Exploring the Art and Science of Animation

By Madison Young | Published on  

When I was just a little girl, I dreamed of being an artist. But when I proudly shared my aspirations with an adult, they told me it wasn’t a practical career choice. My little seven-year-old Picassodreams were crushed. Despite this, I refused to give up on my passion for creativity.

After searching for a new dream, I eventually settled on becoming a scientist. I had always loved math and science, and later on, I discovered my passion for coding. In college, I decided to study computer programming, and that’s when I stumbled upon something that would change my life forever: computer animation.

I remember the first time my computer graphics professor showed us those wonderful short films. I watched them in wonder, transfixed, with fireworks going off in my head. That’s when I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

It was the idea that all the math, science, and coding I had been learning could come together to create these amazing worlds and characters that I connected with. It was pure magic for me. And just two years later, I started working at the place that made those films, Pixar Animation Studios.

At Pixar, 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.

But then I got my first taste of lighting, and that’s when I fell in love with it. Lighting in practice is placing lights inside this three-dimensional world. 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.

There’s this moment in lighting that made me fall utterly in love with it. It’s where we go from the rough version to the final version. 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.

As I learned to light, I learned about using light to help tell a story, to set the time of day, to create the mood, to guide the audience’s eye, and how to make a character look appealing or stand out in a busy set.

I realized that the interweaving of art and science elevates the world to a place of wonder, a place with soul, a place where things you imagine can become real. And that’s why I continue to pursue my creative passions, despite the obstacles that may come my way.

Growing up, I had always been interested in math and science. In college, I decided to pursue computer programming and took a course in computer graphics where I was introduced to the world of computer animation. I was immediately captivated and knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

I landed a job at Pixar Animation Studios, the place where those wonderful short films I had watched during college were made. I was thrilled to learn about how we create three-dimensional worlds inside a computer, starting with a point that makes a line, that makes a face, that creates characters, trees, and rocks that eventually become a forest.

One of the most exciting aspects of my job was lighting, where we use lights to place inside the three-dimensional world. Lighting was where I learned to use light to help tell a story, set the time of day, create the mood, and guide the audience’s eye.

While creating any world we wanted inside a computer was an incredible thing, it also came with its challenges. Untethered artistic freedom could create chaos and jarring effects for the audience. To combat this, we tethered ourselves with science and used the world we know as a backbone to ground ourselves in something relatable and recognizable.

We used science to create something wonderful, but we also used story and artistic touch to bring us to a place of wonder. We considered each element and decided which ones needed to be scientifically accurate and which ones we could push and pull to suit the story and the mood.

In the end, our goal was not to recreate a scientifically correct real world, but to create a believable world, one that the audience could immerse themselves into and experience the story. We used the physics of water, light, and movement to create something magical.

Through my job at Pixar, I learned to combine my love for math and science with my passion for art. The interweaving of art and science elevated the world of computer animation to a place of wonder, where the things we imagined could become real.

As an artist in the world of computer animation, there’s nothing quite like the moment when everything comes together, and a three-dimensional world comes to life on the screen. And as a lighting artist, I have a unique role in creating that magic.

Lighting isn’t just about making a scene look pretty. It’s a crucial element in setting the time of day, creating mood, and guiding the audience’s eye. Through the use of light, we can even make a character look more appealing or stand out in a busy set.

But lighting is about more than just artistic expression. It’s grounded in science, and we use that science to make the world we create as believable as possible. For example, in “Finding Nemo,” we spent a lot of time studying how light travels through water and how that affects visibility and color. We used that knowledge to create a scientifically accurate depiction of underwater scenes.

But we’re not bound by science. We use artistic touch to create worlds that the audience can immerse themselves in and experience the story. And that’s where the magic comes in. It’s the balance between science and art that elevates our work to a place of wonder, a place where the things we imagine can become real.

As a lighting artist, I get to be a part of that magic, bringing characters to life and creating worlds that people can believe in. And for that little girl who once dreamed of being an artist, it’s a dream come true.

Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places: The Story Behind the Jellyfish Scene in “Finding Nemo”

As a computer animator, one of the most exciting aspects of my job is finding inspiration in unexpected places. And that’s exactly what happened when we were working on the jellyfish scene in “Finding Nemo.”

At first, we were struggling to make the scene look believable. We had tried several different approaches, but nothing seemed to be working. That’s when someone suggested that we take a closer look at real-life jellyfish to see how they move and interact with each other.

So, we began researching and observing jellyfish in aquariums and in their natural habitats. We were amazed by the way they moved and how their tentacles glowed in the water. We knew we had to incorporate these elements into the scene.

To achieve the glowing effect, we used a technique called subsurface scattering, which simulates the way light penetrates and scatters within a translucent material like jellyfish tentacles.

The result was stunning. The jellyfish scene became one of the most memorable and visually striking moments in the entire movie. And all because we were willing to look outside of the usual sources of inspiration.

This experience taught me that sometimes, the most unexpected sources can provide the inspiration we need to create something truly magical. It’s important to keep an open mind and to always be on the lookout for new and exciting ideas.

