Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about how Pixar animated real-looking lighting in their latest film, Soul.
Automation has become a much larger aspect of animation over the last ten years. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Algorithms can take on busy, detail-specific busywork, freeing up animators to focus their attention elsewhere.
We’ve spoken before on this column about FizT (pronounced fizz-tee, short for “physics tool”), an animation software tool developed by Pixar that allows the studio to automate everything from shading to cloth dynamics. I first became aware of FizT and the idea of automated animation in the behind-the-scenes of the studio’s fourth film, Monsters, Inc. Learning that all three million of Sully’s hairs were simulated kind of blew my mind.
I felt a similar kind of awe while watching today’s video, which is all about Pixar’s latest film, Soul, and its use of ray-tracing technology, known in-house as the Global Illumination lighting system. Before 2013’s Monsters University, the studio animated lighting effects like reflections and shadows manually. As you can imagine, this was both labor-intensive and frustrating.
As the video essay below explains, ray tracing technology automatically accounts for visual physics every time an artist deploys a new light source. And while Pixar has been working with ray tracing for almost a decade, Soul is perhaps the best example of how beautiful and believable light has liberated artists with a new thematic language.
Watch “Pixar’s Soul: A Masterclass in Fake Light“: