Interaction Design at Pixar Animation Studios

Karon Weber, Pixar Animation Studios

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 5, 2002

Pixar Animation Studios is an Academy Award-winning computer animation studio with the technical, creative and production capabilities to create a new generation of animated feature films. Pixar’s objective is to combine proprietary technology and creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films. In partnership with Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar created and produced Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999) and Monsters, Inc. (2001).

One of Pixar’s technical organizations is the Studio Tools department. They are responsible for the design and implementation of Marionette, the software system used for modeling, set dressing, layout, animation, effects and lighting. The software provides precise control over the camera, the sets, the motion of the characters and the look of each frame in a film.

In partnership with the artistic and technical communities, Pixar's interaction design group works to refine and enhance Marionette’s user interface. This talk will describe how user-centered system design is accomplished at Pixar. It will introduce the audience to the domain of feature animation and illustrate some of the challenges the team faces when designing within a film production-engineering environment.

Karon Weber is the senior interaction designer at Pixar Animation Studios. For almost twenty years, Karon has been working with technology to either create or interact with moving images. Her roots are in documentary film and she learned her craft at a PBS affiliate station as a producer/director. Karon discovered the world of software design when she joined the research staff at Xerox PARC. While investigating technology to support people using video in the workplace, Karon designed a series of tools to assist people logging, editing, and archiving moving images. She then joined SGI, where she spent three years leading a design team creating feature animation production software for DreamWorks SKG and Alias|Wavefront. At Pixar, Karon has contributed to tools developed for the production of Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and the upcoming Finding Nemo.


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