BIG HERO 6, Disney’s New Superhero Movie, Is Over Twice As Big As Frozen & Wreck-It Ralph

BIG HERO 6, Disney’s New Superhero Movie, Is Over Twice As Big As Frozen & Wreck-It Ralph

The last CBM of the year, Marvel and Disney’s Big Hero 6 is set to hit theaters this Friday. What you may not know is that Big Hero 6 will be Disney Animation’s biggest film to date!!

Marvel’s fairly unknown Big Hero 6 is making the jump to the big screen this weekend, thanks to Disney Animation Studios. While some may be disappointed in the comic tie-ins for the film (see BIG HERO 6 Film Makers Discuss The Film, Its Story And Its Characters), what definitely won’t disappoint is the technology put into the film.  Big Hero 6 includes the most unique characters ever in a Disney film, the largest crowds in a film, an all-new setting in the city mash-up that is San Fransokyo (a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo) and the most realistic lighting and rendering effects ever in a Disney animated feature. I was recently able to spend a day at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here what I was able to discover regarding the technology behind the film.
 
Big Hero 6 Animation

 
Walt Disney Animation Studios created a proprietary system named “Denizen” to handle how the artists created and animated the crowds for the film. The fictional setting of San Fransokyo had to be authentic and believable. It needed people – lots of people – of different shapes, sizes, culture and fashion senses. “In order to create and maintain those characters,” says John Kahwaty, character rigging supervisor, “we needed to find a way to generate them procedurally so they could evolve as the show evolved and be created on the fly when needed.”
 
The system created 670 unique characters, compared to 270 in “Frozen,” 185 in Wreck-It Ralph” and 80 in “Tangled.” Each of the 670 characters had up to 32 different clothing combinations, plus 32 different hair and skin tones.  That means filmmakers could invite 686,080 unique characters to the city of San Fransokyo before there were any duplicates.
 
As if Denizen wasn’t an accomplishment in and of itself, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Brent Burley, Sean Jenkins and Chuck Tappan led a team of developers to create a new rendering tool called Hyperion.  “We were struggling with two things,” he says. “There was ever-increasing complexity running up against memory limits” says Burley, principal software engineer.  “And there was a desire to have richer, more complex lighting in a more efficient way – lighting was pretty labor intensive.”

 
Big Hero 6 Technoloty


“Renderers in general will load the whole scene into memory in some form or another,” explains Hank Driskill, technical supervisor for Big Hero 6. “The machines weren’t big enough anymore to hold everything we wanted to do, so we started breaking scenes up into layers an rendering logs of layers an reassembling it afterwards into the final image.  It was becoming more painful with each movie for the artists to manage the data.”
 
According to Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief technology officer Andy Hendrickson, Hyperion comes closer to mimicking what happens in the real world. “We decided to model the physics of real life in terms of how light rays bounce around, how they interact with materials and what happens when a light ray bounces.”
 
Hyperion also allowed filmmakers to explore the world they had created. “We’re doing flyovers with thousands of crowd characters,” says Tappan, who worked on Hyperion’s artistic integration. “When Baymax and Hiro first take flight, they soar over San Fransokyo. IT’s a breathtaking sequence. Art challenges technology.”
 
Hyperion has been in the works for two years. Big Hero 6 in many ways was in the right place at the right time. It endeavored to feature the kind of complex setting Hyperion was built to achieve, making it the perfect film to adopt the new renderer. “We couldn’t make ‘Big Hero 6’ with the tools we used to make ‘Frozen,’” says Burley. “The overall culture at Walt Disney Animation Studios allows us to take risks when it comes to new technology,” says Tappan. “With the creation of Hyperion, we changed a lot. Making a new renderer is one of the ultimate changes we can make and now that we’ve done it, the people in this building feel like we can do anything.”
 
Prepare to be blown away when Big Hero 6 hits theaters this Friday and keep an eye out for my review on Friday morning (stinking review embargoes…)!
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