HP/DreamWorks Field Trip

Mar 29, 2009

The fine folks over at HP flew me and a bunch of other journalists from all over the world out to Los Angeles, CA last week to get a sneak peek at some tech goodies I can’t talk about just yet. Part of the fun was a tour of the facilities of DreamWorks Animation SKG which was crowned with a screening of “Monsters vs. Aliens” the day before it was released.

While the movies has already been commented upon by the folks who get paid to do that sort of thing, I am going to add my own $0.02 to the pot.

Being familiar with the software and techniques used to produce such a film, MVA stands out not only for it’s use of 3D (which was used quite well to give the scenes depth and realism, not just for sight gags), it also builds upon all of the techniques and technologies used in films prior to it.

Working our way through our group of stalwart monsters, I would like to point out what was special about him/her/it:

Susan Murphy/Ginormica – Susan’s model displays some truly amazing texture maps: realistic skin tones including freckles/blemishes; her “prison uniform” had a visible denim weave to it; and her hair simulation is the best I’ve seen since “Final Fantasy: Spirits Within”.

B.O.B – the most computationally challenging character, B.O.B.’s amorphous, translucent body would not have been possible a few years ago. Only recent advances in desktop compute power (more on this later today) enabled DreamWorks animators to be able to render B.O.B in a reasonable timeframe.

Missing Link – Link’s skin exhibited some extremely complex texturing including specular highlights as the skin glistened while moist.

Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. – Dr. C’s carapace, while not as heavily textured as Link’s or as detailed as Susan’s did exhibit a slight level of reflectivity that was directly influenced by his environment. From certain angles, you can see stuff reflected in his skin.

Insect-a-saurus/Butterfly-a-saurus – Possibly the most massive hair simulation in the history of Hollywood, the Mothra-class bug was visible down to individual follicles and caustic deformations on his claws. Stunning.

Will this film win “Best Picture”? Not likely. Will the kids love it? You bet. Will you be able to stand it? Yup. DreamWorks has managed to channel the comedic spirit of Warner Bros. old “Termite Terrace” animation group from the 30’s-40’s with two currents of humor in the film: slapstick fun for the kids and double-entendre/innuendo jokes for the parents. Good fun for all.

For those who haven’t seen the film – Derek is a jerk.