VFX: An Industry Worth Staying In

VFX: An Industry Worth Staying In? –  “Inside VFX” Book Review

(insidevfx.com)                 Pierre Grage’s book “Inside VFX” is an informative read looking at the visual effects industry from its earliest days up until today. If you want a look into the rich history and the many industry pressures found in today’s Hollywood VFX industry this is the book for you.

As an industry professional myself, and having garnered interest to pursue a career in this field due
to some of the work mentioned in Grage’s book, I was interested to read about the possible economic forces at play in an industry that has been facing financial difficulty and a race to the bottom.

Grage provides many cited sources and graphs showing Hollywood trends over time, and his book is well researched and insightful on the politics that play into the financial aspects of the industry. I felt he really hit the mark when discussing how tax incentives have affected the globalization of the VFX community’s workforce, why Hollywood chases these subsidies follows them around the world.

The book portrays a dire situation with a grim outlook,
but I found the solutions lacking. I can only assume Grage feels the same way as a principle reason behind the book seems to be whether VFX is an industry worth him staying in. He is also under the assumption that the VFX companies hate their artists. While I find that a bit of a stretch, I do agree that we, as VFX employees, are a commodity. And yes, I AM going to call us employees even though many workers are freelance and on short term contracts. So often are we taken advantage of and have to pay the price for bad VFX business practices like fixed bidding with endless client corrections, you have to wonder… did they forget that we are human? Yeah that dinner they provided us with is nice, but I don’t want to be eating it at work five nights a week and miss out on seeing my family, and I need sleep to make quality changes effectively.

Someone should show the visual effects industry the charts on lost productivity with increased hours. They actually get a worse product and lose money, while also getting burnt out and tired employees.


This is also where I felt Grage missed a great opportunity in this book. I really feel like this book left the humanity of the workers out, rather as many VFX companies miss the humanity behind their great productions. He briefly mentions the turmoil some employees face, but could have gone much further in expressing this. He does provide an extensive chapter on mental health issues, which he feels a lot of people in the industry seem to have (mainly being sociopaths and having Asperger’s). While I think it’s an interesting idea, I can’t say that I’ve felt the same way. Despite the “Hollywood glamour” which Grage seems to think lures sociopaths in, I do wonder why he feels there are more sociopaths in VFX than in other jobs? I would think there’d be just as many/few in any organisation.

If instead we had seen what I feel is the actual humanity behind VFX we might hear stories of workers whose contracts get cut short in foreign countries and are forced to suddenly sell everything and move back to Forces of capitalism: Avatar, one of the many VFX-heavy films on which Pierre Grage worked their home countries, finding themselves without jobs and losing their deposits on flats. Or maybe we might have heard about those who waited at home over a weekend when the news broke that Rhythm and Hues was going under, to find out if they weren’t going to get paid or have a job to show up to on Monday. We might hear about the men and women who don’t put their children to sleep or maybe don’t even live in the same countries. If we could have heard their real stories maybe it would really explain to people what it feels like to be in the trenches working long hours to finish a blockbuster and the abysmal outlook and hopelessness many employees feel for future and longterm job stability in an industry they have given so much to.

Grage mentions BECTU’s work reporting this human side of the industry, quoting: “77% of people knew someone who had recently left the industry over workloads, overtime and poor working conditions; 81% of people have felt pressured or bullied into working overtime for free on films; 83% of people said it was difficult, or very difficult, to raise a family while working in VFX.”

I think that sums up a little of where we are today in the industry. Grage’s ideas for the future are to take a long hard look and think about if this is the right industry to work in and the whole industry needs a reboot and maybe some new technology much like stereo 3-d helped to boost sales. He suggests it may come from oculus rift, but cautions the reader that the vFX studios would be happy to replace us with computer algorithms and low-wage workers who wouldn’t need the knowledge to produce great results.

Overall I would recommend reading Pierre Grage’s Inside VFX. It’s a good look into the history and economics of Hollywood’s relationship with VFX. As for my opinion on the future, let’s just say I think a united front with collective bargaining would help immensely, especially in the case of long hours. While Grage touches on this, it’s not his solution.

Just remember, it’s not just BECTU we will need to rely on to help achieve changes in workers’ rights and compensations, it’s you. You are the union. You will make the difference to change BECTU’s survey results on hours and poor working conditions. Are you ready to step up to the plate? I’m in, are you?

“War of the Planet of the Apes” Swings Ahead

East Los High’s Gabriel Chavarria has signed on for War of the Planet of the Apes

Following the announcement earlier today that 20th Century Fox has wrapped principal photography on both X-Men Apocalypse and Independence Day Resurgence, Deadline brings word that the studio is also moving forward with casting on their 2017 franchise feature, Matt Reeves’ War of the Planet of the Apes. According to the outlet, the sci-fi sequel has hired “East Los High” star Gabriel Chavarria. He’ll be playing one of two key human roles.

“I know that part of the desire for Matt [Reeves] to do this next movie is about continuing the enjoyment of seeing these apes evolve. So I don’t think we’re going to see a situation where we’re jumping [ahead in time],” series star Andy Serkis said of the film last year. “…It might be three films, It could be four. It could be five. Who knows? But the journey will continue. It might not necessarily be summarized or completely fulfilled in this next one. The point being, eventually we know that we’re going to end up back at ‘The Planet of the Apes,’ but whether it’s this film or not, I don’t know.”

Reeves, who directed last year’s Dawn, will return for the sequel, the script for which he is co-writing with Mark Bomback.

“The notion of what we’re after with the third is to sort of continue that trajectory and see how he becomes a seminal figure in ape history,” Reeves previously told us. “He almost becomes sort of like an ape Moses. A mythic status… We’re trying to play out those themes and continue to sort of explore it in this universe. Exploring human nature under the guise of apes.”

Gabriel Chavarria, who also recently appeared on NBC’s ‘Aquarius,” can be seen coming up in Ricardo de Montreuil’s Lowriders, starring opposite Melissa Benoist, Demian Bichir and Eva Longoria.


Disney Previews Iron Man Experience Ride

(variety.com)          Bob Bacon, Paramount Animation’s executive VP, production, is leaving the studio and his position will be eliminated.

Bacon had been at Paramount for just under four years. He had previously been a producer and consultant, after having been an executive VP at Walt Disney Feature Animation from 1991 to 2006.
n chief at a major with both live-action and animation responsibilities — Warner’s Steve Papazian, for one, also oversees animation production.

Paramount Animation, the studio’s animation division, was created after the studio released “Rango” and ended its relationship with DreamWorks Animation. It released its first feature, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” in February 2015. Its slate includes “Monster Trucks,” and it recently struck an alliance with Ilion Animation Studios of Spain, which will handle production on a tentpole film with IP created at Paramount. Both pics are scheduled for release in 2016.

VIDEO – Take a look:   http://bamsmackpow.com/2015/08/16/d23-expo-2015-disney-previews-iron-man-experience-ride/

Production Wraps on Suicide Squad Movie

(comingsoon.net)       Filming has wrapped on the Suicide Squad movie

Following in the foot steps of Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Independence Day Resurgence, production has wrapped on Warner Bros.’ upcoming Suicide Squad movie. CTV News put together a story about co-stars Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney visiting a local girl’s lemonade stand, perhaps the nicest thing that members of Task Force X have ever done. The station revealed the pair were on their way to the wrap party for the film afterwards. You can check out the video below.

Suicide Squad stars Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness, Focus) as Deadshot, Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop, Easy Money) as Rick Flagg, Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney (Divergent, The Water Diviner) as Captain Boomerang, Cara Delevingne (Anna Karenina, upcoming Pan) as Enchantress, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez as El DIablo, Adam Beach as Slipknot, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Jared Leto as the Joker. There’s also mystery roles for Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Raymond Olubowale, Alex Meraz, Jim Parrack, and Common.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru back in 1959, the Suicide Squad team has included countless DC villains among its ranks, including Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Bane, Killer Frost, Poison Ivy, Count Vertigo, Deathstroke, and Harley Quinn. The CW’s “Arrow” introduced their own version of the team in the most recent season of the series and the recent animated film, Batman: Assault on Arkham, offered another version of the team.

Suicide Squad will debut in theaters on August 5, 2016.

Academy Considers 20 Sci-Tech Achievements

(animationmagazine.net)               The Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that 20 scientific and technical achievements, involving 11 distinct investigations, have been selected for further consideration for 2015 Academy Awards. The list is made public to allow individuals and companies with similar devices or claims of prior art the opportunity to submit achievements for review. The deadline to submit additional entries is Tuesday, September 1, at 5 p.m. PT.

A remote-controlled lens attachment that enables highly adjustable in-camera
distortion effects. Prompted by Squishy Lens (Clairmont Camera)

A remote-controlled lens attachment that allows viewable, easily manipulated, real-time image movement without displacing the camera. Prompted by Image Shaker (Clairmont Camera)

Portable, inflatable panels for on-location motion picture production. Prompted by Inflatable Airwall (Aircover Inflatables)

Displays that provide P3 color space for image review in motion picture workflows. Prompted by Dolby Laboratories model PRM-4200 Professional Reference Color Monitor (Dolby Laboratories)

Tools that are used for the creation and quality control of DCI compliant digital cinema packages for the motion picture industry. Prompted by easyDCP Software Suite (Fraunhofer IIS)

Rig-based solvers for tracking and animating deforming objects from image sequences. Prompted by Geometry Tracker (ILM) and FACETS – Directable Facial Motion Capture (Weta Digital)

Integrated computer solutions for collaborative, iterative review of cinema resolution shots and sequences within the visual effects and animation studio environment. Prompted by RV Media Player (Tweak Software)

Clip – A Comprehensive Playback, Editing and Review Suite (Double Negative)

DreamWorks Animation Media Review Ecosystem (DreamWorks Animation)

FrameCycler (IRIDAS)

Global DDR (Rhythm & Hues)

HiDef – Media Review System (Weta Digital)

Itview Collaborative Review System (Sony Pictures Imageworks)

WDAS Collaborative Enhanceable Image Playback and Review Systems (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Large-scale, massively parallel, distributed, multi-physics simulation systems. Prompted by Odin: A massively parallel simulation environment (Weta Digital)

Image compression coding and parameters that adhere to the specifications for the theatrical release of motion pictures. Prompted by JPEG 2000 Digital Cinema and IMF Profiles (Fraunhofer IIS)

3D texture paint systems capable of dealing with large texture sets for production assets. Prompted by MARI (The Foundry)

Rule-based frameworks for the art-directable creation of computer-generated structures and urban environments. Prompted by CityEngine (Esri R&D Center Zurich)

After thorough investigations are conducted in each of the technology categories, the committee will meet in early December to vote on recommendations to the Academy’s Board of Governors, which will make the final awards decisions. The 2015 Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented on Saturday, February 13, 2016.

Visual Effects Society Demo Material Guidelines

(visualeffectssociety.com)                  Overview

From the earliest beginnings of our industry, compilation or “demo” reels as they are known in the industry have been the standard vehicle that artists and facilities use to promote and market their skills and services.  With the proliferation of online distribution and digital media formats, and concerns for security, this industry standard practice has been challenged for a myriad of legitimate reasons. However, the practices and policies implemented to date have become inconsistent among producers, studios and production companies.  This, in turn, has negatively impacted visual effects practitioners who are increasingly denied access to their work while trying to survive in a highly competitive and global marketplace.

As stated in the Visual Effects Society’s VFX Bill of Rights, the Society upholds the concept of Portfolio Rights.  More specifically, we recognize the right of artists and facilities to show work that they have contributed to in order to seek and gain employment in the field.

Using work from a project on a demo reel may seem a logical and even moral right, but it is critical to acknowledge this is an arena fraught with complexity that can result in legal action and even criminal proceedings if mishandled.  Copyright law can be a delicate arena to navigate.  Thus the VES makes the following recommendations on how materials are handled, both at the facility and the artist level.

General Guideline:  As a rule, any work-for-hire material presented as part of a demo reel portfolio must be shown in a private, non-commercial format. It should be presented only after public release of the work, and done in a manner that does not interfere whatsoever with the copyright holder’s ability to promote and exploit their own work for commercial gain as set forth in the practices stated below.

Guidelines For VFX Facilities

1. Contract Clause:  It is in your best interest to negotiate the right to use project material for your demo (as well as the right for your artists’ use) as part of your initial contract with the studio or producers. This is often a complex negotiation and not always approved, but it should always be attempted.

2. No Use Before General Market Release:  Never allow footage from a media project to be used in any format before the project is commercially released in the United States. This is the most sensitive time for the distributor, where a single image might impact the ability to market the project. Any release of information during post-production can expose the facility to the risk of litigation. Direct requests for pre-release materials by the studio or producers for purposes such as public relations, test screenings or toy design, are, of course, appropriate.

3. Images from Released Version Only:  When including imagery in your demo reel, only use shots that appear in the released version of the movie. Do not publicly release shots that were cut from the final project or use alternate takes that you may prefer unless specific permission has been granted.

4. Actor Approvals:  Be aware actors often have clauses in their contracts that give them final approval over how and when their images are used. The company should seek permission from the studios in these cases.

5. Plates:  Do not release original plates in any form without the express written consent of the studio or distributor.

6. Utilize PR Channels for Public Usage: Whenever possible, utilize a publicist or public relations firm to obtain permission for use of materials in a public forum, such as industry presentations, promotional events or any other widely-viewed format or venue.  Following the film’s release, the studio’s marketing department will continue to carefully manage information to best promote the movie. Unapproved materials can impact carefully laid plans and thus harm your relationship with the producer or studio. A well-connected public relations firm or publicist will know the proper communication channels to utilize in order to receive permission. Under no circumstances should you publicly show any “making-of” material, shot builds or any information that reveals the “secrets” of the film without studio permission.

7. Third Party Usage: While it may not ultimately be your responsibility to obtain permission for an outside group (media, educational group, news program, etc.) to use your demo reel or to display your work, permission should nonetheless be sought by either you, the third party who executed the work, or the organization that seeks to present the materials.

8. Provide Only Shots in Release:  Unless otherwise negotiated, only provide shots to artists that: 1) have appeared in a theatrical or mass-market promotional trailer or 2) have been released as into the home video market (DVD, Blu-Ray or On-Demand format).

9. Footage Request Forms: When providing information to artists, determine a company policy and create a form that allows an artist to request a “reasonable” number of shots. The form should require the show supervisor confirm the artist worked on “significant elements” in the requested shot.

10. Provided Footage: When providing shots to artists, always include the company logo “bug” or other on-screen ID.  Establish a standard delivery format for the artist. For example, you can provide HD Quick Times in a specific compression. Make this part of your employee manual so the procedure is clear to all employees.

Guidelines For Artists

1. Deal Memo Clause: Much like a facility, you should attempt to negotiate the use of shots you’ve contributed to for self-promotional purpose at the time you negotiate your deal memo. It may not be possible to put this in writing, but making it clear you are thinking of this prior to the start of the project is good practice.

2. Wait for General Market Release:  Never use footage from a media project in any format before the general market release of the project.  This includes the home video market (DVD, Blu-Ray or in an On-Demand format) for theatrical film projects or the mass-market television or internet release of other media projects by the copyright holder.

3. Plates, Intermediate Materials & Builds: Never use original plates or other non-final material in any form without the express consent of the visual effects production company, or distributor  Any “builds” or shot breakdowns that utilize intermediate materials to demonstrate how a shot was executed should be approved by the facility or copyright holder and should be properly credited as work contributed to create the shot.

4. Images from Released Version Only: When including imagery in your demo reel, only use shots that appear in the released version of the media project. Do not publicly release shots that were cut from the final movie or use alternate take that you prefer.

5. Actor Approval:  Artists should be aware that lead actors in film and television projects will normally have clauses in their contracts that give them final approval over how their images are used.  Any unauthorized use of an actor’s image by an individual artist could result in legal action or industry blacklisting of both the visual effects company and the individual artist.  Never show camera original plates (“before” portion of a before/after comparison) of a lead actor without the express written consent of the copyright holder or visual effects company.

6. Theatrical Trailer Shots: If you worked on material that has been released in a theatrical or mass-market promotional trailer, it is generally considered acceptable to use those shots in your demo.

7. Social Media: A demo reel is a professional tool to help you market your skills for future employment.  It should not be intended for public consumption. Avoid unwanted and unnecessary exposure on public forums and social media sites.

8. Third-Party Websites: Do not provide your demo reel to any other websites. If you receive a request to show parts of your demo reel, refer the requester to the studio’s or VFX facility’s marketing departments or publicists for their own approval.

9. Breakdowns: Always provide a reel breakdown in text or pdf format on your website. It’s important to explain to a viewer what you did on every shot.

10. Proper Credit:  Give credit where credit is due. In your reel breakdown, identify the work you did, and the work you didn’t do. Thank the VFX facilities and/or studios, and acknowledge the copyright owner for the material (i.e. “copyright Paramount Pictures”), preferably as a small watermark on the shot.

11. Private Viewing Format & Security: When possible, show your demo reel on a portable device and do not leave it behind. If posting the materials on your own website or a video sharing website (such as Vimeo), always use password protection. Passwords should then only be provided on a one-to-one basis to potential employers.  This will enhance security and limit the ways you might be exposed to legal consequences.

For both facilities and artists, it is always best to be cautious, as well as honest, about your use of copyrighted material. Though there are no clear cut rules on these matters, the more that you can show you are being responsible with the material, the less likely you will offend someone. By following the rules above, and basic common sense, you should be able to safely present your work to potential employers and clients.

Source:     https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/post/visual-effects-society-demo-material-guidelines

Watch the Peanuts Kids Scream About the CGI Peanuts Movie

(vulture.com)            In the past decade, an insidious force has crept its way into the lives of America’s youth: CGI cartoons. It only used to appear in the occasional TV show (remember ReBoot?) and movie (the less said about The Polar Express, the better). Now it’s everywhere in children’s programming.

But CGI has finally gone too far: This fall, the beloved characters of Peanuts are being tossed into the Uncanny Valley of computer-generated cartooning. The trailer for The Peanuts Movie is disorienting and disturbing for anyone who loves the timeless Charlie Brown masterpieces of yore. It was too much to bear. In the latest “Vulture Remix,” video artists Diane Bullock and Mike Schuster force the beloved hand-drawn tykes of Peanuts to see what’s been done in their name. The results aren’t pretty.

Tune in Mondays for more Vulture Remixes, and check out our past episodes, in which wonderful things happen, like Doug Funnie singing Fetty Wap and Howard the Duck getting a big-budget Marvel-movie reboot.

VIDEO – Take a look:    http://www.vulture.com/2015/08/vulture-remix-peanuts-movie.html

Blue Sky and PacMin Studio Form New Partnership –   Focus On Immersive Exhibits / Uncanny Realism

(PRWEB.com)         Blue Sky CGI, an award-winning studio specializing in CGI and multi-media, and PacMin Studio, an industry leader in visually dynamic scale models and prototypes, announce a new partnership beginning this year. The partnership connects Blue Sky CGI’s photorealistic creative content with PacMin Studio’s precisely engineered models to create accurate, immersive exhibits for virtually any product—existing or conceptual.

Blue Sky CGI produces a wide spectrum of multi-media and creative services including CGI renderings, creative retouching, mobile app design, and 3D projection. With a photographer’s eye in mind, they can seamlessly incorporate a product into any environment.

PacMin Studio utilizes detailed engineering and customer provided data to design scale models and prototypes. Models range in size from 5 inch (12.7 cm) palm-sized marketing models to full size engine nacelle mock-ups measuring over 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter.

“Blue Sky CGI and PacMin Studio are a natural match. Each of us is an industry leader in our field and to stay leaders, we constantly challenge boundaries and strive to create a better product for our customers. It was actually one of our mutual airline customers who suggested that our two companies should team up,” said Dan Ouweleen, PacMin President.

The automotive and entertainment industry are leaders in immersive environments and emerging technologies. Other industries, such as aviation and aerospace, with complex or high-risk products can benefit from taking advantage of these advances.

With in-flight experience innovations and new aircraft expecting to enter market in next 20 years, PacMin-Blue Sky CGI’s precise scale models and realistic projection technology can enhance product launches and demonstrations. Once a model is produced, creative content is custom programmed to complement the model. Content can then be easily refreshed for unlimited future uses.

PacMin-Blue Sky CGI’s approach gives clients greater control over the customer experience, and creates new ways to promote their brand and message.

“We share the common goal of providing the finest visual assets to meet the specific goals of every project. Our clients are part of the team. Creating amazing imagery is an exciting process, and we’re excited to bring our clients in to share that experience,” said Lee Waters, Blue Sky CGI Director.

Pixar To Release A New Open-Source Tool For Animators

(techtimes.com)                  Pixar Animation Studios will release an open-source universal scene description tool to be used as an industry standard. It’s expected to better streamline the workflow for animators by combining objects from various apps into one “scene graph.”

Pixar Animation Studios has been entertaining us for years, inspiring audiences and filmmakers alike with its level of creativity and high-quality animation. And now Pixar fans will have help making their own animated shorts and films because Pixar plans to release a new open-source tool that is expected to roll out in the summer of 2016.

Pixar previously released its in-house animation software called RenderMan for free for noncommercial use. This time its Universal Scene Description open-source software will help animators and filmmakers better streamline production since the tool allows them to input from animation apps to combine objects into one “scene graph.”

“USD is the marriage of Presto’s ‘composition engine’ to lazy-access cached scene description, with top-to-bottom enhancements for scalability and leverage of today’s multicore systems effectively,” says Sebastian Grassia, lead engineer for the USD project, in a press release. It lets studios assemble and modify highly complex virtual scenes created with different digital content creation tools more easily.

The open-source tool will include embeddable 3D visualization via the GPU renderer Hydra, plugins for several visual effects digital content creation tools (VFX DCCs), tutorials, and Python bindings.

Pixar is still developing and optimizing USD, but has already began sharing snapshots with studios and vendors like The Foundry and Fabric Software for feedback.

While the tool will provide an industry standard, it may come later then expected since Pixar announced RenderMan, the renderer to create complicated 3D images, in June 2014, but it wasn’t released until March 2015

SIGGRAPH 2015 Pays Homage To Aardman Animations, Showcases New Technology

(shootonline.com)              At the recently concluded SIGGRAPH 2015 confab–about as high a high-tech event as you can find–a century-old technique, stop-motion animation, was given its due with tribute paid to one of its leading practitioners, Bristol, U.K.-based Aardman Animations.

On opening day of SIGGRAPH 2015 last week, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presented a session devoted to Aardman, as its co-founder David Sproxton and cinematographer Dave Alex Riddett chronicled the studio’s voyage over the past three decades–and counting. Founded by Sproxton and Peter Lord, Aardman is no stranger to the Motion Picture Academy, having won four Oscars, the first coming in 1991 for the animated short Creature Comforts directed by Nick Park. That year, Creature Comforts beat out another Park-directed, Aardman-produced short, A Grand Day Out, for the Oscar statuette. Park’s later work featuring his A Grand Day Out stars–the eccentric inventor Wallace and his no-nonsense canine sidekick Gromit–yielded three more Oscars for the animated shorts The Wrong Trousers in 2004 and A Close Shave in 1996, and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (directed by Park and Steve Box) which won the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2006. Aardman thus far has amassed a total of 10 Oscar nominations.

Aardman’s filmography spans not only features and shorts but also TV programs, special venue projects, commercials and music videos. On the latter score, the studio made a major global splash in 1986 working alongside Stephen Johnson and the Brothers Quay on the seminal Peter Gabriel clip “Sledgehammer.” Fast forward to today and Aardman’s latest feature, Shaun the Sheep, has just been released in the U.S. by Lionsgate after receiving acclaim and a strong box office showing internationally. Written and directed by Aardman veteran Richard Starzak, Shaun the Sheep is based on a British TV show that was a spinoff of the aforementioned Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave.

Full article:    http://www.shootonline.com/news/siggraph-2015-pays-homage-aardman-animations-showcases-new-technology

“Jonny Quest” Film Set For 2017

(darkhorizons.com)                With “Hitman: Agent 47” set to hit cinemas this week, there’s been a bunch of press regarding the film and interviews with the film’s producer Adrian Askarieh. Askarieh is a man in demand these days and one of his upcoming projects is that of the live-action film adaptation of the “Jonny Quest” franchise which Robert Rodriguez recently became attached to write and direct.

Speaking about ‘Quest’ this week with Collider, Askarieh confirmed that Rodriguez recently turned in the script he co-wrote with Terry Rossio which they crafted out of an earlier draft by Dan Mazeau. The script reportedly isn’t ready for the studio yet but will hopefully be handed in shortly after the Labor Day holiday.

In terms of the content, Askarieh says they’re using the original 1960s Jonny Quest prime time animated show as their source of inspiration, rather than the more recent “The New Adventures of Jonny Quest”. As a result, the original characters of Jonny Quest, Race Bannon, Benton Quest, Hadji, Jezebel Jade and even Bandit are all there.

In terms of a rating, he says “We want to make a PG-13… This is not going to be a kiddie action-adventure movie; this will be an action-adventure that happens to have a 12-year-old in it… That’s, all of us, that’s what we want. That’s our M.O. for this movie. Indiana Jones meets James Bond.”

“Hitman: Agent 47” opens in cinemas this week. “Jonny Quest” is targeting a 2017 release.

50 Jobs to be Created by Brown Bag Following Takeover by Canadian Firm

(rte.ie)                      Up to 50 jobs are to be created in Dublin after Irish studio Brown Bag Films was bought by Canadian animation studio 9 Story Media Group.

In a statement, Brown Bag Films said it will retain its brand, with the senior management team continuing to lead the company.

Brown Bag Films has received both Oscar and Emmy nominations for its past work, including ‘Give Up Yer Auld Sins’ and ‘Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty’.

The company also animates a number of high-profile cartoons for companies like Disney and Nickelodeon, including Doc McStuffins and Henry Hugglemonster.

Co-founder and CEO of Brown Bag Films Cathal Gaffney, said: “Over the past 21 years, Brown Bag Films has constantly evolved its business model, always keeping quality at the forefront of everything we do.

“This new chapter is the next logical step for us in our ongoing evolution and will ensure that audiences around the world.”

Watch 5 Completely Unnecessary Uses of CGI in Movies

In recent years, there’s been a lot of backlash against CGI visual effects as movie studios rely on them more and more instead of practical set pieces, models and make-up effects (mostly because there’s some pretty terrible visual effects out there). We’ve already highlighted a thoughtful look at how CGI effects are actually great when not relied upon too heavily and blend seamlessly with practical filmmaking techniques.

But sometimes CGI special effects are just downright unnecessary and baffling, and the folks at Dorkly have assembled a short list of five of the most unnecessary CGI special effects, but beware of some brief NSFW nudity. Somehow one of the Star Wars prequels only appeared on the list once.

Here’s the 5 Most Baffling Uses of CGI in Movies from Dorkly:

I’ll bet you didn’t know about that John Wick “special effect.” Seriously though, why the hell did $5,000 need to be spent to make a digital pile of dog poop for a shot that barely lasts a few seconds when a prop piece could have done the trick just as well. That money could have gone towards something much useful, like paying off my student loans.

It’s impressive on some level that visual effects are so good that they can fake nudity on real people now, however, The Change-Up is not a very good example of this. I always knew there was something weird about Leslie Mann‘s topless scenes in that movie, but I thought she was just wearing some kind of chest prosthetic, which is why they looked so artificial.

And as ridiculous as it is for Fifty Shades of Grey to add digital pubes to obscure nudity, it’s nowhere near as terrible or stupid as that digital pear in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. It’s excessive and even poorly done. Like the video says, it would have been much easier to just dangle a pear on a string and then take it out in post-production. But then again we’re talking about a movie that used visual effects to create all the Clone Troopers.

VIDEO – Take a look:   http://www.slashfilm.com/unnecessary-cgi-special-effects/

‘Terminator Genisys’ Is A Flop No More

(forbes.com)              Terminator Genisys may not be a box office flop anymore, but rather a groundbreaking smash hit. The Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi sequel opened with a whopping $27.4 million on its first day in China. That is the fourth-biggest opening day in that territory ever, behind Transformers: Age of Extinction ($30m),  Avengers: Age of Ultron ($33m), and Furious 7 ($63m). It’s higher than the $17m single-day debut for Jurassic World. Now the three films above it on the single day record list, and at least one film below it (Jurassic World with $229m) all earned over $200 million in China alone, with Transformers 4 and Furious 7 both earning over $300m ($320m and $390m respectively). Now for the record, we’re only talking about one day of box office and frontloading is as much a thing in China as it is in America. Word of mouth for the film likely won’t be much better over there than it was over here. It is probable that the movie’s opening week grosses will make up around 50% of its overall box office take, especially with the likes of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, Minions, and Ant-Man coming down the pike in September.

The film was the first American release to debut in China since Jurassic World debuted back in June, as its release ended the mid-summer “blackout” or moratorium on American which allows local productions (like the $330m+ grossing Monster Hunt) to have their piece of the box office pie. But with an opening day this big, there aren’t many scenarios by which Terminator Genisys isn’t a huge hit in China. From the moment it debuted in America seven weeks ago, I was careful to confine my analysis to its domestic performance, because I had an inkling that something like this might happen. Arnold Schwarzenegger still has a significant following in China, especially when it comes to franchises and/or team-ups with Sylvester Stallone. Escape Plan earned $40 million there in 2013, or 36% of its overall $112m foreign total. The Expendables 3 made a whopping $72m (43%) of its $166m overseas total to give the film a vaguely face-saving $200m+ worldwide cume.

VFX News 08/11/15

Fox Taking A $60M Write-Off On “Fantastic 4”

(darkhorizons.net)         In the wake of a high-profile studio failure, there’s often reports that said studio is taking a write-down on the film. Some are small like the $13.5 million Dreamworks Animation lost on “Turbo,” some are huge like the $200 million Disney lost with “John Carter”. Others are in between including “The Lone Ranger,” “47 Ronin” and various Dreamworks Animation films.

Today, THR reports that according to analysts it seems that more than a $60 million write-off is looking in store for the failure of Fox’s “Fantastic Four” reboot which scored just $26 million domestically its opening weekend. The film cost a reported $120 million to produce and made around $59 million worldwide on opening weekend.

Siggraph: ‘Star Wars’ VFX House ILM Looks Back on 40-Year History

(hollywoodreporter.com)        Four decades ago, George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic created its first visual effects for Star Wars. During a 40th-anniversary session held Monday at CG confab Siggraph, the company thrilled an estimated 1,500 guests with 90 minutes of rare images, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from Star Wars and other iconic works. That included models and miniatures of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Star and early motion control sequences shot on blue screen.

At the event, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a group from the studio participated in the session, which also included looks at VFX imagery from films including The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. But highlighting the session was Dennis Muren, the studio’s nine-time Oscar-winning VFX supervisor who has been with ILM since the start.

“It’s been an amazing experience to go through something like this over 40 years,” he said, admitting of some of the early Star Wars scenes, “I didn’t know if it was going to work. I don’t know if it looks real, but it looks confident. That film went a long way toward changing the industry. Now movies are filled with VFX, but before that point, that wasn’t the case.”

He recalled a shot from the sequence on the ice planet in The Empire Strikes Back that initially he just couldn’t figure out how to accomplish. ” ‘Just think about it,’ George said, and within 15 minutes I figured it out. I learned that there are so many ways to do this. The trick is a combination of things to put them together.”

One of the big challenges to Return of the Jedi was the chase scenes. “I heard from George and he wanted to do this speed bike thing,” Muren related. “Joe Johnston and I got together and shot an animatic. This gave us a guideline for how to do the shots.”

In the end they filmed live footage, including with a Steadicam, and combined techniques. “I believe if you can shoot something real, you shoot it real. It was a hard shoot but it really helped the reality of the sequence.”

ILM VFX supervisor Scott Farrar (Oscar winner for Cocoon) recalled how VFX were becoming more and more sophisticated as they approached films such as Back to the Future 2 and 3. “That’s an example of working with a director — Bob Zemeckis — who loved to be innovative; he always came up with ideas to make it more complicated,” he said, adding that the hover board was particularly difficult.

“We used every kind of old and new trick,” he said, showing clips of Michael J. Fox hanging from wires on location. “There were days that we barely got a single shot.”

The team next recalled how Lucas pushed ILM toward computers, based on the belief that this would be the future of visual effects. Among its most memorable early uses was the CG waterpod on James Cameron’s The Abyss in 1989. The entire film had just 17 shots that involved CG.

Cameron returned to ILM for 1991’s T2, a film remembered for such techniques as the morph, but Muren clarified that Willow was actually the first feature to use a morph. “I don’t think people realized what they were seeing in T2. That changed things,” he said, acknowledging that when the masses really began to understand the potential of digital after ILM’s next film, 1993’s Jurassic Park, “it was an incredible time.”

Jurassic Park had just six minutes of animation when it opened in 1993, but the business started to grow, fast. Casper, released in 1995, had 40 minutes of character animation.

Muren next remembered working on a test for Twister. “I don’t like to do anything twice,” he said, citing the twister in The Wizard of Oz. “Nobody had ever done an F5 [and that’s what we did]. Steven [Spielberg] says that [test] is what greenlit the movie. Steven’s got a great eye.”

Soon ILM was tackling demanded 2,000-plus VFX-shot films.

Also featured were 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and the CG Davy Jones, based on the reference performance of Bill Nighy using ILM’s iMoCap process.

ILM continues to innovate. ILM’s vp new media Rob Bredow discussed the recently launched ILM Experience Lab, aimed at creating immersive entertainment such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

He showed a short test for an upcoming Star Wars-based VR experience that sets up the story of Stormtroopers beginning a search for rebels on Tatooine. Bredow added that the company also is working on navigational tools including the ability to tap on a character and watch the story from his or her perspective. In the demo, that was a Stormtrooper.

“It’s neither a game or a movie, it’s something else,” said Breddow of VR.

What’s next? Muren summed up that “we need the risk-taker filmmakers. We all want to do something that’s new.”

‘Godzilla’ to Be Terrifying Thanks to Japan’s Cutting-Edge Special-Effects

(bloody-disgusting.com)                With Attack On Titan, its sequel and accompanying television miniseries releasing through this fall, Toho is now focused on brining Godzilla back to Japan.

Godzilla hasn’t had an impact in years, and didn’t become part of the general public’s conscious until Warner Bros. rebooted the film here in the States last summer.

Now, with the new Japanese Godzilla, the stakes are high. Not only do they need to make a movie better than the U.S. remake (that won’t be hard), but they need to reinvigorate the franchise that’s become nothing more than a cheap rubber costumed joke.

Shinji Higuchi, the director and special-effects whiz chosen by Toho Co. for the made-in-Japan comeback, is hoping to one-up last year’s Hollywood version, with not only the biggest Godzilla filmed ever, but one that takes up challenges previous ones haven’t attempted, reports ABC News.

“Godzilla had to deliver more and more, responding to calls from the audience, as well as creators,” said Higuchi of the series’ trappings.

“Godzilla went through these stages, resetting itself, developing and then succumbing to exhaustion, until it just got so big it had to stop.”

And so Higuchi plans to keep his Godzilla, in a sense, simple, stripped to the essentials.

With shooting to begin next month, Higuchi is under order to keep Godzilla details secret. But he is promising the most terrifying Godzilla that Japan’s cutting-edge special-effects movie-making can muster.

Higuchi’s special-effects techniques were amply demonstrated in Attack on Titan.

The work combines computer graphics with manipulating a towering doll of rippling red muscle that resembles a giant biological anatomy chart, as well as special-effects filmmaking, using actors moving through miniatures, to depict grotesquely enlarged humans.

Applying to Godzilla that kind of technology, which Higuchi calls “hybrid,” has never been attempted in Japan. Higuchi is promising just that.

But why is Higuchi the right man for the job?

“I’m confident I am among the top-50 lovers of Godzilla in the world. That’s how much I love Godzilla,” he explained. “Maybe I’m not in the top 10, but definitely in the top 50.”

I’ve never thought Godzilla was scary, and he’s never been a great anti-hero either. The idea that they’re going to try and make a terrifying movie out of Godzilla is more than exciting as most feel more action-oriented than anything else.

What would you like to see? First and foremost, I want there to be some character interaction with Godzilla, as opposed to watching from miles away like in the U.S. remake. Second, we need some fresh mythology, and for Godzilla to be a real threat to the entire planet…

Source:    http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3356330/godzilla-terrifying-thanks-japans-cutting-edge-special-effects/

‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’ is Aardman’s Worst-Performing Film at the US Box Office

(rotoscopers.com)     August is typically known to be a ‘slow down’ period and a dumping ground for films that studios and/or audiences have low expectations for. This weekend in particular had everyone feeling that August drag, but none of them were feeling it as badly as the first animated offering of the month.

Despite near-universal praise and a decent fan base, Shaun the Sheep Movie has become the second animated film this year to outright bomb at the US box office (with the first being Strange Magic).

How hard did it bomb?

It didn’t even crack the top 10.

The film opened in eleventh place with only an estimated $4 million on opening weekend. Right now, their US box office total stands at just $5.6 million. The film has had better luck in its native Britain and elsewhere, grossing nearly $60 million.

According to a report by Deadline, Lionsgate paid an acquisition cost of $1-$2 million for the film. As such, Shaun the Sheep Movie would have needed to earn somewhere in the mid-teens ($15 million or more) to break even, especially where marketing and distribution costs were concerned.

As far as where to put the blame, the easiest target would be Lionsgate’s marketing department (which is fair, since the campaign was soft in comparison to other animated films this year). The film’s intelligent humor and British charm being a deterrent for US audiences isn’t quite accurate either (it currently has an audience score of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes). But a report from Cartoon Brew does propose a different theory, one that might make sense upon further research: Aardman’s popularity in the US is fading out.

Ever since their feature film debut (and their first collaboration with a US studio) on Chicken Run, each of Aardman’s feature films have earned less than the previous one. Prior to Shaun the Sheep Movie, Aardman’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits (the last film to be made with Sony Pictures Animation) only brought in $31 million in the US, jossing any hope of a potential sequel.

Now for the odd part. The report pins the downward trend on Aardman’s box office numbers on their “stale” and “predictable” visual and comedic styling. The report puts forth the argument that since Aardman’s inception, their style has been copied by other studios, apparently to the point where audiences have the mindset that Aardman’s latest offering is very been-there, done-that.

Render Wars: California Needs To Further Measures to Reverse VFX Work Going to Canada & UK

(kftv.com)                 California has always been regarded as the film production capital of the world. But the last few years have seen a number of major productions decamp to other parts of North America.

The key reason for this has been the introduction of regional tax incentives, which have made US states like Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico and New York attractive alternatives to California. There has also been a migration of work to the UK and Canada, both of which offer competitive tax breaks.

The extent of the shift has been meticulously documented over the last two years by FilmL.A. showing in their reports where the six major US studios and five of the best known independent studios have been taking their film production work.

FilmL.A.’s research showed that 2013 was a particularly bad year for California, with just 15 out of 103 surveyed movies shooting in the state. This was the same as Canada and less than Louisiana, which was the top of the pile with 18.

