VFX News – 05/23/12

‘Men In Black 3’ Set To Knock Off Unstoppable ‘Avengers’

(contactmusic.com)             All predictions are that ‘Men In Black 3’ will knock off the hitherto unstoppable ‘Avengers’ from the top spot of the US Box Office charts upon its release this weekend, but what do the critics make of it? It’s been a decade since Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones donned their suits and sunglasses to play alien-fighting agents, has their lustre for the role worn thin over that period? The answers seem to be mixed.

There are plenty of positive reviews to be found; Variety comment “In this age of blockbuster bloat, [director] Sonnenfeld’s willingness to wrap things up well before the two-hour mark, as well as his eschewal of sledgehammer product placement, count as gestures of considerable mercy,” while The Hollywood Reporter writes “It’s hard to imagine it won’t be a hit, and hard to begrudge that success, no matter how saturated we are with comic-book properties and sequels.” There’s plenty of good will in these reviews, though none seem to actually be forthcoming in their praise of the film itself in their summary, with Time Out similarly damning in faint praise.

When the criticisms come, then, they pack a little more punch. Empire says “Despite some good moments, Agents J, O and K are missing an E,” and The Associated Press is even more damning, critiquing “When even the most charismatic actor on the planet can’t fake excitement, you know you’re in trouble,” in reference to Will Smith. So what to expect if you go to the cinema this weekend? Expect it to be busy, we suppose, but don’t expect to enjoy it.

Digital Domain To Ring the New York Stock Exchang Opening Bell

(BUSINESS WIRE) — Digital Domain Media Group DDMG +0.16% , a leading digital production company focused on visual effects, original content animation and major studio co-productions, will celebrate its partnership with the New York Stock Exchange by ringing the Opening Bell at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 29. John Textor, chairman and CEO of Digital Domain Media Group, will preside over the ceremony.

“We have had an exciting six months as a public company and we appreciate the NYSE invitation to celebrate these achievements,” commented Textor. “We have announced partnerships in both China and Abu Dhabi, expanding our global footprint with funding through government grants. We created an entirely new entertainment form when the virtual performance by Tupac Shakur that we created with Dr. Dre for the Coachella Music Festival rocked the music industry. Tradition Studios, our animation studio in Florida, opened in January and began production on our first full-length, family friendly animated feature. Production is also underway on Ender’s Game, our first live-action co-production.”

A live webcast of The Opening Bell (beginning at 9:29 a.m. EDT) will be available on the NYSE website at www.nyse.com

Japan Computer Graphics Lab 1983-1985

(kathykavan.com)                  What’s not to love in these early computer graphics demo reels…

Take a look:                http://kathykavan.com/japan-computer-graphics-lab-1983-1985

Happy 28th Anniversary To ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’

(geeksofdoom.com)             The second film in the famed Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, celebrates its 28th anniversary today! The sequel to one of the biggest action adventure films of all time, 1981’s Raiders of The Lost Ark. The series spawned an iconic hero in Indiana Jones, the confident and sometimes way over his head archeologist of the 1930s, and gave Harrison Ford, already well known as Han Solo in Star Wars, yet another classic character who got to chew the scenery in every scene he was in.

The sequel, which was highly anticipated, was actually really a prequel set in 1935, predating the original film’s story by about a year. A desperate village asks Indiana Jones to find a stone wrapped in mysticism, and once he undergoes the trek to find it, uncovers a cult which practices child slavery, black magic, and ritual human sacrifice (a scene in which a heart is extracted from a living human body was a main catalyst for the creation of the implementing of the MPAA’s PG-13 rating in 1984).

Released to mixed reviews but solid box office in 1984, the film has had a better shelf life since its release originally, although many of the principals involved (director Steven Spielberg among others) still view the film unfavorably in retrospect. India in particular has voiced their opinion about its stereotypical treatment of its people as villains and stereotypes in the film.

Nonetheless, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains a crackerjack adventure film, a still-entertaining grab bag of action, wild ideas, technical invention, and humor. While the film did sport some 2D characters in the guise of Kate Capshaw’s (the future wife of Spielberg) screaming blonde heroine Willie, and Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round (later finding further fame in The Goonies), Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones is always a treat to watch.

