department supervisor   º   crowds   º   pipeline engineer   º   technical director
allen.stetson@gmail.com   º   19677 crystal springs ct. newhall, ca 91321 usa   º   661.857.4023
       
year: jun, 2015
role: crowd department manager
duties: Supervise Cycle Animation, Agent Development, and Crowd Shot work. Lead a team of 10 in animating background characters for the film. Bid the film and assist in scheduling. Direct Motion Capture sessions.
direct manager: sean phillips (visual effects supervisor)
notes: i first joined B.O.O. as a temporary supervisor, filling in for a co-worker who was tangled up in the final stages of a previous film while i waited for my next endeavour to spin up. before i got a chance to start thinking about that next project, the gentleman who was to take over B.O.O. ended up leaving the company, and B.O.O. pursued me as i pursued it; i had grown quite fond of the story and wished to see it through production.

B.O.O. was a unique challange, though, since its schedule was so compacted. asset departments scrambled on top of each other in a race to produce characters, environments, props. as a result, my first sequence was scheduled to deliver before i had assets with which to work! i found a way to work with our hero characters -- the only character assets yet available -- to create crowd performances which could be swapped out with proper assets upon their delivery without wreaking havoc in the pipeline. i directed two motion capture sessions that provided me with the animation inventory that i needed. using this method, i authored two sequences and earned director approval before i ever got another team member or any valid assets.
The mocap actors and me.

that game of catch-up, which is much more common in the visual effects industry than it is at dreamworks animation's feature film division, continued throughout the production. i faced unique challenges of motivating my team through slow periods and then encouraging them during the crazy periods. scheduling and budgeting challenges meant that we couldn't always do things "the right way" which meant that many of the management challenges of this film involved compensating for that and keeping morale healthy all the while. luckily, i was been blessed with a supremely talented team and easy-going production management that made the creation of this film a joy.

Custom-built stairs to match our 3D model.
probably my favorite day of production in the fifteen years that i was at dwa came on B.O.O. when the management approved a day for me to work in my garage at home with my table saw, miter saw, and other power tools to build a staircase out of wood that matched the rise and run of the staircases modeled for our train station. stairs in crowds are notoriously difficult to pull off, and i had no agent developer at the time to help with ik goal placement, stride length, or brain logic that would make stair climbing feasible. i opted to build a six-step version of our staircase which matched our model and which could be easily disassembled and reassembled on the mocap stage. i spent about an hour with the actors having them perform on the staircase as men, women, children, people in a rush, people taking their time, and all manner of actions. every character visible on the twelve staircases in the opening sequence came from that motion capture session.

motion capture doesn't work for all of our characters, however -- ghosts must be keyframed. So it fell to our department - as the first to work with ghosts - to help develop the look and style of ghost movement. this involved me working closely with our Head of Character Animaion and my artists to facilitate the definition of a common visual language for ghosts. similarly, we were the first to work with orbs (a ghost animal-like character) and geriatric human ghosts, both of which required us to develop a unique visual language that would hold up alongside hero animation.

in short, i'm extraordinarily proud of the enormous contributions of my team on this film, and although the film has been placed on hold indefinitely -- which, as experience has taught me, probably means that it will never be released -- i'm tremendously proud of the five crowd sequences that made it through lighting as well as the several crowd sequences still in production which were just beginning to discover their potential. i learned more about the art of management from this show than any other, and for that as well i am pleased.