Luckily 2014’s figures showed a bounce back for the Golden State, when it hosted 22 movies out of 106. There was also a strong showing for New York which welcomed no fewer than 13 productions. Georgia was fairly stable (10) but Louisiana was significantly down, with just 5 productions recorded for the year. Canada, at 12, was possibly a victim of California’s return to form while Massachusetts saw its share drop from five to just three films.

The big question then is – what happens next? Is California’s strong showing in 2014 a blip? And how is the rest of the US market likely to carve up the spoils in the near future?

Until July 2015, California offered a total of $100m worth of tax credits to film and TV projects on a lottery basis. However, only films with a budget of less than $75m were eligible to apply. As a result, virtually all blockbuster productions left the state in search of more attractive tax regimes (with the exception of those films whose directors had sufficient clout to demand that they be shot in California).

Recognising it had a problem, California changed its tax rebate regime in July so that big budget films are now eligible. It also increased the size of its tax rebate fund to $330m. These changes have come too late to impact California’s performance in 2015, but there is no question films will start to come back – with an impact on the statistics from 2016/2017.

When this happens, presumably some other production hubs will suffer. But FilmL.A. doesn’t take a particular view on whether this will be a shared pain – or whether one of the major hubs will bare the brunt. Its overall assessment is that “Canada, New York, Georgia, Louisiana, and the UK are California’s primary competitors for the foreseeable future. While these jurisdictions may trade yearly rank positions for total project count, budget value and production spending, there are no jurisdictions poised to dethrone them.”

One factor that may change the market’s dynamics is if one of these states drops its tax incentives reasoning that it can’t compete with the major players. New York is unlikely to do so because it is reckoned to benefit most from film induced tourism. California won’t because it is trying to win back work from rivals, and Georgia is seemingly happy with its regime, having won projects such as The Hunger Games and Ant-Man.

In terms of other states that may become bigger threats, the most obvious is New Mexico, which recently extended its tax credit programme in ways that will benefit TV producers and independent filmmakers.

Overall then, it looks like California is set to reassert its dominance, though it may need to take further measures to reverse the trend of VFX work going to Canada and the UK.

Creature From The Black Lagoon Remake Goes Scarelett

(denofgeek.us)              The new Creature From The Black Lagoon movie has also recruited The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Jeff Pinkner to rewrite the script…

It was reported some time ago now that Universal was looking to press ahead with a classic horror characters cinematic universe. We already know that a new take on The Mummy is high up the agenda, and now we hear of progress on a remake of Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Based around the idea of scientists looking for fossils on a trip up the Amazon river,
Creature From The Black Lagoon sees them discover a half-human, half-fish character, who in turn falls for one of the female scientists on the expedition.

The role of said scientist has reportedly been offered to Scarlett Johansson, as Universal looks to move forward on the project. Furthermore, it’s now hired The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Jeff Pinker to do a rewrite on the screenplay. Pinkner previously was a showrunner on Fringe, he’s  hard at work on the script for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, as well as being part of the team coming up with future Transformers movies.

There’s no release date thus far for the new Creature From The Black Lagoon, but we’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

Why the VFX of Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers Hold Up

(denofgeek.com)            When Jurassic World stomped into multiplexes earlier this summer, its visual effects were inevitably compared to its predecessor – 1993’s Jurassic Park. At a time when CGI was in its relative infancy, Steven Spielberg’s movie set a new standard in visual effects. For those two-or-so hours, an entire generation believed that dinosaurs were once again walking the earth.

In fact, Jurassic Park’s effects are so good that it still stands up more than 20 years later – and, as many other writers have already pointed out, its dinosaurs are hardly less convincing than the ones that charged across the screen in this summer’s Jurassic World.

Another ’90s film commonly held up for the quality of its visual effects is Starship Troopers. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and released in 1997, it wasn’t a hit of Jurassic Park’s magnitude, but its anarchic humour and superbly-wrought planet of giant, bloodthirsty bugs has earned it a cult following. So why do the effects seen in Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers still look so good today?

This very subject came up when we spoke to Fon Davis, a longstanding miniature maker and production designer who worked on Starship Troopers in 1997. He points out that, while Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, and the Star Wars prequels (the first of which also came out in 1999) were all praised for their groundbreaking use of CGI, a great percentage of their effects were achieved practically.

“Jurassic Park had a lot of Stan Winston creatures in it,” Davis says. “There are the close-ups for the feet and the heads, and we had a lot of beautiful, beautiful animatronics in that movie. Those things always integrate with the lighting in the scenes perfectly because they’re actually there. They glisten, they do all the things your brain expects an object to do, or a dinosaur to do. So I think those are the best visual effects, probably, that have ever been done.”

Starship Troopers was created with a similar mix of miniature effects, animatronics and CGI, with each technique carefully chosen to suit its particular sequence.

“[Starship Troopers] is a good example of hybrid moviemaking,” Davis tells us. “We had a lot of miniatures, a lot of really spectacular CGI from Phil Tippet’s studio for the bugs. We had prosthetics and they had all the physical effects artists in that movie. The movie holds up a lot better than movies that have come out since.”

The reason for this? Davis refers to a theory put forward by Dennis Muren, the Oscar-winning special effects artist who worked on the Star Wars movies: practical effects give CG artists a physical, real-world basis for their own work.

“Dennis Muren is always saying that CG artists copying photographs makes it easier for them to make the CG look real too,” Davis explains. “So you have a bunch of real objects, a bunch of miniature objects, and then there’s CG to bind all those things. The miniature things based on reality raise the bar for CG, and CG raises the bar for the whole thing. So you have a benchmark you have to hit. It’s too easy to get lazy and think you’ve nailed it when you’re not copying some sort of reality, you’re creating reality completely from scratch. It’s so easy to get it wrong, because the physics engines and rendering packages on computers don’t always get it right.”

For Davis, the balance between established practical effects techniques and CGI was one of the main reasons why the visuals in Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers look so good. But there’s also another reason: those movies arrived at the beginning of a visual effects boom; compared to the movies of the 21st century, the number of effects shots in Jurassic Park was relatively tiny, as Davis explains:

“It’s interesting, because I think CG came in right about the time movies also started to amp up the number of visual effects. It’s like the birth of the rollercoaster ride visual effects movie, right? So this all happened while we were still at ILM. You used to get movies that would come in and there would be like a hundred shots, and we’d be like, ‘Wow, a hundred VFX shots. Jurassic Park only had 65.’ But then we’d hit 200, and then 300, and we’d be saying, ‘Woah! 300 effects shots in a movie!’ Then the next thing you know we’re doing 900, then a thousand. By the time we’d finished the third Star Wars prequel it was over 2,000 shots and we stopped counting!”

With increasing workloads like that, it’s little surprise that the effects shots in some modern movies can look variable at times – technology may have evolved, but the pressure on VFX artists and designers to get 100s of shots done on time and on budget has also escalated.

Working within the constraints of time and budget, effects artists are continuously trying find new, effective ways of making audiences believe that what they’re seeing on the screen is real. For Davis, the best way to create those effects is with the same hybrid approach we saw in Jurassic Park or Starship Troopers – and if we look at some of the movies with the best visual effects over the past five years, almost all of them have mixed the physical with the digital to create their illusions.

In Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 film Elysium, a mix of CGI and miniature effects was used to create its futuristic landscape. For one sequence, Davis and his team built a 12-foot long scale model of the Raven – the ship belonging to Sharlto Copley’s villainous character – and crashed it into an 80-foot long set. Terrifyingly, budget and time constraints meant that they only had one chance to get the shot right.

“We only had one shot to crash the ship, have it laying on the ground, spin on its side, its wings break off, flames shoot out, and it has to come to a stop at a very specific location,” Davis tells us. “Seven cameras on it, one take, and we did not have a second version of the set or the ship. That was definitely one of the most stressful moments of my career. It was seven months of work leading up to a couple of seconds of shooting.”

Stress aside, this is a modern example of multiple disciplines coming together in one shot to create a realistic whole. The scale model effects (or “bigiatures” as they’re sometimes dubbed) were later augmented with CGI, while a full-scale version of the crashed Raven was created from the model for the live-action scenes which came after it.

Davis cites Christopher Nolan as another director who’s using the same hybrid approach as Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers. For 2014’s Interstellar, Nolan used a blend of model spacecraft – some spanning as much as 50 feet in length – physical sets and CGI to fill in the gaps.

The resulting effects shots – some 900 of them – create the illusion of real craft flying through space precisely because so much of what we see was physically built; as Davis puts it, “You don’t have to fight it – you don’t have to try to make it look real. In so much of computer graphics, you have to go to a huge effort to really do that.”

So while CGI has become a hugely powerful filmmaking tool, it’s when the digital and the physical are combined that the most effective sequences arise. It was true in the days of Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers, and it’s still the case in movies like Elysium, Interstellar and this summer’s Mad Max: Fury Road, with its stunning mix practical stunts augmented with CG.

Whether it’s bringing dinosaurs back from extinction, scaring up hordes of giant bugs or sending spaceships to the other side of the universe, the visual effects artist’s job remains the same as it ever was: using technology to tell a story. As Fon Davis puts it, “You don’t want people to think about visual effects. You want people to care about the characters. So if we’re doing our jobs right, we go completely unnoticed.”

Source:    http://www.denofgeek.us/movies/jurassic-park/248312/why-the-vfx-of-jurassic-park-and-starship-troopers-hold-up

VFX Artist Charles Gibson to Direct Action Movie ‘Crash Site’

(variety.com)                Alcon Entertainment has tapped Charles Gibson, winner of two visual effects Oscars, to make his directorial debut on the action movie “Crash Site.”

Producers are John Baldecchi and Alcon co-chiefs Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove. Gibson is directing from a script by Chuck Pfarrer with the logline under wraps.

Gibson won Oscars for the effects in “Babe” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and picked up nominations for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.” He also has credits as VFX supervisor on “The Green Mile” and both “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” movies.

Pfarrer’s credits include Sam Raimi’s “Darkman” and John Woo’s “Hard Target.” Baldecchi is a producer on Alcon’s “Point Break” remake.

Samsung’s New Mission: Discovering VR Film Talent

(fastcompany.com)        Samsung today became the latest entrant in a growing field of companies and organizations supporting and fostering the creation of independent virtual reality content.

With the launch of Gear Indie, a new channel available solely on Samsung’s Milk VR section of its Gear VR virtual reality headset, Samsung is placing a bet that independently produced content can be as important as that made by filmmaking professionals. Done right, the company clearly believes, this kind of content will help sell a lot of hardware.

Gear Indie joins programs like those from Jaunt Studio, Nokia, Tongal, and others aiming to help inspire or reward VR filmmakers.

Samsung’s new initiative will have three components, Fast Company has learned: a curated showcase for short virtual reality films; a system of challenges that will reward a small number of filmmakers; and a mentorship program that will team some of those creators with established VR filmmaking professionals.

According to Matt Apfel, vice president of strategy and creative content at Samsung Media Solutions Center America, the Gear Indie channel is launching today with five short VR films, and two more will be added each day this week.

In coming weeks, Apfel said, there are likely to be more films added to Gear Indie, but it’s not going to be “a channel where there are 1,000 independent videos and no one can find them.”

Rather, Samsung wants to help the videos selected to appear there stand out from the crowd.

Full article:    http://www.fastcompany.com/3049611/tech-forecast/samsungs-gear-indie-channel-aimed-at-discovering-next-great-vr-filmmakers

FX House Bucks Visual Effects Biz Trend With Move to Downtown L.A.

(variety.com)            Company settles in Fashion District while most vfx production flees SoCal.

The Siggraph computer graphics conference and trade show, long the most important confab for the digital visual effects business, returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week. But the L.A. region is no longer the hub of vfx production that made it Siggraph’s favorite home for many years.

Visual effects production has largely fled to Vancouver and other locales with richer subsidies, leaving only a modest presence in L.A.

One small vfx company, though, is bucking the trend, not only staying in SoCal, but moving to newly revitalized downtown Los Angeles.

Locktix is a boutique vfx company, specializing in “911” visual effects emergencies — a shot or group of shots that has to be completed within days, sometimes within hours. Sometimes that’s last-minute additions, sometimes it’s adjusting shots in trailers to address MPAA notes, sometimes it’s alternate cuts for different markets. It’s recent credits include “Ted 2,” “Nightcrawler” and “Wet Hot American Summer.”

The company was based in Santa Monica, but was outgrowing its space there. “We were looking for was more power, more space, more parking — that was challenging to find in Santa Monica,” Lochner told Variety.

Power is a particular concern, even for a small vfx firm. The “machine room” for a visual effects company holds the servers for complex CG rendering. A machine room needs a lot of power for the servers and for air conditioning to keep them cool.

Lochner didn’t want to follow most of the vfx business out of town in search of a vfx subsidy. “For me, a tax subsidy shouldn’t be a main part of your business model. You should be able to operate without anyone subsidizing your business. So that’s the way we structured things internally, so we wouldn’t have to rely on subsidies to survive.” He also felt that being close to the editorial facilities in L.A. was advantageous; he and his team could run across town to those editing bays as needed.

Lochner looked at spaces in Hollywood, Venice, El Segundo, Culver City and Burbank, but couldn’t find anything the right size with the necessities. Then he checked out a space on East 9th Street in downtown L.A., where audio equipment maker Audyssey had space available to sublease. There was ample space, parking and power. Audyssey director Tyson Yaberg said “The building is built for a high capacity of occupants but currently I believe occupancy is still relatively low, leaving plenty of resources, such as power, available.”

Lochner said “This is the Fashion District so for us it’s kind of unusual for a visual effects company to move down to this area,” Lochner said, “but that just screamed opportunity,” he said. They were able to modify their sub-leased space in just under two months and moved in days later.

Downtown L.A. has long had a sketchy reputation, but that is turning around fast, thanks in part to downtown’s burgeoning food and arts scenes. They too, proved a draw for Locktix. Nicholas Rosselot, comp lead for Locktix, said “There’s a lot of art everywhere. There’s a big community. I feel like I belong here.” Public transportation is plentiful, and some staffers take trains to work, but when they’re on deadline they work late, and need to commute by car, so the plentiful parking is crucial.

There are some downsides to moving into L.A.’s urban core. Tarlton says “The challenge with Los Angeles is something that we found in the city’s gross receipt tax … that is something that you have to be aware of when moving to the City of Los Angeles, places like Santa Monica don’t have that.”

But Locktix is blazing a path other vfx and high-tech entertainment companies may find tempting — at least until Fashion District rents get too high. When that happens, though, there are likely to be other parts of downtown available to such urban pioneers.

‘Deadpool’ Sequel Possible For June 2017

(themovienetwork.com)              20th Century Fox built up big buzz last week with the Deadpool trailers, before it was all canceled out by Fantastic Four’s bomb of an opening. In trying to turn the page from one failed reboot of Marvel characters to another more promising one, Fox is now rumored to be considering a Deadpool sequel for summer 2017 — right where a Fantastic Four sequel would be.

The allegations came from the website The Daily Superhero, although they are still only allegations. Between the newfound Deadpool anticipation and the far less pleasant downfall of Fantastic Four, the source and even the Fox execs may just be prisoners of the moment.

One source messaged The Daily SuperHero saying how there is already some rumor buzz regarding the date Fox had originally set for FANTASTIC FOUR 2 on June 9, 2017. The insider says due to Fox’s less-than-stellar weekend box office estimates for the reboot it’s become a topic of discussion pretty quickly behind studio doors. A discussion rumored to be taking place is the consideration of removing FANTASTIC FOUR 2 from its June 9, 2017 release date and eventually plugging DEADPOOL 2 into that spot.

If there is actual serious consideration in doing this, Fox would have to move pretty quickly. Since Fox likely didn’t plan to give Deadpool a sequel that soon, it would have to make sure Ryan Reynolds can return fast enough, get a script together and see if its original creative team can return or not.

It might be premature to give it a sequel since the original won’t be out for six months, but a Fantastic Four sequel was green lit fairly prematurely as well. Reynolds already knows something about a would-be comic book franchise jumping the gun, since any Green Lantern sequels Warner Bros might have considered were scrapped pretty quickly.

Perhaps Fox might think it can keep a Fantastic Four sequel where it is if it just gets rid of Josh Trank and starts over, whether or not that would help keep Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell around. Considering Fox’s determination to hold the characters’ movie rights — and keep them away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — it could be too risky for it to delay a sequel, no matter how much audiences wouldn’t actually mind it.

Deadpool had a failed movie debut just like the Fantastic Four did in the past decade — albeit not in one or two of his own solo films — yet now he may be more in demand by Fox than Marvel’s original heroes. Few could have seen that coming years ago or maybe even months ago.

It’s still just as likely that both potential sequels will go forward, even if a Deadpool sequel is placed sometime after June 2017. Given that Fox didn’t show enough patience with its Fantastic Four plans before they blew up, waiting until the full length Deadpool movie delivers or not to expand that character may be worth trying.

Either way, the first Deadpool won’t be able to erase Fox’s Fantastic Four backlash until Feb. 12, 2016.

Greebles: How Tiny Details Make a Huge Star Wars Universe

Did you know the engine panels on the back of the Millennium Falcon were shovels from a bulldozer?

The space ship roars overhead, a huge bulk pale against the inky depths of space. It’s an Imperial Star Destroyer, its surface spiky with an incalculable number of spiky outcroppings. As the craft’s multiple engines rumble into view, we can only guess at its size.

Except, of course, the Star Destroyer isn’t really a colossal military ship, but a scale miniature, one of dozens expertly crafted by a team of artists and builders at Industrial Light and Magic. Those spiky outcroppings, which hint at all kinds of mysterious scientific applications, are in reality tiny pieces of plastic, cunningly applied to the model to suggest a ship of unfeasible size.

It worked, too: when the Star Destroyer made its grand appearance in Star Wars’ opening shot in 1977, it set the tone for the entire movie: this wasn’t just another low-budget sci-fi B-picture. This was a film with a scope that audiences hadn’t seen before. Star Wars was a hit on the scale of the Star Destroyer itself, and the movie landscape – not to mention visual effects – would never be quite the same again.

Star Wars introduced the idea of a “used future” that small films like Dark Star could only imply. Special effects artist John Dykstra, then aged just 29, led the team responsible for building Star Wars’ huge array of exotic craft. Stretched in terms of both time and budget, they came up with all sorts of ingenious ways of making futuristic and believable-looking ships using materials readily at hand.

Full article:   http://www.denofgeek.us/movies/star-wars/248265/greebles-how-tiny-details-make-a-huge-star-wars-universe

Jumanji Remake Happening; Causes Social Media Uproar

(movienewsguide.com)      More and more movie remakes are happening now and although some people are pleased with these reboots, others don’t agree with some movie remakes. The latest possible movie remake is the 1995 hit movie “Jumanji,” which starred the late Robin Williams.

“Jumanji” is a board game and Williams played the man trapped in the game for 26 years. He was then released when two kids discovered the game and played it. Since playing the game, the kids as well as Williams went through a lot of obstacles to finish the game. When Sony Pictures announced on August 5, 2015 that a reboot is happening for the movie, not everyone was pleased.

The remake of “Jumanji” is slated to to hit cinemas on Christmas Day of 2016. However, the movie still has no director and the actors haven’t been named yet. Fans of the movie took to their social media accounts to express their displeasure about the “Jumanji” reboot. One user said that “Hollywood has run out of ideas.” These comments were triggered due to the fact that Williams can’t reprise his role anymore and fans think that it would never be the same.

Check out some of the Twitter feeds below regarding the “Jumanji” reboot:   http://www.movienewsguide.com/jumanji-remake-happening-causes-social-media-uproar/82126

Animation and VFX Fall 2015 Movie Preview

(AWN.com)    Variety abounds in the animated and VFX-focused films headed our way this fall.

As we anticipate the depressing thought of swapping out our summer t-shirts for fall jackets, take heart in knowing the spirit of the summer blockbuster season will live on at the multiplex. Two ‘60s-set thrillers are on the way, as well as CG, stop motion and even hand-drawn animated offerings, amidst a spattering of sequels, reboots and spinoffs. In short, plenty to make the transition bearable, as evidenced in this shortlist of noteworthy animated and VFX-filled films.

Take a look:   http://www.awn.com/animationworld/animation-and-vfx-fall-2015-movie-preview

Why Does Clay Animation Matter at Hollywood’s Annual CG Conference?

(hollywoodreporter.com)             Stop-motion cartoons may seem a bit old school for a super-high-tech graphics event like SIGGRAPH. But the brains behind ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’ are there to offer a warning: “Danger if you take technology to an extreme.”

This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

At this year’s SIGGRAPH convention, there will be the usual panels about breakthroughs in virtual reality and other cutting-edge developments in computer-generated entertainment. The projected 14,000 attendees at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 42nd annual gathering of the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, set to take place Aug. 9 to 13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, expect nothing less. But one panel in particular will offer a unique peek into an animation process so sophisticated and specialized that only a handful of geniuses have mastered it well enough to succeed in Hollywood: molding lumps of clay with one’s fingers.

It indeed is ironic that a convention dedicated to super-high-tech computer graphics would hold a panel for Britain’s Aardman Animations, one of the last studios in the digitized world still producing old-fashioned handmade stop-motion cartoons. But the timing couldn’t be more perfect: Aardman, home to Nick Park’s beloved Wallace & Gromit films — including the Oscar-winning shorts A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers and the Oscar-winning feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit — will release its latest feature, Shaun the Sheep Movie, on Aug. 5, only days before the conference-opening panel.

“I think there’s a danger that you can take technology to an extreme,” says Shaun executive producer (and Aardman co-founder) David Sproxton, who will appear on the panel alongside the film’s cinematographer, Dave Alex Riddett. “It can become a little bit too polished or too CG. The imperfections of stop-motion give it charm because you can sense the craftsmanship. And the other key thing about stop-motion is that the animators themselves have to be performers in their own right.”

Park didn’t direct Shaun — he’s in England preparing to shoot his next feature for Aardman, Early Man, which is said to be set in prehistoric times. But as with all of the studio’s projects, his DNA is all over the screen. Shaun co-director Mark Burton was a writer on Park’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Shaun the Sheep himself first appeared in 1995’s A Close Shave before the character got his own BBC show in 2007 (produced and directed by Shaun’s other co-director, Richard Starzak).

“We were certainly inspired by the way Nick Park animated Gromit — he’s a very deadpan puppet,” says Burton, referring to the clay-animation dog’s ability to convey a wide range of emotions without saying (or even barking) a word. “We tried to be true to that with Shaun; you have to let the audience know what’s going on in the character’s head at all times. If you do that, you don’t need a lot [of dialogue] — it’s a little look or a slight movement of the eyes that will tell you everything you need to know.”

But in the world of stop-motion animation, those little movements can take months to get on film. To make Shaun, craftsmen constructed 197 sheep puppets (21 for Shaun alone), 157 human figures and dozens of miniature motorcycles, cars and bikes — along with a mini town square where some of the “action sequences” take place — all of which painstakingly had to be adjusted and shot one frame at a time to give the illusion of movement. Making a stop-motion feature takes so long and can become so involved, it’s easy to lose track of what’s real and what’s clay. One of the animators even might have gone slightly bonkers during production.

“He invented a little story for each character, so he was talking to them while he was animating them,” says Starzak. “It helped him remember what the character was up to. It looked a little bit insane, but it worked.”

Source:    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/why-does-clay-animation-matter-812982

The Greek Billionaire Whose Celebrity-Hologram Business Would Bring Back the Beatles

(vulture.com)                Alkiviades David sips some tea and shakes his head. “One could argue,” he says, “that pornography is the be-all and end-all for holography.” Dressed in ripped blue jeans and a crisp multicolored pin-striped button-down shirt open to his chest, the 47-year-old Greek billionaire — one of the heirs of the Leventis-David Group, which made a vast fortune bottling Coca-Cola — is sitting 35 stories above Columbus Circle in the lounge of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. It’s a drizzly July day, and he’s mulling the future of entertainment. “Unfortunately,” David says, “to holographically display real people having sex in real time requires installation of half a million dollars of proper equipment. Strip-club owners are just not going to pony that up.” David’s words fall nonchalantly from his tongue in a posh transatlantic accent — he was schooled at the prestigious Stowe School in England and the prestigious-er Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland — and the effect is as if conversation were a leisure activity with which he’s become slightly bored. “Fortunately, the hologram business is bigger than porn. It’s going to be as big as the movie market.” He gently places his teacup in its saucer. “There is no impediment to that happening. None.”

David says he has so far invested $20 million toward making this a reality, with more money yet to be spent. He has a company, Hologram USA, which he started in 2014 after buying the patent for the technology that created the Tupac Shakur hologram that performed at Coachella in 2012, and he’s aggressively sued for patent infringement against Fox and Cirque du Soleil. David intends to put on shows featuring digital likenesses of Ray Charles, Richard Pryor, Jim Morrison, Liberace, Mariah Carey, and other dead or otherwise past-their-prime performers. And he has, he believes, foolproof plans to get these apparitions to materialize for paying audiences. “I’ve got deals in place,” David says, leaning forward in his chair. “I’m in with the Apollo in Harlem, the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles, and the hologram comedy club at the National Comedy Center in upstate New York is opening next year. I’ll pay to retrofit venues and theaters across the country with the technology to deliver holographic shows. My digital holdings — social media and websites — have over 70 million monthly uniques. The pipeline is being built.” He leans back. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Full article:   http://www.vulture.com/2015/08/alki-david-celebrity-hologram-business.html

Call for Papers:  Conventional Special Effects & Unconventional Thinking – The Legacy of Harryhausen

(popmatters.com)            Without Ray Harryhausen’s monstrous inspirations, would so many films we love to fear have been as terrifying?

Deadline for essay pitches: Friday, September 11th
First drafts: Friday October 23rd
Final essay: Friday, November 13th
Submit your pitches to: PopMatters’ editor Dawn Eyestone eyestone@popmatters.com; cc: zarker@popmatters.com
Email subject line: Harryhausen SFX Legacy

Although filmmaker and special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen officially retired from feature filmmaking in the ‘80s, his legacy continues on the set of B-movie films and Hollywood blockbusters alike. Even filmgoers who’ve never heard of Harryhausen are likely familiar with his film techniques and might recognize one or two of his creations. Without Harryhausen’s creatures in Clash of the Titans, film geeks everywhere would be without the battle cry “Release the Kraken!” Without Harryhausen’s development of stop-motion filming, how would George Lucas have made Luke Skywalker run across a frozen wasteland on the back of a fictitious Tauntaun? Without Harryhausen’s monstrous inspiration, would Spielberg’s Jaws have been as terrifying?

Ray Harryhausen’s contributions to the film industry, especially to conventional special effects development and storytelling in the genre of science fiction and fantasy, are incalculable.

This series of essays seeks to examine and analyze this pioneer (dare we say titan?) of special effects (SFX) in-depth.

Essays for this series could touch on Harryhausen’s career, legacy, and inspiration; or specific films, SFX techniques, and genres. Authors are encouraged to be creative and, like Harryhausen himself, explore unique and interesting perspectives on the subject matter. Possible topics include:

SFX as an intrinsic part of good storytelling

Specific techniques as developed or used by Harryhausen and his contemporaries (e.g., Dynamation, Stop Motion, Rotoscoping)

Harryhausen’s early career and inspiration, e.g., Willis O’Brien’s King Kong

Critiques and analyses of feature films and other projects important to SFX development (e.g., Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Mysterious Island, Clash of the Titans (1983), George Pal’s Puppetoons, WWII Army propaganda films)

Influences on later entertainment and contemporary pop culture, including connections to films/filmmakers (e.g., Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Star Wars, The Terminator)
Comparisons between films and their remakes as related to special effects and storytelling (e.g., Clash of the Titans 1981 v. 2010, King Kong 1933 v. 2005) though such essays should be scholarly and thoughtful, focused on filmmaking, genre, technique, and/or storytelling rather than fan arguments about “which was better”.

Of special interest to the editors are essays that touch on Harryhausen’s development of special effects in science fiction of the ‘50’s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, which contributed to the genre’s current place in mainstream entertainment; and essays that provide in-depth analyses of the connection between the use of conventional special effects and strong storytelling. The editors are not looking for essays focused on computer generated effects; however, they will consider essays that discuss CGI as directly related to the use of conventional SFX and/or storytelling.

Essays accepted for this series should target Harryhausen and SF film fans or cultural generalists and will be published on the PopMatters website. Essays should be written in PopMatters style; erudite, engaging and entertaining, but not laden with academic language. Essays length is approximately 1,500 – 2,500 words in MLA format.

Source:    http://www.popmatters.com/post/196112-call-for-papers-ray-harryhausen/

VFX from a Tropical Paradise

Technology has changed the world of post-production, not just in terms of the work produced, but in the way that work is approached.

The proliferation of high-speed internet; the continuous move towards a cloud-based workflow; and new tools like Skype and cineSync have allowed post-production teams to spread out, often working countries and even continents apart on the very same projects. Technology has seen the post-production world expand and yet grow tighter and more interconnected all at once.

It’s also allowed very unique vendors like capital T to set up shop – vendors that simply couldn’t exist in years gone by.
capital T is a new kind of studio, and one we’re seeing proliferate in the early part of the new millennium. It’s comprised not of whole departments, supervisors and runners, but of just two employees – the husband and wife team of Lindsay and Jamie Hallett. And they’re not based in any of the VFX capitals of the world – their outpost lies nearly 4,000 miles west of California, resting on the idyllic shores of Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands.

capital T is living proof that successful VFX doesn’t have to come from darkened rooms, but can also be made in the fresh, tropical climes of an island paradise. This small studio in such a remote Pacific location is still equipped to deliver work on Hollywood’s most prominent shows, from Ant-Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Insurgent and American Sniper .

Full story:   http://www.cgw.com/Press-Center/Web-Exclusives/2015/VFX-from-a-Tropical-Paradise.aspx

From Scooby-Doo to LOTR: Witness the epic evolution of VFX

(hindustantimes.com)                Visual Effects have come a long way. Remember when George Lucas tried to remaster Jabba the Hutt for Star Wars? That was forgivable, it was still the early days. But when Lucas went and created that most annoying of all cinematic creatures, the evil atrocity that is Jar Jar Binks, it couldn’t be ignored. For more reasons than one. Not only was he an affront to the very existence of movies, he was also the worst example of characters created entirely in computers.

The mess of 0s and 1s made a lasting impact, though. Even after all these years we look back at Jar Jar and his vaguely racist ways and shake our heads in dismay.

But the annoying Gungan wasn’t the only bad CG character to emerge in an era when filmmakers didn’t really know how to utilise the new technology effectively. For many, it was just an excuse to create something that couldn’t be captured in camera, usually resulting in some sort of outlandish extravagance.

But there were others who cracked the code. They figured out the secret: The key wasn’t going big on the spectacle (although there are good examples of that as well), but the key was implementing visual effects in a way that contributed to the film. Directors like David Fincher use VFX like a artist uses paint, while the blessed Michael Bay (although technically unmatched, falls in each and every trap laid out by the possibilities of VFX).

But, as is usually the case, there is good, there is bad, and there is ugly. Here is our rundown of the evolution of visual effects, focusing on entirely CGI characters.

Full article with video:    http://www.hindustantimes.com/hollywood/from-jar-jar-and-the-rock-to-gollum-the-epic-evolution-of-vfx/article1-1377598.aspx

Stephen Colbert’s Latest CBS Trailer Pokes Fun at Special Effects (VIDEO)

(themalaymailonline.com)               LOS ANGELES, Aug 8 — Stephen Colbert’s latest CBS trailer for his upcoming “Late Show” is billed as a movie theatre trailer. Unlike standard movie trailers, it seems to be missing a green screen or two.

Colbert hilariously acts as though 3D and CGI effects are going to be added, miming a rather accurate representation of how ridiculous it does look before the effects wizardry happens.

Knowing Colbert, his wit will be enough to sustain him without fancy CGI dragons.

Take a lookt: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/showbiz/article/stephen-colberts-latest-cbs-trailer-pokes-fun-at-special-effects-video#sthash.gPrlqhm9.dpuf

VFX News 07/29/15

How Many Shots in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Are Completely CGI?

(slashfilm.com)             Due to the overwhelming amount of CGI visual effects used in the Star Wars prequels, and all the complaining that followed from fans hoping for more practical filmmaking, Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams have really been hitting home their use of authentic, real, practical effects for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They’ve been relying heavily on that message, as seen in the recent Comic Con behind the scenes reel.

But that doesn’t mean Star Wars: The Force Awakens won’t have its fair share of CGI visual effects. Undoubtedly, CG was needed to extend sets, hide puppeteers, and even create entire characters. (Hopefully none are as distracting or invasive as Jar Jar Binks.) However, it sounds like there aren’t a lot of shots in Episode VII that are completely CGI, with no practical effects whatsoever.

Full article:   http://www.slashfilm.com/star-wars-the-force-awakens-cgi-shots/

Avatar 2 Production Delay Explained: Technology Needed Does Not Yet Exist

(ibtimes.co.uk)          Most fans awaiting the release of Avatar 2 will know that the technology (or rather the lack of it) is one of the key reasons for the delay in the film’s production and release. Latest reports reveal some new updates on the Avatar 2 production and explains the reason in more detail.

As per earlier reports, Avatar 2 will showcase the water ecosystem of Pandora and as a result, a major part of the film, will be filmed underwater.

According to Clapway, director James Cameron is planning on using a technology that will help him film breathtaking scenes underwater. The technology that he plans on using is still not present and there is work being done to bring it to existence, and that has led to delay in the production process. (via Day Herald)

“Cameron himself has revealed that the technology will help them speed up the filming process. A lot of the graphics and computer software have been developed at Weta Digital in New Zealand where Avatar 2’s animation and special effects is worked upon,” states the website report.

Moreover, producer Jon Landau earlier revealed that Avatar 2 will have a team which is going to help test out new technology for underwater motion capture. Landau said that they can use animation and graphics to simulate the water, but the same cannot be done for the actors. For this very reason they need technology that helps them capture the actor’s experience when they shoot inside a tank for Avatar 2.

Avatar 2 is expected to release in December 2017.

BFX Pro Festival Tickets On Sale

(bfxfestival.com)                    The seven day festival takes place in Bournemouth at the Bournemouth International Centre on the south coast of England, from the 28th September – 4th October 2015. The festival is split into 3 parts:

BFX Pro sponsored and curated by The Foundry

Monday 28th September

A one day conference of presentations, demos, and networking aimed at CTO’s, pipeline engineers, asset managers, service providers, professionals and academics working within the creative industries. We will be discussing current and future research, services & platforms, and their role within the sector. Our themes will include – ‘Tools for Iteration and Collaboration: Pipeline Empowers Creativity’, ‘The Cloud – Invisible Technology and the Backbone of the Future’ and ‘A/R & V/R – The Reality of Virtual Content’. There will be a clear focus on production and we have some AMAZING speakers lined up. Stay tuned for more information – we’ll be announcing our schedule very soon (you won’t want to miss this).

Presentations, Screenings & Careers Hub

Tuesday 29th September – Friday 2nd October

This unique four day programme is aimed at students, professionals and hobbyists and consists of  screenings, presentations, workshops and a careers hub. Our confirmed speakers include:

Framestore, Method Studios, Iloura, Double Negative, MPC, Animal Logic, Axis Animation, Aardman, Frontier Developments, Blue Zoo, The Chaos Group, The Foundry, Eric Shaw, ILM and The Mill, with more to be announced very soon.

We can already confirm that Iloura will be joining us from Australia to present George Millers Masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road. Dan Bethell, FX Sequence Supervisor (and NCCA, Bournemouth University Graduate) will talk us through all aspects of the film and its effects.

Our  Careers Hub is back, and its going to be even bigger than last years, with recruiters from some of the world’s best VFX, Animation and Games studios. The Careers Hub can be found in the Purbeck Lounge, next to the speakers hall, from the 1st – 2nd October, 10am – 6pm.

BFX Family Weekend

Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th October

This weekend will be jam packed with family friendly events aimed at those interested in Film, Animation and Computer Games, containing a programme of public screenings, presentations and workshops.


More information regarding the festival will appear online very soon!


Source with links:  http://www.bfxfestival.com/festival/

‘Transformers 5’  To Likely Introduce ‘Beast Wars’

(masterherald.com)               Paramount Pictures has come up with a “Transformers” writers’ room sometime in May as put together by Akiva Goldsman and Michael Bay. The writers’ room assured the next installment of the very successful robot movie series of a good storyline as well as all future films or spinoff movies of the franchise.

It could be recalled that towards the penultimate part of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, were able to draw support from at least three beast robots, which alluded the possibility that the next installment of the series could focus on beast wars.

Reports coming out as of late indicate that Akiva Goldsman seems to have given the writers a free hand on deciding which direction they want to go in as far as plots and subplots for “Transformers 5” are concerned, details Enstarz.

In a recent interview, Goldsman said that if one of the writers discovers an affinity for Beast Wars, he or she can move forward on treatments that will have been fleshed out by the whole writers’ room.

When the concept of ‘Beast Wars’ materializes for “Transformers 5,” it would mean that the machines will now transform into wild animalistic form.

The beast versions of many of the robot characters of “Transformers” can be found on the G1 toyline series – Optimus Prime is Optimus Primal, Bumblebee is Cheetor, Star Scream is Terrasaur, and Blackout is Tarantulus, and so on and so forth. The rest of the robots from both the Autobots and the Decepticons all have their wild animalistic form.

Martial Arts Legend Bruce Lee Set for a CGI Comeback in ‘IP Man 3’!?

(moviepilot.com)                The magical world of CGI has sprung its latest fascinating surprise on cinema lovers everywhere. For it has just been announced that a computer-generated version of martial arts and action movie legend Bruce Lee will make an appearance in IP Man 3.

It is as yet unknown how much of a role Lee will play in the Ip Man saga, which portrays the life story of Yip Man, the first person to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun, but we do know that Lee was a pupil of his.

Apparently, the film’s producers were unable to find an actor to portray Lee’s intensity onscreen so have decided to use computer graphics to re-create the most authentic Lee in the film.

We have, of course, already seen a CGI-ed Lee in the Johnny Walker whiskey commercial, “Gamechanger.” That ad was directed by Joseph Kahn, who also directed the recent gritty Power Rangers fan film.

Local Studio Wants to be ‘China’s Answer to Pixar’

(CCTV.com)                With China’s hairy hero the Monkey King swinging back into action, it appears people’s interest in Chinese-made animation movies has been re-ignited. And with more local and international talents joining the industry and a more mature financial environment, more local studios are chasing their dream to become the next Pixar or Dreamworks.

The girl needs 300,000 strands of animated hair, almost three times more than a real-life girl, to make this swing appear more real. That is just one of the fun parts of computer-generated-imagery animation. Computers are a necessity, but the believability and acting still come first.

The animators themselves are cast like performers and in this dream-making industry, Hollywood will no longer play the dominant role. On a visit to Light Chaser studio in a Beijing suburb, Yu Zhou, the founder of this three-year-old Chinese company, said that they keep learning from Pixar and Dreamworks. But they do not see them competitors, as the market is large enough.

