Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 c g w 3 1 On any other film, it would have been a painting. On this film, it is an entirely 3D se- quence. The details give the movie an immersive feeling unlike any other. "If you lived in San Francisco, you couldn't find your house," says Technical Supervisor Hank Driskill, "but you could find a house on your lot that is the right size and height." The city has 260,000 trees, 250,000 streetlights, 100,000 vehicles of 15 types, 83,000 buildings placed according to assessor data, thousands of crowd characters, and tons of details from stairwells to satel- lite dishes. "This city is way beyond what we do normally," says Andy Hen- drickson, chief technology offi- cer. "It has more geometry than the last three films combined." How do you handle that much geometry? Light it? Turn it into pictures? With a new global illumina- tion rendering system named Hyperion. "We were calculating 10,500,000,000 rays per frame," Hendrickson says. "That's what makes the scenes in Big Hero 6 special. We had a lot of geometry." R I S K Y B U S I N E S S One reason for all that geom- etry is that the renderer could handle it. "The show changed as work on the renderer progressed," Driskill says. "We started to realize what we could throw at it, what would break it. And our appetite grew. As the movie got bigger and bigger, we wanted to do more and more. Individual artists were saying, 'Look what we can do now.' " The decision to use Hyperion, however, was an act of faith. "It was not the safe choice," Hendrickson says. "We weren't sure even a year ago that it would work, so we were living on the edge. We had a world that's awesome and a deadline that was absolute. And, we were always in beta, all the time. But, we get a little bit of a rush putting it altogether." Director Hall began work- ing on the film in 2011, and in November of that year, Brent Burley approached Hendrickson with his idea for the radically new type of raytracer. Eighteen months later, production began on the film. "I've been in the industry since 1989," Hendrickson notes. "Brent said, 'We should do it this way,' and all of a sudden I realized, 'Heck, yeah.' " Until this point, the studio had rendered its films using Pixar's RenderMan soware. Hendrickson asked Brent and his team to run some tests with various amounts of geometry. "The tests came back favor- ARTISTS AND TECHNICIANS AT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS PUSH RENDERING STATE OF THE ART TO CREATE AN ANIMATED FEATURE STARRING TEENAGE WHIZ KIDS BY BARBARA ROBERTSON SCIENCE PROJEC T DISNEY ANIMATED FEATURE

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