As moviemaking — and even the actors themselves — goes increasingly digital, Laika studios in Oregon is a unique hybrid. Most movies today are live action with visual effects added later — or they’re fully digital. Laika starts with the century-old craft of stop motion — 24 handcrafted frames per second — and uses visual effects not only to clean up those frames but to add backgrounds and characters.
“We’re dedicated to pushing the boundaries and trying to expand what you can do in a stop motion film,” says Jeff Stringer, director of production technology at Laika. “We want to try and get as much as we can in-camera, but using visual effects allows us to scale it up and do more.”
That’s exactly what Laika did with its latest feature, “Missing Link,” the company’s fifth-straight movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature, and its first to win a Golden Globe. “The scope of this movie is huge,” the film’s writer-director, Chris Butler, told the Los Angeles Times. According to Animation World Network, the computational requirements of the film’s digital backgrounds and characters topped a petabyte of storage, and rendering the entire movie took 112 million processor hours — or 12,785 years.
Like most motion picture content today, Laika rendered “Missing Link” on Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Intel and Laika engineers are working together to apply AI to further automate and speed the company’s articulate process. “Our biggest metric is, is the performance believable and beautiful?” Stringer asks. “Our ethos is to not let the craft limit the storytelling but try to push the craft as far as the story wants to go.”
Voting for the 2020 Academy Awards ends Tuesday, Feb. 4, and the Oscars will be awarded Sunday, Feb. 9.