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Animo Used to Deliver Inside-the-Body Experience for Warner Bros.’ Osmosis Jones

(July 10, 2001)
At first glance, the inside of a construction worker’s body might not seem an interesting place to visit. That is, of course, unless your tour guide is a rookie blood-cell cop named Osmosis Jones, and the inside world glows with hundreds of trillions of colors.

That will be the experience awaiting filmgoers when Warner Bros.’Osmosis Jones hits the big screen in August. The story is set inside the body of construction worker Frank Detorre, played in live-action scenes by Bill Murray. Hollywood’s first blood-cell hero, Osmosis Jones (voice by Chris Rock), teams up with a rookie cold tablet (voice by David Hyde Pierce) to hunt down and destroy a lethal new virus within Frank.

Putting it all Together
Osmosis Jones combines traditionally animated 2D drawings, 3D CGI animation, 2D digital paintings, and live-action film. Cambridge Animation Systems’ Animo was the central production tool used to composite tens of thousands of high-resolution still images combining both realistic and imaginary settings.

“Animo was the ideal framework within which to accommodate the creative requirements of the more than 200 digital artists working on Osmosis Jones,” says Will Bilton, ACME digital specialist at Warner Bros. Feature Animation. “Animo offers a wide range of compositing tools, providing close control over camera mechanics, special effects and color styling. In addition, Animo allowed us to make drastic changes during the flow of production. This versatility was a key element in the making of the film.”

Skin-Deep Beauty
Cinema fans might recall the 1966 film A Fantastic Voyage, and 1987’s Innerspace. Both took place inside a man’s body, but portrayed it as a dark, foreboding place. Osmosis Jones shows the body as a world of vibrant colors and breathtaking landscapes.

Animo gave digital artists the ability to color-style all aspects of a scene, including CGI composites done in Maya 3D software, digital ink-and-paint cells, photorealistic sequences, and painted backgrounds done in Adobe PhotoShop and SoftImage Elastic Reality.

"The availability of more than 281-trillion colors in Animo ensures that one scene is able to 'hook-up' to another without any variation in color," says Bilton. "Color is controllable even in a character's tone palette. This is useful if you are editing a character's general tone but want the area that covers the eye to be left alone. It is also possible to select any bitmap area of existing pre-composites and make further changes, using a variety of Animo's vector-based tools and filters."

Animo's capability to accommodate custom-designed filters in the form of plug-in nodes was also vital to the film’s look. The nodes were developed by Warner Bros. software engineers, who worked closely with the animation artists.

Combining the new nodes with existing ones created larger configurations. Once a configuration is created, it can be saved as a macro for use in different scenes.

"In Osmosis Jones, the leading 2D characters all have dynamic and complex macro configurations containing more than 50 different filters," Bilton explains. "This enabled us to achieve the look of a nucleus membrane using 2D drawings. Although the set-up was initially time-consuming, once a character's macro was established, it could easily be applied to every one of that character's scenes in the movie."

Based on edgy casting and the rich combination of traditional animation, 3D CGI and live-action, Osmosis Jones promises a world never seen before in film. Animation directors are Piet Kroon, story artist for The Iron Giant and Quest for Camelot, and Tom Sito, animator for The Prince of Egypt, Antz, and many others. Live-action directors are Peter and Bobby Farrelly, whose credits include There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin, Dumb & Dumber, and Me Myself & Irene.

In addition to Rock and Hyde Pierce, voices include Brandy, Laurence Fishburne, Ron Howard, William Shatner and Joel Silver. Joining Murray in the live-action cast are Ben Stein, Molly Shannon and Chris Elliott.

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