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Behind the Scenes at Pixar

Date and Time
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Computer Science Large Auditorium (Room 104)
Distinguished Colloquium Series Speaker
Rob Cook, from Pixar
Adam Finkelstein
This talk takes you behind the scenes at Pixar Animation Studios for a look at how its 3D computer graphics films are made. The process starts with the development of the story and continues with modeling the geometry, animating the characters, simulating things like water and cloth and hair, defining the look of the surfaces, putting lights in the scene, and rendering the images. Making a computer animated film requires a close collaboration between artists and technical experts in many areas of expertise and is a great example of the value of bringing different disciplines together.

Rob was the co-architect and primary author of RenderMan, software that creates photo-realistic computer images. Every film nominated for a Visual Effects Oscar in the last 15 years has used RenderMan. In 2001, along with two colleagues, Rob received an Oscar for his contributions, the first ever given for software. He has also received the Steven A. Coons Award for lifetime achievement in computer graphics and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. Rob has a Bachelor's degree in Physics from Duke University and a Master's in Computer Graphics from Cornell University. At Cornell, he worked on simulating realistic surfaces, taking computer-generated images beyond the distinctive plastic look they had at the time. In 1981, he joined Lucasfilm / Pixar, where he developed the first programmable shader, which is now an essential part of GPUs and game engines. He was the first to use Monte Carlo techniques in computer graphics, which was essential for the simulation of complex, realistic lights and camera effects. The latter proved particularly important in the special effects industry, because it allowed computer-generated imagery to match the motion blur and depth of field of the live-action footage with which it was combined. He is currently the Vice President of Advanced Technology at Pixar.

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