Chesterfield native directs ‘photography’ on ‘Lightyear’ animation | Movies

What does the cinematographer do on a film where there is no photography?

The new Pixar film “Lightyear” is animated. It was rendered entirely on computers; no cameras were involved.

Its cinematographer is Jeremy Lasky, 47, who grew up in Chesterfield and went to Parkway Central High School. We told him about Paris, where he was on a long-delayed vacation with his wife and two children.

Lasky quickly clarified that there were two cinematographers on the film; Ian Megibben was the cinematographer in charge of lighting — the position’s traditional role on a live-action film — and Lasky was in charge of camera and direction.

“It’s about figuring out where the characters are in the frame, how they move on a general level, like blocking a room. It’s about figuring out where the camera is, what we’re shooting, is the camera moving? ” he said.

Of course, in computer-generated animation there is no real camera. When Lasky talks about a camera, he is referring to the way film is presented on screen; it looks like a traditional film shot by a camera using different lenses, lights and angles.

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Jeremy Lasky, who grew up in Chesterfield, is the cinematographer – the director of photography – on “Lightyear”. Photo courtesy of Disney and Pixar.

Camera work — or “camera” work — is especially important in “Lightyear.” Although the film is related to the “Toy Story” film series, it is only loosely related to it. In the “Toy Story” movies, Buzz Lightyear is a toy, merchandise from a boy’s favorite movie.

“Lightyear” is supposed to be that movie. It’s a traditional sci-fi movie, chock-full (and more) of references to other sci-fi movies. Buzz Lightyear is a Space Ranger who accidentally ends up with his crew on a distant planet. The bulk of the film is his efforts to develop and test the technology that will bring them home.

Meanwhile, he remains almost frozen in time. Every time he tries to break the speed of light as a test pilot, he stays the same age, but everyone on the planet ages four years.

And although the movie is animated, it’s meant to look like human actors playing characters in a movie, instead of toys living and moving around in the real world.

“The toy version of Buzz has totally different proportions, especially in the head, but also throughout the body,” Lasky said.

“His suit doesn’t look like plastic, (it looks like) there’s metal on this suit, there’s rubber, there’s fabric. There are groups of people who are trying to make it that this texture responds to light in the right way, so that it looks like a 5-foot-10-inch figure instead of a 12-inch toy,” a- he declared.

Also, he said, “we were going for a much more cinematic sci-fi look.” This meant that the animated action felt less cartoon-like – character movements were less expansive and more contained, and shadows played a part in obscuring characters and objects.

To achieve this effect, Lasky said he was “joined at the hip” with Megibben, the cinematographer in charge of lighting, i.e. making the animation look like there are different types of lighting, from different types of sources, throughout the film.

“We’re going to be collaborating in real time – Buzz is going to be in his apartment, there’s light coming from his apartment window, it’s that color, it’s that time of day, that makes the shadows look like to that.

“Now, as I’m starting to figure out where Buzz should be in frame or where he should be sitting – is he sitting on his couch? Is he at his kitchen table? From what angle am I filming all this? How do I get an image that will resonate with the audience, that will tell me, without even hearing any dialogue, if Buzz is sad? Is Buzz excited? What are the issues ? What’s going on?” he said.

When he was growing up in Chesterfield — his parents still live there, along with his sister and her family — he spent his time reading and drawing. “It was my happy place,” said Lasky, who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

By the time he reached high school, he knew he wanted to do something in art, a desire solidified by the teaching of now-retired Lauren Davis (“it was like I was in school art in high school when I was in his room,” he says.) With “Aladdin” already in theaters and “The Lion King” coming out the year after he graduated in 1993, he decided that he wanted to become an animator for Disney.

With that goal in mind, he went to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, which had two ways to study animation – through the illustration department and through the film department. He chose illustration because he already knew how to draw.

During the first week of his first animation class, he met Angus MacLane, and they’ve been friends ever since. MacLane is the writer and director of “Lightyear.”

Lasky learned life drawing, figure drawing, and other skills. But it was while working on his junior animation project that he realized that “animation is tedious. It’s not funny. I do not like it.

At the same time, he knew a number of people who had left his school to become animators at Disney, and they were unhappy with the studio’s assembly line mentality.

“Also, I wasn’t good enough, quite honestly. I wouldn’t have been hired based on my drawing skills to be a Disney animator, so make no mistake about it,” he said .

What he was looking for was a way to help tell the story through the animation itself, rather than through the script.

Meanwhile, “Toy Story” was released in its first year. It was not only groundbreaking – it was the first computer-generated animated feature film – but it was also a revelation for him.

“It was like they were telling me a story. It’s funny, I get it. And nobody’s singing, there’s no damsel in distress – that’s great. I’ve never seen anything like it in animation,” he said.

“Toy Story” was made by Pixar, and a student a year before him at school did an internship at the studio for a few months. The other student emailed him saying “there’s this department here called layout that seems, frankly, like that’s the thing you keep telling me you want to do”, did he declare.

At the time, Pixar had made “Toy Story” and was beginning work on “A Bug’s Life.” No one else in the industry was doing anything like this. When the company was looking for model makers, no one knew what it was. Lasky was hired and immediately began working with perhaps the biggest names in computer-generated animation: directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, and editor Lee Unkrich.

“It’s the best graduate school I could have had – and they or they paid me,” he said.

He was the right person in the right place at the right time; he entered the ground floor of what has become a whole new way of creating art and telling stories.

“I look at the portfolio I had and I look at the people we hire now, and I would have been dead in the water. This is incredible. So I consider myself incredibly lucky to have walked through the door when I did. did,” he said.

“Honestly, I didn’t have a plan B.”

Saturday, June 25, 2022


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