Danielle Feinberg: The Science of Light TED Talks Is Not To Be Missed

Danielle Feinberg TED Talk: Science & Wonder event as the Pixar artist discusses her journey to Pixar and how science plays a role in each Pixar film.
Danielle Feinberg TED Talk

In November 2015, the TED Talks: Science & Wonder event brought together artists, scientists, and experts across varied fields to explore the question, “How do we make sense of the universe around us?” One of the speakers at the event was one of our most admired people at Pixar — the brilliant, Danielle Feinberg (Director of Photography – Lighting). Danielle started the event by sharing a brief history of her young aspirations to be an artist followed by her passion for science and coding — culminating with her journey to Pixar and her love of lighting.

A six-minute version of the presentation premiered as part of a summarized event on PBS on March 30, but we highly recommend viewing the entire twelve-minute presentation (which launched on the TED Talks website on April 6) – video embedded below.

In the video, Danielle started by showing a lot of before-and-after clips to demonstrate the effect lighting has on scenes (emotionally and visually) from Pixar films. The gem of the presentation comes when she discusses how artistic freedom (which is enabled by the computer) is balanced by the science and laws (if you will) of light.

While this is an incredible thing, this untethered artistic freedom, it can create chaos. It can create unbelievable worlds, unbelievable movement, things that are jarring to the audience. So to combat this, we tether ourselves with science. We use science and the world we know as a backbone, to ground ourselves in something relatable and recognizable. 

Danielle Feinberg

From the visual breakdowns (using scenes from Finding Nemo) of how light moves through water, to her inspirational words of how art, science, and code come together to craft the worlds we love (with another great example from WALL-E), we wholeheartedly recommend watching Danielle’s great presentation. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well – leave a comment below with what you found most intriguing from the discussion.

Coco Teaser Poster Logo

After the presentation, Lee Unkrich (Director of the upcoming, Cocotweeted that he was “Honored that Danielle would be lighting our upcoming film, Coco.” We are equally excited to see Danielle’s brilliant work appear in the upcoming film based on the Dia de los Muertos holiday — this will certainly be an essential film to showcase strong lighting with the festival’s grand colors and dark undertones as well.

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