Sunday, July 1, 2007


I saw Ratatouille with the family this weekend. It is the first CG movie that we all really liked a lot. Brad Bird is really on fire-- I think I liked this movie better than the Iron Giant which was terrific. One thing I especially liked was the lack of big-name actors who are not voice actors. Watch the Toy Story movies and the watch some old Disney (e.g. Jungle Book) and you will see just how much using screen actors for voice talent hurts animated movies. Spongebob and the Simpsons would be awful if they used Tom Hanks and John Travolta. I hope Ratatouille makes a zillion dollars and will show that the director and studio is enough to bring in the crowds.

In addition to being a terrific movie, the rendering passed some threshold for me. Previous CG movies have always looked flat to me, with Shrek 2/3 being better due to their use of indirect bounces I assume. But Ratatouille had even more depth. It is the best looking CG movie I have seen by a long shot. As much depth as live action I think. I have no idea what is different, but I have to suspect global illumination given my prejudices. If it was done with hand-placed fill lights, then the artists must be on performance-enhancing drugs! If anybody knows please reply.


Bradford James Loos said...

Hi Pete,

I saw it this last weekend and also thought it was awe inspiring!

One thing I was wondering about was the water simulation and rendering. When the mice were escaping the farm house I thought the water was superbly done, but when you see a larger view of Paris with the Seine the water just seems to have the wrong scale (waves, and breakers and such). The views from the point of view of boat passengers on the Seine seemed nice, only the wide angle shots seemed off to me.

Did you notice this or am I just being too picky?


brecht said...

I haven't read anything about the lighting they used in Ratatouille. But given the publications of Per H. Christensen and others at pixar, and the new features in the latest versions of Renderman, it would not surprise me at all if they used some form of GI. It seems at least the functionality is in place to make it usable for complex production scenes.

Blog Poster said...

I got the same feeling watching the movie, where I felt like I was watching live action Muppets (I mean this in a good way).

I actually chalked it up to their extensive use of depth of field. I can think of other movies where it felt like they just smudged the background a bit to fake the effect, but this one felt like there was a real camera moving through the scene, adjusting its focal length to help tell the story.

My two cents.

Peter Shirley said...

Hi Brad-- I will look for that on the next viewing. The depth of

"We knew we didn't want the super sharp, ray traced reflections that we had on Cars explains Sharon Calahan, director of photography/lighting. "We couldn't afford to make them soft enough and they looked a little too gritty. We couldn't get accurate enough reflections with our old environment map technology, so we did a brick map scheme that worked really well for both the accuracy and soft patina that we needed. This is not shiny, bright, in your face. It's richer and subtler."

This was particularly helpful in dealing with all the kitchen reflections. "The weird thing is, if you do brute force ray trace reflections, as they get softer, they get more expensive, which is obviously not acceptable, so we came up with the Trace Radiance solution to basically keep the render times more reasonable and cut some corners visually that you wouldn't notice," adds effects supervisor Apurva Shah. "For example, the use of simulation for set dressing to create a plate or a dish."

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