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Director Kory Martin Juul Creates CG Feature Almost Single-Handedly

By Benjamin Craig  |  13-May-2013

Literally a one man army, acclaimed visual effects artist, director and black belt, Kory Martin Juul, has animated a 100 minute family martial art feature... almost entirely on his own.

Juul honed his visual effects skills on some big movies. You've heard of the "Star Wars" movies, the "Matrix" movies, the "Lord of the Rings" movies? He's worked on them. A little thing called "Avatar?" Yep, that one too. But transitioning into directing hasn't been easy says Juul. "Its a catch 22, you can't make a film until you have one done already." His 2005 short animated solo effort, the Sandbox, played in festivals around the world, including a private screening at Pixar. "The short film opened doors with some high people, they all wanted to know what was next, and from there we waited. Over that same period Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, the Last Airbender, and newest Karate Kid were greenlit. Clearly it was a popular subject."

Not sitting back another day, Juul casted a group of talented voice actors, put on a Phasespace motion capture suit, and together they performed over 30 characters in the film. "Phasespace produced really clean data, quickly, without needing a huge clean-up crew. They also have a patent on active markers, which allowed me to run the system, interact with a monitor in realtime to learn where my virtual surroundings were, and to playback each character immediately for review." This allowed Juul to move 'in character' with the previously recorded voice actor's performances, which played through speakers on set. Juul also choreographed 9 fight scenes, fighting against himself in all but one of them.

From there Juul travelled solo to China, travelling over 2500 miles by bus and train from Tibet to the border of Vietnam, to capture background footage for the film. "With the edit done, I knew all the shots, so I hopped on a plane, not speaking any Mandarin other than hello, thank you, and I'm a vegetarian. 30 days later I was still getting chicken, but I had some incredible footage."

"Don't get me wrong," says Juul. "Film is a collaborative process. Its most fun when everyone is working and creating together. Although this was a solo effort, it was only out of necessity. I just wasn't going to take no for an answer any more. I was born to tell this story. I've lived it and breathed it for 10 years, and its going to help a lot of people. Feels good to be getting closer," Juul laughs.

It took Juul 16 months to lay out the animation and edit the first pass of the film - and another two months - round the clock - to complete the 24 trailer shots. That's roughly two days a piece to model and matte paint sets, finalize animation, cloth sim, crowd sim, light, render, and composite – using Autodesk Motionbuilder, Maya and the Foundry's Nuke software. Its a feat he doesn't know how much longer he can sustain.

Juul hopes the trailer gains worldwide interest - enough for an adequate budget to be put into place to finish it. "Whether the funds allow us to open a studio, finish at another studio, or take us back to China, it's all on the table," says Juul, "the whole film is developed, we're ready." White Tiger Legend aims to release in 2014.

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