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Pave Paradise
The "title character” in the film is the Hedge itself, nicknamed "Steve” by the forest animals, who are alarmed by its sudden appearance and decide naming it will make it less threatening. Production designer Kathy Altieri reveals that rendering the seemingly static block of leaves was much harder than it appeared. "You look at a hedge and think it's the simplest thing on the planet. It's a hedge; it's just leaves around a box. How hard can that be? Trust me, our hedge was incredibly hard to achieve, from both an artistic and technical standpoint. It was especially challenging when we had the characters walking through the hedge.”

Altieri continues that the hedge, albeit large, was only one piece of the foliage seen in "Over the Hedge,” which is comprised of a virtual greenhouse of assorted plants. "We created a variety of basic designs for the trees, bushes and grass, along with a number of what we call paint effects, which are little set-dressing plants that we could place here and there in the woodlands. In the computer, all of these could be combined, re-combined, flipped, re-grown, re-surfaced, re-colored and re-textured to make this amazingly rich forest. Working with the effects team, we could customize any tree or plant exactly to fit our needs. In fact, the hardest thing about creating a forest is the rendering time required because of the sheer volume of data. There was a lot of underlying technical support going on at a furious pace just to allow us to have all that wonderful background stuff, like leaves gently blowing in the wind.”

Lighting supervisor Michael Necci confirms, "We had a convergence of a whole forest full of furry characters, resulting in a huge amount of detail, with individual hairs and individual leaves. The computer has a hard time coping with that much information, which presented a technical challenge on top of the aesthetic challenge of making everything not only look realistic but beautiful. Our render times went way beyond any film we've ever made, so the increased power in our render farm was essential to getting this film done.”

DreamWorks Animation's longstanding relationship with Hewlett-Packard (HP), the studio's preferred technology provider, made it possible to meet the massive computing demands of "Over the Hedge.” In the largest and most powerful render farm ever used for a DreamWorks Animation film, HP servers, powered by AMD Opteron™ dual-core processors, delivered more than 15 million combined render hours to turn digital information into full-fledged images of fur and foliage, not to mention water, fire, an explosion of artificial nacho cheese flavoring…and virtually everything else that can be seen on the screen.

With the hedge serving as the dividing line, fur and foliage spelled the difference between the still-natural habitat of the woodland creatures and the artificial, cookie-cutter world of suburbia that has encroached on their forest. Altieri affirms, "We tried as much as possible to pull those two worlds apart to reflect the animals' point of view. The forest is this beautiful, sunlit, glistening place that the animals have known their whole lives. It's their home. And when RJ first introduces them to the world over the hedge, the suburbs are glorified—the land of opportunity. Later, as Gladys' backyard becomes a harsh and threatening place, we used lighting, staging and color to make the suburbs now appear dangerous and unfriendly.”

Both worlds were designed to be seen from an unusual perspective. "We very much wanted to tell the story from the animals' point of view,” says Altieri. "We addressed that by paying a lot more attention to the lower echelons of our world.”

Art director Christian Schellewald recalls, "A lot of our research was just crawling around, going everywhere little critters could go and seeing things from all kinds of crazy angles. I sometimes found myself sto

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