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The Look of the Film
At the same time the characters were being designed and modeled, the art department was hard at work designing the look of the world of Free Birds. Production designer Kevin Adams and his team of artists created a variety of sets to take Jake and Reggie from their quaint life on a farm, through space and time, and finally to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. "The biggest challenge was to take all those diverse environments and make them feel cohesive enough to be in one movie," says Hayward.

With Jake and Reggie constantly on the move, the cinematography had to be equally dynamic. Thankfully, in CG animation the virtual camera can be used to cover action from any angle. "On top of that flexibility, we use multiple cameras, so it gives us a lot of options," says camera and layout supervisor Gerald McAleece. McAleece and his team were able to add boom shots, crane shots, whip pans and other camera moves very simply. "I really enjoy setting the mood in a sequence with camerawork," he says. "We can create anything from calm to anxiety to urgency with thoughtful control of the camera."

The scope of effects work in the film covered everything from fire and explosions to smoke, fog, dust, sparks and debris. In particular, the film leaned heavily on 15 fire and fluid simulations, but the team had the most fun with the explosions, fireballs and flamethrowers. Effects supervisor Walter Behrnes jokes, "There is never a shortage of artists wanting to burn and blow stuff up when it comes to making a film!"

One of the greatest challenges for the effects team was creating the massive vortex surrounding the time machine. "It was about a five-month process to develop the right look and rhythm for that effect," reveals effects supervisor Walter Behrnes. "We strive to create great effects, but my hope is that audiences will be so immersed in the film that the effects never distract from the story that Jimmy wants to tell."

One of the final stages of creating the film involves lighting, wherein artists add depth and lights to a scene, balancing colors to make sure they are married together properly and look as good as possible in a final frame image. As for the approach to the lighting on the film, Digital Supervisor Dave Esneault explains, "Jimmy [Hayward] does a great job using lighting and look development to help set the mood and tell the story of the film." Lighting Supervisor Jeff Alcantara couldn't agree more. "The Lighting Department is responsible for supporting the story, tone and mood in every way possible. For example, if you want a character to feel isolated, you don't want to have lights coming from all directions, you want to help focus the viewer's eye towards that character alone. So the mood or emotion in a scene is really driving the direction of the lighting more than anything." On Free Birds, the art direction team enjoyed using live action film reference from big action movies to inspire the lighting work. Alcantara continues, "Integrating the style and lighting set-ups portrayed in memorable scenes from movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Braveheart is a task that makes our jobs challenging and fun."

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