Wednesday, 25 October 2017

How Pixar Light a Movie

Kim White, Director of Photography on Cars 3
At this week's VIEW Conference in Turin, Cars 3 Director of Photography Kim White talked about the challenges involved in lighting a Pixar film.

As you'd expect, lighting a Pixar movie isn't just about technical skill - it's about helping to tell the story, supporting the narrative and solving visual problems along the way.

As Pixar movies get more and more realistic in their visualisation, the lighting department has had to draw on sophisticated reference and resources to make their work believable.

What do lighters do?
Obviously, lighters make stuff look beautiful. But one of the biggest - and least understood - jobs of the lighting team is help focus the audience's attention on the main action in the sequence. There's a lot of animation in a Pixar movie, and a good lighting setup can help direct the viewer's eye in the right direction.

Pixar Brain Trust
Kim was able to draw on resources from other lighting teams on different movies at Pixar, finding technical wizards like production designer Ralph Eggleston to help support the lighting work, building up colour swatches to find just the right palette for the look of a particular sequence.

Just like animators, lighters have to deal with "tricky sequences", especially ones with lots of effects such as mud, fire, smoke and and sparks.  In this case, finding good reference can be critical, to give a sequence just the right look and feel.

In short, lighting isn't just about throwing some lights on a set and rendering out the frames. It's about mood, and feeling, and getting just the right tone to support the storytelling.

Because, as every animator knows: at Pixar, it's all about story, story, story.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.

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