SIGGRAPH 2022 Reveals 2D Effects Created by 3D Artists in Pixar’s “Turning Red”


Whereas Light year was perhaps the last release from Pixar Animation Studios, you can’t take a film heavily inspired by 2D animation and 3D animated anime without talking about the technological hurdles and fascinating tricks that the team behind turn red used in their film. Luckily, SIGGRAPH 2022 provided the perfect forum to share some fun information about Mei Lin’s story.

We already learned about the film’s ‘Chunky Cute’ aesthetic during a virtual panel as part of view conference, and you can read more about it here. This morning, we also heard that director Domee Shi gave the team another phrase to work with as a visual goal: “Teenage Fever Dream.” Today at SIGGRAPH we learned how these styles were integrated on the technical side of the process, camera work, simulations and how the food shown in the film was the only thing that looked photorealistic, but incorporating also the cute and chunky style. – simply by grouping the colors. The pooling of colors has been adapted throughout the film in very subtle ways. For example, where Soul could have a brick wall that looks super realistic, this brick wall idea in turn red will look realistic, but still fantastic or whimsical. Take a look at the two below:

The panel explained that turn red was different in many ways from standard Pixar fare, but from a technical standpoint, taking decades of real-world systems that have already been incorporated into the studio’s programming architecture and breaking wildly from a style inspired by 2D proved difficult but enjoyable. And while the systems had to be adjusted, the artists themselves also had to adapt. Adopting more isolated movements in a 2D fashion has proven difficult for some animators trying to animate as many moving parts as possible. We were treated to about 5 different tests from the scene where Mei Lin is caught in panda form in the school bathroom (which unfortunately I can’t show here) where the animator in charge animated the whole body moving and couldn’t quite pull away from the animation of a twirlal turn or a leg pivot and isolate only the movement of Mei Lin’s arm. Finally, they got it – to great comic effect.

They showed a montage of different scenes where you can see how important isolated movement was in the movie so I suggest watching turn red again with that in mind and you’ll notice it much more. They also developed more 2D inspirations, including cycles. Think back to Mickey Mouse in Steamer Willie, where he is at the helm of his ship and his hips are receding. In 2D animation, it’s say 10 drawings that are rotated and then looped several times. In the scenes of become red, like when Mei and her friends are running down the street, their animation gets the same cyclic treatment, so their legs hitting the ground look exactly the same as if they were drawings repeated multiple times.

Another 2D takeaway (and I don’t think I noticed it until it was pointed out) – think of that same racing scene. Throughout the film, we never see two eyes in a side profile. The team showed tests where two eyes were seen, as is done in other more traditional Pixar fare, and it looked fake. All the side profiles of the film have an eye.

Also helps to give a 2D look to a 3D movie – window glare. 2D-style graphic window streaks have been applied to nearly every piece of glass in the film. They can be seen in windows throughout the film, in photo frames, and even in the microwave in the kitchen scene. New formulas had to be written into the shaders used on film so that they could be easily applied and did not have to be laboriously done one by one. In the image below, look at the windows in the background. They’re flat styled with the diagonal window streaks common in comics and hand-drawn animations, but remember, this was all built in a virtual 3D realm.

We also got to learn about the simulation software and some of their amazing skills that they used to add subtlety to the film. Explaining how the character’s hair changes throughout the film to reflect their emotion (and not just the color change), we got to see the brilliant shades only seen in Mei Lin’s hair. Looked. In a scene where she’s ultra-confident, it could explode Beyonce-style. When she’s embarrassed, like the infamous moment at the Daisy Mart, the quick zoom can show her hair frazzled and everywhere, if only for that quick camera movement.

The most fascinating information about hair, or in this case, fur, belongs to Ming Panda. Spoiler Alert: At the end of the film, Mei Lin’s mother becomes a Godzilla-sized giant panda herself. Again playing with the idea of ​​subtle emotion, the simulation artists incorporated tools into the fur to make it move like fire. You know, like the rage that burns inside Ming? Interestingly, when animated at 24fps, it felt TOO much like fire, so the team went in and slowed that process down to 300fps. You can notice it in its greatest effect during the concert scene, and now I can’t ignore it.

Jacob Brooks, who led the simulation team, also jokingly issued a challenge while discussing the movie, saying, “I challenge you to find another (computer-animated) movie where there’s more hugs. than in this one.” In fact, I could try. You can watch all hugs and look for those little details in become red, now streaming on Disney+.


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