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  • When I was seven years old,

  • some well-meaning adult asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

  • Proudly, I said: "An artist."

  • "No, you don't," he said,

  • "You can't make a living being an artist!"

  • My little seven-year-old Picasso dreams were crushed.

  • But I gathered myself,

  • went off in search of a new dream,

  • eventually settling on being a scientist,

  • perhaps something like the next Albert Einstein.

  • I have always loved math and science,

  • later, coding.

  • And so I decided to study computer programming in college.

  • In my junior year,

  • my computer graphics professor showed us these wonderful short films.

  • It was the first computer animation any of us had ever seen.

  • I watched these films in wonder, transfixed,

  • fireworks going off in my head,

  • thinking, "That is what I want to do with my life."

  • The idea that all the math, science and code I had been learning

  • could come together to create these worlds and characters

  • and stories I connected with,

  • was pure magic for me.

  • Just two years later, I started working

  • at the place that made those films, Pixar Animation Studios.

  • It was here I learned how we actually execute those films.

  • To create our movies,

  • we create a three-dimensional world inside the computer.

  • We start with a point that makes a line that makes a face

  • that creates characters,

  • or trees and rocks that eventually become a forest.

  • And because it's a three-dimensional world,

  • we can move a camera around inside that world.

  • I was fascinated by all of it.

  • But then I got my first taste of lighting.

  • Lighting in practice is placing lights inside this three-dimensional world.

  • I actually have icons of lights I move around in there.

  • Here you can see I've added a light,

  • I'm turning on the rough version of lighting in our software,

  • turn on shadows

  • and placing the light.

  • As I place a light,

  • I think about what it might look like in real life,

  • but balance that out with what we need artistically and for the story.

  • So it might look like this at first,

  • but as we adjust this and move that

  • in weeks of work,

  • in rough form it might look like this,

  • and in final form, like this.

  • There's this moment in lighting that made me fall utterly in love with it.

  • It's where we go from this

  • to this.

  • It's the moment where all the pieces come together,

  • and suddenly the world comes to life

  • as if it's an actual place that exists.

  • This moment never gets old,

  • especially for that little seven-year-old girl that wanted to be an artist.

  • As I learned to light,

  • I learned about using light to help tell story,

  • to set the time of day,

  • to create the mood,

  • to guide the audience's eye,

  • how to make a character look appealing

  • or stand out in a busy set.

  • Did you see WALL-E?

  • There he is.

  • As you can see,

  • we can create any world that we want inside the computer.

  • We can make a world with monsters,

  • with robots that fall in love,

  • we can even make pigs fly.

  • While this is an incredible thing,

  • this untethered artistic freedom,

  • it can create chaos.

  • It can create unbelievable worlds,

  • unbelievable movement,

  • things that are jarring to the audience.

  • So to combat this, we tether ourselves with science.

  • We use science and the world we know

  • as a backbone,

  • to ground ourselves in something relatable and recognizable.

  • "Finding Nemo" is an excellent example of this.

  • A major portion of the movie takes place underwater.

  • But how do you make it look underwater?

  • In early research and development,

  • we took a clip of underwater footage and recreated it in the computer.

  • Then we broke it back down

  • to see which elements make up that underwater look.

  • One of the most critical elements

  • was how the light travels through the water.

  • So we coded up a light that mimics this physics --

  • first, the visibility of the water,

  • and then what happens with the color.

  • Objects close to the eye have their full, rich colors.

  • As light travels deeper into the water,

  • we lose the red wavelengths,

  • then the green wavelengths,

  • leaving us with blue at the far depths.

  • In this clip you can see two other important elements.

  • The first is the surge and swell,

  • or the invisible underwater current

  • that pushes the bits of particulate around in the water.

  • The second is the caustics.

  • These are the ribbons of light,

  • like you might see on the bottom of a pool,

  • that are created when the sun bends through the crests

  • of the ripples and waves on the ocean's surface.

  • Here we have the fog beams.

  • These give us color depth cues,

  • but also tells which direction is up

  • in shots where we don't see the water surface.

  • The other really cool thing you can see here

  • is that we lit that particulate only with the caustics,

  • so that as it goes in and out of those ribbons of light,

  • it appears and disappears,

  • lending a subtle, magical sparkle to the underwater.

  • You can see how we're using the science

  • the physics of water, light and movement

  • to tether that artistic freedom.

  • But we are not beholden to it.

  • We considered each of these elements

  • and which ones had to be scientifically accurate

  • and which ones we could push and pull to suit the story and the mood.

  • We realized early on that color was one we had some leeway with.

  • So here's a traditionally colored underwater scene.

  • But here, we can take Sydney Harbor and push it fairly green

  • to suit the sad mood of what's happening.

