As most of you know I attended a special Disney. Pixar & Disney Junior event from September 29-October 2 in San Francisco to take part in a fun few days of exploring the movies, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Miles From Tomorrowland. It was an amazing few days and it is my pleasure to share some of my experiences with you!
On the second day there we spent all day at Pixar exploring the Good Dinosaur as well as going to the Pixar archive and then going to a special event at GOOGLE for the Disney Junior series, Miles from Tomorrowland. I was really excited to have the opportunity to learn more about The Good Dinosaur, the Pixar Archive and Miles from Tomorrowland.
In the afternoon of the second day we spent time with some of the main leaders of the movie The Good Dinosaur, learning about the process that they took to create the new movie. In each of these sessions we learned something new and over three different posts I will share some of my experiences within these sessions to give you some glimpse into what Pixar and their artists have done to create an amazing film.
Today I am sharing with you my thoughts on my conversations with The Good Dinosaur Director of Photography – Lighting, Sharon Calahan as she spoke to us about: CREATING THE VISUAL DESIGN OF THE GOOD DINOSAUR and using color scripts to the final picture progression as well as Sets Supervisor David Munier as he spoke to us about a VIEW FROM ABOVE where we learned about creating the expansive world in the film as well as hearing about how the team used actual USGS data of the northwest United States to create the sets. Finally I will share some insights on EFFCTIVE STORYTELLING with Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch where we learned how the Effects team created different environments using effects to support the storytelling within The Good Dinosaur.
Sharon Callahan took a lot of time talking to us about the process by which she and the entire team went through to develop the lighting and visual design behind The Good Dinosaur. She explained that first they did a lot of looking at other movies that really embodied what she and Peter Sohn wanted to create in the film itself. Some of the movies that she watched to assist with this included:
- The Black Stallion
- Never Cry Wolf
- 7 Years in Tibet
- Seraphin Falls
- Heavens Gate
- Dances With Wolves
On top of this the team did a number of research trips to the Jackson Hole Wyoming valley area as well as to the Grand Tetons to gain a better perspective on the vastness of the wild as well as the wilds of a river.
Sharon talked about how curious the Director of the film, Peter Sohn was. As she put it, “He was the most curious person you could meet” when it came to their research trips. He took this curiosity and challenged his team to go beyond what had been done in the past.
Sharon took us step-by-step through theoir trip to the Idaho side of the Grand Tetons into the rural wilderness and shared what they saw and what they did and how this helped them create the look, feel and overall story itself within The Good Dinosaur.
As Sharon was on her trips she would paint by hand. BY doing this she was able to develop quick sketches of light over distance and helped her create strong sounds, smells and sights of the different locations that she was visiting. This also allowed her to explore and try out the different possible settings for the world itself and how the environment and weather would impact the overall story and scenes themselves.
Sharon also explored emotion and color as well as trying to paint for herself the progressions in the story.
I never knew how much pre-planning went into the development of the setting of the story itself and Sharon’s stories truly showed me the depth of the examination that goes into this process.
David Munier had a challenging job in The Good Dinosaur. Peter Sohn had it in his mind that he wanted environmental cinematography throughout the film that offers the audience a expansive view of the world (Peter wanted 50-100 miles at all times). This expanse allows the audience to experience the vastness of the world around Arlo and lets them see that the environment is the Antagonist in many of the scenes within the movie. The problem is that their department had not done this before for long periods of a film. Usually it would instead me in one shot or a handful of shots and not the entire movie.
To help make this happen they fell upon a novel idea, using USGS date to build the world that they would use for Arlo. Peter wanted to use the Valley area around Jackson Hole, Wyoming as well as around the Grand Tetons as a start for the world. Because the USGS had height data of all of these areas, Pixar was able to download the data and incorporate this into the computer to then manipulate this and make the world real. Once they imported the data, and in the Good Dinosaur they used 64,000 square mile of actual North America data to create the world around Arlo.
What was amazing was how David Munier and his team could manipulate the data once it was imported. David Munier mentioned that once the data was imported he would sit down with Peter and allow Peter to put things where he wanted them. Once they had the bare bones structures of the world, David Munier’s team would then work to create the detail and the landscape which includes things like trees, grass, rock formations, etc.
David Munier and his team also had to work on a new technology, creating 3D clouds that could be manipulated. This had never been done before. Instead, in the past it was the FX department that would work on issues of cloud movement and the painting department would paint on static clouds.
In The Good Dinosaur, things have changed and they are using technology to create the clouds digitally. Now they can build clouds and cloud types for 3D clouds throughout the movie. They also can deal with the shading and lighting as it relates to the clouds that they are entering to the scene.
David Munier mentioned that he also used data from GOOGLE Earth to help them to pre-visualize the world. He also worked closely with Peter Sohn to make sure that some of the other details are dealt with. For example one of the questions that needed to be answered were things like how much wind was needed in each scene, as wind con convey emotion.
The new use of USGS data is something that David Munier thinks will change the way they are creating the environment that is seen in the movie that they are working on.
Jon Reisch talked to us about how FX trul helps to create the story within The Good Dinosaur. He explained that the job of the FX Department is to heighten the mood, drama of the scene, rain, light, as well as the visual tension experienced in the scene and in the characters. Overall, it is the job of FX to add in the WOW factor within the film.
FX also works to solve equations of motion for every frame. Jon explained that it can take a lot of time and that people in FX are very patient though in what they are creating.
To be able to do what they do they have to have a very diverse group of people working in the FX department. You get people with strong backgrounds in areas such as computer science, but also visual artists too.
On The Good Dinosaur, Jon mentioned that they had 31 FX artists working on the film and this number was definitely needed as what they were being asked to do in The Good Dinosaur was grander than what they had done in the past.
You see, in The Good Dinosaur it was the FX department’s job to assist in showing the journey through nature and making that feel real for Arlo and for you as the viewer. FX in The Good DInosaur was used in 900 shots in the film which is 2X as many as usual.
Jon mentioned that water is the hardest work for FX as the viewer knows how water should look and as he mentioned “If you get it wrong, you know.” With that in mind the river in The Good Dinosaur created some challenges as there were 200 shots just of the river throughout the film. In one scene entitled “Swept Away”, the FX department spent approximately 8 months just on the river alone and another 8 months on the final shot work too.
All-in-all the movie itself was data-heavy and used 300 TB of data which was 10X more than was used on Monsters University. For the rivers in the scene “Swept Away” alone, there was 17TB of space used, so FX had to make sure that the Pixar Animation systems were updates!
I had no idea that so much went into the making of an animated film, but now that I do, I have such a larger resoect for everyone involved!
Find out more about The Good Dinosaur
THE GOOD DINOSAUR – Trailer
THE GOOD DINOSAUR opens in theatres everywhere on November 25th!
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