ADAM COGGIN - CG Supervisor
Tell us about how you got involved with Azureus Rising.
I started out as an intern for Black Sun and for several months I knew very little about the project outside of my assignments. In time I became more involved, and started to see the potential of Azureus Rising not only as a short film, but as a story and an idea worth working on. I was so impressed by the previs and concepts that I made a promise to myself and to Weinstein to see it through to the end. I had many personal sacrifices to stay on the show, and in the end it was well worth it.
What attracted you to the Azureus Rising project?
Since a child I’ve always dreamed of working on animated motion pictures. As I grew older, I also realized my fascination in science fiction and action adventure genres. Azureus Rising is a mesh of all three of these things. It was refreshing to see an animation concept that was not targeted to children alone. I feel like a movie like this can appeal to both kids and adults. Plus, as an artist, this kind of content is really fun to work on. It’s rare to work on something that you feel is really “cool!”
Tell us about your role as Cg Supervisor on the project.
I worked closely with David to ensure that he got what he wanted, and that he was happy with each shot and every shot composite. A lot of that roll was managing several artists, color scripting, and some look development. In addition to my responsibilities as Supervisor - I was also the main compositor and headed up the lighting as well.
Azureus has a very distinct look - the lighting obviously had a big impact on that. How did you approach the lighting? What kind of influences did you draw upon?
I tried to maintain a moody yet inviting feel that was serious without losing visual appeal. The most challenging part of the lighting was developing the color scheme for the city. The source of this challenge was the strong color schemes of the characters. I tried to frame Azureus on orange backgrounds and the scorpion on blue backgrounds. We wanted the characters to stand out from their surroundings, and have distinct color tones of good vs evil.
Azureus has a vast mix of colors throughout the short film - was it tough balancing all of the tones from shot to shot?
Indeed, many balancing decisions were made on a shot to shot basis. Due to the fast action and short cuts of the film, the hero often got lost in the city lights. We had to fake the lighting by either darkening or brightening the character to make him read clearly. One shot I remember in particular, we had to make the character almost pure white, and even add some glints on the armor in order to draw the audiences' eye back to Azureus.
You handled all the final composits for the proof of concept - can you talk a little bit about the compositing process and its challenges.
At first we wanted to keep the comps simple, but as the film progressed and the shots got more complicated, so did our compositions and breakout passes. A few of our last areas of the film had as much as 50 layers. The layers and general compositing was not the most challenging part of the process though. Due to limited rendering output, we were forced to correct many 3D errors in 2D. Some of these errors include heavy foreground camera rattle, undesired lighting, hair glitches, sparks, or dust; all fixed in the compositing stage
It seems as though David Weinstein had a pretty specific vision for Azureus - how were you able to capture the look?
David definitely knows what he wants, but at the same time, he’s the type of director who knows when he sees something cool, even if it’s not what he originally had in mind. Whenever the lighting or look in a shot wasn’t working, I was given a lot of freedom, even if I strayed from the production design. Once I knew what David wanted to see, it was easy for me to deliver. Azureus Rising was right up my alley when it comes to lighting and look.
Any particular inspirations or artists you feel have an influence on your work?
My earliest influences came from the real-life lighting of theme park rides; most notably the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World. I also draw artistic inspiration from classic animated films, and had formal animation training from a Disney veteran, Hendal Butoy. The greatest of my inspiration, however, comes from observing others artists who are performing on a higher level than myself, and improving my work to rival theirs.
Every production has its limitations - tell us about some of the draw backs and limitations you ran into during Azureus.
The biggest limitation we had was the hardware; we had to work smart with what we had. Another limitation was manpower. It’s amazing to me that we were able to get the quality we did with so few artists. These limitations made it very difficult to do revisions or try new ideas; we had to get it right in one or two tries. This meant careful planning and a lot of fixes in the compositing stage.
Anything in particular you might like to add?
I'd like to add that I'm really appreciative of all those who stuck with this through it all. Many of our team members worked very hard solely because they wanted to contribute to something cool. Some of those who started on this project were junior artists, having no production experience. Its really amazing that we reached the quality we did with so few people and so little budget. Even though this project was a lot of work, I hope people will watch the piece for what it is and enjoy the ride!