Maya Provides Core 3D Animation Technology for Rings Trilogy
The demise of the Witch King, one of the highlights of THE RETURN OF THE KING, put MEL to the test. Schleifer animated the Witch King character using Maya's animation curve tools and MEL. "Peter wanted the character to look something like a submarine imploding," added Schleifer. "One challenge was animating the character's hand, so that it was moving upwards, but with a very 'jittery' feel. Using MEL, I built a tool that allowed me to combine two animation curves, one with lots of high frequency data (for the jittery-ness) and one with primary animation information." Next Schleifer put a user interface around his new Maya tool and handed it off to his other team members. "Our whole Maya-based animation pipeline is built on the premise that animators should not have to think about the technical side of things. We want them to think about their craft and the performance of the character."
One of Alias' key support options for large film and game facilities is its Custom Development Center, based in Toronto and Santa Barbara, California. The center is comprised of senior Maya software developers, who have more than 40 years of experience with the company, and consult on large projects: developing custom software to extend Maya's usual functionality to meet the unique demands of a particular project. For THE RETURN OF THE KING, that meant producing custom animation code, custom cloth simulation code and giving general R&D support.
Life beyond the THE RINGS means preparing for KING KONG: "We pushed Maya to its limits and beyond," remarked Houston. "Our next project is bigger in scale still More than ever, we're going to have to rely on Alias."
As a leading innovator of 3D graphics technology, Alias (www.alias.com), a wholly owned, independent software company of SGI, develops award-winning software, custom development and training solutions for the film and video, games, Web, interactive media, industrial design, education and visualization markets. In 2003, the company was awarded an Oscar for Technical Achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its development of Maya software, the professional 3D animation and effects package.
Weta Digital was formed in 1993 by a group of young New Zealand filmmakers, including Jackson, Jamie Selkirk, Jim Booth, George Port, Tania Rodger and Richard Taylor. Since its humble beginnings, the company has quickly increased in size and skill to now provide some of the highest quality visual effects in the film and television industry. Weta's digital artists use the latest hardware and software, as well as a suite of proprietary tools. Working closely with the other division of Weta Ltd., Weta Workshop, they offer multidisciplinary expertise in conceptualization, creation and technical know-how as well as compositing, bluescreen and background plates, miniature stop-motion footage, motion-capture sequencing, 35mm film scanning, recording and screenings, full design, maquette and 3D scanning services.