February 22, 2012

‘Beauty and the Beast’ 3D

One of the most popular and enduring romantic adventures the world has ever known became one of the most ambitious and entertaining animated motion pictures ever brought to the screen with Walt DisneyPictures’ 30th full-length animated feature, ”Beauty and the Beast” which is coming to Philippine theaters for the first time in 3D.

This classic fairy tale about a beautiful young girl and her encounter with an enchanted beast has long fascinated and intrigued storytellers, filmmakers and their audiences. Through the artistry and imagination of the Disney creative team, an inspired song score by two Academy Award winning songwriters and the contributions of an enormously talented vocal ensemble, this age-old fantasy took on exciting new dimensions that are only possible through the magic of animation.

The “Beauty and the Beast” story is indeed “a tale as old as time” with variations on the central theme going as far back as Greek mythology. In 1550, Italian author Giovan Straparalo wrote the first account of the story as it is generally known. The tale grew in popularity during the 18th century with books by French authors Madam Le Prince De Beaumont and Madame Gabrielle di Villeneuve. In 1946, acclaimed French director Jean Cocteau used cinematic imagery and lyrical expression to bring this story imaginatively to the big screen (“La Belle et la Bete”).

“Doing your own version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is as much a tradition as is the story itself,” says producer Don Hahn. “Part of the fun is that each generation and culture adapts this story to be its own. The themes––you can’t judge a book by its cover, and beauty is only skin deep–– are as relevant today as ever.”

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton agrees, “The lessons of this story are truly timeless, especially for kids growing up today. It tells them to look beyond the surface and beyond materialism and that what is in their hearts and souls are the things that really matter.”

The release of “Beauty and the Beast” in 3D comes at a time when both the art of animation and the 3D process are enjoying their greatest popularity.    

Through the magic of Disney and the leaps in modern computer animation technology developed at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, a team of artists, under the guidance of stereographer Robert Neuman, found a way to breathe more dimensional life into “Beauty and the Beast” by turning it into an eye-popping 3D experience.

Numerous and dramatic challenges awaited Neuman and his team. In discussing the complications of making “Beauty and the Beast” into a 3D film, Neuman emphasizes that because there was no dimensional reality in which to put a second camera, he and his team had to invent a brand new set of computer tools that would allow the filmmakers to sculpt depth into the existing images and thereby create a second eye in order for the 3D to be achieved.

“In making a live-action film a director could simply add a second camera to get thesecond eye view,” Neuman says of the task that he and his team faced. He explains that the 3D conversion technique they came up with – pixel displacement – enables the artists to take each image and create a “depth map” that corresponds to that image. “The depth map is simply a grayscale image that allows our artists to sculpt out a relief map – the depth map – of the image. We’re then able to take that, apply it to the original image and displace the pixels to create a second eye view,” he says.

All of the filmmakers and artists who have been involved with the 3D transformation of “Beauty and the Beast” are in unanimous agreement that they take pride in being part of the great legacy of this iconic film. As stereographer Robert Neuman says, “It’s amazing to be able to take these great movies like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King’ and give audiences a new way to see them again. Even if they’re seeing it for the first time, or the one-hundredth time, this is a whole new experience for audiences.”

The computer gives the filmmakers total control over that illusion. Objects that are close up, such as Belle and the Beast dancing, can create a very intimate environment, as though the audience is sitting right there in the scene. Or if a spectacular shot is required, perhaps of the countryside with Maurice going off to sell his inventions, that epic shot is given a more gentle treatment of 3D. Many factors are at play and the story is enhanced by that 3D decision-making. Stereographers like Robert are crucial to the process.

Take for example the famous ballroom sequence. Although spectacular in its original form, Neuman and his team of artists were able to enhance what was already one of animation’s most memorable scenes. “We use 3D to support the storytelling narrative,” Neuman says. “Like any other aspect of film, such as the music score, 3D is used to enhance big emotional moments and to help build up to the emotional climax. For those big moments we expand the 3D. We put more of the three-dimensional effects into it. For the ballroom scene it was vital to have the right sense of scale. We had to show the grandeur, the majesty of this ballroom. The key to it was to enforce the sense of perception of scale.”

Neuman further explains that the “Be Our Guest” number was especially suited to 3D. “Although it was a bigger challenge than the ballroom sequence because there were shots that had hundreds of levels and every level of artwork requires dimensionalizing, if you look at the original staging, the way the things are blocked and choreographed, you see that it already has a sense of dimensionality.”

The filmmakers agree that the techniques that enabled them to create “Beauty and the Beast” in 3D is so new that this could not have been done just five years ago. “The first time we ever did a dimensionalization was on ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’” Don Hahn says. “It was hard, very labor-intensive work. The results however were great, but it took a long time and was very expensive. It still takes a long time and it’s very expensive!” Hahn says.

“Beauty and the Beast” was the first hand-drawn film to be dimensionalized into 3D. Disney is the leader in the new technology and regardless of how sophisticated it is, as Hahn says, “It’s important for people to know that it’s not as simple as pushing a button or putting a quarter in a machine and a 3D movies out. It’s all about great artists like Robert Neuman and his crew who must make important creative decisions.”

Opening February 22 across the Philippines, “Beauty and the Beast” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

1 comment:

Brasil said...

I love Belle she's so adorable in her yellow gown. Well basically yellow is my favorite color that's why she's very attractive in my sight.


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