy in charge of the Friedman 3D computer animation program.

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