Last Friday, a select group of students from Digital Animation and Video Production rode off into the rainy road ahead to Los Angeles on a field trip to Rhythm & Hues, an Academy Award-winning (yes, the golden statue!) visual effects studio. (On that note, is it just me, or does it seem to always be raining when we’re off on a field trip?)
After a grueling two hours on the road, we finally made it to the studio.
As enormous as it is now, we learned R&H is currently in the middle of a huge move that’s sending them from their current 70,000 sq. ft. Marina del Rey facility to their new 140,000 sq. ft. offices in El Segundo.
As we entered the post-production facility, we were greeted by our tour guide Scott Byrd. He really knows not only the company inside and out, but the industry as a whole as well. It was obvious we were in good hands.
While walking along the poster-covered hallways, most of which, as told by Scott, were posters for movies that R&H had been a part of, we saw movie posters for Babe, Stuart Little, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and several others. We even saw a few advertising posters. Does anyone here remember the old Coca Cola polar bear commercials we used to see back when we were kids? Yup, that was Rhythm and Hues Studios leaving its mark.
As the tour went on, we made several stops at very interesting places.
We got to see the machines used for the old, now-archaic ways of film editing, and the more modern, digital ways for performing the same editing of film strips.
We got to go inside the storage room, if you will, known to professionals as a “render farm”; the place where all the rendered, or completed, work gets calculated. There was these huge machines (were they called computers, or were they called robots?), and the huge pipes above us blew gusts of cold wind to keep the machines from overheating and crashing. It felt like standing inside a freezer! As incredible as it was to be standing around in such a place, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were relieved to get out of there and back into the warmth of the hallway outside.
We got to walk down hallways lined with posters and original concept artwork of famous cartoon characters: Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Bambi, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Scooby Doo, Garfield, and about a dozen others. How in the world this studio managed to obtain such artwork is beyond me, and was beyond our own tour guide as well!
We got to climb up the stairs into the projector room, we got to take a peek inside a huge, dimly lit room, where the freelance animators worked. We got to see them work with Maya, a professional 3D animation program, and saw how they modeled and rendered their work. We got to step inside the dorm of a 3D modeler, who’s workspace was filled with old clay models from previous works, hanging above a blinking computer whose screen had an image of a 3D model head.
We got to walk into a room that held more of these 3D clay models, standing on a table for display. Models of Scooby Doo’s head, of Garfield, of wolves, of a rat, of aliens, and of developing characters for movies still in production.
We got to walk into the animators’ workspace and invade their privacy, peeking over their shoulders and staring intently at whatever it was they were working on.
We were asked to stay tight-lipped about all the amazing movies that are about to come out that we got a sneak preview of! Epic!
We got to see how it was like for these people to be working here. All in all, it was a great field trip and even better experience.
A big thanks to Scott Byrd and the entire R&H team! For more info on R&H, visit them @ http://www.rhythm.com