Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Captain 3D goes fourth with Shrek

Shrek film
Image caption Phil worked on the fourth instalment of the Shrek story, Shrek Forever After

BBC Radio Ulster's Cameron Mitchell talks to the man from Northern Ireland who is changing the way we watch cinema.

Monsters vs Aliens, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon are just a few of the Hollywood blockbusters that feature the work of Phil McNally.

Originally from Dundonald, Phil is one of world's leading pioneers of 3D animation. His bosses at DreamWorks have even nicknamed him 'Captain 3D'.

The stereoscopic supervisor said: "The main creative part of my job is early on during rough composition.

"At this stage we are already experimenting with 3D. I work out the camera angles, adjust the lenses and decide where the characters should be placed.

"Then after the animation process I give it the final polish, crafting how the camera moves, making them smooth and accurate for stereo settings."

His latest project, Shrek Forever After, has just spent the last three weeks at the top of the US box office, beating off competition from the likes of Sex and the City and Prince of Persia.

Directed by Mike Mitchell, the animated adventure features the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy and is the fourth and final instalment of the hugely successful Shrek series.

Phil explained: "This is the final chapter. We have seen Shrek go from the outcast ogre to a family man. So it's really midlife crisis time for Shrek.

"He gets himself into trouble when he meets up with Rumpelstiltskin and gets lured into a deal he lives to regret."

Image caption Phil is one of world's leading pioneers of 3D animation

It is the first time that 3D has been introduced to the Shrek series. Phil believes that it opens up a whole new experience for the audience.

"It is more interesting spatially. In one scene Shrek is being chased inside a palace on a hijacked witch's broom," he said.

"It is a great flying sequence with Shrek diving under arches and witches throwing pumpkin bombs at him."

"It was pretty challenging from a 3D point of view. We had to work very hard to give the audience a great ride on the broom stick without hurting anyone's eyes with the fast action."

Phil began experimenting with 3D while studying furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London twenty years ago.

"I went out with my friend and we put our two cameras together.

"We took a whole bunch of stereo pictures and I built my own viewer with old magnifying glasses. I was pretty much hooked from there," he said.

"I attended the London Effects and Animation Festival some years later and saw what companies like DreamWorks and Pixar were doing. I got really excited by the idea of animation and potentially getting a job in California.

"I decided to make a short animated film which I used as a demo role.

"It ended up taking a full 12 months, averaging 60-70 hours a week to make a short three and half minute animated film.

"This led to my first job as an animator on Men in Black 2 with the George Lucas company ILM."

Phil said that the recent revival of 3D cinema has only been possible due to developments in technology, such as digital projectors.

"Audiences have always been ready for 3D. It's just our skills as 3D filmmakers and the technology that we have been using hasn't been able to deliver an acceptable version of 3D until just recently.

"Each film that we have made has been a learning curve. So much time at the beginning was spent on just trying to make it work," he said.

"We are past that point of the literal 3D and its getting much more interesting in terms of crafting the subconscious use of it, which is ultimately what we will endure over the long term."

Shrek Forever After open in the UK on 2 July

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