Tall Order was a board-driven project. Thumbnailing and ideation began on whiteboards and paper before digital storyboards were drawn up and passed down the line to the environment department.
Based on the storyboards received and relevance, the environment department would use Autodesk Maya or Blender to block out shots in 3D. At this stage, composition was tightened up, lens types were chosen, and perspective was established (but still malleable). To address mise en scène and eyefix, a rough layout sketch would often be drawn on top of each shot's 3D base and A & B poses for characters were included. From this point in production, our animators could begin animating their assigned shots, and our animation and environment departments were able to develop their work in tandem.
Both the environments and animations were drawn in vector lines, in accordance with the brush(es) and widths listed in the film's style guide. Using vector linework enabled us to make lossless size alterations to our assets if needed and broadened our toolkit during production.
Paint & Color
After linework was completed, the environments and animations were painted and colored, respectively, based on selected palettes created in tandem with the film's color script.
Polish and Composite
Before each stage of the pipeline could move on to the next, every shot first had to be approved by their respective department lead and ultimately, the Director. Upon reaching the end of the pipeline, each shot would be finalized: fringe-light and grunge textures were added to environments; cast shadows and color adjustments were added to animations; last-minute adjustments were made. After their finalization, both environment and animation assets were exported in accordance with export guidelines written for each shot by the compositor. Most environments were broken up into layers as needed, and most animations were exported as png sequences.
After the exported assets were edited and composited, a shot was deemed complete.
We set out to produce as much of Tall Order as possible in Clip Studio Paint; In this software, all of the film's character animation, VFX animation, and environment art was created. In part, the reason we set out to do so was to advocate for Clip Studio Paint's viability as a tool for production.
Tall Order was edited and composited almost exclusively in Adobe Premiere Pro, from the first animatic to the final cut. Some additional ambient animation—(e.g., dust particles)—were produced in Adobe After Effects.
Both Blender and Autodesk Maya were used for environment blocking. By creating basic environments in 3D first, we were able to iterate in general more efficiently, test out lens types, anchor perspective, and determine prop-character proportion relationships.
Meet the Team
The Tall Order team began relatively small; however, before long, it grew to be comprised of 13 members, including 12 artists and one composer.
Production in a Pandemic
Tall Order's development began during the Covid-19 global pandemic. In consequence, we encountered many extra challenges throughout production. The film's development chronology is such that work began entirely remote, transitioned into a hybrid of remote and in-person, became almost entirely in person, and then finally digressed to being hybrid again. Each new work environment brought unique structural problems for the team to solve. In order to adapt, our communication, organization, and pipeline all had to be air-tight.
And more: for every day of production, each member of our team had to rise above the excess of personal afflictions imposed upon them by the ongoing pandemic; despite working within a shadow cast by the looming crisis, we found ourselves driven, unified towards one goal: to create something fun for the world to enjoy.
As a result of facing and overcoming these additional challenges, we, as a team, were refined into something flexible, persistent, and capable of functioning effectively under constraints.