production journal

Entry 02 - Will Meugniot, Director

16-Jan-2007 -- It's already been a busy morning, but thankfully and unusually, one with no emails from overseas needing urgent reply.

At a little after 10 AM, I've already reread the Dragonlance production and distribution deal to review the technical delivery requirements for the film and sent an email to the team at Toonz, double-checking that we're on the mark before submitting a short test scene featuring Onyx and the Companions to Paramount.

Photoshop is open on my computer desktop to prep the 2D design of an actual Dragonlance for use as a 3D element in the opening title. Later today I'll finish the color design and work out the special FX for Chislev as a 2D character. This evening will be spent pencilling a pinup for a friend's graphic novel, answering production questions as they come in from Korea and India, and hopefully catching a little TV time with my wife.

Dragonlance production is in full swing and everyone's working hard to make an on time delivery. Even though the DVD won't go on sale until Fall, we need to be finished in the Spring to allow time for mastering, pressing and distribution.

The movie currently has 1864 scenes, about 1600 of which involve some kind of interaction between 2D and 3D elements. Some of the interactions are "soft" with simple registration issues, like the characters walking past the fog-shrouded Darken Woods before their encounter with Draconians disguised in monk robes. Later in the same sequence there are some "hard" interactions with complex registration and compositing. Like when a Draconian grabs Goldmoon's hair or when Sturm's sword gets caught in a dead Draconian's stone body.

The Korean studio doing our 2D animation is finishing layout and moving into linetest, which is where we'll first really see how smoothly the compositing process is working. Their job has been made doubly difficult by the decision to keep the graphics as detailed as possible. Sturm's armor is a nightmare for any animator who has to draw every detail in every frame of animation.

Picture of a work in progress in Korea
A work in progress in Korea

Meanwhile, the team at Toonz in India is finalizing the dragons, Draconians and a wide range of particle and lighting FX. My friends Hari Varma and Baiju Gopinathan are facing a heroic and daunting task. Even simple scenes like Tika's first meeting with Fizban at the inn will employ particle FX to imply there's smoke in the air from the fireplace and special lighting FX to indicate the sunlight streaming thru the inn's windows.

Picture of a meeting with the Indian Animation and FX team
A meeting with the Indian Animation and FX team

With the need for heavy international cooperation, the internet is a key component in our production, we use it for everything from sharing files to instant messaging. Even the team in Los Angeles is spread over a wide geographic area. For example, when I finished an animatic of the logo last week, I was able to dumb it down to a Windows Media file and email it to our producers Steve Stabler, Arthur Cohen and Cindi Rice for a near instant review. With their approvals in place, I uploaded a big AVI file to the Toonz FTP the same evening, and a task which would have taken many days not so long ago was done in less than a day.

Of course the net has other uses in our production too. Check out this email sent by my pal Cindi in response to completing the logo animatic:

Will,

Since you're done with that, does that mean you can get the Journal Entry and interview done now too? :-)

Cindi

The internet, your tool for friendly nudging! Well, one down and one to go!

Will Meugniot
Director