SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — VFX and animation house Iloura (www.iloura.com.au) brought SpongeBob Squarepants and his band of friends to life in the new feature film, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water. The studio, which has locations in Sydney and Melbourne, completed 550 shots for the feature, which combines CG animation and and live action. It's presented in stereo 3D.
Iloura was tasked with building and animating the SpongeBob entourage. VFX supervisor Glenn Melenhorst and executive producer Ineke Majoor employed more than 100 artists and worked closely with Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon, director Paul Tibbett and SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg to ensure that the transition of the SpongeBob cast from 2D to 3D was as smooth and authentic as possible.
SpongeBob has spent 15 years on-screen as a 2D character, and has built a huge fan base of adults and children. It was essential that the 3D versions of the much-loved companions retained their aesthetic.
“We knew we had a huge responsibility with this film, as the audience is seeing the SpongeBob cast for the very first time as 3D characters and that transition was extremely important to Paul and Stephen,” notes VFX supervisor Melenhorst. “We spent a lot of time in the design phase and R&D drawing on the essence of the 2D characters, but also focused a lot of attention on the rigging and modeling before going in to animation. Every step of the pipeline was important to ensure that we didn’t move away from what the audience know and love about SpongeBob and his friends.”
Iloura’s work extended to the super-hero versions of the characters too, which provided a fun and unique way to play with the cast and the story. Further work included Burger Beard’s (Antonio Banderas) ship, CG seagulls, pelicans, cannon balls and a fighting skeleton pirate. Careful attention was also paid to the environments, which included streetscapes, beaches and a CG Pelican Island.
“Iloura was able to seamlessly design and animate the new 3D characters to match the nuances of the beloved 2D SpongeBob and friends,” says co-producer/VFX producer, Lori J. Nelson. “In addition, we threw seagulls, snakes, spiders, a skeleton and a few other CG assets their way, which they produced to a level that any VFX facility would be proud of.”
Iloura uses Autodesk Maya for animation. Lighting and rendering is performed using 3DStudio with V-Ray. Visual effects are achieved using a combination of Max, Maya and Houdini. The Foundry’s Nuke is used for compositing.
David Ian Salter, ACE, edited the film, which features an original score by composer John Debney. The feature took in more than $56,000,000 on its opening weekend in the US. It releases in Australian cinemas on April 2nd.