The Making of South Park

How is South Park made? The short answer these days is that the animators make new elements in Corel Draw and export them as Adobe Illustrator files. Adobe Photoshop is used for fonts, texture maps, and real photos. The Photoshop and Illustrator files are then sent into Alias/Wavefront's Power Animator 8.5 and Composer on SGI O2 and Octane workstations, where they are used for animating the episodes. After the animation gets Trey's approval, it is sent with the audio to be edited and mixed using Avid Media Composers on Mac computers. But for more detailed answers, read these excerpts from the articles concerning the hardware and software used.
April 21, 2001 - In the South Park Studios, Karin Perrotta, Post Production Supervisor, reveals that South Park is now animated with Maya, with previous items being transferred from Power Animator to Maya.

The Beginnings of South Park
South Park Comes Home
Wired Magazine
Millimeter
Ars Technica
Deleted South Park
Animation
Spotlight on Power Animator
Work In Progress, p.30
Work In Progress, p.31

I do have one tip for you: I took two screenshots of "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000" and decided to place them side by side. I know for certain that the basic kid's head is a perfect circle, so I shrank the image horizontally and drew circles around Butters' head, and shrank again and drew again, until both circles below matched each other. From this I calculated that for many screen shots you need to shrink the image horizontally by 10% in order for the image to be accurate.

This confirms the observation that a person on screen looks 11% wider (and so, fatter) than he or she really is.

The Beginnings of South Park

Frosty

"Frosty", also known as "A Christmas Story," was shot on an old crappy 16mm Arriflex camera that was on an animation stand in the University of Colorado film department at Boulder. The video was primitive stuff, patched together from construction-paper cutouts glued with Elmer's, photographed frame by frame.
Here's a rebuttal from a viewer

Wtf are you saying bro?! An old crappy 16mm Arriflex camera?? There's no such thing as a crappy 16mm Arriflex camera you noob, and with film camera the camera is just a machine and has nothing to do with image quality. It only pulls through the film stock and exposes it, that's all. Image quality with film cameras rely on film stock and lenses so don't go around saying dumb things.

Also, btw, they used the Arrifles SR2 16mm camera, and guess what? You know that recent feature film called Black Swan.. Yes?? Well that was shot on the same 16mm Arriflex they used for South Park, and did that look crappy to you? No it did not, so don't say useless things.

Spirit of Christmas

It started when Fox executive Brian Graden, whom they'd met through contacts made at Sundance, gave them $2,000 to make a video he could send as a Christmas card. "I did the animation using construction paper cutouts," Parker says, "and we both improvised the dialogue, screaming obscenities at each other in my basement while my mom was baking fudge upstairs. It cost $750 and we pocketed the rest." One can assume they used the same setup as they did in university.

The Unaired Pilot

Matt and Trey used more than 5,000 construction paper cut outs and a 16mm camera. Each action was filmed frame by frame directly onto video film. It took about 70 days to make the pilot for the show. Using traditional methods for the Comedy Central pilot "took us forever, because it was 22 minutes long," Stone says. "It was hell on this earth."
Another animator, Terrence Masson, was the first to suggest that South Park could be made using CG - he made a 10 second playground scene using cut-outs he had received from Matt and Trey. Computers were used starting with the very first episode, but the episodes didn't look like construction-paper animation again until episode 105, "An Elephant Makes Love To A Pig."

