THE GOOD DINOSAUR - Pet Collector study by Matt Nolte. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The Evolution of a Shot in a Pixar Movie

Pixar provided us with some progression images to show how one shot evolves from storyboarding, to art, to sets, to layout, to animation and finally to lighting where the shot becomes finalized:


#1 Story:

This storyboard was drawn by story artists Rosana Sullivan and Gleb Sanchez-Lobashov, both members of the story team for The Good Dinosaur. Storyboards are used for the purpose of pre-visualizing the film, and to convey a rough sense of how the story unfolds. This storyboard, from a sequence called “Above the Clouds,” is one of approximately 154,061 boards drawn for the film, of which 87,748 were delivered to the editorial team. The storyboarding process, in the form it is known today, was developed at Walt Disney Studios during the early 1930s.


#2 Art:

Once the storyline for a sequence is completed, concept art is created by the production designer and art department to determine the look and feel of the film. This concept art piece was drawn by Sharon Calahan, director of photography – lighting and visual designer for The Good Dinosaur. It showcases the exploration of color and light, and the design of new characters and environments.


#3 Sets:

Using the concept art for reference, the basic environments needed for a shot are translated into the computer by the sets department during what’s called the modeling process. The sets team for The Good Dinosaur used data from the U.S. Geological Survey to inform much of their work and help to create 360º sets, something no other Pixar film used before. Once the set for a scene is built, it then needs to be “dressed,” which is where the shading team comes in. Technical artists use a combination of painting, programming, and photo references to apply textures, colors, patterns, and other material properties to the sets, giving them complexity and appeal. This is a wireframe image of one of the landscape environments, showing the underlying modeling.


#4 Layout:

Once the storyline for a sequence is completed, the scene is created in the computer. This frame shows the phase known as layout, in which a virtual camera is placed into a shot. The layout team on The Good Dinosaur had the advantage of working with 360º sets in the film, allowing for more options to place the virtual camera. Once the camera has been placed, the characters and set are then “staged” or placed into positions that work visually within the chosen camera angle. The look of the set is simplified during this phase, but is then seen fully built in the next stage of production. Layout precedes character animation.


#5 Animation:

After the layout team has completed their work, the characters are animated and brought to life by the animation department. Animators create the personality and “acting” of the characters. Any secondary motion such as hair, fur, or feathers is added by the simulation department, and who make them move naturally with a character’s movement.


 #6 Lighting and Final Image:

The lighting department is responsible for integrating all of the elements – characters, sets, cloth, hair, and effects – into a final image. The lighting process involves placing virtual light sources into the scene to illuminate the characters and the set. Technical artists set up the lighting to draw the audience’s eye to story points and to create the correct mood in a scene. The images are then rendered at high resolution. For every second of the film, there are 24 lit frames, each including over 2 million pixels.

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