domingo, julio 14, 2002

Yoda As We've Never Seen Him Before

We've all been waiting to see Yoda in a light saber duel and Star Wars Episode II does not miss the mark. Bill Desowitz from Animation World Magazine speaks with ILM on how they created Yoda in CGI and brought him to action.

From Puppet to CG
"We considered Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back and asked, 'What makes Yoda Yoda?'" explains Tim Harrington, senior computer graphics animator. "Frank Oz's puppetry, subtle nuances, the heavy eyelids over the pupils, how his ears jiggle. We were going after the essence of Oz."
THE Scene
Not surprisingly, most of the effort went into the battle with Count Dooku. Lucas presented an animatic of Yoda fighting with a light saber. "George was adamant that Yoda be a master swordsman," Harrington stresses. "The fan in us thought it was cool, but the artist in us became cynical. How do you pull this off and not have it look ridiculous? Does Yoda create multiples of himself? Does he fly? Does he use the Force? One of the ways to make it believable was to lead the audience on -- to show them that here comes something that you've never seen before. When he pulls out that light saber, it's a very dramatic entrance. George said it should be a showdown like in a Western, and then suggested, 'What if he pulls at his robe to reveal the light saber?' It was a technological nightmare. Cloth is so difficult.

"I animated Yoda pantomiming the movement where he grabs the robe. I figured out the exact frame he touches it with the technical animator and we tacked the cloth to Yoda's hand to give it that Western feel."
But inevitably the two Jedi masters do battle with their light sabers as in a samurai movie. "The sequence took three months with a team of nine animators," Harrington adds. "We choreographed the moves in a reverse way, like solving a puzzle. Looking, fighting, countering Dooku's moves. Each one looked like a check. We used background plates of Lee and his double matched to Yoda. The hard part was figuring out how Yoda fights because he's so small. We looked at a bunch of films and came up with the moves. We looked at tennis, we looked at samurai, we looked at acrobatic power moves in the circus. The Phantom Menace DVD was also very helpful because it had some cool new Jedi fighting moves that were explained in the supplementals. One of them was Obi Wan holding the light saber with two hands. We thought that would be good for Yoda too.
"George pointed out that Yoda's too small to stay on the ground, so he should do a lot of jumping and spinning. He should be more acrobatic than the other Jedi. But one of the first things we questioned was how to attack Dooku? Does he go for the legs? No, George said he wants to kill Dooku, so he should go for the head and the chest."
Then, after the fight, Lucas wanted to bring the viewer back to the reality of a more familiar Yoda, so he came up with the idea of Yoda being so wiped out that he picks up his cane and slowly drags it on the floor. "We wanted the audience to feel that it was now in the presence of the same Yoda we know and love."

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