From SOUTH PARK COMES HOME - March 7, 1998
Aspen, Colorado

LIEBLING:We're about to show you the original pilot that Trey and Matt produced for Comedy Central. They finished it in October of '96. Do you guys want to talk about it a little bit?
PARKER:Yeah, I mean, what happened — this again came right after "Spirit of Christmas," and it was very experimental. You know, we didn't know — and it was really me and Matt and Eric did the entire thing ourselves. It took forever.
STONE:It took 70 days or something.
PARKER:You know, in this dark little room. And unlike—
STONE:Yeah, that summer.
PARKER:— unlike the show, it is all construction paper, just like "The Spirit of Christmas." Because at the time we thought we could actually do the series that way before we got bitch-slapped by this, and it took way longer than we thought it would. [laughter] But, you know, we learned a lot. And I think it's — you know, they're going to show you this because it's — you know, it is interesting to see what we ended up cutting out. You know, because we made this and it was a little long.
STONE:It was way long. Four minutes long, and we had no idea how to fit it down.
PARKER:Yeah, and we still didn't have quite the grasp on the characters.
STONE:It was really linear. That was the biggest thing. It just was like kids here, kids there, kids there, kids there, kids there. One of our biggest lessons was learning how to make a story move by cutting back and forth between things.
PARKER:Yeah, but it is interesting—
STONE:No one taught us that in film school.
PARKER:— in that it is sort of the first thing we made. So that's about it.
STONE:This was basically our entire summer of '96.
LIEBLING:A little anecdote: they were locked in this dark room. I just had a vision of them in this basement in Denver somewhere, cutting and shooting, and I spoke to them one day and they sounded really, really bad. And we said, "well, why don't we just push the delivery date a week so you guys can take a couple days off?" And they said okay. And then I found out that they took those two days off and made a film. [laughter]

From Wired Magazine, September 3, 1997
It Ain't Easy Making South Park Cheesy
by Mike Tanner

7:45am 3.Sep.97.PDT — The crude cut-out animations of Comedy Central's potty-mouthed animated sensation, South Park, seem like the height of a low-tech revolution in cartooning. In fact it took months of intensive R&D and the experience of creating four episodes before the show's creators were able to make their high-end computer graphics tools produce the convincingly hand-made appearance they feel they've finally achieved.
"Alias is used for Jurassic Park and shit," says co-creator Matt Stone, still somewhat amazed at the level of computer-animation software at his disposal. Though the series was now-famously created by Stone and Trey Parker as a 5-minute video Christmas card using primitive stop-motion photography of construction-paper cut-outs - including "these little construction-paper mouths the size of your fingernail" - it soon became apparent that the process was insufficient to the demands of series television.
Using traditional methods for the Comedy Central pilot "took us forever, because it was 22 minutes long," Stone says. "It was hell on this earth." In order to produce that much material every week, Stone says he and Parker had to "devise a system so 10 people could do it and it would all look like one hand."
This invisible teamwork is exactly what people have traditionally trained for years to do in cartoon factories like Disney, he points out, but in South Park's case, "the drug of choice was Alias on SGI workstations." Using a dozen animators on a dozen Silicon Graphics O2s, the team is now able to "pump out a show every three weeks." And all this while finishing production on the duo's unrelated live-action feature, Orgazmo, to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.
Part of this efficiency is based on the fact that the show "never sees videotape." It exists entirely as media files exchanged over network, from all the phases of animation, to Avid editing, and up until the final tape is created for broadcast.
Moreover, though the denizens of South Park gambol in an unapologetically planar world, they are actually built with 3-D software, to preserve the slightly raised look of distinct pieces of paper.
If the series manages to survive this onslaught of technology while retaining the appearance of cut-outs dragged around the screen, it's probably because the lads have built a kind of digital version of their original process.
To create the digital models of the characters, the team scanned in the original construction paper shapes used in the pilot and then assigned those pieces to corresponding parts of the bodies. None of the motion is automated, either.
"Everything is moved manually across the screen," says Stone, "so it gets that organic jumpy look." But only this week, with the show's fourth episode, has the animation regained its original pulpy look. The first several, Stone says, still looked too "computerish."
That it took a few episodes to devolve properly is not entirely surprising since, admits Stone, their cartoon-construction system "is totally new" and was built from scratch over the past three months.

