Softimage used on Animatrix

By Paul Martin February 11th, 2003, in The Animatrix

In all, the staggering animation, design and editing work for no less than seven of the nine Animatrix episodes were completed a the Tokyo based Studio4°C and Madhouse Studios. Studio4°C made spectacular use of both SOFTIMAGE|XSI and Avid Media Composer for 3-D elements and editing five of the episodes, namely The Second Renaissance (Pts. 1 and 2), Kid’s Story, A Detective Story, and Beyond. For their part, Madhouse used SOFTIMAGE|3D and Avid|DS to help create Program and World Record.

Maeda’s The Second Renaissance Part I represents the first episode of The Animatrix. Designed and animated by Studio4°C, The Second Renaissance is something of a prequel to The Matrix, as it explores in fascinating detail the origins and history of the war between man and machines, which in turn leads to the creation of The Matrix itself. Michael Arias of the Softimage Special Projects team in Japan, in addition to his duties as producer of the entire series, helped to develop powerful XSI Toon Shaders for the production:

“Needless to say, this was a great project to work on,” says Arias. “Working for Softimage Special Projects, I found myself in a position where I was able to select and work with some of the very best animation houses and directors, while supervising their relationship with the Wachowski brothers themselves. What’s more, the evolution of The Animatrix also ended up making what I consider to be significant improvements to SOFTIMAGE|XSI.”

In the very best tradition of collaborative software engineering, Softimage Special Projects worked closely with the entire CG staff on The Animatrix to create the current generation of the popular Toon Shaders in SOFTIMAGE|XSI v. 3.0. Most of the improvements came about as a direct response to specific creative and technical requests of the CG staff at Studio4°C.

And the evolution of both The Animatrix and the tools required to make it didn’t stop there:

“On the two Second Renaissance pieces and then again on Beyond, our CG staff were able to do some really cool 3-D character and integration work,” continues Arias. “For one thing, many of the painstakingly hand-drawn backgrounds needed to be integrated with identifiably 3-D scenery. All three episodes of the series featured a variety of 3-D characters. In the case of the malevolent Sentinel machines that appeared in both the film and Second Renaissance, I was able to extract 3-D data from the original Matrix feature, and then remodel it from scratch in order to match the hand-drawn animation style of The Animatrix. Using the SOFTIMAGE|XSI Toon Shaders, we could then render the Sentinels out in large herds, such that they’d blend with the hand-drawn elements, but in numbers that would have been impossible to achieve through traditional means.”

In addition to the menacingly robotic Sentinels, The Second Renaissance Pt. 2 features still-defiant, free-minded human warriors. While the primary dangers in The Matrix rooted themselves directly in the minds of humans, battle with the Sentinels seems sure to be much more hand-to-hand. The newly battle-equipped human warriors are virtually all CG creations, crafted using SOFTIMAGE|XSI.

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