The process of creating compelling characters and stories in animation is both an art and a science. It requires a balance between the creativity of storytelling and the technical skills of animation. As an animator, you need to have a strong understanding of both aspects to create a successful film.

One of the key elements of creating a compelling story is to develop interesting and relatable characters. It’s important to understand their motivations, personalities, and quirks to make them feel like real people. By using a combination of design, animation, and storytelling techniques, animators can bring characters to life in a way that touches with audiences.

On the other hand, the technical skills of animation are just as important. Animators need to have a strong understanding of anatomy, physics, and motion to create believable movements and actions. They also need to be skilled in the use of software tools to bring their designs to life.

Finding the right balance between art and science can be a challenge, but it’s essential for creating a successful animation. Animators need to be able to push the boundaries of what’s possible while still adhering to the rules of physics and storytelling. It’s a delicate dance, but when done correctly, it can lead to truly magical storytelling.

Animation is more than just drawing pretty pictures. It’s a complex process that involves a variety of skills, including math, science, and storytelling. The animation industry is highly collaborative, and bringing together these different areas of expertise is essential for creating successful projects.

Math is a fundamental part of animation, especially when it comes to creating movement. Animators use mathematical principles to create realistic motion, such as the timing and spacing of movements, arcs, and trajectories. Without a solid understanding of math, animators would struggle to create lifelike and convincing movement.

Science also plays a crucial role in animation. Understanding the principles of physics, light, and color is essential for creating believable and immersive worlds. Lighting, in particular, can make or break a scene. By carefully considering the position and type of light sources, animators can create a mood and atmosphere that supports the story and characters.

Of course, storytelling is the heart of animation. Without a compelling story and well-developed characters, even the most beautiful animation will fall flat. Collaboration between writers, directors, and animators is essential for bringing a story to life through animation. Each person brings their own perspective and expertise to the table, creating a rich and nuanced story that engages and entertains the audience.

In conclusion, animation is a team effort that relies on a variety of skills and expertise. The power of teamwork comes into play when math, science, and storytelling combine to create something truly magical. Whether it’s a full-length feature film or a short clip, the success of an animation project depends on the collaboration and cooperation of everyone involved.

When it comes to visual storytelling, lighting plays a critical role in creating mood, atmosphere, and guiding the audience’s eye. It’s a powerful tool that can be used to enhance emotions, create tension, and even reveal information.

As a filmmaker, one of the most important things to consider is the type of lighting you want to use for each scene. For example, if you’re shooting a romantic scene, warm and soft lighting will help create a cozy atmosphere, while harsh lighting can create a sense of discomfort or unease.

Another aspect to consider is the direction of the light source. Side lighting, for instance, can add depth and texture to a scene, while backlighting can create a silhouette effect or add an ethereal feel. Meanwhile, front lighting can create a flat image but may be used intentionally to reveal a character’s facial expressions or emotions.

Lighting can also be used to guide the audience’s eye to certain areas of the frame. A well-placed light can draw attention to a character or object and create a sense of focus. Conversely, a lack of lighting in certain areas can help create suspense or mystery, prompting the audience to wonder what’s hidden in the shadows.

Overall, understanding the power of lighting in visual storytelling is essential for any filmmaker or storyteller. It allows you to create an immersive experience for your audience and convey emotions and messages effectively.

Animation has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Today’s animated films and TV shows are masterpieces of technology, creativity, and storytelling. But how do these fantastical worlds come to life? The answer lies in the intersection of technology and art.

At its core, animation is the art of creating the illusion of movement through a series of still images. Traditionally, this was achieved through hand-drawn cells that were photographed in sequence to create the illusion of motion. But as technology has advanced, so too has the world of animation.

Today, computer animation is the norm. It allows artists to create complex worlds and characters with lifelike movements that were once impossible. Software such as Maya, Blender, and Cinema 4D have become essential tools in the animation process. These programs allow animators to manipulate 3D models, add textures and lighting, and create complex simulations.

But technology is just one part of the equation. Without creativity and storytelling, even the most advanced animation technology would be nothing more than a collection of pretty pictures. The art of animation lies in the ability to create characters that feel real and relatable, stories that engage and move the audience, and worlds that transport them to another place.

The process of bringing an animated world to life involves a team of artists, animators, writers, and technicians. It’s a collaborative effort that requires both technical expertise and artistic vision. Each member of the team brings their unique skills and talents to the project, working together to create something truly special.

In the end, the magic of animation comes from the combination of technology and artistry. It’s the ability to take an idea, no matter how fantastical, and turn it into a world that feels real and alive. It’s a testament to the power of human imagination and the endless possibilities of technology.

Animation is a fascinating world where art, science, and technology come together to create visually stunning and emotionally engaging stories. From finding inspiration in unexpected places to balancing art and science and using light to set the mood, the journey of animators is full of challenges and rewards. Through teamwork and creativity, they bring animated worlds to life and transport audiences to new realms of imagination. The passion and dedication that animators bring to their craft is truly inspiring, and it is a testament to the power of storytelling to captivate and move people. As technology continues to evolve and new tools emerge, the possibilities for animation are endless, and we can’t wait to see where this amazing art form will take us in the future.