The Chronicles of Studio C [part one]

nickcharles · March 5, 2006 12:00 am

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is the second of the seven volume book "The Chronicles of Narnia", written by the late Clive Staples Lewis. The book is set in England during the Second World War, and introduces 4 children that are sent away for their own protection. The children eventually find a wardrobe that links their new home to a world of fantasy, populated by strange and fascinating creatures. The movie adaptation of the book hit the theaters last Christmas. Bringing a monumental adventure like Chronicles of Narnia to the big screen is no easy thing. It requires a lot of work, not only on the directing side but also on the visual effects. The filmmakers hired different Visual Effects companies to take on the wide variety of effects that needed to be done. One of those companies was Studio C, a VFX studio located in Guatemala.
Latin-American studios dont usually work on major feature films. So you may guess that a studio from Guatemala working on such a big project like Chronicles of Narnia is a really big deal, especially for Latin-Americans. Due to the volume of the interview, I decided to split it in two parts. You will be able to read part two of the interview next week on the front page. Tobias Cortes: compositing and editing supervisor. Marvin Barillas: 3D supervisor. Lily Vasquez: 3D animator. Ludwing Paniagua: Matte painting supervisor. What are Studio C's beginnings? How did you come up with the original concept and what was your objective? Tobias Cortes: Carlos moved to Antigua, and one day (according to what people say) he met Marvin the day that he almost ran over him! They also met Ludwing and together they began working on some design and visualization. Carlos saw the other two guys could create really good work so he ventured to get projects from North America and thats how they began. How it began and what was the objective? Carlos always says that he has always wanted to bring us the opportunities he didnt have, and that going out of the country in search of job opportunities will become more like an option, not an obligation. Marvin Barillas: I think the objective was to give anybody the opportunity to enter the digital world. Ludwing Paniagua: Studio C opened its doors thanks to Carlos Argllo. He realized that in our country there were talented people that were interested in this industry but didnt find any job opportunities. This was originally a publicity agency born from a project about national identity. The project was done by the Mesoamerican Center of Regional Research (CIRMA), based in Antigua, Guatemala. A group of four people was made to work on a multimedia presentation (using flash, music, video and 3D), and then Carlos vision was to make the company bigger so we could work on films.
Ive seen your portfolio on your website. What kind of work do you do to get the job done? Tobias Cortes: Well, the idea is born and then its toned down to make it possible to create. Its sent to the postproduction people so they can split the workload and provide basic information. We then make some proof of concepts in every area. The graphics department makes their sketches, the 2D department makes animations, 3D makes 3D animations or models, compositors make color tests and other stuff, and editing makes animatics, timing, and rhythm tests. Different revisions of the elements are made so we are able to tell the story based on those elements. Marvin Barillas: We do everything from concept design, digital effects, matte painting, compositing, video editing, audio design, and audio editing. Ludwing Paniagua: Like everything else, we work on the concept designs, then we move on to modeling and animation. Then we do the compositing and visual effects, if they are needed. Can you talk a little about the effects that you created for the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia"? Tobias Cortes: I worked on the breathing compositing. With the animators, we defined how the breathing would behave according to syllables, mouth shape, head movement, and so on. After making the 3D animation of the breathing it was sent to compositing where that breathing is animated again in 2D. We did color correction, opacity tweaking, rotoscoping and all that, to make the scene look as real as possible. I also worked with 4 other people, including Gary Jackemuk (compositor) and Michael Loyd (matte painter) on a scene where a period train was filmed on a real location (a modern train station). That location had to be replaced using a dark background with shattered buildings, which had to depict the time where the movie took place. We made matte paintings and 3D elements and then we took those and put them behind the train, replacing the original background. We did color correction and even color corrected our live-action smoke, and blended it with computer generated smoke. Lily Vasquez: The effects that we made were the Cair Paravel castle, concepts for the castle interior, the map scene, the river sequence, and the breathing sequences. Each of these was sent to the appropriate groups. Some scenes were made using matte paintings, while others were done in 3D, such as the breathing sequences. We used camera tracking to make the breath come out of their mouths, and then we would add gravity and wind to make it feel real. Marvin Barillas: We made more than 350 shots divided in 3 categories: 1. Breath: We digitally added the breath to the characters when they were in cold environments. This was a very technical effect because we had to realistically simulate the characters breathing. 2. River: For the river sequence we ran water simulations, animated ice chunks, and we digitally painted all the backgrounds. 3. Hero shots: We did around 10 hero shots, like those of the Lions exterior shots and the witchs castle interior. We also made the map scene, which was completely digital. These 10 shots consumed a lot of our time because we had to create everything from scratch. Ludwing Paniagua: For Chronicles of Narnia we first created the concepts for the witchs castle interior. We used 3D models under different texture and light conditions. Then we worked on Aslans castle, for which we did the 3D models, textures, and camera movements. We also worked on the scenes that needed digital breath simulations, using camera tracking and particle systems that were then married to the live action footage. For the river sequence, we used everything from matte paintings, rotoscoping, chroma key, camera tracking, color correction, 3D ice pieces and their interaction with the water (textures, lighting, shading, and so on). For some other scenes we just used matte paintings and digital compositing.
Can you give us a little inside information on the Project titled "Pendragon"? Tobias Cortes: Thats a project being developed in conjunction with other people from the production department, but we dont have any actual information because its not yet in the production stage. When the project is in production we will be able to give you any information you may want. Marvin Barillas: Thats a work in progress. We cant give out any information yet. Be sure to catch the second part of the interview next week in the Front Page News!
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Message2469842.jpgAnimation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Columnist Sergio Rosa [nemirc].
March 6, 2006

Article Comments

Khai ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 07 March 2006

not bad at all.. nice interview... except.. it's the first book.. (first written and advised to be te first read)...

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 07 March 2006

The first book is "The magician's nephew". I don't know if this was actually written after Lion but on the boxed set it does show as number one :)

graphicguru ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 08 March 2006

This interview is a very short read, considering we are talking about one of my all time favorite books, and how it was brought to life. I am also interested in the developement of Latin American countries, because my wife is from that region of the world. I am looking forward to much more detail and lots of photos in part two. I can say this; 'Bravo!' to the creative staff at Studio C! Your work is second to none, perfect! El trabajo que hizo tu equipo es perfecto! Bravo!

Khai ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 08 March 2006

Magician's Nephew was actually written just before the Last Battle, (book 7), and is more correctly book 6. While Magician is set before Lion, most readers advise that ppl start with Lion and then read them in order.. tho there's a debate about this ;)

jdebroy ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 08 March 2006

As a Guatemalan myself, I can say we all are very proud of this group of talented artists. It is true that not so often this kind of opportunities present to us, but being so close to the U.S. is starting to overcome the shyness that has plagued our latin american tradition for many generations. As a Renderosity member, as 3D artist and as technology professional, I can say that this guys are the tip of the arrow, which will hopefully bring opportunities for many talented people here and will open spaces for latin america in the fabulous world of cinema and entertainment industries. Felicitaciones much ( Congratulations to you guys!) Julio Debroy

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