Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Behind the Scenes with FROZEN Animation Rigging

Time for another episode of "What the Heck TV Mom Was Doing in L.A. Last Month" and more coverage of Disney's Oscar winning animated film, Frozen! This time, we head to the Animation Rigging Lab under Animation TD Supervisor Greg Smith.

Welcome to Disney Animation Studios Rigging Lab!

First we sat down and were treated to a neat presentation about the way the CG animation worked and how the team for Frozen had some challenges that they actually created new software to overcome. For instance, Elsa's hair, and to a lesser extent Anna's, was rigged with individual clumps of hairs, totalling more than 400,000 individual hairs--which is about four times what a normal human being has on their heads and at least double what Rapunzel had in Tangled! This gave the animators a chance to actually "style" the characters' hair in much a similar manner as real hair. And speaking of hair, Olaf too had some "hair" issues that the animators had to deal with... he only had sticks for hair remember, but they had to be bouncy and full of life. You'll find out more about that by watching the video below (which, I promise, is only around seven minutes long).

Presentation on Anna's clothing from patterns!

Other obstacles included clothing--each female character wears full undergarments and petticoats, and they're all animated separately based on the type of fabric they are supposedly made from! Since fabric moves differently based on what type it is, that posed yet another challenge for the animators, which they touch on in the video below.

An animation rig! Dual screens, yo.

Being the geek that I am, when given the opportunity, I asked what operating systems they used for their various animation programs. Our Olaf hands-on demonstration (at the end of the video you can see a minute of my "animation" work!) was given to us on PC, and they used a Mac for their presentation (as well as I noticed on our tour that they were omnipresent on desks throughout the department)... and they responded just as I thought they might... Linux! He couldn't remember what breed of Linux system they used, but it was Linux-based. To those of you whose eyes glazed over or skipped this last paragraph entirely, I apologize, but I thought it was super interesting. It's why I asked... and immediately texted TV Dad to let him know, being that he's a Linux guy.

You can see in the picture above just how many different controls there were to move Olaf around, and how detailed his face animation can get. It was fascinating and I likely could have spent far longer in that room than anyone would have been comfortable with being that I'm not a Disney employee... but I digress.

So, here's the moment you've all been waiting for... the VIDEO! It's super short, and of course I didn't think to start taping until after the comment about Elsa's hair, but there is lots of interesting information to be gleaned from a mere seven minutes! Again, sorry for the video quality (iPad!), and your sound needs to be all the way up to hear it, but since we were in a smaller room, it's more clear than the Director/Producer interview video. Enjoy!

Finally, a funny story! So, as we were walking out after our session, one of the other bloggers asked for a photo of the three guys who gave the presentation. They giggled and asked if she needed them to pose a certain way, and she asked them to stand nicely or something, which they gladly obliged. I, being the not-too-swift-on-the-uptake gal that I am, also tried to grab them for a photo (one walked away), and jokingly, I told the two guys who remained they didn't have to pose any particular way for me. So, this is what I got:

This is why you should ALWAYS have them pose!

Yep. One smiled like a goof (what computer guy ISN'T a goof?) and one hid from me entirely. I couldn't help but crack up and told them that it was absolutely perfect for my needs. And it is. So, thank you awesome computer animator guys for indulging the silly side of my blog!

Stay tuned for more Behind the Scenes looks at Frozen here at TheTVMom.com, including (hopefully!) video of ME voicing Olaf in the recording studio! Plus, continuing coverage of my L.A. trip: The Pirate Fairy, Saving Mr. Banks, Disney Studios Lot, and the Animation Research Library and Archives!

Disclosure: I received a trip to LA in exchange for my unbiased coverage of the Frozen Blu-ray release. Please see my Disclosure tab for more information.

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