Each character is defined by up to 1,000 avars--points of possible movement--that the animators can manipulate like strings on a puppet. Each morning, the team gathers to review the second or two of film from the day before. The frames are ripped apart as the team searches for ways to make the sequences more expressive...But perhaps the most illuminating tidbit is a quote from Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich: "We don't ever finish a film. I could keep on making it better. We're just forced to release it."
The average frame (a movie has 24 frames per second) takes about seven hours to render, although some can take nearly 39 hours of computing time. The Pixar building houses two massive render farms, each of which contains hundreds of servers running 24 hours a day.
Generally, as you probably know, we write the film, and the actor signs on. We record for three or four hours one day. We fly back to northern California. And we, for four or five months, sit and rewrite stuff. Then we fly down again, we do these short little bursts of recording, and then we go off and we rewrite, re-edit, and recut. Rewrite, re-edit, recut.Rewrite, re-edit, recut. Rewrite, re-edit, recut. Will the formula work again for Toy Story 3? Bet against it if you will, but recognize that you're betting against history.
I remember talking to Billy Crystal at the end of Monsters, Inc. He was starting to look at us like, "This has all the telltale signs of a disaster," because live-action stars are used to being done in six months. We're working two years. And then we're coming down on a given day and handing them the stuff that we've been rewriting and rewriting. And they're like, "What is this now?" They really have to trust us to explain, "Ok. Now this scene has changed in this way. You're now standing outside. You're yelling up to him." Or whatever....
Animation is kind of like making a movie in slow motion. Whereas on most live action sets you'd be like, "Snap, snap, snap--come on we have 15 minutes to get all the rest of the shots in," and then the whole set is struck, and you're screwed if you think up another great idea because too bad, the actors have gone off, the set's gone--we've got three years to craft and add and tie things together. And that is key, I think, to what we do.
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