Using video effects

The Farm Media Group, a full-service post-production company in Dublin, was given the task of creating a 30-second promo for a new program on TV channel UK Gold called “The Battle of the Monstrous Bosses.” This puts two well-known terrible bosses together, the fictional TV sitcom characters Basil Fawlty from “Fawlty Towers” and David Brent from “The Office.” Viewers are encouraged to take part by voting for the worst boss.

With SOFTIMAGE|XSI, animators with The Farm Media Group are able to have all of their elements in one piece of software and can render on-the-fly.

The task was to create a promo with animations of Basil and David as 3-D computer game characters, and to recreate both sets of the TV programs. The storyboard also included a dreary office with many partitions based on the movie “The Matrix,” and the characters had to be fighting each other in a computer-game-style fighting arena to see who would win.

The post-production company chose the SOFTIMAGE|XSI program to produce the entire promo due to its character-animation capabilities and its integrated compositing system. The company’s Softimage suite is linked via the Avid Unity with 3TB of storage. Its machines are dual 2GHz with 1G RAM and a Quadro 4 graphics card, and it has large flat-screen PC monitors.

The animators began by viewing original TV footage from the original sitcoms to find specific mannerisms for both characters. They followed this research by viewing various current computer fighting games to see how these characters could fight each other in the arena and what actions could be created for them to perform.

The next task was to create the characters. To begin the modeling of the 3-D characters, the animators used original TV footage as a reference guide. They used rotoscoping to build a reference in terms of size and look of character. Then they used traditional animation skills to create the moves of Basil and David, both in their mannerisms and when fighting with each other.

The animators saved these pieces of animation as clips and actions that could be manipulated in the animation mixer in order to create the timing and flow of movement required by the director. The animation mixer allowed the animators to reuse the data they had prepared for the characters. It also saved time by allowing the animators to blend, offset or reuse clips when needed.

During the fight, there were bursts of particles around the impact areas, which the animators created within the 3-D animation and effects software. They added glows and other effects to the characters, especially when they were in combat with each other. The animators composited these and other basic graphics within the SOFTIMAGE|XSI effects tree.

The last step was to go through each element of the promo with the director from UK Gold, who was able to make choices and change individual moves to his taste, since it is fairly easy to swap and alter shots. For this particular project, the final composite was done in the Discreet flame and took a couple of hours.

So why did the company choose this system over other 3-D packages or a mixture of systems? One reason is that the system enables the animators to have all of their elements in one piece of software. Therefore, they do not have to use additional plug-ins or transfer the elements to other systems, where they can get lost.

It also saves time and allows the animators to render on-the-fly and make any amendments where needed. The animation mixer saves time because once a clip is animated, the animators can save that file and just drag and drop it onto another character. Because of this, they can also reuse other animations, such as a simple walk, that they have done in other projects.

In addition, because the company is working remotely from Dublin, the animators needed to be able to send clips to the director to see if they had captured his games style, and the Net View feature enabled him to view the material via the Internet and suggest any changes by phone.

Finally, when the director was sitting with the animators in Dublin, they were able make any changes and render them in real time using the integrated rendering tool, which is crucial in client-attended approval.

Niall O’Hosín is the senior 3-D animator at The Farm Media Group.

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