So like it or hate it, sophomoric slump or not, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains, after 28 years, an action/adventure yarn which is still remembered by many fans of the series today as another product of the cinema of the 1980s with its fun excess, overblown budgets, and good time popcorn experience. Sounds like the embryonic tones of today’s blockbuster movie styles indeed.

Sony Pictures Imageworks Shepherd Departs Studio

(animationmagazine.net)              Don Levy, the well-respected and tireless senior VP of communications at Sony Pictures Digital, is leaving the company on June 4. Levy, who has been with the studio for 17 years, will be pursuing a new family entertainment project. He will also be a visiting scholar at USC and teach entertainment marketing at Boston University’s L.A. program. Levy first joined the studio in 1995 as an awards campaign consultant.

“I leave Sony Pictures and start this new chapter with the same feelings that informed my decision to join Sony Pictures Imageworks when it was just 40 people and a dream,” says Levy. “I imagined then a future and how the combination of talent and technology would change the way we make movies and the kind of movies we would make. For someone fascinated by technology and the creative sparks it ignites, a front row seat these past years in the Digital Studios, Digital Entertainment and Digital Productions divisions afforded the opportunity to collaborate with extraordinary colleagues across the studio and throughout Sony on both evolutionary and revolutionary projects. What an honor it has been.”

For the majority of its 20-year history, Levy led the marketing and communications efforts for the award-winning vfx studio, Sony Pictures Imageworks, helping it grow both in size and esteem.

Former Pixar publicist veteran Steven Argula has now joined the studio as the new director of public relations for Sony Pictures Imageworks. Arugla worked on every feature from Monsters, Inc. to Brave and was also responsible for publicity initiatives for other Pixar’s theme park attractions, interactive, RenderMan and cruise line. He reports to Becky Chaires, senior VP of marketing for Sony Pictures Digital.

Meanwhile, Olivier Mouroux, a veteran of Disney and DreamWorks Animation, has been promoted to Sony Pictures Animation’s VP of public relations and corporate communications. Mouroux spearheaded the global publicity for Alice in Wonderland, Tangled and Toy Story 3 at Disney and handled production publicity for features such as Shrek 2, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda at DreamWorks.

European Union Moves To Lower Hollywood Tax Incentives

(variety.com)                  The European Union has drafted film funding rules which, if approved, will cut coin for Hollywood productions shooting in Europe and create potential impediments for all co-productions in its member states.

The changes — written in the EU’s Cinema Communcations law — involve a major modification of film subsidies that provide some €3 billion ($3.8 billion) per year.

The news emerged on Saturday at the European Audiovisual Observatory’s annual Cannes event, a packed confab this year titled “Leveling the Playing Field? Towards New European Rules for Film Funding.”

For Hollywood, the most important change is the reduction in “aid intensity” to non-EU productions, due to what bureaucrats in Brussels are calling a subsidy race. This refers to the competition among some European countries that use state aid to attract investments from large-scale, mainly U.S., film companies.

Under the rules being drafted, a $50 million European movie would get up to $25 million in subsidies while a non-Euro pic would only be eligible for up to $11 million. This differentiation does not currently exist.

The U.K.’s film tax credit, for example, delivered a record $320 million to producers in 2011, with the vast majority going to Hollywood movies shot in Blighty, such as Disney’s “John Carter.” France and Germany have also become Hollywood hotspots.

There have been concerns in EU echelons that a race to attract major U.S. productions could undermine funding for smaller European movies.

But Austrian producer Werner Muller, a prominent member of the Intl. Federation of Film Producers’ Assns., dismissed them.

“The only one who sees a competition constraint is the European Commission; not our industry. Where is the problem for the U.K., the German or the French industries in having non-European productions? If these movies don’t shoot in Europe, they will just shoot elsewhere,” he said.

The regs being drafted also envision European countries forcing producers to spend 100% of the aid they get within the country offering the incentives, rather than the current 80%. Producers fear this would kill off several types of co-productions, both European and international, that require greater multi-territory flexibility.

“The Commission seems very concerned about discontinuing the 80% criteria and this is cause for alarm,” said Charlotte Appelgren, head of Cine Regio, which represents 37 European regional film funds.

“What we are looking at are changes in tax schemes and funds that are based on current territorial percentages, and also a regressive scheme for international productions,” lamented Frederic Delcor from the European Film Agency of Directors.

