How Netflix’s ‘Klaus’ Made 2D Animation Look 3D | Movies Insider

How Netflix’s ‘Klaus’ Made 2D Animation Look 3D | Movies Insider

When the animation process
for Netflix’s “Klaus” began, it looked something like this. It eventually started looking like a pretty impressive 2D film. But then the animators
went one step further to create a film that looked like this. Suddenly the characters
looked three-dimensional. But unlike most animated
movies these days, the characters in “Klaus” aren’t CGI and can’t even be considered 3D. It’s all just a trick of the light. About 300 people, including 40 animators, worked on the movie “Klaus,” which took over two years to make. And it was completed under the wire, just one month before
it premiered on Netflix. So, why did it take so many
people and so much time? To understand, we have to go back to 2010, long before “Klaus” was
nominated for an Academy Award, to when director Sergio
Pablos came up with the idea. Because his story was about
the origin of Santa Claus, it appealed to nostalgia. And he thought a nostalgic,
2D animation style like we saw in the ’90s Disney films would be a better fit for the story. But he also wanted to advance the look, so his team at SPA Studios in Madrid added a few new crucial steps
to the animation process. Sergio Pablos: I never looked
at 3D as an evolution of 2D. I looked at it as a split, like there’s a new way
of making animation now. Narrator: First, they
storyboarded the script and made a cut using temporary
voices for the characters. They swapped these out later once the real cast was recorded. The next step was layout, where the team designed backgrounds and figured out the
placement of the cameras. Animating the characters
and coloring the backgrounds happened simultaneously. The end goal was to have both
blend together seamlessly and look like they’re
part of the same world. The characters were all hand
drawn using digital tablets and a program called Harmony by Toon Boom. The animators used
live-action reference videos of themselves as a guide. The initial sketches were very rough, as you can see here. But there was a cleanup stage in which artists refined the drawings with crisp, bold lines. Then they painted the characters
with basic flat colors. Here, everything still looks very 2D, but they will soon bring
the characters to life with a very important addition usually reserved for 3D animation: lighting. His team tested out a new method of lighting 2D characters and released a two-minute, 30-second-long proof-of-concept teaser back in 2015. The proof of concept looked good and secured them a deal with Netflix, but the process was too labor intensive. So they partnered with a French company called Les Films du Poisson Rouge to help advance the technology, which they called KLaS, short
for Klaus Light and Shadow. Poisson Rouge was able to make
the tool much more efficient and easier for the artists to work with. The KLaS tool allows the
artists to paint with light using a number of
different types of lighting in various combinations, like “key light” and “ambient light.” With 3D CGI, light is added
automatically to objects, but it’s trickier with 2D. Pablos: Well, with the
lines, with drawings, the computer needs a certain level of AI to even understand that this
line corresponds to this line and this hand is also this hand. Narrator: The software tracks
movement of the characters so the light and shadows
will move with it. The program takes a very educated guess, but it’s not 100% accurate, so the artists can go in
and fine-tune it by hand. Painting with light allowed the artists to get creative with details down to the tiniest
reflections in their eyes, as you can see here. The team used lighting not
only to make the characters feel more real, but also to help tell the story. For example, when Jesper is
handing out papers to the kids like a drug dealer, he’s always standing in the dark to illustrate his shady behavior. And when he’s exposed at the
end of the film by his father, he’s the only one standing in the light, while the others are in the dark. Inspiration for detailed
lighting techniques came from movies and TV shows, like using just a sliver of
light to illuminate a character similar to this scene in “Apocalypse Now.” And this scene, when
Jesper confronts the bully, was inspired by “Breaking Bad.” It’s important that the backgrounds also look three-dimensional and follow the same lighting
pattern as the characters, so they used “color keys” as a guide. Pablos: They’re quick doodles, you know, they don’t have a lot of detail, but they tell you exactly
what the light direction is and how it’s gonna affect both
characters and backgrounds. Narrator: For example,
this color keys shows how Jesper and Alva will be backlit by the sun coming through the window. And this one shows a
progression of how the light will change on Alva as
she steps towards Jesper. To make the backgrounds pop and appear 3D like the characters, the animators used several
different techniques, such as multiplanes, where you
have layers on top of layers to give the illusion of depth. The team created a total
of 3,160 scenic layouts for the movie. After they’d merged the
characters with the backgrounds, they used a second major step that really gave the 3D characters that intricate detail
to bring them to life: texture. With another tracking tool, they used contour, lighting, and motion to add various effects to
specific parts of a character. Pablos: So now you could say, well, I don’t want a lot of
roughness on the skin, but I want the coat to feel rougher. Narrator: For example,
they can make them look like an oil painting or a watercolor. These textures are subtle, but if you look closely, you
can notice the difference. In the end, the characters
looked much more 3D and like a part of their environment, as opposed to looking like stickers on top of an elaborate painting. Pablos: And that’s what throws people off when they say, “This is 3D,” because it’s volume and it’s
moving and it has texture. But it’s really a combination of the light and the texture that makes that illusion. Narrator: The final stage
is final composition, in which any last-minute
details are added to the image, like particles. While the majority of the
film followed the 2D process, the animators did use 3D models for some characters and objects and combined the two seamlessly. And even though these
were created using CGI, they were lit the same way
as the 2D characters were: by hand. Pablos: There’s things that
benefit from being drawn because they feel more organic, and there’s, you know, things that are not
supposed to look organic. There’s things that are
supposed to look solid, like wagons and doors and props, and it’s really hard to
make it feel consistent and solid through drawing. Narrator: If you look
closely, Jesper’s wagon is 3D, and so are some of the reindeer. Pablos: Whenever the
reindeers had to do something, it was particularly challenging for 3D to look right with the 2D. We just animate the reindeers in 2D, and sometimes we would
animate one reindeer in 2D and the rest in the shot in 3D. Narrator: Scenes like this chase scene at the end of the film so seamlessly combine 2D and 3D elements that it can be difficult
to tell which is which. Pablos: There was a shot where Jesper lifts a plate cover at one point, and I commented on how
good the integration of that 3D plate cover
looked with the 2D actor, and they said, “Oh, no,
no, that’s actually 2D, we just painted it to look like metal.”

