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Stacked for success

by Digital Studio Middle East Staff on Jul 16, 2017

The Lego Batman movie grossed more than $175 million in the US box office.
The Lego Batman movie grossed more than $175 million in the US box office.

It was a case of real life aping reel life in the making of The Lego Batman movie. Just like the main serious protagonist who lightens up through the course of the movie, the makers were smiling all the way to banks and applause all around, especially as the animated film landed 11 nominations for the 2017 Golden Trailer Awards.

What caught the audience’s attention about the film was its spectacular and expressive animation, which is not an easy feat to achieve keeping the Lego-bricked landscape in perspective. But that is something Warner Bros has been able to create and recreate over the years, by collaborating with partners who can do justice to its projects.

Take the case of Sydney’s Animal Logic that has worked with the studio on films such as Happy Feet, The Owls of Ga’Hoole, The Lego Movie (released 2014) from pitch and proof of concept through to post. After the success of the first Lego film, it was only natural that when Warner Bros decided to work on its spin-off three years later, its ideal partner would be Animal Logic as the post-production company.

Collaborating from the start

For this all-animated feature, Animal Logic’s team acted less as post-production and more as part of the production group. Sam Chynoweth, colourist at Animal Logic, recalled that where they normally get four weeks to grade a live action movie, in this instance they were embedded in the production process for a year. “Almost since the beginning of the project we were working with production designer, Grant Freckelton, to develop looks and essentially became an extension of the lighting, compositing and output departments, rather than waiting for finished shots to be delivered to us.”

The process began with Freckelton and film director Chris McKay working closely with Animal Logic’s team to get the right look and feel. “Very early on, the makers had some ideas where they wanted elements of a 1970s film. So, we had to work out how to incorporate those, but keep it feeling modern. Then, we lifted it up a little to include a bit of fun. We ended up coining the phrase ‘baby’s first apocalypse’ – dark and gritty and Gotham-like, but all the bits that could be made fun would be fun, and anything that could be turned up was turned up to 11. Our motto all the way through was “enhance, enhance!” Chynoweth said.

While watching an animated movie the entire package comes together as a mélange of images and shots. Little do viewers, or even industry professionals for that matter, know that the shots reach the post-production without any balancing. Often, all of this has to be done from scratch for every scene, which means detailed planning is required at every step.

Animal Logic had about 300 artists working on scenes throughout the Lego Batman movie, and there were different compositors putting in their own nuances shot-to-shot, so a fair amount of basic balancing was needed to bring it into line.

“From there we did a lot of secondaries. Working alongside production gave us the opportunity for massive attention to detail. We had a heavily multi-channel EXR set-up delivering us a series of passes from lighting, so we were really able to get in there and manipulate things to the nth degree,” Chynoweth said.


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