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Screen shot from the movie Peter Rabbit 2

Feature

‘Peter Rabbit 2’ director Will Gluck makes the most of his Surface devices professionally and personally

In “Peter Rabbit 2” – like in the original movie – the human actors often share the screen with talking animal counterparts, such as Peter Rabbit and his sisters. But since these smaller co-stars are animated, the actors had to use their imaginations in these interactions. Luckily, director Will Gluck had a valuable tool to make this easier for them. 

“The beauty of the Surface Book 2 is that you can detach the screen. I could walk into the set with the actor and show what they’re acting against. That was a big game changer,” says Gluck, who filmed the movie in Australia pre-pandemic and has upgraded his Surface devices consistently over the years.

“Peter Rabbit 2” is now in theaters after being delayed for release due to the pandemic. “Instead of having to bring a laptop, you would just take this tablet out and show the actors who’s in the scene with them. And then we could put in kind of a facsimile of what he or she was looking at. The key thing for me is to be able to detach and draw on it. And take it to the actors and show them. Before, we did that on the iPad. But then it’s just an iPad. The fact that then I come back and it’s my full computer is what I love.” 

And he didn’t just use Surface on set. It was used extensively throughout his editorial process for the film. Gluck co-wrote the script on a Surface Book and Surface Studio. Once in principal photography he shot and did visual effects work on the movie with Animal Logic in Australia. He would fly home to Los Angeles once every two weeks for the weekend. During those long flights he would edit the movie and review visual effects shots on his Surface Book 2. He’d also use Windows Ink as part of that process to provide notes to the artists working on the film.  

Once he was back in LA full-time, Gluck edited the entire movie on Surface Studios, while the editors were in Sydney. They engaged in constant video conferences as they went over the edits. 

Every day he would connect with them through a fiber internet – another improvement he says that has made remote collaboration so appealing and do-able.  

“The first thing that’s kind of jumped the last couple of years was how fast the fiber internet has gotten. There’s basically no later, no latency anymore. It’s practically real time,” Gluck says.  

Three actors (left) on a movie set with a film crew
ABOVE: Actors on the set interacted with cut-out animal shapes that were later substituted with animated characters.

The other thing that really helped his process was the size of the Surface Studio screen and the fact it could display in 4K. 

“I’m seeing the exact colors that I would be seeing back in the editing room, and that makes a huge difference because before you were just editing in a different screen and then when you actually see it, it’s different, but this is exactly the same.” 

Since the pandemic started, Gluck – who’s also known for directing “Annie” as well as the first “Peter Rabbit” – says he’s gotten a lot of phone calls asking how his team was able to successfully finish a feature movie remotely.  

“Before the pandemic, everyone was kind of scared about it. Luckily, the technology already existed,” Gluck says, of being able to work on-the-go and oceans apart from his team. “I was very used to it since I made two movies this way. I learned some things then that people are only learning now.” 

Everyone who works at Gluck’s company has original Surface Studios on their desks as well as Surface Book 2 laptops, which run Office 365.  

A man uses a laptop
Director Will Gluck and his team did a lot of work on the movie using Surface devices on the set and remotely.

 

“… now we can work remotely, and this was kind of happening before the pandemic, but the pandemic just accelerated it.”

His house is full of Surface devices (a combination of Surface Book 2 and Surface Book 3 laptops, Surface Studios and Surface Headphones). His family also has Surface Go devices that control a Crestron Smart House/AV system. And now, his children are fans too. 

“There’s been a paradigmatic shift because my kids were Mac kids, but now they’re working on the Surface Studio at home. My oldest daughter has a clothing line and she designs on the Surface Studio,” says Gluck. “My other child is always designing and drawing and she always does it on the Surface Studio too. She likes to be able to put the screen out and use the pen and then have a big workspace.” 

While the post-pandemic landscape is still emerging, Gluck knows it’s a much different world than it was a year ago. 

“It’s a huge adjustment for people like me who make movies for theaters. And now we all realize that movies are all now going to be streamed, but movie theaters aren’t going away. But now we can work remotely, and this was kind of happening before the pandemic, but the pandemic just accelerated it.” 

 All images are courtesy of Sony Pictures

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