Creating lifelike digital animals is one of the greatest challenges for CGI artists. We’ve all seen film footage of real penguins, pigs and polar bears, so our eyes can instantly recognize anything that doesn’t ring true.
That makes the accomplishments of the team at Rhythm and Hues all the more remarkable.
Founded by John Hughes and Pauline Ts’o (below, left), they created award-winning special effects for films like Golden Compass, Night at the Museum, Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, and Babe. Rhythm and Hues is a complete digital studio, with not only post-production FX, but also CG animation (such as Happy Feet), and a range of design services.
We toured the campus, housed in a 70,000 square foot building in west LA, just north of the airport. The facility includes a sound stage, screening room, work areas for the animators, and conference rooms, all brimming over with works in progress. In the center of the building is a light-filled open stairway that serves as a mixing place for workers as they go about their day.
Huge rooms filled with humming computers do the vast amount of rendering work.
The founders, Mr. Hughes and Ms. Ts’o, are each a remarkable combination of business-person, technical-wizard, and art-lover. Their original art collection includes drawings by great Disney animators, Garth Williams, and Jules Feiffer.
They have clearly worked hard to attract and keep some of the best talent in the industry. Stacy Burstin, our host, travels to art schools and software conventions to recruit top talent. Animators are allowed to bring their dogs to work, so many of the cubicles have child gates with a canine companion at the artists’ feet.
After seeing a collection of gorgeous original production paintings and sculpted maquettes, I was a little disappointed to learn that both the painting and the sculpting have all gone digital, and physical sculptures of the characters are no longer necessary. But that seems to be true at all the movie houses we visited.
It was a real honor to meet so many of the artists and specialists after my Dinotopia presentation, and I congratulate them on their magnificent work.