Zhou said in China you can find capital, artists, and even the most cutting-edge animation technology, but the toughest part is management. In the CGI industry, studios follow a step-by-step integrated system allowing everyone to build off one another’s work, what’s called a production pipeline.

Liu Lu, an industry veteran who worked for Pixar for many years, is tasked with building a powerful management system so this 150-person team can work together.

More international talents have been attracted back to China, looking for new opportunities that are hard to come by in the well-established Hollywood ecosystem.

In the US, animations can take up to 15 percent of movies’ market share. This compares to only 5 percent in China. But more local studios are joining the competition and want to grab a slice of the growing pie. They plan to take advantage of their international experience, as well as local talents and Chinese creativity.

‘Revenant’ Director:  “CGI was out of the question as “the film would be a piece of shit”

(theguardian.com)              Film crew rep claims executives on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, ignored multiple warnings about safety concerns

How far is too far in pursuit of that perfect shot? Filming during Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest offering, The Revenant, has been described as “a living hell” according to some cast and crew, a fact the director does not dispute.

While conditions were undeniably brutal, now Damian Petti, president of film crew union body IATSE Local 212, suggests that cast and crew may have been in real danger. He told the Hollywood Reporter that production executives ignored multiple warnings about safety concerns.

Director defends Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant as crew call shoot a ‘living hell’

The Revenant sees Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass betrayed by his companions during a fur trapping expedition in 1823. CGI was out of the question as “the film would be a piece of shit”, according to its director, and so The Revenant was shot in harsh conditions in the Canadian winter, a far cry from a soundstage in Los Angeles.

Petti criticised what he calls an “it’s all worth it because the picture looks really good” attitude stating: “That’s a very dangerous road for any of us to be on and to buy into.

“In terms of our industry, it’s important that people differentiate between getting an amazing movie at all costs, and safety.”

The Revenant producer New Regency deny these allegations, insisting that on-set safety was duly followed throughout the shoot: “While filming in challenging conditions, safety was not compromised.”

Petti is acting as a voice for crew members he feels were “not … taken seriously” and who fear the consequences of speaking out. Petti claims that around 15 to 20 crew members quit or were fired during production, some of whom “raised safety issues”.

New Regency, in its defence, say it hired specialists to ensure overall safety while shooting in harsh conditions: “We hired experts who worked with us in swift-water, mountain-climbing, bear behaviour, helicopter operations and cold-weather safety to complement the US production management team.”

Dr Who Special Effects Whiz Sets Students a Space Ship Challenge

(aboutmyarea.co.uk)                  Animation students from Barking & Dagenham College got the chance to learn from creative employers and leaders in the hi-tech world of TV and film 3D visual effects and take part in a speed 3D modelling challenge – with one student winning first prize.

The students, who are studying for a Foundation Degree in Animation with Games Design at the College were excited to take part in the challenge set up by leading visual effects artist, Adam Dewhirst.  Adam has worked on popular projects such as Dr Who, World War Z and Maleficent to name just a few.  Up against animation students from two other colleges, the task saw them create 3D spaceship concept designs in just one hour.  All were hoping they would be in with the chance of winning the prize of a £650 Wacom tablet, the type used by visual effects professionals and graphic artists.

Whilst all work was of a great standard, only one student could win and this honour went to Barking & Dagenham College student Dominic Esprit, 20, from Walthamstow. Adam felt Dominic’s design would work well in full production and looked very realistic.

Commenting on his win, Dominic said: “This opportunity has really changed my life. I hope to one day work in this fantastic industry and want to say a massive thank you to my tutor Matthew Phelan for all his help and support and my classmates Viktorija and Francis for being such strong competition, encouraging me to keep pushing myself harder.”

Escape Technology, the technology reseller and support specialists for the digital creative industry, hosted the 3D speed modelling challenge and event. As well as drafting in Adam Dewhirst to set the student challenge, the company arranged for Adam to also be on hand to offer career advice to students on how to apply for work in the industry once they graduate.

Adam, who has created visual effects for the TV, film, music and gaming industries said: “To succeed in the industry a 3D VFX artist needs speed as well as accuracy. This speed modelling challenge is a great opportunity for students to put their technical ability to the test as well as how they perform under pressure. The Barking & Dagenham College students were particularly strong in both areas and I’m positive these talented students will have no problem securing 3D VFX jobs in the future. It’s important that colleges like Barking & Dagenham College continue to train students to the standard they are – making sure the UK continues to compete as a world leader in the art of visual effects.”

Ana Guimaraes, Curriculum Director Creative, Digital and Enterprise at Barking & Dagenham College added: “As a Digital & Creative Career College we make sure our students get every opportunity to work with and learn from industry experts. Technological advances mean that the world of visual special effects is a hugely rewarding and exciting career option for our students.”

Terminator Genisys Crosses $300 million, Sequel Unconfirmed

(denofgeek.uk)                The future of the Terminator movies remains in the balance, as Terminator: Genisys crosses $300 million at the global box office…

When the rights for the Terminator franchise were snapped up in an expensive auction back at the start of the decade, this is not how things were supposed to have ended up. It cost $20 million to acquire said rights, with Skydance and Paramount ultimately teaming up for a proposed new trilogy of Terminator movies.

The problem is that the series, not for the first time, may not get that far.

Terminator Genisys opened back at the start of July, with reviews ranging from not very good to outright hostile. We’ve heard from a few people who have warmed to the film, but nowhere near the number that director Alan Taylor and his team would have wanted. Right now, Terminator Genisys is being marked down as one of the summer’s disappointments.

Free Preview of Our VFX Supervisior Background Fundamentals Series

(fxphd.com)                The new July 2015 term was just launched here at fxphd and you can check out all the great new courses we have on offer in our term overview video.

This term’s Background Fundamentals, our weekly magazine-style course covering the fundamentals of vfx, focuses on vfx supervision. We’ll be sharing a wide variety of interviews with supervisors from around the world. The first class featured Andrew Jackson, the vfx supervisor whose work includes Knowing, Happy Feet 2, 300 and the last blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road.

Check out a free preview from the first class — and join fxphd to gain access to the full series as well as all of our great courses.

VIDEO – Take a look:  https://www.fxphd.com/blog/free-preview-bkd/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fxpage&utm_campaign=post-andrew

Pixar Bets on Better Image Quality

(bbc.com)         Inside Out is the 15th film to come from Pixar’s computer animation studios and it focuses on what goes on in the mind of an 11-year-old girl.

The film is the first Pixar feature to use Dolby Vision which claims to offer a better quality of picture.

BBC Click spoke to director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera about why they chose to employ the process for this film.

Clips courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures. Inside Out is released in UK cinemas on 24th July.

VIDEO – Take a look:   http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-33508826

Ant-Man Crew Insulted At Crew Screening


The Goonies – Sequel in the Works

(usmagazine.com)           When it comes to a Goonies sequel, the film’s original screenwriter Chris Columbus always keeps three words in mind: Never say die. In a new interview on July 20’s HuffPost Live, the filmmaker — currently promoting Pixels with Josh Gad — told fans that yes, the sequel is happening, but no, it’s not on the fast track.

Problem No. 1? There’s no final script. “There are a lot of writers who are interested in writing Goonies, but we’re very protective because it’s such a well-loved movie,” Columbus said. “The Goonies have aged 30 years, so there was a magic about that particular cast. How do you make it work now? That’s a difficult challenge.”

Rumors of a Goonies sequel were first sparked in April 2014 when the original film’s director, Richard Donner, hinted at a second movie, and suggested that Columbus and co-writer Steven Spielberg would return.

Last year, film costars Sean Astin and Corey Feldman admitted they’d be on board, and on Monday’s HuffPost Live, Columbus entertained plot twists and casting ideas. “Do you want to announce that I’m playing Stripe’s brother, or wait?” Gad, the star of Columbus’ Pixels, joked.

Gad had also already thought out how the reboot would get with the times. “What if it’s a crossover so that Josh Brolin’s character from No Country for Old Men is actually what became of Brand? Then you get Anton Chigurh as the guy who’s hunting down the goonies,” he proposed.

Read more: http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/the-goonies-2-is-coming-chris-columbus-calls-sequel-difficult-2015207#ixzz3hCXgyhjd

6 Tips For Becoming an Artist in Visual Effects for Film

(linkedin.com)                 Batman vs. Superman. Guardians of the Galaxy. Suicide Squad. Films like these and many more are thrilling audiences worldwide and are driving the entertainment business. Their success depends largely on the visual effects artists creating the images and action that expose audiences to new worlds and experiences. It’s a growing field with the work being done globally and young people are clamoring to get into the field. However, it is highly competitive and the expectations for entry level artists keep climbing. Read on to learn a few tips if you want to become part of this exciting field.


Visual effects studios working on feature films tend to want specialists. Compositing and lighting are the biggest departments with the biggest demand. FX artists are always in demand, there never seems to be enough of them. You might also specialize in a more niche department, like crowd or character TD. Even though the number of positions in those departments is smaller, the demand is there because fewer artists choose it as their focus. We need modelers and animators too, however the proportion of those artists coming out of colleges and universities is not in line with the demand. While it’s good to learn a bit of everything, focus on the department that most resonates with you and put all of your eggs in that basket.


Having some scripting skills like Python under your belt will make you more valuable to employers. Many think “I didn’t become an artist so I could be writing code.” However, it can be creative, and further, some scripting saves you from repetitive tasks which frees you to focus on the creative choices.


Visual effects artists make photo-realistic images. While we create fantastical creatures and worlds, they are rooted in reality by believably obeying physics and anatomy of the real world. So when you’re creating your own work, create images that look photo-realistic. Study reference from photos and the world around you. It is better to create a simple scene from everyday life that is convincingly real than to make chrome dinosaurs that look really cool.


Know your industry, find out what films are being made and who is working on them. Learn about the leading artists in your area of interest and find out how they got there. Be sure you are using the latest industry techniques and software; things can change quickly in this field and it’s important to stay up to date.


You’re probably reading this on LinkedIn, so you’re taking good steps already. What often gets overlooked in an era of friending, connecting, liking, sharing, tweeting and following is actual human connections. Look for opportunities to meet people in person. Join organizations like SIGGRAPH, get involved in events, volunteer and talk to people. Make friends, follow up with people you’ve met, don’t expect them to chase you.


MPC is one of the biggest visual effects companies in the world and is committed to help develop the next generation of visual effects artists. MPC Academy is our in-house finishing school where we hire recent graduates and pay them to be trained full time for up to 12 weeks, after which the successful graduates join their department working on feature film visual effects. Find out more at moving-picture.com/academy.

Would you like to learn more about MPC Academy? Sign up now for a live webinar that I’m hosting next Tuesday at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5101753012550018306

This is the Power of Age-Reduction Visual Effects

(petapixel.com)          You’ve probably seen many examples of Photoshop being used to make a portrait subject look younger, but have you seen the same type of age-reduction retouching in real-time video?

Digital artist Rousselos Aravantinos recently did an age-reduction test using the digital compositing software Nuke and Mocha Pro. The 30-second video above shows the results of his experiment.

“I’ve decided not to apply any facial markers, to challenge myself (and make my life more difficult). It’s a 100% work in 2D space,” the Los Angeles-based artist writes. “There are a few things i would like to improve, but I felt like it was time to move on.”

The original video is a short moving portrait of actress Michele Valley shot with a Nikon V1 mirrorless camera. You may not think that Aravantinos’ de-aging work looks completely realistic, but it’s an interesting look at what one person can do these days using the latest software tools available out there.

VIDEO – Take a look:   http://petapixel.com/2015/07/22/this-is-the-power-of-age-reduction-visual-effects/

VFX News – 07/27/15

Tom Cruise: ‘I’ll do Top Gun 2 if there’s ‘no CGI on the jets’

(theguardian.com)             The actor is keen to reprise his role of Maverick in a sequel to the 1986 hit but only if the film relies on practical effects

‘If I can figure it out, if all of us can figure it out, it’d be fun to do’ … Tom Cruise on reprising his role as Maverick in Top Gun 2. Photograph: Splash News/Corbis

While promoting Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the 53-year-old star spoke about his desire to play the role of Maverick again, if all falls into place.

“If I can figure it out, if all of us can figure it out, it’d be fun to do, I’d like to fly those jets again, but we got to do all the jets practical, no CGI on the jets,” he said to Extra. “I’m saying right now no CGI on the jets. If we can figure all that out, and the Department of Defense will allow us to do it, that would be fun.”

It’s already been revealed that the film will revolve around the clash between traditional aviation and unmanned drones. Producer David Ellison also added that it will be in 3D and shot for Imax.

The script is currently being written by Justin Marks, who was responsible for Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, a film which has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was originally being developed by the late Tony Scott.

Reports also suggest that Cruise would like Prince Harry to cameo in the film because of his “real experience and knowledge of flying in combat”.

After the release of the fifth Mission: Impossible film, which the Guardian’s Henry Barnes called “slick with silliness”, Cruise will next be seen in Mena, as a pilot who works for the CIA and as a drug runner.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Predicted to Make Worldwide Box-Office Haul of $2 Billion

(c/star)                 “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is expected to be a major box-office hit as it is predicted to earn $2 billion in sales once it is released to worldwide theaters on December 18.

Predictions are overly optimistic for the latest installment of the epic space opera franchise as it could eventually end up just behind “Avatar” and “Titanic” in the list of highest-grossing movies of all time, Deadline reported. Analyst Benjamin Swinburne is optimistic about the overseas sales of the movie so he raised his forecast of profit to nearly 22 percent.

After considering all the revenues and costs of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” it was predicted that the movie will be very profitable to Disney, the company that acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.

Disney is expected to gain more than $1 billion in revenues. Swinburne predicted that the domestic sales will reach $650 million with overseas sales expected to reach $1.3 billion. The ratio of overseas sales doubling local sales is expected to be higher than the last three “Star Wars” films.

Swinburne also added that Disney is poised to take a larger than average slice from the theatrical sales pie. For the “Star Wars” movie, Disney is expected to take 55-60 percent of domestic receipts and 40-45 percent of international sales. Prediction of global merchandise sales is also high with an expected income of $3 billion a year on licensed toys, clothing, and other related “Star Wars” stuff. About $215 million of the sales will go back to Disney.

Further predictions said that due to the “Star Wars” wide reach, Disney might gain $350 million in home video revenues, $100 million from video games, and $75 million for global pay TV. Swinburne figured that the revenues will trump the expected overall expense of Disney to produce “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which cost the company $423 million.

‘Ant-Man’ Wins Box Office for Second Straight Week

(foxnews.com)          LOS ANGELES –  “Ant-Man” crept past new opener “Pixels” to claim the top spot at the box office this weekend by an ant-sized margin. The Disney and Marvel superhero pic brought in $24.8 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $106.1 million according to Rentrak estimates Sunday.

“Pixels,” meanwhile, just barely missed first place with a $24 million debut. While studios always hope for the bragging rights of a No. 1 debut, the real issue here is whether or not the Adam Sandler end of the world comedy will make up its $88 million production budget.

Jurassic World 2 Will Go Head-to-head with Godzilla 2 in June of 2018

(scified.com)                Hold on to your butts! Not a day after Jurassic World was crowned third most successful film of all time has Universal announced plans to release the sequel, Jurassic World 2 in just under 3 years from today! Eyeing a June 22nd, 2018 release date, Jurassic World will see the return of lead actors Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. BD Wong is also likely to return, though his return has yet to be confirmed.

Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly will once again team up to pen the screenplay for Jurassic World 2, which Steven Spielberg will once again executive produce.

What makes this release date so interesting is it means Jurassic World 2 (a Legendary / Universal Pictures production) will directly compete with Legendary and Warner Brothers’ own Godzilla 2, which is currently slated for a June 8th, 2018 release date. Whether or not Godzilla 2’s release date will be pushed or accelerated has yet to be determined, but as it stands, both films will compete for top place at the box office throughout the month of June in 2018.

Which film do you think will take home the biggest box office earnings? Which sequel are you most excited to see? What are your hopes for Jurassic World 2? Let us know in the comments section!

Thanks to Evan123 in the Jurassic World forum for the news (via Variety)

Jurassic World is a sci-fi terror adventure film set 22 years after the events of the first Jurassic Park movie. When a terrifying new hybrid Dinosaur breaks free from its compound, the park is sprung into chaos and visitors must fight for their survival, or face extinction.

Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the long-awaited next installment of his groundbreaking Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World.  Colin Trevorrow directs the epic action-adventure from a screenplay he wrote with Derek Connolly.  Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley join the team as producers.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, written by Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly and starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jason Schwartzman, Omar SY, Irrfan Khan, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Katie McGrath, Lauren Lapkus, Jurassic World hit theaters June 12th, 2015.

$150M Gambit Feature to Begin Production in October, Casting Call Revealed

(comingsoon.net)        Though a logo for the character’s upcoming solo film was shown at San Diego Comic-Con, very little has been announced about the forthcoming Gambit movie, starring Channing Tatum and currently set for a release on October 7, 2016.

Now, a new document from LouisianaEntertainment.gov reveals new details on the film, including that it will have a budget just north of $150 million and production is slated to last from October of this year until February of 2016.

In other, Gambit news, Showbiz411 has found a casting call for the film with brief descriptions of some of the characters set to appear in the film, though the names have all likely been changed. They read as follows:

Louis– Male, any ethnicity, 40s-50s. Elegant and intelligent. An appealing entrepreneur with an unexpected
dark side.
Vera– Female, any ethnicity, mid 20s – early 30s. Beautiful, smart, tough, fiery and unpredictable.
Wes– Male, any ethnicity, mid 20s – mid 30s. Aspirational but weak minded. Soulful and sensitive.
Fritz– Male, any ethnicity, 40s – 50s. A professional thief. Charismatic con-artist. Warm hearted but untrustworthy.
Nash– Male, any ethnicity, mid 20s – early 30s. A potent threat. Heir to his mother’s business. Malevolent.
Willhelm– Male, any ethnicity, 30s. Dangerous street criminal. Protective and loyal to his family. Intensely loyal and violent.
Gary– Male, any ethnicity, mid 20s – early 30s. A little simple; dim-witted and passive.
Nonna—Female, any ethnicity, mid 20s – 30 years old. Uptight, corporate, vicious, sexual.
Joe– Male, any ethnicity, 30s. He’s a gun for hire. He is the black sheep of his family. Not from good breeding but from a working class family.
Ben–Male, any ethnicity, 20s. Just reaching adulthood. A street kid, a disaffected outsider, an orphan.
Boris–Male, Hispanic, 20s. Charming, handsome, and dangerous..
Clarissa– Female, mixed race, 10 – 12 years old. Ethereal and other worldly. Very expressive.
Wolfgang– Male, authentic French, 40s. A French criminal. Must speak fluent French.
Howard– Male, Caucasian. 50s. A refined European mobster who speaks fluent French.

Set to be directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and featuring a screenplay by Josh Zetumer (RoboCop), Gambit will be produced by Tatum and his creative partner Reid Carolin, along with “X-Men” franchise stewards Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner.

How ‘Pixels’ Brought 2D Video Games to a 3D Motion Picture

(hollywoodreporter.com)               In Sony’s Pixels, directed by Chris Columbus and opening this weekend, aliens attack the Earth with ’80s video games as models for their assaults — meaning the human saviors must fight off the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and Space Invaders.

Bringing classic video game characters to a 3D live-action motion picture proved challenging — as well as fun — for the VFX team. Led by overall VFX supervisor Matthew Butler, the work was shared primarily by Digital Domain and Sony Picture Imageworks, and parts were also tackled at an additional nine facilities. Here, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Imageworks’ VFX supervisor Dan Kramer.

Did you play these video games in the ‘80s?

Kramer: I did; I’m the perfect age for this. When I was a kid I spent many hours in the arcade playing most of the games that were featured in the movie. I had a lot of fond memories of those characters, like lots of people do. I was exciting when we got the project. … A lot of that had to do with the Pixels short by Patrick Jean, which inspired the movie. I though it was charming and paid homage to the video games in a really clever way.

What did it take to bring 2D video game characters into a 3D live action world?

Kramer: 2D video games are sprite sheets, which are little images that you flip between to make it look like you’re animating, and these are put on a CRT screen. So we tried to find out what the analogous of that would be in 3D. A pixel is a dot of light on a screen, and the equivalent in 3D is called a voxel (volume pixel). We use them a lot in CG … but we’ve never used them to render something directly to represent a character — at least not that I’m aware of. We ended up modeling simple characters, and we put them through an effects pipeline to “voxelate” them. Basically there was a 3D grid in space and wherever that character moved, we’d, like, up those voxels. So as the characters moves around, the voxels turned on and off.

There’s a sequence during which Frogger jumps between live action cars. How did that come together?

Kramer: We had to coordinate with the stunt coordinator, drivers. They set up a scene so the cars were all moving at the same speed and there was a nice gap between the cars that Frogger could jump in between. We had to choreograph this scene and imagine how Frogger would make his way across the street. We did similar things with Tetris; we built a 3D building and had giant Tetris blocks coming down and destroying sections of it. Anything that would tell the story of the video game was fun to do. That’s something that [Jean’s] short did really well.

Full article with pics:     http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/pixels-vfx-bring-video-games-810568

Did Pixar Kill Hand-Drawn Animation in the US?

(rotoscopers.com)       By my personal admission, the topic of hand-drawn animation and its current state in the animation industry is a subject that I always keep coming back to. Just when you think that you’ve squeezed the subject for all of its worth, something comes along that unveils a new layer to the conversation and injects it with new vibrancy and life. Alas, it was this ‘something’ that prompted me to go back and ask a hard question. One that will definitely cause a divide among readers on both sides of the equation.

I never, ever go into these types of articles with the intention of asking questions that are easy to answer in one go. But if I’m being honest, I had to think really hard about this article. How could I write this in a way that was satisfying? How could I give an explanation that was worthy of my time devoted to this article and to answering the question at hand. Now, in hindsight, I’m glad I wrote this. You might not be happy with it (not that I expect you to be), but I’m happy with it, simply for the fact that it might challenge you in the same way that it challenged me.

With all of that out the way, let’s go to the question. Here we go.

The Question at Hand (Introduction)

Did Pixar kill hand-drawn animation in the US?

As of current, Pixar is enjoying an ascendant comeback. Thanks to a little film called Inside Out, Pixar is once again in the good graces of critics and audiences every, and judging by the recently-released trailer for The Good Dinosaur, their comeback phase looks to continue unabated. But I guess on some level, that was to be expected. There was no way that Pixar, the studio that forever shifted the course of the animation industry, would not recover from a three-film tumble that started with Cars 2.

Now, you might be asking yourself: what do you mean when the animation industry was “forever shifted” by the course of one company?

A Trip Through Times Past

Let’s rewind the clocks to November 22 of 1995, when the first Toy Story bowed in theaters. During this time, hand-drawn animation was still prevalent in US theaters everywhere and was arguably still in its ultimate prime, while CG animation was still in its infancy and not yet the industry standard (as is the case today). Back then, the idea of a fully CG-animated feature film (let alone it becoming industry standard) was almost unheard of.

Of course, that would all change when Toy Story hit the scene. Oh boy, did Toy Story turn heads. Not only did it mark the beginning of an iconic franchise (now set to receive a fourth installment), but it was a watershed moment for the animation industry. CG-animation was the way of the future, and what other way to prove that than the success story that was Toy Story.

Throughout the remainder of the 90’s and into the early 2000’s, hand-drawn animation was still in vogue, even as a number of flops started popping up occasionally (Quest for Camelot, The Iron Giant, Titan A.E., etc). Running concurrent to this was the rise in the number of animated studios that were either switching over to CG-animation or were doing CG-animation from the onset. Regardless, Disney was holding firm on hand-drawn animation, made confidant by their successes with films like Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, and Tarzan as they eventually start to command an near-automatic monopoly over these films.

But as history would have it, even Disney’s iron grasp on hand-drawn animation would begin to slowly fade away, as the early 2000’s saw more of their hand-drawn feature films come up short in the box office. Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range. As the medium of hand-drawn animation began to fall out of favor with each passing year, so did Disney’s interest in soldiering on with a medium that was starting to hand them diminishing returns. The feature animation unit of Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Orlando was shut down in March of 2004. Home of the Range was also released that same year, and as with the others, it underperformed at the box office.

Now, let’s time-jump five years to 2009. CG-animation is now the industry standard and rule of the land, and Disney had realized this fact after Home on the Range and shifted course accordingly. That said, there was a certain sector of the company that thought that hand-drawn animation still deserved a fair shot. So along came Princess and the Frog, their first 2D-animated film in some time. While not a box-office flop or even an underperformer, any hopes that the movie would be a course-correction for theatrically-released hand-drawn animated films were squandered by missteps in the marketing and an error of judgment that saw Princess and the Frog stomped on by the release of Avatar five days later.

Two years afterwards, 2011 would see Disney take a final dip in the waters of hand-drawn animation with Winnie the Pooh. Despite shining reviews and a modest, easily-achievable budget, it too was trampled on by the release of another big film (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2) and likewise went utterly flaccid at the box office with $44 million.

This was (arguably) the last breath drawn by Disney’s hand-drawn division, two years before it was dismantled entirely in the summer of 2013. Jumping forth into the here and now, hand-drawn animated feature films on the big screens of US theaters are a rare occurrence. Even more rare are hand-drawn animated feature films made and produced in the US. It’s been four years since the release of the last hand-drawn animated feature film to ever come from a major studio, and the argument over the current state of hand-drawn animation is still debated with hard passion and even harder opinions.

Full article:    http://www.rotoscopers.com/2015/07/27/did-pixar-kill-hand-drawn-animation-in-the-us/

Terminator: Genisys Passes $300 Million at the Box Office

(flickeringmyth.com)                  It has been destroyed by critics (read our reviews here and here)and was called the Worst Blockbuster of All-Time by our own Anghus Houvouras – but Terminator: Genisys passed a milestone this weekend.

Terminator: Genisys added another $2.5 million to its domestic total and has now made $305 million worldwide, the majority of which has come from overseas. In the US, the movie has made just $85 million, but its worldwide take of $219 million (taken mostly in South Korea, United Kingdom and Russia) has helped push the movie past the $300 million marker.

However, the movie cost a whopping $155 million – and that doesn’t include marketing costs – so there is still some way for it to go before it becomes “profitable”. Terminator: Genisys is currently the 14th biggest movie of the year, and is being outperformed by The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, Taken 3 and Mad Max: Fury Road.

The ‘Minecraft’ Movie Finds an ‘Always Sunny’ Director

(screencrush.com)        Today in “extremely unlikely actors making their unlikely directorial debuts with unlikely projects,” we have It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-creator and star Rob McElhenney landing the Minecraft movie. If you are familiar with every element of that sentence then you know just how weird this news is.

The news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter, who had no additional details on the project, including whether or not anything that was developed by Shawn Levy (who departed the project in December) is still in play.

McElhenney is best known for playing Mac on 12 seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Minecraft is best known as the video game that all of the kids are playing, where gamers can build complex worlds from scratch and then navigate them at their own peril. McElhenney, who has only a few credits to his name, seems like an odd choice for what is surely going to be a large and expensive tentpole movie…but it makes a weird kind of sense when you stop and think about it.

If the Minecraft movie is working off the template established by The LEGO Movie (and it is surely going off that template), then putting someone with a little bit of an edge to their work in the director’s seat is the right move. Much like how Phil Lord and Chris Miller brought their off-kilter sensibilities to what should have been a lame kids’ movie, McElhenney can enhance Minecraft with his own subversive tendencies.

Minecraft has no characters and no storyline, so the movie is going to build its narrative from scratch. In other words, the guy who plays Mac is going to hand-build his own fantasy story about a world where everything is hand-built. This should be interesting, at the very least

VFX News – 07/24/15

‘Jurassic World’ Sequel to Hit Theaters in 2018

(variety.com)             After the smash success of “Jurassic World,” Universal has dated a sequel for June 22, 2018.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard will return to star in the film, which Steven Spielberg will exec produce through his Amblin Entertainment banner.

Colin Trevorrow, who directed “Jurassic World,” will co-write the screenplay with Derek Connolly.

On Wednesday, “Jurassic World” became the No. 3 top-grossing film of all-time, surpassing “The Avengers” with a monster $1.52 billion in ticket sales.

It has one remaining territory left to open — Japan, where it debuts on Aug. 5.

How Exactly Did Ant-Man Make Michael Douglas Look So Young?

(vulture.com)                  In Ant-Man’s opening scene, Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym strides into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to tender his resignation. Well, that’s not 100 percent right — it’s definitely Hank Pym, and it’s definitely S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, but it’s not quite Michael Douglas, at least as we know him in 2015. The scene takes place in 1989, and the Douglas that walks into the room is the spitting image of the actor during his Wall Street and Fatal Attraction days. How did the film undo 25 years of time’s cruel work? We were lucky enough to talk to Trent Claus of Lola VFX, the company that de-aged Douglas for Marvel, to learn the scene’s secrets.

In the world of visual effects, Lola specializes in “visual cosmetics,” which can range from secret touch-ups to complete physical transformations. As Claus puts it, the company can make anyone “older, younger, thinner [or] fatter.” Lola first got into de-aging in their work for X-Men: The Last Stand, but their breakout moment came on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where they handled the aging and de-aging of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett’s characters. Since then, they’ve had a long relationship with Marvel — Lola created skinny Chris Evans for the first Captain America film — and they were brought on fairly early in the production process to handle the de-aging work in Ant-Man’s prologue.

The heads-up helped. “They asked for advice for what they could do when they were shooting that could aid us, which is very much appreciated,” said Claus. “We put our two cents in, and they did everything we needed right from the start.” Mostly that meant no anti-aging makeup on the 70-year-old Douglas (it messes with the way light works on the face) and a sprightly stand-in to give a reference point for the way young skin looked on the S.H.I.E.L.D. set.

From there, Lola got to work. Unlike on previous transformations, they had a plenty of reference material — multiple feature films’ worth — of exactly what a 45-year-old Michael Douglas would look like. To hear Claus tell it, this was both a blessing and a curse. “It helped us a lot to have that reference,” he said, “but it made us work harder, because the audience already knew what he looked like at that age. There wasn’t a whole lot of leeway.”

The only solution, they decided, was to view as much of Douglas’s late-’80s oeuvre as possible, as closely as possible. They found themselves watching Wall Street not only for its dramatic indictment of corporate greed, but also for its great shots of Douglas’s middle-aged wrinkles. “What’s really important is the way his face moves as he speaks, the way that the muscles in the face have changed over time, the way the skin reacts to those muscles. To sell the effect you have to look at the way [the face] looks in motion.”

De-aging an actor is essentially giving them a digital face-lift, and Lola’s team do the same work with digital composites a skilled plastic surgeon would do with a scalpel. The two professions turn out to have similar ways of talking. “The most obvious thing is that the skin along the jaw in most people tends to get lower and lower and sag a little bit as you get older. Particularly around the throat and the Adam’s Apple area, you’ll get a build-up of extra skin down there,” Claus told me. “One thing we’ll have to do to de-age someone is restore that elasticity and try to not only to remove the excess skin, but pull it back up to where it once was.”

Our cheeks thin out and sink as we get older, so Lola also added a little more fat to the middle of Douglas’s cheeks. And since human ears and noses never stop growing, they also had to shrink Douglas’s back to their 1980s’ sizes, as well as remove some of his ear wrinkles. Then it came time to restore what Claus called Douglas’s “youthful glow,” adding shine to his skin and hiding the blood vessels in his nose.

The result in the finished film is eerie in its accuracy; it’s as if Douglas stepped into the room straight off the cover of Time. There’s still a telltale digital sheen, but the de-aging effect has come a long way in the nine years since X3. I asked Claus if this was because technology had gotten better. “It really hasn’t changed,” he said. “The basic tools have been the same for decades. It’s more the experience of the artists that are actually doing the work.” In other words, their skills have grown over time — just like their ears.

How Hollywood Filmmakers Can Supply China’s VFX Demand

(hollywoodreporter.com)         Top experts from Hollywood and Asia are learning from South Korea to foray into the world’s fastest expanding film market.

In China, local comedies have recorded some of the biggest box office scores but VFX-heavy Hollywood films such as Furious 7 and Transformers are still dominating the world’s fastest growing film market. Naturally, everyone from DreamWorks to star VFX specialists such as John Dietz (Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games) have set up shop in the Asian country.

“In the past few years, the interest [in China among American producers] went from zero to 100 percent. China is the only market in the world that gets people in the film business in America very excited,” said Stu Levy, the international chair of the Producer’s Guild of America who is based in Tokyo and L.A. and now frequently travels to Beijing. Levy was among specialists who spoke during the NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films) forum on Tuesday during South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan).

According to Levy, box-office projections for China are expected to shoot up from the current $7 billion to about $20 billion in 2020, compared to the $1 billion jump from $10 billion to $11 billion during the same time frame for the U.S. There is higher demand for more films and for more diverse genres, which naturally feeds into the need for more VFX experts and other specialists.

“You have big productions, internally made Chinese ones. There is a whole lot of demand for sci-fi and other genre films that pose technical challenges and they’re trying to compete with Transformers and Avengers. Chinese audiences want to see these movies made by the Chinese,” said Dietz, who is currently working on his 13th Chinese/Chinese-language project.

Says Beijing-based Singaporean film producer KQ: “Chinese filmmakers are no longer disconnected from the international creative community. But there is a lack of locally trained crews that can work well with the shooting process, while producers don’t have experience understanding how costly and time consuming VFX projects are.”

Though many American filmmakers have tried to work with Chinese partners, many have failed because they simply do not understand the nature of the local market.

“Chinese films can’t compete with [films like Avengers] right now because of ability and skill… But [American filmmakers] can’t come to China just because you did Transformers,” said Dietz, emphasizing that non-Chinese filmmakers need to understand that there is no organized structure in China’s ever evolving market.

“Part of the chaos is that there is so much money floating around and there are many risks. What often happens is that you have inexperienced producers working with inexperienced financiers,” he said.

Americans, furthermore, can learn from the Korean example.

Having created the VFX for the ambitious 2013 Korea-China co-production Mr. Go, Korea’s Dexter Digital has been a key player for big-budget Chinese works such as Tsui Hark’s Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon and The Taking of Tiger Mountain. Chinese giant Wanda Group also recently became a major stakeholder of the company.

“Korea has a great advantage because there is great proximity with China, both geographically and culturally,” said KQ.

“For many Korean companies, working on Chinese projects is very appealing because many will pay shot-based rather than a flat rate like it is in Korea. Also, the Korean government provides financial support when Korean companies work on foreign projects,” said Kim Wook, executive VGX supervisor and producer at Dexter.

In 2013, the Seoul-based studio opened a Beijing office, of which some 30 out of the 50 employees are Chinese. “You have to get involved after really understanding how business works in China. It’s all about building trust first,” said Kim.

Dietz agreed, saying that it took him a while to prove that he was there not to “just make a few films and leave” but to contribute to build the local VFX industry. “Sure, there are many risks in China. But with taking risks there comes innovation and different techniques actually have a shot at taking off. In the long term there is room for a lot of growth.”

‘Pixels’ Tilting Toward Soft $25 Million Debut at Box Office

Sony’s sci-fi action comedy directed by Christopher Columbus will be squeezed by “Minions” and “Ant-Man,” which also target family audiences

“Pixels,” the sci-fi comedy based on classic video games and starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James, is heading for a box office opening in the mid-$20 millions.

That’s not the kind of number a studio would typically look for from a summer tentpole movie, particularly one with budget of at least $85 million and directed by Christopher Columbus (“Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”). And Sony currently ranks last among the major studios in market share.

This isn’t a typical summer. The box office has been white hot, with numerous films overperforming and three — “Furious 7,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Jurassic World” — grossing more than $1 billion worldwide.

The domestic box office is running roughly 7 percent ahead of 2013, which ranks as the biggest year ever with $10.9 billion in grosses. Analysts now project 2015 will be the highest-grossing in history.

Smaller VFX Shows To Qualify – New Zealand Merges Film Agencies

(hollywoodreporter.com)                Locations marketing agency Film NZ, will become port of the New Zealand Film Commission as international production balloons.

Kiwi locations marketing agency Film NZ will be absorbed by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), following a government review into the operation of incentive program, the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which the agencies have jointly promoted since April last year.

The merger of the agencies will take place from August 1, with Film NZ staff moving to the NZFC premises as part of the NZFC’s expanded international and marketing teams.

“Our two agencies have worked very closely together for many years and particularly to ensure the success of the New Zealand Screen Production Grant since it was introduced last year,” Dame Patsy Reddy, New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) chair said.

She added: “This announcement builds on and formalizes that approach, by creating a one-stop shop for film makers and screen companies in New Zealand and overseas.”

NZ Arts Minister Steven Joyce said that it had been a record year for international production shooting in New Zealand following the establishment of the NZSPG, The grant boosted incentives, including allowing major productions to claim back up to 25 percent of their budget as rebates. Films made in the Kiwi territory have included  including Walt Disney Pictures’ Pete’s Dragon, Dreamworks’ Light Between Oceans, The Weinstein Company’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II, and Legendary Pictures’ Krampus.

Indeed the production grant has also been successful in securing a number of key TV series, including Ash v The Evil Dead, MTV’s Shannara and Saban’s Power Rangers, that have kept the sector busy after production  on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy finished.

At the same time the review of the NZSPG has recommended amendments to its operation including halving the qualifying threshold for the post digital and visual effects grant for international productions from $660,000 to $330,000 (NZ$1 million to NZ$500,000). That’s designed to encourage amore international post production and support smaller visual effects companies, Joyce said.

DreamWorks Animation’s Campus Sold Again For Major Profits

(deadline.com)    Property values are rising in Glendale: Griffin Capital just paid $215 million to Sun Trust Equity for DreamWorks Animation’s 14.7-acre campus there — five months after Sun Trust paid DWA $185 million for the site.

The studio sold the property as part of a restructuring, announced in February, designed to improve its liquidity after a string of its films resulted in write-downs.

DWA benefits from the transaction. It has a 50-50 profit sharing agreement with SunTrust.

You’d thought Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen would have picked somewhere closer than Glendale when building their studio

The studio’s employees can relax. DWA has a lease enabling it to stay for 20 years, with four renewal options each running five years. It pays $13.2 million a year, increasing 1.5% a year.

Griffin Capital’s Director of Acquisitions Louis Sohn calls the property a “one-of-a-kind asset, with a rich array of high-quality improvements that are not typically seen at an office campus.”

DWA built the site in 1997, and expanded it in 2010. It includes 460,000 square feet of office space, and has a cafeteria, training rooms and a Starbucks.

Seven Movies That Could Break the Video Game Movie Curse

It’s no secret that the majority of movies based on video games are not very good. We’re not talking about movies set in the world of gaming or featuring fictional and real video games like TRON, Wreck-It Ralph, and this week’s release of Pixels. We’re talking about movies based on an existing video game title being brought to the big screen.

