SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
About The Production
Kerry Conran's education at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, added to his encyclopedic knowledge of films and gave him a method for his movie madness. Although enrolled in the live-action program, Conran quickly discovered his interests and passion were in the computer animation group.
"With the advent of digital, animation was no longer limited to drawn images," he says. "Anything you could get inside the computer, you could use." And soon, computers were not just being used for animation anymore, as filmmakers began to synthesize different images -- stills, video, digitally created -- and layer them with live action in films. For Conran, "the notion that the technology was finally evolving to the point that you could break down live action the same way that animation had been done for years, forever, meant an explosion of choices, possibilities and opportunities for filmmakers."
Supporting himself with computer tech and custom software work, by 1994, Kerry Conran retreated to his apartment in Sherman Oaks, California, to build a "world of tomorrow" inside his computer. When the then-30-year-old began his solitary venture into live-action computer filmmaking, "there was no 'Phantom Menace,' there was no 'Lord of the Rings,' there was no 'Matrix,'" he says. "They hadn't really started to do those type of effects and opticals with live action, and certainly not on a home computer to the level that I was trying do it, which was silly of me, I think, at the time."
As Conran worked alone, the relatively unknown worlds of virtual 3-D graphics and compositing revolutionized the booming video and computer game industries, while gradually becoming part of mainstream moviemaking. Seemingly, if one could imagine it, one could build it. "When I started, I'd have to wait 20 minutes for a single frame to update before I could advance to the next frame," he notes. "These days a PlayStation can do that kind of stuff in real time. The rapid period of evolution has been extraordinary in terms of what's going to be available to people and what is available to people right now."
Although technology makes this all-digital movie possible, when it was time to get working on the feature film, Kerry and Kevin Conran had to return to the drawing board. "We have different taste," says Kerry, "But much of our interests were quite similar as kids, so this allowed us to move quicker through the hundreds of drawings to arrive at the final design. I can draw a little but, but Kevin is a tremendously talented illustrator, and I went the other way -- whichever way that is."
The epic nature of Kerry Conran's story required an enormous scale and imagination. As Kevin Conran sketched searing skyscrapers and other geometrical forms illuminated by dark, deep shadows, Kerry took the pencil drawings and mapped them out in the computer, giving each basic form and structure within the frame or composition. This intersection of the artistic and scientific, which became the basis for the 20th century machine aesthetic, is the same fusion of the pencil and the digital as realized in the 21st century of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." In using the principles of animation to merge live action with computer graphics, Conran took the hand-drawn images and drew them again, in a computer, beginning the process of compositing layers of images, much like a painter building his canvas.
"I hope to some extent the audience appreciates the work we did in terms of creating images that weren't necessarily all the time going for reality," says Kerry. "We were trying to create something a little bit artful. It's just a different way of seeing things."
For actress Angelina Jolie, the scope of the story and the attention to detail made an irresistible combination. "A lot of people don't make this much effort in films anymore," says Jolie. "So, it's really nice. It's nice to get ba
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