Monsters University PHYSICS 250: Global Illumination #MonstersUEvent

Monsters University Behind the Scenes 2

Physics 250 was my 3rd of five classes at Monsters University and let me tell you, I really felt that bump up to level 250! All of a sudden the class got much harder with technical terms and geometry too! JC Kalache (DP – Lighting), technical director Sanjay Baskhi and simulation expert Christine Waggoner all knew their stuff and explained it in a way that was fascinating.

You know you’re in a 200 level class when the instructors throw out a pop quiz right away.

Q: How many lights are in a typical Pixar Scene?
A: 25!

Monsters University Behind the Scenes

It turns out lighting is one if the most important things in animation. It’s really complex and a bit intimidating to think about. Light goes in all directions, because it hits a surface and bounces. In the film, technicians used Global Illumination to create a more life-like atmosphere with natural lighting. Global Illumination is the simulation of light behaving like it does in the real world, like bouncing off objects. But there are ways to cheat light – like bouncing color off angles to create shadows. These plays on light, dark and shadow set the tones and moods for different scenes. It also suggests different times througout the day. If you thought that was confusing, there are even more creative ways to utilize light.

Monsters University Behind the Scenes 1

In order to create Monsters University, the creators used a “render farm”. A render farm is a room of computers that just render art. Why is this needed? To obtain such lifelike incredible animation, it takes a serious amount of CPU and computer crunching. It took over 100 million computer hours to create Monsters University film and Pixar actually had to double it’s typical render farm to get the job done. On one computer that would have taken over 10,000 years! Is your mind blown yet?

In Monsters Inc., the only simulated garment was Boo’s shirt. However, in Monsters University there were over 127 simulations! There were also many more characters per shot. In a typical Pixar film there are about 10 characters per shot. Monsters University had 25! Not to mention that the characters average 6.2 limbs, 5.4 horns and 3.7 eyes.

  • SOCIOLOGY 203: Deconstruction of a Character with Ricky Nierva (Production Designer) & Jason Deamer (Character Art Director)
  • ENGLISH 101: How to Tell a Great Story with Instructor Kelsey Mann (Story Supervisor)
  • PHYSICS 250: Global Illumination with JC Kalache (DP-Lighting), Sanjay Bakshi (Tech Dir) & Christine Waggoner (Simulation)
  • DRAMATIC ARTS: Bringing a Character to Life with Instructor Scott Clark (Supervising Animator)
  • ANTHROPOLOGY 152: Monsterizing the World w Dice Tsutsumi (Shading/Lighting Art Director) & Robert Kondo (Sets Art Director)

With 3 classes down, be sure to check back tomorrow for my notes from DRAMATIC ARTS!

I have been invited to attend Monsters University by Disney/Pixar and will receive a full scholarship to pay for all my expenses. I have promised to complete all my homework in a timely manner and not to cheat on tests.

monsters university

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY releases in theaters on June 21st! Register for classes online:
“Follow” Disney/Pixar on Twitter
and visit the Official Monsters University website.

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Jeana S

Jeana S

Research lab rat turned travel mom, Jeana S writes about gadgets, tech, entertainment, weddings and of course, travel. When she's not using her powers for social good, she enjoys photography, cooking and playing robots with her son. On occasion, you may also find her crocheting cute things to hide in Ben's underwear drawer.


  1. May 10, 2013 at 7:09 pm — Reply

    omg, yes. That was a complicated course! A lot of it went right over my head, lol

  2. May 14, 2013 at 6:48 am — Reply

    Oh, goodness. That’s a course I’d fail for sure. I’m not so good at the more abstract math. Long formulas and equations are not my forte. I’m completely in awe of computer animation.

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