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Behind the Scenes of Cars 2: Making an Animated Movie, From Storyboarding to Production

There’s a lot that goes into making a movie, especially when you’re creating a computer-animated film. Every movie starts with a story but a film concept evolves into a vision during pre-production meetings. In the pre-production process, storyboards are created to help people see the movie’s “vision.” Storyboarding is incredibly important part of filmmaking. For Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2, computer animators rendered all the scenes as traditional 2D storyboards and computer-generated animatics:

Storyboarding: Establishing the Action
Storyboarding helps a director share his vision with the production team, and helps the team understand what the director wants to see in the frame. Artists use simple line drawings (and their imagination) to create what will wind up on the big screen.


The action for Cars 2 starts with storyboarding. Before a film goes in front of the camera, a story is developed and then, storyboards are produced to help the entire production team understand what the final frame of film will look like, where characters will be positioned, and to establish scene locations. Actors may also see storyboards to help them develop their characters. The Tokyo race sequence for took more than 1,400 storyboards to portray the action involved.

Layout: Pre-visualizing the Scene
Everything is “laid out” before the first full computer rendering of a scene. Animators pre-visualize, or lay out the shot. Characters are roughly developed and placed within the environment, but don’t yet have a polished or finished look. This gives the director or scene supervisor a chance to make changes before resources are spent creating something that may not remain in the final scene.


In the pre-visualization phase, the cars are in position and have basic facial expressions.

The Final Render: Keyframe
In this keyframe, character and texture artists finish the characters and world. Only then, when the frame is approved by the director, are the computer models finalized.


The final frame is completely rendered with surface textures and reflections. (Notice the neon lights shining off Lightning McQueen.) Pixar uses crowd software to add cars in the background.

Creating 3D Characters
Pixar uses proprietary computer graphics software, while the majority of the movie and video game industry use Maya to create 3D characters. To create storyboards, you should have a background in creating comics or cartoons. Both skills can help you get a job working on a computer-animated movie like Cars 2.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

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