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MONSTER HOUSE

Stretching Animation
The endgame for production on Monster House was a complex, layered job involving the talent and teamwork at Imageworks, an award-winning digital production company. "Imageworks took the creative elements the director put together and amalgamated the art and performances into fully lit and precisely rendered images,” explains executive producer Clark.

Imageworks animation supervisor Troy Saliba and lead character animator T. Dan Hofstedt worked closely with director Kenan and visual effects supervisor Redd on the final animation for the film. "We knew we were going to do motion11 capture, but we wanted to do something different," says Redd. "We knew our world was going to be more - to use an overused term - stylized. We have human beings, but we also have a house that walks around the neighborhood. It was my job to figure out how to do all of that in terms of dramatic visual effects and to assemble a team of experts to create everything from the models, textures, and motion-capture to the animation, lighting and composites."

"First we did drawings of all the characters," says Hofstedt. "We took the character designs that Chris Appelhans had done, and we did drawings to illustrate the physical and emotional range they needed to go through in the story. We weren't doing one-for-one actor-to-animated-character look-alikes. We had to interpret things to get the expressions to work, so we took emotional moments that we either made up or that came from the actors. We picked a frame where the actor was either angry, happy or scared. Then we tried to manually key-frame that expression. From there, we took our digital animation rigs and worked with the riggers and the CG modelers until they duplicated that emotional range."

"The 'mo-cap' performance lent itself well to what we were doing," adds Saliba, "but we were able to push it a bit farther. The first challenge was making sure the rigs we were using - that is, the actual CG puppets - could perform the way we needed them to. They had to work with 'mo-cap,' but also be pushed a little bit more graphically."

"That was the foundation of taking it a step beyond live-action — adding the caricaturing and animation sensibilities," according to Hofstedt.

"Monster House was conceived using motion-capture technology, because that enabled us to tell a story that lives in a parallel universe,” says executive producer Clark. "The audience will recognize it as consistent with traditional suburban streets in an ordinary neighborhood, but will hopefully find it just unreal enough to buy the third act — when the house crashes through the neighborhood chasing the kids.”

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