Drain the Great Lakes Blog by Andy Davies-Coward

June 24th 2011

Richard Fraser CGI AnimatorWe’re about 70% of the way through our schedule, but maybe only 40-50% of the way through the work. Yikes!

The reason we’re behind schedule is mostly because all the animations we create have to be scientifically validated. That’s scientific accuracy in addition to drama and realism ! The delays come from having to make sense of the data, then wait for feedback from the various consultants in response to our visual interpretations. Unsurprisingly the scientists have other things to do with their time, so we’re often left waiting for feedback.

Our Terragen landscape-generating CGI software is brilliant, but it can take an hour to render a second of screen time, and there are few artists who are knowledgeable in the software, so we are limited in our rate of progress. With this in mind our lead artist Richard Fraser was set to work back in February, with only a general outline of the film’s CGI requirements. Now in late June the accurate needs for CGI are finally emerging as the film takes shape in the cutting room. Now with a few short weeks remaining we adapting our storyboards and in some cases changing part finished animations in response to revised priorities.

Our graphics producer Louise Osborne is queen of schedules. Fuelled by multiple cups of strong tea, she spends her days updating and revising our plans as feedback comes in from scientists, or the cutting room telegraphs another change. Richard Fraser continues to send his part-finished work to us for approval, before we send it on to the editing team to be cut into the film – to see how it works. If all is well we can move onto the next stage. All communication is electronic of course, which is vital since so many members of the team are spread about the country and not forgetting the coproduction partners based in Canada. A few years without the fast data speeds we expect this would not have been possible now we take it for granted.

We’ll probably be adding a third artist over the next week or so to try to make up time. But it will be tight!

Mallinson Sadler Productions (MSP) is the documentary division of Mallinson Television Productions (MTP), Scotland’s largest and most successful commercials production company. Headed up by documentary producer, Crispin Sadler, MSP is dedicated to the production of high quality films in the areas of history, science, natural history and sport.