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FLUSHED AWAY

Rollin' On A River
Since CG animated movies are constructed within a virtual environment, it's easy to underestimate the importance of one of the most fundamental pieces of filmmaking equipment – the camera. Cinematography is just as critical in CG as it is in live action or stop-motion.

On physical movie sets, camera work is restricted by space and gravity. To film a scene from above, cameras typically run on tracks. Depending on the complexity of the shot desired, these structures can require intricate scaffolding and considerable manpower. And even with this effort, there will still be some limitations to the camera's range of motion. 

Of course, gravity doesn't exist in CG. A scene can be filmed from any angle in any motion the cinematographer desires, and an aerial shot is as straightforward as one on the ground. "We were able to fly the camera around,” Kramer says, "and that paid off beautifully in the boat chase, which is one of the most important sequences in the movie.”

In "Flushed Away,” this freedom of movement is needed to be restrained in order to preserve the Aardman style. Co-head of layout Frank Passingham notes, "In terms of the camera movement, we wanted to keep the perspective very grounded, for the most part. I think we've emulated the Aardman look in the camera and lighting work as well as the animation.”

Co-head of layout Brad Blackbourn was mindful of this objective in overseeing the transition between storyboards and full animation. Layout involves blocking a rough version of the characters through their intended movements on the computer. In addition to character movement, layout artists must also recreate the camera perspectives implied in the storyboards. During this stage, the preliminary camera movement, lenses, and angles are selected. It's at this point, Blackbourn comments, that the crew is really "getting a feel for the geography of the set.”

"Everything breaks down into frames,” Passingham adds. "You need to think about not just the camera move that you're working on, but the camera move that you just cut from, or are about to cut to. There are always accelerations and decelerations in movies, and you've got to be very careful about those. Those decisions dictate the speed of the camera you use, and the width of the lens.”

Blackbourn recalls the early stages of camera work on the scene that introduces the audience to The Toad's ice room. "We wanted to try to play up the power of this scene,” he explains. "Roddy and Rita come face to face with all of the rats Toad has frozen. We wanted to give it sort of a ‘death chamber' feel, when it's basically a refrigerator. We used around 100 shots for this sequence, to cover every possible angle. And we used some really wide angle lenses and low perspective.”

The majority of scenes in "Flushed Away” were filmed with 35-, 24-, and 18-millimeter lenses. "The characters' noses required us to be especially careful with the lenses,” Passingham explains. "Roddy, Rita, Sid – they're rodents with long noses. When you're using a wide-angle lens, those noses can almost project right off the screen, so you have to stay on top of that.”

Camera movement was just as tricky as lens selection. For the sequence where Roddy is flushed from his home, the camera's motion was carefully designed to capture his disorientation. "We wanted Roddy to be spiraling, descending quickly, and very shaken,” Passingham says. ‘So while we're tracking forward, we're actually sort of spiraling in the camera at the same time. And putting a bit of shake in the shot, some rough camera movement to show that he's really being buffeted as he's propelled along the popes. The camera motion really conveys that he's taking a rather tough and extensive trip to the sewer world.”

The climactic boat chase on the Jammy Dodger was one of the most challenging sequences to shoot. Bowers sum

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