DMU grad goes behind the scenes at Disney's Pixar ahead of studio's new release


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Flying out to visit Pixar Animation Studios in San Francisco to film exclusive interviews about the making of latest animated feature film Onward has been a ‘dream come true’ for Kieran Chauhan.

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Bipin and Kieran outside the Pixar headquarters in San Francisco 

The English Literature and Film Studies graduate from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is one half of independent production company ImageNova. Together with co-founder Bipin Anand, the pair were invited to document the history of cinematography and animation at Pixar, as well as the making of Onward which is out in cinemas today.

They interviewed cinematographers, animators, and the head of studio and producer of Wall-E Jim Morris, about the technology behind Pixar’s advanced animation and storytelling techniques which have resulted in some of the world’s favourite films.

Leicester-born Kieran said: “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve always wanted to visit Pixar but to collaborate with them on something like this – getting access to their animation studio and meeting their team – is a dream come true.”

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Kieran operating the virtual camera rig on a scene from Onward

Interviewing Adam Habib, Patrick Lin, Sharon Calahan and Kim White (the cinematographers behind Toy Story 3 and 4, The Incredibles, Cars, Up, Inside Out and Onward), revealed how Pixar’s animations are influenced by real-life camera and lighting techniques.

“By using recognised filmmaking techniques and modelling the look of their films on real-life cameras and lenses, Pixar believes that this allows the audience to connect with their stories in the same way that you would with a live action film,” said Kieran.

The opportunity came about as part of ImageNova’s role in producing a YouTube channel for Oscar-winning Cooke Optics – a Leicester-based company that has been manufacturing high quality lenses for the film industry since 1894. Their lenses have been used in the making of classics such as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Birds (1963), as well as modern day masterpieces such as the Harry Potter franchise and Whiplash.

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Bipin filming the Bo Peep canvas inside one of Pixar's studios

ImageNova successfully pitched the idea for Cooke Optics TV to the company in 2014. It now hosts 180 interviews with some of the biggest names in the film industry, and with 81,000 subscribers is one of the most popular channels of its kind.

Producing the channel has seen Kieran and Bipin travel the world to film with cinematographers, camera operators and producers who have worked on blockbusters such as Joker, 12 Years a Slave, The Avengers and Gandhi.

Kieran said: “It’s been a dream project. Cooke Optics commission us to make the films because they see the value in them.

“The experience has been great for our career too as we’ve had the chance to work on film sets and go to various film festivals. It’s enhancing our knowledge of creating feature films and documentaries, which is the direction we’d love to move in.”

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The pair posing with some iconic props

Over the following weeks, ImageNova’s short videos capturing how Pixar’s films master the magic of storytelling and animation will be released on Cooke Optics TV.

Kieran, who graduated from DMU in 2014, credits the university with providing him with a valuable break into the film industry.

“The best thing that came out of my time at DMU was the chance to work as an assistant producer on the feature film Jadoo during my final year,” he said.

“It’s set in Leicester and the production assistant had links to DMU, so she got in touch with one of my lecturers to see if any students wanted the experience. Getting the role was an amazing introduction to the industry and that’s when I first became aware of Cooke Optics.”

Posted on Friday 6th March 2020

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