Wreck-It Ralph Shines Bright with New Lighting and Effects Technology
They pored over two types of food photos – images of food they wanted to eat and images of food they didn’t want to eat – to analyze what made the food look appealing, or not. Visually, people want to know what they’re eating. They noticed the use of saturated dark values, how photographers didn’t want to let things get too black or grey. They learned to lean towards using soft light, getting nice broad specular highlights, being very careful with hard light, avoiding ambiguous textures and distracting shadow shapes that become more interesting than the food. They learned that the best food images show various pieces with clear, distinct shapes that don’t run together. You can tell what everything is in the food.
Next the lighting and effects teams setup a photo lab right in the studio, where they photographed various foods to provide artists with accurate reference materials. They focused on determining what type of lighting gave the most appealing look. They played with polarizing filters to separate out reflection versus refraction. Leach described it this way. “For example, we have dungeons that are made out of sugar cubes. We wanted to see what those looked like. Tests were done way before any models were built. Or what would chocolate mountains look like with self-illuminated gumdrops?” There’s a scene in the film where Ralph crashes a ship into a candy cane forest, sliding through frosting before finally coming to a halt. For Leach’s test, he just grabbed a toy ship and dragged it through a bunch of cake frosting. The results were surprising - the team found some nice elegant shapes that they didn’t expect. “It was one of those happy accidents,” said Leach. “We got some really appealing shapes in front of the ship which we weren’t expecting, which really helped with the final modeling.”
A Little More Taffy on the Lower Lip Please
Early on, the FX team started looking at the story to determine the variety of effects needed for the film. They quickly determined Wreck-It Ralph would require more effects than any animated film they’d done before. The team focused primarily on the three main worlds, how they wanted them to be different, not just in animation and layout but in effects.
Velazquez described the overall FX mandate that came down from Moore and John Lasseter. “Rich Moore and John Lasseter challenged us to make the effects from each of the worlds unique, so that when you look at smoke or dust, you can tell if it’s from Sugar Rush, Hero’s Duty or the Nicelander’s world. They wanted us to add character to an explosion or any kind of effect, making it feel like it belonged in that particular world.”