Thursday, September 22, 2011

Insightful Interview With THE LION KING's Stereographer Robert Neuman: Depth Score Discussion!

Ian Failes of FXGuide sent me a note about this cool interview they did with Robert Neuman, stereographer for Disney's 3D conversion of THE LION KING that is roaring at the box office at the moment ($37,296,568 up to last night and still eaily #1 - Fourth best September opening of ALL time). I encourage you to read the whole thing at his site.

Click images to enlarge...

Here's some excerpts:

Neuman: "We had the privilege of having the original filmmakers to work with, so the first thing we did was have a spotting session with the directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers and the producer Don Hahn. We watched the film a couple of times, once with sound and then again with the sound down, and basically I had them tell me from their stand-point what the big moments were and what their feelings were about the use of 3D. I bounced off ideas and made sure everything fit within their vision for the film."

"After that I would watch the film and basically chart out what I felt the emotional content was. I tried to quantify what the peak point of action was and make that a ’10′, and what were the quieter moments with expositional dialogue or that just were a breather in between action or big emotional beats, and these would be a ’1′."

"Then I created these depth mark-ups, which was really the most intense part. For the shots that are 10s, like Scar having his final encounter in the showdown in Simba, or the big emotional moments when Simba sees his father in the sky – for those moments what you want to do is give them the most stereoscopic depth as you can, while keeping it comfortable for the audience. In the quieter moments, I give it the least amount that will still make the shot look good. I want all the shots to have an aesthetically pleasing quality and feel like nothing’s cardboard in them."

I know one reader thought that the movie will probably have a viewfinder effect to it - well that's not the case. Another cool portion of this interview has Neuman discussing how they made the flat hand drawn characters "puffy":

Neuman: "There were three main tools for creating the depth maps. One was just the most basic level for the character, which was just to give them a roundness, a puffiness. It was as if you were going to cut out a mylar balloon in the shape of say Simba and start blowing air into it. What you get is a general puffiness, but you don’t get any specific articulate shape. You don’t have one leg out in front of the other or the muzzle out in front of the mane. But you do have this really good starting point which is a nice rounded character."

"The challenge is then to add structure into that. We have tools to create these primitive gradients – cube primitives, ellipsoid primitives and joint primitives. The cube primitives would be used to add structure to something. A human face or lion face tends to have facial planes – planes of the cheeks or planes along the front of the face. By combining these cubes which we could track in with the motion of the character with the general rounding, we would get something that would have that rounded quality plus have that structure that the cube created. It would be a layered thing – primitive upon primitive."

"Then we could add joint tools, say for the legs. The joint tools would create a gradient that followed along an IK chain. We could then dial in the value at any cardinal point on that chain, and that would allow us to articulate the limbs. For other things, say if we wanted the nose to pop out more, we could track in an ellipsoid primitive. So it was just the layering and combination of these primitives along with the general inflation that would give us something that started to look like the character."

Again, I encourage you to read the whole interview at FXGuide. I simply love reading the "how they did it" type of interviews. Hope you do too... Enjoy!

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