We are continuing our journey “Inside the Mind” this week as I bring your more exclusive deets about Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. This time around, we are going Behind the Camera of Disney Pixar’s Inside Out as we take a look at Riley Cam vs. Mind Cam with Director of Photography Patrick Lin and Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch!
(I was invited to Pixar Animation Studios for an exclusive look at Inside Out. Any opinions are 100% my own.)
Lights, Camera, Action is the typical progression of a film. A computer animated film though, is a bit different. It involves the same components, just in a different order.
Computer Animated Film Progression
Camera: The layout
Action: The Animation
Lights: The Lighting
The Photography Department is at the front of the progression line and they set up the foundation for all the following processes. This is the first step to exploring what the film will look like cinematically. Also known as the Camera Staging Department, the Photography Department’s main job is cameras. Their cameras however, are virtual unlike the ones we use to snap pictures of our families and adventures. Yet they function like a physical camera with lens options and focusing ability, as well as mimic the movement of a physical camera!
The first step is Staging. The choreography of the camera and subjects, and how they move through the scenes. Framing, composition, and blocking is used to determine positioning of the camera and characters. When they go in to set cameras up initially, the photography department has to add characters and objects in because animation hasn’t even been in there. The set is completely empty so to speak, and they can shift things 100 ways.
Another important job of the Photography Depart is Visual Language, or the Visual Storytelling of the film. What was interesting for the team working on Disney Pixar’s Inside Out was the contrast of the two worlds. They needed visual language that could clearly define these two worlds, but keep them separate at the same time.
Inside the Mind: The “inside” world is imaginative, so the camera can’t be perfect.
Outside the Mind: It’s a “real” location so the camera should be realistic and perfect.
How did the Photography Department on Inside Out achieve this? Lens Distortion! The impression of the glass inside the lens is what causes Lens Distortion. They rented two different sets of lenses from a Camera House in Berkley and shot with two different lenses from two different manufactures to find the distortions they wanted. Then, the tricky part happened. They measured the curvature of the lenses and modeled them into virtual lenses!
“This the first time Pixar has modeled virtual lenses based on real lenses.” – Patrick Lin, Director of Photography on Disney Pixar’s Inside Out
When it comes to Visual Language, Camera Movement is the biggest part of visual language. Having two different worlds in Inside Out also meant two different types of camera movement.
Outside World: Organic Camera Movement like you get with a steady cam or handheld camera. The movement is less rigid.
Inside World: Mechanical Camera Movement equivalent to using a dolly or crane for controlled movement.
In animation, you want the visual progression to support the story, and in Inside Out, it needs to support Joy’s emotions. The Photography Department did their own mapping of the intensity. An Intensity Scale was used with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the most intense. Following Joy’s emotion, the intensity of the camera for each scene is mapped out. Because this film covers two contrasting worlds, Riley’s intensity is also mapped out. When you put the two together you start to see the visual progressions.
Act I: The worlds are synchronized in the beginning, then start to be driven apart. Intensity is low and the camera used is a 30 style mechanical style camera with graceful tracking and craning, and straight tracks similar to Casablanca and King & I. The “Outside World” camera is a steady cam with side way rolling so it’s not as structured.
Act II: The worlds are completely opposite. The “Inside World” camera has more agile movements. It is still on track but the pan and tilt is more active in following actions for the intensity. is still on a track, but The “Outside World” camera is now on tripod, but the head is unlocked so it is moving a bit.
Act III: The worlds seem synchronized and visual intensity is at its highest. The “Outside World” camera is now handheld.
“We use extensive camera capture to add to the realism of the film. More than any other film at Pixar, even Blue Umbrella. A gear box is used to capture the motion of life, just like a live action set. ” – Patrick Lin
Something the Photographers aim for a is a Moving Master Shot. A shot that is standard shot length, has the utmost balanced use of movement, staging and compositions, and has staging progressions throughout the shot. The best Moving Master Shot in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out is “Joy’s Plan” when Joy is planning Riley’s first day at school. It includes wide shots, medium shots, progresses to two full shots and then a single full shot. It goes from 5 character , to 3 characters, to 2 characters, to 1 character, over the shoulder shot, then back to 3 characters, and back to 2 characters. Whew. 🙂
“It is a very high energy scene, but instead of using cuts, we used Moving Master Shots with very complicated staging to create that energy. “But, if you take all the complicated movements away, the cameras are extremely simple. There are only two cameras on tracks, the pan and tilt, and the boom.” – Patrick Lin
Visual Language + Visual Progression = Camera Structure
Camera structure is setting up rules so the visual language can support the story. One of the rules is how to stage the family. Riley is always in the middle, she’s the center of the world. When the family moves to San Francisco, she is moved “outside” the family. She feels disconnected from her family and not in the center of their world.
Layout is not just composing pretty pictures. It’s actually giving the pictures meaning. – Patrick Lin
Which scene was the hardest to get staging right?
The inside world because the world is so big. In Act I and Act II it’s pretty linear as Riley goes from one phase to another. But in Act III, when everything comes together and she needs to get from Point A to Point B pretty quick….just to make that believable was hard. – Patrick Lin
You start with storyboards?
The storyboards are a great starting point to know what kind of shots we want to get. When we get the sets, they are empty rooms. We place the cameras, characters, and objects to tell the story. The story does change and sometimes we do have to change our shots. – Patrick Lin
What was it like staging the “Abstract Thoughts” Scene?
