By IAN FAILES
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By IAN FAILES
As the animation studio behind the various LEGO movies – including The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part – Animal Logic has spent several years ramping up its pipeline in order to deliver a unique CG style of stop-motion-like animation and a diverse set of worlds and characters.
Indeed, the studio has developed its very own renderer along with a set of proprietary tools and techniques for making the films feel like they are made from individual LEGO bricks. VFX Voice asked key Animal Logic crew members about some of the technological leaps created specifically for The Second Part.
The Second Part is directed by Mike Mitchell and sees the main characters from the first film [The LEGO Movie] return to find their world devastated by several Duplo characters. What follows is an intergalactic adventure that showcases new worlds, new characters and a lot more brick action.
With ‘brick films’ as the inspiration for the style of animation in all the LEGO films, over the various movies Animal Logic has created a workflow for realizing character animation without motion blur, while staying extremely close to the look and range of movement that real LEGO blocks and characters have.
Part of that comes from the studio’s reliance on LEGO’s own LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) – a tool available to the public – that lets users choose from the existing LEGO brick library. Animal Logic has connected LDD into its Maya pipeline to allow artists to continue to build vehicles, structures and environments.
What LDD helped with in The Second Part is the idea that “…everything is made out of bricks,” says CG Supervisor Emmanuel Blasset. “We do have a little bit of dust in the air and physical smoke, but for this movie we really went back to the roots of the traditional stop-motion look, so everything is made out of LEGO.”
With bricks always on their mind, Animal Logic’s artists further developed the proprietary path trace renderer, Glimpse, during the making of The Second Part to provide for even greater on-screen detail. It also helped with things such as a physically-based iridescence. This is seen, for example, in the hair of the character Sweet Mayhem. Glimpse also allowed for upgraded lens flares and depth-of-field which had normally been the domain of compositing.
Weave, also an in-house Animal Logic tool, came in handy for cloth simulations in The Second Part. Meanwhile, the studio’s scattering tool, Spawn, was one that the studio relied on to spread dirt into the film’s initial post-apocalyptic wasteland called Apocalypseburg.
Instead of spreading those kinds of particles manually, artists would build CG sets, and then, according to CG Supervisor John Rix, use Spawn to “…distribute all of the dust particles across the whole entire area. It was done semi-procedurally. The dirt was cast onto the surface and algorithms allowed it to bunch up more where it got into corners and to be a little more sparse in open areas.”
Still, in channeling the stop-motion side of LEGO, Animal Logic approached some shots in the film in more ‘old-school’ ways. For example, explosions related to the character Sweet Mayhem were hand-sculpted initially with LDD and crafted using procedural replacement animation like a stop-motion solution. “We’re not just taking an explosion and converting it to bricks,” says FX Supervisor Mark Theriault. “We’re actually sculpting each frame of the brick and triggering it so it feels more stop-motion.”
Similarly, even times when elements were simulated with computer graphics, they had as their base something rooted in reality. Some of these elements include the fabric-like constructs in space.
“We went through a lot of development to get the right look and the right placement of each of those pieces of fabric,” explains art director Kristen Anderson. “We even set up big strips of fabric and would shoot stills of them – we’d stand in front of co-director Trisha Gum, who’s from a stop-motion background, with rulers and strips of fabric at a certain distance and say, ‘Does this feel right for this size?’”