Gnomon welcomed five artists from Disney Animation Studios to our campus last Thursday night to guide us through the stunning landscapes created for the Academy Award winning film,
Big Hero 6. Director of Cinematography Lighting – Adolph Lusinsky, CG Environment Supervisor – Larry Wu, Head of Effects – Michael Kaschalk, Lighting Supervisor (and Gnomon alumna) – Jennifer Yu, and Production Supervisor – Mike Huang shared their collaborative process for three of the environments that completed the film's visually remarkable world: San Fransokyo, the Campus Destruction, and the Wormhole.
An incredible attention to detail was given to the design of the film's environments, especially in the city where Hiro Hamada and his friends live: San Fransokyo. As hinted at by the name, the city was inspired by a fusion of San Francisco and Tokyo. The artists aimed to capture the charm and rich histories of the two as accurately as possible and, in order to do this, participated in actual flyovers of both cities. The result was a whimsical marriage of San Francisco's steep roads and Tokyo's architecture. This approach was extended to the lighting of the film, as well, as the artists combined the warm light from San Francisco with the modern L.E.D lighting from Tokyo. The team relied on Disney's new renderer, Hyperion, to perform lighting passes during the early stages of development.
The setting of the Campus Destruction was effects-heavy – from the microbots, to the portal, to the actual building destruction (which consisted of 250,000 individual pieces!). As explained by Michael Kaschalk, they “threw in everything and the kitchen sink" into the destruction debris, striving to make it as random and interesting as possible. Kaschalk went on to speak about the microbots, which were treated as effects characters in the way that they pass over each other to form different shapes. Each shot consisted of about 20 million microbots, which clearly showcases the incredible scale of work that was involved. Jennifer Yu, the Lighting Supervisor for the setting, mentioned that this was one of the many moments where the lighting and effects departments collaborated heavily as the grim swirls of light and smoke worked simultaneously to tell the story. Yu was also tasked with making sure that the scene was lit in a way that contrasted the next environment – one of the most vibrant within the film: the Wormhole.Michael Kaschalk discusses the randomness of the debris in the Campus Destruction environment.
If you were one of the many who saw Big Hero 6, then you know how visually stunning the Wormhole was – but its creation was no easy task! The colorful expanse was not something that could be drawn in the same iterative process as a character, for instance, so no one knew exactly how it would turn out. The biggest question mark ended up being the colors. In the beginning, they experimented with making the Wormhole monochromatic with hints of bright hues speckled throughout, but it was collectively decided that this did not look “fantastic" enough, and John Lasseter requested more variations in color. Adolph Lusinsky mentioned that, ultimately, the Wormhole was inspired by impressionist paintings in that there were no true blacks; every color just faded into a deeper version of itself. The Wormhole mixed with the debris and added effects ended up being so vast that the team actually ran out of disc space during its creation.
The amount of work and creativity that went into creating the film's memorable environments was incredible. We extend an enormous thank you to Disney Animation Studios for coming to our campus and sharing their amazing achievement. Also, a very special thanks to Dawn Yamazi, Kelsi Taglang and the entire team!
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