The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
Return to Table of Contents
Return to Table of Contents September 2016 Return to Table of Contents
Page 2
Page 3
Tulip Fever
ASC Close-Up

Speaking to those needs, Emerson recalls, "Three years ago, I saw my first Kubo storyboards. They were images of his mother on a small boat navigating her way through a stormy sea. Enormous, angry oceans aren't environments you typically see in a stop-motion film. Whereas in the past we may have used K-Y Jelly to simulate water, this scene would require a different look on a much larger scale. We suspected the ultimate solution was likely going to be computer-generated."

The stage rigging techs, headed by Oliver Jones, produced a physical water rig as a reference for any future CG efforts. The rig consisted of a large metal grid covered with different fabrics and tarps that were then animated to move like ocean waves. Satisfied with that look and feel, the visual-effects team began to create a digital version of the stormy sea. Lead effects artist David Horsley joined in as lead digital-effects animator and brought with him more experience with water, having worked on Life of Pi.

The team broke its water system into foam, whitecaps, churn and spray, then called upon the art department to choose physical materials from which some of these elements could appear to be made. The art department, in turn, produced patterns made of tiny pieces of paper to emulate foam and spray, and these patterns were then simulated in the CG process.

The most difficult part of the process, Emerson opines, is finding the appropriate balance between naturalism and design. These effects needed to look like they belonged in Kubo's world without giving away how they were achieved. He says, "On first look, the element should only read as what it is intended to be: an angry ocean. If viewers take a second look, they'll notice the details: the woodblock texture, the paper foam, the grid-like patterning from our initial animation tests. We're trying to make sure the effect is not getting in the way of the storytelling.

"The distinctive look of Kubo's opening scene would not have been possible without the combined efforts of multiple departments across the studio," Emerson stresses. "Animation, rigging, lighting, camera, art and visual effects came together and collaborated on what I view as one of the most beautiful and exciting environments we've ever created."

Reflecting on his collaborators' contributions to the movie as a whole, Knight offers, "I knew at the outset that I was saddling Frank with a nearly impossible task. We needed to make a stop-motion David Lean film. A small-scale movie shot on a tabletop needed to look like a large-scale epic. And he did it. Frank Passingham is an artist and a first-rate storyteller. It's been an honor to have spent the last two years with him slogging through the mire of the puppet mines, sweating the details. Now it's a thrill to share this hard-fought bit of our lives with the rest of the world."




3D Digital Capture

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, III

Nikon, Canon, Cooke


Related Links

<< previous || next >>