Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cinematrography: Roger Deakins on How to train your dragon 2

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, and DreamWorks Animation tame epic new lands for How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Almost six years ago, DreamWorks Animation directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, famous for having created what is now one of the last great hand-drawn animated features, Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, were tasked with reimagining Cressida Cowell’s best-selling children’s book, How To Train Your Dragon, for the big screen. They had only 14 months until release – a blink of the eye in animation time.

DeBlois, a layout veteran, wondered why lighting decisions were being made months after camera lock. “It seemed strange that we’d lock compositions and camera moves without knowing where the shadows would fall,” he relates during a break from final mixing at Skywalker Sound for his solo directorial effort, How To Train Your Dragon 2.

“Because I’m a huge fan of cinematography,” he adds, “I had envisioned Roger Deakins – who worked on the first act of Wall-E for Pixar – coming in for a series of lectures with our camera and lighting departments. To our surprise, Roger asked if he could join the production team for the remainder of the show.”

The rest, as any DWA animator will tell you, is history: one so remarkable and unique it has changed the way that studio makes movies. The digitally created How To Train Your Dragon (which went on to win 19 awards and 34 nominations) featured many Deakins trademarks: single-source lighting (often by fire/torchlight), characters falling off into darkness, a more muted color palette, and strongly composed frames that could stand alone as still images.

The experience among the main creative partners – Deakins, DeBlois, Head of Layout Gil Zimmerman, and Production Designer Pierre Olivier Vincent (aka “P.O.V.”) – was so fruitful, they reteamed for the sequel, which propels the film’s main character, the Viking Hiccup (once again voiced by Jay Baruchel) into wild new discoveries.

We talked to this creative brain trust, along with VFX Supervisor David Walvoord, to hear how two seemingly disparate approaches to filmmaking merged yet again for an even more epic action adventure, set in the ice-laden fjords at the top of the world


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