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.”