Interviews: Walt Burgwynn
1. How long does it take to animate an episode of Beast Wars?
It would be difficult to quote an exact number of hours needed to create an episode from start to finish. But if you exclude the time needed to finalize scripts and character design, it usually takes ten to twelve weeks of pre production, production, and post production. Preproduction is usually given two weeks. In pre production the Director and the Editor work closely with the Supervising Animator to pace the show and begin setups. This means they take the pre-recorded dialogue from the script and time it out in the avid to meet the actual running time of the show. The setups are done by the Supervising Animator to give the rest of the crew good starting points from which to begin creating each sequence. This is where actual production begins.
The Director assigns different sections of the script to each animator on the eight man crew. The animator then begins to create the shot. Each shot must go through a series of hardware rendered test before the director will approve the it. The shot is approved when all aspects of it, i.e.. animation, lighting, camera, and fx are ready for final render. In other words except for the sound, the shot is as it will appear when broadcast. These shots go to together to make sequences. When all sequences are completed the show goes into post production.
Post production is where all the final touches are done the episode before it goes out the door. Final touches include online editing and those really nice sounds effects. If we had our way we would spend two weeks in pre production, 16 in production, and two more in post. Unfortunately that will rarely be possible due to the tight deadlines involved in television production. So for the actual number of hours needed to create an entire episode, it varies. Animators will spend 40 - 60 hours a week actually creating, dependeding on the deadline of the show and the machines can be setup to render shots while the animators are away from work. From start to finish this goes on for an average of 8 - 10 weeks.
2. It has been said that the creation of a new character takes a long time, is this true?
The process of creating a new character takes quite some time. First, the companies involved with producing the show have to agree on some legallities, such as the design and marketability of each new character, before it can be given to a computer modeller to create. That process can be quite lengthy.
On average it takes about three weeks to actually model a new character from scratch on the computer, but it can certainly be done faster depending on the design of the character and the skills of the modeller. After the geometry is completed it has to be textured. That process [texturing] once again varies depending on character design and the skills of the texture person. It can be done in as little as one day!
3. What tools do you use to animate Beast Wars?
Each animator has an SGI R10000 processor with 320 megs of ram! All the SGIs are connected through the ethernet based network. We use Softimage as our primary animation package and have several very cool proprietary programs that make life alot easier.
4. How difficult is it to animate the characters?
Animating characters for Beast Wars is essentially the same as animating for Reboot. Basically the characters have the same internal structure. The difference comes in the geometric weight of the characters. Beast Wars characters are very heavy and have limited range of motion. In other words some movements and poses are not possible with the Beast Wars characters.
5. It has been said that the show is animated at different angles all at once, is that true?
Some, not all, scenes are shot from different angles. But this is done by moving the position of the camera, not by reanimating the shot.
6. It is said that Beast Wars lacks shadows because of the lenght of time it takes to add them in. Any truth in that?
It takes a little longer to establish good lighting in a scene that has shadows and it takes alot longer for the computer to render the scene. It's worth it though. Shadows really add alot of depth and tone to the scene.