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mental ray Adds Visual Sophistication and Detail to Shark Tale

DreamWorks Animation credits mental ray for helping it achieve the extremely high visual target for its new 3D-animated feature, SHARK TALE, which recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival and opens Oct. 1, 2004.

Known for its leading edge programmability and artistic control, mental ray was widely used in SHARK TALE to create a unique and visually compelling look. The software from mental images allowed DreamWorks to generate extremely sophisticated lighting for the 3D environments. SHARK TALE is the first fully animated movie by DreamWorks that takes advantage of mental images's advanced rendering software.

mental ray provided a global illumination solution that gave SHARK TALE a unique richness in depth of lighting, said visual effects supervisor Doug Cooper. The flexibility of mental ray allowed us to use it in a way which provided for a great deal of artistic control, unlike other Global Illumination solutions weve explored. Our proprietary approach to Global Illumination, pioneered by Mark Wendell, CG supervisor, combined with mental ray's ability to simulate the physical process of light propagation to produce realistic lighting, helped us to create among the most visually compelling work ever seen in feature animation.''

SHARK TALE is the first computer-animated feature film to be produced out of DreamWorks Animation's new state-of-the-art production facility in Glendale, California.

For SHARK TALE, DreamWorks used mental ray in a proprietary production pipeline to create multiple separate image elements, which contain different components of the lighting for each frame of the entire animation. These elements describe the exposure of each 3D element to ambient lighting and the effects of indirect lighting in a scene. These exposure'' and bounce'' elements are then used as texture maps in the final image. DreamWorks'' lighting artists can thereby control the location and to what degree the two elements contribute to the final rendering by their choice of light direction and weighting factors providing a highly flexible and efficient solution to achieving the advanced lighting targets for the film.

Realistic lighting is largely determined by indirect illumination effects such as the occlusion of elements in a scene from simulated direct light and the indirect illumination caused by light scattered from various directly or indirectly lit surfaces in the 3D environment. mental ray offers excellent control over light scattering and the effects of indirect light in a 3D scene, which was a key requirement for SHARK TALE.

However, realistic lighting is not the primary artistic goal to achieve in a feature animation, just as the physically realistic simulation of motion does not automatically lead to great animation.

DreamWorks has used mental ray in a highly innovative way, giving the artists much greater control over the final effect of the indirect illumination simulation than in a pure lighting simulation for a 3D environment,'' said Rolf Herken, ceo and cto of mental images.

mental images (www.mentalimages.com), founded in 1986, is the recognized international leader in providing rendering software to the entertainment, computer-aided design, scientific visualization, architecture and other industries that require sophisticated images. mental images GmbH is a privately held company based in Berlin, Germany, with a subsidiary in San Francisco, California.