The Iron Giant!!!

introbg My final blog post will be on the 1999 animation The Iron Giant. It’s one of my favourite movies ever and I remember watching it like ten over times when I was a kid. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it is directed by Brad Bird, who later went on to write and direct other animations such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The movie is based on the book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. Unfortuately he did not get to see the final version as he passed away while it was still in production. The movie is set in America in 1957 and it deals with things like cold war paranoia, weaponry and innocence. The central core to the movie, as Bird had told Warner Bros. when explaining the idea was that the giant was a gun with a soul.


The Iron Giant uses both traditional and computer animation, and it was animated like an assembly line. Bird did not use the then-current mode of feature production when it came to assigning animators. The practice at Disney had long been to assign a specific character to one animator so that an animating supervisor would only be responsible for drawing one character. He decided to play an an animator’s strength and assigned them entire scenes based on emotion or action, regardless of which character appeared.

the-iron-giant-brad-bird-1999 As for the giant, they used computer animation to create him as CGI would give him the mass and solidity and also give the impression that it’s from a different place. Bird says that the “separation between the 2D-animation and the CGI is something that helped establish the fish-out-of-water facet of the story.”.

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As Bird did not want the giant to look so perfect that it lost the hand-drawn look – something that creating it in CGI would do, they took months to create a computer program that wobbles the lines of the giant to make it as if it was done traditionally by 2D animation. Existing special software was also extended and modified to accomplish some things, like the aiding in the shading of the giant, varying the lightening and darkening of some frames and altering grain patterns to affect the giant’s realistic inclusion in the 2D animated world.

Gonna watch it again later yay!!!!!


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


The big deal about Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it was shot at 48 frames per second on the Red Epic camera in full 5k resolution. It was shot digitally, not film, on memory cards that was about 128 gigabytes each. So why shoot at 48 frames per second, you may ask. The usual cinema film is shot and projected at 24 fps, while The Hobbit is twice as much. When project at 48 fps, the result will look like it’s at a normal speed, but the image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness.

According to Peter Jackson, “Looking at 24 frames every second may seem okay – and we’ve all seen thousands of films like this over the last 90 years – but there is often quite a lot of blur in each frame, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quicklu, the image can judder or ‘strobe.'” A higher frame rate gets “rid of these issues” and makes the image “much more lifelike.” He also notes that filming at 48 fps makes the 3D images less taxing to watch.


The Red Epic is an epic camera and for the making of The Hobbit, it required them two (for each set of camera) of the Red Epic as they were shooting in 3D. And the problem they faced that the lenses they used were so large that they could not get an interocular similar to the human’s eye. So what they did was that they shot through a mirror on a rig. The left camera shoots through a mirror, and the right camera bounces off the mirror so that both of the filmed products are overlayed on screen.


They hired specialist firm 3ality to build a rig that enabled them to change the interocular and the convergence point as they were shooting. There were various rigs for all the different types of shooting, eg. a crane rig and a handheld rig. The handheld one, also known as the TS5, was small and light and it allowed the Peter Jackson to shoot in tight/cramped corridors or caves. Altogether, they have 48 Red Epic cameras on 17 3D rigs.

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Though the Red Epic is epic, it naturally desaturates the footage so on set, they had to over exaggerate the colours to counter the desaturation that was going to happen on screen. Above is an example of the forest scene on set. Besides the forest, the did some colour test before filming and realised that if there wasn’t enough red, it would turn really yellow and react differently than normal skin that has blood running through it. To counter the problem, they had to add alot of red tones to the actor’s make up. Though it looks reddish when not seen on the camera, when they’re filming, on screen it’ll look like normal flesh tone.

Here’s an interesting behind the scenes video on the 3D rigs and cameras they used!



Brave is an animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios mid this year. It is set in the Highlands of medieval Scotland and tells the story of a young princess, Merida, who defies an age-old custom , causing chaos to both her family and the kingdom. Honestly, the plot isn’t that well done. There were a couple of loose ends yet to be tied up. But it’s okay, the plot is not the point; the animation is.

For Brave, Pixar created a new animation system that allowed more flexibility animated fur, clothing, water and most importantly in the film – Merida’s hair. The picture above is how the female lead Merida looks like. As you can see, she has loads of those red curls. With the help of Presto, an animation system totally different from what Pixar usually uses, it gave the animators more flexibility for previewing during animation and they could also do advance simulation for Merida’s hair. Pixar developed a new hair simulation software known as Taz for Brave, surpassing the tools it used on their past feature films such as Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2. It took around three years, six animators and tons of hard work to do up Merida’s hair.

With Taz, the aim was to enable Merida’s soft curls to bounce properly or rub against things the right way when she interacts and expresses herself. The problem with previous software was that it didn’t make the hair react to the surroundings and actions right therefore there was a need to create a new software. It took a significant amount of time to make Taz. Besides hair, fur was also another challenge for the animators. Merida’s father, Fergus, wore attire consisting of eight layers. Those layers included several cloth, chainmail, leather, weapons, and a cloak with fur sewn on. No studio has even tried creating something so complicated, as it will face alot of problems the way the individual layers collide together.

Here is a short video of the layers of Merida’s hair.