You don’t get very far in any conversation about digital animation, or film animation, before the name Pixar pops up. That’s true even if the chat isn’t about technical innovations.
Many people who are interested in digital animation, from fans of the genre to those who want to make a career , got their first taste of it from the original ‘Toy Story’ movie. Released in 1995, ‘Toy Story’ was the first computer-animated feature film and set the standard of the day for digital animation.
In the over two decades since Toy Story hit film screens, Pixar has released almost one computer-animated film per year, including 2018’s ‘Incredibles 2’. Along the way, Pixar also created many digital animation innovations to keep up with demand for more movies and more realism and flexibility in 3D film animation.
3D ANIMATION INNOVATIONS FROM PIXAR
It would be difficult to list all of the innovative digital animation tools and techniques developed by Pixar. But here are three that stretched the envelope of what’s possible in digital animation.
- Global Illumination – Lighting may be more important for animated films than it is for their real-life counterparts. Better lighting effects improve realism. Global Illumination uses a group of algorithms to determine not just how light strikes a surface, but how it bounces from surface to surface.
- Universal Scene Description (USD) – Imagine many steps in the 3D animation process being able to be worked on simultaneously. Instead of waiting for characters to be animated before they are lit, it could all happen at the same time. That’s the level of animation complexity that USD allows.
- RenderMan – Ahh, time to render your 3D animation for a film. Come back later. Unless you happen to be using Renderman, which eliminates the delay between when an artist makes an edit and when the rendered image appears.