Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cars 2: From Paper to the Big Screen

If you are an avid Pixar fan like me, you might already know how Pixar makes all that movie magic happen. But if you have always wondered how Pixar makes their breathtaking animated films, I highly reccomend you read the rest of this post. And as for you fellow avid Pixar fans out there, it never hurts to refresh your memory and call to mind how Pixar makes their masterpieces come alive. In this post, Pixar's upcoming movie Cars 2 is used as an example.

1. Storyboards
Story artists put pen to paper and use their imaginations to invent a scene, and they later put this scene together in the form of a comic book, and present it to a group of people, describing the scene as they move along. Many storyboards don't make it to the final film, but there are many others, or parts of others, that do.

Official Pixar Description:
Tokyo is the first stop in the World Grand Prix where Lighting McQueen, Mater and the Radiator Springs gang experience many new wonders of their global adventure – a Kabuki performance, Sumo wrestling, the glow of neon on the streets, and the glamorous race kickoff party. It is here that Mater is mistaken for an American secret agent, and is propelled into the world of global espionage. The Tokyo race sequence alone took over 1400 storyboards to portray the action involved.

2. Layout
In layout, everything is, well, layed out. As you can see in the picture, the characters appear to have blank expressions on their faces (which can sometimes creep me out a little), the neon signs don't actually have neon, and so forth. The purpose of layout is to get a sense of where the camera is going to be, where the characters are going to be staged, and where everything else is going to be placed. All the missing details (the neon on the neon signs, the expressions on the characters) will be added once animation is completed.

Official Pixar Description:
This frame shows the camera and character staging that precedes animation, known as Layout. The set models and dressing are still in progress and will be finalized once animation is completed.

3. Animation
Finally...expressions have been added to the characters' faces. Primary and secondary characters are keyframe animated. The background cars on the road, or what would be the extras in a live-action film, are then added with a crowds software system.

Official Pixar Descrpition:
This frame shows the final character animation poses. The primary and secondary characters are keyframe animated. Background cars that populate the road are added procedurally using a crowds software system.

4. Shading
Now color has been added and the shot is almost complete. Also, you now start to get a sense of the texture of the surface of each object.

Official Pixar Description:
The character and set shading encompasses the color, texture and material attributes of every surface, and determines how surfaces will respond to lights. In the world of Cars, graphics play a big role in the shaded scene, especially with the many neon signs in Tokyo.

5. Lighting
Let there be light! All the virtual lights have been added, and the shot is complete. Notice the detailed reflections on the bodies of the cars. It's amazing how Pixar never leaves out a single detail in their movies.

Official Pixar Description:
Virtual lights provide illumination from thousands of light sources such as street lamps, headlights and neon signs. The reflective car bodies and wet street require a computationally intensive technique called Raytracing. Additional visual details such as lens flare from headlights and colored fog around the signs are added. The final rendered image is computed on a Renderfarm and has to be free of any visual artifacts.

I hope you found this post interesting, and hopefully you learned something new about how a Pixar film is made. For another detailed guide through the Pixar process, visit this link at the official Pixar website.

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