Aptly named as “Rango: The Next Step in CG Animation,” the 2011 NAB Show featured the production artists behind the animated film “Rango” at the Las Vegas Convention Center on April 12, 2011. The speakers for the session included James Byrkit, writer and storyboard artist, Crash McCreery, production designer, Hal Hickel and John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic, and David Cohen of Variety. This CG animated film, directed by Gore Verbinski, features the story of a contemporary pet chameleon who takes the Sheriff role in the Wild West town of Dirt.
Apart from the in-depth discussion, the event also paved way for the special book signing of “The Ballad of Rango: The Art and Making of an Outlaw Film.” The books were signed by author David Cohen and the other artists involved in the film.
The Art of the Film
According to the production team, the photographic look and lighting of “Rango” required a very careful styling plan. Essentially, it paid homage to the Western genre, especially in terms of director’s treatment, cinematography, and art direction. The production looked into a number of Western classics including “There Will Be Blood,” the inspiration for the exact mood and tone of the scenes when Rango came to the town of Dirt.
The filmmakers created a sense of happy accidents in a story that took place in an imaginary southwest setting. The film featured desert characters coming to life like live-action characters would, yet they were produced in a distinctive animation format. Interestingly, the film’s dense and finely texturized photographic look carefully followed the elements typically found only in live-action productions.
The Live-Action Treatment
“Rango” used more than 60 richly detailed animal and insect-like townsmen, which was too much of a challenge for an animated production, especially given the resources they have. Even the props and sets felt quite different from the usual animated offer where everything would always seem perfect.
To quote the production guys, they employed a number of “digital camera shakes, digital lens flares, and digital dirt on digital lenses” that would normally be encountered only in live-action filming. Ironically, cinematographers would always try their best to remove or avoid them when they shoot, but for “Rango,” they purposely placed these imperfections including some digital continuity errors that live-action shoots would probably encounter — creating that cinematic mood and feel not typical in animation. And for “Rango’s” concept, story, and treatment, it really worked.