Edmonton Tourist: The Science Behind Pixar

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Anyone who knows me well has a sense that I am an animation fan, specifically, a Disney/Pixar fan. I spent hours in my youth drawing and creating. I had originally wanted to be a Disney Clean-up Artist. A Clean-Up Artist removes all the extra lines to reveal a polished image. It is more creative than you think and much more involved than having an eraser,

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You know its Woody and Buzz, but the Clean-Up hasn’t happened yet. 

For reasons that coincide with what I refer to as the Dark Times, I didn’t get out of Edmonton, never mind finding my way to Los Angeles. However, that didn’t change how I felt about the artistry of animation. The level of detail is always what pulled me in. From my first moment on Main Street in Disneyland to searching for Easter Eggs hidden in movies, I enjoy all of it. So when my son came home back in November and said, “We just saw The Science of Pixar at Telus World of Science (TWOS). I think you will love it.”

 

He was not wrong.

I had planned to go to Bon Ton Bakery with every other Edmontonian on Saturday. TWOS is down the street, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to go! Bon Ton had a line outside in the dark waiting to get in, happily, I arrived at 9:03 am after the doors opened but the wait was going to be about 30 minutes.

 

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I enjoy the politeness and the information of this sign. Thank you TWOS for having a cheeky sign I can relate to.

 

Baked goods in hand, I left for TWOS and decided I would not go see it if there were a million kids, I would plan on going on the Adult Only night. I wanted to be able to take my time and thoroughly experience it. I can’t do that when I am letting kids try stuff.

We walked into the foyer and we were the only people there. The place was empty. The first day of Christmas break and the building was full of staff and a handful of visitors.

The cost was $30 per person (ish- it was actually a little less) The recommend 1.5 hours to go through the exhibit. I agree. To fully experience it, you need to watch all the videos and try out the interactive parts. I found this fascinating.

The first part was the introduction video. It had a cameo of John Lasseter, I am not going to lie, his shenanigans have left a dark mark for me on Pixar. But his abuse of power does not negate his creative brilliance. Then I think, there are other brilliant people in this world and maybe it is their time to shine. At any rate, I entered with mix feelings.

The exhibit has the following steps of an animated CG film:

  • Modeling
  • Rigging
  • Surfaces
  • Sets & Cameras
  • Animation
  • Simulation
  • Lighting
  • Rendering

I participated and at every section and watched every video interaction. I was blown away by the level of detail that goes into each frame.

Modeling was the least interesting for me yet it was fascinating at the same time!

It takes place after the storyboards and character development. The clay models are used to scan and get the image into the computer program so it can be animated.

Rigging was next, this step gives movement to that character, it makes all the parts move, from facial expressions to limbs moving.

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Surfaces add texture, it makes McQueen shiny and Mator rusty, Skully furry and Mike smooth. Such an involved process!

Sets and Cameras, where to put the camera determines the look of the set. This was facinating. IMG_8357

Animation, I basically learned it is all stop motion on a very advanced level. I gave it a try with the Pixar lamp and learned I do not have the patience for 26+ movements per second. I took a video of it and the lamp moved in a choppy motion. Although to be fair, I didn’t have the time to really do it justice,  it was super finicky.

The Simulation was all physics. Trying to get curly hair or fur to move the way it does, in reality, was a series of equations that simulated springs. Thinking about how to achieve the end result. Problem-solving at its finest!

Lighting was cool, I played with sets and sun levels, turning on and off interior lights. possibilities were endless…

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Rendering blew my mind away. It basically is a mathematical equation for colouring each pixel. The guy based his math on the hydrogen bomb equation and won an Oscar for it.

This exhibit gave me my Disney fix. I hadn’t been since January 2016 and it doesn’t look like I am going anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I am not fascinated by it all. I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the artist’s renditions. People are crazy talented and I  admire their ability.

Is it for kids? Sure kids will find it fun, but it isn’t a playroom. there are buttons to push and characters they will recognize. I think kids over 8 will get more out of it but the science and math involved will be out of range.

If you are an animation fan, Pixar or Disney fan, then this is a must-see when it gets to your neighborhood. Right now it is touring in Edmonton until January 7th and is also at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. It was developed by the Boston Museum of Science and Pixar. When it comes to your city, go see it!

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