A Conversation with George Carvalho, Animator /Director of Animaza Studios
Miami-based Animaza Studios, led by animator George Carvalho, has been in business for nearly four years creating a mix of original and client-based animation work. More than just an animation studio, Animaza sees itself as an entertainment company, with several of their original short films serving as trailers for books that have been published by the company’s publishing arm. The studio recently invested in iPi Soft markerless motion capture technology and has put it to use, particularly in two recent short films they’ve produced, “The Goblin Pact” and “Termite Samurai.” Both films were entered into international film festivals and received accolades
We spoke with Carvalho about Animaza Studios, its work and how markerless motion capture is helping the studio achieve its creative goals.
iPi Soft: Tell us a little about your background in animation and what drew you to it? How long have you been working in the field? Prior to Animaza did you work for other studios?
GC: I’ve always liked animation, especially Japanese animation. Many years ago, I was working with a software called Infini-D (now DAZ) to create titles for corporate video work. At the time, my brother was learning Autodesk 3ds Max, and told me that it was the software that Hollywood studios use and I should try it out.
I had recently finished a live-action independent feature film where I was also the cinematographer and thought the lighting could have been better. To improve the quality, I needed access to lights, and at the time only tungsten lights were available but very expensive to rent. With 3ds Max I was able to simulate lights that behaved like real world lights and create photo real results from my home computer. To better learn the software, I started making short films. When I started posting them on YouTube the response was better than I expected. That’s when I decided to start the company.
iPi Soft: How did you initially hear about iPi Mocap? Do the two Animaza award-winning short films – “Goblin Pact” and “Termite Samurai” – both use iPi Mocap?
GC: I watch an enormous number of behind-the-scenes and making-of videos, and mocap occasionally would come up as a new way of animating characters. Both of our short films make extensive use of iPi Mocap and received either best animation short or honorable mentions. I definitely hope to enter future film projects in festivals.
iPi Soft: Tell us a bit about your motion capture process and the major benefits it brings to production? Were you using other animation processes prior to using mocap that prompted you to switch gears towards using a motion capture solution?
GC: When I started on this journey, I was using key frame animation and doing everything by hand. This took an enormous amount of time. After much research, I came across iPi Soft motion capture software and presently use it with the Microsoft Azure Kinect camera.
One of the main benefits of using iPi Mocap in the character animation production process is that it drastically cuts down on hand animating characters. I capture all the performances in my living room conveniently and efficiently. I find iPi Mocap is very simple and intuitive to use and doesn’t require a whole team to get excellent results.
In addition, the quality of the software captures, including small nuances of movement like picking up objects or turning, is helpful in allowing me to capture individual movements that bring out a characters’ unique personality to life.
iPi Soft: What other software and hardware tools were used in conjunction with iPi Mocap in the Animaza production pipeline on the above films?
GC: The main tool I use for animation is Autodesk 3ds Max with the Arnold renderer. Adobe Photoshop is used to manage the textures while we used Adobe After Effects to composite all the images rendered out of 3ds Max while Adobe Premiere is for film editing. Adobe Mixamo is used for some of the animation, with DAZ studio used to acquire 3D resources such as 3D characters and settings.
iPi Soft: Can you walk us through a couple of key scenes in Goblin Pact and Termite Samurai where iPi Mocap helped meet a particular creative challenge? Is there something in particular about a markerless mocap solution, like iPi Mocap, that makes the content creation process easier to use?
GC: A challenging scene in “The Goblin Pact” was in the beginning of the film when the fairies are admiring their wings. I had my wife act out the motions and capture them with iPi Mocap because females have a different center of gravity and move differently than males.
In “Termite Samurai”, we faced a particular challenge when the Termite Samurai must draw out his sword as the spider is attacking, and then fight the spider. The samurai motion was captured all in iPi Mocap and the spider was hand animated – all of it had to be synced together to make it believable.
The advantage of markerless mocap is that it makes if fast to capture the movements needed. So fast, in fact, that it allows me to experiment and refine the animation so that it’s the best it can be. Other solutions may be more accurate, including the use of camera rigs or wearing a suit, but are much more expensive and require a team and extensive preparation to use.
iPi Soft: Are you working on any other animation projects currently that rely on iPi Mocap?
GC: We just released the trailer for the novel “The Proto Sapien Protocol”, on November 1st. The next project is based on Aesop’s fable, “The Hare and the Tortoise”. It is currently in production and both the film and the book are on track to be released early next year.
iPi Soft: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your mocap workflow?
GC: The first time I used mocap was on a “Silver Surfer” fan film where an alien character is holding a baby. The moment I saw the character move in such a convincing, fluid way, I knew the software would become an integral part of my future content creation workflow, especially since all the other characters were hand animated and you can see the difference. At the time, I was using the old Xbox Kinect camera, which had limited motion accuracy. But when Microsoft released their Microsoft Azure camera, and iPi Soft updated its support, I jumped right in and haven’t looked back since. I will always be grateful for iPi software, because it has truly allowed me to create high quality animation at a reduced cost and build a thriving entertainment company.