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Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Science Behind Pixar

Hey!  So I had some time off during the end of November.  I've blogged about pretty much everything I did that week except for one thing:  going to see The Science Behind Pixar at the Telus World of Science.  Well, now that I'm on Christmas vacation and have got nothing but time, let's sit down and blog about what I did a month ago!

Telus World of Science has been knocking it out of the park over the past few years for travelling exhibitions.  It all kind of kicked off about five years ago with Star Wars Identities.  Then they had the Harry Potter one and the Indiana Jones one...I'm still kind of upset that I missed the Rubik's Cube one and the Sherlock Holmes one.  Anyway, since I love Pixar, I knew I had to make it down for The Science Behind Pixar, which explains the process of making your favourite animated films these days.

Firstly, let me say, I know that Telus World of Science has their "adults only" nights where you can check out these exhibits without kids being noisy kids.  But let me just say what equally works well is taking a Monday off from work and going on Monday morning.  I tell ya, I had may run of the place.  I spent all morning in the exhibit, and, at its peak, there were probably only 8 of us in there.

While I was expecting a lot of displays of concept art and maquettes and all the other physical products of making animation, there was actually very little of that.  (Although, I can tell I've watched way too many DVD bonus features when I see the names of the artists who sketched that concept art, and recognize them.)  Nope, the key to this exhibition was interactivity, as pretty much every display had an interactive component.  They would walk you through a complex computer animation process like lighting, for example, and then you get to try it yourself.  Of course, they take the process and simplify it from the hundreds of controls that computer animators have down to "pull this lever" or "push this button."

And the plus side is I finally know what rendering is.  They kind of gloss over that in the DVD bonus features.  All I really knew was it was the most time-consuming part of the computer animation process, and it takes the most computing power.  It's the final step, and as they explain, it's calculating exactly how much light each pixel gets.  They put that all together, and boom!  You have a computer animated movie. 

Anyway, messing around with iMovie on my iPhone, I made this little slide show of some of the pictures I took.  Enjoy!

Didn't do much else at the Telus World of Science after that.  I explored a little bit, but they've got several displays closed right now as they undergo a renovation and refurbishment.  It wasn't like when I went five years ago for Star Wars Identities.  Five years ago, it was the first time I'd been to Telus World of Science since I was a kid, and I dedicated the whole day to taking it all in.  Never got around to writing my epic blog entry about that adventure five years ago.  Like with the Science Behind Pixar, I took a Monday off work to take it all in.  When I got back to work on Tuesday, I got the call that I was getting transferred to Westlock, so suddenly my days were consumed with moving. 

One of my favourite things from five years ago, though, was taking in a planetarium show.  Even as a kid, I'd never done that at Telus World of Science.  This being in the middle of the day, with a lot of kids in daycare on field trips, the one I took in was a Sesame Street one, featuring Big Bird, and Elmo, and some third muppet I didn't recognize.  I googled it when I got home and saw he was from the Chinese version of Sesame Street.  Anyway, it was for really young people, as Big Bird pointed out the North Star and the Big Dipper and stuff like that.  It was fun. 

Afterwards, I spoke with the person who ran the show to ask a few questions.  I asked whatever happened to that gigantic star projector they used to have, and she explained that it was still there, just below the stage, because it was so massive the building was pretty much built around it.  She then fired up their digital projectors and took me though a 5 minute private show as she showed off their current technology.  She ended with a sigh.  "But all this stuff is 10 years old now, and starting to show its age.  We really need an upgrade, but I'm not the one who makes those decisions."

As part of the renovations going on at Telus World of Science right now, they are upgrading their planetarium, and when it's done, it'll be the most technologically advanced in Western Canada.  I couldn't help but think of my guide five  years ago and wonder if she's happy that she's now getting her upgrade.

I did take in lunch at the Telus World of Science, thought.  I blogged a long time ago that pretty much every museum in the world has a cafe and a gift shop, and I'm fascinated by them.  Actually, the Telus World of Science restaurant also got a refurbishment in the past five years.  Now they call it the Purple Pear, and they really beefed up their menu.  Rather than the usual egg salad sandwiches you get at museum cafes, they've got some really substantial food.  I treated myself to their pulled pork quesadillas, which were really quite good.  I also paid the extra to get my drink in the collector's cup to take home.  Fun fact:  if you get your drink in the collector's cup at the Purple Pear, it's free refills for your entire day at Telus World of Science. 

Anyways, that was my day at the Telus World of Science.  I highly recommend you check out the Science Behind Pixar.  By the time this entry goes live, there'll literally be 2 weeks left, so sooner rather than later. 

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