Francois Lord's Commentary
The following is an explanation of working conditions by animator Francois Lord, who wanted to clarify points brought up in the first Real Adventures episode guide.
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 13:22:31 -0400
From: Francois Lord
Organization: Buzz Image
Subject: Jonny Quest
My name is Francois Lord. I am a computer animator who worked on the first episodes of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. I just read your page on the web and I was concerned about the episodes I worked on. These are Escape to Quesworld, Trouble on the Colorado, Assault on Questworld, Secret of the Moai, DNA Doomsday and To Bardo and Back.
For Escape to Questworld, you say: "Fairly lame. The Questworld scenes might have been impressive four years earlier, when the series went into production. The world has moved on, and the "Reboot" series probably has better computer animation. Note to Dr. Quest: Tune up the QW program-the lip-synch has problems. "
Here is what happened in Montreal. The same thing happened in Santa Monica but with a different team and with different episodes.
Dream Quest Images first had the contract for the computer generated sequences. They just had the time to do all the pre-production when Disney baught them. Disney said:" You're not doing a contract for Hanna-Barbera". So HB went to Buzz F/X, a small company in Santa-Monica which is part of Buzz Image, a bigger company located in Montreal, Canada. This is where I am (which explains my poor english writing). Buzz decided to have three animators in Santa-Monica and six in Montreal. Among those nine animators, there would be three seniors, and six juniors for budjet reasons. The problem was that there were no senior animator available in Montreal (the best one we had was sent to Santa-Monica). So Buzz hired four junior animators to start the job and said "we will hire the seniors animators later". I and three of my cassmates were hired at the end of april 1996.
Now you understand why the opening sequence is so ugly. HB said to us "do something in a canyon with green lines". Great, what does that mean? So we were four young stupid animators working on NT machines with a new version of softimage that has never been tested in production with a UNIX network (SGI). That's for the opening sequence.
Then, HB sent a first storyboard: Trouble on the Colorado. Good. We had to make a Shad-o-matic. That is doing the show with the right camera angles, the right timing, but no background and steady puppets instead of real characters, all rendered in shade mode, no textures, no shadows. We did that. Then we had to make the low-res. This is the whole show with motion capture, approved models and texture. BUT... The models were made by Viewpoint, another company and the motion capture (character movements based on real movements) was made by House of Moves. We received all that material for 'Trouble' one week before deadline. We had no idea how to put the motion capture in the models and the models had 80,000 polygons each. At this point, production for Escape had already began and the opening sequence wasn't finished. We were in deap shit. Buzz decided to hire one senior animator. We were working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a small garage with computers good enough for crap. But the idea of working on a project this big kept us in track and we began production for Assault on Questworld.
In july, the team jumped from 5 animators to about 15. Two seniors (who had only one year of experience) and a bunch of juniors. Most of them were not even able to light a scene correctly. The motion capture (mocap) was all jerky and the ambiance in the small garage was like hell. I decided to work at night along with two of the best juniors. We spent more time on 'Trouble' because there was no mocap in the majority of the show. All the other juniors were working on 'Escape' witch explains the total uglyness :).
In august, all three episodes had to be delivered. We worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I didn't count the times I worked 24 hours in a row. Our best animators were quitting and the moral was at its deapest. Hanna-Barbera wasn't cooperating by wainting up to five days to approve what we sent them.
Production on Secret of the Moai began. For this episode, we asked for help from the rest of Buzz staff. They did a fine job for the background but again, the lack of time reduced the quality to poor.
After that, the deadlines were a little more reasonable. The good ones worked on DNA and the bad ones worked on the tunnel part in Bardo. Why? I dont'know. The models were reduced from 80,000 to 15,000 polygons. The mocap was better as for the moral. DNA Dommday was way better in quality. Finally, Buzz decided we lost enough money and put and end to the contract.
The reason why the first shows were ugly is that we never had time for pre-production, the technology wasn't strong enough, and the lack of talent... or should I say budjet. Mainframe Entertainment (who is doing Reboot) had two years of preproduction, a bunch of Onyx to render and a team of animators from the Sheradon College.
If you look at the newest episodes like Digital Doublecross, you must know that Blur Studio had twice as time as we did and twice as money. And they had team already implented instead of building a team from scratch.
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 10:45:03 -0400
From: Francois Lord
Organization: Buzz Image
Subject: Re: Jonny Quest
> said the very first team -- before he and the others were hired -- spent
> three years on the series and had results that were unusable, which is why
> H-B rushed everybody else. If you have any information about this, I'd be
> happy to hear it as well.
No, haven't heard about that. The only deadline-sheet I've seen indicated begining of production in Febuary '96. The character design wasn't finished in April and the storyboards weren't final.
(concerning the opening)
Well, I'm telling you, if we were doing it now, it would be much better. Now we know how to put action and danger in a scene like this.
> You can answer a question that's bugging everybody:
> In the opening sequence, there are several shots of Jessie on horseback and
> a helicopter, but they're not in any of the shows. Where did they come from?
Must have been made for tests during pre-production. Perhaps was it to try the light effects and soft shadows. I haven't seen any script with those scenes in it.
You can forward my story to any one you like. I think a lot of people would like to know that. I know what it is to be a fan. :)