Moving Fur, Vegetation, Pillows & Books
Christine Waggoner, simulation supervisor, was part of the team that helped create realistic movements for
Sulley's fur and Boo's t-shirt in "Monster's Inc." This time around, advancements have made her job easier in
many ways, but also presented new challenges.
"There are actually a lot more furry characters in this film than ever before," says Waggoner. "Basically, we could
only have one main furry character in 'Monsters, Inc.,' because it was such a big deal at the time and affected
our render time. With 'Monsters University,' 15-20 percent of the monster population have hair. It's gotten a lot
easier to do hair and fur. The technology has really matured and so has our simulation pipeline. Our graphics
hardware allows the animators to see the hair while they're animating. They don't see simulated hair, but they
are able to visualize the actual groom at a speed that can work interactively. Artistically, it lets the animators and
layout artists better gauge the composition of a shot and account for the volume of fur."
Waggoner says the film called for another breakthrough for the simulation group: good grass. "It turns out that
there are a lot of grassy surfaces with our lush campus and outdoor competitions. We put together a pipeline
that lets the characters almost automatically interact with the grass -- even leave footprints. We built technology
that made it possible to deal with the complicated problem of how different body types -- multiple legs, arms,
tentacles, tails and slugs -- interact with the vegetation."
Chris King, global illumination lead for the film, says, "To light a computer animated film, we simulate the physics
of light in the scene. In reality, light enters then bounces around infinitely off all the surfaces in the scene. That
is impossible to compute so we have simplify the problem somehow. On this film we removed simplifications we
used in the past and simulated lights and surfaces much more accurately." Another one was simulating turning
the pages of books -- a key detail in the film's academic setting. So, a special rig was created so that the pages
would appear to flip naturally.
When it came to technology, director Dan Scanlon was pleased with the end results. "I'm always amazed by what
the technical minds at Pixar are capable of accomplishing. Technology is really the backbone of our storytelling
process -- one of the cornerstones of the studio -- making it possible for the smallest of details to come to life in
a way that connects with people in incredible ways."
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