How Pixar Used Light in its Short – The Blue Umbrella


Saschka Unseld, director of Pixar’s latest animated short, dishes on the making of The Blue Umbrella including the use of the new Global Illumination System:

[W]e used the Global Illumination technology that Monsters [University] used as well. So that helped us massively in getting everything lit more realistically. … [The Global Illumination system] bounces off of surfaces; off the walls. If there’s a red wall, the light bounces off and actually takes on red light and all these complex things that happen with real light.

So basically you switch on one light and you get all this complex stuff happening, which is fascinating because you get to a point where you have happy accidents happen. … We had the moment when the red umbrella is being held over the blue, and there’s this reflection on blue which is the bounce of her light. That was never planned for. That wasn’t boarded like this, it wasn’t something we gave direction to for the lighter. He put on these couple of [virtual] lights, sent out the render, and this thing happened. And we were like, “This is fantastic, let’s use it.” …

I found the photorealism of the short almost shocking at first. They didn’t start with a goal of photorealism, but it served the story so they went with it:

The interesting thing about this is that I think it’s not about everything moving more photoreal. I think what everyone was amazed at about this short, what John Lasseter and Ed Catmull were excited about was to break open what animation could look like. It could look way more photoreal, but it could also look way more painterly. Just to get rid of this conception we have, of how CG animated features look. Breaking new ground in that territory.

Lots more of the interview over on The Verge.