5 Showstoppers from SIGGRAPH 2020

Tech behind Smugglers Run, "Soul" garments, and more!

Blurring the boundaries between VR and live theater with a new way of storytelling. Enabling casual photographers to remove shadows on portraits in a controllable way. Designing beautifully intricate embroidery patterns with ease for “Frozen 2.” These are just a few of the innovative presentations from last month’s SIGGRAPH event.

The conference and exhibition showcase the latest research in computer graphics and interactive techniques — from headsets to haptics. Walt Disney Imagineering’s Media & Art Pipeline Developer Kristy Pron chaired this year’s event, themed Think Beyond. It couldn’t be more fitting, considering the shift to go virtual.

While the event looked a bit different this year, it was just as inspiring as ever, with 700 presentations! Here are some of our favorites, including Disney talks and other cutting-edge sessions:


Realistic Garments of “Soul”

The new Pixar film “Soul,” premiering this November, required a highly detailed “hypertextural” art direction. Extreme close-ups of the main characters playing instruments also meant extreme close-ups of their garments. To achieve an intricate and realistic look, the team developed a render-time deformation pipeline for geometric thread detail.

They layered the fibers in a UV space to mimic the texture (creating knit, twill, herringbone, etc.), cut them out, stitched them together, and placed them on the character. They’re essentially digital clothing makers.

For more info on this technique, click here.


  • Matt Kuruc – Pixar
  • Jonathan Hoffman – Pixar
  • George Nguyen – Pixar
  • Alex Marino – Pixar
  • Junyi Ling – Pixar
  • Sasha Ouellet – Pixar

Reusing Garments for “Soul”

“Soul” features even more advancements in animated garment making! The team created a new technique for reusing garments for different characters. You get an analysis of the full body mesh for all characters (i.e. their measurements), put it on the body, shrink and expand the garment to make it fit, add space between the body and garment, and make some tweaks. So it’s basically a virtual tailor. 

They even used this technology to repurpose jeans from “Toy Story 4”!


  • Fernando de Goes – Pixar
  • Donald Fong – Pixar
  • Meredith O’Malley – Pixar

Integrating Machine Learning Into Production

While machine learning offers tremendous promise for the production of computer graphics, building a production-ready studio tool can be challenging. TIG’s very own machine learning expert Erika Varis Doggett led a talk with others in her field all about process. 

You may have a cool new tool but now what? Varis Doggett explained just how to integrate it into the production, using her video quality control project as an example. This tool identifies pixels that are the wrong color — offering a huge improvement over watching assets, frame by frame!

Key Contributors
  • Moderator
    • Andrew Glassner – Weta Digital
  • Lecturers
    • Nuttapong Chentanez – NVIDIA
    • Erika Varis Doggett – Walt Disney Pictures
    • Mike Yurick – Ubisoft Divertissements Inc.
    • Pav Grochola – Imageworks
    • Kimball D. Thurston – Weta Digital

AR Book from The Jim Henson Company

The Jim Henson Company and Felix & Paul Studios are collaborating for the exciting AR experience “The Storyteller: The Seven Ravens.” This project breathes new life and innovation into the beloved ‘80s TV series. Featuring a trackable physical book and Magic Leap headset, it explores the future of object-based storytelling.

For more about the story, click here.

Key Contributors
  • Paul Raphaël – Felix & Paul Studios
  • Pierre Blaizeau – Felix & Paul Studios

Tech Behind Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Eric Smolikowski and team at Walt Disney Imagineering used what appears to be the force to transport Jedis-in-training aboard the Millennium Falcon at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. But in reality, the team projected the high-quality environments over five projectors, blending the outputs together to create a seamless, high-resolution image over the surface of the screen. Add in their high-performance, multi-GPU (graphics processing unit) technology, and you’ve got yourself an immersive ride that’s truly out of this world!

To learn more, peruse the SIGGRAPH interview with Smolikowski

Key Contributors
  • Eric Smolikowski – Walt Disney Imagineering
  • Steve Nash – NVIDIA

Using Real-Life Objects in the Digital World

Point2Mesh found a smarter way to make a physical object usable in a VR, AR, or other digital environment. This new technique helps automate getting from point A (a 3D point cloud scan of the object) to point B (a surface mesh with lots of connected triangles). Their shrink wrap-style technique learns the shape and creates a closer and closer watertight mesh around the input point cloud — saving lots of time.

  • Rana Hanocka – Tel Aviv University
  • Gal Metzer – Tel Aviv University
  • Raja Giryes – Tel Aviv University
  • Daniel Cohen-Or – Tel Aviv University