The first video game movie was Super Mario Bros. in 1993, and while that movie should have been terrible enough to kill the entire subgenre (the recent Honest Trailer for the film illustrates that pretty well), there have been about 26 video game movies released theatrically since then, and not one of them deserves to be called great (many of them can’t even be called okay).

However, there might be a chance that the future has some genuinely good video game movies on the horizon, that is if the talent attached to some forthcoming projects is any indicator. Below, we look at seven forthcoming video game movies that could break the apparent curse that plagues the subgenre.

Check out some promising video game movies coming soon after the jump!

Seven Promising Video Game Movies on the Way

Assassin’s Creed

What’s it about? Assassin’s Creed is based on the Ubisoft game franchise of the same name about a bartender named Desmond Miles, who turns out to be descended from a long line of assassins. He’s captured by a secretive organization and sent back in time to access his ancestors’ memories and collect ancient artifacts.

Why does it sound good? Aside from the intriguing story, the talent attached to this game sounds better than any cast we’ve ever heard of for a video game flick. Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, 12 Years a Slave) is in the lead role with Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, Contagion) taking a key role along with Ariane Labed (Before Midnight, The Lobster). The film also reunites Fassbender and Cotillard with their Macbeth director Justin Kurzel. Watch the trailer for that Shakespearean adaptation and you’ll see why this roster of talent taking on Assassin’s Creed sounds awesome.

When can we see it? Assassin’s Creed is currently set for release on December 21st, 2016.


What’s it about? The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home. So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.

Why does it sound good? This is a deep, rich fantasy taking us into a world the likes of which haven’t been seen since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Hobbit trilogy jut isn’t on the same level). Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) is directing the film that will be brought to life with visual effects comparable to that of Avatar and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and it has the potential to be the biggest video game movie ever made.

The footage shown at Comic-Con was wholly impressive, though certainly a little confusing for a non-Warcraft fan, but it’s a massive epic with a huge scope and a diverse ensemble of characters from Orcs to humans to wizards and more. The cast doesn’t have many huge names (Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Clancy Brown, Dominic Cooper are the most notable names) but that means they put all the money into everything else in the film, and that’s a good start.

When can we see it? Warcraft arrives on June 10th, 2016. The first trailer arrives sometime this fall.

Source with more:     http://www.slashfilm.com/promising-video-game-movies/

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Production Moving Forward

EXCLUSIVE: Brie Larson is in talks to play the female lead in Legendary Pictures’ Kong: Skull Island. She will join Tom Hiddleston, who was set some time ago. Legendary is actively setting the two other male leads after the exit of both Michael Keaton and JK Simmons. One actor they are courting hard for one of those roles is Russell Crowe, but it won’t be clear whether or not that happens until the next script draft comes in.

Keaton and Simmons had scheduling conflicts, my colleague Ali Jaafar reported when he broke news of their exits.

Legendary has Jordan Vogt-Roberts directing a script by John Gatins and Max Borenstein, and they are eyeing a production start of late year or early 2016. The film will be released by Universal Pictures on March 10, 2017, with a Imax 3D a big part of the release plan. Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni produce with Mary Parent, with Alex Garcia and Eric McLeod exec producing. Kong: Skull Island will fully immerse audiences in the mysterious and dangerous home of the iconic ape as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island. Clearly it wasn’t lost on anyone that Peter Jackson’s King Kong had its best moments on Skull Island, depicted as a scary place. Wannasee has been high on this since Legendary revealed the project at San Diego Comic-Con awhile back.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’ – CGI Technology to be Used on Javier Bardem

(vinereport.com)              The rumor mill continues to churn for the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie slated for 2017 showing in theaters globally. Filming has begun early in Queensland and transferred to the idyllic Hamilton Island this month.

Javier Bardem will play the formidable baddie who looked grey and sinister in a set of photos leaked by The Daily Mail . The face paint indicates that there will be a massive amount of CGI work to be done. Sightings in the leaked set photos also show the very memorable Captain Jack Sparrow, though it remains to be verified if it is Johnny Depp himself or a stunt double wearing the gear.

The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film will follow the story of Captain Salazar, who is apparently on a homicidal rampage against other pirates. It will be Captain Jack Sparrow’s task to stop these attempts to obliterate all the other pirates.

While all of the snapped visuals in Queensland are making rounds on social media, there is also a rumor that Orlando Bloom will return to the franchise but it is yet unconfirmed.

“I’m not entirely sure that [I’ll be back] just yet, but there are talks. Basically they want to reboot the whole franchise, I think, and do something with me and the relationship with my son,” said Bloom in a Perez Hilton post.

Bloom’s statement fueled other rumors that Brenton Thwaites’ inclusion in the cast may actually be indicative of that story arc. The love interest for Thwaites in the movie is still unconfirmed but there are a handful of names floating around since late last year. Some of the more popular crowd favorites in the running for this role are Alexandra Dowling, Kaya Scoledario, Gabriella Wilde, Jenna Thiam, and Lucy Boynton.

Jaeger Pilot Hopes Pacific Rim 2 Isn’t as Effects-driven as the First Film

(ew.com)           These days, the success of a film can be difficult to measure. It requires more than just a passing look at box office receipts. On paper, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 kaiju love letter Pacific Rim took in over $400 million at the global box office, with $100 million of that coming from the US alone. Those sums were enough to justify a sequel for Warner Bros. and Legendary, but the narrative around the release of the movie still had the ring of minor disappointment.

Charlie Hunnam, one of the film’s stars, looks back on Pacific Rim similarly, but for a much different reason. When EW spoke with the former Sons of Anarchy actor on the set of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, the conversation turned to working on an effects-heavy film and how that can be inhibiting as a performer. “When it becomes very technical, those technical aspects create a rigidity to the process,” he said. “Then all of the sudden, you have to find where your little place to fit into that process is, as opposed to the whole thing being about you.”

That rigidity is partially what led to his disappointment with Pacific Rim, which in the end favored the robots and their fights with monsters, over the Jaeger pilots inside their heads. “I think world creation and monster creation and all of that stuff is exciting as a secondary element of storytelling. When it becomes more important than storytelling, I get very nervous, and you sort of lose me a little bit,” Hunnam said. “Although we tried very hard on Pacific Rim to marry those two elements, I do feel like ultimately it got weighed heavier on the side of spectacle than storytelling.”

With Pacific Rim 2 scheduled to shoot this fall, that balance is something that Hunnam is excited to take another crack at.  “I hope that we are able to remedy that a little bit going into the second,” he said. “Not to say I wasn’t proud of the film. I really liked it, and I felt like it delivered exactly what it was supposed to. But I do feel like we could have maybe plumbed the depths of the character and the storytelling a little bit more.”

VFX News – 07/13/15

Animal Logic Looks to Fill 300 Roles

(if.com.au)              Visual effects and animation studio, Animal Logic is looking candidates for its new Vancouver animation studio due to open in late 2015.

The company is looking to fill around 300 roles across the production pipeline.

According to a company statement, the annual SIGGRAPH conference – August 9-13 in Los Angeles – represents an ideal opportunity for potential candidates to meet with Animal Logic’s recruitment team.

Animal Logic recruitment supervisor,  Patricia Kung said the company was especially keen to hear from associate producers, production Managers, senior system Engineers, CG supervisors, software developers and technical directors.

“Siggraph is an important event for us and an important audience,” said Animal Logic’s Recruitment Supervisor

The LEGO Movie Sequel is scheduled to start production at Animal Logic Vancouver in January 2016.

Kung said the opportunities were not just in Vancouver.

Animal Logic’s Sydney studio is also looking to fill a significant number of key roles as it ramps up production on LEGO Batman and Ninjago, as well as its growing slate of Visual FX projects.

“From software developers to digital artists, the available positions at our Sydney, Australia, studio also represent an amazing opportunity for those currently working in the visual effects and animation industries,” Kung said.

Source:      http://if.com.au/2015/07/13/article/Animal-Logic-looks-to-fill-300-roles/XCYUERWXPT.html

12 photos Inside Sony Pictures Imageworks New Downtown Vancouver HQ

(vancouversun.com)            Sony Imageworks revealed their brand new headquarters in Vancouver this week.

The visual effects arm of Sony Motion Pictures Group unveiled its new operations centre on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday with Premier Christy Clark and Mayor Gregor Robertson in attendance.

Sony Imageworks’ Vancouver location is the city’s largest visual effects and digital animation facility, covering 6,900 square metres and housing more than 700 artists. Sony Imageworks first opened an office in Vancouver in 2010 with a staff of 80.

“B.C. is thriving because we have a diverse economy and diverse markets — and tech is leading the way,” Premier Christy Clark said in a statement. “With a highly skilled talent base, attractive lifestyle and business climate, B.C. is increasingly a global destination for digital media giants.”

Sony Imageworks’ contributions in visual effects include the Spider-Man franchises, Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow, and animated film Hotel Transylvania.

Photos – Take a look:  http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2015/07/sony-pictures-imageworks-vancouver-office-photos/

Hayao Miyazaki To Make Debut 3D CG Animation Film

(variety.com)          TOKYO — Animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki confirmed that he is directing an animated short for the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. This will be his first animation since completing “The Wind Rises,” a 2013 hit which he said would be his last feature.

The new ten-minute film, starring a hairy caterpillar, will be made in the 3D CG format, a first for the director, and take an estimated three years to complete. Miyazaki did not say whether the film will be shown outside the museum.

Miyazaki spoke to reporters at his studio Higashi Koganei, Tokyo. He dedicated most of his remarks to criticism of the Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Gameloft Closes Their NYC Studio, Lays Off All Development Staff

(toucharcade.com)               I think it’s fair to say that Gameloft has been one of the most important publishers in mobile gaming’s brief history. They were going big into making mobile phone games before most, and although a lot of their earlier efforts were pretty blatant riffs on popular console and PC games, you still have to give them credit for the amount of effort they put into those games. But the times have changed, and the App Store even more so. The type of games Gameloft made best don’t sell the way they used to, and I think it’s fair to say the company has, like many, struggled to keep up with the movement of the market. There’s only so long that can go on before something terrible happens, and I suppose yesterday was that day for Gameloft’s New York City offices.

According to a report on Gamasutra which cites a now-deleted Facebook post from Gameloft NYC lead programmer Kevin Chen, production at the NYC offices has ceased and all development personnel have been laid off. As many as 100 people lost their jobs yesterday, effectively dissolving a development studio that has produced a bunch of best-selling games over the last 15 years, including one of my recent favorites, Spider-Man Unlimited [Free]. Gameloft has a number of other development studios around the world, of course, but it’s awful to see any developer shuttered, no matter how big or small they may be.

Let’s hope everyone who worked at Gameloft NYC who finds themselves out a job today can land on their feet somehow. Spider-Man Unlimited is probably one of my most-played mobile games since its release, and I know I’m not the only Spidey fan who loves it. Each and every person who worked on it deserves an ultra-coveted TouchArcade Most Spider-Mans Of A Lifetime award, and if you’re going to enjoy some celebratory vermouth, you might want to make it the non-metaphorical kind today. Best of luck to all the folks at or formerly at Gameloft during these difficult times.

Weta Workshop Built on ‘The Hobbit’ Tech to Create ‘Warcraft’ Weapons

(slashfilm.com)               One of the best things about Comic Con is getting up close and personal with objects and costumes designed for many films. Weta Workshop is here with artifacts from Duncan Jones‘s film Warcraft, for example. While waiting to speak to Jones at Legendary’s preview night event, I got a few minutes of private conversation with Richard Taylor, the Weta Workshop founder and creative director whose work with armor and weapons gave such weight to the Lord of the Rings movies.

The work Taylor and Weta have done for Warcraft is spectacular. You can see evidence above — that shot is of a statue of Dominic Cooper’s character King Llane Wrynn, unveiled this evening. We’ve got more shots of Weta’s armor work below, along with a nice chat with Taylor. The armor master says that new digital-enhanced techniques saved the day on Warcraft.

Taylor also brings up Krampus, from Trick R Treat director Michael Dougherty, for which he says about 80% of the effects are practical.

What was the overall approach to Warcraft?

It was terrific for us, because naturally people thought that the film would be significantly digital. But you have two protagonists — you have these equal armies, almost, and you want to tell those two stories. The way to tell the human story is through human actors. That required armor and weapons to be built, which was a joy for us. We’d done some early development with Duncan and Stuart on a previous movie, and that’s how we got to know them. So when Legendary asked us to do this, and connected us with Duncan, you can imagine how extraordinarily excited we were.

The approach, luckily this director has a very strong vision, and he was armed with a studio that would support him and encourage the ideas he had. Initially, the armor was a real challenge, because in the game the human-proportioned armor is significantly off. So there was a little bit of design process to get people through prototyping to understand what was possible. Building the armor to be as significant as possible while still having someone be able to wield a sword.

The test we always use, as crude as it is, is that an actor has to be able to clap their hands in front of their bodies, because that means that they can hold the sword, and wield it above their head. If they can’t do that, it’s because the armor is too encumbering. And you can’t allow the design of the armor to overwhelm the performance of the actor. Otherwise, halfway through the shoot, the actor is going to become disengaged from the armor. These things are really important.

But the design process was a joy, the designs came to us mostly finished and we got to build them. Thankfully, for the last I guess twelve or thirteen years we’ve been investing in digital modeling technology, 3D printing, milling machines. Lord of the Rings was 100% hand-built. The Hobbit was 60% manufactured by robots. The technology that we developed for that film we were able to bring heavily to bear on this.

3D printing and milling, really, milling saved our ass on this. The product requires such a perfect finish. Perfect symmetry. If you look at the Lion shields, the swords, it was never going to be possible through hand-sculpting, in the time that we had. You could arguably do everything that the machines can do, but you could never do it in the time.

Full article with pics:     http://www.slashfilm.com/richard-taylor-warcraft-interview/

Boston Film Tax Credit Survives Attack  – Zero VFX Keeps 25% Discount

(bostonglobe.com)               A controversial state tax credit for the film industry has proved once again to be invincible.

The Legislature rebuffed efforts by Governor Charlie Baker to kill the subsidy. The governor had wanted to use the savings to finance an expansion of a tax credit for low-income workers.

Like his predecessor Deval Patrick, Baker had criticized the film tax credit as a wasteful giveaway that did not generate enough economic activity in Massachusetts to justify the tens of millions in revenue lost to the state treasury.

“My view has been that the subsidy is not worth the value of the return,” Baker said Wednesday. “There are clearly people in the Legislature who disagree with me, but, as I said before, that’s politics. That’s government.”

Baker’s loss, though, is a coup for the thousands of film workers and related professionals who said its elimination would disrupt the burgeoning industry and threaten their livelihoods. They organized a lobbying campaign that included testifying at public hearings, social media call outs, and personal appeals to legislators.

It didn’t hurt that those workers had a well-placed supporter in their corner: House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“We feel that it’s good business,” DeLeo said Wednesday as the Legislature wrapped up negotiations on the state budget for fiscal 2016, which began July 1. “I know I’ve talked to small businesses throughout the Commonwealth who say when films are made in that particular district, how valuable they can be.”

The Massachusetts film tax credit equals 25 percent, with some exceptions, of the costs and salaries for films, commercials, and television shows shot in the state.

Under Patrick, the Department of Revenue issued a series of reports concluding that the film tax credit did not yield much economic benefit.

For example, Massachusetts paid out an estimated $77.8 million in credits in 2012 that generated $304 million in spending by movie, television, and advertising productions. However, the department said, two-thirds of that spending took place outside of Massachusetts; $101 million occurred in the state.

From 2006 to 2012, the program created the equivalent of about 5,500 jobs, the tax agency said, but each job cost the state approximately $118,000. In that time, the state doled out almost $411 million in film credits.

But some in the industry said the state’s analysis does not reflect the reality at their companies.

Brian Drewes said business generated by the tax credit helped his visual-effects company, Zero VFX, grow from a small operation in a Newton basement to a 12,500-square-foot space in the Back Bay, with 55 artists working on films and commercials.

“What you see is a groundswell saying that this does have an economic impact on the city that is beyond what the Department of Revenue reports like to mention,” he said. “When you actually start to track reality, you see all the people with stories like mine.”

Pixar Reveals Evolution of Troubled Toon ‘The Good Dinosaur’

(Variety.com)               “At Pixar, we ask a lot of ‘what ifs,’” the studio’s Pete Sohn told a crowd of cartoon devotees (a mix of animation students, professionals and fans) at France’s Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival: “What if the toys come to life when we leave the room? What if the monsters really were real inside the closet? What if a rat became a world-famous French chef?”

So far, those hypotheticals have yielded “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Ratatouille,” respectively, but according to Sohn, “With (‘The Good Dinosaur’), we would ask the biggest ‘what if’ of all.” With that, he cued a clip in which a gigantic asteroid misses the Earth, narrowly averting a mass extinction event: What if instead of being wiped off the Earth, dinosaurs had continued to evolve?

That’s the hypothetical that audiences will see answered when the film opens later this year, just in time for Thanksgiving, on Nov. 25. But internally, Pixar was asking another question: What if you scrap the original director of your upcoming dino movie and plug someone new in his place? In this case, Peter Sohn replaced “Up’s” Bob Peterson — the similarity between their names providing an added irony to the swap.

Of course, “The Good Dinosaur” is hardly the first Pixar movie to get a massive overhaul in production (“Toy Story 2,” “Ratatouille” and “Brave” were all repair jobs of some sort, losing their original directors along the way), but it could be the riskiest. Sohn’s only previous helming credit was 2009’s “Partly Cloudy” short, and though the Korean-American animator is a favorite among his Pixar peers, inspiring the character of Asian boy scout Russell in “Up,” this project put an enormous responsibility in his relatively untested hands.

Full article:    http://variety.com/2015/film/festivals/annecy-pixar-reveals-evolution-of-troubled-the-good-dinosaur-1201521429/

Star Wars: Rogue One Begins Filming Soon, Lucasfilm Confirms

(ign.com)        Star Wars’ first Anthology film, Rogue One, begins shooting in three weeks, according to Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy.

Star Wars: Rogue One is the first Star Wars Anthology film, and it’s about the Rebel Alliance stealing the Death Star plans from the Empire. It’ll be filmed in 6K. The second Anthology movie centers on a young Han Solo.

How the Most Realistic Robot in Cinema History Was Made

(gizmodo.com)           Entirely computer generated characters are now an established part of the Hollywood blockbuster. The likes of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket and Groot are increasingly commonplace – just don’t mention Jar Jar Binks. Perhaps the high watermark for CGI success so far though (at least when you’re talking about silver-screen robots) is Chappie, which came out earlier this year

The film told the story of Dev Patel’s Deon Wilson, an engineer at a South African weapons manufacturer, who figures out how to make the firm’s police robots think for themselves – just like a human. Unfortunately, the eponymous robot (played Andy Serkis-as-Gollum style by Sharlto Copley) ends up getting kidnapped and falls in with a bad crowd of gangsters. Worse still, the authorities decide that Chappie is a danger who must be stopped.

The thing that is really striking about the film is just how good the visual effects are, with CGI robot characters seamlessly blended in with the ‘real’ characters. So how was it done? To find out I had a chat with the film’s visual effects supervisor Chris Harvey, who explained the reason why blending in was so important to making the film work:

“Ultimately the goal of any visual effects is that it is blended seamlessly. My mandate with the team was really that was only step one with what we had to do. It’s like he has to be 100 per cent believable, because as soon as he isn’t the whole point of Chappie – that he’s a character you’re supposed to connect with emotionally – […] he’s supposed to register like any other character. As soon as we break any realism in terms of him blending, you’ll immediately lose that connection.”

It wasn’t easy to achieve though. To make Chappie work, Chris and his team joined the production early in development, much earlier than VFX would usually get involved.

3D Printed Robots

“Typically what will happen with visual effects is that someone will design it practically, build it and we will have to replicate it. And we’re going to be stuck with whatever decisions they made, whether that’s good or bad for us. Chappie was different because we actually came on very early and were part of that design process.”

Full article:  http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/07/how-the-most-realistic-robot-in-cinema-history-was-made/

How Photoshop Changed the World

(pcauthority.com.au)              It’s hard to believe there was no Photoshop before 1990. Its impact has since been magnified by the rise of digital photography and social media, and continues through an endless variety of rival products, but for a quarter of a century we’ve been living in the Photoshop age.

“Photoshop changed the ontology of the photograph,” said Caroline Bassett, a professor of media and communications. “It revolutionised our sense of the relationship of the photographic image to the reality it remade. Before Photoshop, it was easier to believe a photograph captured the truth. After, we knew it was constructed. I think it’s the single most influential software package of the PC era.”

This judgement would have surprised University of Michigan postgraduate Thomas Knoll when he began coding a graphics tool on his Mac Plus in 1987. “Painting” programs existed for the Mac and other early PCs, but Knoll’s PhD was in computer vision. His brother John was working for George Lucas’ visual-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and their father, Glenn, had a darkroom in their basement. Coming at bitmap editing from this fresh angle, they first sold their application bundled with some of the newfangled scanners.

Before long, John had struck a deal with Adobe, which had just catapulted the Macintosh into the graphics business thanks to the Adobe LaserWriter printer. Priced at less than US$1,000 at launch – half the price of Letraset’s ColorStudio software – Photoshop appealed to users who had latched on to the Mac as a way to get into cutting-edge creative work at a fraction of the cost. Previously, photo retouching had been performed by bureaux on six-figure workstations from companies such as Quantel and Scitex, charged at a going rate of $400 per hour. Now, in-house art staff could attempt it with Mac setups costing as little as $10,000 – and pros and amateurs alike could begin to invent new kinds of images.

Read more: http://www.pcauthority.com.au/Feature/406418,how-photoshop-changed-the-world.aspx#ixzz3fmqqS8cS

Warner Bros. to Give that Green Lantern Movie Thing Another Try

(avclub.com)           Along with the similarly timed and equally reviled Jonah Hex, 2011’s Green Lantern movie was one of Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ first attempts to ride the current wave of superhero movies and get a non-Superman or Batman-based comic book franchise off the ground. But the film’s box office failure—barely making back its $200 million budget, most of which appears to have been spent on slathering bright green CGI on every available surface—seemed to have killed those dreams. Until now, anyway.

As part of Warner’s Comic-Con panel today, the studio announced that it was giving Green Lantern another shot. We don’t have any casting details or release dates yet—the announcement was done via a concept art reel, smashed in between footage of Hugh Jackman’s Pan and the new Suicide Squad trailer—but we do have a name: Green Lantern Corps. That name implies a more team-based film, raising the possibility that Green Lanterns beyond series protagonist Hal Jordan, like Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and newbie Kyle Rayner, might all get a chance in the big green spotlight. In any case, it’s unlikely that Green Lantern star Ryan Reynolds will be reprising his role in the film, because he’s busy with Deadpool, and also because he already said that he really doesn’t want to.

32TEN Studios Creates Practical Effects for Jurassic World

(cgw.com)                 The most prominent were the gates that welcomed visitors to the prehistoric theme park Jurassic World. Those gates, which needed to appear massive on screen, were actually “miniature” 19-foot set pieces built at 32TEN under the supervision of model maker Mark Anderson.

While the size of the piece was nothing new for 32TEN model makers, Jurassic World  director Colin Trevorrow and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) VFX Supervisor Tim Alexander wanted to make sure the doors looked exactly as imagined. “It took a while to get the exact look for the concrete and the aging of the wood,” explains 32TEN Studios Executive Producer Tim Partridge. “But, after a couple of go rounds they looked great.”

Once designed and built, the double doors were mechanized with motion control in order to open at exactly the right time to let the monorail pass through. The gates were set up on the main stage at 32TEN and shot using the motion control system to ensure the effects shots matched the location shots.

The flames for the torches on the gate pillars were shot separately, each with its own motion-controlled move, for later compositing.

“Colin felt it was important for the gates to be real,” explains ILM’s Alexander. “32TEN did a great job building them.”

Trevorrow and Alexander also tapped 32TEN Studios to shoot a number of practical scale explosion elements, green screen shots with extras and stuntmen, background plates in northern California locations, and a handful of other practical elements to fill shots, particularly when the elements were near the camera.

“Explosions are always fun to do,” says 32TEN Studios’ Practical FX Supervisor Geoff Heron, “and we have done a lot of them over the years. Tim [Alexander] was very precise in what he wanted, but he also understood that there’s always a chance that something beautiful can happen with a practical effects shoot.”

ILM’s Alexander was pleased with the efforts. “32TEN added just what we needed to add to our CG shots to create the action that Colin desired for the film.”

Read an in-depth story about the VFX in the film in the July/August 2015 issue of CGW.

Source:    http://www.cgw.com/Press-Center/Web-Exclusives/2015/32TEN-Studios-Creates-Practical-Effects-for-Jura.aspx

Big Friendly Giant on Bamburgh Beach

(northumberlandgazette.co.uk)              Filming for a major Hollywood film, based on a classic children’s book, took place this week on the beach beneath Bamburgh Castle.

The filming, which took place on Monday night into Tuesday morning, was for The BFG, a Steven Spielberg version of the Roald Dahl book. The movie, which stars Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, will be co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media.

It is scheduled to be released on July 1, 2016. Entertainment One will release the film on July 22, 2016, in the UK. Principal photography on the film began on March 23 in Vancouver and concluded on June 12. It is understood that neither the cast nor Mr Spielberg were present in Bamburgh this week.

In April, the beach was used for filming some of Beowulf, a 13-part ITV drama series, while last February, it was used for a new film version of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Macbeth, which is due to be released in October this year. Interestingly, it is the second time the Scottish Play has come to Bamburgh with Roman Polanski’s 1971 version also filming there.

Source with pics: http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/big-friendly-giant-on-bamburgh-beach-1-7342126

Pixar Animation Studios Releases RenderMan 20

(awn.com)            EMERYVILLE, CA — Pixar Animation Studios has released version 20 of its Academy Award-winning RenderMan software, introducing major innovations allowing cinematic quality imagery to be created more easily and faster than previously possible. Highlights include a game-changing noise reduction technology that directly addresses the problem of image artifacts associated with physically based ray tracers, massively reducing the time needed to deliver completed shots and images.

RenderMan 20 also expands the creative choices available to artists and studios through numerous advances in usability including a physical camera, a Visualizer for navigating and inspecting large scenes interactively, expanded shader libraries and presets, and new volume rendering features. A new Marschner hair shader represents the first time Pixar has shipped shading technology specifically developed for use in its feature films, making available truly Pixar quality hair and fur. In addition, RenderMan’s tradition of advanced customization is emphasized through a new light filter API. Rendering shots for dailies is also faster than ever with new enhancements to RenderMan’s noted image checkpointing, allowing entire shots to be quickly previewed nearly immediately and at full resolution. RenderMan 20 continues to channel the combined technology resources of The Walt Disney Company to the desktop of anyone producing visual effects, animation, and visualization.

“The new denoising technology currently being used in our upcoming feature, Finding Dory, has been incredibly valuable, allowing us to compute final frames up to ten times faster. We could not finish this production without it,” said John Halstead, Supervising Technical Director of Finding Dory at Pixar.

“RenderMan’s new and enhanced Interior Integrators provide us with full control over our volumes and allows us to push their visual quality to the next level.” Said Damien Fagnou, Global Head of VFX Operations at MPC Film.

“RenderMan’s new RIS mode was incredibly stable and consistent on Ant-Man. Everybody was blown away by the quality of the renders even in very early tests” Said Fabio Zangla CG Sequence Supervisor at Double Negative. “With such a radically different internal architecture, RIS is a world away from any previous version, but still retains many features that made RenderMan so successful in the past.”

Free Non-Commercial RenderMan is now upgraded to version 20, and existing and new users are invited to download the latest version from the RenderMan website. New tutorials and workflows for RenderMan 20 can also be found on the new RenderMan Community site.

RenderMan 20 is compatible with the following 64-bit operating systems: Mac OS 10.9, 10.8 and 10.7, Windows 8 and 7, and Linux glibc 2.12 or higher and gcc 4.4.5 and higher. RenderMan 20 is also compatible with versions 2014, 2015, and 2016 of Autodesk’s Maya, and with version 2.0 of The Foundry’s KATANA. RenderMan is available commercially as individual licenses with volume discounts or through custom site licensing packages tailored for each customer. In addition, Pixar’s annual maintenance program provides access to ongoing support and free upgrades.

Han Solo Movie Confirmed By Lucasfilm, ‘Star Wars Anthology’ Set For 2018

(cdn.inquisitr.com)               Han Solo is getting his own movie, Lucasfilm confirmed in a statement Tuesday. The spin-off is part of the Star Wars Anthology series, which so far includes Rogue One, and is slated to open on May 25, 2018.

This is such exciting news for Star Wars fans that Han Solo was trending on Twitter pretty much all evening after the news broke. Han Solo is the intergallactic smuggler who becomes involved with the Rebellion when he meets Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness).

Solo was immortalized by original trilogy actor Harrison Ford, and is one of the most popular characters in movies. The new Han Solo movie will focus on a young version of the role, which propelled Ford’s career into stardom.)

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Lucasfilm also announced The Lego Movie team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have been selected to bring the Han Solo movie to life, and they couldn’t be more excited.

“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with. We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us. This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”

Also joining the Han Solo movie production are the father and son team of Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan, who will write the script that explores the smuggler’s younger years before we meet him in Star Wars: A New Hope. Lawrence Kasdan is the writer of another Harrison Ford film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as the co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Kasdans also expressed their pleasure at being part of this movie, and working with Lord and Miller.

“We’re so excited to be working with Chris and Phil, who will bring a fresh new dimension to the Star Wars universe. They’re two of the smartest, funniest, and most original filmmakers around, and the ideal choice to tell the story of Han Solo, one of the coolest characters in the galaxy.”

We are not sure how young Han Solo will be in the movie, but everyone, including the Lucasfilm President and the film’s producer, Kathleen Kennedy, is super pumped to see how the creative minds develop the beloved character.

“It’s not just any filmmaker who can tell the story of such a beloved icon like Han Solo, and I’m excited to say we’ve found the perfect team to handle the task. Larry and Jon know all there is to know about the character, and Chris and Phil will bring their wit, style, energy and heart to tell Han’s story.”

Some have expressed concern that Miller and Lord already have a full plate with other projects, including The Lego Movie Sequel. However, most believe the pair will bring back the humor that was lost in the prequels. Now, fans have a long time to ponder on who is the ideal candidate to portray young Han Solo in the movie. Chris Pratt seems to be a popular choice, but we will have to wait and see.

Disney is Closing its First Virtual Reality Attraction

(engadget.com)               Disney World broke ground in virtual reality when it launched its DisneyQuest “interactive theme park” back in 1998. To say that times have changed would be an understatement, though — DQ is using primitive VR technology that makes even Google Cardboard look like a quantum leap. Appropriately, the company now plans to close DisneyQuest in 2016 and replace it with an NBA-themed attraction. The exact reasons for the shutdown aren’t clear, but it’s likely a combination of the less-than-impressive technology with mounting support costs. At one point this spring, most of the attractions weren’t working — it’s hard to imagine Disney pouring lots of money into hardware that’s more likely to make you yawn than gasp in awe. You might feel nostalgic if you have fond memories of visiting DisneyQuest as a kid, but it’s hard to mourn the loss when you can have a much nicer experience at home.

VFX News 06/10/15

‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ to be Filmed With Arri’s 6K Large Format Camera

(hollywoodreporter.com)             Parts of Star Wars: Rogue One and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation were shot with Arri’s Alexa 65, a large format, 6K resolution model of Arri’s popular Alexa camera that is available exclusively through Arri Rental.

Many cinematographers are in line to get their hands on one of the still limited number of the new cameras, which really dazzled when unwrapped last fall, using test footage lensed by cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty), who’s using it on Rogue One (the production is also using film).

Oscar winning director of photography Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood) used the Alexa 65 for an underwater sequence in the upcoming Mission Impossible film, which is mostly shot with 35mm and 65mm film.

The Great Wall is in production with director Yimou Zhang and Oscar nominated cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano), who’s using the camera, possibly, for the entire movie.

Also as previously reported in The Hollywood Reporter, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki—who won back to back Oscars for Gravity and Birdman—used the Alexa 65 for part of Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant.

As part of a partnership with Imax, Arri is also co-developing a version of the Alexa 65 for Imax production. Avengers: Infinity War is set to be shot with it in its entirety, and Captain America: The Civil War will also use the Alexa 65 for an Imax format.

Last weekend, Munich-headquartered Arri — which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017 — was awarded a technical lifetime achievement award at Cine Gear Expo. Presenting the award, American Society of Cinematographers past president Daryn Okada said, “It’s pretty undeniable what their impact will be in the future. They keep innovating.”

A Visitor’s Guide to ‘Jurassic World’ Dinos

(USA TODAY)        (If you’re going to open up a dinosaur-filled theme park, go big or go home.

Same thing goes for making a dinosaur-filled movie such as Jurassic World, the new movie (in theaters Friday) that director Colin Trevorrow has populated with genetic creations great and small — some with ancient pedigree, some made-up, and most of them deadly.

The Jurassic World theme park in the film is “a massive corporate entity that’s creating entertainment for people all around the world,” Trevorrow says. “They want to make sure these things are as big and bad and exciting as possible, whether they should exist or not.”

The filmmaker gives USA TODAY a rundown on dinos to look out for in the new movie, from fresh species to old favorites from the three previous Jurassic Park outings.

Full article:    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2015/06/10/jurassic-world-dinosaurs-visitors-guide/28752763/

TONIGHT: BFC Post and VFX Event

(visualeffectssociety.com)     The British Film Commission (BFC) invites VES members to an informal discussion about the UK post-production and VFX landscape with speakers from the US and UK, followed by a drinks reception.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 from 5:00PM to 7:00PM
The London Hotel (Complimentary valet parking)
1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
Click here for a map.

Speakers will include BFC Chief Executive Adrian Wootton, BFC EVP US Production Kattie Kotok, Post-Production Supervisor Emma Zee and VP Post Production at Focus Features Ben Urquhart, moderated by Bruce Hendricks, President of Dick Cook Studios

RSVP:   https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/events/event/event-bfc-post-and-vfx

200+ New Artists At  DreamWorks Animation Shanghai To Crew “Kung Fu Panda 3”

(latimes.com)               On the 16th floor of a Shanghai office building, dozens of fresh-faced young animators are studying painting, sculpting and acting.

They’re participating in film-appreciation workshops — Woody Allen’s “Match Point” was a recent pick — and learning the latest software tools. Teaching them via video connections were some of the most experienced artists in Los Angeles, veterans who brought to life hits such as “Shrek” and “Madagascar.”

But it won’t take years for these newbies, many of them recent art-school grads, to get their big break working on a Hollywood blockbuster. As employees of Oriental DreamWorks, they’re already staff artists on “Kung Fu Panda 3,” set for release in January.

Reel China: Covering entertainment in China

The runaway success of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise inspired both awe and envy for Chinese who wondered how Americans came up with a billion-dollar global phenomenon that combines two quintessential elements of Chinese culture — a bumbling black-and-white bear and martial arts.

That sense of admiration and frustration helped smooth the way for DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg to create Oriental DreamWorks in 2012, a $330-million joint venture without precedent in the entertainment industry.

Modeled on agreements that have given American companies like General Motors expanded access to the restrictive Chinese market — in exchange for sharing their technology and know-how — the Shanghai-based entity is 45% owned by DreamWorks Animation.

Other partners include a government investment fund; private equity firm China Media Capital, which has invested in Imax’s China business; and Shanghai Media Group, a multimedia television and radio broadcasting company.

“Being able to be a bit of a pioneer in that market, I think could be incredibly and uniquely valuable for us,” Katzenberg said in an interview. “If we succeed, it could be a game changer for us.”

Hollywood studios have been scrambling to expand their business in China to capitalize on a booming box office, which is expected to overtake U.S. box-office receipts by 2018. DreamWorks is in an enviable position: The $96.3-million haul for the second installment of “Kung Fu Panda” in 2011 still stands as the highest gross ever for an animated film in China.

It also reinforced Katzenberg’s belief that the Middle Kingdom could be a mega-market for his Glendale studio.

Full article: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-china-dreamworks-20150609-story.html#page=1

Maker of ‘Jurassic Park: The Ride’ To Create Mixed Reality VR Entertainment Destinations

(hollywoodreporter.com)     Landmark Entertainment Group — The L.A.-based producer of such attractions as “Terminator 2 3D” and “Jurassic Park: The Ride” — is getting into the virtual reality business.

The company intends to develop virtual reality experiences for VR goggles such as Samsung VR Gear or Oculus Rift, as well as open mixed reality entertainment destinations that it calls L.I.V.E. (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience) Centres.

The L.I.V.E. Centre concept includes an interactive museum, a virtual zoo and aquarium, a digital art gallery, a live entertainment stage, immersive movie theater and themed-experience retail.

Landmark Entertainment Group recently formed a partnership with a group of Chinese investors to build L.I.V.E. Centres in China. The first is expected to break ground within the next 12-18 months.

“The majority of what exists in the VR market today is shortform content, whereas our goal is to work with brands to create longform VR entertainment destinations.
What we’re creating is the equivalent of taking your family to a theme park,” said CEO and founder Tony Christopher.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Christopher said the concept for L.I.V.E. Centres involves combining entertainment with an education component. “We believe we can do something exceptional,” he said, adding that programming could include animals, art and space exploration — all in expected 200,000-square-foot locations.

Oscar Winning Special Effects Artist Rick Baker has Closed Shop Because CGI Has Made His Job Redundant

(news.com.au)               I love technology, although I like my profession a little more. Source: News Corp Australia

OSCAR winning special effects and makeup artist Rick Baker has showcased his work on some of Hollywood’s biggest sets over the past 35 years.

With credits for his work on Men in Black, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Baker has long been considered a master of his trade.

So, why exactly is he closing his studio and auctioning off 400 of his best-known props?

“When CG (computer generated images) first became popular, we instantly became dinosaurs,
” he told Vice.

“The whole business has changed.”

Full article:   http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/oscar-winning-special-effects-artist-rick-baker-has-closed-shop-because-cgi-has-made-his-job-redundant/story-fnjwucti-1227391567108

Animation Companies to Watch

(animationmagazine.net)       Our subscribers will be receiving in the next few days something special: The 250th issue of Animation Magazine!

For this special issue, we compiled a special list of 250 companies, people, products, events and projects that have — and will continue to — define the worlds of animation and visual effects now and long into the future.

We’re very excited about this monumental event and want to make sure our digital readers got in in the fun. So we’ll be rolling out the list online by categories — there are 10 of them — over the next two weeks. The categories are:

Take a look:   http://www.animationmagazine.net/events/the-animation-magazine-250-animation-companies-to-watch/

‘Become Legend’ Wins Best Visual Effects at AICP Awards

(awn.com)         VFX house Digital Domain was honored at the 2015 AICP Awards for Best Visual Effects for its work on the Destiny “Become Legend” commercial. Directed by acclaimed feature filmmaker Joseph Kosinski, Digital Domain collaborated with agency 72andSunny and live action production company Reset to create this breathtaking piece for one of the year’s best selling games. The piece for the first-person shooter video game features a stunning blend of cinematic live action and visual effects.

