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Two Worlds
The story of "Antz" takes place in two distinct worlds: the safe, enclosed world of the ant colony below ground, and the unpredictable, expansive above ground

The story of "Antz" takes place in two distinct worlds: the safe, enclosed world of the ant colony below ground, and the unpredictable, expansive above ground. "There was a stark contrast between

what it was like to be underground with what it was like above ground," Darnell says. "Clearly everything inside the colony involves a lot of earth tones and muted lighting, but once we move outside, everything is bright and colorful and has a rich variety that we don't see in the more homogenous underground world."

Production designer John Bell and art director Kendal Cronkhite were responsible for conceiving the contrasting environments. Though their work began with drawings and paintings outside of the computer, they remained involved throughout the production-from layout to modeling to lighting to effects-to ensure that the settings stayed true to their initial vision.

In creating the settings, Bell and Cronkhite were inspired by a variety of stylistic and reference materials. For the above-ground world, they commissioned children's book illustrator Mary Grand Pre to create paintings, which became one of their main reference points. The work of British environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, and the late Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi provided influences for the contrasting milieu of the colony. Several art and nature books were also used as guidelines for the colony.

Microphotography books also gave them insight to the perspective of an ant. "The central challenge for us on this film was to get down to a scale where the most imperceptible details on the smallest natural elements revealed totally new and fantastic worlds of textures and forms," says Bell. "Once we were able to visualize that perspective, we knew we had something unique."

Producer Aron Warner adds, "Most people don't spend a lot of time wondering how a blade of grass would look if you were very, very tiny. So we spent a lot of time with cameras down at ant level looking up at the world and examining textures up close and figuring out, for example, how water would act at that level."

For some major and more complex sets, Bell and Cronkhite had three-dimensional models made by Facundo Rabaudi. Set designer Don Weinger then drafted the models into blueprints, assigning specific dimensions to them. PDI's computer modelers later used those blueprints to build the 3-D sets in the computer.

Objects that make up a set are constructed in the computer by the modeling department, supervised by Konrad Dunton. Each computer model is broken down into individual components. The picnic, for example, involved separate 3-D models for everything from the tablecloth, to the bread on the sandwich, to the lettuce on the sandwich, to the pickle jar, to the pickles in the jar, and so on. Each object built in the computer is saved in a library that the layout department later draws from to build a scene.

The layout group, headed by Simon J. Smith, is the first department to take the two-dimensional storyboards and artwork and turn them into a three-dimensional world inside the computer. If you were to compare it to live action, the layout group are like the cinematographers and cameramen. They look at every panel and decide how to frame the shot, pick focal lengths, determine depth of field and do camera blocking. In short, they incorporate traditional camera approaches in a virtual environment, to give a solid structure to the film.


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