During the co-foundation of Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab Studios combined his video game background with the cinematic expertise of CCO Eric Darnell and technical direction from CTO Larry Cutler. “The reason something is a hit isn’t because it’s stop-motion versus traditional animation. It’s how good the story and the characters are. The style is at support of this story. Raven: the legend and Baba Yagawe have created for both virtual reality and 2D. Namou was created in the Oculus Quill VR tool, where you literally paint 360, but the project was meant to be a 2D release. The animation is different because the director is different. We brought in Erick Oh, and it feels more like stop-motion because in Quill there’s no frame interpolation or rigging. Every project we’ve done has had completely different methods and tools, which is fun. The mandate that guides everything is to make sure the user feels like a protagonist. “Some parts of Baba Yaga and Fire were simple animation, but our animators also integrated a bunch of cycles that we fed into the AI engine. We built an emotive AI system for the characters similar to the games, so whatever the audience did, the story would shift and rearrange, and the characters would do different things.
“There’s a real-time revolution coming, but not everyone has embraced it yet,” Fan remarks. “Even when major studios embrace real-time, unless the product completely changes where it’s interactive, you’d still be animating the same way. I don’t think animators need to change any time soon. But if you want doing interactive animation, your skills must include the real-time aspect.
The visual language of virtual reality is still under development. “The fun thing about VR is that no one knows what they’re doing! You don’t need a lot of previous experience. It’s about finding the best animator and rigger, and finding the best animator and rigger. ‘find one who has the flexibility to try different things and doesn’t always have to do things the way they used to. Globalization of the industry hasn’t just impacted the workforce “You’ll notice that all of our projects have specifically chosen minorities and women,” adds Fan. “It’s because I’m a female minority and I feel like if I don’t, who will will do? Raven: the legend was inspired by a Native American legend, and it was one of the first native-themed animated stories. Instead of a hero’s journey, they’re much more about community. Baba Yaga is based on a well-known character in Eastern European literature. I’m excited about the different kinds of stories we can tell with globalization.
Formerly an animation supervisor at Baobab Studios and currently working as an animation supervisor for DNEG Animation, Ken Fountain points out that virtual reality is rooted in an art form that predates cinema, which is theater. “If you’re talking about getting into the AR/VR space, the language of filmmaking is totally changing because you can’t rely on an editor anymore,” Fountain observes. “The editor is the one who holds the headset and chooses where to look. The way you construct story and performance, and draw the eye and create compositions, is based on theatrical rather than cinematic approaches. You need to be procedural and theatrical. While it’s exciting for a user to be able to choose their own narrative, there’s also respect for boundaries.