Preview: 'The Croods' powered by new video game technology

"The Croods" have invaded home entertainment with Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD versions of DreamWorks Animation's $568 million box office blockbuster now available from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. What that means for parents -- in addition to a funny and entertaining flick -- is lots of "Dun Dun Dahhh!" That's the favorite line from Belt, one of many unique creatures dreamed up by writers/directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders to inhabit the prehistoric adventure.

The computer-generated movie is actually the first from DreamWorks to utilize brand new performance capture technology, similar to that used in recent video game hits like "Grand Theft Auto V," "The Last of Us" and "Beyond: Two Souls." This allowed the animators to get a real-time look at what their movements would look like in the movie, something that in the past was done by filming themselves in a room trying out moves. This technology also allowed the directors to control the in-movie camera to see exactly what the audience would see in the completed film.

"Performance capture was used mostly for the layout process, which is where we put the 3-D characters in but they're not yet animated," said DeMicco. "It's used to get the camera going so the editors know what to animate because they're only going to animate what's being seen on the camera. Also, the actual movement on screen is more fluid, whereas before it was a little more rigid and kind of clunky. Most importantly, it got everybody to be in one room and talking about the scene. A lot of time we go from room to room to room looking at different PCs and with this everybody came down to the motion capture room and we could see it up on the screen in real-time."

The similarities between making a digital film and creating a virtual game world based around that film has allowed DreamWorks to work closely with game makers D3 Publisher and developer Torus Games. As part of multi-film licensing agreement with DreamWorks, D3, a division of Square Enix, collaborated with the filmmakers on "The Croods: Prehistoric Party" for Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS. The game allows up to four players to take part in an assortment of family-friendly mini-games and adventures.

"A lot of times we actually supervised the stuff that went into the video games," said Sean Sexton, supervising animator, DreamWorks Animation. "They would send their cycles of how Sandy runs in the game or how she gets attacked and we'd offer input. They used a lot of the same software we used to make these characters in the film. It's very closely integrated."

DreamWorks also worked with Angry Birds creator Rovio Entertainment on a free-to-play mobile game set in the world of "The Croods." The iOS and Android game allows players to build and manage their own world using the Croods hunting and gathering abilities. The game is constantly receiving new updates, like the ability to explore friends' worlds, which keeps the brand fresh. It also runs on Rovio's new account platform, which means the millions of "Angry Birds" and "Angry Birds Star Wars" fans can seamlessly log into this game.

"One of the cool things about these games is they're not going to really further the characters as part of the story," said Sanders. "They're based on the movie that was already made, but because these films take quite a long time to make, you want to keep them alive in people's memory and imaginations while you're off making the second film. So anything like a TV show or a video game that's out there is great. There are a lot of kids out there that, by the time we make the second film, are going to be old enough to see it that are either not born yet or are just very, very young right now. So you want them to learn about it and know about it by the time the second one comes out so they want to go see it."

"Video games are great because it keeps the characters alive in people's minds so they can become the characters and it will bridge the gap until the next movie," said Sexton.

In addition to the free mobile game and the console games, the new Blu-ray version of the film offers up interactive art experiences to get kids of all ages drawing some of the prehistoric creatures from the movie. All of this interactivity should keep people busy for a while. And during that time, DreamWorks is developing "The Croods 2" to take the big screen adventure forward.

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