Friday, January 24, 2014

Non-Photographic Rendering


Pixar's technical development team recently unveiled a new set of tools to offer CG animation the potential of a more painterly look. The idea is to give art directors more stylistic options, so that they're not always stuck with the hard plastic look that tends to come by default in CG animation software.

The new process begins by having a stylist hand-paint a few keyframes. The tools then extend the style of those keyframes throughout the whole sequence, keeping the strokes and textures stable. One of the options is to extract outlines and give the output a hand-drawn look.


The initial demo that they showed gives the feeling that the painterly style is just stuck on the surface of smooth digital animation, and it's been criticized for that reason. But this is just an early test, and the full promise of the tools haven't been seen yet.

In order to make the style seem more organic, it might help to introduce some randomness into the timing and the arcs of the animation, or perhaps even to use a completely different technique for rigging and animation, perhaps with a waldo armature, like the DID (Digital Input Device) developed by Phil Tippett. 

I believe one thing we'll see in coming years are all sorts of unexpected combinations between handmade and digital techniques, such as the 3-D printing-enabled stop-motion of Laika's recent Paranorman.

From Cartoon Brew

11 comments:

Eugene Arenhaus said...

So, first they worked hard for years to make their movies photo-realistic.

Then they decided they wanted them NOT photo-realistic.

Fernanda Camacho said...

This is amazing!! I was indeed a bit tired of the plastic look on everything... They're always getting better. If you compare it to their first animations ever, this is perfection!

Also... to @Eugene... the photorealism that they wanted to achieve doesn't concern the style of painting, in my opinion - it concerts realistic lighting and colour, compositions that make you enter the film and experience it as if it were an alternative real world. If they wanted it to be photorealistic the way you're interpreting it, they would make characters with less stylised features and proportions as well, don't you think? You're overlooking the major step this is to animation...

James Gurney said...

Yes, thanks for both of your helpful comments. The term "non-photographic rendering" is a bit of a misnomer, because Pixar and DreamWorks were never really going for a photographically rendered look. That's more appropriate for live action visual effects--and even in that kind of work, there are a million artistic choices the director of photography can make. In any kind of animation, the goal is "believability," not "realism." That believability always involves some form of caricature of reality.

Daroo said...

This seems similar to Disney's Paperman --though a lot less labor intensive.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZJLtujW6FY

hena said...

If they want their movies to look hand-painted, why don't they just hire artists to hand-paint them, like in the old days?

Eric Scales said...

I think the painterly look of the ice skater is very pleasing, but the footage from up with both the cross hatching, and the watercolor look doesn't look good at all, and the outlines don't help at all. It's all too mathematically perfect and the eye can tell.

Chris James said...

ILM already solved the problem of hard plastic-looking CG in Rango. They also solved the problem of lazy, uninspired human character designs.

Erik Bongers said...

Did anyone else feel like the skater at half speed is actually the correct speed?

Stephen Henderson-Grady said...

They need to spend less time on surfaces and more time on colors. No Pixar films have had decent color. They tend to feature a riot of colors on screen at all times. Tightening that up will do much more than coming up with inventive ways to decorate the models in terms of visual appeal.

Also, put me down as another person who is confused why they want to make a CGI animation look like drawings and paint. I can see that being useful for an effect once in a while, but if you are doing the whole movie that way why not use drawings and paint?

Cranky Bird said...

And all this time I thought the hard plastic look was purposeful--easier for McDonalds to produce happy meal tie-in toys

duong minh said...

amazing work, funny
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