From Millimeter Magazine, May 1, 1998
The Method Behind the Madness of South Park
By Matt Cheplic

"We have the technology, and our animators have the skills to do 3-D," says supervising producer Anne Garefino. "We don't want it to look computery," agrees director of animation Eric Stough, who's been on board since the pilot. "We want it to look as crappy as possible."
That would make Westwood, California, Crap Central. It's in Westwood that Stone and Parker have their offices, in the same complex where the animation and audio for the show are produced and posted.
To keep it "crappy," the animators took Parker's original construction paper cutouts, scanned them into the computer, and built exact replicas in Alias Wavefront. "Trey drew all the original characters in Corel Draw, says Stough. "We actually take those illustrator curves directly into Alias PowerAnimator 8.5 and build what we call smart puppets."
With the characters constructed, Stough and company then tap into the Expressions function of Alias to manipulate specific body movements. "We animate all the visibility—the front heads, the side heads, the mouths—they're all on these little sliders you push back and forth which make different mouths visible." To keep up with the fast turnaround needed, the production department relies on a variety of SGJ boxes.
Stough remembers: "When we started, people asked us why we were using Alias for such a 2-D show—it's like swatting a house fly with a nuclear bomb. But it was the package that made the show look as much like construction paper as possible. And if you watch the pilot, there's a lot of shadows that stick out. Alias has the best shadow and ray casting, so it looks like construction paper sitting on a camera stand."
The animators will occasionally use Alias for effects, as well. In the Halloween episode, Pinkeye, Kenny becomes a zombie and bites a chunk out of another student. The boy's blood was treated to a pulsating glow effect. An Alias effect also enhanced the much-heralded Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride, in which Stan's gay dog is outcast and finds sanctuary at a refuge for other persecuted pets. When Big Cay Al shows Stan his disco club (obvious, yes, but undeniably funny), a complex scheme of lights electrifies the dance floor.
"We used the lighting effects in Alias for that scene," says Stough. "One of our technical directors took about half a day to set that up." The same Alias function supplements a musical number by the school's Chef in the episode "Damien." Voiced by Issac Hayes, Chef might be the only levelheaded adult in town, a guru in a greasy apron. His only caveat (excepting, perhaps, that he calls the kids his "little crackers") is spontaneously breaking into sexually explicit song while the boys wait for his wisdom. In "Damien," Stough explains: "It breaks out into a '70s-type psychedelic thing. He gets into it so much, disco lights come on."
Stough also recalls PowerAnimator's role in the "Mecha-Streisand" episode, in which Barbra Streisand procures two ancient mystical triangles to become a 20-story-high menace—only to be foiled by mecha-version of The Cure's Robert Smith. "It involved some cheesy Godzilla effects—laser beam-type stuff—and we added a glow to those in Alias, too."
"Mecha-Streisand," which aired in March, beamed into 3.2 million households, according to Nielsen ratings. Not surprisingly, Garefino reveals the series has been picked up for 20 new shows. The first of the new season aired in April, followed by six more new episodes starting this month. All of which means things are getting busy at South Park headquarters.
Here's how the work takes shape: After each script is complete, the storyboard process begins, which typically takes from a week to a week and a half. Simultaneously, Parker will draw the new characters and backgrounds introduced in the episode (Stough will often realize the construction paper versions). From there, Parker and Stone record the voices while animators cut an animatic, scanning the boards into the Avid and cutting storyboard frames to the voices. That provides the template for the show.
"Then I get the boards cut to the animatic," says Stough. "I go through the boards to make sure all the staging is going to work right and all the backgrounds match. Then I write notes for the technical directors, telling them what backgrounds they can recycle from previous episodes."
The animators inherit layout, backgrounds, and props from the technical directors (the TDs typically take about three weeks to set up all the shots for a single episode).
At this point, the mouths have also been animated by the lip synchers, who work with the exposure sheets (dialogue cut down frame-by-frame) to decide which mouths are to be used and how to time those out correctly. The animators then refine the timing and breathe life into facial expressions, walking, and head bobs, for instance, about a three-week process.
The frames are then rendered out, sent through an Accom WSD Extreme 1 and loaded into an Avid Media Composer for assembly. Everything but color correction is done in-house, and not once is the animation filmed or videotaped.
"The helpful thing about doing it in the computer rather than under a camera stand is that Trey will fix things—he might want a character to turn his head halfway through a shot—and we can reuse all the other animation—all we have to do is change that one head," says Stough.
Besides Alias, the animators also rely on Adobe Photoshop, most noticeably for the kids' classroom. The writing on the chalkboard is created in Photoshop, as are the real photos—although all people and things in South Park appear spawned by a third grade art class, all photographs are actual filmed images. Says Stough: "Every once in a while, I get out of the office and take pictures."
Photoshop also figures in Kenny's oft-seen blood, although that wasn't always the way. "Originally, we would take a Sharpie underneath the camera stand, draw a dot, make a bigger dot two frames later, and make the Sharpie kind of bleed. I do that in Photoshop now and transfer that onto an animated texture map in Alias."

