Interview - WeCanDance

 
 

We Can Dance
Animation Studio

Dennis Weil
Co-Founder / Partner


Schwalbacher Str. 79 | weißes Tor , 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany

http://wecandance.de

 

 

Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us a bit about your company, when did you start, what are your goals?
We (Sebastian Metz, Bjoern Simonsen and Dennis Weil) founded WE CAN DANCE Animation Studio in September 2009 right after finishing our studies. It was a journey into the unknown as we had basically no industry experience or professional network. Fortunately our passion and enthusiasm for animation helped us to struggle through the tough beginning. Things improved a lot since then. Today we are a well established local animation studio with a stable number of clients and projects. At the same time we are learning new things each day which helps us get closer to our goal to create characters and tell great stories.
SANTA & KLAUS received a lot of attention. Can you give us an insight on the process, the goals of the project and the difficult parts?

Santa&Klaus is our attempt to get some recognition in the character animation segment of our industry and establish as a studio which can deliver high quality full cg animations. The whole project has been a big challenge for us as we have never attempted a character driven animation before. The amount of work that needed to be done was on a whole new level compared to our day to day business.
Especially skin shading and hair has been a totally new challenge for us which needed a lot of attention and R&D. We also needed to triple our rendering capacities to be able to finish in time for christmas.
A-CLASS: DESIGN HIGHLIGHTS had a great feedback. What were the challenges on this project?

We were asked to replace the background and floor for the new Mercedes A-CLASS. Unfortunately this was more of an afterthought which meant there was no greenscreen or tracking markers. This resulted in a lot of rotoscoping, creative custom tracking solutions and A LOT of manual tweaking. Once the tracking and rotoscoping was in place the rest was pretty straightforward. We used a camera projected car in our scene to get the correct reflections onto the wet concrete floor.
For PANASONIC ELUGA, you managed to master VFX in a way that’s both professional and artistic. What programs/plugins do you use? How do you keep up with all the changes in technology?

Thank you. Houdini is the core of our pipeline where everything will be assembled, rigged, animated, simulated, shaded, lit, and rendered. Our asset creation pipeline is very diverse. Our artists are basically allowed to use whatever is available to them as long as the output format meets our requirements. Compositing is done in Nuke or After Effects depending on the type of post work that needs to be done.
For the ELUGA project I want to highlight the use of 3D Coat which enabled us to sculpt the water splashes in a way that would have not been possible in any other sculpting program. We used its voxel sculpting abilities to create forms freely, fast and accurate without worrying about topology or the basemesh. Its automatic retopologization worked perfectly for the splashes and gave us exactly what we needed.
What was the most difficult part in the SIG CORPORATE PHILOSOPHY project?

The deadline was really tight for this and the voiceover turned out to be thrice as long as storyboarded and budgeted. so we had to make up a lot of stuff to fill the gaps. I was all the more impressed by the two man motion design team which managed to create this spot from start to finish in only two weeks.
What other supporting departments do you typically involve on an average project?
As we are a small company we are not very departmentalized at all. Most of the projects require the capacity of the whole studio. 

How large does this list grow when you’re working on a big project? Do you collaborate with other production companies or manage everything inhouse?
Up to this point we were able to handle almost everything in-house. The only exception being very time consuming rotoscoping tasks which are dealt with externally. That doesn't mean however that we are not interested in collaborations we are very open to talk to other companies about possible business relationships.

How involved is the interview process at WeCanDance?
We deal with job applications very unbureaucraticly. We invite applicants to an informal chat into our office to get to know each other. Social qualities are very important to us. If talent and personality match what we are looking for we won't hesitate to hire.
Which effect do you believe was the most difficult to achieve? (How did you do it?)
Though it's not literally the most difficult I vote for the of our Panasonic ELUGA water splashes. In the end we went for a surprisingly simple solution with sculpted and rigged meshes without any simulation. However we did a lot of R&D and testing with fluid simulations before we came to the conclusion that simpler is better. While researching we discovered that today's fluid simulation implementations are mostly geared towards massive simulations with millions of particles at very big scales. Fluid simulations on a macro level are not yet solved however. We tried every possible solution to get a working and directable simulation and even implemented a surface reconstruction algorithm based on the paper “Reconstructing Surfaces of Particle-Based Fluids Using Anisotropic Kernels” (Jihun Yu and Greg Turk) to get more detail for thin fluid sheets. We also started development of something similar to FUSION CIS' Smorganic (http://www.fusioncis.com/pr_smorganic.html) which we unfortunately couldn't finish in time for the ELUGA project. Maybe we can get back to it someday for another project.
What is the typical starting point in a VFX project? How long does it usually take?

As each project is unique we first analyse what needs to be done and create a production plan off that analysis. How long that takes is too dependent on the specific project to give a definite answer. Typically we start with a storyboard/animatic, asset production as well as project specific R&D all at the same time to get a constant workload during the whole production. Everything else follows as the project requires.
What’s the one project that you received the most praise for?

That's surely SANTA&KLAUS. We received a lot of positive Feedback for that. I guess the moment of surprise was on our side as we've never done anything like it before. Tell us a little bit about VISIONALE series. What were some of the challenges on creating a series for the same event? VISIONALE is a local youth media festival for kids, teenagers and young adults. Each year we tried to create something which would appeal to all of them. We deliberately created very different individual pieces which aren't related to each other in any way. This made it much easier for us to scale the workload according to our available resources. Being a no-budget event it wasn't always easy to find the time without neglecting our customers and paid jobs, but having had complete freedom we used it as a playground to try out new techniques and styles which has always been a lot of fun and very gratifying.

What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
Unfortunately we can't talk about future projects right now but our hopes are high for the first full cg character animation job.
Do you still find time for projects outside the advertising industry?
We rarely find the time to do personal projects and we rather spend our precious free time with our friends and families. Like everyone else in the industry we tend to work too much. However occasionally we do no-budget projects like VISIONALE or internal projects like SANTA&KLAUS because it's so liberating, gratifying and fun to do whatever you like without sticking to a client's wishes.
If you had the opportunity to spend a day with anyone from this industry, who would it be?
To be honest I'm not able to pick a single person which would be THE one person for me. There are so many talented, creative and nice people in our industry that it wouldn't do them justice to simply pick one. We would just like to thank everyone who moves this industry forward and continues to innovate and be creative.