Pixel Vienna – Pixar pipeline talk

It’s the second day of the PIXEL 7 conference. After working as a avolunteer yesterday I can enjoy listening to the talks today.

I am posting my notes here from the talk Michael Schantzis, explaining the work process at Pixar animation studios.

Note: These are rough notes is from memory, ordered to make sense to me

The three basic jobs

The creation of an animated movie can be broken down into three basic jobs:

– Creating the story – the job of storyboard artists and directors

– Translating that story to “reels”, maintaining and adding to it until finished – the job of the editors

– Making all the parts and continuously improving every aspect of it – all the various departments (modelling, rigging, animation, lighting)


Now to more detail on the sequence of the process:


Story is first and matters most, you cannot cut corners on this

  • First rough story script, setting
  • Storyboarding
    • Creating ideas for scenes
    • Make them into sequences
    • storyboard meetings, discussion
    • Refine, reiterate until solid


When the storyboard is deemed good the editors start making rough cuts with it, with temporary sound and music. The editors a the Keepers of the movie and put all the parts together, reworking it until it is ready for release.

Art department

Inspire direction
User various media at the beginning, cut and paste, sculpt
Field trip
Colour script

Extremely technical, precise drawings
Model packet: st of instructions, high tdetail technical drawings, colour drawings

Set building

thousands of props
some smart procedural work
Cars2 London set: 8.000 buildings, with a smart variation algorhythm, city engine
Vegetation: another procecural system
Sets: all about quantity, needs lots of stuff


modelling sheets, reference art
get rigged, riggers provide example shots of what cna be done with the characters


camera setup, cinematography


5 sec a week (start at a much higher speed, then refine and refine)

Cloth, Hair systems


colour mood, dapple effects, highlighting characters with colours
Master/Set lighting: sunlight, artificial lights
Shot lighting: additional lights for the shot: rim lights, etc.