55 Replies to “How Netflix’s ‘Klaus’ Made 2D Animation Look 3D | Movies Insider”

  1. Kitbull, Klaus, Hairlove, Spiderverse, Promare, I lost my body… 2D animation is really making a comeback and I couldn’t be happier

  2. This is very cool! From their explanation I wouldn't have called it 2D vs 3D animation though – more like hand-drawn vs posed or something. The lighting model is intelligently calculating 3D volumes from the drawings so at that point I don't see how it can be considered 2D animation. Not that it really matters since the fact that it's hand drawn is the cool part.

  3. so… they basically did what your gpu is doing to textures in game
    thats actually surprising that its the 1st time i see this done .. its so obvious when you think about it .

  4. Cool and all but tbh it sounds like overcomplication for the sake of overcomplication. If their idea is to make 2D look like 3D, why not make it 3D from the very beginning? Especially considering that they have to resort to 3D everywhere because 2D doesn't end up looking good for solid objects for example. So they have to draw manually, they have to apply light manually, they have to figure out what is 2D and 3D, they have to make sure it all blends in right. So what's the point if it ends up looking like a 3d cartoon with a funny post-process shader anyway? I guess the idea was to impress collegues and get a bunch of awards 🙂

  5. Does this technique speed the film production up when compared to 3D, does it achieve more with less staff on a lower budget? Apart from it looking good there must be some practical reasons why 2D made to look like 3D is more effective for this film than making a 3D film. (By the way it looks really good)

  6. I like when you can tell that an animation wasn't made in or inspired by Hollywood animation. TBF i have watched those french- canadian cartoons my whole life and they all kinda look the same, but they undeniably have a flavour of their own. klaus looks like an old made-for-TV special from the early '00s with a 3D-ish filter applied to it which makes it look astounding albeit kinda cheap.

  7. Unnecessary human resources wasted for no reason. At the end it is a 3D movie. what is the point of the 2D process?? In my opinion the rough stage is more alive and beautiful than the clean and flattish result.

  8. But I don't understand why it is not possible to do all these things in a software like Maya! also I have no idea why 2D looks harder than 3D!?

  9. This is the future of 2D animation. I hope this gets more attention and the entertainment business reconsiders hand drawn animation again.

  10. Seriously, This world is astounding… That people can come up with this kind of stuff… It's really knowledge and creativity beyond anything I would have imagined to be there as a kid.. I just watched movies without thinking about all the hard work that went into them…
    And this is only such a tiny aspect of life. Each and every thing in life is just so complicated and humans tackle it.
    -Video Games
    -Animation movies
    -Mechanical Engineering and building machines
    -Physics and Maths in General
    and many more

    Each and every of those things have thousands of different approaches to do them. And what is so crazy in all of that is that somehow I think for all of those things, you need some kind of creativity that is inherent to human nature. And with only with this creativity we as humans have to go into all of those things – the world becomes this beautiful!

  11. Watched it and still don't understand it. They are saying the lighting was done by hand, but… Didn't they just say they developed an AI software to do the lighting automatically and that they just needed to give instructions and some minor corrections later?

  12. I loved the buttery smooth 2D animation. The fact that the cool looking 3D lighting is mainly done by AI is a turn off.

    To me, what sets 2D animation apart is the hand drawn aspect, so relying too much on computers kills the organic nature of hand-drawn skills.

    Gorgeous stuff, but not 2D enough 😆

  13. Klaus totally superb, and the way it was animated. But I didn't feel it as a 3d right from the day I saw. I found it to be some premium detailed 2d animated rendered movie .. and glad it is what I thought of.
    Have seen Prince of Egypt (masterpiece) several times .. so know it by than
    I feel the technique is just a layer above it

  14. Indeed now if using something like grease pencil to build 2.5d models on top of 2d is more viable than this approach

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