The Pixar Piper short before Finding Dory - DEM Graphics!

After a long week I took the kids to see Finding Dory tonight. The main event was decent, a serviceable Pixar film but as a bit of a tech nerd what really got me going was the animated short that preceded it. Piper is the first time in a few years that I've looked at 3D animation as good as it has gotten and not taken the technology for granted. Pixar is advancing the tech to some exciting places. The water quality, the look of wet sand, how things move, how things realistically change with environment and even how they play little camera tricks with focus to make you feel like you are watching something shot on film instead of an animated short... It blew my mind how good it looked. Photo real has always been a buzz word in graphics but that's all it has been until now, kind of a buzz word, a future state that the industry aspired to, now... with Piper, I can see that being a very real promise over the next couple years.

@UPSLynx and @Thrax - I imagine being in the industry this is probably a little less surprising to you having seen similar demos and such along the way, but is it me, or is Piper a major advancement in graphics tech? I don't think I have ever seen anything like it. It's like going from a really fine looking cartoon, to something that looks darn near photo real.



  • SonorousSonorous F@H Fanatic US Icrontian
    edited June 2016

    As someone who dabbles in 3D design, I can tell you that the water and feather systems in that are nothing short of amazing. I am extremely interested in how they did the sand as well. It doesn't look like a texture over simple geometry, but it could very well be something like that plus tessellation and a particle system. Knowing how Pixar does things though, it's probably some crazy ass system they thought up and coded themselves specifically for sand, much like Sully's fur in Monsters Inc.

    Little known fact about me, I have wanted to work at Pixar since I took a 3D design and animation class in high school.

  • @Sonorous - That's a fascinating job. I've always admired people in creative professions.

    What's interesting to me about this new short is how big a leap it seems. It's like going from the NES to a Sega Genesis big. I know it's a strange analogy but I remember my first time seeing Sonic the Hedgehog as a kid and thinking "how is that even possible"... It was one of those moments for me.

    Obviously a combination of hardware advancements with custom software, but what I'd really love to know is the creative process, how many man hours, how big was the team? I'd love to know what it took to put that all together. In a few years animation is finally going to reach that level of realism where it will blend seamlessly. You take something like Star Wars which has had some neat looking digital characters, but the complaint has always been.... Why not design a costume and make up, CG, well, it just takes you out of it, you know you have a person here and a cartoon over there..... Imagine what this is going to do for blending live action characters with CG in the next few years. It blows my mind what it could mean for something like Star Wars.

  • SonorousSonorous F@H Fanatic US Icrontian

    I worked an event at an all girls Catholic school, and a Lady from Pixar was the keynote speaker. In her presentation she talked briefly about Wall-E and the process of making him seem as though he had a soul. The major issue that they were having was with his eyes. They wanted his eyes to be mechanical in nature so they came up with a series of glass lenses and irises to stay true to his robotic form, however after several revisions he always looked dead inside. So they added a reflection at the very back of the lenses that would reflect the environment around him, and eureka! Wall-E came to life.

    A while ago I also read an article on the water system they made for Finding Nemo. They had a panel view an incomplete version of the movie, and because they did such a good job creating photo realistic water, most of the panel didn't believe it was an animated film. So they had to go back and actually make the water look less real so the viewers wouldn't think the film was live action with animated elements.

    I think some of us would be surprised exactly how much CGI goes into modern films. There are only a handful of big name directors who don't use it or minimize the use.

  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Wut? Meechigan Icrontian

    The Good Dinosaur was pretty weak overall as a movie (but, much like Cars 2, a weak Pixar movie is still a pretty great movie), but the environmental modeling was utterly stunning, especially the water. The way they are able to simulate water movement now is absolutely incredible. They're pushing the cutting edge for sure.

  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian

    Agreed, that movie honestly felt like a tech demo more than anything else.

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