March 17, 2015

When Technology Meets Art - How To Train Your Dragon 2

I don't know if I've mentioned it before on here, but growing up I wanted to be an artist working for either Disney or Dreamworks. So when I went to college, I decided to study computer science (not knowing much about computers except how to type in Word and play minesweeper, I thought computer science and computer art were pretty much the same thing). Of course, I ended up deviating from my initial goals, quite a bit in fact, but my fascination for that art has always remained.

So here are a few interesting facts regarding the making of How To Train Your Dragon 2 which I thought I'd share with you:

  1. Total number of artists to work on the movie: 495
  2. Total number of storyboards created: 100,000+
  3. Time taken to craft the film: 18-24 months (90 million+ render hours for the computers to render the frames)
  4. Total number of digital files: 500 million+
  5. Total amount of storage needed: 398 terabytes

It's quite impressive to see how far technology has come as far as animation goes. It used to be artists had to "scan an image into a computer, then "draw" the animation by typing numbers.... With a giant spreadsheet, they could change the way a smile looked or how a shadow fell across a face." Now, however, artists can work directly on the computers and change the final image in real time, as Fredrik Nilsson (workflow director for animation/crowds) explained regarding Dreamworks' Premo tool:

Animator using the Premo tool
Image Credit: Dreamworks Animation
"I used Premo with a touchscreen-sensitive pen. The display could show me any given frame from the movie. I could make a change to the main character Hiccup's face, clicking on him. Then I could use the pen to pull his face downward, turning his smile into a frown. I could then tell the computer how long he would hold that pose before he would start smiling again. Then I played the frames and watched it all happen in real-time. It was easy and intuitive."

Pretty amazing, eh? And to think I took an animation class (which was awesome, by the way), where I had to draw each frame myself (it took me close to 500 drawings to draw a couple of seconds, and that was a very basic cartoon).

As for the animated feature film, I know it came out quite a while ago, but I thought it was a great movie (I'm always skeptical about follow-up movies)!

Venture Beat - an absolute read for those into animation and technology in general! Filled with tons of details and great interviews!

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