“We at Digital Domain are thrilled for the Destiny team,” said Rich Flier, Digital Domain’s President of Advertising and Games. “The artists here continue to produce the best work in the business and this is a well-deserved recognition.”

A longtime collaborator with Director Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion,) Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Barba and the live action production company Reset sought to create a visually cinematic narrative that brings the game world to life with a seamless integration of photo-real CG and live action footage. Shot in exotic locations such as Tampico, Mexico and Moab, Utah, the production sought to capture as much in camera as they could so Digital Domain could work their magic. Augmenting everything from characters to environmental elements such as fire and landscapes, the Digital Domain team took the exotic Earth-bound locations and transformed them into the pulse pounding game locations of Mars, Venus and the Moon.

“This project exemplifies our ability to deliver commercial clients the same caliber of VFX that our Hollywood studio clients are accustomed to,” said Digital Domain CEO and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Barba. “We used a lot of the same techniques from our features VFX pipeline.”

The piece delivers the promise of action packed game play from beginning to end. Adding to the adrenaline pumping pace is Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

“72andSunny had a strong idea of what music they wanted going in,” Barba said. “Anytime you get to create a piece of cinema to Led Zeppelin, you’ve already got a strong foundation for a visual piece like this. You just have to make sure the picture lives up to that classic track.”

Godzilla Actor Hiroshi Koizumi Dies

(bbc.com)              Hiroshi Koizumi, a Japanese actor who appeared in several early Godzilla films, has died at the age of 88.

According to reports, he died in Tokyo on 31 May from pneumonia.

Koizumi played the human lead in 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again, the sequel to Toho Studio’s first Godzilla film, which was released the previous year.

He went on to appear in a string of monster films, including Mothra, Godzilla vs The Thing and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster.

Koizumi’s other Godzilla films included Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), The Return of Godzilla (1984) and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003).

His other credits included 47 Samurai in 1962, which also starred Toshiro Mifune, and 1963 war film Attack Squadron.

Indian Films that Spend Millions on Special Effects Just Don’t Make Good Business Sense

(qz.com)          Despite their mega budgets of around $250 million (Rs1,600 crore), Hollywood’s special effects blockbusters—from Avatar to the Twilight and Harry Potter series—often make good business sense. They’re served up to a massive global English-speaking audience, and their first-rate visual effects keep moviegoers glued to their seats.

Now, an Indian film—perhaps the most expensive ever made in India—wants to take on Hollywood, but with a budget of only about Rs175 crore ($28 million). Directed by S. S. Rajamouli, Bahubali will release on July 10 in multiple languages, including Hindi (backed by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions), Telugu and Tamil.

“Hollywood is much ahead of us in writing and execution. There’s no need to compare our work with theirs. I think getting 80% of their quality in our content with 20% of their budgets will be an achievement,” Rajamouli said in a recent interview. Some 15 visual effects studios and 600 artists have worked on the film over a period of more than two years.

But big budget Indian films, heavy on special effects, typically just don’t deliver the goods.

Producer Rob Cain, writing in Forbes, had this explanation:

…Hindi speaking Indians buy an enormous number of movie tickets each year, but with average ticket prices of just a dollar or two, and movies that gross only a few millions dollars on average, with little audience appeal outside their home turf, it would be foolish in most cases to spend more than a few million dollars to make an Indian language film.

“Indian cinema, including Bollywood, is popular only among people who know about it and sadly most of the world does not,” Tula Goenka, a filmmaker and professor at Syracuse University, told Quartz. “There is a mixture of genres in many films; the aesthetics are not reality based; the song-and-dance routines need getting used to; and most importantly the films are not readily available or widely shown anywhere.”

And apparently, films with special effects are even bigger losers.

“The big VFX-driven films, which are more westernised in their content, tend to alienate the mainstream audience in the smaller towns and rural areas,” Goenka explained. “And the multiplex audience in the cities stay away from these films because they can easily see the real ‘Hollywood’ production.”

Nothing special

Last year, for instance, Tamil film Kochadaiiyaan was made on a budget of Rs125 crore—and ended up with a net box office collection of Rs81 crore.

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth-starrer Enthiran (Robot in Hindi and Telugu) and Shah Rukh Khan’s sci-fi film Ra.One cost about Rs150 crore each, with heavy spending on special effects. And though both delivered big bucks at the box office, the return on investment was dented because of the high cost incurred on the making of these films.

Enthiran—released across 2,250 screens worldwide, with tickets costing up to Rs2,000 in Indian theatres—clocked a revenue of Rs179 crore, including Rs8 crore from satellite rights. (An unofficial estimate, however, is that the film collected Rs350 crore in worldwide box office sales.) Ra.One‘s return on investment was also low, with the film just about breaking even.

Other films with special effects like Drona, Blue, Love Story 2050, among others sank without a trace.

“Jurassic World” Set For Gigantic Bow

(darkhorizons.com)        Universal’s “Jurassic World” is looking set to score the third biggest opening of the season so far following “Furious 7” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.

Early estimates for the domestic box-office haul for this coming weekend were at around $100 million a few weeks back. Those have been upgraded with the latest being around $110-140 million.

Overseas, the film is looking to do anywhere from around $240-300 million in around sixty-six international territories where the film is opening at the same time as the United States. The film is also expected to have legs as there’s little real competition in the same genre until “Terminator: Genisys” in three weeks time.

The first reviews have also started coming in with a very mixed reaction to the film with some stern critics either praising it or ripping it to shreds. Check out the reviews so far at Rotten Tomatoes.

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?

VFX News – 04/20/15

George Lucas Thinks Marvel Will Remake Howard the Duck

(vanityfair.com)              Even though he’s a self-proclaimed retiree, having sold the company that bears his name for a tidy sum, George Lucas is still pretty in-tune with the trends that make Hollywood run. During an onstage conversation with Stephen Colbert at the Tribeca Film Festival, Lucas somehow wound up talking about the famous 1986 flop. The filmmakers had actually asked him for advice, Lucas revealed—after all, he was the guy who turned a little green puppet into a sage master in Star Wars. But he told them, “You can’t put a dwarf in a duck suit and make it work.” They didn’t listen, and the rest is cult movie history.

Now, however? A CGI duck—like the one that made a cameo in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy—could make anything possible. Lucas in almost certainly right in predicting a Howard the Duck remake, not that he’ll be the one to make it. The conversation began and ended with Lucas talking about his love for experimental films, both the ones he made as a student at USC and the ones he plans to make in his retirement. “A lot of my friends have yachts,” Lucas said. “I am just going to waste [the money I could have spent on yachts] making movies that will never make any money.”

Colbert—his white beard even bigger than Lucas’s famous one—remained as clever an interviewer as he was for those four-minute segments on The Colbert Report, successfully wrangling Lucas away from his preferred rambling anecdotes. Colbert would ask a direct question, like trying to verify the rumored THX-1138 Easter Egg in all of Lucas’s movies, and Lucas would tell a ten-minute story about his battles with the studio while making American Graffiti. Eventually Colbert started Cliffs Notes-ing Lucas’s long answers, summing up the director’s advice to an aspiring filmmaker in the audience with “I can translate that: go to Hollywood and suffer.” Then again, Lucas wasn’t bad at summarizing his own stories either; he ended a tale about how he became the sole owner of the rights to Star Wars with “And that’s how I got rich.”

Lucas came prepared with plenty of damning stories about nameless studio execs—they cut five minutes out of THX 1138, wanted to release American Graffiti on television, and apparently weren’t even that crazy about Star Wars. As it turns out, even some of his filmmaker pals didn’t get it either—when Lucas showed them an early cut, Brian de Palma apparently said, “What the hell is the Force?” Only Steven Spielberg, Lucas’s longtime partner in crime, saw the future: “Steven jumped up and said ‘This is going to be the biggest movie of all time.’ And everyone said, ‘Oh, poor Steven.’ ”

It wouldn’t be the last time someone judged Lucas’s taste, and he seems well aware of it. Colbert is far too polite to bring up anything like “George Lucas raped my childhood” or the like, but Lucas was well-prepared with jabs at himself (“I’m famous for wooden dialogue,” to which Colbert retorted “It’s not wooden, it’s hand-crafted”) and another detailed explanation of why he digitally altered the original Star Wars trilogy for re-release in the late 90s.

Whether or not Lucas was annoyed by, or even aware of, J.J. Abrams’s comments about returning Star Wars to the very “retro feel” Lucas was trying to erase with those digital updates, wasn’t clear. The director was nothing but complimentary, if a little distant, when asked about the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, claiming several times to not even know what the story would be and wishing JAbrams and company all the best. He hasn’t even watched yesterday’s big trailer, though he saw it being mentioned on the news.

But, as was obvious with that Howard the Duck crack, Lucas is no lion in winter, slinking away from the entertainment industry he utterly transformed in 1977. If anything, stepping away from Star Wars will only allow him to invest in the world the way the rest of us have all these years. “The one thing I regretted about Star Wars is I never got to see it,” Lucas said. “I never got that thrill.”

Captain America: Civil War Will Be Shot in IMAX

(denofgeek.us)             Captain America: Civil War is the first Marvel movie to be shot in IMAX…and also the first narrative movie to use digital IMAX cameras.

Well it’s official, if you want your superhero throwdown to be epic these days, you better unpack the IMAX cameras….but perhaps not the ones you’d expect.

Little over a month after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice takes IMAX screens by storm, you’ll quickly be able to see Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man in full IMAX glory for the first time with Captain America: Civil War. However, Civil War will also be the first major production to utilize IMAX’s new 2D Digital Arri Cameras—not the 70mm format that has made IMAX famous.

The news was released Monday via Variety, where Joe and Anthony Russo talked about being the first filmmakers to fully utilize the new IMAX-specific lens from Arri, a camera manufacturer based in Germany.

“[Digital] allows us to keep rolling and do multiple takes while keeping the energy up,” Joe Russo said in a statement. “Our motto is you can only build a film with what you bring into the editing room, and we like to bring as much as we can.”

In many respects, this turns Captain America: Civil War into its own historic milestone since it will be the first narrative feature released in which IMAX’s closely guarded (and coveted) cameras will be made to record a digital image.

Indeed, it almost seems counterintuitive to the entire pretense of directors beginning to shoot select scenes in IMAX, which was introduced to audiences and filmmakers by celluloid purist Christopher Nolan on the production of The Dark Knight. Nolan has continued to use the 65mm cameras for larger and larger portions of later blockbusters with The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, which has also led to other filmmakers to follow suit, including Brad Bird on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Francis Lawrence on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and J.J. Abrams on Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

How much of Captain America: Civil War will be produced on the Arri 2D remains to be seen, but it may be the most complete film to be released in an IMAX format. Yet, if it doesn’t have the highest resolution and tangibility of film grain that made the approach such an event in The Dark Knight, I remain weary to call it “IMAX.” However, it is certainly another harbinger of the digital revolution and film’s demise when the IMAX company is starting to rely on digital cameras, as well as apparently being at work at producing digital 3D IMAX cameras for the future…

Johnny Depp’s a No Show for Pirates of the Caribbean Filming

(tv3.ie)        The 51-year-old actor was due to return to Australia last week ahead of filming resuming today (20.04.15), but insiders claim he has failed to fly back from Los Angeles, meaning production on the movie has been reshuffled so they can work without him.

A source told the Gold Coast Bulletin: ”Everyone’s hoping they have managed to get him on another flight.

”But he still hadn’t hopped on a plane on Friday morning, which means production will already be running behind when principal photography starts again. Even if he managed to fly out over the weekend, the delay has forced the directors to change their shot lists for the week. They’ve had to rearrange what they can and can’t shoot before filming.”

Filming on the blockbuster was halted when Johnny returned to the US for treatment last month after he injured his hand, reportedly after hitting a glass door during a heated conversation with wife Amber Heard.

Despite the claims, a movie spokesperson insists filming is going ahead as planned while the actor continues to recover from surgery on his hand.

The spokesperson told Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald newspaper: ”Johnny Depp is on schedule for what and when he is required to film. He’s been in recuperation from the surgery and I’m assuming it’s coming along extremely well. The next step is for us to continue making a fifth edition to one of the most popular franchises in film history.”

And the Oscar Goes to … London. Visual Effects, High Tech and the Future of Cinema

(huffingtonpost.co.uk)              Napoleon famously said Britain is a nation of shopkeepers. If he were to visit any cinema today, he’d probably come to a different conclusion: the UK, and London in particular, has become the go-to centre for computer-generated special effects.

Only 10 years ago there were maybe 1,000 people working in the visual effects (VFX) industry in the UK. Today, that figure has grown about sixfold.

In March, visual effects studio Double Negative won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for its work on the science-fiction epic Interstellar. This marks the fourth time in the past eight years that a London-based studio has taken home the award.

Gravity, Inception, Benjamin Button, Batman and the Harry Potter films were all buffed and polished to perfection in London. VFX houses like Double Negative, Framestore, Cinesite, The Mill and MPC are becoming household names.

Generous tax breaks make the UK a cost-effective option for filmmakers. But it’s the unarguable talent – and their embrace of technology – that has made London a sure-fire guarantee of quality.

The Tech Behind the Visual Magic

The graphics cards at the heart of this tech were originally developed to drive bleeding-edge 3D graphics in video games but, over the last decade, they’ve been fine-tuned to power the incredible number of pixels and particles that make up the spectacular effects in cinema’s biggest blockbusters.

Behind the glamour of Hollywood awards, it’s innovation in less-than-sexy areas like IT infrastructure that are quietly revolutionizing the VFX business. Case in point: IBM announced this February that Sohonet has chosen data centre services from its Softlayer cloud services subsidiary.

This may not mean much to the average cinema-goer, but the Sohonet Media Network is used by the media and entertainment industry to connect studios, production and post-production facilities across the globe via high-speed cloud networks.

The VFX industry is also embracing virtualisation technology and cloud computing because they allow studios to quickly scale up during busy periods, without overinvesting in physical workstations. And they add another layer of security by keeping confidential work in the data centre.

The bottom line of this attention to the latest technology is a stronger UK VFX industry, and even more popcorn-spilling thrills for movie fans.

VR: The Next Frontier in Filmmaking

The UK VFX industry’s track record of success not only entertains, but influences and inspires. The new London office of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic is currently working on the highly anticipated sequels Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII.

London’s blend of artistic excellence and technical know-how may further prove its value as Hollywood places its bet on the next game-changing technology: virtual reality, or VR.

3-D, the last major innovation in filmmaking, failed to have the desired impact at box offices, despite the notable success of films such as Avatar and Framestore’s Gravity. Box office takings dropped 2.9 per cent, or around £34million, from 2013 to 2014 in the UK and Ireland.

Now there’s hope that VR will be able to do what 3-D couldn’t: reignite people’s excitement about going to the cinema.

Oculus – the biggest name in VR technology – is making waves in the entertainment industry with Story Studio, the company’s new in-house film and game developer collective. Story Studio is exploring and sharing tools and techniques designed to help people craft entertainment experiences within VR. And it marks a shift in focus by Oculus away from purely gaming, at least in the short term.

Lost, Story Studio’s first attempt at a VR short film, was released in January and became the subject of considerable buzz from the media who were lucky enough to see it first-hand. With plans to release four more VR cinema experiences this year, the studio clearly has exciting plans for the future.

I, for one, can’t wait to see their work hit the local Odeon … but only after they’ve first passed through the safe hands of one of the UK’s top VFX studios.

Star Wars Behind the Scenes: The Live Motion Capture Future

(slashgear.com)                Today we’re taking a peek at how Star Wars is being made. The creation process, you’ll find, isn’t all that different from how video games are made. Video games like Star Wars 1313. Even though J.J. Abrams has assured the public time and time again that practical effects are king in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve got reason to believe that this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is as it seems –here we’ll also be explaining why that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Back this March, we attended a conference called GTC – this is a graphics conference hosted by NVIDIA, a company that makes graphics processors (amongst other things). At this conference, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang made clear that Lucasfilm was using NVIDIA technology to make the next Star Wars movie.

“I’ll create any technology that helps them make Star Wars faster,” joked Huang at the conference.

Lucasfilm followed up on Huang’s comments. “To create the most immersive and visually exciting imagery imaginable,” said Lucasfilm Principal Engineer Lutz Latta, “Lucasfilm artists and developers need optimal graphics performance and GPU power.”

Onstage, Huang stood in front of a slide which showed R2-D2 and C-3P0 on a desert environment that looked quite similar to what we thought at the time was Tatooine.

It was revealed to us at that time by an official at Industrial Light and Magic that “The R2/3PO image is not from any Star Wars film, it was simply a test.”

We later discovered that this test originated at BAFTA 2013. Via the Inquirer, we learned that Lucasfilm chief technology strategy officer Kim Libreri spoke about how “developments in computer graphics have meant Lucasfilm has been able to transfer its techniques to film-making, shifting video game assets into movie production.”

Full article:  http://www.slashgear.com/star-wars-behind-the-scenes-the-live-motion-capture-future-17379718/

VR Experience “Back to Dinosaur Island” Confirmed By Crytek For Two Events

(vrfocus.com)               Fatih Özbayram, producer at videogame developer Crytek confirmed at the weekend via Twitter that virtual reality (VR) experience Back To Dinosaur Island will be coming to two additional events in Germany. The demo which wowed crowds at GDC 2015 (as well impressing us) and that is set to be developed by Crytek into a full AAA videogame, was confirmed for both Quo Vadis and FMX 2015.

Berlin-based Quo Vadis 2015 first took place in 2003 and is Europe’s longest standing video game conference. This year it will be open from Tuesday April 21st for two days through to April 22nd.

Additionally, Back to Dinosaur Island will be a part of the twentieth annual FMX conference on animation, effects, games and transmedia. Taking place in Stuttgart over May 5th-8th, the event will include talks by VR pioneer Mark Bolas and major digital players such as Walt Disney Studios and Weta Digital as well as a specific talk on ‘Virtual Reality Developments at Crytek’ presented by CRYENGINE Creative Director Frank Vitz in which Back to Dinosaur Island is guaranteed to play a major role.

VRFocus will continue to bring you developments from Crytek as they continue to push their VR development.

Sony Working with Simon Cowell on a New Animated Film Called ‘Finn’

(businessinsider.com)              Sony Pictures may be working with Simon Cowell on a new animated feature film called “Finn,” according to a series of leaked Sony emails published online by Wikileaks.

The film was “officially a project” at Sony Pictures as of June 2014. Since these emails were written almost a year ago, plans for the film may have changed since then.

In an email written by Syco Entertainment senior vice president Adam Milano to then Sony Pictures co-chairwoman Amy Pascal on June 6th, 2014, Milano writes “Sorry I missed you. I was just calling to say we are VERY excited that Finn is officially a project with you guys.”

Milano also writes that “Simon [is] extremely happy” and that “we’re going to go turn this into Happy Feet,” referencing the smash 2006 animated film about a penguin, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

In an email dated September 23rd, 2014 labeled “Note from Simon” sent by Syco Entertainment executive assistant Olivia Newhouse to Amy Pascal, Newhouse relays a thank-you note written by Cowell.

“We love the writers and I think what they have done is really clever. Momentum seems the key now because this is such a good original and timely idea … I can make these ideas work with your support. I did it with music and then TV and now I believe films.”

While the film’s name “Finn” and Milano’s comparison to “Happy Feet” suggests the movie could involve a bird or penguin of some sort, no further details about the plot or characters of the project have been revealed.

Film Technician Injured in Fireworks Blast Sues Weta

(stuff.co.nz)              Kiwi film heavyweight Weta Digital is facing a $1 million lawsuit after a film technician suffered horrific injuries during a booze-fuelled fireworks party.

The Wellington-based film studio, which has helped produced four of the top 10 grossing films of all time, is accused of negligence for injuries sustained by production assistant Carmen Acosta during a break from filming in New Orleans.

After a day’s filming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a Weta crew including Acosta and New Zealander Ants Farrell returned to their downtown hotel.

The group had bought fireworks to let off on the roof of the Residence Inn Hotel during a boozy Fourth of July party in 2013.

Court documents lodged with the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana claim Farrell, a veteran of more than two dozen films, came up behind Acosta and ignited the firework with a lighter as she was holding it.

“When the plaintiff realised the firework had been lit, she attempted to put the firework on the ground when it suddenly exploded in her hands throwing her down to the ground.”

The accident caused serious injury to Acosta, a California-based film technician, leaving her with a broken finger, a fractured wrist, fractured fingers and massive lacerations to her hands.

Acosta suffers “mental pain and anguish” from the incident and has physical pain constantly in her hands.

The court has been told that although the roof of the Residence Inn was supposedly off-limits, the production team had numerous parties with alcohol on the roof over the month  before July 4.

Acosta claims Weta Digital is liable through the “long-arm statute”, which allows for US courts to claim damages from overseas businesses.

Her lawyers claim Weta and Farrell failed to exercise reasonable care while handling an unreasonably dangerous device . Acosta is also suing the hotel for failing to stop them going to the roof.

Lawyers acting for Acosta served Weta Digital and Farrell at its Wellington offices in June last year, seeking substantial damages understood to be more than $1 million.

Weta responded by saying Acosta’s lawyers had failed to follow proper process, and the petition for damages should have gone through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chief operating officer David Wright said Weta had forwarded the envelope addressed to Farrell to an address in the United Kingdom.

The case is expected to go before a jury, which could be responsible for awarding damages.

Farrell has worked on all six of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, as well as King Kong and What We Do in the Shadows, as an electrician and lighting technician.

Weta Digital was co-founded by Sir Peter Jackson, and has won five visual effects Oscars. It’s most recent film, Fast and the Furious 7, is topping box offices around the world.

Earlier this week,  a worker on Jackson’s Anzac exhibition had his palm ripped out and lost a thumb in a “spindle monster” accident.

And in 2012, Weta Workshop forced firefighters to sign confidentiality agreements after a fire injured two workers at Wellington’s Stone Street Studios. One suffered burns to his nose and face after flames engulfed his head, and another worker burned his hand beating out the flames.

E3 2015 Unveils the Future of Video Games

(venturebeat.com)            The video game industry’s influence will be on display once again at E3 2015 in Los Angeles from June 16 to June 18. As the world’s premier trade show for computer, video, and mobile games, E3 is more than just a launch pad for industry-defining hardware and software. It also brings together tens of thousands of the best, brightest, and most innovative professionals in the interactive-entertainment industry, serving up games, peripherals, and new platforms. Games — and the gaming industry — have evolved tremendously in the past several years. With the explosive growth of gaming on mobile devices, the video game experience has naturally been brought to a much broader and diverse audience.

The changing face of gamers

Today’s video games provide rich, engaging entertainment across all platforms and have evolved into a true mass market with 59 percent of Americans actively playing along, according to a report released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), owners of E3*. In a sign of the industry’s continuing maturation, the average gamer is a 31-year-old adult who’s been playing for at least 14 years. The ESA also reports that nearly half (48 percent) of all gamers are female, and women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (17 percent).

The console wars get mobilized

While PCs and video game consoles still reign among hardcore players, the industry has broadened its platform footprint significantly over the years to include smartphones and cloud gaming, among other innovative advancements. ESA’s report shows 44 percent of gamers play games on their smartphone, and 33 percent play on their wireless devices (e.g. iPad, laptop).

An American event with global implications

Video games continue to be a strong engine for economic growth. According to The NPD Group, computer and video game companies directly and indirectly employ more than 146,000 people across the U.S. In addition, from 2009 to 2012, the U.S. video game industry increased in size by more than 9 percent — four times the growth rate of the U.S. economy during the same period.

As the single most important event for international interactive-entertainment companies seeking to do business in North America, E3 gives European and Asian publishers, developers, and attendees an opportunity to maximize their own internal investments to a broader audience. As in prior years, what happens at E3 2015 will directly impact the future of the international gaming market.

More than the bottom line

Beyond engaging entertainment, video games help drive societal advancements. A study conducted at East Carolina University found a 57 percent decrease in depressive symptoms among those who played casual video games. North Carolina State University also released a study showing that gaming helps keep a grandparent’s brain limber as games challenge responses, concentration, and creativity. On the education front, ESA’s research found that 70 percent of teachers who use games in their classroom noted that they increased students’ motivation and engagement levels.

With the advent of smart TVs with large HD screens and surround sound audio, video games have found a special place in the center of the living room. What was once relegated to bedrooms, basements, and play rooms, video games are now a source of family entertainment. ESA’s report found that the majority of parents (56 percent) interviewed said video games are a positive part of their child’s life, while 88 percent think that gameplay is fun for the whole family, and 75 percent believe playing games offers a good opportunity to connect with their child.

Looking ahead

As E3 2015 comes closer, it is clear that the video game industry, with its impact on the economy, culture, entertainment, education, and the family dynamic, continues to play an ever-important role in our lives.

Mixing It Up: The Effects of the New Thunderbirds

(fxguide.com)              Reimagining Thunderbirds without puppets and with CG was always going to be a tough task. But production companies ITV Studios and Pukeko Pictures have, in the new Thunderbirds Are Go, sought to capture the essence of the original 1960s series by incorporating live action miniature sets into the fold – built by Weta Workshop no less. Added to that were practical elements such as water, smoke and dust that would help integrate the sets with CG characters and vehicles. We find out from the team behind the show how it was all made.x

Planning and previs

Filming Tracy Island.

Since the show is achieved with a combination of live action models and CGI, one of the early considerations in making Thunderbirds Are Go involved breaking down how shots and sequences would be achieved. “We went through the scripts and decided what sort of action a set needed to do,” explains production designer Ben Milsom. “From that we decided what should be a miniature and what should be digital. Most exteriors, especially organic environments, were done as a scale miniature – because you got a huge amount of detail out of them. The miniature would always read so well as a physical model, whereas the CG world was used in better areas such as interiors, vehicles and characters.”

“Whether it was a miniature or CG,” adds Milsom, “it was always trying to maintain a style and an aesthetic regardless of whether it was CG or miniature. Then we’d tie the two together as well as we could.”

A miniature landscape.

Weta Workshop, which built the miniature sets, contributed 2D artwork and concept designs for the environments and crafts. Milsom oversaw further concept design and artwork that then moved into a rough CG modeling phase, led by models and assets supervisor Sven Trotter. “I’d then take a CG model to one of my artists and we’d do a paint over and do a keyframe,” says Milsom, “and put it into an environment that’s telling the story of that episode – so you’re seeing that craft doing what it’s supposed to be doing.”

Airport miniature.

Similarly, maquettes for the miniature sets would be constructed to rough out the final look and those would also be turned into CG previs versions, allowing artists to work out camera moves and also decide on what scale the final sets should be built. “All the assets are created in the previs world, then the episode is previs’d with exactly the right dimensions so we know all the shots are achievable,” explains Milsom. “That previs or miniature is placed into the correct shooting stage so we know exactly where it’s going to sit on the shooting stage and how it’s going to be shot and where the camera will be placed. It’s almost like a virtual rehearsal.”

Making miniatures

Thunderbirds HQ.

From the maquettes, Milsom would then put together a briefing package for Weta Workshop. “I’d give them my maquette, the dimensions of the set, the previs shots, tons of reference, so say we were building a landing strip in the desert I’d find photographs, the type of sand and everything they needed.”

Hangar miniature.

Some of the most significant Weta miniatures included Tracy Island, hangar areas and an underwater sea lab that required remote control. Tracy Island, for example, was built at twelfth scale and was surrounded by real water. “It was the very first miniature we filmed,” notes Milsom. “We finished the island and then we built a huge tank around the island for the site with an infinity edge, so the water was constantly overflowing and they were pumping that into the tank, so that you got that horizon beyond the island. Considering the size of our stage, we did pretty well to achieve that edge.”

Source with images:    http://www.fxguide.com/featured/mixing-it-up-the-effects-of-the-new-thunderbirds/

Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There Could Be Its Last Film

(gameinformer.com)                 Studio Ghibli has a relationship with the video game industry, whether it’s simply a matter of influence, or as is the case with Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, a direct partnership. It’s newest film, When Marnie Was There, is significant because there is a possibility it may be the studio’s last film.

The film released in Japan last year and is getting localized for North America this summer, which is what you will see in the trailer below.

The studio’s most notable director, Hayao Miyazaki, retired recently after releasing The Wind Rises, and it currently has no other films in production as it pauses to re-assess its goals. It’s unclear what’s in store for the studio’s future.

Alongside Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, Studio Ghibli was also involved in the PlayStation 2 game Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color. Films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind also served as an important influence on elements of the Final Fantasy series (the airships, specifically). Castle in the Sky also influenced games like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and most recently, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy.

For more on the Studio Ghibli and video game industry overlap, head here for an interview with Level-5 President Akihiro Hino about working with Ghibli. You can also head here for a story about our visit to the Studio Ghibli museum while in Japan for Tokyo Game Show last year.

Matte Shot – A Tribute to Golden Era Special FX

(nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.co.nz)              I had fully intended to have my career tribute article on matte exponents Ken Marschall and Bruce Block ready to roll for this final issue of Matte Shot for 2014, however it will be a little delayed as Ken uncovers and photographs more of his glorious matte art and old 35mm before and after clips that he feels will be of interest to me and my readers.  With that being the unavoidable case I had the option of just hanging on and waiting it out, or, being the impatient, now or never, go for broke type of fellow that I am I decided to assemble a ‘fill in’ article just so special effects fans won’t feel ‘hard done by’… and although it’s somewhat off tangent, I’m fairly sure most of you will approve and enjoy the following chronology and pictorial album of the next best special effect after matte art … the miniature.

I’ve been planning this retrospective on model work for a few years and wasn’t sure how or when to include it.  The site’s called Matte Shot for a reason as that medium has always been my lifes blood, as it were.  However, ever since I was a youngster I’ve been equally mesmerised by the use of the model, or miniatures if you prefer, in motion picture trick shots for as long as I can remember. I feel that miniatures – as with traditionally painted mattes – are the purest of the whole all encompassing realm of special effects with their success being to a considerable extent the result of – as much as anything else – the gut instinct and ‘eye’ of the miniatures exponent.

Miniature ships from NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (1947)
I vividly recall building model towns and ‘sets’ as a 11 year old and photographing these with a cheap Kodak Instamatic camera which had absolutely no control whatsoever over focus or aperture. A few years later when I was 13 or 14 my Dad bought me a Canon FTb SLR (still got it), and although it was still just static images, the leap forward was amazing.  I clearly recall trying to achieve maximum depth of field by ‘shooting’ model tanks, planes, war type set ups outdoors in bright sunlight and stopping the 35mm focal length lens down as far as I could to f22 if possible.  Then came the phase brought about upon seeing EARTHQUAKE on it’s first day in 1974 (in 70mm and Sensurround!!!) where the only good miniature was one which burned, swayed, collapsed or was deluged in a torrent of water.  So came the era where my model trains and crudely constructed buildings were purposely wrecked in glorious Agfa Colour 36 exposure still photos.

A landmark step up came about in 1977 when high school mates and myself at Mount Roskill Grammar School got together with a Super 8mm Elmo camera and made our own amateur disaster picture.  Lots of bad miniatures made out of small Plaster of Paris ‘bricks’ and toy cars, fires which were always way too big for the quite small models, some improvised pyrotechnics which were hair raising to say the least – which included setting a friend on fire and pulling apart fire crackers and making newer, more lethal squibs with the contents – as well as some haphazardly backwound split screen matte shots and superimposed flames which rarely ever stayed in register.  As with most similar projects, our imaginations far exceeded our pocket money and our ability, with this epic (titled 1984 after the David Bowie song which we stole for the titles and was our notion of when the world would be destroyed by a bloody big earthquake!) – It was never finished as is so often the case with these things.  But fun it sure was!

A.Arnold ‘Buddy’ Gillespie in the miniatures tank for BEN HUR (1959)
So, with that misguided amateur enterprise aside, let us take a look at some of the wonderful moments of miniature magic – and the technicians who created them.  I have a lot of material so depending upon the response to this article I just may well do a follow up article in due course.
As things turn out, a high proportion of miniature effects tended to be utilised in war films over and above any other genre, so it won’t be a surprise to the reader that a large number of said shots are featured here today. Some you’ve seen before, though many I’ve never seen anywhere else, so the miniature maniacs among you are in for a treat.  Some of the familiar ones I’ve upgraded with BluRay images and they look sensational.  I’ve also included some great behind the scenes photos here which are very, very rare.

One thing we should note, sadly, is the apparent demise of the motion picture miniature as a viable special effect.  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that it’s all gone the way of glass matte art into the garbage bin as more and more (and more!) cinematic illusions are solely the domain of the MacIntosh computer.  I was horrified when I learned that WETA workshop here in NZ had mothballed it’s vast model department a few years back and laid off all of those skilled model makers only to have all such work conceived as digital environments (gee I hate that term) henceforth.  My hopes were raised a little when I recently read that Richard Taylor’s WETA will be making the all new THUNDERBIRDS television series and I understand actual, genuine models will be utilised!  Can’t wait to see that, but they’d better not screw around with the designs and look of the original craft and vehicles or I’ll get very upset.
Robert and Dennis Skotak provide jarring nuclear devastation for TERMINATOR 2 – JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

*I’d like to take this moment to acknowledge the kind generosity of Robert Welch, who’s grandfather A.Arnold Gillespie thrilled us for decades at MGM as the foremost miniature expert in Hollywood.  I am most grateful to Robert for allowing me (once again) full access to Buddy’s extensive archive of photos, many of which are reproduced here.  Of course, for a full lowdown on Buddy Gillespie’s extraordinary career I strongly recommend the wonderful memoir The Wizard of MGM, which is essential reading and is available from Amazon.com
*I must also make mention of David Coker, whose grandfather Filippo Guidobaldi was the highly regarded models and special processes wizard of the British film industry for many years.  His is a most fascinating story in itself and I am very grateful to David for sharing some amazing stories and terrific never before seen photographs with me from the old Gaumont Lime Grove and Rank special effects departments.


Full article with pics:     http://www.nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.co.nz/2014/12/magicians-of-miniature.html

Happy Birthday! Andy Serkis Turns 51 Today

(comicbook.com)            Today is actor Andy Serkis’ birthday.

As Hollywood’s leading motion-capture actor, Serkis gained the world’s attention when he played Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. As the man who made  “Precious” such a fun word to say, Serkis played Gollum in every Lord of the Rings film and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Serkis also gave a critically lauded performance in the revived Planet of the Apes franchise, playing Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He also played Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tin Tin and Kong in Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

Fans can look forward to seeing Serkis in two of this year’s biggest films. He will play villain Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and an undisclosed role in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Born in London, England, Serkis turns 51 years old today. Happy Birthday, Andy Serkis.

Captain America 2 Vfx Breakdown by BaseFX

VIDEO – Take a look:   http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=59&t=1271804

MIT’s Picture Language Could Be Worth a Thousand Lines of Code

(pcadvisor.co.uk)           Now that machine-learning algorithms are moving into mainstream computing, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is preparing a way to make it easier to use the technique in everyday programming.

In June, MIT researchers will present a new programming language, called Picture, that could radically reduce the amount of coding needed to help computers recognize objects in images and video. It is a prototype of how a relatively novel form of programming, called probabilistic programming, could reduce the amount of code needed for such complex tasks.

In one test of the new language, the researchers were able to cut thousands of lines of code in one image recognition program down to fewer than 50. They plan to present the results at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in June

With probabilistic programming, “we’re building models of what faces look like in general, and use them to make pretty good guesses about what face we’re seeing for the first time,” said Josh Tenenbaum, an MIT professor of computational cognitive science who assisted in the work.

Picture uses statistical inference to cut away much of the basic computational work needed for computer vision. It works much like the inverse to computer animation. Computer graphics programs, such as those used by Pixar and other animation companies, make two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional objects, given a relatively small amount of instruction from programmers. The Picture language works in the opposite direction. It can recognize an object within a two-dimensional image by comparing it to a set of models of what the objects could be.

The work stems from a program that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched in 2013 to develop probabilistic programming languages to further facilitate the use of machine learning.

Although an academic pursuit for decades, machine learning is quickly becoming a feasible technique for commercial use, thanks to more powerful computers and new cloud machine learning services offered by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Although probabilistic programming does not require machine learning to work, it can provide a way to streamline the use of machine learning, Tenenbaum said.

“In pure machine learning, you drive performance increases by just collecting more and more data and just letting machine learning do the work,” Tenenbaum said. In probabilistic programming, “the underlying system is more knowledge-based, using the causal process of how images are formed,” Tenenbaum said.

Picture is one of a number of different probabilistic programming languages that MIT is currently working on. Another, more general-use, probabilistic programming language from the team, called Venture, can be used to solve other kinds of problems, Tenenbaum said.

VFX News 02/06/14

Disney Projects 40 Years of ‘Star Wars’ Content

(hypable.com)             A long time from now in our own galaxy…

Disney will still be producing Star Wars content.

When Disney purchased LucasFilm back in 2012, many (but not all) fans were upset. The upset fans did not like the idea of Disney coming in and messing with the franchise that they held so dear.

Those fans will have time to get used to it.

Yesterday, the Disney 2013 Financial Report and Shareholder Letter was sent out, and in it Disney gave this piece of information about their plans for the Star Wars franchise (via JediNews):

Intangible assets primarily consist of intellectual property based on the Star Wars franchise with an estimated useful life of approximately 40 years. The goodwill reflects the value to Disney from leveraging Lucasfilm intellectual property across our distribution channels, taking advantage of Disney’s established global reach.

This should not come as a huge surprise. Disney paid $4.05 billion to acquire LucasFilm, and they were definitely going to get their money worth.

If Disney were to continue on their proposed path of releasing a new episodic Star Wars film every two years, that would mean we could potentially see 19 or 20 sequels or prequels, depending on when Disney is counting as the start of their 40 year stretch.

Mark your calendars now. Star Wars: Episode XXVI will hit theaters Christmas 2055.

If you’ve begun to break a sweat, you don’t need to worry. It’s probably not all that likely that they will actually continue to release one every two years. To continue to be successful, they’ll need to have a smart 40 year plan, and that doesn’t sound like a very smart plan.

Luckily, 40 years of content means much more than just movies. It should also include TV shows, comics, books, online content, video games, and media that doesn’t even exist yet.

Note: A smart commenter below pointed out that Disney comments actually means that they project they will cease to earn profits on Star Wars 40 years from now, not that Star Wars movies will be released until that time. Still, Disney won’t be too hasty to stop putting out films that are sure to make them money. See: Marvel.

‘The Lego Movie’ is Looking at $40M Open

(Variety.com)         Warner Bros. and Lego look to be constructing a blockbuster brick by brick as the toy brand’s first full-length feature film is building huge buzz before an opening weekend predicted to hit more than $40 million at the domestic box office.

Though films and TV shows based on toys and boardgames have come under fire for weak storylines (ahem … “Battleship”), “The Lego Movie” may turn that perception on its head with a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — a strong hook for unattached adults.

That’s huge, because the potential for a sizable upside depends greatly on just how broadly Warners is able to expand the audience beyond families. Depending on how severe the weather is on the East Coast, some observers say strong word of mouth could lead to a opening of $50 million-plus or higher.