“We have made serious investments relying on the system we have now,” Delcor added, warning that Europe may not be able to maintain its current production levels under the proposed new rules.

The Raw Beauty of Battleship’s Alien Concept Art

The coolest thing about Battleship? The sleek look of its alien spaceships and war machines. Tasked with creating a whole new alien race from scratch, designers who’d worked on Star Trek and The Matrix created some downright beautiful killer starships.

Check out an exclusive first look at the concept art of Battleship, by designer George Hull. We spoke to Hull, and visual effects supervisor Grady Cofer from ILM, about creating alien warships that were like nothing you’ve seen before. You’ll definitely want to click this gorgeous concept art to enlarge and see it at its full resolution.

Take a look:   http://io9.com/5911367/the-raw-beauty-of-battleships-alien-concept-art

Star Wars: The Old Republic Hit with Layoffs

(massively.joystiq.com)               BioWare doctors Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka have posted a blurb on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic website confirming the downsizing of the game’s development team. The update is short on details and long on superlatives relating to the sci-fi MMO’s successful launch, so we’re not sure who was laid off at this point.

The docs say that it’s business as usual going forward for SWTOR and that the game will continue to grow over time. “We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today,” the statement reads.

[Update: SWTOR Community Manager Stephen Reid has today changed his LinkedIn page indicating that his tenure with the studio ended in May 2012, suggesting that he might be one of those affected by these layoffs. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.]

VFX Industry Power Jobs

(hindustantimes.com)                 Creativity, perseverance and the willingness to experiment can fetch you big bucks, if you opt for vocational careers in animation, hospitality and tourism. According to a recent report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and the UK India Business Council, the current capacity for vocational skill training and higher technical education is 3.4 million people per year. By 2020, the demand for newly-trained employees will be at 15 million per year.

According to the Ficci-KPMG 2010 report, the animation and VFX industry has seen an overall growth of 13.6% over 2008 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7% to reach Rs. 46.6 billion by 2014. The industry has seen stupendous growth, thanks to increased consumption of animated content, creation of global IP formats, acceptance of 3D graphics and its internationalisation.

Says Bhavika Chouhan, senior VP — marketing head, MAAC, “Anyone who has ever watched the film credits for an animated movie knows the long list of names that scroll through the screen. It takes many people to create a quality animated film production. Pixar, Dreamworks, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers are some of the top animators in the world. The demand for skilled professionals in animation and related fields is increasing with the proliferation of the application of animation in various sectors.”

Not only are there jobs available in the motion picture industry, there are several other fields where they are valued. Cartoon production, websites and video game manufacturers all use animation artists. These artists may help develop advertising campaigns, television shows and more. There is also the opportunity of freelance work, particularly for web animation.

“There is a significant demand for a highly-skilled and trained workforce that merges technical and artistic capabilities in the field of animation. There are specialised courses for students and professionals in areas of specialisation series such as Max Pro,  compositing and editing etc. Each course includes classroom learning as well as its practical implementation. Students get round-the-clock access to labs to practice what was taught in the classroom, to create projects and build their work portfolio,” says Chouhan.

“The industry has opened up a plethora of opportunities for the skilful aspirants. One can work as a character designer, compositor, digital link and paint artist, key frame animator, 3D modeler, layout artist etc. Once one acquires the knowledge, skill set and the required work experience, one can also start working as an art director, animation director, and creative director,” adds Chouhan. Animators can also experiment with other creative fields that apply multimedia in their operations.

Tata Elxsi – Visual Computing Labs executes its second animation feature Arjun – The Warrior Prince, for Walt Disney Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures

(Business Wire India)                Mumbai, Maharashtra, India : Visual Computing Labs (VCL), a division of Tata Elxsi Ltd and a leading player in the animation and visual effects space announces its association with the animation movie, Arjun – The Warrior Prince, presented by Walt Disney Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures, scheduled to release on 25th May’12. Visual Computing Labs (VCL) created all visual aspects of the film and provided all facets of animation production.

This animated mythological action film is the untold story of Arjun, hero of the Mahabharata. A precocious talent plunged from boyhood and innocence into a murky world of deceit and betrayal, coming of age to become the most powerful warrior of his time. From the dusty plains of Hastinapur to the icy peaks of the Himalayas, Arjun: The Warrior Prince is the story of a man discovering what it takes to be a hero.

