Thursday, May 15, 2014

Faces of Paranorman

ParaNorman - Faces of ParaNorman from Grow Film Company on Vimeo.
The artists at Laika Animation explain how they used 3D printing and replacement animation to create the smoothly moving faces in the stop-motion film Paranorman. (Direct link to video)

The newest trailer for their upcoming feature "Boxtrolls" (video link) is full of action set-ups like car chases and ballroom dancing that are hard to pull off in stop-motion. Even though there's some digital assist with green-screen and rig removal, it's still straight-ahead animation of physical puppets, meaning you start with frame one and move all the figures through all the frames with no going back to fix mistakes. Boxtrolls will release in September.


Pierre Fontaine said...

I don't know enough of the process for modern stop motion films but I have to assume that there is as much pre-viz done for these movies as there is for any production that's reliant on digital effects.

Therefore, even though the stop-motion process is "straight ahead", I suspect that the action has already been planned out to the frame with animatics or roughly animated 3D models. I can't imagine trying to hit certain musical cues or dialog scenes without some sort of road map so the animator knows how many frames between each major beat in the scene.

Pierre Fontaine said...

Of course, digital assist in stop motion is a recent development. I can't imagine how earlier stop motion films were done without some sort of dope sheet that could help the animator anticipate that at frame 50 the puppet had to be in a certain position and by frame 100 the puppet had to be in the next position.

Still, the "straight ahead" nature of stop motion means that mistakes crop up all the time that aren't anticipated. Some mistakes can be fixed digitally while others can not. A light can blow out in the middle of a scene or change intensity over the course of the day.

There are certain shots in the original King Kong where a surface gauge can be seen if you look frame by frame!

James Gurney said...

Pierre, yes, I believe Laika uses DragonFrame, a stop motion software package that gives much smoother arcs than in the old days, as well as onion-skinning and much more control over timing. Also, I in addition to digital animatics for previs, I believe they pre-shoot some of the shots on 4s to work out staging and timing. But still the final shots are straight-ahead animation that can take months for the more complex shots, and if anything screws up, they sometimes have to do reshoots.

Kevin Baker said...

They also do all the facial animation in Maya in advance, then an assistant assembles a box with all the right face-shapes in order.