The key building block for the PG-rated, $60 million-budgeted “Lego Movie” has always been kids — mostly boys — and their parents. But adults — both the globally fanatical gang of Lego collectors and adults nostalgic for their favorite childhood playthings — are the other cornerstone of Warner’s marketing efforts.

“The movie is a very unique proposition,” said Warner marketing maven Sue Kroll. “First of all, the movie is wildly imaginative, but it also has extremely relatable characters.”

Warners worked with Lego to connect with 19 of the 21 regional domestic Lego User Groups, called “LUGs,” which participated in building in-theater Lego displays, and starting building buzz across the various Lego-themed social-media outlets. Producer Dan Lin also attended the 2008 edition of fan event BrickCon in Seattle, where more than 10,000 adult Lego fans gather to display models, as well as buy, trade and sell parts.

“We know the fans well, so we made it a priority to reach out to those groups,” said Jill Wilfert, VP of global licensing and entertainment for Lego.

The strategy is working so far: Tracking among young adults has been growing steadily each day. The film also represents 67% of Wednesday’s online ticket sales, according to Fandango, a fact underscoring the film’s popularity with fanboys since they are the ones who usually pre-buy tickets.

Jurassic World Lines Up Shooting Locations in Hawaii and Louisiana

(comingsooon.net)       One of 2015’s most highly anticipated blockbusters, director Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World is getting ready to enter production and has today revealed plans to lens in both Hawaii and Louisiana. MidWeek reports that the production will shoot for four weeks on Oahu in April and then two weeks on Kauai. Then, as revealed today by The Times-Picayune, the shoot will head to New Orleans, Louisiana for 11 weeks beginning in June.

Trevorrow also posted on Twitter that the movie will be shot both on 35mm and 65mm.

Set to star Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson and Irrfan Khan, Jurassic World will be directed by Trevorrow from a draft of the screenplay he wrote with Derek Connolly. Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley are producing.

Jurassic World will be shot in 3D and is scheduled for a June 12, 2015 release.

BAFTA to Host First-ever Inside Games Showcase

(mcvuk.com)          New pre-awards event will give consumers an early-look at the latest releases.

Taking place on the same day as the British Academy Games Awards on Wednesday, 12 March, the event is the first of its kind by BAFTA and will be a public showcase of the newest games on the horizon.

Consumers can look forward to early hands-on sessions with the likes of Titanfall and Dark Souls II, in addition to some of the most popular current releases including Deep Silver’s Metro: Last Light, RuneScape, Football Manager, Company of Heroes 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Valve will also be in attendance with its first-ever Secret Shop – a pop-up store offering merchandise and exclusive digital in-game items for the publisher’s titles including Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2 and Portal.

In addition to these hands-on sessions, Inside Games will also host BAFTA-curated talks with developers and the Inside Games Arcade – a showcase of upcoming indie games.

Harvey Elliott, Chair of BAFTA’s Games Committee, said: “After a review of last year’s Awards activity, the committee believed it was time to broaden the ways in which BAFTA celebrates games and to enable the industry to engage more directly with gamers.”

“Our Inside Games event has been curated by BAFTA to give gamers unprecedented access to the developers behind some of the best new titles of 2014. Also opening our Awards to the public for the first time is another way in which we are helping them have a better connection with the industry.”

Tickets for this year’s British Games Academy Awards, which includes access to the Inside Games showcase are available now at the BAFTA website.

Presidio Asks Filmmaker to Try Again

(nytimes.com)            National parks are open to everyone, even to the filmmaker George Lucas. That is the message from the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, which this week rejected proposals by Mr. Lucas and two other finalists to build “a cultural institution of distinction” on prized bayside parkland and then turned right around and invited him back.

Nancy Hellman Bechtle, the 76-year-old philanthropist who is the chairwoman of the Presidio Trust, said Tuesday that she had urged Mr. Lucas, the creator of the “Star Wars” movies, to consider putting his Lucas Cultural Arts Museum on a less prime spot in the Presidio, just west of his own former film studio.

“I am really excited about the prospect of this,” she said. “I’m a glutton for punishment.”

Mr. Lucas, through a spokesman, said he was weighing the new offer as well as the possibility of moving his museum to another city, presumably a more hospitable one. He has hinted at a tantalizing invitation from Chicago, where he lives part time. As he describes it, his museum would champion the visual arts in their most popular and critically ignored form — from long-ago comic books and magazine illustrations to the latest experiments in digital animation — and nurture the next generation of graphic artists.

In a telephone interview last fall from his home in Marin County, he expressed frustration with the board and staff of the Presidio Trust, which manages most of the 1,491-acre national park and former Army base. The trust, he said, had stalled for four years on the project and dismissed his museum’s architectural design as an exercise in “mimicking.”

Ms. Bechtle is the first to admit that she does not care for Mr. Lucas’s proposed building. An architectural sketch portrays it as an imposing two-story structure silhouetted against a pink-dappled sky and festooned with Beaux-Arts-style arches, columns and a copper dome. She said the design was unsuited for the eight-acre site on Crissy Field, a former airfield with a commanding view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“We wanted to have a building that fitted more into the surroundings, and George wanted a building that looked more like a museum,” Ms. Bechtle said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “And I think that’s where the difficulty lay.”

While Mr. Lucas revised his plan to lower the height of the museum’s roof, “it was still too big” for Crissy Field, she said.

Nonetheless, Ms. Bechtle telephoned Mr. Lucas on Monday, right before the trust held a news conference announcing the rejection of the bids, and urged him to consider alternate sites in the Presidio. She said there are two, both less glamorous and politically sensitive than Crissy Field. One site, to the west of his old studio in the Letterman Digital Arts Center, is on land now occupied by a parking lot and “some buildings that are not historic,” she said. The second site, just west of that in the Thornburgh area, is a flat stretch of land with vacant warehouses.

Should Mr. Lucas agree to a new site, he would not have to reduce the size of his proposed building, Ms. Bechtle said. “He could even make it bigger,” she said.

All in all, the goal is to avoid of a repeat of 2009, when Don and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap, abandoned their plan to build a museum of modern art in the park amid opposition from preservationists.

Mr. Lucas’s proposal, she added, was the leading contender among the finalists, not least because it comes self-funded. He offered $700 million to build and endow the museum, which would be organized around his own idiosyncratically vernacular collection. It includes paintings and drawings by Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell and other newly rehabilitated figures from America’s Golden Age of Illustration.

The other rejected proposals called for a Presidio Exchange, or PX, an all-purpose performing space to be shared by local groups, and a Bridge/Sustainability Institute, which sought to explore issues such as alternative energy and ecosystem services.

“Probably, the Sustainability Institute was never in the running, because we didn’t know who their constituency was,” said Ms. Bechtle, who added that she hoped that the institute and the PX would test their programming ideas in coming years in the park’s existing buildings.

For now, the Crissy Field site is occupied by a retail store, Sports Basement. Its building, a former Army commissary built in 1989, is a generic example of the concrete-box school of architecture. Nonetheless, it is looking newly interesting to Ms. Bechtle.

“It’s fine like it is,” she said, adding that Sports Basement will move elsewhere in the Presidio. “We may just remodel the building ourselves. You can put windows on it. It’s never going to be a beautiful building, but it’s not in your face. You could have a place where people could bring their dogs and sit outside.”

The notion of developing a new dog run might not sound like the height of architectural ambition, but Ms. Bechtle, by her own admission, will be relieved to have the Crissy Field brouhaha behind her. “I was president of the San Francisco Symphony when we had a 10-week strike,” she said. “This was about the same level of intensity and stress.”

Paramount Pushes Back Found Footage Time Travel Film Welcome to Yesterday

(The Hollywood Reporter)          Paramount Pictures is looking for a new release date for Welcome to Yesterday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The found footage time travel film, from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, was scheduled for February 28, but the studio is now looking at summer or fall.

Directed by Dean Israelite, Welcome to Yesterday stars Sofia Black-D’Elia, Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner, Sam Lerner and Jonny Weston.

The trade says that Paramount will partner with fellow Viacom banner MTV Films for the marketing.


VFX Guru John Knoll on Limiting Waste, Working With Guillermo del Toro

(hollywoodreporter)          But John Knoll, chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic, points to another way in which the monsters vs. machines spectacle movie was a rule-breaker: a prior agreement between the VFX guru and del Toro to limit waste by keeping the extensive effects work efficient and cost-effective in postproduction.

“What I tried to do on the picture, in order for us to take this very ambitious picture, with a large number of shots, and a high degree of complexity, and with a limited budget, the pitch I made to Guillermo was, ‘We can do this by making this the most efficient show we’ve ever done,’ ” Knoll tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Knoll, who is set to give a keynote speech at the Spark FW 2014 conference in Vancouver on Saturday, said waste was minimized by limiting changes during postproduction when it came to completing complex character animation, lighting, digital environments and advanced fluid simulation work.

STORY: Who Is J.J. Abrams Eyeing for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’?

That frugality is rare in Hollywood, where a virtual environment offers directors endless flexibility in postproduction.

“A lot of filmmakers understand that the work is done digitally, and it’s technically possible to change it late in the game. And so they do, because it’s something you can do, and they’re used to being able to do it,” Knoll says. “It is very wasteful.”

The irony is that directors limit changes in live-action moviemaking — where a set will be built once, for example, not four times — owing to the sheer expense.

“So what Guillermo did, which is relatively unique in this business, is make a commitment to the (VFX) work and treat it more like it’s live action,” Knoll says.

For del Toro, the master of the creature feature, a willingness to limit VFX costs is made easier by his traditional reliance on physical effects, whether through makeup or life-size models.

“The visual effects need to be the last resort,” del Toro said Wednesday from Pinewood Toronto Studios, where he is currently directing The Strain TV series for FX and is soon set to begin shooting Crimson Peak for Legendary Pictures. “Sometimes it’s the last resort that you know you will try right away, like in Pacific Rim, where it’s impossible to build a robot that is 25 storys high, or create a monster in a suit, which was not the effect I wanted.”

Pacific Rim, where the endless action saw Godzilla-like monsters called Kaiju clash with skyscraper-sized robots steered by human pilots, required extensive visual effects.

But The Strain, a TV series long on character development, marks more of a return to Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth for del Toro in its use of macabre physical effects.

“We have a balance between makeup and physical effects, and we also use visual effects,” says the Mexican cineaste.

The Spark FW 2014 conference, which kicks off Wednesday night, runs through Saturday in Vancouver.

$7.4B: Amount Disney Paid for Pixar in 2006

(Bloomberg) –- In today’s “BWest Byte,” Jon Erlichman reports on the amount of money Disney paid to acquire Pixar in 2006. (Source: Bloomberg)

VIDEO – http://sg.news.yahoo.com/video/7-4b-amount-disney-paid-004432051.html

Square Enix: Game industry undergoing “major changes”

(gamespot.com)              The game industry is currently undergoing “major changes” due to the proliferation of smart-devices and the “increasingly competitive” console market, Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix said today as part of its latest financial report.

“The business environment surrounding [Square Enix] is in the midst of major changes, where smart devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs are spreading rapidly, while the console game markets in North America and Europe are increasingly competitive and concentrative.”

Square Enix’s comments follow those from Just Cause creator Avalanche Studios founder Christofer Sundberg, who told GameSpot this week that AAA development–in its current form–is unhealthy and unprofitable. Avalanche is currently making a AAA game for Square Enix that is believed to be Just Cause 3.

In light of these “environmental changes,” Square Enix said it plans to reform its business structure and organizations in an effort to reestablish revenue bases for “substantial earnings improvement.”

Part of this effort is releasing more mobile games. To that end, Square Enix Montreal is “fully focused” on making mobile games based on the Hitman series, Square Enix said last month. On the console front, Square Enix explained last summer that it had “walked away” too early from past games like Sleeping Dogs, and in the future it will invest in games with more persistent online worlds to keep players engaged.

Overall, Square Enix posted revenue of ¥102 billion ($1 billion) for the nine-month period ended December 31 and a profit of ¥5.2 billion yen ($49 million). Sales were down just .3 percent, while profit showed major improvement, rising from a loss of $56.7 million last year.

However, Square Enix’s game group–Digital Entertainment–saw revenue fall 2.2 percent to ¥56.5 billion ($558 million), but many titles performed well during the period, the company said.

Square Enix said console titles in North America were “strong” during the period, while Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is currently making “favorable progress.” On top of that, Square Enix said content for smart devices and PC “continued to build upon its already solid growth” during the quarter.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”  Becomes An Animated Musical

(darkhorizons.com)           Elton John’s Rocket Pictures has scored the rights to produce an animated musical film based on Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Based on the Joseph story in the Book of Genesis, the musical has been both a critical and commercial success over the past three decades after humble beginnings as a pop cantata penned for schools.

John will executive produce with Rice and Webber, but no writer or director is yet.

UK Screen Slams BECTU’s VFX Survey

(televisual.com)         The facilities trade body UK Screen Association, which represents vfx companies, has issued a formal letter to BECTU following the publication of BECTU’s Vfx Working Time Charter.

UK Screen has no problem with the charter itself (which lays out eight requests to vfx companies to improve the working conditions of staff), however the trade association takes major issue with a survey BECTU conducted, the results of which were published as part of the Vfx Working Time Charter.

Specifically, UK Screen says the survey data has been misrepresented through the rewording of survey questions in the reported output. Furthermore, UK Screen is concerned about the general validity of the survey as it claims BECTU can’t guarantee all the respondents even work in UK vfx houses.

So, Sarah Mackey, UK Screen’s CEO has issued a formal letter to BECTU’s General Secretary Gerry Morrissey, which includes the following concerns:

Page one of this Charter quotes a number of statistics from your 2013 vfx survey. My concerns are as follows:

1. Your survey contains no identifier questions and was promoted and distributed via a global social media site. As a result you can have no firm evidence as the source of your respondents, whether they are of UK or ex-UK origin, and whether they work in film, television, commercials, corporate or games vfx. Despite this you present the data as if it relates to the UK sector and, more specifically, to film vfx houses.

2. In presenting your outputs the three original questions have been reworded, hence:

‘Do you know vfx artists who have left the industry due to insecurity and/or workloads’ – is reported as ‘77% of people know someone who has recently left the industry because they couldn’t keep up with the workloads, overtime and poor working conditions’.

‘Have you ever been pressured by managers or supervisors to work longer hours for free?’ – is reported as ‘81% of people have felt pressured or bullied into working overtime for free on films’

‘How difficult do you think it is for people with children or caring responsibilities to make a successful career in vfx?’ – is transposed into ‘83% of people said it was difficult or very difficult to raise a family while working in vfx’. ‘

Mackey has requested the union withdraw and correct the vfx Working Time Charter. “Although I understand BECTU needs to grow its membership it should not do so at the expense of fairness and accuracy. This kind of messaging can be very damaging the UK film industry and the vfx sector,” she says.

Disney’s Game Business Surges, but Layoffs are on the Horizon

(gamespot.com)             The media giant announced today that Disney Interactive revenue increased 38 percent to $403 million for the quarter ended December 28, while operating income increased $46 million to $55 million. The uptick in sales was attributed to the success of Disney Infinity and growth from Disney’s Japanese mobile business.

Disney Interactive performed better, on a percentage basis, than all of the company’s other divisions by a significant margin. Its 38 percent revenue surge was better than Studio Entertainment (23 percent), Consumer Products (11 percent), Parks & Resorts (6 percent), and Media Networks (4 percent).

During an earnings call this afternoon, Disney CEO Bob Iger said (via The Wall Street Journal) that future iterations of Disney Infinity will include a “broader set of our more popular characters,” believed to be Star Wars and Marvel characters.

It’s not all good news, however, as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Disney Interactive will cut “hundreds” of jobs beginning as soon as today. Disney has yet to confirm the news, but The Wall Street Journal’s sources have been accurate before.

Overall, Disney posted revenue of $12.3 billion (+9 percent) for the quarter and a profit of $1.8 billion (+33 percent).

“Noah” Gets Converted To 3D Overseas

(darkhorizons.com)         While Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic will only be released in 2D in the U.S, the U.K., Australia and France, Paramount Pictures is currently crafting a 3D version of the movie to pull in audiences in other overseas markets.

Up to 65 foreign countries will get the 3D version of “Noah,” with 32 of those also scoring IMAX releases. The conversion adds $10 million to the film’s already pricey $125 million budget.

The studio reportedly tested multiple cuts of the film in order to score the broadest possible audience, and have reached agreement with Aronofsky as to the final version which premieres in the United States on March 28th.

Film Industry Expert Says it’s Risky to Replace Actors with CGI But It Can Be Done

(mirror.co.uk)             How will Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work be completed?

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was reportedly just seven days from filming his final scenes before his death on Sunday – and a special effects expert has revealed how the movie can be completed without him.

Film studio Lionsgate have said that although Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee was a major character in the films, his death will have ‘no impact’ on production and the series will be able to be released.

And according to The Hollywood Reporter, CGI is being considered to complete the final shots of head gamesmaker character Heavensbee.

A film special effects pro has said that the manner in which the deaths of Heath Ledger, Oliver Reed and Brandon Lee during other productions were handled may hold the secret to finishing the series.

Will CGI play an even bigger role in The Hunger Games?

Reed, who died during the filming of Gladiator in 1999, had elements of his role replaced with CGI – as did Heath Ledger, who died in 2008 while working on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

In 1993 Brandon Lee was fatally wounded in an accident on the set of The Crow but the Alex Proyas-directed film was released the following year after rewrites of flashback scenes that had yet to be completed.

Different techniques are believed to have been used to complete production. In Reed’s case, the script was partially rewritten and a body double was used in conjunction with wide-angled shots and a digital replacement of the actor’s head.

“When he died we had to make sense of the whole end of the film,” Gladiator’s Rob Harvey told the BBC. “It’s a very weird thing to have to do – particularly then, when the technology wasn’t really there at all.”

Somehow, his team managed it. Harvey detailed of how he sat down with the team to work out which parts would be removed, what had to be reshot completely and when a double would be used, following Reed’s death in 1999.

Harvey also worked on Terry Gilliam’s Parnassus.

Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were called in to replace Ledger, all appearing as different versions of the star’s character Tony.

After a short break in production Gilliam saved the project by rewriting the script so that Ledger’s character could magically change his appearance.

So when it comes to ensuring The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 gets out of the door, Lionsgate seem to have many options of ensuring Hoffman’s sad loss does not sink the project. Harvey believes that bosses should steer clear of anything that looks ‘too CGI’.

Harvey adds: “Doing a digital version of somebody other than [in] a very wide shot is a bit of a strange one. They’ve got a problem to solve and I guess it’s up to them how to solve it.”

Following the death of the Hollywood actor it was previously reported that a number of top actors were in the running to replace the star in The Hunger Games series.

Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, William H. Macy and Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston are all rumoured to be earmarked by studio bigwigs as possible replacements.

But will Hoffman’s sad death resolved silver screen issues or ultimately overshadow the film, as with Ledger, Reed and Lee?

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is due for release in November 2015

VFX News 07/01/13

Disney’s Monsters University Enters $300 Million Club

(ComingSoon.net)        After two solid weeks at the box office,
things slowed down slightly with two movies that failed to derail the
Disney•Pixar titan Monsters University which remained at the top spot
with $46.1 million, as it held strong against the competition,
dropping just 44% in its second weekend. It has grossed $179 million
after ten days domestically, as well as another $129 million
internationally bringing its global total to $300 million.

Orlando Bloom Also Finishes Filming The Hobbit

(Source: Peter Jackson)        Following word yesterday that Sir Ian
McKellen had finished his scenes for “The Hobbit” films, Peter Jackson
announced today that Orlando Bloom is done filming his scenes as
Legolas as well (he also says Evangeline Lilly is done with Tauriel).
Jackson posted this:

“A day after saying goodbye to Gandalf and Tauriel, it was time to
farewell Legolas. What a great day it was, with Orlando battling a
serious Orc for all 12 hours of shooting – part of the Battle of the 5
Armies for the third Hobbit movie. When we finally got the day done,
we said goodbye to Orlando, had a couple of beers … and couldn’t
resist doing this!”

Warner Bros. To Visit Post-Apocalyptic Teen Film “The Young World”

(The Hollywood Reporter)           Warner Bros. Pictures has bought
the film rights to Chris Weitz’s young adult novel “The Young World,”
says The Hollywood Reporter. Weitz (Twilight: New Moon, The Golden
Compass, About a Boy) will produce, direct and adapt his book for the
big screen. The book, which is the first of a trilogy, is described as

The Young World is the gripping first installment of a trilogy set in
the not-so-distant future in a post-apocalyptic New York City
following the catastrophic destruction of the world as we know it. An
unknown trauma has left every child and adult on earth dead, but, for
unknown reasons, teenagers are spared. Anyone between the onset of
puberty and the age of twenty-one are in a world with no authority
figures. And while that world would normally be a teenager’s fantasy,
this world has no heat, running water, television, videogames, phones,
or Internet. Teenagers are the heirs to a world brought back to the
Stone Age, and now they must learn to master it in order to survive.

“Call of Duty” Director To Visit Post-Apocalyptic Teen Zombie Film “19” Zombie

(darkhorizons.com)         “Call of Duty” short film director Jeff
Chan is attached to direct the zombie flick “19” for QED
International, Film 360 and Wonderland Sound and Vision.

Jim Agnew & Sean Keller penned the script pitch which posits the idea
that once people turn 19, they become zombies. As a result, the
civilized world is run by kids.

Plans are to turn the property into a potential trilogy, along with a
series of books.

Dreamworks To Visit Post-Apocalyptic Teen Film “Fire Sermon”

(darkhorizons.com)        DreamWorks Pictures has pre-emptively
acquired poet and author Francesca Haig’s “The Fire Sermon,” the first
in a proposed trilogy of young adult novels.

Set four hundred years after an apocalypse, a technology-free society
now exists made up entirely of twins. One of each set is perfect, the
other slightly mutated.

An apartheid system forces the mutated twins to settlements, even
though when one twin dies, so does the other.

The focus is on a brother and sister twin, and what happens when he
becomes a leader in the repressed society. Carla Hacken is set to

Rhythm & Hues Gets $5M To Finish Legendary’s ‘Seventh Son’

(deadline.com)      Rhythm & Hues Bankruptcy4TH UPDATE, THURSDAY 11:00
AM The court has given Legendary the go-ahead to infuse Rhythm & Hues
with another $4.9M to finish Seventh Son. Law firm Venable LLP repped
the studio, which sought the court’s approval to pump additional
payments into the ailing effects house after receiving only 25% of
their commissioned 225 VFX shots last December.

3RD UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM: Legendary Pictures has officially filed a
motion to be allowed to give Rhythm & Hues an additional $4,961,751 to
complete VFX work on their October release Seventh Son, according to a
change order filed yesterday (read it here).

2ND UPDATE, FRIDAY PM: In a preliminary ruling, Judge Neil Bason has
approved $11 million of the loan. A first disbursement of $6 million
is expected immediately, with $5 million to follow on February 19. On
March 12, Bason will offer final judgement on the loan and, pending no
legal hurdles or objections, allow the remaining $5.5 million to be
given to Rhythm & Hues.

UPDATE, 12:40 PM: Legendary Pictures has asked the court if it can
write a check to Rhythm & Hues outside the DIP loan being offered by
Universal and Fox. The production company said if the “change order”
is not approved it could mean a $9 million hit, and that even though
it’s already paid for the work it’s willing to “pay twice” to get its
movie finished. That could be a reference to Guillermo del Toro’s
Pacific Rim, which already has set a July 12 release date via Warner
Bros. (UPDATE: Nope. Legendary lawyers say it’s the Jeff
Bridges-starrer Seventh Son, which has an October 18 release date via
Warner Bros. A hearing date has been set for February 21.)

Additionally today, two former employees of the VFX company filed
similar class action suits against Rhythm & Hues over letting people
go without proper notification. Former compositing technical director
Anthony Barcelo says in his complaint (read it here) that under the
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act, he and others should have given
60 days’ written notice for being terminated without cause. The other
suit (read it here) is from Thomas Capizzi, who also alleges he and
others were fired from the company without the required written notice
or cause. On Monday, Rhythm & Hues let go 254 of the company’s
approximate 700 employees at its El Segundo offices.

PREVIOUS, 9:37 AM: The Oscar-nominated Life Of Pi VFX house is
desperately seeking approval of a $17 million emergency loan from
Universal and 20th Century Fox at a preliminary hearing in LA this
morning in federal bankruptcy court. The studios are two of Rhythm &
Hues’ biggest clients; another, Warner Bros, has withdrawn its
projects and financial support. The troubled effects company filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday. If approved, the loan
(read the motion here) will allow the company to complete contracted
work on the studios’ projects and continue operations through the end
of April. The financially unstable company could also seek new work
and possible buyers during this period.

Rhythm & Hues claimed it had $33.8 million in liabilities by the end
of 2012 according to a filing submitted this week. If the DIP loan is
not approved, the company will be unable to operate and must liquidate
immediately, according to the documents. The Rhythm & Hues filing also
reveals that Universal and Fox had already floated the company two
loans in the amount of $750,000 and $5.25 million to clear its payroll
through January 15, the last date many employees reportedly received
payment for completed work. At least 200 employees were laid off last
week without any promise of a paycheck, multiple sources tell
Deadline. CEO and founder John Hughes will appear this morning in
front of Judge Neil Bason.

VFX Unionization Effort Struggles to Gain Traction

(hollywoodreporter.com)         IATSE continues its push to unionize
visual effects work in the U.S. and Canada, but if the campaign were a
movie, it’d be a hand-cranked nickelodeon presentation, not a summer

Translation: progress is slow and faltering. A town hall meeting held
Tuesday night at video-conferenced venues in Burbank, the Bay Area and
Vancouver drew a bare-bones crowd, far smaller than the aggregate 350
who participated in a similar event on March 14.

The effort has been ongoing for more than a year; an earlier
unionization attempt failed in 2003. Meanwhile, a London-based union
similar to IATSE began in April a campaign to organize U.K. visual
effects workers.

Meeting participants in several cities spoke of working hours that
defied rationality coupled with difficulty getting paid at all.
“Driving home, I swerve to avoid things that aren’t there,” said one
panelist, an eerily appropriate symptom of fatigue for someone whose
job is to create things that aren’t there.

From Montreal, VFX artist Diana Marie Wells weighed in. “I bought my
co-worker toothpaste because she didn’t have money to afford it,” she

Back in LA, an anguished young VFX worker told the audience that he
had lost his job and now, “I’m losing my place.” How would a union

How indeed? The VFX industry is marked by temporary, globally
dispersed employment, itinerant labor and razor-thin margins. The days
of stable, staff employment seem largely bygone.

“In my opinion,” said panelist and animation artist Brock Stearn, “the
‘hire and fire’ is here to stay.”

Steve Kaplan, organizer for the Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839,
suggested that unionization represented one way for VFX houses to push
back against studio demands that result in long hours.

Another panelist, dooner, organizer for the Art Directors Guild, IATSE
Local 800, is engaged in a parallel campaign to organize
previsualization artists. He also noted that his Local represents
digital matte artists, but only those at studios that are already
signatory to the IATSE agreement.

The two-hour meeting ended shortly after 10 p.m., at which point some
of the participants returned home while others, perhaps, returned to

Help Us Kill The Movie Industry!

(ycombinator.com)            How do you kill the movie and TV
industries? Or more precisely (since at this level, technological
progress is probably predetermined) what is going to kill them? Mostly
not what they like to believe is killing them, filesharing. What’s
going to kill movies and TV is what’s already killing them: better
ways to entertain people. So the best way to approach this problem is
to ask yourself: what are people going to do for fun in 20 years
instead of what they do now?

There will be several answers, ranging from new ways to produce and
distribute shows, through new media (e.g. games) that look a lot like
shows but are more interactive, to things (e.g. social sites and apps)
that have little in common with movies and TV except competing with
them for finite audience attention. Some of the best ideas may
initially look like they’re serving the movie and TV industries.
Microsoft seemed like a technology supplier to IBM before eating their
lunch, and Google did the same thing to Yahoo.

It would be great if what people did instead of watching shows was
exercise more and spend more time with their friends and families.
Maybe they will. All other things being equal, we’d prefer to hear
about ideas like that. But all other things are decidedly not equal.
Whatever people are going to do for fun in 20 years is probably
predetermined. Winning is more a matter of discovering it than making
it happen. In this respect at least, you can’t push history off its
course. You can, however, accelerate it.

What’s the most entertaining thing you can build?

Full article:       http://ycombinator.com/rfs9.html

Doctor Who’s new Visual Effects Creators Announced

(doctorwhonews.net)           Milk VFX (Credit: Milk)The question over
who would take on Doctor Who’s visual effects in the future was
answered today with the announcement of a new company formed by the
same creative team that worked on the show’s previous series. Milk’s
founders are Nick Drew (Managing Director and Executive Producer),
with Visual Effects Supervisors Jean-Claude Deguara and Nico Hernandez
(also joint Heads of 3D), Sara Bennett (also Head of 2D), and Murray
Barber, with Executive Producer and overall CEO of the company being a
name and face familiar to fans through Doctor Who Confidential, Will

Cohen released a statement about the company’s aim:
Milk aims to be the most sought after visual effects team in what we
believe is blossoming into a thriving industry for high-end TV visual
effects. Our new venture is timed to enable us to capitalise on the
new tax breaks in the UK as we expect to see an influx of TV work, as
well as continued feature film work, coming to London over the next
few months and beyond.

As mentioned above, Doctor Who will be one of the first customers for
the new effects company, with work being undertaken on the 3D 50th
Anniversary Special. The company is also working on Steven Moffat’s
eagerly anticipated third series of Sherlock, and a new BBC One
mini-series Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (due to be broadcast in

Academy VFX Branch Newest Members Announced


Visual Effects Branch Membership Additions 2013:

Jason Bayever (Life of Pi, The Wolfman)

Mark Breakspear (The Great Gatsby, Tropic Thunder)

Philip Brennan (Snow White and the Huntsman, Minority Report)

Tony Clark (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry
Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

David Clayton (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Avatar)

Michael Dawson (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Devil’s Double)

Erik-Jan De Boer (Life of Pi, Night at the Museum)

Donald R. Elliott (Life of Pi, Seabiscuit)

John Goodson (Red Tails, Marvel’s The Avengers)

Charley Henley (Prometheus, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

John McLeod (Django Unchained, The Aviator)

Mark Noel (Oz The Great and Powerful, Transformers)

David Prescott (Transformers, X-Men)

Guillaume Rocheron (Life of Pi, Sucker Punch)

Wendy Rogers (Puss in Boots, Shrek)

David Alexander Smith (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Matrix Reloaded)

Wayne Stables (The Adventures of Tintin, Avatar)

Richard Stammers (Prometheus, Angels & Demons)

Richard Stutsman (Zero Dark Thirty, Independence Day)

Christopher Townsend (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Day
after Tomorrow)

Stephan Trojansky (Marvel’s The Avengers, Hereafter)

David Watkins (Ali, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

Jeff White (Marvel’s The Avengers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull)

Trevor Wood (Prometheus, The Golden Compass)

Full coverage:

Pixar Plans To Cut Back On Sequels

(darkhorizons.com)          Pixar and Walt Disney Animation president
Ed Catmull tells Buzzfeed that the computer animation company’s focus
is now moving back to original properties.

Following a flurry of sequels in recent years including “Toy Story 3,”
“Cars 2,” “Monsters University” and the upcoming “Finding Nemo 2,”
Catmull says the company has now set a mandate to release one original
Pixar film annually.

Added to this, the company will also release a sequel or prequel to an
existing work every second year.

4 New Video Game Realities That Will Kill the Industry

(cracked.com)          The video game industry is thriving like never
before. Back in the day, if you bragged to strangers about the
headshot you’d just pulled off, you didn’t get a round of virtual
congratulations; you got a thorough cavity search by vigilant
professionals. But now everybody games — men, women, kids, the
elderly … hell, there are entire online services just for cats to
play video games together in Japan (well, probably not, but you
totally believed me for a second, didn’t you?). But despite this
thriving industry, a lot of sketchy new practices are emerging that
may very well end up killing gaming before it even gets a chance to
grow old, bloated, and entirely corrupt. If we want gaming to outlive
its prime, we have to put an immediate stop to stuff like …

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-new-video-game-realities-that-will-kill-industry/

Spider-Man 2 Actor Trying to Steal Andy Serkis Thunder

Here’s Paul Giamatti on the set of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, in which
he plays The Rhino. I assume he’s doing some sort of motion capture
work here, though he seems a little overdressed for it (MORE SPANDEX
ONESIES!). We all know Paul
Mr.-Academy-Award-Nominee-for-Cinderella-Man Giamatti is widely
regarded as one of the best actors in town, but does he have the
thespian chops to compete with Sir Andy Serkis when it comes to
wordlessly evoking the inner humanity of a fantastical creature? I
guess we’ll see.

Thunder stealing photo – Take a look:

VFX News 06/24

“Asteroids” Movie The Next Star Wars

(darkhorizons.com)              Out doing promotional rounds for “RED 2,” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says that the proposed film based on the classic arcade game “Asteroids” is still very much on the table.

As previously indicated, the story follows two estranged brothers who are forced to team up to save Earth from invading aliens. Now, in a video interview for Screen Rant, di Bonaventura reveals a few more details:

“Really, Asteroids is the one we’re spending our time on now. The truth is, I love the title… when I look at that project, that’s what I think about it, is I think about the scale of it and I think about the possibility of it.

It’s not a disaster movie. If we’re successful at getting it made. It’s much more of a space opera. It’s like a great sci-fi movie if we get it done right.

It is not at all what people think it is. People think, ‘Oh, the asteroid’s gonna hit the earth,’ and I have no interest in doing that. That’s been done exceedingly well before. No, this takes place in an asteroid belt, the whole movie.

VIDEO Interview:    http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/27552/-asteroids-movie-the-next-star-wars

‘Monsters Univercity’ Scares Up $82M

(hollywoodreporter.com)           Disney and Pixar’s long-awaited sequel Monsters University opened to a sizzling $82 million, the No. 2 Pixar opening of all time after Toy Story 3 ($110 million). Overseas, Monsters U took in an early $54.5 million from 35 markets for a worldwide debut of $136.5 million.

Monsters University occasioned several milestones for Disney and Pixar. It’s the second highest June animation opening ever (behind Pixar’s Toy Story 3), the second highest June opening ever for Disney or Pixar, and the eighth biggest premiere in Disney history. Globally, the prequel’s debut came in at $136.5 million.

“World War Z” Sequel Back In Development

(darkhorizons.com)           The epic zombie apocalyptic antics of Marc Forster’s “World War Z” hauled in an impressive $111.8 million in its worldwide debut this weekend, $66 million from North America alone.

That is the highest opening for an original live-action tentpole since “Avatar,” not to mention the biggest debut of star Brad Pitt’s career.

Originally planned as a trilogy adaptation of the Max Brooks novel, those follow-up plans were scrapped after the project ran into trouble and required extensive reshoots.

Now, Paramount chairman Rob Moore says the studio will “actively turn” to develop further installments, reviving those plans they had previously put on ice.

Pitt aggressively helped with the marketing of WWZ, showing up at numerous early screenings ranging from suburban American cinemas to various star-studded global premieres from Moscow to Sydney.

Marvel Studios Schedules Third Mystery Project

(comingsoon.net)            Just a week after Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios revealed release dates for two mystery projects in 2016 and 2017, a new update has set a third mystery Marvel film for release on July 8, 2016.

It has been hinted in the past that Marvel has plans for new characters in Phase Three like Doctor Strange and The Black Panther. Either of those could take on these future release dates as could a Marvel’s The Avengers 3 (likely for 2017), another sequel to an existing film or even a completely new surprise. Only time will tell, so check back for updates as they become available.

Are We Seeing The Demise of Pixar? Is Disney’s Influence Good or Bad?

(truthoncinema.com)          Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I watched Mary Poppins live in a sit-down movie theater upon its first release.1 I was a first-grader, and I was mesmerized. There were several indelible scenes for me: the pulling of the lamp out her purse, the animated penguins and the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the floating in the air at the uncle’s house, the rooftop chimney-sweep serenade of Mary, and most of all how sad I was at the end when Mary went away and left the children on their own. I thought it was horribly unfair.

But thirty years later, watching the movie with my wife and daughter, I discovered something startling — although all of the scenes were exactly as I remembered them, they were in a very different movie than I saw as a child. As a child, the movie was about Mary Poppins and wonder and whimsy. As an adult, I was shocked to find that the movie was not about Mary at all, but about parenting and the worth of children and how the time goes so swiftly with them that not a moment can be wasted. I discovered that Mary had to leave when she left, because her job was done, her charges (the parents, not the children) had learned what they needed to learn, and she needed to move on to the next set of parents.

The truth is, the movie is that most amazing of things: it is both movies at once, and it does them both so brilliantly that a six-year old and thirty-six year old can sit in the same theater at the same time and watch the same movie and both come away with a magical experience.

And that is all you really need to know about Disney in its heydey. It turned out movie after movie that was magical, and magical to almost everyone of every age. But after Walt Disney died, they lost their way. Their movies were no longer magical; they were barely watchable, in fact. It was twenty years before they recovered: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King captured some, but not all, of the missing magic.

But the year after The Lion King was released, we discovered there was a new Disney in town, and its name was Pixar. Toy Story had everything going for it that Mary Poppins did — it was magical for young and old alike, it had toys for young and old alike, and most of all it had a story for young and old alike. For the first time in maybe thirty years, a six-year old and thirty-six year old could sit in the same theater and watch the same movie and both could experience — magic!

Meanwhile, Disney lost the small path they’d found (it wasn’t big enough to call it a way). They began churning out cheap straight-to-DVD ripoffs of their successful movies, with cheap animation, cheap music, and cheap voice talent. They couldn’t compete with Pixar’s computer magic, so they threw in the towel and counted on the Disney name to carry them. It didn’t.

Pixar, on the other hand, proceeded to reel off one of the best ten-year periods for a studio in movie history. Not only were their movies all phenomenonally successful, they all had great, and in some cases brilliant, stories.2 They were all (say it with me) — magical.

And then came Cars 2, and suddenly the streak, and the magic, was over. Cars was easily the weakest movie of the streak, and it had the same level of magic as one of GOB’s shows3. Yes, I know four-year olds love it, obsessively even, but I know of no thirty-four year olds that do. Had it been the first Pixar movie, it would have been OK, but just as fast-food pizza isn’t too bad before you’ve had my wife’s homemade pizza but inedible after, so Cars suffered greatly in comparison to what had gone before it. Making a sequel of it was a decision of disastrous (dare I say Biblical?) proportions.

Something else happened to Disney while Pixar went on their tear — they turned into the Galactic Empire. They became more concerned with franchises than art. They decided they needed consistent characters to populate their theme parks. They began consuming studios like I consume chocolate. Marvel Comics — gone. Lucas Films — gone.

