I try not to show off that much, but..It’s that time of year. This past year, I helped bring Zootopia to life. It was a very stressful and challenging project, but I’m super proud of the work I did on it, and that I got to be part of such an amazing and beautiful film.
Anyways, I don’t often get to show some of the behind the scenes things I do at work. Yesterday a Great Article was posted on Engadget that focuses on some of the technology that we use in Look Development, which includes fur grooming and rendering, and vegetation. I was surprised to see this image, which I put together for a press presentation last month:
One of my big tasks on Zootopia was to help develop the vegetation and look of the rain forest environment. This was a particularly fun task for me, since I love plants, and procedural modeling. I used our in-house plant modeling tool, Bonsai, to create all of the plants in the image above, and XGen to place them in the set.
I’m a look development artist, which on paper doesn’t really include software development and programming. We primarily create textures, materials, groom hair and fur, and populate sets with vegetation and debris.
In fact, when I started at Disney, I had little interest in writing code. Over the last few years, I taught myself Python, and dabbled in some C++. As I began to play with a young version of Bonsai, I saw its potential, and somehow got myself into actually helping to write code for it. The main developers and TDs were great about helping me learn and have me contribute to the software. There’s something satisfying about being able to build a tool, then actually use it to complete your work. I like the challenge of the problem solving that coding requires, but It also enabled me to focus on the creative aspect of my job.
I also did a bunch of character work. Here’s a few of my favorites:
I was primarily focused on the hair and fur groom, shading, and texturing. For something like a lion’s mane, we use a plugin to sculpt volumes that feed into XGen, and shape the hair groom. Inside XGen, we can apply procedural effects to add noise and clumping, or even attach things to the hair. I may have hid some things in the Yak’s hair.
On Big Hero 6, I solely worked on environments. I did some large scale landscape work, including Akuma island, the look of the Bay water surface, and the look of all of the residential buildings in the wide city shots.With these types of large scale environments, there is some fuzziness between Modeling and Look Development, particularly with organic elements, like vegetation and terrain.
For the city buildings (the smaller ones), I developed a set of procedural materials, which essentially made every single one unique. I probably made the renders take much longer than they should have been…
We’ve come a long way, even from just a few years ago, on Frozen. Below are a few of the things I worked on.
The tool we used to create Anna’s braid is the same I mentioned earlier, which I used on the Yak, and Lionheart, albeit, in its infancy. Braiding hair is much easier in real life.
Turning Anna into ice as fun challenge. Besides making her feel like ice, I had to figure out how to visually show this transition. To do that, I employed procedural/map based approach, involving much math.
It’s weird to think about the things I’ve worked on in just that past 5 years. Just 5 years ago, I was about to graduate college, having no real job plan. In fact, when I was contacted by Disney later that year, I had actually forgotten that I applied there.