The Studio Talks

by on Aug.08, 2011, under SIGGRAPH 2011, The Studio

First thing this morning The Studio hosted two back-to-back talks. The first was Pixar’s presentation of “New and Used Cars” and the second was ILM’s presentation of “The Spirit of ‘Rango:’ Dissection of Character Animation and Rigging.”

New and Used Cars

The Studio Talk started off with funny tidbits about each of the presenters, which seems to be an ongoing theme for the Talks. The presentation focused on the shading techniques developed for Cars 2 to help reduce render time and expense. The team made three advancements:

  1. Layer consolidation method
  2. Metallic flakes
  3. Circular scratches

With the layer consolidation method, the team was able to collapse the layers and keep their parameters. This allowed them to reduce render time 17% with only small differences between renders that were consolidated and non-consolidated. The metallic flakes section focused heavily on the math and some of the criteria for the shader. The final segment was regarding circular scratches. The key takeaway is that they aren’t circular. The texture is directional and more of a line that when applied circles around the center of the highlight.

The Spirit of “Rango”

This presentation was met with a lot of interest and quickly turned into standing room only. As a refresher, the movie’s trailer was shown first. Then the ILM team went into some of the differences of animated features versus live action movies:

  • Everything is virtual
  • Asset management (assets can be tracked easily during any time in the process)
  • Performance vs. interaction
  • Rig Complexity

After giving the overview of the differences, they moved onto getting the characters from concept to animation ready. This section naturally transitioned into their procedural rigging program, Block Party, which uses standard blocks for all base rigs. This system made it easier to share animations between models, which in turn made it easier to animate so many characters.

The discussion moved onto proprietary plug-ins, facial rigging, and the animation tools used. Then Kevin Martel, the lead animator of Rango (the character), went over the character development process. This process includes getting to know the character as though he/she is a real person; this makes animating them easier because it gives insight into what their mannerisms might be like. The team had some required movie viewing for inspiration for Rango who is more like Don Knotts than a chameleon. This in addition to performance references from Johnny Depp and the animators helped bring Rango to life.

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