Even adorable fire breathers need to find their best light. Dean DeBlois, director of How to Train Your Dragon 2, worked closely with Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, who served as the film’s visual consultant to craft a picture that goes beyond animation’s normal scope. In a recent article in ICG Magazine, DeBlois and Deakins bantered about the elements that makes this Dragon different.
Deakins and DeBlois commenced their creative journey together on a snowmobile safari along with Production Designer Pierre Olivier Vincent in Iceland’s Svalbard Islands, where they studied light and captured photos that served as a jumping off point in much preproduction. The photos, combined with Vincent’s paintings, were assembled in a room where they would meet regularly to gain inspiration.
“We could see the entire look, feel and color of the film in that room,” said Deakins. “I would go off and do my [live-action] work and check back in – either fully connected from the road, or going into the studio.”
VFX Supervisor David Walvoord elaborated on the revolutionary way that Deakins envisioned the film’s lighting. “Roger’s approach is about simplicity, and that left such a mark. In fact, over and over again we’d show him scenes, and he’d say: “That’s a lovely picture. Now turn all the lights off.” We’d start to turn them back on one by one, and if the light didn’t need to be there, we left it off.”
Deakins also aimed to bring in the feeling of a live-action camera movement to create a realistic feel. DeBlois mentioned that Steven Spielberg felt he could have created the same shots in the first How to Train Your Dragon and wanted it to keep that way so that things didn’t feel too neat around the edges.
Between his artful approach to lighting, his use of photographs of Iceland as a jumping off point for the color of the film, and his sense of live-action, Deakins was a perfect match for the films needs. “Roger is so specific in how an image can draw emotion, and that was new for us, said Vincent”. “He’s quite stylized in his approach, which is a great fit for us in animation.” (ICG Magazine)