PART 5: PRODUCTION, COMPOSITING AND COLOUR AT ANIMAL LOGIC
3D World UK|March 2021
Our final behind-the-scenes breakdown of life at Animal Logic focuses on the production side of animation and VFX at the studio, along with compositing and colour grading

Well, we’ve reached the end of our special deep dive into Animal Logic. For this final insight, 3D World gets the lowdown on production and what that vital role plays in managing so many visual effects and animation projects. Plus, we look at how the studio has a unique way of handling the compositing and colour grading process in its film work.

PRODUCTION FOCUS

We might all be familiar with what it means to model characters or complete shots, but what does ‘production’ mean, in the context of visual effects and animation? The production team’s role is in the creation, support and devising of strategic plans towards the completion of a particular project.

“We create plans and schedules based on initial assumptions,” outlines Sydney production manager Sean McAlear. “We support the execution of the production and give leadership to the rest of the production team, take on advice of the creative leadership and ultimately, we revise our initial plans and schedules as the creative evolves. The key is being willing and able to acknowledge an idea that will make the film better, but result in a complete rework of the schedule to accommodate it, and being excited about the challenge.”

A typical day in production at Animal Logic tends to involve many different aspects. It might include pulling the latest shot data for internal and client reporting and adjusting crew and completion schedules based on availability and budget. There’s also a heavy management side to a day in production, as Sydney’s production manager Hannah Roberson attests.

“The management part of my role means I’m in meetings, dailies and director reviews – troubleshooting, helping to develop systems and processes and working to move the film and crew forward in a positive way. A big part of my management role is investing in our team. Many issues have been solved over a coffee.”

On Peter Rabbit, Roberson says that although the studio had significant experience in both live-action VFX and fully CG-animated features, it was not easy, at first, to manage Animal Logic’s first live-action/CG hybrid film. “We had to onboard a big team in a relatively short schedule. There were some hard lessons initially when setting up new processes and realising that although they may fit a CG or VFX pipeline, it wasn’t working for Peter Rabbit. We had to adapt and make changes quickly when something didn’t work. It was hard, particularly at the beginning, but we were committed to making it work and thankfully it did!”

Meanwhile, for the fully animated The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, the production crew at Animal Logic again became crucial players in getting the film finalised. “As the project developed we found the need to be organic with our plans, which often led us down paths we had not originally intended,” states Vancouver’s digital producer Steph Huot. “In order to allow room for the story to develop naturally during the editorial process, we focused on allowing flexibility in scene production order by focusing on partnering asset readiness with story readiness, and working to identify options for the filmmakers to work within when selecting the scenes to move into production.”

WHAT THE PROS USE TO TRACK PRODUCTION

HOW ANIMAL LOGIC USES SHOTGUN AS PART OF ITS PRODUCTION WORKFLOW

A central tool in most VFX or animation studios is a database to track and review shots. Many, like Animal Logic, use Autodesk’s Shotgun. “We use Shotgun as the central hub for all of our versioning, reviews and production tracking,” says Sydney’s production manager Sean McAlear.

“We have a robust pipeline, with many inputs, all of which intertwine and drive automation based on ‘events’ that occur throughout the life of a shot or asset in a department. For example, if the status of a task changes to approved, a render will be generated and a version of the source files can be ‘delivered’ to another department.”

“It is also great for artists,” he continues, “as we can condense a wide range of information into a single view, which keeps artists focused on creative tasks and not trying to dig up notes from last week’s review. Which means more time is spent iterating instead of administrating. Shotgun allows us to connect the dots on all of these technical and creative data points to make sense of where we are, and where we’re going.”

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