This has nothing to do with Instagram. The statement, “Instagram Saves Everything” is a patent lie. It has actually been proven through science that Instagram does not actually exist in the real world. We use it here simply because the traditional phrase, “fix it in post,” now seems increasingly antiquated given everything here begins and ends with the computer. One of our favorite pieces of animation software actually comes with a filter called Lens Cap. It does exactly what you think it does. A sense of humor is a good thing. Now where’s the Make Awesome button.
We return to the conversation in progress, Kelsey trying desperately to moderate.
Roger Topp: Ice edges for you, Hannah?
R: Slight scope revision there on what the camera was going to see, in terms of –
R: The looks Hannah’s throwing me right now are –
H: He should be bursting into flames.
R: We should get these on camera.
H: I love you man, it’s OK.
R: So what part do you like though, because I know that was not the best thing the last couple of weeks to work on?
H: It’s relaxing, it’s like ocean waves. It’s like a no brainer. Well I don’t know, there’s something very therapeutic about clone stamping ice together.
R: After rigging 96 controls on a copepod just sitting down in front of Photoshop and just clone stamping ice is relaxing.
H: I think rigging and realizing rigging problems too late is — most of my anger goes toward rigging. Because with rigging you have to be on yourself to be conscientious about a lot of steps going up to it and if you get anything wrong and you have to go back to it, then you have to go back this many steps, like if you don’t zero out rotations, if you forget to turn your joint orientation, all that stuff adds up to pain later on.
K: This took about a minute before it went on from thing I like best to thing I hate the most.
R: There’s not a thing we’re doing on this project or indeed most of our projects where we aren’t pushing some envelope, right, and so what happens is no matter what part of the project it is, there’s a technical challenge to be met. A mental challenge to be met. Once you finally solve that, it’s wonderful stuff, but copepods right now, the challenge is still there. It’s not yet solved how we’re going to get this copepod rigged well, looking right, swimming right, that’s something that we’re still looking on. The krill! Hah! Happy about the krill, krill was awesome.
H: I think my favorite shots were the ones I know will look epic when they’re rendered out.
R: So what are the favorite things you’ve worked on?
H: I know lots of animators hate swim cycles or walking cycles, but I find something very therapeutic about getting cycles to look right because the payoff is huge when you can use bits of it later on, and other bits and pieces, that you have something that’s really polished and nice. But I love doing shots that will look really cool, like the tail shot when it’s done right, that will look really nice, like when I finish animating it right and pass it off to you, and getting to see what it looks like –
R: When it’s rendered.
H: (whispering) When it’s rendered.
R: I’m a big fan of simulations. And when they work, oh yeah, they’re great. And when they don’t work –behind me is a computer slaving away at a certain water simulation that it has been slaving away for a while now, trying to just get it right. And once we get it right, once we solve the problems with it, it will be used again and again over the next couple of months to produce wonderful stuff. But it’s still tricky trying to get it to work. It’s always the latest thing that’s my favorite, and right now it’s swarming krill. Tens of thousands of krill swarming and they look like they’re a unit. They look like they’re animals behaving in concert with one another. Reacting with each other, reacting with what’s around them. We pushed a whale through the krill this morning –
H: You didn’t.
H: You didn’t tell me.
R: They did.
H: Oh my goodness.
R: No, the whale, it was just — the whale was a ball.
R: The whale will be added –
R: The ball was pushed through a cloud of 20,000 krill.
H: So everyone that’s listening, the whale is a lie. It’s a ball.
R: It’s a ball.
R: Well we will get the actual whale in there and it will do the same thing.
H: (sighs) How could you do this to me, Roger?
R: Yeah. That was fun.
H: So all the krill survived, none were lost to the ball?
R: None are destroyed as the whale moves through. That’s right, we cheated.
H: None were lost to ballistics?
(A moment of silence, then all three erupt into laughter)
H: One might say!
R: I can’t, I can’t follow her sometimes. What is she saying, Kelsey? Could you just translate?
H: One might say the krill were having a ball. What’s your worst, what do you not like the least, Roger?
R: The thing I find I’m the least happy with at the moment is finding when you have different kinds of shots in a film, I mean we have a lot of whales in water, go figure, then we also have some rather technical shots that we need to get into the film, things like spectrograms, things like cladogram for the whale, parts of the whale, that kind of stuff. And making that fit with the more photorealistic stuff is more difficult to do. It’s not like ‘oh, that part of the film is cheap and easy.’ It’s actually more difficult because you need to do those kinds of technical details while fitting it in. And we’ve talked about things like the stroke recording and that –
H: —that was really cool.
R: Yeah, and by itself, I think it’s pretty cool. But it’s one of those little hassles, difficulties, nightmares, I’m just sitting there thinking ‘it’s got to be more than that. We’ve got to make it fit and not just leave it to the editor, Kelsey, to make it look seamless. There’s another step in between, that’s something that I’m trying to find time for.
K: Just turn the brightness and contrast way up and it’ll look amazing.
R: Just bloom it!
H: Just put an Instagram filter on it! Instagram saves everything.
K: How do you plan out shots? I’m thinking specifically longer swimming shots. How do you plan them out to meet the needs of both the narrative, to fit within the time, and for scientific accuracy?
R: Yeah well there’s a script, and the script is calling for certain types of shots that seem appropriate to that part of the script. But when, let’s say you select a shot, like we have a reveal at some point, where Mysti will reveal the baby.
H: Aww, the little baby.
R: Name’s Ghost, right, when we reveal the baby whale, the narrative calls for it. And so there’s a time allowed for it. We’ve done scratch recordings of the narration even though we haven’t put the actual voice talent on tape yet, we know roughly it takes this many seconds. And so we can make an adjustment saying let’s make sure all our shots are 10 percent longer than they’re required, the narration itself might be a little longer than that, you say, instead of being a 15 second shot, you fill 20 seconds of it. So now you kind of have a range. But then you get these wonderful animations and you’re like, woah, it could be 30 seconds, and you sit there and go, well there’s problem with 30 seconds, because, that’s time, that’s computer time. You’re not going to use all 30 seconds, but how many choices do we want to give the editor later, extra footage. And when you shoot video, you shoot tons of extra footage without burning too much daylight, but in the computer it’s a week’s worth of work sometimes for the computer to spit out an extra five seconds.
And so the project moves forward, five seconds by five seconds, which translates to weeks of painting, animating and rendering. By the time it gets to me, Kelsey, the editor, I will have my filters at the ready.
–Roger Topp (UAMN Head of Exhibits and Digital Media Production)
–Hannah Foss (UAMN Modeler/Animator)
–Kelsey Gobroski (UAMN Digital Media Producer)