ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.12 - MARCH 2000

El Dorado: The Old World Meets the New in "Tradigital" Animation
(continued from page 2)

Advancing Strides
Camera movement was one of the key aspects in planning El Dorado. Yet, even though the camera is quite active, the movement is very subtle. James Williams regards this as essential. "One of the great differences of El Dorado from The Prince of Egypt is that it's very much a buddy movie. Very much a Hope-Crosby type film. Therefore, it really didn't lend itself to the huge, majestic [style of] film. It's intimate, funny. So, it's a very different cinematic style. Although we have beautiful shots, of course, a lot of the work that we did on this movie was in the subtlety of the shots."

This subtlety becomes evident at once in the "Brig" sequence onboard Cortes' ship, where Tulio and Miguel are planning their escape. "The camera is very active," Williams explains. "It's following the two characters. What you're actually seeing here is something you saw only rarely on Prince of Egypt. And when you saw it, you made sure you saw it. This [the Brig] is actually fully three-dimensional, so what it gives you is truly the feeling of the space...By putting it into literally a three-dimensional box, we were able to give you the feeling of confinement. But due to the process we actually developed, we were able to move the camera off the animation that we put in. So that way we weren't anticipating the animation. The camera was actually following the animation to make the whole thing seem natural. There was an enormous amount of work put into this movie just so the audience wouldn't notice the great things that we did. But I think overall it certainly gives you the impression of a well-crafted movie, and hopefully it'll keep the audience in the film."

Don Paul pointed out the unusual variety of camera movement. "Some of the camera movement in the film is almost a throw-away. There are some fun pans that are really cheated dolly shots. Some of them are 3D. Others are traditional that are created to make them look three-dimensional." As Williams mentioned above, DreamWorks has developed their own technology to enhance camera movement. Don Paul elaborates on one particular process. "We have this motion blur [software program] that was written here, and it's come in so handy. When you have a fast pan, we can apply the motion blur to it at different ratios depending on how much blur we want, and it gives us a nice directional. It really makes it look like a live-action sort of blur. We can also apply that to 2D character animation as well. So that gives us a fun sort of way to push the camera work into a different arena."

El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold. TM & © 2000 DreamWorks LLC.

Another process that was developed at DreamWorks is "Spryticle." In the finale called "Crashing the Gate," our heroes have to smash a ship loaded with gold into the gates of El Dorado. Doug Ikeler, the sequence lead on "Crashing the Gate," details how the process replicated a hand-drawn splash 10,000 times:
"The big effect for this sequence is splashing water, which in the past hasn't been done in a lot of computer graphics mostly because of the complexity required to get...little driplets and the spray of water. So we came up with a system that we call Spryticle...that allows us to use hand-drawn animation copied onto the location of a particle system. A particle system is really a bunch of spots that we move around with world forces like gravity and wind and turbulence. And then on each one of those spots...we put the hand-drawn animation. So what Spryticle does is really give us a way of multiplying this hand-drawn animation a thousand fold.

"Spryticle, what's powerful about it is its randomization techniques. The ways to make each one look a little bit different. I had to get splashes to interact with the boat, interact with the cave walls it was bouncing off of...you know, make the splashes characteristic to the scene. Traditionally, to hand draw water which is one of the hardest things to draw, we're looking at drawing every single frame...I'd say it would take a crew of 2D animators a good part of a year to draw all this."

In another scene Tulio is having leeches pulled off his back. To give this a realistic look, they used ER (elastic reality) Warping. "Basically, it's morphing a character drawing or drawings to give it a feeling of motion," Don Paul stated. In the leech scene, we actually see Tulio's skin recoil. "Tulio was a held cel or held character drawing, and then we put an ER Warp on it to get him to react to the leech pull." It was used again to economize the "Volcano" sequence. "We did the same thing on the volcano smoke. It was basically one drawing, and the smoke was morphed to look like it's churning out of the volcano. All but two or three shots were morphed. We did that a lot with background characters. We used to have a lot of held character levels. Now it's great because you can do a little bit of a head tilt or an eye blink or have the mouth close or open. So that was great. It kept some of those characters alive."

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