VCL has leveraged cutting edge technologies to enhance the complete look and feel of the animated movie. The project was completed in the time frame of 14 months with 70-80 artists working on the creative as well as technical aspects.

“We are proud to be associated with UTV Motion Pictures for this very special and interesting project. This project has given us another opportunity to showcase our expertise in the VFX and animation space to a much wider range of audiences in India and globally. We are confident that we have been able to produce content that will provide viewers a world-class experience that matches international standards.” said Mr. S. Nagarajan, COO, Tata Elxsi- Visual Computing Lab.

Talking about the release of the movie, Mr. Pankaj Khandpur, Creative Director, VCL, Tata Elxsi Ltd. said, “Arjun is arguably one of the finest and richest action based animated movies produced in India. As the movie is about Arjun coming off age as the warrior prince, a lot of our effort went into conceptualizing and planning around each frame and character. I am sure this movie would appeal to a wider audience, who would be able to relate to the story and characters”

Special consideration went into the look and esthetics of the film in order to make it a piece of Art. The movie has some intricate scenes like the chariot race, the fire sequence, Mahabharata scene and the demon sequences which involved a lot of meticulous planning, conceptualizing and art designing at pre production stages. The film requires the use of large scale sets, massive backdrops and close to 20 primary and around 100 secondary characters, keeping in mind its ambitious nature and look. VCL used softwares which are considered as gold standard in animation like Maya, Renderman, Massive (for crowd multiplication) and fume effects (for fire sequences) to achieve the desired result.

Shots of real actors engaged in a sequence depicting war, fight and race were taken as referrals and replicated in animated versions to get a real life look and feel to the scenes. In addition, each frame to showcase the location and surrounding was also executed with painstaking attention to detail. Having the capability to produce such a large scale, rich, action oriented movie, VCL executed this colossal project in record time without compromising on its quality.

Commenting on the project Mr. Arnab Chaudhari, Director of Arjun-The Warriro Prince said “VCL has worked very closely with us for the movie from planning and end-to-end execution. The movie has several exciting scenes such as breathtaking backdrops, chariot races, fire sequences, etc. that come very close to reality in terms of their look and feel.”

ILM Alum Professor Matt Wallin is a Special Effects Master

(masc203.wordpress.com)              To his students, Professor Matt Wallin is just another Comm Arts teacher, educating them on the technology of the future. But in the special effects and feature film industry, Wallin is a legend.

“I started in the Visual Effects industry as an intern at industrial light and magic back before I graduated from film school at San Francisco state university,” said Wallin. “I had always been interested in filmmaking and special effects.  After my internship I began working for Lucasfilm full time and I remained there for the next decade.”

Wallin has worked on over 30 films in his lifetime, ranging from low budget creature features to massive big budget blockbusters, including “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” “Twister,” “King Kong,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2,” “Watchmen,” “I Am Legend,” “Matrix: Reloaded,” “Matrix: Revolutions,” “Hellboy” and “The Mummy”.

“The best part of working in the film industry was the travel and the people. I met my wife working on a movie where she was helping to build sets.  I’ve had the opportunity though the industry to live in New Zealand, Iceland, Vancouver, Japan, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Visual effects for movies is at an all time high. Time magazine quotes Scott Ross, a general manager at ILM, as estimating that VFX is a $1.35 billion industry.

But after years of successful work, Wallin made a bold choice: leaving behind a much sought after job, that many would kill for, in a burgeoning, lucrative and pretty darn cool industry to become: a teacher at VCU.

“My wife, while we met in NYC, is from Virginia and after the birth of our son in 2003 we waited a few years and then moved to Virginia. Teaching seemed the logical choice of a career change of pace so I could focus on being a dad.”

Having never pictured himself involved in academia, Wallin was initially nervous about joining the school. However, he has fit right in to the program, say his colleagues, including Tyler Darden.

“Professor Wallin is a valuable addition to the team, and we hope he stays with us for many years. He’s a smart guy and he’s very popular among the students.”

Senior Eric Mathews, a Comm Arts student, says Wallin is one of his favorite professors.

