Pixar’s Tony DeRose Discusses Math in Movies

Brave Merida Hair

Pixar’s, Tony DeRose recently (March 6th) led lectures at The Museum of Mathematics and at Stony Brook University (March 7th) – the topic being “Math in the Movies”.

DeRose is currently a Senior Scientist and lead of the Research Group at Pixar Animation Studios. His background in mathematics and computer technology is astounding, with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Ph.D. in Computer Science, it’s no wonder that this award-winning Pixarian is out on the road providing a behind-the-scene mathematical glimpse to animation fans.

Hair, cloth, fluids, and gaseous phenomena like clouds, smoke, and fire all have their own physics at Pixar. These basic engines are then augmented to try to produce specific outcomes. “Simulating water is easy,” says DeRose. “What’s hard is, how do you make water more directable?” 

For Brave, DeRose explains, Merida’s voluminous, bright red, highly animated curls required building an entirely new physics engine. The studio’s animators had to figure out how to make Merida’s hair beautiful, expressive, and even more living than lifelike. DeRose and his team of scientists had to engineer a model that makes that animation computationally possible.


Be sure to check out The Verge to read the rest of the article as it is full of great information from the March 6th event.

If mathematics and computer code sparks your interest, be sure to check out Pixar’s online library where you can find multiple interesting technical articles posted by DeRose.

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