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FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2006


Spider-Man 3 lead animator Chris Williams and animation director Spencer Cook take in a question at Comic-Con.

SAN DIEGO -- Sony Pictures Imageworks' Spencer Cook, the animation director on Spider-Man 3, told The Continuum that work on the film is going "very well."

"There are a lot of challenges," Cook told The Continuum on Thrusday at Comic-Con International. "We're really trying to push the limits and push ourselves to do the best work of our careers."

Like many fans, Cook was very pleased with the first trailer for the film. "It was great," he said. "I was surprised they showed so much."

Cook was appearing at Imageworks' Animating Comic-Book Heroes panel, along with fellow animators Chris Williams, Andy Jones and Dovi Anderson. They showed an appreciative crowd step-by-step approaches to scene involving characters in such films as Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Hellboy and Superman Returns.

During the panel, Cook said that Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi is very collaborative.

"He really appreciates when an animator tries out an idea or adds in an extra touch that he didn't think of," Cook said. "Because he's thinking about the whole movie and while he's very detail-oriented, we are looking at the shots and animating them one frame at a time.

"So we come up with ideas and I'll present them to Sam as an alternative and say, 'Here's a shot where we've addressed your notes, but here's another version,' where we've tried this and this and this.

"And most of the time I do that, Sam will say, 'That's great, buddy, I'm glad you did that. It really helps the shot.' So I encourage the animators on my team to try stuff."

Cook, who is the animation director for the first time on a Spider-film, said the basic techniques being used are the same as before.

"What I'm trying to do is improve on the work," he said. "Anthony LaMolinara and John Dykstra did some fantastic work on 1 and 2. What I and Scott Stokdyk -- the special effects supervisor this time around -- tried to do was really take it up to the next level."

Cook said he is trying to incorporate "realistic physics" into jumps and falls with new tools, although he noted it can be subjective what a guy who can jump 50 feet would look like.

Cook also said that there is much more interaction with the visual effects department because of the Sandman character.

"We're animating the performance and the body motion and body language of Sandman," Cook said. "But the way his sand forms and the way it moves across his body is in the effects department.

"But it's all part of the performance, so we have a much, much more interwoven back-and-forth with the effects department than we've had before."

Cook was a lead animator on Spider-Man; his work on the second film was minimized because he was working on the Matrix sequels. For his presentation, Cook showed how he animated a scene in the first film, where Peter takes off after Uncle Ben's murder, climbing the walls to go after the thief.

Williams -- a lead animator in Spider-Man 3 -- showed a scene from Spider-Man 2 where Spider-Man and Doc Ock are fighting while falling from a building; a Spider-Man swing across the inside of the bank that Doc Ock is robbing; and Spidey swinging off the crane following a dramatic pose at the end of the film.

In all the cases, the characters were entirely computer-generated.

"One of the great things about Spider-Man's pose are they are so exaggerated, and the artists all have a different take," Williams said. "And the line is just so beautiful."

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