Many of you have asked for more details about our two upcoming decorations, Ghostly Apparitions and Jack-O'-Lantern Jamboree. To help answer your questions, I sat down with AtmosFX co-founders Pete Reichert and Pete Williams to get all of the meaty details.
Why did you decide to create ghost and jack-o'-lantern themed decorations?
Pete Reichert: Our fans have been asking for a ghost-themed digital decoration for a long time. We’ve also been developing new techniques on ways our characters interact with a physical space.Ghostly Apparitions and Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree provided us with the perfect opportunity to execute those ideas.
It was also important to us to create another fun, family-friendly decoration that everyone could enjoy, which is how we came up with the concept for Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree. People love the way our characters play off of each other in UnLiving Portraits, so we wanted to investigate doing that again by creating three pumpkins with distinct personalities that could socialize in similar ways. This was a big challenge for us, but our team really brought each of these characters to life.
We recently had a blog post about Ghostly Apparitions that showed actors in front of a green screen. How much of this decoration is CGI?
Pete Williams: We applied a ton of visual effects to all the live action footage in post-production, such as glowing eyes and ghostly vapors that appear to emanate from each apparition’s torso. Additionally, there were several instances where specific CG elements were created to replace parts of the live actors. For example, we had to digitally remove one character’s head and replace it with a CG stump above his shoulders. Another character’s face transforms into a CG skull. And then, of course, there’s the character that spontaneously bursts into CG flames.
All in all, Ghostly Apparitions is definitely our most ambitious product to date in terms of digital visual effects.
Would you tell us a little more about the characters you've created in Jack-O'-Lantern Jamboree?
Pete Reichert: We created three unique characters for this decoration. The central pumpkin was modeled after a very traditional jack-o’-lantern design with a triangle nose and eyes, and he has a friendly-but-mischievous Jack Skellington-esque personality. Then there’s the hyper-enthusiastic, high-pitched “Silly Pumpkin” who possesses a more childlike innocence. And finally there’s the grumpy, baritone-voiced “Skull Pumpkin” who doesn’t seem too thrilled about spending Halloween night with his other two eccentric cohorts.
Who wrote the songs and stories for Jack-O'-Lantern Jamboree?
Pete Reichert: Fellow co-founder Pete Williams and I share that dubious distinction. Actually, it was a great deal of fun since we both come from TV/film backgrounds and have done quite a bit of script writing and voice-over recording/direction through the years. Pete Williams actually did quite a few voices for Undergrads, an animated series he created for MTV around the turn of the century, and the pair of us also co-wrote a screenplay for Paramount Pictures.
What were the most challenging aspects of creating Ghostly Apparitions and Jack-O'-Lantern Jamboree?
Pete Williams: The most challenging aspect of Ghostly Apparitions was all of the motion tracking that had to be done when incorporating CG elements into the mix. For example, to create the effect of glowing eyes, we had to track the movement of the actor’s head frame by frame so that the CG eyes would match up perfectly.
With Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree, the biggest challenge was dealing with all the lip sync that had to be done. To date, this is definitely our most dialogue heavy product. Every syllable spoken by a character requires a specific mouth expression to convey that particular sound, so with over six minutes of material, that’s a lot of lip sync to animate. Luckily, we had a team of highly talented animators who were up to the task and did a fantastic job of bringing these characters to life.
What's the next project for AtmosFX?
Pete Reichert: We have a few on the docket. We hope to create a year-round “evergreen” digital decoration tentatively called “Celebrations” – an AtmosCHEERfx product. It would feature elements that could be used for New Years, the Fourth of July, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebratory events. We are actually looking to raise funds for that on our Indiegogo campaign.
As far as our next AtmosFEARfx Halloween-themed decoration goes? We haven’t decided that yet. Maybe we’ll ask our fans for help on choosing the next theme…
Thanks for sitting down with me, Pete (and Pete)! It’s great to get so many details about this Halloween season’s new decorations.