“He’s been in the field for so long and he has so much experience on big name projects that it really takes your breath away. It makes you a little star struck. But, he’s actually a real down to earth guy and a great teacher.”

Wallin says that his experience has helped prepare him for current job.

“I would absolutely say that working in the industry has made me a better teacher. I think it’s very important for a true research university to actively engage with professionals from related fields and that real life experience is invaluable in imparting knowledge go students. Plus it helps put the often ridiculous infighting in academia in proper perspective.”

The most endearing thing about Wallin is that despite years of being a part of the industry, he’s never become jaded. He’s still just a film geek at heart.

“I’m a big fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien and all the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, in particular Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood…. There are just so many films that I love.”

Hollywood Effects Legend Opens ‘Scary School’ in Ohio

(fox8.com)                 CRESTLINE, Ohio — Nine years ago, Hollywood special effects legend, producer, director and screenwriter Robert Kurtzman, moved his studios, Creature Corps and Precinct 13 Entertainment, to rural Crestline, Ohio.

And now he is starting a new venture in the quiet, cozy community tucked in the middle of the Buckeye State, the Kurtzman Institute of Art.

Kurtzman grew up in Crestline and wanted to raise his children in the same place.

He converted an old bowling alley, where he bowled his first strike into a state of the art studio.

“Everyone said, ‘You’re nuts. You’ll never work outside of Hollywood,’ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” said Kurtzma.

As co-founder of the Oscar and Emmy award-winning K.N.B. Effects group, Kurtzman contributed to some of the most memorable movies of all time.

He’s been part of over 400 films like “Misery,” “Scream,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Spy Kids,” “Evil Dead 2″ and “Reservoir Dogs.”

Since moving to Crestline, he has continued cranking out high-octane hits, music videos and an extensive haunted attractions line for some of the largest amusement parks in the world.

Not bad for kid who grew up watching late night horror host shows and always tried to figure out how they created all of the scary visual effects.

Kurtzman says he loved Fox 8’s own, “Big Chuck & Little John: The Ghoul and Ghoulardi.”

As a young adult he moved to Los Angeles and learned on the job while working with all of his movie idols.

Kurtzman once gave an up-and-coming director and actor named Quentin Tarantino his first paying gig writing the vampire cult classic “From Dusk Til’ Dawn.”

Now he is searching for more talent to attend his art institute, also known as “scary school.”

“We’re looking for artists,” said Kurtzman. “And I don’t care if they weld, if they draw, if they paint or they sculpt, but they do have to show some sort of talent and put some sort of portfolio together.”

The Kurtzman Institute of Art is approved by the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools, but it is so much more than that.

It is a real working movie studio with world-renowned artists as instructors.

Lakewood native, Alan Tuskes, is vice president of the school and Kurtzman’s long-time colleague.

“I’m excited! We have the opportunity to teach people how to do things the right way,” said Tuskes.

Students will learn skills like zombi sculpting, makeup and set design, and CGI,  knowledge that could transfer over into numerous fields.

“From medical prosthesis to toy sculptors to doll makers to taxidermy,” said Kurtzman.

Plus, working studio students will graduate with an impressive resume.

Ten to 15 applicants will be accepted each semester, and Kurtzman himself will review the portfolios and make the selections.

The diploma program will cost about $12,000 a semester.

There are 3 semesters a year at 16 weeks each. The course will be $30,000 a year, because students will need a lot of materials for their projects.

Kurtzman tells Fox 8 News he hopes to have an accredited associates degree program in the future, but his school must be open for a year before they qualify.

He also hopes to expand the course load to include film making, directing and screenwriting courses.

The accreditation would also help with getting financial aid for students.

“Ohio is a great place to be right now,” says Kurtzman,  “Last year, we did three movies; big movies: “Funsize,” “I, Alex Cross” and “Bootrax.”

Kurtzman says if you build a movie industry in Ohio, more films will come … and when they do, we’ll be ready.

“Creating the talent here instead of having to bring people in from other places to actually work on these movies,” Kurtzman said.

Lucas Grady Ranch Fallout Spurs County War on Red Tape

(marinij.com)              The Grady Ranch property is seen in this aerial view looking West over Lucas Valley near San Rafael, Calif. on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Lucas Valley Estates can be seen in the lower right.

