Making Jimmy Neutron

Page 3 of 5

DMN: What is it you like about the LightWave renderer?

Davis: LightWave has always had a really unique look to me. It looks really rich, itís very warm, with a very filmic quality to it. It doesnít look digital to me as much as a lot of the other renderers Iíve seen. It does look very close to Renderman in a way, although itís not as glowy-looking as what Pixarís stuff looks like, which is really pretty. So I really just like the look of it, itís not a dollar-and-cent issue. But there are still things I wish it did a little differently. [an error occurred while processing this directive] DMN: Such as control things?

Davis: Yeah, control things. There are scaling things we still have to do by hand, where if you have an object with a complex surface, you go close up on it and it looks great, if you back away, it starts to moire and has issues. There are ways to program around that, like Renderman and some other things, but in LightWave you had to work around it shot by shot. If those effects were causing a problem you had to adjust it for that shot and redo things.

The Yokian king yelling. (Click image for larger view.)
It was kind of a muscle approach. That was kind of conscious, to take off-the-shelf tools that are really good but are not really designed to do this huge pipeline we built for it and then just using a lot of firepower and muscle to force it to bend to our will, so to speak. So, thatís what we did, and we actually created several utilities in house to help facilitate the pipeline. I wouldnít necessarily call it proprietary software, itís more just things to address production flow issues.

The way we were set up, in 3D, youíre animating characters in a very crude environment. Itís very low resolution, low overhead, so you can do it quickly. Updates are quick, and you can build your previews fast. Then, you take that animation and you pop it in the finished environment that is very fleshed out, very high resolution, very high overhead. Itís slower to work with, and if you have to go backwards, you have to strip all that stuff out. So we created a lot of utilities that help to strip scenes and relink scenes and things like that to get rid of a lot of load time issues. At the time when we were doing scenes that were ready for final rendering, some of the load times would require 30 to 40 minutes to load a shot. And if youíre working on a shot and your computer crashes you go phhht, Iím going to be loading for another 30 or 40 minutes, time to go get some coffee. So, the layout department did a lot of that kind of stuff and they would have two or three computers apiece. While oneís loading theyíre working on another one and itís kind of an assembly line.

DMN: What were some of the issues getting LightWave and messiah working together?

Davis: It was kind of tricky and they really helped us out, but it was a real learning process for us. Itís real peculiar the way itís set up. But actually now messiah is a standlone package.

DMN: And Fori Owurowa is behind that, so he knows LightWave.

Davis: Yeah, Fori is a good friend, Iíve known him for years. They were very helpful and even helped with some of the initial character set ups and things until we got up on it. But once we got our brain permanently wrapped around how it worked, then we actually got pretty proficient at it, where we really moved quickly. Just like any project, you go through the same production arc, where itís really hard at the start and you build up speed and you really go. By the end of the project you feel like you can do anything. Moving real fast and everythingís flying. Same thing with this.

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