The first thing you notice about How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a lot more detail in the characters as well as in the more expansive environments, which reflect a real world sensibility and the beauty of Norway. And a lot of credit goes to the new Premo software package, which empowered the artists to go further creatively than ever before at DreamWorks.
“The new Premo software gave us a new baseline to start talking about design in a different way,” explains returning animation supervisor Simon Otto. “Simple things made a huge impact on the film. Suddenly we knew we could be much more exuberant with the character designs, not only in terms of facial detail but also, particularly, in [Hiccup’s] outfit. With a single image we could make a statement that describes the progress of the character over the five years. He’s fine-tuned his flight pattern with Toothless and his peg leg. And when he takes his helmet off and you see him for the first time, the level of detail is striking. We could work on it live in our machines as opposed to the first movie where it was down res’d. There’s a tactile quality to it all.
“We rebuilt our system from scratch. Five years ago, the engineers discussed interactive possibilities on the horizon with the coming of parallel processing and cloud computing (in collaboration with Intel and HP). What if you could work interactively with the characters in real-time and are never interrupted by computing? And that’s what they’ve achieved. And we did weeks of design sessions with key animators and a developer. The key thing was we were all coming from different areas of animation: stop-motion, computer, hand-drawn. And we wanted to have what 2D animators have where your only limitation is your drawing skills. The result of that is you plunge into your work and completely forget about the process. It’s like a combination of hand-drawn, stop-motion, and CG: you touch the characters with your fingers, you’re looking at basically a final version of the movie, yet it’s infinitely editable.”
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