How Pixarian Bob Whitehill Enhances Pixar Through 3D

Finding Nemo Screencap Intro

When it came to releasing Finding Nemo in 3D, it was stereoscopic supervisor Bob Whitehill and his team that sprung into action transforming this beloved film into a 3D masterpiece. This meant sifting through the movie, frame by frame – all along tweaking the particulate matter that enhanced the underwater believability of the ocean within the film.

“You’d take a look at a shot for Nemo that had previously looked just fine and then attempt to translate that image into 3D, and suddenly your field of vision is filled with all of this particulate matter. And because they got between the viewer and the characters on screen, these tiny free-floating flecks were very distracting,” Whitehill recalled during a recent phone interview with The Huffington Post.

Bob Whitehill Pixar
Bob Whitehill, stereoscopic supervisor for Pixar. Photo by Deborah Coleman. Copyright Disney Pixar

“So, in order to do that — we literally had to go through this movie, scene by scene. We looked at each individual shot and then decided which pieces of particulate matter were proving to be too distracting. And if we could then cull them out or move them to a different place on the screen without having a noticeable impact on the overall look or the mood of the shot, that’s what we did.” Whitehill explained.

As soon as the rendering process was complete for Finding Nemo (a process which took roughly 9 months just to render!) the team began the whole process again – only this time trading ocean matter for snowflakes for the upcoming release of Monsters, Inc 3D (December 19, 2012). I wonder what Bob Whitehill and his team would refer to as their “Yeti’s Cave” moment?

“While doing the conversion process on Monsters, Inc., we’ve kind of traded culling the particulate matter out of seawater for shifting snowflakes. We’ve had to do some adjusting of those scenes where Mike and Sulley are stranded in the Himalayas, making sure that the snow which is falling in some of these scenes doesn’t distract the audience, unintentionally pull them out of some pretty important moments in this movie”, said Whitehill.

A quote that stood out to me from the Huffington Post interview was when Whitehill stated “Our approach to the conversion process is that we want the 3D to sort of become like the movie’s score. It’s never supposed to distract you. It’s always there to support the story, to heighten the emotions of a particular moment.” 

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