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Tricks of the 3-D trade: ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’

Sony animators find tasteful way to draw food

Animators know to beware the “uncanny valley,” where characters are too realistic to be “cartoony” but not lifelike enough to be appealing.

As Sony Imageworks learned on “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” food also has an uncanny valley — no small problem in a movie where food will fall from the sky like rain.

“All of us have a real good idea when you look at a steak or fruit whether you should eat it or not,” says vfx supervisor Rob Bredow. A “painted-on” shine on food might look fine in 2-D but gross in 3-D stereo.

Bredow feels filmmakers are just realizing how 3-D can be used for storytelling, such as by changing the roundness of the characters.

“When you play (characters) flatter, they don’t look as impressive. When you play them deeper, they look a lot more impressive.”