Pixar story & technology

By: Ireland (boh.delete@this.outlook.ie), January 25, 2017 11:58 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
Richard Cownie (richard.cownie.delete@this.pobox.com) on January 25, 2017 11:36 am wrote:
> Sure. Pixar succeeds not because they have great technology (though they do),
> but because they're brilliant at character and story. I attended a talk by
> Sanjay Patel about the making of his short "Sanjay's Super Team". Great talk,
> great short movie - but the crux of it was that when he discussed his initial
> idea with John Lasseter, about a young boy watching shoes outside a temple to
> make money to buy a superhero comic - Lasseter talked to him about his
> relationship to Hindu culture and to his dad, and then said "tell *your* story".
>
> They're artists, first and foremost. But artists who needs a lot of MFLOPS.
>
>

Richard, agreed. And another question is, in today's world, what stories do the scientists need to tell? And what technology do they need, in order to tell those stories?

The part that is interesting about Pixar that is so interesting, in addition to their having the technology, is also the fact that they had to build major components of it themselves. I think that Steve Jobs too, who collaborated with them on some parts of the business, no all of it, was comfortable in making things happen, starting things. In that respect, they made a good marriage together. Let's not forget though, that companies like Intel were started by a bunch of chemists who blew their own glassware. And in today's world, it isn't only glassware and chemistry that is happening in laboratories, but information technology too.

I started working on this hybrid system of the physical laboratory and the electronic one (hoping in my dream, that the electronic side could be used to do some of the heavy lifting, and enable me to focus on the human being to experiment side of the research work). It's not an easy combination to achieve. One shouldn't under-estimate how hard it is, to make older systems of creativity and/or research work in co-existence with new technology. Pixar were great at taking something that had been around since Walt Disney times, and finding just the right balance to make that 'hybrid' process work. I think that's the real technology that is going on a Pixar - and that too, is why it contains a lot of lessons for us - as we try to re-invent other industries in the modern time.

One last thing.

I read a history once, about the construction of the Rockefeller center in New York city during the height of the Depression era. During the project, two of the largest steel companies on the continent almost went under, and one of them got saved just by having the Rockefeller center project on it's order books. What was interesting however, was the price per unit of constructed office floor space fell through the floor at the time. That was, they could have built the project for a fraction of the original budget - but instead, they re-cycled a lot of the budget back into better materials and better quality. I.e. The thing ended up costing more or less the same amount, but it was a much more refined project, than what it started out as.

That's what I was trying to describe about Pixar. They could have just taken the Moore's Law windfall and went home. They didn't however, and that's the odd part about it. The time/price per rendering per frame of one of their movies, hasn't changed all that much, in all these years. And I'll bet you anything, that if one gave that option to a lot of researchers and laboratory directors out there, they'd make exactly the same choice. As strange and all, as that may seem. All the best.
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