So the newest trailer for the sony animated film Into the Spiderverse dropped last night, and it’s amazing. Directed by Bob Persichetti, formerly of Disney and Dreamworks, Peter Ramsey, director of Rise of the Guardians and Rodney Rothman who has mainly been a writer up to this point. It’s trying something radically different from typical american 3D animated films.
While Japanese 3d films tend to go for a flat toon shaded look imitating 2d art.
Godzilla: planet of the monsters – 2017
And France has been more experimental with there styles.
(Left) The Prodigies – 2011 (Right) Renaissance – 2006
America on the other hand has always striven for photo realism in there rendering. While the character designs might be fantastical, the way they interact with the world, the way lighting and reacts with materials, the way cloth flows, the way water looks always strives for realism. With them using the language of live action film, with motion blur and Depth of Field etc.
That’s why to me, Into the Spiderverse is not only so exciting just cause it looks cool, but also an important milestone in American 3D films. It’s the first time in a big budget American animated film, that instead of trying to imitate to look like film, or look like cel animation that we’re seeing a big budget attempt at creating something genuinely new.
So what are they doing?
From the first scene of the trailer (Not counting the weird trailer teaser thing) you can already see this movie isn’t looking like normal cg animated movies. Instead of using a tradtional blur to simulate depth of field effects, the colour channels on the red/blue start to shift as stuff gets closer/further from the camera. It makes the image start to look like an old red/blue put on your 3d glasses now kinda shit, as well as tying back to the red/blue colour scheme of Spiderman. If anyone has a pair of those old 3D glasses I’d fucking love to know if they actually work on this.
There also doing a cool thing with the motion blur on the car, but i’m gonna get into that a lot more later.
Next shot we see into Miles’s room and the next cool thing they’re doing.
This is the first shot of the variable frame rate they’re using. While the cars in the first shot were animated at a full 25 FPS we cut in here to see Miles animated at 12 FPS*
Throughout the trailer it’s not a consistent frame rate though, the camera always carries on animating at 25 fps regardless of the animations frame rate, then with higher frame rate character animation interspersed throughout for emphasis. As shown a couple of seconds later when Miles picks up his book bag (Though the gif is kinda killing this)
*I’m guessing frame rates here based on a youtube video.
Next up on the car ride we get a great look at what they’re doing with the character models and texture work. Esspecially on Miles’ dad.
While they’re not going for straight up cel shading or an imitation of 2D art, they are hinting at it a lot. Shapes on his face are defined by black line art drawn onto the texutre, on his forehead and the laugh lines on his cheeks. The rest of the texture work looks painted, it’s not super refined and detailed and there’s no attempt at making his skin look like actual skin. There’s no sub surface scattering to simulate the light bouncing through thin parts of the skin (Usually most obvious in light passing through ears)
The Incredibles 2 – 2017
Compare it to a scene from The incredibles 2, and look at teh way light interacts with there skin. Especially jack jacks ears, it gives it a feeling of being real flesh with blood travelling through it in-spite of the stylised designs. Spiderman has basically rejected the attempt to invoke a feeling of realisim.
They’re also using a similar effect to the red/blue colour shift stuff mentioned before but without the colours to create a focal point in places. Everything here has the similar ghosting effects going on except the screen, but the colours kept dull so that they don’t draw attention away from the focal point.
Nothing uh… particularly interesting to say about this shot but just, fuck the colours are amazing in this movie and it’s really pretty.
As miles walks down the steps we see the light shafts as he passes aren’t solid shapes, they all have a screen tone pattern applies to them imitating old comic art. You can also see the same effect in the halos of the fluro lights in the above picture, HA It wasn’t just there for being pretty!
Then the fight starts and we start to see shit like this, similar to the motion bluring in the first shot, instead of a clean blur to depict fast action they’re using after images. It looks like a street fighter alpha super move.
I originally thought this spider sense effect was some kind of 2D filter layed over the background with a screen tone effect coming through on the right side in the blue.
But what I thought was a screen tone effect seems to actually just be highlighting divots in the wall in the background, which means this is probably an actual rendering effect on the 3D otherwise it wouldn’t be showing new information like the divots in the shadow.
Then we have this cool shot of him running past floating text boxes that exist in physical space. Not anything super impressive but a cool detail.
Then as he’s almost hit by a car we get our first look at the onomatapeia sound effects being used. Leaning really hard on that comic book aesthetic.
Here we have them just straight up putting a piece of 2D art on the screen for the spider, instead of modeling/texturing a 3d model. It would look out of place in any other movie but they’ve embraced this weird mixed media vibe so hard it’s barely noticeable.
Jesus fuck look at this movie, nothing cool technically here but just… fuck. The way Miles is right way up while the city is upside down, emphasising his comfortableness in this situation. Fuck… this is so god damm good.
This is our first look at them using smears on his first. Smears are traditionally a 2D animation technique to make up for the lack of motion blur. People often take screenshots of them and use em as an example of bad animation, but they’re a completely intentional effect that only shows up for a single frame and really helps sell the animation. 3D stuff generally doesn’t use smears because they have access to more traditional motion blur as well as it’s a lot of extra work to do in 3d vs doing it in 2d.
The explosions give us more onomatopoeias combined with what appears to be 2D hand drawn smoke effects as well as some more of the screen toning on the light shafts.
As spidey swings out of frame, After images come back to show the motion but now with the blue/red colour shifting applied to them.
Seriously holy shit, this shot. The lighting bleeds through in screen tones in the bottom left, the explosion itself appears to be hand drawn, the actual characters here could be 2D art I can’t really tell from the quickness of the shot, but just… fuck, this is a god damm shot.
Even when Miles pulls his disappearing act on his dad, he disappears in a screen tone pattern.
Then we get what is probably my favourite effect in the entire thing. To highlight certain scenes and increase the impact they just straight up hand draw them for a frame or 2. I love that they’re still super rough in big texta like someone drawing on a school book rather than super clean art.
And the final effect I noticed is in the final scene as a way to blur the edges of the leaves and give the trees more of a ‘whole’ look they’ve applied that screen tone filter again to the edges of some of the leaves.
All of these effects and more that I’m sure i missed combine to create something unlike anything that’s been seen before.
The screen tone effects and the colour scheme call to mind the art of Ronald Wimberly, while the modeling and texture work look straight out of Borderlands (Or codehunters i guess) but all combining at every level to create something new and exciting.
So uh… yeah I’m pumped as shit for this movie if that wasn’t obvious. Get fucking hype.
Massive shout out to http://www.watchframebyframe.com/ for letting me go through the trailer frame by frame.