Spurred by the dramatic collapse of Lucasfilm’s Grady Ranch studio proposal, Marin officials want to streamline the development review process in order to facilitate projects that are in line with county planning policies.

To do that, county officials are poised to give a citizens committee a broad charter to study everything from reform of state environmental law to making it easier for projects to get permits by cutting red tape.

Rather than assign the job to the county Planning Commission, officials favor creating a committee representing interest groups that can work with a consultant on a program aimed at paving the way for projects in tune with county policies.

County supervisors will convene in an informal “workshop” session at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss ideas about how to make life easier for projects that are in accord with planning policies or that promote public benefits.

A look at development review procedures was pitched by Supervisor Steve Kinsey after Lucasfilm abandoned its Grady Ranch film studio project, prompting county Community Development Agency chief Brian Crawford to recommend a program to “identify and evaluate strategies for facilitating the review of development projects” consistent with county policies.

A “working group” representing an array of special interests and stakeholders guided by a special consultant could focus on efforts “to reduce bureaucracy, achieve a more timely process for reviewing
development proposals, and allow for greater consumer choice and flexibility for permit-related services,” Crawford said in a memo to the county board.

To promote public policy goals, officials could expand a fee reduction program for projects that “promote the countywide plan and targeted industries in Marin,” he said.

Areas of interest include reform of the California Environmental Quality Act, perhaps as part of the county’s annual legislative program, Crawford said. “In addition, county environmental impact review guidelines could be reviewed for potential improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of implementing CEQA,” he said.

He noted permit process improvements could maximize flexibility in permit options — including permits issued based on inspection of digital images, rather than on-site visits.

Crawford recommended that supervisors consider establishing an advisory committee composed of “key interests,” including representatives of a community advisory organization, “social equity,” the building industry, Planning Commission, an environmental organization, “sustainability,” business, affordable housing and an architect-engineer, according to the memorandum. He urged a consultant be retained to manage the panel.

The plan to ease the way for projects that meet planning guidelines or promote public benefits follows the withdrawal of plans by billionaire George Lucas for a studio complex at Grady Ranch. The project was approved by the county in 1996, then scaled back by Lucas and resubmitted for review. It would have created hundreds of local jobs and generated millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Once the application was deemed complete, a process that took more than a year, the project was put on a fast track for environmental and county review, and won unanimous support from the Planning Commission Feb. 27. Lucasfilm consultants sought to expedite review by other regulators, but state and federal agencies demanded revision of a creek restoration plan. No one told the county about the creek issue until the county board was scheduled to approve the project, forcing supervisors to delay action April 3, when a lawyer for neighbors warned that procedural violations related to the evolving creek plan established firm ground for a lawsuit.

Lucasfilm, concerned that neighbors would sue, pulled the plug on April 4, noting litigation could delay construction for years.

As stunned officials pleaded with Lucas to reconsider and pledged to mount a vigorous legal fight, San Rafael-area Supervisor Susan Adams stepped from the sidelines to join colleague Steve Kinsey in quarterbacking a “hail Mary” effort to woo Lucas back. The two supervisors met with regulators April 18 to resolve creek issues and announced permits could be issued by June 15. But Lucas said the game was over, and is now working with the Marin Community Foundation to study affordable housing at the site.

Nona Dennis of the Marin Conservation League, a veteran environmental watchdog who said neighbors had legitimate complaints about how the Lucas project was handled, noted Crawford’s plan for a panel to analyze procedures is apparently “fall-out” from the saga. But easing regulations was not the issue at Grady Ranch, “where coordination and communication should have been the operative terms, not streamlining,” she said. “CEQA was not the problem.”

“Where water and wetland resources are involved, (Marin Conservation League) will strongly defend the technical expertise brought by the state and federal permitting agencies,” Dennis said. She noted regulatory agencies “are committed by law to protect public trust resources … but they also work with applicants to improve projects.” The Sir Francis Drake Boulevard rehabilitation project in West Marin, for example, was substantially improved by outside regulatory agencies.

Supervisors Adams and Kinsey welcomed the plan to study planning and permit procedures.

Supervisors must “take an active leadership role in improving the process for moving key projects which have countywide significance,” Adams said. “The answer is not to eliminate CEQA, but rather re-evaluate what is working and what isn’t and implementing rational changes.” The county must also focus on “improving the process and coordination with the myriad of regulatory agencies and finding solutions to halting spurious lawsuits,” she said.

