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SynthEyes 3D Tracker Speeds Completion of Racing Stripes

Software used to produce talking animals in feature film (January 26, 2005)

The SynthEyes 3-D tracking software was used to produce the talking animals of the family-oriented feature "Racing Stripes," according to developer Andersson Technologies LLC ( Four different visual effects studios were involved: Digiscope, Digital Dimension, Peerless Camera, and PRPVFX. To achieve chatty animals, the film combined live-action shots of trained animals with computer-generated animated mouths, each precisely tracked in 3-D to the live-action head.

According to VFX co-supervisor Dion Hatch of Digiscope, Racing Stripes had a total shot count of 757 shots. Of these, Digiscope did 320 and of this number, about 170 were talking animals. Says Hatch, "We used SynthEyes exclusively for all the 3D tracking of the animals. I would estimate that at Digiscope we used SynthEyes on roughly 200 shots." The gangster pelican played by Joey Pantoliano, "Goose," was Digiscope's main contribution. They also did the entire Blue Moon Race that included the characters Clydesdale, Tucker, Sandy, and Stripes, and about 30 shots tracking matte paintings into the final race.

Of the other vendors, Peerless did about 47 shots, Digital Dimension 44 shots. PRPVFX yielded roughly 77 shots, mainly Reggie the Rooster and Sir Trenton. Hatch estimates that in total at least 368 of the shots used SynthEyes.

Peerless was responsible for animating a number of shots of the lead character, Stripes. Given that Stripes is a zebra and so covered in black and white stripes, the shots were very unforgiving, both for tracking and animation. They also worked on a number of shots involving Sandy, Stripe's girlfriend, as well as digital matte paintings of the stables.

Peerless had already used SynthEyes extensively on a number of projects, most recently Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm." As such it was the natural tool for the work on Racing Stripes.

"Although we use a number of tracking systems, SynthEyes has consistently worked for us across a broad range of shots---it's intuitive, very stable, very accessible and best of all they are very responsive to real production requirements" said Digital Effects Supervisor John Paul Docherty. Lead Matchmover Mark Spevick said "We used SynthEyes to camera track and object track for a range of tough tracking situations---zebras, horses, even windblown trees. The speed of use and the ability to access all the data makes this a very powerful tool."

Over at Digital Dimension, Simon Marinof remarked that "the biggest challenge in Racing Stripes was to be able to perfectly track the 3D head onto the live one, but we didn't have enough markers on the horses." Digital Dimension worked with the two equine leads, Sandy and Stripes, and also with Ruffshodd and Trenton's Pride. The key to overcoming the limited number of markers, explained Marinof, was that "the 2D tracking of the markers was excellent, which was crucial because each additional deviation of 1 pixel would decrease the quality of the final 3D tracking dramatically. We realized a final tracking deviation under 0.5 pixels, resulting in perfect 3-D tracks." Digital Dimension founder Ben Girard notes that they are using SynthEyes on all their productions, including Blade: Trinity and Son of Mask.

Three months into the Racing Stripes' post-production, the producers, Alcon, asked for a promo for theater owners that featured Reggie. George Port of PRPVFX comments that "Reggie the rooster was one of the few characters in the film that required eye replacement as well as beak replacement, meaning any slight flaw in the tracking would make our work twice as difficult." Shot in HD, PRPVFX finished CG eye and beak animation in less than two weeks using SynthEyes.

In a less glamorous but still tricky task, Port added that one of their toughest challenges was putting poop onto Reggie's head as he ran through the barnyard, as there was no practical poop on his head. SynthEyes tracked the background camera motion, plus the rooster's head as a separate object, so that the splatters of poop that flicked off as he ran fell to the ground realistically.

Overall, Hatch of Digiscope recounts: "Simple autotracking features would not work for this project. We tried your expensive competition without success. Then Matt Merkovich joined the team, introduced us to SynthEyes, trained six artists who had no experience in a couple of weeks, and we were on our way. Without your software we'd still be in the back stretch working on this one."

SynthEyes has also been recently used in the features "National Treasure", Oscar-nominated "The Phantom of the Opera", and the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe winner "The Aviator."

For more information and free demo visit Andersson Technologies LLC

About Andersson Technologies
Andersson Technologies LLC. We're dedicated to bringing you software that is fast, reliable, flexible, improved frequently, and affordable.

Maintaining a constant dialog with users, and rapidly introducing improved versions, results in high quality software: not just bug fixes, but efficient user interfaces. This lean organization, coupled with an internet delivery system, keeps costs low.

For more information visit


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Related Keywords:SynthEyes, Racing Stripes, Andersson Technologies, 3-D tracking software, visual effects, Digiscope, Digital Dimension, Peerless Camera, PRPVFX, Dion Hatch, John Paul Docherty, Matchmover, Mark Spevick, Simon Marinof, Ben Girard, George Port, CG, animation, Matt Merkovich,


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