Some fun TRON animation details

Shared by animation compositor Glenn Campbell on Crew Stories.

If you’re not already a member of the Facebook Group ‘Crew Stories’, you totally should be. It’s a great place for behind the scenes discussion on film. Recently, TRON animation compositor Glenn Campbell shared a few details about the animation approach on the film, in which live-action footage was combined with animation to produce the final definitive ‘computer’ look. Here’s Campbell’s notes, plus a slideshow of images below:

Working with Disney’s crane 8, their motion controled downshooter. It’s an animation camera that can shoot top lit art, like a normal cartoon, or bottom lit art, like Tron.

Tron was originally shot on film, with actors in black and white suits running around on predominantly black sets edged with white “vector lines”.

Every frame was turned into a transparency, a celluloid frame that could be shot individually.

By placing these “cells” (actual frames of the movie) on a plate over a lightbox, lighting them from behind from the camera’s point of view, you could rephotograph the movie, frame by frame.

The important thing is that because every frame was now a cell, you could draw on it, mask particular areas out, whatever you wanted.

If you had a frame of a guy in a white suit etched with black lines, a NEGATIVE image would be a frame of a guy in a BLACK suit etched with WHITE lines.

If you masked out the rest of the animation cell with ink and paper, thus isolating just the etched lines on the actor’s suit, you could light the cell from behind and all the camera could see would be just the white “circuitry lines” of the actor.

If you put a colored gel in front of the lens, you could make those lines appear to be red or blue.

Rewinding the film in the camera, you could selectively block out or expose any portion of a shot and make it any color or exposure you wished.

You might have to rewind the camera up to 80 times if a shot was complex.

Become a befores & afters Patreon supporter.