And in between, Pixar, gone. Cars 2 was a Disneyesque decision, because it was actually a Disney decision, because independent Pixar was no more, enveloped into the Empire in 2006. (The year Cars came out, in fact, although we don’t get to blame Disney for it, as much as I’d like to.)

I’m afraid the Disneyification of Pixar might be complete. This year saw the release of Brave, a derivative story if ever there was one, and a mediocre movie at best. Next up is a sequel to Monsters. A sequel to Finding Nemo has just been announced. A possible third sequel to Toy Story is rumored but not confirmed (this by itself would be the last nail in the coffin for me), as is a potential sequel to The Incredibles.

What do all of those things have in common? They’re franchise-builders, cheap knockoffs intended to further the brand, not further the state of the art. They’re more concerned with characters than character, with the familiar rather than the inventive. And they’re the exact opposite of what we saw in Pixar’s ten-year run.

I am not judging movies I haven’t seen, I’m interpolating based on movies I have seen. It is possible the new sequels will be good movies, and stories, in their own right. But based on the last two, I doubt it. The Empire has consumed them, and all that’s left is a bloated mess.

And not even a spoonful of sugar will help that medicine go down.

Small VFX Shops Rewrite Rules

(variety.com)            While the visual-effects industry has been jolted by two high-profile bankruptcies and infighting over unionization, some houses have been steadily sending in shots — and making a living at the same time.

These are the boutique operations — often micro-setups that maintain a permanent staff of about five to 10 people and then staff up to as many as 25 to 30 people when demand dictates. They also eschew fancy digs for more affordable facilities, and resist the temptation to grow too big too fast.

“I watched some guys buy incredible buildings and then go out and put $3,000 couches in their offices,” says Rob Hall, owner of Almost Human. “When you have to make the monthly payment, it’s got to be hard because you know if work slows down you could be in real trouble, real fast.”

Hall, who worked with low-budget icon Roger Corman when he first moved to Hollywood, has built a large part of Almost Human’s business by pairing practical makeup effects with visual effects on small- to mid-budget films like “The Crazies.”

“Having a specialty gives you an edge,” says Hall, whose previous credits include work on TV genre shows like “Angel.” “You become known for a particular thing and then other people will come to you for those skills.”

Visual-effects houses such as Almost Human and Drawn by the Light — which has done work for “Fringe,” “CSI,” “Mad Men” and “Revolution” — bank on their skills and relationships to keep the work coming in season after season, even as international competitors nip at their heels.

Small shingle owners also note that they have to rely on a bank of highly skilled freelancers to take on the overflow in times of plenty. Those relationships can easily make or break a company as well.

“You definitely have to be able to do the work at a very high level, regardless of the deadline, if you want to stay profitable,” says Rik Shorten, one of the founders of Drawn by the Light. “Producers want to know that they can trust you, especially when TV deadlines are involved, so there’s definitely room for someone with great skills to work a lot as a freelancer.”

The boutique business model relies on a steady stream of work for the most invisible kinds of vfx rather than the splashy — and expensive — shots that dominate summer tentpoles.
Instead, the boutique owners lean toward TV work or films in the $40 million budget range or below. Many realize that despite the glamour and prestige that comes with a big-budget vfx blockbuster, there is a downside when you’re a smaller operation.

“We saw the volatility of the features business and we realized that if you ask someone if they’ve got a release date and they don’t have one, that can mean trouble,” says Tom Mahoney, a founding partner at CoSA VFX, which has done work on more than 50 feature films and a dozen TV series. “With television there’s steady work on a specific deadline, which is very good.”

These strategies don’t surprise Jenny Fulle, CEO of the Creative Cartel, a company that manages vfx production and has worked on films like “Ted” and “After Earth.” She believes the industry is shifting and that companies will have to develop new business models to survive.

“It’s definitely not like it was before,” Fulle says. “These smaller houses are able to adjust more easily when there’s a down period like now — all the blockbusters have been done for the summer and TV production is down.”

Boutique vfx houses are able to fend off some international and incentives competition by staying close to where much of the post-production work is still done and be available to clients for face-to-face meetings.

“We’ve established a lot of trust by getting shots done on time, on budget and being right here in everyone’s back yard,” says Dan Schmit, owner of Engine Room, which has done work on “The Mentalist.” “Some people want to know you’re just a few miles down the road.”

Or, in some cases, just down the road in someone’s garage.

“For years we worked out of the back of a house until we started using enough freelancers that we needed a place where they could come and do work for us,” says Mahoney. “We went into this knowing we didn’t want to grow too big too fast because we primarily wanted to be artists who got to keep making art for a living.”

“Pirates 5” Hires Production Designers

(darkhorizons.com)            Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has started his promotional rounds for “The Lone Ranger” and he has spoken about the decision to hire “Kon-Tiki” helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg for the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” feature.

Speaking with The Playlist, Bruckheimer says that the pair arrived in Los Angeles last Friday and started working on it. Production designers are now being hired and the film is moving forward.

Asked about their hiring, he says: “We saw their movie early on, maybe six months ago, and I saw some of their other work, which I thought was terrific. That convinced me. They were interested in doing it and they flew over and we showed them a script that we were working on and they had really amazing ideas.”

He also confirmed that the film will retain the “adventure and supernatural” mix, and that part of the film will be set in New Orleans. He says: “We’re certainly going to be filming in Louisiana because of the tax breaks and I think there might be a sequence there. But it will also be set in the Caribbean, obviously.”

Steve Carell Explains 3D Animation

VIDEO – Take a look:      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDogpuChe94&sns=em

“World War Z” Over-Performs With $66 Million Open

(hollywoodreporter.com)           Brad Pitt zombie pic World War Z, from Paramount, also overperformed in opening to $66 million, the top launch for an original live-action tentpole since Avatar. It also marks Pitt’s largest opening domestically, easily outpacing the $50.3 million launch of Mr. & Mrs. Smith in summer 2005. Internationally, World War Z debuted to $45.8 million from its first 25 markets for a worldwide total of $111.8 million.

World War Z’s performance is a notable victory for Paramount, considering many in Hollywood left the film for dead after its release was pushed back from December 2012 in order to allow for numerous reshoots required to reshape the ending. Directed by Marc Forster and co-financed by Skydance Productions, World War Z was a passion project for Pitt, who produced the tentpole.

Domestic box office revenue for the weekend reached an estimated $236 million, the second best of the year after Memorial Day weekend and among the top 10 weekends of all time.

Heading into the frame, box office observers believed World War Z would end up in a closer battle with Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan’s Man of Steel, with many giving Superman an edge over zombies.

George Lucas Marries Fiancee Mellody Hobson

(aceshowbiz.com)             Good news comes from “Star Wars” creator George Lucas. The 69-year-old director married his fiancee Mellody Hobson in a ceremony attended by family and friends over the weekend. “Cinderella Man” director Ron Howard took to Twitter on June 23 to congratulate the couple for the union.

“George Lucas Melody Hobson wedding was joy to behold Bill Moyers service was beautiful, nothing short of profound. Congrats Mr&Mrs Lucas,” Howard wrote. “Django Unchained” star Samuel L. Jackson said in an excited-sounding Twitter post, “Let’s give a Galactic shout out to Master George Lucas & his Bride Melodie on This their WEDDING DAY!! Congrats!!!!!!”

There were no details available concerning Lucas and Hobson’s wedding. However, multiple sources suggested back in April that the pair would tie the knot at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

Lucas and Hobson have been together since 2006. The movie maker announced his engagement to the Princeton alum back in January. The wedding is the second for the movie director. He was previously married to film editor Marcia Lou Griffin before splitting in 1983.

Exploring the World of Weta with Daniel Falconer

(capsulecomputers.com.au)            Weta Workshop and their SFX division Weta Digital are basically the kings (and queens) of props and practical/special effects in film and TV. Based out of Miramar, New Zealand, the company became a household name after their amazing work on The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring back in 2001. They have since also become synonymous with director Peter Jackson, working on numerous of his other projects thereafter.

At this year’s Supanova Pop Culture Expo, designer Daniel Falconer – who joined Weta Workshop in 1996 – held a presentation looking at the history of the company in the business, and exploring the processes of some of their most recognisable works. It was great to attend for anyone interested in the field or movie-making in general. Here is a rundown of what was covered, including some quotes (partially paraphrased) to help convey what is better translated through visual language.

I apologise in advance for not being able to capture good shots of the powerpoint slides, but I have included some examples of Falconer’s work. At the outset, Falconer gave us all a digital tour of Weta’s fine work; mostly films that we will all recognise: The LOTR Trilogy, The Last Samurai, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Legend of Zorro, King Kong and many more, before explaining how a gig is typically landed for the team and other SFX houses;

Full article with pics:         http://www.capsulecomputers.com.au/2013/06/exploring-the-world-of-weta-with-daniel-falconer/

‘Lone Ranger’ Holds Premiere at Disney Park

(ocregister.com)               ANAHEIM – Arianna Almaraz of Santa Ana waited 10 hours on Saturday in the beating sun to wait for actor Johnny Depp to pass by her bleacher seat along the red carpet for “The Lone Ranger.”

Just as the sun was going down, Depp stopped and signed a homemade poster, writing “Beautiful Love, Johnny.”

The Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer, center, smiling, is surrounded by fans and photographer’s on the red carpet at the movie’s premiere at Studio 27 inside Disney’s California Adventure theme park Saturday.

The Disneyland Resort has hosted some red-carpet movie premieres before. Here are the big ones in recent years:

March 18, 2001: “Spy Kids,” Disney California Adventure.

June 28, 2003: “Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Disneyland.

June 23, 2006: “Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest,” Disneyland.

May 20, 2007: “Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End,” Disneyland.

Aug. 14, 2007: “High School Musical 2,” Downtown Disney.

May 7, 2011: “Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides,” Disneyland.

“I’ve been in love with him for 10 or 11 years,” Almaraz said. “I really wanted to get the autograph.”

Full article wtih pics:          http://www.ocregister.com/articles/carpet-514031-park-depp.html

Man Of Steel Joins $400 Million Club

(deadline.com)           The Superman reboot continues as a super-hit internationally. Here and overseas, Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ holdover 3D Man Of Steel (4,207 theaters in the widest release) went into this weekend as still the big #1 leader in the worldwide marketplace. And then Superman had to battle the zombies from World War Z through today. MOS broadened out to 52 markets outside of the U.S. and Canada and now has amassed an international cume of $188.3M. With $210M from its domestic gross in just 11 days, this third Superman franchise now has a huge worldwide total of $398.3M. That includes nearly $35M on exactly 600 worldwide IMAX screens, including the $3.2M opening weekend in China where IMAX screens represent 12.5% of the country’s movie gross. The pic has played very strong throughout Asia (see Korean poster) and, in China alone, grosses were an outstanding $25.5M from roughly 5,631 screens, taking a lion’s share of the market. Opening day took almost 80% marketshare for Warner Bros’ 2nd highest opening day behind only the Harry Potter finale.

This weekend, pic overall did $89M foreign with nearly 12M admissions from over 18,800 screens as the #1 film internationally. “Considering the massive openings last weekend and the hot weather impacting the business in many European markets, the film sustained a reasonable holdover drop of 59%,” Warner Bros said today. Man Of Steel is currently #3 in North America after doing $12.7M Friday (-71% from a week ago) and +29% for $16.2M Saturday and another huge tally around $41.2M (-65% from a week ago). ”We’re in great shape moving into the 4th of July holiday playtime with such an iconic character at the helm,” said Warner Bros Domestic Distribution President Dan Fellman. “Hoping we have a similar result to the strong day we had on Father’s Day.” The Christopher Nolan-Zack Snyder-David S. Goyer-Henry Cavill pic had 27 more markets opening this weekend, including the major countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and China.

Join The Campaign to Support VFX Workers in the UK

(bectu.org.uk)              BECTU is campaigning to support VFX workers in the UK. The project has made the front page of the union’s latest journal Stage Screen and Radio which also includes a three page feature.

Read the article (also attached to this page) to find out more about the skills involved, and their impact on films from Star Wars to Life of Pi.

Today VFX is an increasingly important part of film production however this is not reflected in the industry’s treatment of the workforce where condiitons are marred by excessive hours and scant attention to staff welfare.

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, comments:

“The race to the bottom where, with each new contract, the VFX companies impose more work on a shorter timescale and with unlawful working hours, cannot continue.

The rest of the film industry fights its corner and this benefits the companies, which can keep more realistic margins and the workforce, who get their lives back.”.

Orig article with active links:       http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/1952

‘Star Wars’ To Shoot At Pinewood

(deadline.com)             We already knew that, like its six predecessors, Star Wars: Episode VII was going to shoot in the UK where expectations were that it would end up at Pinewood Studios. Now we know for sure. Pinewood isn’t talking publicly about the news that was first reported by Screen, but a source close to the production tells me the movie will indeed set up camp at the iconic facility that’s also home to James Bond.

Director J.J. Abrams recently said production would start at the beginning of 2014 and that “Most likely we are going to be moving to London at the end of the year” for the film. Pinewood currently has Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella in residence along with Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy. Along with those two films, Star Wars will mark the latest in recent collaborations between Disney and Pinewood. Angelina Jolie-starrer Maleficent shot there earlier this year. But it’s not all Disney business. Fox’s Exodus, the biblical epic from Ridley Scott, will also shoot at Pinewood later this year. With all those movies in residence, will there be enough room? I’m assured that even with a massive project like Star Wars moving in, Pinewood will be able to have two or three other films at the same time.

Schwarzenegger Battles Zombies In “Maggie”

(darkhorizons.com)           Arnold Schwarzenegger has scored leading role in Henry Hobson’s zombie feature “Maggie”.

The story begins as a ‘walking dead’ virus spreads across the country. A family on a farm must help their eldest daughter come to terms with her infection as she slowly turns into a flesh-eating zombie.

Chloe Grace Moretz was previously linked for a role in the project, but has had to depart due to scheduling conflicts.

Schwarzenegger is also planning to serve as a producer on the film which boasts a script by John Scott III that made the 2011 Black List.

How A Dream Job Comes True

(makeuseof.com)            It’s not every day that I get to pick the brain of a world-leading 3D artist — but that’s exactly what I got to do with Rafael Grassetti. You may not recognize Rafael’s name, but you have no doubt seen his work on massively popular games like Assassins Creed 3, Mass Effect 3, and others. You may have even held one of the toys he designed for toy giant Hasbro. In short, Rafael is one 3D artist who made it big, and I wanted to find out more about how he made it, and what it takes to become a leading 3D artist and work for companies like Sony.

Full article with artwork pics:    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/what-does-it-take-to-design-characters-for-mass-effect-3-and-other-hits-interviewing-world-class-3d-artist-rafael-grassetti/

How technology Has Changed Animation: a Brief History

(memeburn.com)             For many years, the use and growth of technology has facilitated animation’s development. From the early ages of the phenakistoscope disk (spindle viewer) or flipbook, to the invention of the zoetrope and current creations of graphic animation, technology has helped animation evolve from two — to three-dimensional format and even on to stereoscopic 3D.

More recently, technology tools facilitating computer animation include for example the digital pen, tablet and digital sculpting tools. In addition, high-end 3D animation software enables most of what one would see in a conventional animated movie such as modelling, rendering, animation, and lightning. And for certain animated sequences requiring an extra edge, there is always the opportunity to develop custom-made proprietary software to add that extra element to the final product.

But be it video games, movies or television — all of them carry the tell-tale signs of modern animation techniques facilitated by the use of technology. Yet long before the invention of computers, animators made use of hand drawings to create their animated characters which brought with it the tedious task of keeping track of each and every physical drawing making up the animation sequence.

The advent of computer and graphic processing hardware has fundamentally changed this process. However, whereas the length of time it takes to make an animated movie has remained relatively the same, it is the quality of the end result which has significantly improved as a result of this technology.

It was during the 1980s, however, that the newer technologies became more widely used allowing the animation industry to evolve and change the manner in which traditional animation was created. The new technology meant that, much like with the use of robots in manufacturing, machines could do more of the work. With the introduction of computer animation, people were afraid that computers would take their jobs.

However, thanks to a short animated film produced by Brian Jennings and Bill Kroyer, entitled Technological Threat, this fear was reduced as it was clearly illustrated not only how computer animation integrates with traditional animation, but how there is a place for both. Not only can and does traditional and computer animation coexist, but often a combination of both is needed.

Traditional animation remains a prominent form of animation to this day and continues to grow with new animators joining the industry each year. Computer animation is not meant as a replacement for traditional hand-drawn characters, but rather viewed as another tool in an animator’s box of tricks. Just because one owns a drill, it does not make a screwdriver obsolete! Each has an important role to play, together with their unique pros and cons. After all, a tool is only as good as the person who is trained to use it and the same holds true for computer animation. In order for this technology to reach its full potential, a key starting point still needs to be the animator’s natural creative ability and learnt skill.

To date, traditional animation still continues to receive both nominations and awards. An example of this is The Princess & The Frog which has been nominated for “Best Animated Feature Film” at the Golden Globes. Other examples include the all-time epic Beauty and the Beast, French animated film Triplets of Belleville and Paperman which recently received an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. But traditional animation is not limited to the big screen only, with hit prime-time cartoon show The Simpsons being a very well-known and loved example.

But as mentioned earlier, technology has a definite role to play. It is creating a virtual 3D space for animation processes and together with the animator’s talent, producing results previously not possible. The Bengal Tiger in the latest blockbuster, Life of Pi by Ang Lee being a perfect example. Technology enabled the art of animation to create and enable the tiger’s performance to be as life-like as possible without needing to stage a real animal.

Not only has this never been done before, and in that an animation feat, but as animators and animation studios continue to combine the latest technological advances with natural-born creative talent, they continue to push the envelope and raise the bar of possibilities. And it is this which keeps audiences spellbound and on the edge of their seats, but most importantly, coming back for more.

‘Transformers 4’ Movie Closing Major Highway Near Adrian

(AP) – The makers of the next installment of the “Transformers” movie franchise plan to shoot this month near Adrian.

The Daily Telegram of Adrian  reports that wheat fields along Michigan 52 in Lenawee County’s Fairfield Township will host the shooting of an action scene for the movie “Transformers 4” later this month.

In March, the Michigan Film Office said the state approved for a $20 million incentive for “Transformers 4” and said and shooting would take place in the Detroit area.

The newspaper says moviemakers will use a 2 mile stretch of M-52, about 65 miles southwest of Detroit.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says it’s approved the closing of the roadway from June 25 to 29 for the shooting.

Freelancing in South Africa’s Visual Effects and Animation Industry

(bizcommunity.com)             Let me start by saying that I am not an animator per se. I can, model and rig a character, and, nine times out of ten, convey the intention needed in a creative brief, but the subtle, challenging demands of emotion through performance via a computer generated character? No.
My strengths and expertise lie further down the animation pipeline. I shade, texture, light, render and composite images, to produce what are hopefully considered good-looking images. As a Supervisor or Technical Director I am also involved in look-development and much of the technical planning needed to execute shots successfully later in the schedule, and further down the pipeline.

I have been fortunate to work abroad on major feature productions (Aardman’s Oscar nominated ‘Pirates! Band of Misfits’ & Animal Logic’s ‘Legend of the Guardians’), as well as locally on many commercials. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I’ve managed to acquire a healthy perspective of the South African animation and visual-effects industry.

There is a lot going on in the film and animation industry, both in S.A. as well as abroad.

I’m tempted to label some of it ‘good’ and some of it ‘bad’ but experience has taught me that these terms are simply the point of view of the writer. So I will attempt to take a balanced point of view in the interests of both the ‘Captains of Industry’ as well as its ‘Crew’.

I hope this article will be a straight-forward and honest appraisal of the state of visual-effects and animation in South Africa and will be of some value to young artists and technicians entering, or considering a career in, animation or film in South Africa.

One disclaimer I must make up front is that this article does not include the production service industry in South Africa. I have not worked in that part of the industry and know little about it. This article applies to the animation, post-production and visual effects industry in South Africa.

Full article:   http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/17/95316.html

‘The Avengers 2’ Finally Signs Iron Man For Sequel

(enstarz.com)           Marvel has solidified their relationship with Robert Downey Jr and managed to coax the actor into another two-film deal.

As Joss Whedon assembles his team for The Avengers 2, many feared that Downey would not return to the cast. Following Iron Man 3, Downey’s four-film contract as the suave Tony Stark came to an end. Getting the iconic actor back into Iron Man’s suit meant that Marvel had to meet his high costs.

Although Downey was paid upwards of $50 million for the previous Avengers flick, Whedon previously stated that he did not want to make the second installment without his original Iron Man.

‘I’m what’s known as ‘a strategic cost,'” Downey told GQ of how he managed to finagle so much money in his contract while other members of the Avengers only walked away with around $2 million.

However, Downey’s new contract is only for two films, The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3. This still leaves the question of further Iron Man stand-alone films up in the air.

If Downey is not in a future Iron Man 4, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is perfectly willing to cast another actor in his role.

“I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man film and a fifth and a sixth and a 10th and a 20th,” Feige said, according to EW. “I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond.”

For now though, Downey will continue to be the face of Marvel’s “billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist.”

VFX News 06/20

‘Green Lantern’ Box Office Disappoints

(theatlanticwire.comavclub.com)                This weekend’s box office was full of disappointment. Warner Bros.’ Green Lantern managed to secure the top spot, but after it’s strong debut Friday, sales plummeted 22 percent Saturday, dashing hopes that the film would be a blockbuster (despite its miserable reviews). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lantern earned $52.7 million, below the hoped-for $55 million mark. As the movie cost $200 million to produce, even before its marketing expenditures, there was a high bar for performance. To put it in context of other blockbuster action flicks, Lantern did worse than both Thor and X-Men: First Class.

Although Green Lantern is actually one of the more established of the non-Superman-or-Batman characters, just to put it in perspective, the adaptation’s debut was behind those of even Ghost Rider and Daredevil, which has to sting a little. Of course, there were other contributors besides familiarity, like the fact that Ryan Reynolds still hasn’t proven he can open a movie on his own (another strategy producers may need to revisit soon), and the fact that the reviews were awful. But given its $200 million budget and the year or so they spent hyping it as the next huge franchise, it seems like the somewhat lukewarm opening may make Warner Bros. reconsider those recently announced, hubristic plans to extend Green Lantern to three films or beyond, unless it’s out of pure spite.

“Transformers” Gets IMAX 3D Early Screenings

(comingsoon.net)                   Paramount Pictures has announced it will open Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” exclusively at 3D and IMAX locations across the United States beginning at 9PM local time on Tuesday, June 28th, allowing moviegoers nationwide to be among the first to see the latest installment in the hit franchise, and the first to be shot in 3D. The movie will open wide beginning at 12AM on June 29th.

“Michael Bay has created an incredibly engaging and immersive 3D experience with this latest movie, one that will undoubtedly be among the most entertaining movie going experiences of the summer,” said Paramount’s Vice Chairman Rob Moore. “Providing fans an opportunity to see it early in 3D is a great way to kick off the movie’s opening.”

13 Animators, 12 VFX Artists Invited to Join The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

(animationmagazine.ne)            The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited 13 animators, 12 visual effects artists and a total of 178 filmmakers and film industry executives to join its ranks.

Animators on the invite list includes such high-profile names as Sylvain Chomet, Tomm Moore, Teddy Newton and Bob Peterson.

Visual effects luminaries invited include Rob Bredow, Peter G. Travers and Brian Van’t Hul.

The 2011 invitees are:


* Geefwee Boedoe – “Let’s Pollute,” “Monsters, Inc.”
* Alessandro Carloni – “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Over the Hedge”
* Sylvain Chomet – “The Illusionist,” “The Triplets of Belleville”
* Jakob Hjort Jensen – “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Flushed Away”
* Biljana Labovic – “The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger,” “Idiots and Angels”
* Tomm Moore – “The Secret of Kells,” “Backwards Boy”
* Teddy Newton – “Day & Night,” “Ratatouille”
* Bob Peterson – “Up,” “Finding Nemo” (also invited to the Writers Branch)
* Javier Recio Gracia – “The Lady and the Reaper,” “The Missing Lynx”
* Andrew Ruhemann – “The Lost Thing,” “City Paradise”
* Kristof Serrand – “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas”
* Shaun Tan – “The Lost Thing,” “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”
* Simon Wells – “Mars Needs Moms,” “The Prince of Egypt”

Visual Effects

* Tim Alexander – “Rango,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
* Rob Bredow – “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Polar Express”
* Tim Burke – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” “Gladiator”
* Peter Chesney – “No Country for Old Men,” “Men in Black”
* Paul Franklin – “Inception,” “The Dark Knight”
* Kevin Tod Haug – “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” “Quantum of Solace”
* Florian Kainz – “Mission: Impossible III,” “The Perfect Storm”
* Marshall Krasser – “Iron Man 2,” “Titanic”
* Sean Phillips – “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Polar Express”
* Peter G. Travers – “Watchmen,” “The Matrix Reloaded”
* Brian Van’t Hul – “Coraline,” “I, Robot”
* Mark H. Weingartner – “Sex and the City 2,” “Inception”

Rango Blu-Ray To Include A Director’s Cut

(bleedingcool.com)                The first I caught any indication that the theatrical version of Rango was anything less than how director Gore Verbinski would have wanted it was yesterday, when the BBFC classified a longer, “director’s cut”. This never happens with these CG toons.

Well – apart from now.

The additional material has not altered the film’s certificate, which remains PG, or the advisory note, which is still “Contains mild threat and scary scenes.”  Indeed, the only distinction apparent at this stage is in the run time, going from 102 minutes and 48 seconds to 107 minutes and 8 seconds.

What could that extra 4 minutes and 20 seconds contain?
Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s pretty odd. I’m also pretty confident it’s not an alternative ending, because one of those is being listed as a supplement.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Rango again, particularly in this extended version. That’s not something I’ve ever felt about any of Verbinski’s other films. Excting.

‘Captain America’ Sequel Already In The Works

(screenjunkies.com)                   The writing duo of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus filled in on a screenwriters panel for the Los Angeles Film Festival’s “Coffee Talk” series. Roberto Orci had a conflict so we got the writers of Captain America: The First Avenger instead. They joined Diablo Cody, Dustin Lance Black and Josh Olson to discuss the writing industry for aspiring filmmakers and fans.

As the panel broke up into the hallway, I cornered McFeely for some follow-up questions about his big summer movie. We discussed the process of writing Captain America, and the early plans for the sequel.

Q: When you write the Steve Rogers scenes, do they assure you they’ve got the visual effects to do it so you can just write what you want?

SM: Oh yeah. We’ve done a number of CGI movies now and you just have to rely on people who are much better at this than you are and have a lot of experience in terms of making this lion realistic or making that guy’s head really look red or making that guy look 98 lbs. And they do. They do every time. I’m always amazed.

Q: But at the screenplay stage, they don’t know how they’re going to do it. So do they just say they’ll figure it out, you go write?

SM: Yeah, not on the first draft. We don’t have to worry. In our heads, he’s 98 lbs. just as in our heads that lion can talk. In our heads, that’s Peter Sellers playing that part. We don’t have to worry about that particularly on draft one and two. Then we’ll be in the room. That’s what’s exciting on Captain America, we’re in the room all the time where we go, “All right, is it going to be a head replacement? Is it going to be a different actor? Are we going to double cast this?” All the possibilities came up and they’re really smart guys, Chris Townsend particularly, would say, “All right, here’s how the best way to do it is for these particular shots.” It’s a big deal because that’s the first act.

Q: Is Captain America the last big one who hasn’t been done yet?

SM: Good question. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of other big ones. It depends where you rank people. They haven’t done a Flash yet in DC.

Q: Well, they haven’t even done Wonder Woman yet.

SM: They haven’t done a big screen Wonder Woman so there are certainly big characters on the DC side. Marvel, not just the Marvel Studio movies but the license to other studios, they’ve been at it for a few years now. In Marvel there’s 5,000 characters so there is going to be a law of diminishing returns. Is everyone going to go to a Luke Cage movie and are you going to make it for the same amount that you made Avengers for? There’s risk vs. reward.

Q: We know he comes into modern day for The Avengers, but is there room to go back to WWII?

SM: Well, our hope is that there is room and we’re negotiating how to do that now. The story will likely be in the present day. We’re experimenting with flashback elements for more period World War II stuff. I can’t say much more than that but we made it baggy enough to refer to more stories in the past.

Q: So you left gaps in Captain America 1 where you can always say something else was going on back then?

SM: Absolutely. He had more adventures than just the one you’re going to see in the movie.

Q: Do you know who the villain of Captain America 2 would be?

SM: It’s undetermined. I will pass that question, how about that?

Q: When would you be scheduled to work on a sequel?

SM: We’ve already made the deal so I was at Marvel last week. We’re talking and passing stuff back and forth all the time. They just sent me a big PDF file of comics.

Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ Creature Designer: ‘It’s Such An Undertaking’

(moviesblog.mtv.com)                    Despite the fact that production on “Prometheus” is in full swing, we still don’t know much of anything about Ridley Scott’s revisit to his “Alien” beginnings.

We know that the cast is pretty killer, featuring star Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and newest addition Guy Pearce. We also know that while there will be plenty of “Alien”-esque nods and imprints in the film, Scott and backing studio Fox have assured us that it is not a prequel, sequel or reboot.

There are still so many things we don’t know however, so at the off chance we encounter folks working on or around the film, it is our duty as film fans and journalists to pepper him/her with questions, like when we ran into ‘Prometheus” creature designer Neville Page earlier this week and asked him how he’s approaching the alien design on the film.

(VIDEO)   Take a look:   http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2011/06/17/prometheus-ridley-scott-alien/


‘Tree of Life’ Visualizes the Cosmos Without CGI

(wired.com)            For his cryptic family drama The Tree of Life, director Terence Malick wanted to conjure a vision of the cosmos. To do so, he recruited visual effects genius Douglas Trumbull and dropped a bombshell: Malick had no interest in computer-generated visuals. He wanted to go old-school.

Trumbull, the Oscar-winning go-to guy for epic visuals, created effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner. For Tree of Life, he teamed with Dan Glass (Matrix Reloaded) and got to work.

They used a variety of materials, according to Cinematography.com, to create the majestic stream of imagery that can be seen in the exclusive video embedded above.

“We worked with chemicals, paint, fluorescent dyes, smoke, liquids, CO2, flares, spin dishes, fluid dynamics, lighting and high speed photography to see how effective they might be,” Trumbull told the moviemaking website. “It was a free-wheeling opportunity to explore, something that I have found extraordinarily hard to get in the movie business. Terry didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what something should look like. We did things like pour milk through a funnel into a narrow trough and shoot it with a high-speed camera and folded lens, lighting it carefully and using a frame rate that would give the right kind of flow characteristics to look cosmic, galactic, huge and epic.”

Expanding upon its limited theatrical release, The Tree of Life opens in additional cities Friday. Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the sci-fi-inflected PG-13 drama stars Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain.

(VIDEO)   http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/06/tree-of-life-douglas-trumbull/

Sci-fi “Paul” Sequel Would Need Double The Budget

(monstersandcritics.com)          Actor Simon Pegg has hinted there may be a sequel to his hit new sci-fi movie Paul.

The British star plays the lead role in the new film along with his close pal Nick Frost and he admitted they would do another one if the story was right.

Speaking to Collider, he said: ‘If we could think of a story that was absolutely justifiable, that was worth doing, I would do it again.

‘But so I could have that experience again and enjoy working with people, the camaraderie and the friendship.’

He added: ‘Nick and I have this idea that we had out on the way to Area 51 that was really funny. It was like oh, this could be great. It would cost an absolute f***ing fortune.

‘If it involved more than one Paul, it would mean that we’d have to have twice that budget again. The idea was it was called Pauls. Again, it was like From Dusk Til Shaun, that title is so good we have to make that film.’

New Technology Revs Up Pixar’s ‘Cars 2’

This image, from Pixar’s ‘Cars 2,’ showcases two of the new effects the studio created for the new movie, which opens Friday. One is the extremely realistic open water, including the foam and spray, and the other is the reflectivity off of cars like Finn McMissile.
(Credit: Disney/Pixar)

EMERYVILLE, Calif.–We all know what the reflections off cars or the roiling of the ocean are supposed to look like. So if you are tempted to believe that what you’ll see in “Cars 2” proves that Pixar has made its first live-action film, think again.

This is the hit-making studio that breaks new technological ground with most of its new films, and “Cars 2,” which opens Friday, is no exception. Where its technicians applied real physics to the escape of thousands of balloons in “Up,” or true lighting effects to the rolling and pitching of plastic garbage bags in “Toy Story 3,” Pixar has once again pushed its computing powers to the limit–and gone well beyond them.

With “Cars 2,” as the film’s director and Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter pointed out at a recent event in San Francisco, the filmmakers invented several new ways to handle common effects, and though innovating for the sake of innovating isn’t the studio’s style, it seems to come with the territory of making a new Pixar film.

And creating new effects doesn’t come cheap. According to Apurva Shah, the supervising technical director on “Cars 2,” Pixar had to triple the size and scale of its legendary render farm in order to achieve the computing power its new effects required for the film. But don’t expect the studio to rest on its computing laurels for its next movies. Given its penchant for upping the ante with each new project, it’s a good bet that even more new Dell render blades will be making their way to Pixar’s headquarters here soon.

Water effects
When the team members behind “Cars 2” began working on the film in 2006, they realized that because one of the biggest sequences in the film takes place on and around an ocean-based oil rig, they wanted to step up their approach to animating open water. Already, Pixar had taken the industry in new directions with its underwater effects for “Finding Nemo.” But now, Shah said in an interview in his office, the team hoped to improve on the current industry best for an ocean’s choppy surface.

With “Nemo,” Shah explained, Pixar had come up with a “softer-looking water,” but with “Cars 2,” the team felt that audiences would be expecting the oil rig sequence to feature edgier, stormier water.
Tech explodes in Pixar’s ‘Cars 2′ (images)

To achieve that, they explored a series of new water systems and ended up applying a mathematical wave model called Tessendorf, Shah said, which allowed for the creation of “more cuspy,” sharper sea waves.

This was also important, he said, because the sequence involves a large boat rolling in and out of the high waves, and that required having the seas appear rough as the boat slammed into the water, and the water slammed onto the boat. It was crucial, then, to find the way to show the boats–which are also characters in the film–moving through the water and undulating in it, kicking up surf and foam and a trailing wake, and having it look right. If the effects weren’t extremely realistic, Pixar’s thinking went, audiences wouldn’t buy it.

And then there was one more challenge. With the oil rig scene taking place at night, there would be a lot of lights shining down on the water, and the team needed the illumination effects to look right as well. “Normally, water in films up to now has been treated like a surface,” Shah said. “It may have some details, but it’s mostly like a 2D surface. We wanted to treat water like volume. So when searchlights penetrate the water, [we gave] you this volumetric feeling.”

Similarly, the team had to handle the shadows that would be cast deep into the water from tires floating on the surface.

All of this was more than just a technical achievement. Pixar is known for storytelling and creativity, and Shah said that for the artists on the film, having the technology to make sophisticated water effects served the most important master of all: the story. So in that sequence, the audience sees the search for one of the film’s main characters, a car called Finn McMissile–voiced by Michael Caine–and the filmmakers knew that the emotion in the sequence would be aided by moviegoers’ eyes not focusing on poor effects. And in this case, that meant inventing the techniques to solve the problem.

“We don’t set out to do something new,” Shah said. “We look at the [story] boards…and where we feel the existing technology isn’t giving us what we need, we try to take it forward…It goes back to, what do we want to put on screen, and what are the tools that are missing.”

In a film where cars are the main characters and glitz and glamor is provided by the story line and the environment–scenes were set in and around Italian coastal towns and amid the bright lights of Tokyo–it wouldn’t do to cut corners for effects that wouldn’t make the cars feel real, even if they do talk.

This image, from Pixars Cars 2, showcases the reflectivity effects that the studio created for the new film. Here, we see Lightning McQueen reflecting the lights of Tokyo.
(Credit: Disney/Pixar)

For one, Shah said, designing the shading and reflections for the cars was a factor of the idea that while humans have skin, cars have “these beautiful clear-coat paint jobs with reflections that bring out their lines.”

In the original “Cars,” Pixar used the latest technology for the shading and reflections, but with “Cars 2,” the artists had new tools at their disposal. One of the main steps forward was being able to design the “paint” to appear to have “suspended metal flakes that give you sheen and sparkle,” Shah explained. In the first “Cars,” such flakes wouldn’t have worked, he said, as they’d have gotten lost.

But too, the technology used for the reflections was upgraded for the new movie, giving the cars “really beautiful broad sheens we weren’t able to get before,” Shah said. And that was important since Finn McMissile and other cars in the movie have very high-end paint jobs that needed to explode on the screen.

“We came up with a different mathematical representation for them that does a much better job even when it becomes finer,” Shah said.

Gatling gun physics
The average person may not know what the physics are for bullets fired from a Gatling gun, but they would likely be able to feel it if such a sequence wasn’t done properly.

Shah explained that another part of “Cars 2” featured just such a scene–a cacophony of bullets, tracers, smoke, bullets colliding with objects, and more. And in order to get it to look right on screen, Shah and his team turned once again to physics.

Recalling the work Pixar did with balloons on “Up,” Shah said the scene ended up requiring some video game references. The approach, he explained, came from the idea of a real-time shooting game, in which a player pulls out a gun and shoots in whatever direction they choose. That requires a good physics engine to determine what happens. “So we created our own little [virtual] world so we could do that,” he said.

To be sure, the filmmakers were able to go into the sequence and “finesse” certain elements, but in general, Shah said, the results showcase what Pixar was able to create by letting physics loose on the bullets and what they hit. It was, he said, the collision of multiple simulations at once: Rigid body dynamics involving the bullets flying from the gun; volumetrics with the gun’s smoke; and more. The actual bullet holes in the wall was a “cheat,” he said, involving adding a second surface to the wall. But the scene features the bullets going just where the physics engine said they should, apart from any specific human direction.

Render farm
One of the keys to Pixar’s ability to do what it does is the giant, powerful render farm located in its main headquarters building here. This is serious computing power, and on “Cars 2,” it required an average of 11.5 hours to render each frame.

But some sequences were especially complex, particularly those involving ray tracing–which involves simulating light hitting surfaces, essentially “trying to simulate photons.” And as a result, a huge amount of computing power was needed to process frames that took as much as 80 or 90 hours to render, Shah said. And that meant that the studio “bulked up our render farm.”

He said that Pixar had to triple its size, and today, the render farm features 12,500 cores on Dell render blades. As well, the file servers, network backbone, and every other piece of the computing puzzle was boosted in order to handle the making of “Cars 2.”

But Pixar’s next films are sure to tax even that computing infrastructure, Shah said. Those movies will benefit from the scaling out done for “Cars 2,” but the next projects will surely offer up their own creative challenges that could force the studio to expand the render farm yet again. Shah said things like human characters and their skin, hair, and cloth are sure to stretch even today’s farm to its limits.

For the time being though, Pixar feels “Cars 2” is the state of the art. Yet, because the point of all the technology is to make things feel real, the studio whole-heartedly hopes audiences never notice it at all.

