When DreamWorks Animation partnered with the YouTube production team at AwesomenessTV we set our sights on bringing our beloved DWA characters to YouTube. This required analyzing and adapting a film making process that would take months and dozens of artists down to 3 weeks an episode with a handful of artists.
At the core of the process, we decided to use performance capture to record the body and facial performance of the voice actors to have the become the foundation of the animation. This performance was mapped out to the respective DWA characters live to help us get a rough preview of the final look, and would allow us to reshoot right then and there as needed.
Animation Libraries and Phonemes
On the animation side, we had our talented team of animators build a vast library of expressions which captured the essence of our DWA character, as well as the phonemes which could be populated over the performance capture based on the audio track. This process allowed for a layered approach to build our final animation:
- Processed performance capture
- Procedural phoneme substitution based on audio track
- Key expression substitution from library
- Hand animate as needed
Process Optimization and Creative Calibration
Since the animation process was the most time consuming part of the production process, we had to calibrate our creative aspirations against our resource and schedule realities. When considering the animation layers mentioned above we had to be judicious on which shots required more attention than others. The most important parts of the performance would be our “key” shots demanding the highest level of attention, this allowed us to economize on the other shots in order to hit our deadlines.