In their new short “The Blue Umbrella”, Pixar Animation Studios outdo themselves. The animation is cutting-edge photorealistic to the point that is almost impossible to believe that the entire piece is Computer Generated (CG).
In order to render the magic of the city and the two main characters – a blue and a red umbrella, Pixar resorted to a number of new animation and special effects technologies, which the short fantastically showcases.
Among the various techniques used, prominent are – Global Illumination, Deep Image Compositing and Camera Motion Capture – all set against an enchanting backdrop of dreamy out-of-focus imagery.
Global illumination is “a simulation of how light is emitted and reflected off surfaces, not only the light which comes directly from a light source (direct illumination), but also subsequent cases in which light rays from the same source are reflected by other surfaces in the scene (indirect illumination).” These processor intensive scenes often took 20 to 30 hours to render an image for one frame of film.
Deep Image Compositing is where a scene is created by layering images with notion of depth data in addition to the usual color and opacity channels, giving greater depth of field. Finally, Camera Motion Capture is a technique of reshooting rendered scenes by recording the physical movements of a dummy camera to create a handheld feel.
An excerpt of the glorious culmination of these techniques and technologies is seen below. Just remember, it is entirely animated!