As technical director for Disney's
Once, special effects work involved substituting chocolate syrup for blood and experimenting with ladies' hosiery to create the illusion of a tornado; now most of the wizardry on screen is created with computer graphics. It's Bakshi's job to manipulate software to make fantasies look real, and even the most trivial details can require weeks of plotting. "In Finding Nemo there is a scene where a fish tank gets silted up," he says. "It was my job to figure out how to make Nemo's body look gradually dirtier and, although it sounds simple, it was quite a technical exercise."
Bakshi, 42, acquired a passion for computer algorithms as a schoolboy when the science was still in its infancy. "I loved the spectacle and impressing people with images," he says. "My school only had three computers, all Apple 2s, so I would stay in after classes to experiment." He completed a bachelor degree in computer science and a masters in computer graphics at the
"It was hearing
In 2002 Bakshi made the leap, moving to
"There were obstacles that would baffle me for weeks – like the fur was in the characters eyes every time they made a certain expression and I couldn't work out where it was coming from. Once you've installed the software the computer takes over details like this and you have to work out how to override it."
However fantastical the animations, enormous care is taken to make sure they obey the laws of science. Technicians labour over the effects of light reflecting off a character's fur, or how gravity would effect the flow of a particular river. Sometimes, though, scientifically accurate film has to be adapted for artistic effect. "We cheat all the time with physics," Bakshi says. "One of the main characters in
His latest project is The Good Dinosaur, and he has been recruited to work out how the dinosaurs' skin responds to their movement. "I am studying elephants to get an idea," he says.
Although no specific qualifications are required for a career in special effects, an understanding of art and computer programming is essential. "I picked my knowledge of art up while working at Pixar, and there are others who came from an arts background who mastered computer software on the job," he says.
Equally important is imagination, for it is the job of special effects technicians to interpret the concepts outlined by film directors and develop them. Often, numerous different specialists will each work on one aspect of the same scene in order to create one seamless image, and it is this team work that Bakshi relishes.
"It's the collaborative spirit that makes the job and stops years being spent on one tiny detail getting too tedious," he says. "I was getting sick of rat hair on Ratatouille, but when I started to see all the different components of the movie coming together, and understood my part in it, it was a thrill."
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