Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Latest News - Character Matters completes 1st 3D feature in S.A.

The following article was published on the FilmContact website.

South African film industry eyes 3D

Chris Schoultz, owner of Cape Town-based animation studio Character Matters, says it is in final production of SA's first feature-length 3D animation film called Lion of Judah. The film is expected to be released later this year. By Alex Kayle

Directed by Deryck Broom, the 80-minute film is commissioned by Animated Family Films in the US and produced by Sunrise Productions. The film was created entirely in SA using local animators, with the exception of two experienced American animators who supervised the animation team.

Lion of Judah's budget has been set at just under $1.5 million for the animation development alone, according to Schoultz. When compared with much larger international film budgets of over $100 million, 3D animation is only starting to emerge in SA, he points out.

“SA's film industry probably averages around $1 million a year in foreign investment, and there's potential to turn this into $100 million industry because of the high consumer interest in animated films.”

Schoultz points out that Lion of Judah competes with huge international animated 3D blockbusters such as 'How to train your dragon', which was given a budget of around $165 million. James Cameron's highly successful Avatar reached a budget in excess of $300 million.

“We are working with a 150th of the budget an overseas film such as Avatar would normally have. Added to that, 3D films require more than double the resources needed for a normal film.”

Schoultz explains that the computing power needed to create a film of this nature is huge. The animation process required 61 over-clocked computers, each PC equipped with eight core processors. In addition, the film demanded 40 terabytes of disc storage for the high volumes of visual data.

“A regular animation studio, in context of international standards, usually has around 150 staff members, and we have only 30 staff members. We were forced to drive maximum use of our equipment and personnel. We also ran an in-house skills development programme,” he adds.

Initial production of the film took 18 months to complete using computer-generated imagery, and another four months to convert it into stereoscopic film. “It's an enormous amount of work; it's an art-form unto itself,” notes Schoultz.

Character Matters has support from the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Cape Film Commission. Schoultz predicts that as the film industry matures, this will drive interest and investment from international investors.

The Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town worked with Microsoft SA to install a bank of Windows HPC Server 2008 machines to work with Character Matters' format.

Paulo Ferreira, Microsoft SA platform strategy manager, believes technology is positioning itself to become a major player in the digital filmmaking revolution. “Lion of Judah has shown that SA can compete on the international stage, but we need to sustain its success with skills development and educational programmes that empower the talent.

“Technology is the enabler, and we need to invest in the hardware and software to equip the talent pool to leverage these resources, and make us more competitive globally.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Character Matters wins Inaugural Imbongi Award 2009 !

The Cape Film Commission created the Imbongi Awards to recognize the hard work and professional approach of individuals and companies within the Western Cape’s film industry. The Awards were open to individuals and companies within the Film, TV, Stills, Animation, Documentary, Corporate and Promotional Video and Advertising sectors. Character Matters walked away with the "Excellence in VFX & Animation" award. Coming out tops over impressive animation and VFX industry leaders. This award recognizes a person or company who has made considerable contribution to Cape Town through Animation. Character Matters can now enjoy being recognized as an animation leader amongst its peers. Chris and Sue Schoultz were at the evening to accept this prestigious award. In his acceptance speech Chris spoke about the labour of love and commitment that went into making "The Lion of Judah"

Monday, May 11, 2009

"The Lion of Judah" gets a thumbs up from the Dove Foundation.

In 1991 The Dove Foundation began promoting family-friendly entertainment. Their standards and criteria are based on Judeo/Christian values, free from the pressure of commercial interests. The dove foundation believe in a positive approach of commending high-quality, wholesome movies rather than condemning filmmakers for not meeting those standards.

With these values, The Dove foundation has given a positive review of "The Lion of Judah" South Africa's 1st 3d animated movie. For more information, check out:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Our history

Character Matters didn’t become one of the continent’s leading computer generated animation studios overnight, they’ve been working hard at it for 15 years. Those years have been spent developing technology, nurturing creative talent and producing engaging animation and lovable characters in the commercial, short film and feature film arenas.

The company was started in 1993 in Harare, Zimbabwe. At that time 3D animation was a relatively unknown discipline worldwide let alone in Zimbabwe. All this was started with just 2 Commodore Amiga computers, custom written software, CLI scripts and a fax machine. Clock speeds on the Amiga’s were altered to reduce rendering times from 20 hours per frame to a more usable 8 hours. These frames were then edited onto tape frame by frame, 25 frames per second, resulting in a 20 second commercial taking a full day to compile to tape.

In Mid 1994 Character Matters started shifting from Amiga pc’s to generic x86 clones where the soldering iron proved an even more valuable ally in reducing rendering times, resulting finally in a commercially viable outfit. By 1997 Character Matters had a virtual monopoly in television advertising, producing 250 projects of various sizes that year with 3 people.