From Ars Technica, July 1, 1999
Dr. Evil interview
with Sean, J.J. and Tim — SysAdmins for the South Park computer network

Dr. Evil: Give us a short rundown on the hardware and software used to produce South Park. What operating systems are in use? Is the software or operating system on the workstations different than that for actual rendering machines, and if so, how?
Sean: Lessee.. the majority of the workstations are SGIs (Indigo2s, O2s, and Octanes). The storyboard artists and some others use Windows 98 PCs, and we also have a few scattered Macs of various flavors. The audio and video editing stations are Mac-based Avids. The file servers are either SGI O2000s or O200s. We use Samba and K-Share to let these serve to the PCs and Macs, respectively. On the network front, we use 3Com 3900 36-port 10/100bt switches joined by Gigabit Ethernet. The two production sites are linked with OC-12 ATM, and we use Cisco 5505 routers to do the protocol translation and LAN emulation (nice boxes). All of the main file servers use Gigabit Ethernet network cards.
For software, the animation is done using Alias/Wavefront's Power Animator. The storyboard artists do the initial boards manually, then once those are approved they use Corel to build digital versions of the various objects for import into Alias. Whenever we have to do composite (multi-layered) shots, we use Alias' Composer package. Sometimes Photoshop is used to generate texture maps for Alias. Oh, and the writers use a package called Final Draft.
J. J.: For the admin machines, Linux is the system of choice as we need something very reliable for running the critical software like DNS, postgres SQL, mail, and so on. We use Apache for our intraweb server, although we run it on Jesus, our O2000 file server.
Tim: They pretty much got it all, but I would have to say that the Playstation is the winner of the console war. Although I believe that the N64 was always going for the last 3 weeks of the movie as we were giving Goldeneye and Podracer a thorough play-testing.

Dr. Evil: Obviously, this is some serious hardware and software to arrive at a "construction paper look." Why do things this way, instead of the "real construction paper" method of The Spirit of Christmas and the pilot?
Sean: The decision to go CG was made even before I came on board. It is my understanding that they had evaluated the potential problems in coordinating it manually (anybody seen Cartman's 'ee' mouth?). After much consideration, it was decided that, in order to build a functional production system, the computer route was the only way to go. The technical directors also decided to go with Alias/Wavefront. One of its major selling points was the quality of its renderer. As it turns out, getting the shading and texturing to appear like construction paper shot under an overhead light is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. Alias, in their opinions, did it best.
J. J.: Yeah, it's rather similar to the swatting a fly with a sledge hammer analogy. Seriously though, Alias' renderer just looks the best. And if you're wondering why we haven't moved to Maya, it's just overkill for what we do, ya know? That, and it would take a very long time to convert all our assets over.
Tim: Well, considering the fact that the show and the film end up going full bore until the last possible moment, I would have to say that we have yet to acquire enough horsepower for comfort.

