Sunday, February 26, 2006

Linklater's Challenges for "A Scanner Darkly"

Linklater first entered the geek world of animators five years ago when he made the film Waking Life. For Scanner, he's employing the same animation technique he used then. It's a process known as rotoscoping: Artists digitally trace over some frames of live-action footage by hand with a Wacom pen and tablet. Custom software fills in the rest. But Waking Life, a wispy collection of vignettes defined by its lack of visual uniformity, was a less ambitious production. It was a mild success - it generated $3 million (twice its cost) at the box office and found a loyal audience in the DVD aftermarket - but Linklater was disappointed with the movie's impact. Scanner is a dramatic narrative with a consistent look, starring seasoned actors like Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., and Woody Harrelson. And then there's the complicated rotoscoping software, Rotoshop. Originally developed for Waking Life by MIT grad Bob Sabiston, the program was updated for Scanner: It has a few hundred thousand lines of new code and a couple of dozen new commands. It's proprietary and few people know how to use it.

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