Kinsey said Lucasfilm’s “decision to call it quits on the Grady Ranch galvanized our board’s determination to better support projects that are consistent with our countywide plan goals. While the demise of Grady has put our approval process in the spotlight, the Board of Supervisors has been working on this issue for several years, with some success.

“This next step is intended to benefit every applicant, from homeowner to the largest business, who presents a proposal that reflects our established guidelines.”

SIGGRAPH Video Previews Latest Computer Graphics Tech

(geek.com)                  If you want to see the cutting edge in games technology then you go to the Game Developers Conference. However, if you are interested purely in computer graphics, then the place to be is SIGGRAPH.

SIGGRAPH is held every August and consists of a conference and exhibition run over the course of 5 days. 20,000+ computer graphics professionals attend to present and discuss their work, and there’s always a few “wow” moments. One area that always impresses is the Technical Papers, which are presented during the show, but the video above gives a preview of where graphics research is bearing fruit.

Each of the examples in the video already looks useful in the right context. For example, the Stroke Stylization could make better sketchers out of all of us on the iPad. The Contact-Invariant Optimization could find its way into a game helping AI characters to navigate complex terrain. And the object sketch searching and shape retrieval is surely going to interest a search-focused company like Google.

I’m not too sure the bubble interaction in liquid foam looks totally realistic, but the ghost particles for realistic cohesion and underwater rigid body dynamics certainly do.

My favorite of the bunch has to be the “coupled 3D reconstruction of sparse facial hair and skin.” Could it be that next-gen facial capture for games needs actors to actually have the beard or moustache their characters require will sport? If it leads to better capture data and animation then you can bet game developers will insist on it.

These are just a few examples of the research being demonstrated during SIGGRAPH this year. If you’re lucky enough to be attending let us know what other impressive graphics technology is on show.

Take a look:            http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/siggraph-video-previews-latest-computer-graphics-tech-20120522/

Joss Whedon Unsure About Returning to Direct “Avengers” Sequel

(bigshinyrobot.com)                 Okay, no need to panic yet, but despite being a $1 Billion+ success in the box office and receiving high praise all across the board, Joss Whedon is “torn” about returning for another go with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

“You know, I’m very torn,” Whedon said in a sit-down interview in Beverly Hills before the film’s U.S. opening. “It’s an enormous amount of work telling what is ultimately somebody else’s story, even though I feel like I did get to put myself into it. But at the same time, I have a bunch of ideas, and they all seem really cool.”

[LA Times, Hero Complex]

I mentioned on the latest Big Shiny Podcast that my excitement level for an Avengers sequel is going to be directly tied to whether or not Joss Whedon directs it. Are there other capable directors out there that could take on such a film? Sure. But Whedon has set the bar so damn high, the only person I could envision once again meeting this level of awesome, or even exceeding it, is Joss Whedon.

That said, we are still at least three years away from a sequel to The Avengers, and the film has only been out in the states for two weeks with many fans returning for second, third and fourth viewings. The excitement is still there so it may be too soon to start talking – or worrying – about what will come in the sequel. Not to mention we have a ton of Marvel movies coming at us between now and then with Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Captain America 2 all ready to get rolling.

So, yes, the mere thought of Joss Whedon not coming back to direct the sequel to The Avengers is a sad one. But for right now lets continue to enjoy the Avengers movie he has given us, in all its glory! I think I may have enjoyed The Avengers even more on my second viewing than the first, and I plan to see it at least one more time before it leaves theaters. I’m sure as we move forward over the next few years, Whedon will have a better idea if he would like to return to direct a sequel, but I’m guessing for right now he is probably still reeling from the monster success of this first Avengers film and Summer of 2015 is pretty far off in his mind.

‘Star Wars’ 35th Anniversary Coming This Friday

(moviesblog.mtv.com)                   Thirty-five years ago this week, on the 25th of May, 1977, something pretty big happened. At the time, no one knew just how big the thing was. Because on that day, a new movie called “Star Wars” opened in just a few theaters across the country. I think you know what happened next.

So this Friday, May 25th, why not do something to celebrate the anniversary of the event that brought us all so much joy?