Specializing in animation, puppets, and hybrid techniques, Xilam has a large workforce at its studios in Paris, over one hundred animators worked on the animated featureGo West, a new adventure of the lonesome cowboy.
In 2008, Xilam started a new project entitled Mister Baby, a digital animated series to be made entirely in-house and broadcast on the France 3 channel in 2009. In order to keep the project under one roof, Xilam wanted to set a uniform, complete and efficient production pipeline, which led them to implement the Toon Boom pipeline.
Mister Baby is a series of 48 episodes, each approximately 4 minutes long, the main character is a 15 month old baby seated in the middle of the family room talking, reading and thinking like an adult. To carry out this ambitious project, a team was organized in Spring 2008 around Hugo Gittard, Director, Katell Lardeux, Executive Producer, Michaël Armellino, Animation Director, and Gérald Guerlais, Lead Layout and Background. In total, over twenty people are working on the production, including four storyboard artists, three background artists, one builder, eight animators, two compositors, with the help of a first and second assistant directors and a production manager.
The graphic look and feel, the sitcom style and the animation type lent itself to set up a fully digital production pipeline from storyboarding to final compositing using cut-out animation techniques.
One of the main challenges in this production was to deliver a high-quality series in less than a year, all done in France. "To make it happen, we chose the Toon Boom pipeline with Storyboard Pro and Harmony. Since Harmony was not as extensively used in Europe, most of the team members had to be trained before the production started. During that time, we took the opportunity to fine tune the pipeline and organize the production workflow" commented Katell Lardeux.
Xilam uses Storyboard Pro to create the storyboards and generate the animatics. Once approved, the animatics are imported into Harmony, to be used as a reference for timing and animation. After being approved, layouts, backgrounds and character designs are imported into Harmony in time for animation preparation and character building. To facilitate the animators' work and make available all the required elements, a pre-compositing and posing stage is scheduled in the pipeline prior to the animation stage. During this stage, all main animation key poses are defined. Animators can work with a detailed plan knowing which poses to animate, and what the timing and the predefined camera moves are.
"For Xilam, the fact that we were working within a compatible pipeline facilitated the file exchange and optimized the pipeline, the pace we were working at and the fluidity between each production stage. Storyboard Pro represented for us a true added value compared to the traditional paper-based methods of storyboarding. It enabled us to optimize the approval process between the director and the storyboard artists, as the director could rapidly share his comments and directly request corrections. Storyboard Pro also enabled us to export in different formats such as PDF and QuickTime for validation and communication purposes within the team. Finally, the ability to import Storyboard Pro's animatics is a great benefit as it enables us to set the episodes' structure in Harmony, to retrieve the dialogs and the camera moves, all in one single operation. Therefore, we could save a lot of precious time and better prepare the animators and compositors' work" added Katell.
Building upon this experience, Xilam plans to continue using Storyboard Pro in all its future projects, whether they are 2D or CGI. As for Harmony, Xilam is already using it to do the compositing of the Oggy and the Cockroaches Season 3 TV series and will integrate it again in the production pipeline of the potential Mister Baby Season 2 series.
Founded by Marc du Pontavice in 1999, Xilam was created following the acquisition of Gaumont Multi-media. As one of Europe’s leading animation companies, Xilam is committed to creating, producing and distributing top quality content in both 2D and CGI, for TV, film and new platform formats.
Xilam has created some of the most original and creative series of recent years, such as Oggy and the Cockroaches, Space Goofs, Ratz, The New Adventures of Lucky Luke, Shuriken School (2007 Export Award) and more recently A Kind of Magic. Xilam’s productions are broadcast in over 160 countries.