Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 c g w 2 1 to design, consider, discuss, and create every single part of your story," says Milsom. "How does Renee move her hand under the canoe? How does Marcus flip around that reed when you're only looking at his hand in certain shots? I had no idea that those would be some of the most challenging shots to get right, because it was such a subtle and emotional gesture." In addition to coming away with a love for animation and connecting on a story so deeply, Milsom also had the opportunity to learn about autism, which she says was a treasured take-away. "It's hard making films, particularly smaller stories with unique characters that you haven't seen before," she says. "It was a wonderful journey." Editor's Note: "Loop" recently was named SIGGRAPH 2020 Computer Animation Festi- val's Best in Show. Out (9:33 runtime) Director/writer: Steven Clay Hunter Producer: Max Sachar The seventh in the series of SparkShorts, "Out," released in May, tells the tale of two guys and a dog who are packing up to move, when the parents of one of the men arrive unexpectedly to assist. The problem is that Greg's parents are unaware that he is hiding a secret: He is gay and in a relationship with Manuel, and is moving from a small town to a big city, where he believes his relationship will be more accepted. Greg quickly and quietly ushers Manuel out the back so his parents do not see him. Manuel complies but wants Greg to tell his parents the truth. Meanwhile, a cosmic purple cat and pink dog emerge from a rainbow to watch the situation unfold, and they enchant the collar on Greg's dog, Jim. As the parents make themselves at home, Jim's collar magically attaches itself to Greg, and the two switch bodies. Jim, now in Greg's human body, pays special attention to dad, while Greg, in Jim's dog body, tries to hide a beloved photo of him and Manuel from his mother, with many hilarious close calls. Mom eventually pours her heart out to the dog (who is actually her son), saying she would like to tell her son that she and his father hope that one day he will find someone who loves him as much as they do, and that he will make their son happy. Greg and Jim return to their own bodies, and Greg later introduces Manuel to his par- ents, who welcome him. As for the cosmic cat and dog, they return to the rainbow, their work complete. The short film is written and directed by Steven Clay Hunter, an animator at Pixar. "I wanted to create a story for my closeted gay self, something silly and funny like the car- toons I used to watch growing up," he says. "I wanted to create myths for LGBTQ kids, to inspire us and get families talking." The story unfolds using a unique painterly style that is very atypical from what we are used to seeing from Pixar – yet, that is exactly the spirit of SparkShorts, to experi- ment with story and style. According to Hunter, the Little Golden Books served as a big inspiration, as the "Out" crew were looking to create some- thing that had a bit of childlike wonder to it. Mary Blair's concept paintings from Alice in Wonderland greatly inspired them as well. Hunter guided his team, averaging a dozen people at any given time. They utilized Pixar's in-house pipeline, using Presto for rig- ging and character animation, and recycling as much imagery as they could from the studio's feature-film backlots, with sets lead Kristifir Klein filling in the modeling gaps. Rendering was done with Foundry's Nuke, as Colin Thompson, look-dev lead, worked with DP of lighting Andrew Pienaar to achieve the desired lighting and painted brushstrokes. The biggest technical hurdle, contends Hunter, was figuring out the look for the short and how they would achieve it. "We've never really tried to create a moving painting before at Pixar, and we were still defining what that would look like while we were making the film," he says. He praises Thomp- son and Pienaar, along with DP of camera Matt Silas and supervising technical director Gordon Cameron, as the "brains" behind it all and keeping the group focused on staying true to that painted aesthetic. "In film, we rely on depth of field to com- municate where the audience's focus should be, but we didn't know what that would look like in a painted render," Hunter says. "We didn't think we'd be able to figure out how to do that in our production's time frame. But Colin came in one day with a big smile and said, 'I think I figured it out.' And he did!" Working on the experimental short was a big adjustment for the team, which is used to working on big-budget feature films, for which they are given ample time and resources to polish their work to perfection. "But on an 'indie film,' you have to learn to get your strongest ideas out in the shortest amount of time possible, and then let it go. That's an easy thing to say but an even hard- er thing to do," Hunter says. Nevertheless, the rewards were plentiful. Hunter has helped many a director tell his or her story but had never sat in the director's chair himself before this. "So when a ques- tion came up, I suddenly couldn't turn to the director to find out what to do. I was the one who had to have the answers!" he says. "I had to learn what kind of filmmaker I was, what kind of storyteller I was. And, I slowly gained that confidence as we made [the short], but it wasn't there when we started the process." Hunter especially enjoyed working in the smaller teams and figuring out how to make films and still tell great stories, "which is what Pixar is all about," he adds. Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. "Out" uses a unique painterly style. When the parents arrive in the short, the "fun" begins.

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