At last week's GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, Pixar's keynote address included a rare demo of the studio's proprietary animation program, called Presto. Pixar developed the system for the 2012 film Brave, and it has been used for all films in production since, including last year's Monsters University.
In the demo, Pixar engineering lead Dirk Van Gelder walks through Presto's highly interactive environment, which gives animators extraordinary control over character movements. Using Monsters University's James P. "Sulley" Sullivan, Van Gelder highlights one of Presto's biggest advancements from the previous system, which is that it accommodates animation using all of a character's artistic features at high resolutions, including the 900,000 computer-generated hairs that make up Sulley's fur. This allows animators to work with exactly what audiences will see, instead of with stripped-down figures that are artistically enhanced later. It makes the animation more natural and accurate, and cuts down on time by eliminating the need for later corrections.
There's some technical jargon in the presentation, but not so much that non-animators won't enjoy a look inside the Pixar magic.