Atelier Brückner + Shilo Bring Viking Exhibit to Life
La Jolla, CA -- When the largest Viking exhibition in more than 20 years opened recently at the National Museum of Denmark, its news quickly spread all the way around the world. Opened by Queen Margrethe of Denmark on 20 June, the large-scale special exhibition featuring items from museums in 12 European countries is a collaboration of the British Museum in London and Museum für Vor und Frühgeschichte - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, where the exhibition will appear in 2014 and 2015, respectively. For now, it occupies the National Museum of Denmark, where it will run on through 17 November.
Among hundreds of one-of-a-kind historical artifacts, at the exhibition's heart is a cinematic audiovisual installation accompanying the longest Viking warship ever found. Measuring 37 meters in length, this magnificent, nearly 1,000 year-old royal treasure is on public display for the first time in history. To present it in all its glory, ATELIER BRÜCKNER created a unique media installation, where actual salvaged artifacts are "embedded" into an epic animated panorama which was painstakingly brought to life by creative production company Shilo using original paintings made by hand.
According to Shilo creative director Tom Green, from the beginning, ATELIER BRÜCKNER envisioned a very hand-drawn approach which he says, "could really only be reproduced by painting each frame individually." As a result, this project involved a workflow unlike any in the past for the Emmy Award-winning company. "We took aspects of traditional hand-drawn animation and modernized them with today's technology," Tom said.
To dramatize the Copenhagen exhibition, ATELIER BRÜCKNER developed with Shilo a dramatic historical narrative that plays out in two one-minute chapters. As reported in the press, the first chapter fully showcases the violence of Viking military actions. "We were able to show a more touching side to the Nordic inhabitants in chapter two," explained Shilo co-founder Jose Gomez, "by showing that they were not just raiding a village for enjoyment, but rather, they were doing so to provide for their families. To us, showing that aspect of their lives was definitely key to making the entire story work."
At Shilo's studios in California and New York City, after artists first created their matte paintings, a Flash artist animated each frame by hand, then gave their sequences to designer/animators, who imported the Flash files into Photoshop and added hand-painted textures over the original animation. Those sequences were then rendered, imported and composited using After Effects.
"A key factor that really helped was having the matte painters create an A and a B pose for each character in each scene," Tom continued. "Using those start and end-points, the Flash artists animated the ‘in-betweens' and sent that content to the 2D team."
Also related to the project's challenges and Shilo's approach, Tom offered high praise for the fleet of Wacom tablets that were so critical to the creative and production efforts. "We wanted everything about this job to feel like it was a moving matte painting, starting with the matte painters to the Flash artists and landing in the 2D team's laps," he said. "It's no stretch to say that every aspect of this job was manipulated through the skilled hands of our talented artists using Wacom tablets."