Pixar is a technology company. With Inside Out, its newest feature due later this year, Pixar had its own unique set of technical challenges to overcome. A bigger vision led to scaling problems, the duality of the film’s narrative meant creating not one, but two worlds and visual languages — not to mention a main character made entirely of light.
One of the major technical hurdles to overcome was how to shoot the movie in a way that communicates the tumultuous, expressive world of emotions — yet can also transmit the subtleties and nuance of our ‘outside’ human world.
Typically, when you want to direct a camera in a virtual world for an animated film, you do it point-by-point. If the desired effect is a mechanical, tracking, dolly or even handheld shot, each of those is programmed in by a camera operator to mimic the real-world equivalent.
In addition, as the story progresses, the camera techniques move from a swooping, 30’s-style mechanical camera into a much more modern hand operated camera style.
Lin had previously used the technique while making The Blue Umbrella, a short that ran before Pixar’s Monsters University. The version they used then was significantly improved for use on Inside Out.
“On Blue Umbrella it was really in its infancy. The gearbox that we have, that is actually built by one of our lead layout artists Adam [Habib]. He also built a focus ring, too, that can actually do live focusing, so that we can get that perfect focus more naturally. Everything we do has to be deliberate, and nothing is accidental.”
One of the main characters in the movie is Joy, as voiced by Amy Poehler and featured prominently in the trailers and other marketing. As you can see here, Joy glows. Not only does she glow, but she’s actually a full on light source.
Having a light bulb walking around in your scenes presented some difficulties to Pixar’s lighting staff.
Character lighting lead Angelique Reisch says that Joy’s glowing nature was one of the tougher technical challenges to overcome.