Watch A Rare Demo of Pixar’s Animation System Presto

This is a rare demo of Pixar’s proprietary animation system called Presto. The program was written originally for Brave and is being used on all of the studio’s upcoming films. It offers animators a deep level of control within a real-time, interactive environment. The talk is a subset of Pixar’s keynote at last week’s GPU Technology Conference, which you can watch here in its entirety.


  • megadrivesonic

    this reminds me of valves source filmaker

    • gamerman12

      I’m a total nut for the Source Filmmaker. Even though it’s got forward rendering and a closed shader system, I still love using it. But Jesus Christ… when I saw this video, I was like “This does everything positive the Source Filmmaker does… 10x over!” and I got super jealous. Real-time displays and the wonderful motion editor (or Pixar’s equivalent) are one thing, but when you add on OpenSubDiv, proper Shader Support, Hair and Dynamics, and Raytracing, SFM becomes just another beginners toy. Thankfully this tool isn’t publicly released, or else I would’ve switched to it in a heartbeat.

  • IamSam

    I want the software!

  • Crispy Walker

    Looks like lots of fun — but the dude might as well have been speaking Chinese to me. It is amazing that they can see all that stuff in such high resolution without any lagging.

    • jmahon

      simply put, there are 2 parts to displaying graphics on your monitor. The old fashioned way did all the calculations- and there are a LOT- on the computer’s CPU, which was bad and laggy because the actual computer needs that CPU to do it’s own work. Then, GPUs came about, which are CPUs on a separate card inside of your tower that’s ‘plugged in’ to your computer’s motherboard. These Graphic CPUs(GPU) were developed to be ultra super fast, and some are so intense that they need their own fans to cool themselves down, it’s crazy.

      In the end, combined with the well-made software they have, they’ve engineered it so that all the calculations needed to display Sulley and his fur on the screen happen on that card’s GPU, which goes right straight to your monitor, and not screw around in the computer’s CPU. GPUs just get better and better and better, and faster and faster.

      It’s like, if you lived in a coastal city, had a fish processing plant, you COULD ship all the fish that was caught across the country and process them far away, then send it back and sell it, but that’s ridiculous- why not build a processing plant that’s right where you plan to sell it? All the fish go through that plant and straight to the restaurants without having to ever leave the city, you can get fresh fish on the same day! instead of waiting a week for it to go all the way to some obscure packing plant and back which takes soooo long. You need that fish now, and you need it fresh. This new system Pixar is talking about in this video is basically “we’ve got a great ford-like conveyor belt assembly system, that can take 16 million fish out of the ocean, and put them on 16 million plates, in one hour! bam!”

      • Vmonk

        I’m sorry, but you have aboslutely no idea what you are talking about.

        • Yancy

          Well I guess since JMahon gave a detailed explanation that seems correct on how the system works while you rebutted with a a single sentence and nothing more, you must be the right one in this scenario!

        • jmahon

          well would you like me to bust out my A+ cert, or explain in simpler more easy-to-digest terms that get the general idea across well enough to explain why it’s a big deal?

      • Funkybat

        I’m always sort of amazed more artists don’t “get” the overarching concepts of what is going on with 3D animation software and rendering. I’m a 2D guy, I’ve animated in 3D but it isn’t my main medium. I can’t rig to save my life and have only done some very basic modeling before. But I understood the basic ideas being expressed in the video. Maybe it’s from being something of a computer geek, but the simple concept of a CPU, GPU, polygons or texture mapping are not baffling to me. Ask me to IMPLEMENT any such things, and you’re out of luck. But just as I can understand conceptually how a nuclear reactor creates power, or how a heart surgeon repairs a heart, that doesn’t mean I can build or do such things.

        Really, a simple proficiency on a layman’s level as to what is happening and why with these digital simulation tools shouldn’t be that difficult for anyone under the age of 50 these days. If you never touched a computer before you were an adult, I might understand it, but most of the artists I know have been dabbling with computers, Photoshop and video games since the days of Nintendo and Windows 3.1, or were raised with later generations of such things.

        Demos like this are like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos; concepts beyond normal people’s understanding, broken down to a level most intelligent people should be able to grasp.

  • Taco

    Don’t the actual Pixar animators still just call it “Menv”? While in any publicity presentation or article about Pixar they always go out of their way to call it either “Marionette” or now “Presto”. I mean, it’s all very interesting, but ‘a rose by any other name is still a rose’ right?

    • gamerman12

      Marionette was the first generation system, built for Toy Story and built upon over the generations. Presto/Menv is the next tool they built apparently from the ground up.

  • HelloMM

    I miss the days when animatorsa had to actually draw each frame, ya know like actual ARTISTS. wheres the talent in “point n click”?

    • William Bradford

      As a guy who has and does do both kinds: CG is TOUGH. You might have to draw each frame in Hand drawn, but the drawing DOES what you WANT, a CG puppet takes a LOT of noodling to look good at all. Really, it’s like saying all hand drawn animators have to do is “Press and drag”. Besides, animation and drawing are not the same thing: it’s the MOVEMENT and the feel and the performance where the real knack of animation lies, and you need just as much talent to animate somthing well in CG as you do in hand drawn. You might not need to be able to DRAW well to be a good CG animator (it can help though), but you do need the same artistic sensibility.

    • Panda Polygon

      Must…resist…trollbait

    • Myst AnimatorX

      It’s where the JOBS are. You can be bitter or you can adapt

    • jmahon

      ugh, you’re so right- just like those stop motion people, they use these little puppets that have little metal skeletons instead of just animating actual clay. Nobody uses actual clay anymore, it’s pathetic! Look at them with their little plastic faces and actual cotton clothing. Where’s the talent? Where’s the artistry? They even composite them later in COMPUTERS. It’s disgusting, why even bother?

  • http://mattdeanart.com Matt Dean

    Fascinating. I always love hearing about proprietary software the pros use to animating their films, but it’s not every day you get a front row seat to see it in action! Makes me want to get into CG animation a little more.

  • Strong Enough

    I thought they used marionette

  • Aaron R.R.R. Nance

    Fantastic stuff.

  • Bob

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  • jmahon

    I was kidding around- the joke being that any person can get an A+ cert and that what I was saying is just nerdy extra information…

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish here or what you’re even contributing, making a jab at me 2 months after the fact, either