Abu Dhabi production company breathes life into animations

Production House is working on a series of 15 minute animations set for launch in 2016. The company uses the latest in 3D animation techniques.
Ashraf Badrieh, the managing director of Production House, talks about the company's current project - an animation series that aims to teach children and adults important social messages. Ravindranath K / The National
Ashraf Badrieh, the managing director of Production House, talks about the company's current project - an animation series that aims to teach children and adults important social messages. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The computer screen shows a young girl’s dress swirling as she dances across a room, each strand of her hair flying in a different direction, while in a corner a ball slowly rolls away, out of shot. Every part of the lifelike scene is captured down to the smallest detail.

This is the work of an Abu Dhabi-based production company that is creating state-of-the-art 3D animations. The artists at Production House have been honing their skills on an as yet unnamed mini-series of 15-minute-long animations.

Each of the 30 episodes will feature an important social message, such as making youngsters aware of the dangers posed by thieves, and encouraging parents to interact with their children.

Working in the format is not without its difficulties, said Ashraf Badrieh, the managing director of Production House.

“The most difficult thing in 3D is working with hair and multi-layered clothes to make them move naturally and not as one block,” said Mr Badrieh. “It took a lot of time and development of software.

“We first applied the clothes’ movement to the kandura and ghutra. We studied how it should move in accordance with the environmental conditions and physics, like the movements of speed and air density.

“Hair is usually featured as one piece in animation that moves altogether, but we created each hair on its own and it is affected by each move and shake.”

The series is expected to be broadcast during Ramadan 2016. It will feature characters from different Arab countries as well as from South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, with scenes taking place in different countries to relate to an international audience.

The main production will be in Arabic, but there are plans to release the series in other languages and distribute it worldwide, said Mr Badrieh.

In one episode, viewers follow two would-be thieves and the mishaps they encounter while trying to steal items from different places, such as cans of food from a supermarket.

However, the hapless crooks end up taking tins of dog food instead. To show the error of their ways, they start barking instead of talking.

The media personality and host of the morning show on Abu Dhabi TV, Abdullah bin Haider, plays the voice of the thief, who speaks in broken Arabic. “For me this role was something new, because matching an actor to a character that has a different accent and looks is quite challenging. It takes a lot of work and rehearsals to draw the appropriate voice for the character.”

He said it helped seeing the animators create the characters from A to Z. “I liked how the production is very detailed ... and each character is studied by the letter.”

While this is not his first animation voice-over experience, bin Haider said he is particularly excited about this series because it enjoys Hollywood standards that he has not seen before in Arabic animation.

“This gives the actor a motive to participate in it, especially since we expect more seasons to follow and a movie.”

Ameena Al Mazrouei, the head of social activities at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said the message behind the series is in line with a legal message the department is aiming to spread next year. It has allocated next year for children’s legal awareness and one of its slogans says “listen to us so you can protect us”.

However, she said children usually have a wide imagination and they can report imaginary events and accusations, so parents need to be careful.

Working in 3D allows the animators to capture the smallest feature, such as wrinkles, or the effects of water and fire in detail.

“Some productions try to escape visual effects like burns and water, but I intentionally added them to show off the high level of animation technology being used,” said Mr Badrieh, referring to a scene where one of the thieves passes his accomplice a lighter and burns him by mistake. Instead of pouring water on him, he pours fuel, sending flames and smoke into the air.

The characters also change as the series progresses, with various clothes and beard lengths throughout, unlike more traditional animation.

hdajani@thenational.ae

Published: December 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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