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  • 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

  • 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.