How to Make a Monster
This is another peek behind the scenes at the creation of what we see on the screen at animation features. Pixar, of course, has been at the forefront of computer graphics animation for decades, and this is an interesting look at what their software enables them to do.
Pixar engineering lead Dirk Van Gelder appeared at the annual GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California to show Pixar's cutting edge program called Presto.
Presto is new. It was first used for Pixar's Academy Award-winning animation feature "Brave." One of the most notable aspects of "Brave" was the way that the lead character, Merida, had such flowing red hair. It was possible because of Presto.
Presto provides an interactive experience for the animator. This enables the animator to control the character and its movements with fine precision.
In the demo, we see Van Gelder manipulating aspects of the lead character of James P. "Sulley" Sullivan from "Monsters University." Previous software was limited, but Presto enables the animator to make changes while all of the character's artistic features are viewable at high resolutions. Sulley, for instance, has 900,000 computer-generated hairs, and Presto enables the software engineer to work on them directly.
This is an animator's version of WYSIWYG, or What You See Is What You Get. Previously, animators were only able to manipulate stripped down figures that were built up later with things like hair.
There are obvious advantages to being able to work on characters in their full form, rather adding their "look" later. The character's movements can be made more naturalistic and accurate, plus it cuts down on the number of revisions that will have to be made to get just the right character movements.