With the main focus of Episode III on post-production at Skywalker Ranch, Hyperspace webcam viewers have been watching the activities in the Animatics Department office including various meetings with George Lucas and Pre-visualization Effects Supervisor Dan Gregoire. But the majority of the webcam scenery lately seems to feature Gregoire's Animatics team who handle the day-to-day post-production tasks for Episode III.
The Animatics team is responsible for creating an animated version of every shot in the film. Now that shooting has wrapped in Sydney, the team has been focused on adding digital elements to bluescreen plates of the actors. The team is busy extending sets and adding digital characters to produce shots that meet George Lucas' expectations, before he sends them off to ILM for final work.
Animatics Artist Chris Edwards is one of the dedicated team members frequently spotted sitting at his desk in front of a computer for hours, with the occasional yoga-style stretch. During the afternoon, George Lucas meets with the team for their daily progress meetings.
"Almost every day, George spends an hour or two working directly with us at our desks, Edwards says. "There's an extra chair in our department just for him, so he can lean over my shoulder and craft new sequences on the fly. I was the first artist assigned to work directly with George, so I didn't know what to expect. In fact, until Episode III, George had made all his decisions from editorial."
But it's this very interactivity with George Lucas that has made the post-production process much more organic than past films.
"Every one of our sessions spawns new ideas that quickly help George assemble the sequence," Edwards reveals. "So far, George and I have set up more than 250 shots in real-time at my desk."
Edwards is responsible for building environments, vehicles and characters for Episode III. Once Edwards has all the pieces modeled and textured, he choreographs the action and composes the camera to create shots that work well in continuity with the sequence. Then Edwards sends his shots as QuickTime files to editorial where they are then cut into the movie or the shots are returned to Edwards for revisions.
"In animatics, we all put a lot of extra work into our shots because of the thrill of seeing our ideas make the cut," Edwards explains.
The day begins for Edwards by checking the last of the assigned shots from a database that shows the status of all the shots in the movie. If changes need to be made, it appears in red as a revision note. Revisions are considered a high priority since the editors are often cutting the sequence as the animatics team creates shots.
For Disney's animated feature Dinosaur, Edwards was an animatics artist and a character animator for the lead character, Aladar. Next up for the animated feature Treasure Planet, he choreographed many of the 3-D scenes and worked on the animation for B.E.N.
"Very few people are allowed to do more than one job at Disney," Edwards explains. "But I was fortunate to also work on the animation for B.E.N. the robot - the only all-CG character in the film.
After five years at Disney, Edwards moved on to join another pre-visualization team at Revolutions Studios as an animatics artist for Peter Pan. In August 2002, Edwards left to sign on at JAK Films to help with several projects including Episode III.
"Working at JAK gives me the unique opportunity to work under one of the directors who inspired me to pursue a career in film," Edwards confesses.
In fact, webcam viewers can often spot George Lucas at Edwards' desk, checking on the progress of various shots.
"I think it's great that Hyperspace webcam viewers have been able to see how casually George works with us in animatics," Edwards says. "George is a seasoned director, working on one of the most highly anticipated films of all time, yet he is humble enough to allow fans to see the daily grind of filmmaking."
When Edwards and the other members of the animatics team are finished, they will have created at least triple the number of shots in the final film.
"It's rewarding just to know that our team's work will translate, quite literally, to the screen," Edwards says.
To view more, click here