Sunday, 5 April 2009

Monsters, Aliens, characters, modelling, animation and more

I took a break from Maya for a while today to dive into the fully 3D realised animated world of Dreamworks' Monsters vs Aliens. Articles and reviews around the blogosphere and beyond have been looking at this film from a wide array of angles, most notably because of the emphasis on the full 3D production.

First up, let me look at the character design, drawing it back to my current COFA courses as well. Doubtless a real blast for the character design folk, they got to create some uniquefrontline characters and also slot in some fun supporting humans as well. Some of the human characters are great, The President being a case in point, and big Susan is nicely done throughout. One of the nice touches in the characters and their animation is how differently they all move - heightening their specific 'character' in that. We have the fluid motion of Link, who brings his aquatic roots along with him, B.O.B. is his gooey self and Dr Cockroach movesjusk like the little critters scampering across our floor. The variety in the characters keeps them distinct and that follows through to colours and definately the sounds of each.

You can see the various personality traits in their various designs and how the characters are presented. The modelling is wonderfully done, B.O.B. must have tortured them with the need to create a rig that would work with his free-form motion, arms coming and going and continuous oozing. I really liked Link, his blend of person, amphibian and fish is lovely to watch and though he was outshone in the film, he is a great little character in his own right.

The 3D (IMAX at the Entertainment quarter this time) is indeed wonderful, apart from some fun at the very begining, the 3D isnt played with much at all actually. It simply becomes part of the immersion and makes sequences feel all the more lushious. When real people walk in front of you at the cinema - they are walking through the shot on screen - awesome. I have seen a few things in 3D now, and this was as low-key as they come, but itdefinately does dramatically enhance the whole effect.

The 3DWorld article by Mark Ramshaw in Issue 116, covers in good detail how Dreamworks had to work very hard to make a fully 3D cinematic experience. How they handle cuts between shots when there is 3D in the mix was just one fo the challenges.

There is a feature article on CGSociety by Renee Dunlop which covers more ground on the production. Below are a few images from the article which show some of the characters and their construction - plus an awesome piece of concept art for B.O.B.

[images from Monsters vs Aliens production via the CGSociety article]

[Concept art from Monsters vs Aliens via the CGSociety article]

The Official Monsters vs Aliens site is a fun place as well and has a nice little production video showing Jeffrey Katzenberg and his crew talk 3D for the production. I really like the 50's monster flick ideas in the film and here are a few desktop backgrouds from the official site playing with the idea:

[Monsters vs Aliens imagery in classic film styling]

As for a cinematic experience, I loved it and the kids have been reliving various parts of it all afternoon. The characters are great and the story fun, combine that with nice cultural andfilmic references and the luschious 3D visuals = makes for a highly recommended (if light hearted) film. Oh and if you can get your brain to think design, modelling, rigging,texturing, polygons, animation and more then the treat is beyond question.


Looking at Generi, he doesnt have quite the same style as these characters, but he can still act out a scene if I can get enough feeling into him. Looking at Oinkfrog, he feels simple now, but I think has enough character to hold his oddly shaped head up high.

Lets finish with the trailer:

speaking of which - the trailer for Star Trek up on the big loud screen - droool.

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