Dr. Evil: I have heard from other sources that Trey and Matt want the characters to move in a very jerky, "amateur production" style. Does this keep you from using the animation abilities of the software, or does the software allow for some automation while retaining this feel?
Sean: The artists animate on 2's. They also animate at 24 frames per second (we use a process called a 3-2 pulldown to transfer the rendered images to 30 fps video). Again, it was determined by the creators that the effect this created was what they were looking for. This in no way limits the artists' use of Alias' animation tools. The curves used to define the movement of objects are just applied on every other frame instead of on every frame.
J. J.: They also use a curve type called "stepped," which doesn't use a smooth algorithm like spline or Bezier, but literally looks like a series of steps. That way, the motion looks jerky because the key values from frame to frame jump from one discrete value to another with no interpolation.
Tim: As you have probably seen the film already, you can see that we had a lot more complexity mixed in to our project than they usually have on the T.V. side (but now that we have set the standard higher, who knows).

Dr. Evil: Can you give us a summary of how an episode comes together, and how the creative side works with the technical side to get things done?
Sean: I think that I could give a more effective description of this process if I were better versed in chaos theory. :) Leave it to say that a South Park episode's evolution is no less bizarre and frenetic than the actual content of the episode itself. We seldom finish an episode more than 36 hours before it airs. Shows are sometimes written a week before their air date, and get re-written the weekend before they air. Everything is driven by Matt and Trey's creative inspiration, and the flow of a show through the production system is entirely determined by timing of their creative output. We've never missed an air date, so, from that perspective, this system works very well.
Ideally, each episode starts with a the writers producing a script. This then proceeds to the storyboarders, who make a simple visual interpretation of the script, and the audio editors, who work with the voice talent to record the spoken lines in the script. Once the storyboards are approved by Matt & Trey, the storyboarders create any new objects in Corel and pass them on to the TDs. The TDs are responsible for setting up the elements of each shot for the animators, modeling new objects, and handling effect or 'specialty' shots that don't fit well into the normal queuing and rendering system. Lip-syncers then refer to the recorded audio to animate the mouths of the characters. Finally, the animators take the scenes set up by the TDs, the animated mouths, the storyboards, and the reference audio and use it all to make the final animated version of each shot. Shots are first rendered out as low resolution QuickTime 'thumbnails' to verify that the animation meets the animator's intentions, and then as full video-res images.
But wait, there's more! The animated shots are transferred to a digital disk recorder and from there to an Avid video editing station where Matt & Trey work with that show's editor to work out the details (the fastest way to get the images into the Avid is as a video signal, so the DDR is used to generate video from the rendered image files). If a shot needs to be changed, it gets sent back to an animator or TD for a 're-take' and then re-rendered. At the same time the video editing is done, the final audio is worked out on the audio Avids and merged into the video Avid's content.
Once everything meets the stringent South Park quality standards (i.e. we run out of time), it gets written to a D2 digital video tape and sent off to Comedy Central to be aired. Now, if you take the process described above and a few small, minor, random elements (numerous re-writes, legal 'advice', unscheduled weekends in Vegas, Avid crashes, horrified and slack-jawed network censors, ill-timed socio-political events, more 'advice' from legal, and the occasional inconsiderately inflexible law of physics), the process will seem much more like a mad, drug-and-cathode-ray-induced hallucination of stress, people shouting, and smiling, swearing, and construction paper children. That is the South Park television production.
As far as the creative and technical side working together, it's a fairly constant thing. We're a small crew, so we admins work directly with each artist for shot-based issues (which are few), as well as constantly requesting artist feedback about the tools we've made, what tools could be made to make things go more smoothly for them, and just general ways to improve the production flow. We also provide support for artists' home PCs (gifts of scotch appreciated, but not necessary :) ).
J. J.: Mmmm... Scotch... ;-P
Tim: Well, with a year now under my belt I can only reply, "I don't have a clue, but somehow it happens and thousands of people are laughing right now due to it." Did I mention that I think this job is way cool?

