Monster House Comes to Life in 2D and 3D
From the first frame of "Monster House", you know you are in for a treat. And a few neat tricks, while you are at it. In a story that takes place on Halloween, a rather spirited house wrecks havoc on a neighborhood, dead set against the children who live there. You can even select your candy, from the local neighborhood theater to the Imax 3D.
Jay Redd, the VFX Supervisor, was charged with the task of bringing an animated house to life. Striving to move away from the perfection of CG, his focus was to create a film with a handmade appeal. Props and architecture were built with oversized detail to suggest the look of a miniature set in a style reminiscent of the 70's, underscoring the safety of home and by contrast, the threat across the street. Characters were reminiscent of vinyl dolls with hair cast from the same mold as the face. Redd maintained simplicity by eliminating lashes or moisture in the eyes. "You wouldn't add water to the eyes if you were making a doll," he said. Instead, textures and lighting were used to create the vibrancy in the film. Dirt was added to every layer. Shadows were as important as light, even becoming characters themselves. Attention to detail from fabric swatches to the soles of shoes were designed with the utmost attention.
Over 350 people worked on the movie. Ed Verreaux's team set the production design of the film, and Doug Chiang's group provided some concept art. Leo Rijn crafted the clay maquettes, and Chris Applehans handled character concept sketches. Two art directors worked on "Monster House". George Suhayda, who left the film in February of 2005, laid a solid foundation of detailed work. Michael Scheffe picked up the ball. "I drew everything you could imagine - from construction crane drive mechanisms, to hairstyles, to 70's cardigans, to dust diagrams on cars." Software:
An array of software was used, including Maya, Bonsai for compositing, and Houdini for effects. Detailed textures from 4K to 8K were created by the painters, headed by Dennis Bredow, in Bodypaint from Maxon. Redd commented, " There is a lot of destruction in the movie and because of this, we had many sets and layers of textures to show the breakdown of the world over time". Sony's proprietary SPLAT sprite renderer was used for effects, along with other tools.
Redd felt the camera work was very important to the storytelling. "Imageworks has a toolset and technique called WHEELS, developed on "Polar Express", a real time capture tool for the camera position - it works much like a miniature mocap stage. It allows us to put a camera on your shoulder or on a tripod and record handheld cam moves in real time directly into the computer."