Storyboard to Final Frame: A Look at the Progression of a ‘Cars 3’ Demolition Derby Scene

Check out how this Cars 3 scene with Miss Fritter and Lightning McQueen progresses from storyboard all the way through the final rendered image
Cars 3 storyboard

In celebration of the vast special features included on the Cars 3 digital release available today (and upcoming 4K, Blu-ray release on November 7), let’s take a closer look at one scene as it passes from the story department all the way through the final rendered image.  

1 — Storyboarding (Shown Above)

Story drawings like the one below (by Story Supervisor, Scott Morse) help pre-visualize the film and are edited side-by-side by the editorial team to convey the pace of the scenes and give a rough sense of how the story unfolds. The example below is one of approximately 81,924 drawings that were delivered to the editorial team on Cars 3.

2 — Art

Once a storyline for a sequence is completed, concept art (like the piece below by Laura Phillips) is created by the production designer and art department to determine the look and feel of the film. This process helps showcase the exploration of color and the design of new characters and environments.

Cars 3 Progression

3 — Sets & Layout

Using art reference for guidance, the basic forms, and shares of the sets are translated into the computer during a process called “Modeling.” “Shading” comes next, during which technical artists use a combination of painting and programming to apply textures, colors, patterns, and other material properties to give the sets complexity and appeal.\

The frame below also shows the phase known as “Layout,” in which a virtual camera is placed into the shot. The characters are “Staged” or placed into positions within the set that work visually with the chosen camera angle. These phases precede the character animation step.

Cars 3 Sets and Layout

4 — Animation

When the layout is completed, the primary and secondary characters are animated and brought to life by the Animation department.

Cars 3 Progression

6 — Lighting

The Lighting department is responsible for integrating all of the elements — characters, sets, effects, etc. — into a final, rendered image. The Lighting process involves placing virtual light sources into the scene to illuminate the characters and the set.

Technical artists place the lighting to draw the audience’s eye to story points and to create the correct mood. The lit images are then rendered at high resolutions. 24 lit images, of over 2 million pixels each, are created for each one second of the movie — WOW!

Cars 3 Progression

7 — Effects & Final Image

All the natural phenomena that you see in this final image, such as the dust, debris, flames, and even the mud were brought to life by the Effects department. Effects (FX) artists create these elements using complex simulation software that models the physics of how certain materials move.

These elements provide a believable and tangible sense of interaction between the characters and their rich, realistic world, whether they are skidding around a hairpin turn or blasting through the mud at sixty miles per hour. FX’s work also reinforces the emotional stakes for the audience, for example in the image below, Ms. Fritter looks menacing as she spouts fire from her exhaust pipes while bearing down on McQueen.Without the fire and the texture of the mud, the scene would be much less impactful.

Cars 3 Progression

If you enjoyed this deep dive looking at how this scene progressed, you should also be sure to listen to our podcast interview (Episode 55) with the Cars 3 effects team where we dove into the many aspects and challenges of making the AWESOME crazy-8 demolition derby scene look flawless!

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