A depth guide to Antique furniture modeling
The antique store is a massive environment, full of props, furniture and tons of atmosphere like floating dust particles. It’s here where Woody reunites with Bo Peep, while also having to rescue a new member of the toy family, Forky, after facing off against the store’s long-time doll resident, Gabby Gabby. “We’re in this antique store for probably a third of the film,” outlines Pixar supervising technical director Bob Moyer, who likens himself to the visual effects supervisor on Toy Story 4. “It’s like one superset that we’re in, with different set pieces within it.
The tricky thing was, there are no walls – the entire thing is just made out of props and furniture, and so there’s nowhere where you can say, ‘Oh, I’m closing this portion of the set off, and I don’t have to worry about how it plays in the future sequences.’ We had a lot of negotiation and planning to figure out how all the different parts would fit together.” The other challenge of the store was that it represented a place where both humans and toys exist. “So,” notes Moyer, “you need to believe that when you see something in the human world, that we’ve actually designed it and detailed it out all the way down to a toy scale.
Woody is 15 inches high, but we have a character in the film who’s about maybe an inch tall, Giggle McDimples. So we really needed to believe, in all those sequences and all those action points, whether you’re going through the aisles or behind the shelves, that every single part of the antique mall was done to a ‘macro’ level. We had a lot of interplay of trying to make things look good from a distance and also things looking good super close up, where you’d see dust and procedurally generated cobwebs, for instance.” To help realize the vast amount of geometry and detail in the antique store, and the entire film, Pixar relied on rendering in RenderMan, which is now at version 22.5 and features the RIS physically-based path-tracing architecture.
They also looked to a machine learning denoiser that came from Disney Research Zurich. “One of the challenges we’ve had the last couple films is, because we’ve switched to that very photorealistic, all ray-traced render in RenderMan,” details Moyer, “is that just inherently cranks up your lighting times and your rendering times, especially if you have a lot of glass, if you have a lot of practical light sources, or you have a lot of reflections. These are all the things that are in the antique store. And if we wanted to see how, in the camera, all the set work and all this camera work and all this lighting was all coming together, we had to render a lot earlier, and a lot more often.” “The denoiser was so good,” continues Moyer, who says the denoiser was simply known as the ‘DRZ de-noise’, “it actually cut our render times down by about a third or a half, and we were able to make it so that we could render almost film quality for some sequences almost every weekend.”
Across the street from the antique store is a carnival area, where the toys get into more shenanigans. For Pixar, the carnival needed to come alive at night with rides and booths, and that was aided by having bright and animated neon lights, around 40,000 of them.
HOW PIXAR CRAFTED THE MOMENT WOODY MEETS GABBY GABBY
- Storyboards Here, artists at Pixar draw keyframes for the scene in which Woody, with Forky, run into Gabby Gabby and her ‘helpers’, including Benson, inside the antique store. The boards suggest possible set positioning, camera angles, and character poses, and often get edited into ‘story reels’ to review the film before any actual animation production is carried out.
- Layout Pixar’s camera and staging team take the storyboards and early set builds to place virtual cameras. That further informs more set and prop builds and allows for decisions to be made about character movement, framing, lensing, and general shot composition. An important part of staging in the store was to show the Toys’ point of view, compared to that of humans.
- Lighting and rendering After the animation, Pixar’s lighting department handles lighting the scene with the aid of RenderMan and Katana. The scene with Gabby Gabby and Benson, in particular, needed to draw on shadows and darker colors to imply a possible menacing feeling, since Woody and Forky are not really sure who they have just encountered in this strange new world.