Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Tech for Shrek

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Tech for Shrek

Article excerpt

"Shrek 2" may pick up the storyline right where the first one left off - Shrek is back from his honeymoon and ready to face the dreaded in-law "meet" - but technically, the second story about the not-so-jolly green lug is a few giant steps beyond the first film.

"We made a conscious decision to get more complexity," says visual-effects supervisor Ken Bielenberg. The most important new tool in their "paint box," he says, is a more powerful computer. Mr. Bielenberg says the machines used to make "Shrek 2" are about five times the speed of those utilized on the first film - power critically important to producing a bigger vision. "We weren't happy with the level of detail in the first one, it looked too much like a manicured golf course," he says.

Sitting in front of a computer screen full of forest shots from the new film, Bielenberg points to all the lilting and shimmering greenery. Then he illustrates how the animators were able to grow more grass, paint three-dimensional vines on objects that could move in the wind, and have more "set dressing" - like leaves scattered all around.

The more powerful machines allowed the filmmakers to create individual programs that control each tiny area of the picture.

"There's a tree system, there's a foot dust system, a gravel system for when the donkey runs along," he says, adding with a laugh, "and there's a fur-shading system, which we also used for growing moss."

The film's three directors say the heightened computer power gave new life to familiar figures, an important boost for a sequel.

"We didn't want to just redo the earlier film," says Kelly Asbury. "It was important to give another level of reality," adds fellow director, Conrad Vernon.

He points to small but important details. In the first film, he says, Shrek had a very simple eye. "They painted eyes, put them on a ball, and popped them in his head," he says. …

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