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USAnimation in Action

We take a look at how Klasky-Csupo used Toon Boom Technologies' USAnimation to deliver top quality animation for the film Rugrats in Paris...

Written By Michele Garneau, John David Hickey and Kandis Weiner

Today's movie audiences have come to expect plenty of exciting action and special effects in a feature length animation production. Thanks to USAnimation, Klasky-Csupo has met and even exceeded these expectations with their latest production, Rugrats in Paris.

To deliver this feature-length film, Klasky-Csupo used a variety of technologies and applications for 3D modeling and animation, digital 2D animation, and digital video editing. USAnimation 5.0 was not only a team player within this complex production environment, but it also acted as team captain, coordinating all the 2D production tasks.

The fist step in the USAnimation process is in the Manager module. After Klasky-Csupo worked out the storyboard on paper, they built a database for all of the scenes in the Manager module. Throughout the process, the Manager module organizes production data and tracks its progress.

To preview the film as a rough draft, Klasky-Csupo used USAnimation to build a story reel. With the Scan module, they scanned in each panel of the storyboard into a scene. Then, with a video editing application, they adjusted the exposure of each panel to fit with soundtrack. The resulting story reel allowed them to work out the exact timing of the animation for each shot and elaborate detailed paper exposure sheets.

With the hardcopy dope sheets in hand, the Technical Directors created the electronic exposure sheet for each scene in the Xsheet module. The Xsheet module simulates the traditional exposure sheet, laying out the composition of all levels and the play order of all the drawings in a scene.

Klasky-Csupo then proceeded to scan in all the layouts and character poses for each scene using the Scan module. Then with USAnimation's latest innovation, the Sceneplanning module, they worked out all of the camera framing and movement.

USAnimation's Sceneplanning also allowed Klasky-Csupo to build multiplane sequences and create automatic motion, scaling, and rotation interpolations. These Sceneplanning tools saved the animators from redrawing characters and objects. The interactive 3D environment made the layout work visual and instinctive, rather than mechanical and mathematical.

The Xsheet module organizes all of the elements and drawings in a scene. It works dynamically with the Sceneplanning module; as users make changes visually in the 3D space, USAnimation updates the element columns.

After the Sceneplanning work was done, Klasky-Csupo sent the storyboard and layouts to Sun Woo in Korea where there artists developed all the animation, from roughs to clean-ups. Sun Woo then used USAnimation to scan and vectorize the final drawings. USAnimation handled more than half-a-million scans for the entire Rugrats in Paris production.

In the Sceneplanning module, users can create motion with elements visually. USAnimation automatically interpolates all drawings in an element based on changes to the position, size, and motion of the element.

With the vectorized drawings, the Sun Woo team could begin the Ink and Paint process. Thanks to lightning-fast Paint module, animators can quickly paint all the drawings in a scene. While paging through each level, they used various shortcuts and hotkeys to fill color zones and ink lines. With simple drawings, such as tones and highlights, they took advantage of the automatic paint commands. With the Apply on All Drawings command, for example, they could automatically apply an operation to all drawings in a level.

USAnimation also helped Klasky-Csupo with color management. As the color models and palettes changed, Klasky-Csupo simply updated their color models in their American studio and sent it to their counterparts at Sun Woo. When Sun Woo updated their palettes, USAnimation automatically repainted all the drawings linked to the original palette with the new palette colors; no manual repainting was required!

Back at Klasky-Csupo's US studios, they took the painted scenes and created special effects like glows, ripples, and color changes in the Camera module. The flexibility of the Camera module and USAnimation allowed the Technical Director and the Artistic Directors to develop many effects on the fly. For certain specialized effects, they were able to easily generate mattes in the Canvas module.

This is the Fireworks scene. The Glows in this scene were built in the Camera module.

There's a scene where the kids are watching a fireworks display through a windowpane. The actual fireworks (and subsequent glows on the kid's faces) weren't added until the very end.

In the Camera module, effects are created using networks of modules. This particular network belongs to Tommy. In this network you can see the tone and the Color Scale effects, which work together to create the glow on his face.

In the final stages of production, Klasky-Csupo used the Transfer module to move the final rendered frames onto a Digital Disk Recorder (DDR). The Transfer module makes this task simple by reserving frames on the DDR based on the order and duration of each scene. Thanks to the shortcut feature in Transfer module (called a Correspondence), Klasky-Csupo was able to access and perform common transfer tasks quickly and easily.

Having just completed their 2nd feature-length production with USAnimation (The Rugrats Movie proceeded this release), Klasky-Csupo has been a front-row witness to the evolution of the system. They have watched the foundation modules become more robust and have benefited from the innovation of 3D Sceneplanning.

Not only has USAnimation sped-up the time it takes to complete the labor intensive tasks of 2D animation, saving time and money, it helps studios like Klasky-Csupo focus their efforts on the more creative aspects of their productions. Terry Thoren, President and CEO of Klasky Csupo, has nothing but praise for USAnimation. "We couldn't have done it without USAnimation®. The benefits of this software package are so huge that we wouldn't consider any other way to produce animated movies."