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
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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