Chapter 11: CG Production Companies
In 1987, Jeff Kleiser (Digital Effects) and Diana Walczak formed Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company in order to build databases as a commercial service. They experimented with CG actors, which they called Synthespians. Synthespians were a new brand of animated three-dimensional characters with a high degree of life-like motion. Forged from the imagination of a human sculptor, according to Kleiser-Walczak, “these synthetic actors were brought to life through the process of computer generated imagery (CGI) and human motion capture to create a wholly unique style of animation with vast application to the entertainment industry.”
Two of the best animations involving Synthespians are Don’t Touch Me, starring the computer-generated singer Dozo, and Sextone for President.
In 1990, the company produced twelve minutes of high-end cosmic simulation for the PBS series The Astronomers. This project caught the attention of Doug Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, Blade Runner, Silent Running, Brainstorm), who awarded the company a multimillion dollar contract to set up a facility on-site at the Trumbull Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, to produce films for Luxor Las Vegas. Kleiser-Walczak provided all the computer animation, digitally composted with live action in Vistavision at 48 frames per second and a 2 1/2 minute stereoscopic film that was entirely computer-generated.
In 1992, Kleiser-Walczak teamed up with John Grower’s Santa Barbara Studios to simulate four ancient North American cities for the Pathways/Kevin Costner production of 500 Nations. In 1993, Kleiser and Walczak partnered with Randal Kleiser, who directed Disney’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kids to produce numerous visual effects shots combining live action and computer animation. They also produced animation for German director Roland Emmerich’s Stargate, Paramount’s Clear and Present Danger, Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Theater, Judge Dredd, and a stereoscopic logo-opener for IMAX films.
Michael Jackson chose Kleiser-Walczak to design an album cover and video jacket for his anthology album, HIStory. For this project, Diana Walczak supervised a four-camera shoot of Jackson and created a highly detailed sculpture of him for digitization and rendering.
In 1997 the company relocated its main facility to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Massachusetts where they opened Synthespian Studios, a production facility designed specifically to create computer-generated characters.
Movie 11.13 Maya Demo
Movie 11.14 Sextone for President
Movie 11.15 Don’t Touch Me, starring Dozo
Movie 11.16 Kevin Costner’s 500 Nations