Guru Deploys Harmony to Design and Direct Ever After High Series

"The work was entirely done in-house to foster the cross-pollination of ideas among all team members as much as possible." — Frank Falcone, President and Creative Director, Guru Studio

Guru Deploys Harmony to Design and Direct Ever After High Series

Guru Studio is one of Canada’s leading animation studios for high quality production and digital services. Located in Toronto, Ontario, Guru also develops their own original content and distributes animated series to broadcasters around the world. Well-known for the excellent quality of its CG projects, such as its own Emmy® and Annie Award-nominated series Justin Time, Guru has now embarked on a high-profile 2D project for Mattel, titled Ever After High®, using the Toon Boom pipeline.

Characters

Behind the success of Ever After High is a wonderful team of talent. Frank Falcone, the President and Creative Director at Guru, oversees the delivery of all work and is supported by Mary Bredin (VP Development and Acquisitions) and Amy Robson (VP Production). Brandon Scott, the show’s director, manages the creative team that includes an assistant director, a technical director, and two animation directors.

Sketch

The artistic goal for Ever After High was ambitious, but the creative team at Guru faced the challenge with grace. Upon receiving the voice recording and script, the Guru team took over the entire production process, including the design, background, storyboard, animation, compositing, lighting, mixing, scoring, and sound design. The team created a distinctive look using Toon Boom Harmony and made full use of its Software Development Kit (SDK) to manage the incredibly rich details of the characters’ elaborate hairstyles and numerous costumes. “The work was entirely done in-house to foster the cross-pollination of ideas among all team members as much as possible,” said Frank Falcone.

Apple White

There are approximately 50 characters between the first two seasons, and each character has three or four costumes. “We have over 1,000 unique builds and about 90 layers per character, which includes 450 drawings,” explained technical director Chris Fourney. “Another great example is the Hands library, which includes 250 unique drawings that can be used across all characters and be swapped as needed.”

Each episode features expressive character performance and elaborate design through the combination of frame-by-frame animation with advanced cut out animation. Animators used complex rigs to create believable performances for the characters and build an impressive library of assets with different angles and costumes for each character.

For storyboarding, the team used Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. “With Storyboard Pro we can easily share files with freelancers and amongst ourselves. The different export formats are great for revisions and comments,” explained assistant director Mike Csynuoscka. “It’s great to be able to import various bitmap formats to use as backgrounds in a shot or sequence, and the ability to eye drop from a bitmap file in V4 is very useful. Also, the camera tool is a great asset, enabling an editor to recover the camera information for the leica. The ability to switch around panels and shots has proven to be a huge time saver compared to the past.”

Storyboard

The pre-production stage took nearly half of the production time. It included detailed layouts and vibrant paintings created in Photoshop, while the rigs, props, posing, and animation passes were all created in Harmony.

“We opted for an innovative strategy using Harmony. By maximizing its SDK, we created 15 custom plugins that tremendously facilitated the animators’ tasks. As an example, we redefined how the parenting system works, in particular in the way the hair is moving and how it is attached to the scalp to keep the animation fluid. Automating repetitive operations that are required in this unique production changed how animators interacted with Harmony and ultimately enhanced their work. Building upon Harmony’s SDK to meet our needs enabled us to achieve a result that would not be possible with any other packages,” stated Chris Fourney. “Considering the artistic requirements Ever After High entails, we pushed Harmony’s usefulness to its maximum and made it our core animation toolset.”

Guru’s first foray into 2D animation is outstanding, and seeing the amazing quality of work the team is delivering certainly bodes well for the future.

gurustudio.com

About Guru Studio

Guru Studio is one of Canada’s leading animation studios for high quality production and digital services. Located in Toronto, Ontario, Guru also develops their own original content and distributes animated series to broadcasters around the world. Well-known for the excellent quality of its CG projects, such as its own Emmy® and Annie Award-nominated series Justin Time, Guru has now embarked on a high-profile 2D project for Mattel, titled Ever After High®, using the Toon Boom pipeline.