Dr. Evil: What are some "rendering stats" for a typical episode, i.e. how long does it take to render, approximately how many frames, what sort of storage is required, etc.?
Sean: A thumbnail frame typically takes 30 seconds to a minute to render, while a video res frame takes about 2-5 minutes. Pretty quick. For one pass at both resolutions for a typical show, this comes to around (23 min x 60 sec x 24 fps x (1+5) min/frame) = approx. 3312 CPU-hours to render a show. With 30 full-time and 25 part-time (workstation) CPUs to work with, this should be a snap. However, considering the 'normal' development of an episode I described earlier, almost all shows take until the very last possible moment to render. The total CPU power is needed because frequently the 37th version of a very long shot that was just re-animated needs to be in the Avid now.
As for storage, we have about 300 gigs of Ciprico Fibre Channel RAID for the Alias wire files (objects, scenes and whatnot), texture maps, and other assorted data. We have another 100 gigs of SCSI RAID for rendered video image file buffer.
J. J.: Not to mention the 80 gigs we keep around for MP3 storage... ;-P
Tim: As for the film, on top of the thumbnail and video res that Sean mentioned, we then had to render it all again at film resolution (1828 x 1110 1.66) which took about 21 minutes per frame. (85 min x 60 sec x 24 fps x 21 min/frame ) = approx. 42800 CPU-hours. We had 124 CPUs dedicated 24/7 to rendering, so it works out to a little over 2 weeks solid, nonstop rendering. Now considering that we ended up with a little under half the film still rendering and 72 hours to do it in, you may gain some insight into why I am currently under heavy medication. :) But seriously, it was more than a little stress inducing.
Storage? Same as above but add 1.14 terabytes of RAID and a couple hundred DLT and DTF tapes that we used to transfer the images out to be printed and eventually archive the thing.

Bonus: Deleted South Park

Dr. Evil: It's awfully early, with the movie having just come out, and you may not know, but I've gotta ask: any chance that the stuff you were forced to cut to get an R rating will make it onto a DVD release?
Sean: Oh, man. You have no idea. The altered and deleted footage could easily take up three or four DVDs on its own. The film wasn't even going to be a musical until early this year (when, according to the original schedule, we were supposed to be well into final rendering). We've worked hard to retain all of the relevant production data on tape backup (the film system having already been largely disassembled and carted off). Most of the pieces still exist in one form or another, although reassembling some of them would require a multi-million dollar server and RAID setup. Still, I'd be more than willing to give it a go.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of some of this stuff ever seeing the light of a post-Columbine day is pretty slim, I'm afraid. One other thing to add.. people seem surprised that a lot of the film is very topical and surprisingly current. This isn't quite as surprising if you consider that a lot of it has been written in the last few months. I'm not complaining or sniping at anybody--I had a lot of fun working on the project, and really love the film. It's just the way that things work best around here (and the main reason things simply wouldn't work at all with paper cut-outs).
J. J.: Let's just say the stuff that was cut was a lot less warm and fuzzy... ;-P
Tim: I hope for the hard core fans like yourself that they do [put some of the cut material on DVD]. There is some unbelievably funny stuff that never made it, but I am afraid there would still be a few things that couldn't be put out on that medium, either. Write your congressman.

SGI Helps Bring South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut to the Big Screen

