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Carey Bryson

Wreck-It Ralph Camera Capture - You Learn Something New Every Day!

By February 19, 2013

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I learned something new about CG animation on my trip to Disney Studios. We were able to talk with filmmakers about every step of the process of making Wreck-It Ralph, and I'll have a full overview coming soon. But first, here is the step that made my brain hurt: Camera Capture. I'm not sure why, but it took me a few minutes to really "get" how and when in the process this amazing technology was used.

You see in the photo above, there is a camera in the middle of a big room with lots of TV screens. Basically, what Camera Capture allows filmmakers to do, is they can go inside the animated "set" and use the camera to film characters just like they would film people in a real life movie. The technology is worked into the Maya software, which animators use to animate the movie. The filmmakers can select a portion of the animated set, and that part of the set is rendered to the space of the room the camera is in. What that means, is the room becomes a virtual world.

For example, in the Wreck-It Ralph game Hero's Duty, there is a scene where the characters are running across a bridge. If that bridge and the area around it is selected for camera capture, it's like the room virtually becomes the bridge. If I were to take the camera and walk around the room, it would film the area around the bridge and the characters in it, just as if I had jumped into the movie and walked around in it filming. As I walk around with the camera, I will see exactly what it's filming on the screens around the room.

Why is this technology so important? Because realistic filming makes the whole movie seem more real and authentic. If I want a closeup of a certain character, for example, I just have to film that character close up, just like if I were filming real people. Shaking the camera a bit while filming the characters running makes it look like the camera is really there in the action. The technology makes the film appear like it was a real world with tangible characters shot in real life. I know. Cool, right? The technology also allows non-technical people, like the director, to get right in the film and show animators how they want the film to be shot.

Camera Capture technology is used early on in the layout process as animators go through the process of blocking and staging the characters. Once a scene has been animated, Camera Capture is used again to polish the film and make sure the camera motion is perfect and the characters' performances are captured in just the right way.

When we go to the theater to see the movie, we sit there for 90 minutes or so and enjoy the story and the characters. We don't often think about or realize just how much effort went into all the minute details to make the film look great. And that, any animator will tell you, is how it should be. They don't want us to notice all the little camera effects or how great the rigging must have been to allow the characters to move so realistically. They just want us to walk away thinking the movie was amazing. The Camera Capture technology is one of the things that makes Wreck-It Ralph stand out, along with the great storyline, awesome characters, hilarious humor and fantastic video game worlds, of course.

*Wreck-It Ralph is now available through digital download, but if you're holding out for the hard copy like me, the Blu-ray and DVD release date is March 5.

Is Wreck-It Ralph your favorite movie of 2012? Vote for it, or for whatever your favorite is, in our 2013 About.com Reader's Choice Awards!

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Disclosure: Disney provided travel and expenses for this press trip. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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