  • In this scene, it's really important we see deep into the underwater,

  • so we understand what the East Australian Current is,

  • that the turtles are diving into and going on this roller coaster ride.

  • So we pushed the visibility of the water

  • well past anything you would ever see in real life.

  • Because in the end,

  • we are not trying to recreate the scientifically correct real world,

  • we're trying to create a believable world,

  • one the audience can immerse themselves in to experience the story.

  • We use science to create something wonderful.

  • We use story and artistic touch to get us to a place of wonder.

  • This guy, WALL-E, is a great example of that.

  • He finds beauty in the simplest things.

  • But when he came in to lighting, we knew we had a big problem.

  • We got so geeked-out on making WALL-E this convincing robot,

  • that we made his binoculars practically optically perfect.

  • His binoculars are one of the most critical acting devices he has.

  • He doesn't have a face or even traditional dialogue, for that matter.

  • So the animators were heavily dependent on the binoculars

  • to sell his acting and emotions.

  • We started lighting and we realized

  • the triple lenses inside his binoculars were a mess of reflections.

  • He was starting to look glassy-eyed.

  • Now, glassy-eyed is a fundamentally awful thing

  • when you are trying to convince an audience

  • that a robot has a personality and he's capable of falling in love.

  • So we went to work on these optically perfect binoculars,

  • trying to find a solution that would maintain his true robot materials

  • but solve this reflection problem.

  • So we started with the lenses.

  • Here's the flat-front lens,

  • we have a concave lens

  • and a convex lens.

  • And here you see all three together,

  • showing us all these reflections.

  • We tried turning them down,

  • we tried blocking them,

  • nothing was working.

  • You can see here,

  • sometimes we needed something specific reflected in his eyes

  • usually Eve.

  • So we couldn't just use some faked abstract image on the lenses.

  • So here we have Eve on the first lens,

  • we put Eve on the second lens,

  • it's not working.

  • We turn it down,

  • it's still not working.

  • And then we have our eureka moment.

  • We add a light to WALL-E that accidentally leaks into his eyes.

  • You can see it light up these gray aperture blades.

  • Suddenly, those aperture blades are poking through that reflection

  • the way nothing else has.

  • Now we recognize WALL-E as having an eye.

  • As humans we have the white of our eye,

  • the colored iris

  • and the black pupil.

  • Now WALL-E has the black of an eye,

  • the gray aperture blades

  • and the black pupil.

  • Suddenly, WALL-E feels like he has a soul,

  • like there's a character with emotion inside.

  • Later in the movie towards the end,

  • WALL-E loses his personality,

  • essentially going dead.

  • This is the perfect time to bring back that glassy-eyed look.

  • In the next scene, WALL-E comes back to life.

  • We bring that light back to bring the aperture blades back,

  • and he returns to that sweet, soulful robot we've come to love.

  • (Video) WALL-E: Eva?

  • Danielle Feinberg: There's a beauty in these unexpected moments

  • when you find the key to unlocking a robot's soul,

  • the moment when you discover what you want to do with your life.

  • The jellyfish in "Finding Nemo" was one of those moments for me.

  • There are scenes in every movie that struggle to come together.

  • This was one of those scenes.

  • The director had a vision for this scene

  • based on some wonderful footage of jellyfish in the South Pacific.

  • As we went along,

  • we were floundering.

  • The reviews with the director

  • turned from the normal look-and-feel conversation

  • into more and more questions about numbers and percentages.

  • Maybe because unlike normal,

  • we were basing it on something in real life,

  • or maybe just because we had lost our way.

  • But it had become about using our brain without our eyes,

  • the science without the art.

  • That scientific tether was strangling the scene.

  • But even through all the frustrations,

  • I still believed it could be beautiful.

  • So when it came in to lighting,

  • I dug in.

  • As I worked to balance the blues and the pinks,

  • the caustics dancing on the jellyfish bells,

  • the undulating fog beams,

  • something promising began to appear.

  • I came in one morning and checked the previous night's work.

  • And I got excited.

  • And then I showed it to the lighting director

  • and she got excited.

  • Soon, I was showing to the director in a dark room full of 50 people.

  • In director review,

  • you hope you might get some nice words,

  • then you get some notes and fixes, generally.

  • And then, hopefully, you get a final,

  • signaling to move on to the next stage.

  • I gave my intro, and I played the jellyfish scene.

  • And the director was silent for an uncomfortably long amount of time.

  • Just long enough for me to think,

  • "Oh no, this is doomed."

  • And then he started clapping.

  • And then the production designer started clapping.

  • And then the whole room was clapping.

  • This is the moment that I live for in lighting.

  • The moment where it all comes together

  • and we get a world that we can believe in.

  • We use math, science and code to create these amazing worlds.

  • We use storytelling and art to bring them to life.