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (July 8, 1999) -- SGI (NYSE: SGI), today announced that Silicon Graphics® O2® and Octane® workstations and OriginTM servers were integral in creating South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The South Park Productions and Paramount Pictures collaboration began showing in theaters on Wednesday, June 30.
South Park, the animated series, has moved from cult favorite to mainstream popularity since Comedy Central introduced the program two years ago. The show chronicles the misadventures of a group of mischievous third-graders living in South Park, Colorado. In addition to its irreverent characters Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny, South Park is known for its trademark "paper cut-out" look, yet the show is fully digital. Producers were able to bring the new, full-length feature South Park to life with sophisticated animation software and the power of SGITM OriginTM servers.
The images in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut are created in 3D using Alias|WavefrontTM PowerAnimatorTM software, running on Silicon Graphics O2 and Octane workstations. Characters and individual scene elements are designed with both texture mapping and shading that, when rendered, resemble 2D paper cut-out stop-motion animation.
"By creating flat characters and backgrounds in a 3D environment, we are able to add textures and lighting effects that give the film a cut-out construction paper stop-motion style which would have taken many more months if done traditionally," said Gina Shay, line producer, South Park Productions. "We have the flexibility to quickly alter individual elements, such as lip sync, on a shot by shot basis to keep up with a script in constant flux. SGI Origin servers provided the rendering power and storage capacity we needed to deliver this project in a timely manner."
The artists at South Park Productions used a multiprocessor SGI Origin 2000 and 31 multiprocessor Origin 200 servers (with 1.14TB of storage) for both rendering and asset management. Backgrounds, characters and other items could be saved separately or as fully-composited scenes, with speedy access later. Digital animation technology also allowed the artists of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut to break from tradition in its use of camera angles. Shooting from angles within a 3-dimensional setting gives the kindergarten cut-out styled cartoon a modern-day edge that keeps in step with a generation of viewers with high visual expectations.
"SGI systems were part of the entire South Park animation process, from modeling, layout, lighting, texturing, animation, and compositing through rendering at 2K resolution," said Greg Estes, vice president of communications and media marketing at SGI. "The balanced 2D and 3D performance of Silicon Graphics visual workstations helped the artists interactively combine 2D and 3D elements, making complicated scene/shot planning with multiple camera moves a very intuitive task. This is an excellent example of how SGI solutions provide the flexibility and reliability that help our customers tell their stories best."
SGI is a market leader in technical computing, offering the world's most powerful servers, supercomputers and visual workstations. SGI uniquely provides a broad range of high-performance computing and advanced graphics solutions that enable customers to understand and conquer their toughest computing problems. Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices worldwide, the company is located on the Web at www.sgi.com.
Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. present in association with Comedy Central a Scott Rudin and Trey Parker/Matt Stone production of a Trey Parker film, "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The comedy is directed by Trey Parker, produced by Trey Parker & Matt Stone, and written by Trey Parker & Matt Stone and Pam Brady. Scott Rudin and Adam Schroeder are the executive producers, and Anne Garefino and Deborah Liebling are the co-producers. The film features the voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman and Isaac Hayes. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc.
Silicon Graphics, O2 and Octane are registered trademarks, and SGI, the SGI logo and Origin are trademarks, of Silicon Graphics, Inc. Alias|Wavefront and PowerAnimator are trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc. exclusively used by Alias|Wavefront, a division of Silicon Graphics limited. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners

From Animation Magazine, July 2002
Eric Stough, Animation Director, South Park

How do you keep costs down?
South Park is based on construction paper replacement animation. This style is more simplistic than traditional hand-drawn animation, but it is very labor intensive. The use of computers makes it more efficient because things don't have to be cut out and glued together. Instead we use and reuse files from previous shows. The scripts for South Park are written days before a show airs, allowing the content of the show to stay topical. The speed of computer animation allows the animators to get the show on the air.

Do you send any work overseas?

All of our animation is done at our studio in Marina Del Rey [Calif.]. Our animators work on every frame, animating 12 frames a second. A lot of our animators use the computer's tools to fill in inbetweens for walk cycles and head bobs.

What software/hardware do you use?

We use Corel Draw for design and Maya 3.0 for animation on a Windows NT platform. Occasionally we'll create new textures using Photoshop 5.5 and we composite shots using Composer and Digital Fusion.

What are the pitfalls and perks?

For our show the perks far ourweigh the pitfalls. Every animator works off the same files. So when it comes to the look of the show, Cartman always looks like Cartman no matter who animates him. We have no need for an ink-and-paint department; the computer renders out every frame. As a director, the computer allows me to make last-minute changes. If we still did the show with comstruction paper, we'd be re-shooting entire scenes, and it would be not only frustrating, it would be impossible to make air. Being able to go into a saved shot and make a simple fix and send it back to the editor within 15 minutes is priceless.

What do you enjoy? What do you hate?

The computer allows us to be so efficient that we can crank out 6-8 shows in that many weeks. When you work at such a fast pace it's hard to really enjoy the process of making the show. When the shows have aired, however, we get a significant amount of downtime before the next run. I always enjoy the opportunity to catch my breath and recharge before we're back in production. We owe our entire was of scheduling to the fact that we are computer-based.