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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