For the movie Rango, director Gore Verbinski turned to ILM to use their extensive visual effects experience and apply it to create an animated feature that looked like no other. His vision was that of hyper realistic characters, warts and all, shot against stark arid landscapes - captured with a raw realism that ensured a classic western cinematic look. For my part I was tasked with supervising the digital matte and environment team. Our mission was to create the movie's vast landscapes and epic vista shots.
The original plan was to approach the exterior landscapes as large scale 2.5D matte painting set ups. However it quickly became clear the needs of the movie were such that full scale 3D environment builds were more appropriate. These environments featured layers of set dressing, procedural terrain shading and 360 degree cycloramas and were rendered using Renderman along with the characters. This gave the story the flexibility it needed to shoot anywhere in a given environment and ensured the characters and sets interacted beautifully.
In addition to supervising the environment effort I also created full 3D sets for several sequences as well as executing some of the one off matte painting shots seen in the movie.
Rango was a huge critical success and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 2012 Oscars.