ARCHIVED - Animation Software Creates a Splash

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August 04, 2004— Ottawa, Ontario

Tar Monster

Tar Monster from the movie Scooby Doo II.
©2004 Warner Bros.

When the Tar Monster oozed its way onto movie screens across North America in March 2004, the audience at Winnipeg's Towne Eight theatre cheered and clapped. Not for the evil viscous blob in Scooby Doo II, but for its creators.

Computer programmers and artists at Winnipeg's Frantic Films spent six months creating the Tar Monster's five-minutes of silver screen fame in the movie Scooby Doo II using their unique, in-house Flood software. Developed with the technical and financial support of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), Flood has rapidly emerged as one of the world's leading tools for animating fluids, from water to tar.

In 1997, Frantic Films started as a team of two long-term friends, Chris Bond and Ken Zorniak, fuelled primarily by bountiful creative talent. Looking at L.A.-based animation studios, they realized that if they were going to succeed in getting major contracts they also needed a technical edge. In 2000, with NRC-IRAP support, the company hired its first computer programmer, forming the beginnings of the company's R&D unit.

A federal initiative, NRC-IRAP works closely with all kinds of small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them grow their businesses, increase their competitiveness, and enhance their impact in the marketplace.

Soon after this, Frantic realized that there was potential in developing improved software to animate fluids. The complex motion of fluids is governed by the physics of fluid dynamics. Traditionally animators have used lower-quality simulators, or hand-animated these fluid motions, a process that's technically limiting and enormously time consuming.

The Frantic Films team
  The Frantic Films team.

After months of development – including scouring scientific literature and examining existing fluid simulation systems - the programming team produced the first version of the Flood software. The software debuted last year at an animation industry event, quickly catching the attention of major studios. Flood is now one of the top three fluid simulation tools in the world, and Frantic has applied for a number of patents on the software.

"NRC-IRAP provided us with technical expertise when we wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford it."

Ken Zorniak
CEO, Frantic Films

Based on Flood's strength, Frantic was able to win the Tar Monster contract even while competing against the major U.S.-based studio that was animating other characters in Scooby Doo II. Beyond this one film, Zorniak says the company's computer programming R&D capability has helped generate a "creative critical mass" at Frantic. The increased work generated by the company's success, including on the recent films The Core and X2: X-Men United, has meant that Frantic has hired 20 more artists, growing to a staff of 73.

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