In 2009, Aardman Animations, Ltd, the UK-based “claymation” studio, (Wallace and Gromit,
Chicken Run), were about to embark on
The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Aardman houses almost every stage of their movie-making process: from concept art, pre-visualization and model-building to photography, editorial, VFX and review screenings. This would be their first stop-motion feature shot 100 percent digitally in stereo, and they needed a way to track each department’s production files from script through post.
Enter 5th Kind, an leader in Web-based production asset management and collaborative workflow software. The Culver City, CA-based company (previously OTC Productions) has a six-year background serving productions with complex workflows. For Pirates!, Aardman partnered with 5th Kind to define their entire digital pipeline. 5th Kind’s CORE software would become the centralized digital repository as well as the agnostic transcoding and integration hub to generate and distribute each department’s deliverables during production and into post.
During development and production, 5th Kind’s collaborative features added a level of functionality that went beyond simply tracking assets in a system. Aardman’s artists and filmmakers had access to CORE’s Web-based toolset for creative notes, drawing on images or video, and version tracking. On-the-fly watermarking secured files within the system while removing the task from editorial’s plate for distribution to outside recipients. Animators had centralized access to notes and approved previs shots on the stage floor, while the Web-viewer offered “left eye,” “right eye” and anaglyphic 3D review of completed shots to downstream users.
Once the Aardman team had prepped for production, the stage was set for the stereo, digital capture pipeline. 5th Kind’s CORE pulled RAW CR2 camera files off the stage recording towers and automatically converted them to DPX files for immediate 2K review. It also created the EXRs to push to the VFX pipeline; generated the mono and stereo MXFs to send to editorial; and created hign & low res H.264 proxies with assembly of stereo proxies to populate the 5th Kind Web interface for global review. As a result, Aardman’s standard shot turnover process went from one-and-a-half days to 10 minutes.
CORE also ingested the set metadata and made it available to each department, especially within the VFX pipeline. Using this data, producers could track each day’s progress, comparing the frame tally report for shooting ratios and daily capture targets.
Aardman and 5th Kind’s collaboration demonstrates what can be achieved as productions seek to streamline digital workflow.