My Vancouver – Then & Now: Farhez Rayani

Farhez Reyani, Lighting Director, Pixar Animation Studios | Photo Credit and Clips courtesy of Disney•Pixar.

Farhez Rayani, Lighting Director, Pixar Animation Studios |
Photo Credit and Clips courtesy of Disney•Pixar.

My Vancouver Then & Now Series – Introduction

As one of the most desirable cities in the world in which to live, Vancouver has played a pivotal role in the destinies of many athletes, performers and creative minds.  Whether as a stepping stone at the beginning of their long careers (Academy Award –winner Jim Erickson); a safe harbour for immigrants to start again (Prima Ballerina, Chan Hon Goh ) or reaching the pinnacle of their life’s work here ( NHL’s ‘Captain Canuck’, Trevor Linden, ) the celebrated personalities of this new Inside Vancouver Series by Laura Goldstein, all have one thing in common:  MY VANCOUVER THEN & NOW is immeasurably in their hearts.

Farhez Rayani

Majoring in ‘scaring children’ at Monsters University never occurred to Kenyan-born Farhez Rayani as a specialty when attending Simon Fraser University in computer engineering and later Emily Carr studying animation in the ‘90s. Even as a 6-year-old computer wiz kid in Vancouver and obsessed with drawing and creating flip-books as early as grade one, the seeds of his future career were irrevocably sown.

As a Digital Lighting Director at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California, near San Francisco, Rayani, 36, admits that although he always loved drawing, designing lighting effects is his true passion.  “As soon as I graduated, I worked for Alias/Wavefront (now Autodesk) in Vancouver for 5 years. They created a package called Maya, which is a 3D animation program that the entire industry uses. Alias was always into lighting technology and that’s where I really began to specialize.”

With stints in Australia working on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Superman Returns for Rising Sun Pictures, Rayani was hired by Pixar in 2008.  Since then he has worked on such recent box office hits as Up, Happy Feet, Toy Story 3, and Brave.

“For Monsters University we developed a new illumination technique on top of Pixar’s state-of-the-art software RenderMan that allows us to more easily create hundreds of realistic lighting effects in half the time,” explains Rayani.  “I’m given a guide of sequences by the Director, Art Director and Director of Photography to create mood, emotions, etc. Think painting in layers. It’s so realistic that a lot of people thought we shot in live action then animated on top of that but it’s completely virtual! The lighting for Monsters University took almost a year and a half to create and 7 months for Blue Umbrella.” (that’s the short that appears prior to the feature with Rayani’s incredibly lit rain effects.) There are literally hundreds of lighting effects in each film.  I was so lucky to work on both.”

“Vancouver has become a major city for home-grown computer animation talent or for U.S. and International companies to set up shop there, acknowledges Rayani. “Pixar has a studio in Vancouver where they specialize in short films that support our movies. I think that VFS (Vancouver Film School) has gained huge credentials in the quality of their work that they produce and the grads that are coming from there and from Emily Carr have a great reputation.”

With his daughter in tow, Rayani tries to visit his large extended family in Vancouver at least once a year. “Vancouver is so beautiful and we try to go boating around English Bay, biking and hiking. I also like to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens, Museum of Anthropology at UBC and Queen Elizabeth Park. I’m afraid living in California has softened me about skiing but my daughter loves the snow at Grouse Mountain.”

“Eating is very important to us,” he laughs, “and we love seafood. Our family favourites are Original Tandoori 7215 Main St., and Jambo Grill on Kingsway, for African food.”

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