The approach to creating films like Epic, The Croods and Brave may seem similar, they are all animations after all but when it comes to the machinery and animation software used to create these visual spectacles, they couldn’t be more different and the advances made in animation programming in recent years have changed not only the films animators are showing but the things they can show in them.

This article won’t just look at the major advances like the release of RenderMan, Pixar’s in house animation software used to create all their pictures from Toy Story to Monsters University, but the little programs that add detail to anything put on the screen, programs such as Open VDB, a Dreamworks creation responsible for some of the jaw dropping graphics in films like The Croods and Rise of the Guardians.

The only logical place to start when it comes to anything relating to animation is Disney and its computer animated sister company Pixar. Their development of the RenderMan program gave animators a much wider range of abilities making fully computer animated films like Toy Story possible. The system has only been upgraded over time under the same basic premise of expanding the things programmers can do with their computer. Revolutionary in its effects on the movie industry but most of all it still impresses today.

While Pixar started work of Toy Story, Dreamworks also entered the race as they began using a program called Maya which produced the underrated Antz, a film that didn’t fully develop Maya but over the years it has developed into a program capable of multiple different ideas. However Maya in recent years has brought life to live action cinema including Avatar, a film almost 80% CGI. The Maya system has grown into a device capable of adding wonderful detail.

One of the main reasons for Maya’s success is its ability to adapt to other programs as Dreamworks developed an equally impressive system, The Open VDB, an animation software designed expressly for specific shapes and designs like clouds and dust. Part of the reason The Croods final climactic scene is so impressive is the detail behind the monstrous dust cloud engulfing the screen. Programs like Open VDB are designed to complement Maya but prove equally impressive in their own right.

The lesser known Blue Sky Studios on the other hand, with their hits like Ice Age and Rio or the more recent Epic has its own in house program within its Render CGI Studios matching its fellow developers with Rio featuring some vivid vistas to be astounded by. Their concepts of motion in films and how they program it took a long time to match with Ice Age proving to be a unique and significant movie.

Pixar's RenderMan Animation Software

All these studios have developed systems to improve their designs and abilities with RenderMan continuing to improve upon what came before. Maya has brought Dreamworks into the forefront of animation with The Croods proving their most impressive visual film. Blue Sky’s addition cannot be overlooked but with its contribution to live action cinema and its accessibility, Maya proves a powerful animation software with which to create.

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