Abstract Thoughts was pretty straight forward. It was all white. But that can also be tricky because you still want people to understand where the character is, and where the character is going. Going from 3D to 2D was the hardest – we tried 10 different ways to get it to make sense. – Patrick Lin
After going Behind the Camera of Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, we got to learn about lighting! Compared to other Pixar films, it had a lot of unique and challenging lighting aspects, including two completely different worlds. It’s very important for the audience to know where they are when you cut away from shots quickly. So how they heck did they make it all happen for Disney Pixar’s Inside Out? How did they light Joy?
“Joy is a light source and holds other light sources, there was a lot of completxity in the lighting.” – Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch
There were 35 people on the Inside Out Lighting Team and there job was to finalize the look of the characters. That job on an animated film is similar to a cinematographer’s job on live action, except they don’t have to move heavy lights around. 😀
All the lights are in the computer for a computer animated film. Within the software, all the lights, shadows, and components are made from scratch. If you think about the fact that the “Dream Productions Movie Stage” shot has over 175 lights…..and that one lighter is tracking them all, and knows how they all add up to make the final image….well that’s pretty impressive!
When shots come into the lighting department they have final cameras, sets, and mostly final animation. In an unlit scene there is a lot of visual complexity, your eye bounces around, and there is a lot going on. With some really beautiful lighting, the image is simplified and visually appealing. The Animators concern is how the characters move and making the character act to tell the story’s point. The lighters reinforce that story point through lighting.
“The shot is still pretty uninteresting without lighting, in my opinion. I think we have the best job at Pixar, because we really get to bring their work to life” – Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch
Check out a Day in the Life of Pixar Animator:
- Breakfast – at work 😀 Seriously, their cereal bar is RIDICULOUSLY AHmazing! 😀
- Sit down and work on shots by starting with a pastel (virtual image) that is put into a color script for the film.
- Head to Kick-Off with Director of Photography about the pastel to find out what lighting is needed to be accomplished.
- Take notes and head back to desk to implement said notes.
- Take shot to Director of Photography in Walk-Thrus, done once a day, for feedback on changes.
- Take a Second Pass, Go Back to DP, do it all over again, until shot is accepted. On average, two shots get approved per week.
When working on lighting for a film, there are Principals of Lighting that ensure lighters are both supporting the story, and creating the most visually appealing images they possibly can.
1) Directing the Viewers Eye: Shots are on screen very briefly so the story telling effectiveness depends on how well, and how quickly, the viewers eye is led to the main point. The lighting is used to draw the eye to the intended story point.
2) Creating Depth: Certain lighting and staging techniques cause an item to seem more flat. Other techniques really enhance the depth and draw you into the scene. Good value contrast, good lights and darks, with strong foreground and back ground elements, should direct your eyes to the focal point of the shot.
3) Enhancing Mood, Atmosphere, and Drama: This is one of the funnest parts for Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch because she gets to set the overall mood of the shot, depending on the story point. This enhances the emotional experience of the viewer through light intensities, colors, and values. They light a moody contrasty scene with more of a dark tone and light a really bright cheerful scene if it’s a more comedic moment. When really dramatic lighting is added, the scene comes alive and we are engaged in the image.
4) Conveying Time of Day: This is a critical fundamental of lighting design because the time of day is an important indicator of mood and atmosphere. Morning light is typically cheerful and optimistic, sun is lower in the sky and shadows are longer. Noon lighting is not typically the most aesthetically pleasing because of sharp harsh shadows, and the image tends to be flatter because of fill light bouncing around. Sunset lighting shadows are much longer and light color is a bit more red, contrast increases and light is more directional with denser shadows. Think more romantic, meloncaly, or dramatic…. 🙂 Night Scenes are really contrasty due to lack of fill light, specular highlights more noticeable, and often in shadow so the mood is a bit more mysterious.
5) Revealing Character Personality and Situation: Revealing a character’s personality is key. This is done with difference in light position, contrast level and color used to highlight a characters intent. Careful lighting can really push the emotion you feel in a scene.
So, the all important question. How did they light Joy? The cues in the first painting of Joy out of art department, by Ralph Eggleston, really defined how they would light Joy. Typically they rely heavily on value (lightness or darkness of the lighting in the scene for shaping characters) but Joy is so bright, they loose the value range across her face to shape. They needed another way so they shaped her with color instead of value….
“How do you light a light bulb?” – Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch
The Inside Out Lighting Department built a group of lights, Joy’s light ray, that is used in every shot of the film, that consist of:
- Glow Light: Neutral and No Shaping
- Kick Light on Key Side: De-saturated
- Key Side Light on Face: De-saturated
- Soft Key Side Light: Fill Her in More – No Saturation Change
- Off Key Side Light: Warm and Saturated
- Outer Glow: Blue ora around her with a white light to luminate it
- Inner Glow Lights: Really Bright Ora Close Around Face and Skin (The lighting team liked the Inner Glow on Joy so much that they added it to all the colors!)
Once Joy was lighted the next huge technical challenge was how Joy was going to light the sets and other characters. After all, she is the light source of the Inside World of Inside Out. 🙂 The light from Joy needed to be believable and when she animated, we needed to feel that. If she picked up a prop, we needed to see the light from her different fingers. With Joy being in so many shots, the lighting needed to be easy to use and easy to set up.
“All I want for Christmas is Joy’s Lighting.” – Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch
Enter the Geometric Area Light by Renderman that Angelique was SO glad was done in March of 2014 to be used on the film! Geometric Area light allowed the lighters to specify a model and turn that model into a source of light. Thanks to this light, the animation of Joy is driving the lighting of the scenes.
So far we’ve looked at the creation of Inside Out, Behind the Camera of Inside Out and the Lighting of Inside Out, now catch Inside Out in theaters on June 19th and stayed tuned for my next exclusive, The Animation of Inside Out, that is coming in two weeks!