Le Building

January 24th, 2008

Today on Gobelins Appreciation Week: “Le Building” for Annecy 2005.

“Le Building” in high-res on Stage6.

Excellent in every respect. They pulled off an extra-nifty trick here you don’t see done well very often.

“The Matrix Effect,” here at Zoomy Labs, is a term used to describe a change in motion to exaggerate spacial relationships for dramatic effect. I don’t mean bullet time specifically, but that’s one example. I explain.

Don’t Make it Obvious

It’s generally pretty easy to tell 2D and 3D apart, especially if they’re animated. So to get them to mix well, you have to make them look more like each other.

It’s easier to deemphasize the 3D, because it’s really hard to make anything else look more like 3D. (It’s possible, but you have to be really good at drawing in perspective.) Cel-shading is the obvious go-to trick, but you can also tell that something’s 3D by how it moves. If you keep camera moves linear and perpendicular to the action, and avoid obvious rotations of objects, you can “flatten” the 3D a bit by reducing the possibility of depth cues. And of course you can always hide it within chaos. If everything’s moving crazy fast, it’s harder to tell if a shape was hand-drawn or not.

So if you balance things properly you can preserve that old-fashioned cartoony goodness while enjoying all the benefits of 3D: no drawing, and cold, unfeeling, robot-like precision. The Matrix Effect comes in the change-up.

Get Some Perspective

Typical response

In “Le Building” 3D objects are occasionally used in ways that look more 3D, in order to highlight unusual movement, but without sticking so far out that the two styles clash. The idea is to stretch the look of the piece in a new but coherent way. This is useful for providing a new consciousness-raising perspective on the action, and is frequently accompanied by looks of surprise on the characters. The frozen-moment camera-swoop is the classic Matrix Effect. Now all is clear.

When the cat lands on the biker in “Le Building,” the 3D kicks in, and it all feels appropriately wobbly and unstable. Likewise, the bus on the crane swoops around in a smoothly zoomy way that would have been hard to do in traditional 2D.

Contrariwise, when this effect isn’t specifically needed, they avoid it — the bus headed for the window is treated like a 2D element in the comp. This is a very delicate balance, and in my humble opinion, they stuck it.

The other place I’ve seen this done to good effect is Furi Kuri. And of course it’s done to lame effect in every Matrix parody between here and Kevin Bacon for the last eight years.

This making-of reel from CG supervisor and animator Olivier Staphylas shows off some great 3D cartoony rigging, especially in the built-in secondary:

Tight, simple design, low-poly, and easy care and feeding. The fenders on the bike and the bus passengers in particular are oh so nice. And because it’s all moving so fast in the piece you don’t notice that it doesn’t exactly match the style of the first characters.

View more making-of media at http://le-building.com.

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