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The Visual Storytelling and Lighting of Inside Out #InsideOutEvent

I was provided with an all expense paid trip to bring you the details about this movie and others. All opinions are 100% my own and are not influenced in any way.

Time for some more Inside Out fun! Being at Pixar really was an incredibly inspiring experience. The people who work there are beyond talented and fun. Today I get to tell you more about our meetings with Patrick Lin, Inside Out Director of Photography and Inside Out Lighting Artist Angelique Reisch.

Patrick Lin – Director of Photography

Patrick Lin, Director of Photography

Photo by Debby Coleman. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Mr. Lin was wonderful in thoroughly explaining his job and how he contributed to Inside Out. It’s very intriguing to me to learn more about the visual storytelling in an animation world.

We are all familiar with the phrase “Lights, Camera, Action” made popular in live action films. Mr. Lin explained that in animation it’s the opposite: Camera, Action, Lighting. His department is the front of production and they set up the foundation of the movie.

What’s even more interesting is that they use a virtual camera. Yes, a virtual camera. With their virtual cameras, they are mathematically true to a physical camera. They have lenses to choose from, focus, F stop, lens distortions and they mimic the movement of a real camera.

Mr. Lin’s team does staging. They start with a story board and use it as a general guide. They have an empty 3D set and they bring in the camera, actors and even animate objects in the scene, too. They focus on the best places to place the camera and characters to best tell the story.

Next, they move on to shot building where they expand on blocking and establish timing and position. Once they are happy with their creations they give the shots to editorial where shots are cut, changes, deleted and added. Sometimes even half of the shots are deleted!

The biggest part of visual language is how the camera is moved. – Patrick Lin, Director of Photography

Patrick Lin, Inside Out Director of Photography

Photo by Debby Coleman. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Riley Cam vs Mind Cam

Mr. Lin’s job is a lot about visual storytelling. Inside Out involved two worlds: the inside world (inside of Riley’s mind) and the outside world (the world as we all know it, the real world). With these two worlds they must have a clear language in defining which world is which to keep them separate. The outside world is the real location (IE Minnesota and San Francisco in this movie). The inside world is virtual and can be perfect.

In the making of Inside Out Pixar employees actually went to a camera house in Berkeley and rented two sets of lens. They shot each to see what kind of distortion they get. They measured the curvature and modeled their own virtual lenses after these real lenses. This was the first time Pixar has ever modeled virtual lenses based on real lenses.

The Worlds and Their Differences

With the outside world there are more pronounced distortions, imperfect focus and it’s more organic with the use of “steady cam” and “handheld cameras”. The inside world has minimal distortions, spot on focus and is more mechanical in camera movement (very controlled).

Part of the camera structure involves setting up rules. For example, there was a rule on how to stage the family. Riley was always placed in the center of her parents early on because she was the center of their worlds. Later in the film, after moving to San Francisco she feels disconnected and no longer appears in the center of her parents in scenes. This is part of the visual storytelling that must be done as part of the process.

Fun Fact: Inside Out used extensive camera capture to add to the realism of the film. In fact, it used more than any other Pixar film.

Angelique Reisch- Lighting Artist 

Something I really didn’t think about with animation was lighting. Cartoons need lighting? Really!? I was so fascinated with Angelique Reisch and her job. She gave us a look into the technical challenges the lighting team had on the film, as they worked to light the inside and outside worlds.

Angelique Reisch, Lighting Artist on Inside Out

Photo by Debby Coleman. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As the character lighting lead, Ms. Reisch worked closely with Patrick Lin (the director of photography), the art department and the character team to finalize the look of the characters. She also served as the point contact for the lighting team of approximately 35 people.

The lighting job on an animation film is very much like that of a cinematographer on a live action film. One crucial difference is that in animation they don’t have to move all of the lighting around. Their lights exist in the computer. The muscle that they save tends to be put into brain power! They create the lights, shadows, components from scratch. Lighters in animation need not only technical skills but artistic skills to complete their job.

Ms. Reisch works in the dark most days to prevent any glare from affecting how she sees the lighting on her monitor.

Did you know that lighting artists typically get about 2 shots approved per week!? To put that into perspective, there are typically 1200-1440 shots in each film!

Fun Fact: The Inside Out shot where the characters walk into the Dream Productions movie stage has over 175 lights!

There were several challenges with lighting in Inside Out. First, the two worlds. They worked really hard to make sure each had it’s own unique look and feel. Second, Joy.

Lighting Joy – How Can You Really Light Joy?!

Joy, one of the main characters in Inside Out, is a light source herself so how do you really light Joy!? The lighting artists had to ask themselves “How are we going to light a light bulb?” They had never done that before. Joy is so light that they lose the value range across her face to shape her. They had to come up with a different way. They decided to shape her with color rather than value. They built a group of lights, which they called her light rig. They lit her in every shot in the movie using her rig. Joy has an inner glow also. They liked this so much that they applied it to all of the characters. Joy’s outer glow is the blue aura around her, which is a white light to illuminate the blue aura.

Inside Out Lighting Artist #InsideOutEvent

Photo by Debby Coleman. ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Another challenge with lighting was how is Joy going to light the sets and the other characters? The light from her needed to be believable. When she animates, it needs to be felt. It needed to be detailed, for example, when she picked up something in the film they wanted to see the light from her different fingers. She was going to be in so many shots that this light needed to be easy for the lighters to use and easy to set up. During development on the film, a Geometric Area Light was being developed. It’s also known as a geometry light. The light allows you to specify the model (Joy) and turn that model into a source of light. BINGO!!! That’s what they needed for Joy! This light ended up being used in every shot in the film that includes Joy!

What an incredible difference the lighting makes in an animated film. I was shocked at just how much work goes into that we typically don’t even think about. They do an amazing job!

Don’t forget to check out my post telling all about our meeting with Inside Out Production Designer, Ralph Eggleston.

Inside Out #InsideOutEvent

Here’s the trailer, in case you’ve somehow missed it! 🙂 

 

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Don’t forget: Go Inside the Mind with Inside Out – In theaters June 19, 2015!! 

Get Animated with Inside Out #InsideOutEvent
A Look Inside the Mind with Ralph Eggleston, Inside Out Production Designer

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