2D Ticket Sales Outpace 3D on Ticket Selling Website

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – 2D movie ticket sales on Fandango for Warner Bros. weekend release “Green Lantern” and the final installment of “Harry Potter” are outpacing 3D ticket sales in a possible latest sign of 3D fatigue, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said Friday.

He cited the live “top sellers” data on the Pulse section of Fandango’s iPad app, saying that the sales trends for the superhero movie come despite what he called a “massive 3D promotional push” for “Green Lantern” on Fandango, YouTube and elsewhere.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2” ticket sales went on sale earlier this week, and 2D tickets are in the top 5 on the “top sellers” list, while 3D tickets are not, the analyst highlighted.

We continue to believe U.S. consumers are frustrated with the amount of 3D movies Hollywood is producing, especially when combined with excessive ticket prices,” Greenfield said.

“In addition, we suspect the darkness of 3D is starting to impact movie satisfaction (this was a key problem with “Pirates 3D,” with both “Green Lantern” and “Potter” starting off with darker imagery and then layering on 3D glasses that darken the images further),” Greenfield added, pointing out the disappointing performance of a range of recent 3D releases.

Michael Chabon Pens “Magic Kingdom”

(latinoreview.com)                Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scribe Michael Chabon (“Spider-Man 2,” “John Carter of Mars”) has been hired to pen the script for Disney’s family adventure “Magic Kingdom” says Heat Vision.

Back in March, Chabon initially talked with the film’s director Jon Favreau about it before any meetings with Disney had taken place. After some quiet deal making, an agreement closed this week.

Ron Moore (“Battlestar Galactica”) penned the initial draft which required a re-write due to a different direction being taken when Favreau came on board.


Warner Bros. Takes on Arthur & Lancelot, Line of Sight

(Heat Vision)                Warner Bros. Pictures has acquired David Dobkin’s spec script Arthur & Lancelot, reports Deadline. The site says the script is a $90 million budgeted re-imagining of the classic tale to be directed by Dobkin. He’ll also produce with Lionel Wigram, and Jeff Kleeman is executive producer.

The studio has also lined up “Halo: Reach” writer Peter O’Brien to work on the script for Line of Sight, about an elite commando squad transporting cargo while dealing with a global threat, says Heat Vision.

The site adds that Warner Bros. initially picked up the project in March as a spec script written by F. Scott Frazier for Silver Pictures, where Joel Silver and Andrew Rona are producing.


Modern Technology Sparks Blast from the Past for JJ Abrams

Don’t get him wrong: JJ Abrams – creator of Alias; co-creator of Lost; director of Star Trek and Mission Impossible III; producer of Cloverfield; god to geeks everywhere – loves digital. He loves its speed, its immediacy, the way digital has democratised the tools and resources of filmmaking. He loves playing with it, shooting with it, staging huge FX sequences with it.


‘‘I’m really torn,’’ Abrams says. ‘‘We could not have made Super 8 without the technology that, in many ways, creates a sort of entitled, instantaneous and often thoughtless and thankless experience. There’s a kind of  frivolousness that comes with digital culture, this sense of entitlement that you can get the information you want, the instant you want it, whenever you want it.’’

Cutting-edge as he is, Abrams feels a strong nostalgia for analog, and his sci-fi mystery thriller Super 8 serves as a valentine to the good old days of his adolescence when, as a burgeoning filmmaker, computers were in their infancy, movie effects were done with models and the closest thing kids had to mobile phones were their toy walkie talkies.

Set in 1979, Super 8 tells of a group of teenage kids who are making a zombie film when they – and their super 8 camera – witness the spectacular crash of a train carrying a secret Air Force cargo. The scene is easily the most visually jaw-dropping Abrams has yet composed and ranks as one of the best rail-related prangs in movie history.

Yet while the staggering photo-realism he achieved would have been impossible without digital effects, Abrams insists the have-it-now culture that accompanies it is a mixed blessing.

‘‘I am someone who (misses) the lack of speed of analog, the forced time that would be imposed upon you, that you had to think about what you had done while you’re waiting for a film to be developed,’’ he says. ‘‘Or the contemplation that would go into a cut on film, because you knew that if you put a cut right there you couldn’t uncut it by hitting CMD-Z!”

He wanted Super 8 to breathe the period.

‘‘Even though we had the opportunity to use technocranes and Steadicams and all sorts of digital CG post-production work, I wanted the film to have the feeling, as much as I could, of movies that would have been made in that era.

‘‘There’s something about that time that speaks of experience and thought that is somewhat lacking from today. Even the idea of wanting to get a new song, the effort it took to go to the record store to get it – what you might see on the way, what you might hear when you got there; the experience that actually resulted in a physical, tangible object that you held in your hand.’’

Following in the tradition of his idol/producer Steven Spielberg, Super 8 features an idealised version of the director as a young teen. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the budding director ushering his cast about, enthusiastically lining up shots and constantly pining for “production values”. He also makes a big point about the importance of human interest in his story so that people will care about what’s going on. Abrams says it was a playful bit of meta-commentary about filmmaking in general, and about Super 8 in particular.

“Because it was a movie about these amateur filmmaker kids making a film I thought `here’s an opportunity to give a little wink to the audience about process and how various things that you’re about to see done in the film itself were things that the kids themselves, in their roughshod, ham-fisted way, are trying to do with their movie.

“We’re saying to the audience that’s what storytellers try and do, which is connect the audience to a character through a passion that they have. The parallels between what we did as kids and what we’re doing now, a lot of times (the difference just comes down to) the film stock being larger, the crew being better, the lighting being improved, the finish being high end.” So the principles are the same, only the levels of experience and budget have changed? “Exactly right!” Abrams exclaims.

Despite the huge resources at his disposal – he is very proud of the work done by Industrial Light and Magic, the effects house created for Star Wars by George Lucas, his other idol –  Abrams was careful not preside over an empty, FX-driven spectacle.

Indeed, when challenged over whether the threads of mystery he builds up in the first half of the film have a sufficiently satisfying payoff, he stresses that his primary concern was on the emotional journey of his central character Joe (Joel Courtney).

“To me, the spectacle and action was, frankly, a sideshow. That was never the point of the story. With what happens at the ending of the film, I was feeling that another film might have made that the raison d’être, whereas I really wanted the emotional story of these characters to be the thing you’re focussing on while what was happening in the background normally would be the focus of (a more conventional) genre movie.

“So, for me, the thing you’re talking about when you finally get to (resolving) the mystery (elements) of the story, I’m afraid the point, or at least the ambition, was for the events to act as a catalyst for this character who goes from being this follower, to finding his own voice, to fighting for what he believes in, to finding love, to confronting the things that scare him the most – not the least of which is his father.”

A fan of mystery ever since being mesmerised by the seminal TV series The Twilight Zone by Rod Serling – ‘‘he was a profound influence on me’’ – Abrams, 44, has traded on the allure of playing guessing games with his audiences, both in his work and in the savvy manner he uses the internet to market them through buzz-generating viral videos, a la Cloverfield. ‘‘I feel the mystery of film is something I really miss in cinema,’’ he says.

And he’s certainly earned a rabidly loyal following. For whatever accomplishments Abrams can claim in the normal world, the stature he assumes among the inmates of Geekdom is almost god-like. Asked what he represents to the Comic Con faithful, or what profundity his fans read into his work and Abrams scratches his head.

‘‘There’s probably no good answer that I could give to that,’’ he admits. ‘‘It’s something I’m not even comfortable doing, commenting on myself from the outside. I can’t even think of that. What I can say is that I’m grateful to anyone who sees projects I’m involved in and derives some kind of pleasure from them. (As to) what I represent or what people think of me? I’m sure there are as many detractors as there are admirers!’’

Some have certainly highlighted the contrast between the stunningly original and ground-breaking nature of his TV work and how his films, thus far, have been a sequel, a franchise reboot and heavily derivative sci-fi mystery thriller. How does he feel he is developing as a cinema director?

“I feel like I’m the last person qualified to answer that question!” he says. “I’m so close to the movie that it’s impossible to have any objectivity. My sensitivity is, truthfully, that I’m just thrilled we finished the movie and that the experience is now that people seem to be enjoying it. That gives me great pleasure.”

If Abrams often sounds like a traditionalist at heart, that’s because he is.

“There was a brand of movie that used to be made, even including Jaws, that was about ordinary people going through extraordinary things. Even when they were scary, these films had a big heart. You knew you weren’t dealing with some sadistic filmmaker who was just going to make you squirm and feel bad about humanity. There was an overriding optimism, even when things were dark.

“So, for me, it was more important to say with Super 8 that this is a movie experience you can have where you feel good about things, where you leave the theatre feeling better than when you went in, that has a big heart, that there’s a big, good message about first love and family and people’s resilience and ability to overcome tragedy.”

While Abrams is still marking his territory in cinema, he has firmly established himself as one of TV’s great flag planters; he created the hit secret agent series Alias and co-created the landmark mystery series Lost with Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof, to whom he emphatically credits with the show’s season-to-season success.

Along with people such as Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), David Chase (The Sopranos), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) and David Simon (The Wire), Abrams helped foster a climate change in American TV wherein audiences were treated as intelligent participants rather than as passive consumers.

‘‘I certainly feel like there is an incredible amount of extraordinary work being done in TV America TV right now,’’ he says. “I feel lucky to have any part in that. It used to be a medium that people looked down on, it was a lesser form, but because there have been amazing story tellers like Chase and Sorkin and others that you’re now able to look at TV as an incredible opportunity to tell long-form stories where characters and situations evolve over time.’’

When it comes to his many influences, Abrams traces his yearnings to make films back to the advent of Star Wars in 1977. The last time he saw it was only a few months ago, and he can’t wait to see it again in September when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

“The thing about Star Wars is that it is just the most spectacular combination of the everyman going through the extraordinary adventure,” Abrams gushes. “Despite taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,  when you meet Luke Skywalker he’s the classic hero. The idea that his he and his life intersect with the rebellion and those droids and Obi Wan and Darth Vader – it’s mind-blowingly, beautifully inventive.

“That Lucas started Star Wars by calling it No 4 is off-the-charts brilliant. He threw you into the middle of this spectacular universe; it was the sheer boldness with which he approached that movie.

“The whole thing just smacked of why I wanted to make movies; it was transportive, it was the ultimate magic trick – and it was funny, too. It has a wonderful humour and humanity, and to pull off that combination where you’re feeling emotional, you’re feeling the adventure, you’re feeling the comedy – your jaws open from the sheer spectacle of it. Star Wars was just an incredible combination of action, adventure, humanity, comedy and pathos. You couldn’t have done better.”

Unilateral Disarmament:  Movie Tax Credit Trend May Have Peaked

(economist.com)             Lights, cameras, subsidies, action!

LOTS of states would love to be California and have their own little Hollywood. Film crews would then come to town and spend money in hair salons and hotels, and local politicians could pose with film stars. So why not call it “economic development” to justify the huge tax credits that lure film producers? As of last year, more than 40 states had such incentives, costing them a record $1.4 billion.

Even California itself plays the game, believing that it has to defend itself against the poachers. In 2003, when only a handful of states (principally Louisiana and New Mexico) offered incentives, California made two-thirds of America’s big-studio films. Now it makes far fewer than half. Film LA, an organisation that co-ordinates permits for film shoots in Los Angeles, says that without California’s own tax credit, “2010 would have been the worst year” since the mid-1990s for filming in Hollywood. As its marketing blog gibes: “It is extraordinarily unlikely that the 137 productions that filmed in Michigan since 2007 chose to shoot there for creative reasons, a favourable climate or a deep and talented film-crew base.”

All this costs money, which legislators volunteer on behalf of taxpayers. Many tax credits (a percentage of a film crew’s local expenditures) exceed the filmmaker’s total tax liability to that state. The credits have even become an industry unto themselves: brokers slice them into tranches and trade them. In Iowa filmmakers were selling their credits until that state shut its programme in 2009. Last month an Iowa judge sentenced a producer to ten years in prison for fiddling credits.

Incentives do not have to involve tax credits. Some states simplify the paperwork by just giving out cash (calling it “rebates” or “grants”). Others exempt film-makers from sales or hotel taxes or give them other perks.

All this is silly. First, as Joseph Henchman at the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank, puts it, even when a state succeeds in luring film crews, they rarely boost the economy or tax revenues enough to justify the costs of the incentives. Film companies usually import their staff (stars, stuntmen, etc) and export them again when the shoot is over. The local jobs they create (hairdressers, sound technicians, pizza deliverers) are mostly temporary.

Second, since virtually all states are at it, the programmes largely cancel out one another; no state gets a lasting advantage. The craze resembles a beggar-thy-neighbour trade war (with mutually destructive tariffs) or the federal tax code with its loopholes for every lobby and thus higher rates for all. In the language of cold-war nukes, it would be mutually assured destruction (MAD). The only winner is the film industry. In essence, a rich bloke in a Brentwood villa gets money from a poor taxpayer in West Virginia.

Fortunately, this has begun sinking in. Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey and Washington have recently ended, suspended or shrunk their programmes. Many others, struggling with budget deficits, are considering doing the same, investing the money in something permanent or even leaving it to taxpayers. “2010 will likely stand as the peak year,” thinks Mr Henchman.

Full Article:   http://www.economist.com/node/18805941

Film Wizards Used Latest Performance Capture Technology for ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

The ape revolution begins on a soundstage inside Vancouver’s aptly named Mammoth Studios amid a crash of laboratory equipment and primal screeching.

Upon closer inspection, the cacophony isn’t coming from real apes gathered for the filming of a scene from the upcoming movie ” Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” but from band of actors of various sizes in tight gray unitards with LED markers pasted all over. The actors’ faces, freckled with green dots, are continuously being filmed by head-mounted camera rigs while they trash the animal testing cages in the fictional bio medical company Genesys.

It’s a technique called performance capture and actor Andy Serkis is a master.

Loping around on arm extensions, Serkis — who has made a career out of performance-capture work since he played Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — really does move like a real long-armed ape.

And once the computer animators are done working with all the digital information from his markers, he’ll look like a real chimpanzee, too.

“We’ve arrived at a stage where other actors who are playing live-action characters are not fazed by it in the slightest,” says Serkis, who plays Caesar, a chimpanzee turned into an evolutionary revolutionary by the well-meaning, but misguided experiments of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco).

“They can just see a performance going on and say okay, ‘So we don’t look the same but I think it would be equally as strange to act against someone in a chimp suit.’ ”

Franco’s name will be on the top of the marquee when the movie opens on Aug . 5, but just as important to the film are the behind-the-scenes performance-capture specialists from W eta, Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based special effects company.

“Our goal was to give the appearance that Caesar was in front of the camera when all these scenes were being shot,” says Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor at W eta and winner of four Academy Awards.

It sure beats reacting with a tennis ball that would later be replaced by computer animation, says Franco. This way, two actors are actually feeding off each other.

“The imagination just kind of takes over, just like you meet someone and the next day they are playing your mother,” Franco says. “You kind of roll with it if the scene is working. Andy was so good with the chimp behavior that it was actually pretty easy to fall into that kind of relationship.”

Recently, Letteri and Dan Lemmon, the Weta supervisor on the film, gave the Daily News an inside look at the technology.

Additional 30 Million Dollars Flows Into ‘Transformers 3’ Budget for 3D Effects

(aceshowbiz.com)                Director Michael Bay has added $30 million to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” budget. Speaking in a recent interview, the director indicated that the cash was used to develop 3-D visual effect for the action sci-fi movie, which is slated to hit 2-D and 3-D theaters nationwide on June 29.

Although it is not easy shooting 3-D, Bay believed the visual effect worked well with his upcoming film. He said, “I don’t think everything’s right for 3-D. This was appropriate for 3-D, and it was a way to change this movie experience and a way to feel these robots. I think it worked for this picture.”

Even James Cameron, director of “Avatar”, praised the movie’s 3-D effects. “It’s pretty cool stuff. I just saw the whole picture. I like the depth. I like the fact that you’re using the 3-D aggressively and really embracing it. Like you ever do anything that’s not aggressive.”

Source;      http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00040843.html

‘Piranhaconda’ To Feature More Practical Creature FX

(badmovienite.com)               The wave of cult hybrid/genetically modified creature features continues with the Roger Corman produced Piranhaconda set to premiere on SyFy in October..

We have some behind the scene set pics from the upcoming film directed by Jim Wynorski and starring Michael Madsen and Rachel Hunter.  Pleasantly surprised that it looks like Piranhaconda will feature more practical creature FX instead of the overused crutch of CGI. 

Take a look:   http://www.badmovienite.com/?p=4776

VFX News 02/01/11

California Visual Effects Firms Facing a Bleak Landscape


  For 11 years, Nathan McGuinness ran a successful visual effects house in California. His Santa Monica  company, Asylum Visual Effects, created the World War II submarine battle scene in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the flying dragon straddled by Nicolas Cage in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the bionic anatomy of Sam Worthington’s character in “Terminator Salvation.”

But the impressive credits, along with an Academy Award nomination, couldn’t keep his business afloat. Unable to cover even the rent, McGuinness closed shop late last year, laying off nearly 100 workers.

“We were a good company, we were efficient, we did our jobs well, but we just couldn’t compete with the overseas markets,” the Australian native said.

California’s visual effects industry, which pioneered the use of computers to create and manipulate images in live-action films, is under siege.
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Half a dozen visual effects houses have shut their doors in the last three years, including three in Los Angeles County, pushing hundreds of visual effects artists out of high-tech and skilled jobs that pay $75,000 to $150,000 a year. Los Angeles County, where the visual effects industry has been concentrated, has seen more than 1,000 jobs in the visual effects and post-production sector vanish over the last decade, according to state employment data.

Visual effects in filmmaking used to be created by using physical props, animatronics and models — think of the spaceship gliding overhead in the opening credits of “Star Wars” — but today they frequently are produced on computers. The technology represents the cutting edge of filmmaking, involving teams of digital artists trained in 3-D modeling, computer animation and computer graphics.

Even though demand for visual effects in movies is greater than ever thanks to spectacles such as “Avatar” and “Tron: Legacy,” several California visual effects companies are clawing for survival. The reason is a familiar one to American industry: mounting competition from foreign rivals that can do the work cheaper.

By taking advantage of tax credits in Vancouver, Canada, and London — where visual effects work for “Iron Man 2” and “Inception” was done — or employing low-cost labor in China, Singapore and India, filmmakers are able to shave tens of millions of dollars off a movie’s production budget.

Not long ago the visual effects industry was dominated by a few California companies with their own proprietary techniques and tools, along with the artists trained to use them. Now, thanks to advances in technology, the adoption of standardized techniques and readily available digital workforces, the industry has fanned out around the globe.

For filmmakers under orders to hold movie budgets in check, availing themselves of tax credits and low-cost labor is simply smart business. Visual effects eat up as much as 30% to 40% of a movie’s budget, and more than $50 million on major studio films.

“With those kinds of numbers, these film tax rebates, while always of value, are now impossible to ignore,” said Chris deFaria, executive vice president of digital production, animation and visual effects for Warner Bros., which plans to shoot several movies in Britain including “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Dark Shadows.”

Leading California visual effects companies such as Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues and George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic have adapted by opening studios in Vancouver,  Singapore, Mumbai and other foreign locales, creating digital pipelines in which data files can be readily transferred around the world. Technicolor’s international visual effects house, MPC, has offices in London and Vancouver, as well as Santa Monica.

At the same time, Indian corporations Tata, Reliance and Prime Focus have planted roots in Los Angeles, recruiting visual effects artists to compete for business.

The march toward globalization, however, has had devastating effects upon small to mid-size California companies that don’t have the resources to build a global network.

“It’s really a blow to the state to lose these jobs,” said Jeff Barnes, co-owner of CafeFX, the Santa Maria, Calif.-based visual effects shop that closed in December after 17 years in business. The company, which had an office in Santa Monica, employed as many as 175 people a year ago. “Something has got to be done or it’s going to be like what happened to the aerospace industry in California.”

The state’s film tax credit program has brought little relief to California’s beleaguered visual effects industry because it excludes big-budget features, the principal employer of visual effects. And the state is seeing worked siphoned off to Vancouver, where a film tax credit program targets visual effects houses.

“We’re very aware of the problems facing California visual effects companies, but currently the program is limited due to available funding,” said Amy Lemisch, director of the California Film Commission.

Most visual effects companies operate on narrow profit margins of 5% or less. So the loss of a single contract can be enough to push some companies over the edge.

CafeFX thrived for many years, landing big jobs on “Shutter Island,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Alice in Wonderland.” But business began to dry up when the recession hit and clients began scrambling for tax breaks and rebates offered elsewhere.

“We would bid stuff at break-even and they would say, ‘We can do the work for 20% to 40% less going offshore to Canada, U.K. or Australia,’ ” Barnes said.

For example, CafeFX bid for work on “Devil,” produced by M. Night Shyamalan, but the movie and much of the visual effects work ended up being done in Ontario, Canada. “We just couldn’t make the numbers work,” Barnes said.

Barnes also had hoped to pick up subcontract work on Walt Disney’s recently released “Tron” film from Venice-based Digital Domain. But Digital Domain farmed out extra work to studios in Vancouver, where it has an office, as well as to companies in India and Mexico.

The closing of Illusion Arts, one of Hollywood’s most established visual effects houses, in 2009 sent shockwaves through the local industry. Bill Taylor and his partner, Syd Dutton, had operated the company, which employed nearly 20 people, for 26 years, specializing in creating synthetic environments such as skies and lakes on scores of films, including “Bruce Almighty” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”

“We were just losing bid after bid,” said Taylor, who now works as a consultant. “All the work was going to Vancouver, London, Bulgaria and India.”

California-trained visual effects artists are still in demand, but often now have to travel overseas for work.

McGuinness of Asylum is relocating to Singapore to head a visual effects operation for London-based company Double Negative Visual Effects. Former visual effects supervisor Ben Grossmann traveled to Britain to work on Martin Scorsese’s first 3-D film, “Hugo Cabret,” after being laid off at Syndicate, the Santa Monica-based division of CafeFX.

He now supervises a crew of visual effects artists in eight locations across five countries with Pixomondo, an international company with offices in L.A. and Germany.

“We have the best artists here in the world,” Grossmann said, “but they are pretty much the most expensive artists in the world.”

Source:             http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-visual-effects-20110201,0,3461953.story

Cameron Talks “Battle Angel,” “Avatar 2”

(darkhorizons.com)               With the 3D underwater adventure he produced hitting this week, James Cameron has been out doing press for the film and has spoken briefly about both the “Avatar” sequels and his long-gestating “Battle Angel Alita” adaptation.

Asked if ‘Battle Angel’ is still happening, Cameron tells Collider that “I’m obviously going to be pretty busy for the next five years [with Avatar 2 and 3]. And so I had to consider, do I hand this project off to another director? And then I thought, ‘No, I love it too much’…It’s such a rich world. What I’m going to do is take the spine story and use elements from the first four books. So, the Motorball from books three and four, and parts of the story of one and two will all be in the movie.”

Meanwhile with the “Avatar” sequel, one of the challenges Cameron has set himself is improving the 3D experience – not the technology to film it, rather the way its presented at the exhibition stage. He tells SpeakEasy that “For ‘Avatar 2,’ what I’m most interested in is getting theaters to up their light level, and we want to shoot the movie at 48 or maybe even 60 frames a second, and display it at that speed, which will eliminate a lot of the motion artifacts that I think are causing some people problems.”

He goes on to say “People talk about feeling sick or something like that, and I think it’s because the image is strobing. That’s a function of the 24 frame frame rate, which has actually got nothing to do with 3D. It’s just made more apparent because the 3D is otherwise such an enhanced, realistic image, that all of a sudden you’re aware of this funky strobing which you weren’t aware of.

DreamWorks Animation to Adapt Sid & Krofft’s Lidsville

(comingsoon.net)             DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. today announced that it will bring the Sid & Marty Krofft characters from the 1970’s television series “Lidsville” to the big screen in a feature film by the same name.

Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens, Shrek 2)–animation veteran and lifelong fan of the Krofft’s work–brought the project to DreamWorks Animation. Brothers Sid & Marty Krofft will serve as executive producers. Vernon, DreamWorks Animation’s head of development Alex Schwartz and development executive Chris Kuser are overseeing the project at the studio.

“Sid and I have had a longstanding relationship with Jeffrey Katzenberg and we’re excited to bring ‘Lidsville’ to DreamWorks Animation,” said Marty Krofft. “It’s incredible to envision a high-quality 3D animated movie being made out of one of our favorite shows.”

“The Krofft brothers helped define a generation with the wildly imaginative characters and worlds they created,” said Alex Schwartz, head of development for DreamWorks Animation. “I am thrilled that Conrad is joining forces with them on the first animated feature film adaptation of their work.”

“Over the past year I’ve had the privilege of working with and getting to know Sid and Marty and I thought their brand of crazy kookiness would work well at DreamWorks Animation,” added Vernon.

Lidsville will take inspiration from the premise of the original television series, in which a young rebellious kid falls into an alternate reality world of living hats and talking caps. The Los Angeles public TV station KCET Kids & Family Channel recently announced that it will feature the “Lidsville” television series in an all-new “The Sid & Marty Krofft Hour” together with H.R. Pufnstuf during its weekend programming block on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Stanton Updates “John Carter of Mars”

(darkhorizons.com)           Director Andrew Stanton (“Wall-E”) confirms that the film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” is still very much in the midst of production and a good year of work is still to come.

“I’m not in post-production — I’m in digital principal photography now, which goes on for the rest of 2011, so I’m only halfway through the movie” he explains to MTV News. Asked about the film’s look, he says “I didn’t try to make it look like anything else. I really tried to make it its own thing. I tried to make a very historically accurate Martian film if that makes sense, so I’ll let you decipher that.”

The story follows Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) who becomes a great hero on Mars, and its a live-action shoot mixed with a lot of computer animation. This was Stanton’s first non-animated film and he seemed to like the challenge – “When you’ve made animated movies your whole life, it was pretty exciting to be outside for a day, let alone for months,” said Stanton, a fixture at Pixar. “For as cold and as hot and as hard as it was, which I knew it would be, I was up for it and it was a blast. It was the hardest thing I’ll ever have done, but man, it was a great adventure. It was like sailing across the ocean, you know, everything that goes with that.”


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Guillermo del Toro’s Monsters

(io9.com)                               The New Yorker has published a long and amazingly in-depth article about the modern-day godfather of monsters, Guillermo del Toro. Here are the 10 coolest bits, including a look at the new Frankenstein, and what GDT’s Smaug could have been!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Guillermo del Toro’s Monsters 1) What his Frankenstein monster looks like (now)

Inspired by the 1983 illustrations of Bernie Wrightson, the concept designs of GDT’s creature lacked a nose, and seemed far more gruesome than past Frankenstein creations (even the Robert De Niro version):

In accordance with Mary Shelley’s description, the head appeared to have been stolen from a cadaver: there was exposed sinew around the jaw, and the cheekbones looked ready to poke through the scrim of flesh. Most appallingly, the Creature lacked a nose; a single bridge bone protruded over an oval breathing hole.

Granted, this could all change as GDT spent a lot of time asking for a more Boris Karloff-esque chin along with new variations of the nose hole — perhaps make it semi-crushed and “about to slide off.”

2) His High School short film about a toilet monster MUST be released

“In high school he made a short about a monster that crawls out of a toilet and, finding humans repugnant, scuttles back to the sewers.” Where is this film, where can we watch it, and why isn’t this being sold to the masses?

3) The Mountains of Madness monsters (The Shoggoth and The Old Ones) could be the most complex del Toro designs to date.

Just the explanation for the Shoggoth creatures in GDT’s next film have us scratching our heads. We have no idea how he will execute this.

“Let’s say that creature A turns into creature A-B, then turns into creature B, then turns into creature B-C. And by the time it lands on a guy it’s creature E.” He discussed one grisly Shoggoth transformation: “It’s like when you grab a sock and you pull it inside out. From his mouth, he extrudes himself.”

And that’s not all the director goes into great detail about “abandoned coral reef” world he’s building for the monsters in which the Old Ones will “torpedo through tubes” to get from one area to another.

“A coral reef is a shitload of skeletons fused together, right? All the technology those creatures have, all their technology is organic. You and I use metals, plastics. These creatures don’t have weapons or chisels. They create other creatures as tools.”

In the early stages GDT referred to the The Old Ones as “cucumbers with wings,” but later on the author got a much better look at the concept designs for the beasts which will open up like a “Swiss Army Knife” revealing wings and tentacles.

The oceanic motif was particularly evident in the design of the Old Ones. Del Toro’s enthusiasm for the lionfish had endured, and the aliens’ wings echoed their flamboyant fins. In motion, he explained, the Old Ones would appear buoyant-“unbound by gravity.” As the camera tracked them caroming around the city, the viewer would feel disoriented, like a panicked scuba diver inside a cave.

But bringing to life H.P. Lovecraft’s Shoggoth is much more complicated.

Since the Shoggoths could mutate into anything, there was no fixed silhouette, but many would feature a “protoplasmic bowl,” an abdomen-like area from which new forms could sprout. One maquette was a disorienting twist on classic Lovecraftian form. It looked like a giant octopus head with tentacles jutting from the top and the bottom-a fearful symmetry. “That’s my belly in the middle,” del Toro joked. In another maquette, the Shoggoth had sprouted two heads, each extending from brontosaurus-like necks. Their skulls could be smashed together to destroy victims. “The idea is to create craniums that function as jaws,” he said. The Shoggoths would often create ghastly parodies of human forms; as they pursued the humans, they would imitate them, imperfectly.

4) He Keeps his journals locked in a safe in his bathroom

For each film GDT creates an amazing “Leonardo codex” that is stuffed with creatures designs, notes and story details.

5) What The Hobbit’s Dragon Smaug could have looked like!

One of those books was filled with production notes on the dragon Smaug from The Hobbit — the project which GDT sadly abandoned. Still, this dragon sounded absolutely amazing:

I paused at what looked like an image of a double-bitted medieval hatchet. “That’s Smaug,” del Toro said. It was an overhead view: “See, he’s like a flying axe.” Del Toro thinks that monsters should appear transformed when viewed from a fresh angle, lest the audience lose a sense of awe. Defining silhouettes is the first step in good monster design, he said. “Then you start playing with movement. The next element of design is color. And then finally-finally-comes detail. A lot of people go the other way, and just pile up a lot of detail.”

I turned to a lateral image of the dragon. Smaug’s body, as del Toro had imagined it, was unusually long and thin. The bones of its wings were articulated on the dorsal side, giving the creature a slithery softness across its belly. “It’s a little bit more like a snake,” he said. I thought of his big Russian painting. Del Toro had written that the beast would alight “like a water bird.”

Smaug’s front legs looked disproportionately small, like those of a T. rex. This would allow the dragon to assume a different aspect in closeup: the camera could capture “hand” gestures and facial expressions in one tight frame, avoiding the quivery distractions of wings and tail. (Smaug is a voluble, manipulative dragon; Tolkien describes him as having “an overwhelming personality.”) Smaug’s eyes, del Toro added, were “going to be sculpturally very hidden.” This would create a sense of drama when the thieving Bilbo stirs the beast from slumber.

Del Toro wanted to be creative with the wing placement. “Dragon design can be broken into essentially two species,” he explained at one point. Most had wings attached to the forelimbs. “The only other variation is the anatomically incorrect variation of the six-appendage creature”-four legs, like a horse, with two additional winged arms. “But there’s no large creature on earth that has six appendages!” He had become frustrated while sketching dragons that followed these schemes. The journal had a discarded prototype. “Now, that’s a dragon you’ve seen before,” he said. “I just added these samurai legs. That doesn’t work for me.”

6) GDT published a book just about Alfred Hitchcock

He published a book-length essay on Alfred Hitchcock. (Discussing “The Birds,” del Toro notes that “in the terror genre, an artist, unbound by ‘reality,’ can create his purest reflection of the world-the cinematic equivalent of poetry.”

7) Why GDT no longer lives in Mexico

In 1998 his father was kidnapped. After 72 days and two ransoms, they released Federico and GDT moved the entire family to America.

“I highly recommend you save your father’s life. You don’t see yourself as somebody’s child anymore. You become a man saving another man.” He claimed that the experience had ended his “perpetual puberty.”

8) GDT’s “Bleak House” is better than Disneyland

The Bleak House, where the man does most of his work has over 5,000 comic books, a kitchen full of fetuses, Edward Gorey illustrations, concept art from the original Fantasia, giant statues from the original Hellboy films, and a pool. When can we come visit?

9) The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth was originally inspired by folds of loose skin

The infamous Pale Man demon was originally going to look much different, much more wrinkly and loose — inspired by the way skin hangs when after someone has lost a lot of weight. You can see the images from his journals in this video (a long with a lot of other early monster sketches and concept art).

Click to view

10) As a kid GDT befriended the local embalmers (as you do) at a mental hospital. This explains a lot.

“I saw a guy with a split skull walking down the street,” he said. “The guy wasn’t mentally stable, because somebody had hit him, and I took him to the hospital. And they said, ‘We’ll take care of him.’ I came back the next morning, and they said, ‘We returned him to the mental ward.’ So I went there, and they said that he escaped in the night. I went to the director and I said, ‘What kind of hospital is this?’ And she said, ‘Look, if you have something to say about it, come and volunteer.’ So I got to know the embalmers. One day I visited, and there was a pile of fetuses, new arrivals. Maybe it’s magnified in my memory, but I remember it being this tall.” He lifted his arm to his waist.

Source:               http://io9.com/5747879/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-guillermo-del-toros-monsters

VIDEO: The CGI in ‘Black Swan’, Explained

(towleroad.com)                 A fascinating look at the visual effects used in Black Swan.

Take a look:   http://www.towleroad.com/2011/01/watch-the-cgi-in-black-swan-explained.html

Exclusive  look: “ART OF DISTRICT 9”; Weta update

(fangoria.com)                   Movie tie-in books usually come out day and date with the films they promote, but the THE ART OF DISTRICT 9 (Collins Design; Hardcover; $34.99) has emerged more than 18 months after the Peter Jackson-produced movie’s debut. See below the jump for the reason this lavish coffee table book just debuted now, check out a few exclusive pics and read about what’s going on at Jackson’s Weta Workshop, the Oscar nominees behind the 2009 alien assimilation hit.

Take a look:               http://www.fangoria.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3323:exclusive-look-art-of-district-9-weta-update&catid=36:demo-articles&Itemid=56

James Cameron to Receive Harold Lloyd Award at International 3D Society Creative Arts Awards

LOS ANGELES–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–James Cameron has been named the 2011 recipient of the Harold Lloyd Award, it was announced today by the International 3D Society in Hollywood.

“Jim has been gifted with both tenacity and vision in his quest to make stereoscopic capability part of filmmaking’s vocabulary. No other person has contributed more both technically and creatively”

“James Cameron has embodied Harold Lloyd’s vision and passion for dazzling audiences across the globe. With ‘Avatar’ and his commitment to 3D storytelling, it is appropriate that he is the first recipient of this most prestigious Annual Award,” said Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd’s granddaughter and Chairman of Harold Lloyd Entertainment.

“Jim has been gifted with both tenacity and vision in his quest to make stereoscopic capability part of filmmaking’s vocabulary. No other person has contributed more both technically and creatively,” said Lenny Lipton, International 3D Society Awards Committee Chairman.

‘Avatar,’ which was written, directed and produced by Mr. Cameron, won seven (7) of the International 3D Society’s Lumiere™ Awards at its 2010 ceremony, including honors for Best Live Action Feature, Best Stereography, and Best Visual Effects. ‘Avatar’ went on to become the most successful motion picture in box office history, surpassing the previous record-holder, ‘Titanic,’ also written, directed and produced by Mr. Cameron. His other films include: ‘Aliens,’ ‘The Abyss,’ ‘Terminator,’ and ‘True Lies.’

“Harold Lloyd, one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, was an early and tireless advocate of using 3D technology in film in the 1920s. He formed Hollywood’s first 3D Society and served as its first President,” said Jim Chabin, International 3D Society president.

Lloyd wrote, acted in, directed and produced more than 200 films. In a 1923 Los Angeles Times interview, Lloyd predicted that the person who “produces perfect stereo motion-pictures will have accomplished the greatest achievement since the first motion-picture.”

In addition to his films, the Harold Lloyd Archive contains more than 250,000 stereoscopic 3D photographs of Hollywood celebrities, events, people, and places Lloyd encountered while pursuing his passion for 3D photography.

The Award will be presented Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at the International 3D Society’s 2nd Annual Creative Arts Awards at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The award ceremony will be recorded and telecast in 3D as part of a two hour special on 3net™.

Long Before Computers, How Movies Made Us Believe

(wbur.org)                    Many of today’s blockbusters wouldn’t exist without the aid of computer generated imagery — think Avatar or Lord of the Rings. But movie magic long predates computers — once upon a time, long before the digital age, scenery and special effects were crafted entirely by human hands.

In her new book, Designs on Film, produced with the Art Directors Guild, journalist and interior designer Cathy Whitlock explores the past century of art direction and the creative effects that have lit up the silver screen.

Tricks Of The Trade

Take for example the cinematic magic of the film Dr. Zhivago. The epic saga of love and war during the Russian Revolution is set against the snowy backdrop of the streets of Moscow and the steppes of Russia.

“I can remember seeing that film years ago and freezing in the theater,” says Whitlock. “I mean, you just felt the coldness of that whole set — and ironically, that was filmed in the summer in Spain on a sound stage.”

Dr. Zhivago production designer John Box and his crew used visual tricks to transform the set into an authentic Russian landscape. To create Zhivago’s abandoned country estate that had frozen inside and out, Box constructed an opulent ice palace. (You can see the sketch for the ice palace in the photo gallery above.)

“They would literally spray all the architecture, the chandeliers, the interior furniture, with hot wax, and they’d pour cold water on it to create that ice effect,” Whitlock says.

The hardened white wax — glistening with water and sprinkled with marble dust — created a frigid and striking cinematic scene.

Without digital effects, art directors relied heavily on their own creativity, and new materials. The art deco designs of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies of the 1930s featured streamlined dance floors fashioned with an early form of plastic.

“The floors were made with a material, which was new at the time, called Bakelite,” Whitlock explains. “The dance floor was very hard to maintain, of course — all the high heels were constantly scratching the floors.”

As the saying goes, Rogers did everything Astaire did backwards and in heels — and much to the chagrin of the set crew, they were high-scuffing high heels.

“They had to go back and re-polish them between takes,” Whitlock says. “It was a high-maintenance material.”

In Chinatown, Roman Polanski’s 1974 classic, a private detective becomes mired in the battle for water rights in drought-stricken Los Angeles. The film’s production designer, Richard Sylbert, made water — and its absence — the movie’s visual motif.

“You had to have parched landscape. You had to have colors that reflected this parched landscape — hay, straw, orange-red, brown. … Watch[ing] that movie, you became thirsty,” Whitlock says.

Shot under a cloudless white sky, the only green in the film’s landscape occurs on lawns owned by rich people. You had to have money and power to be able to bring water to your property.

The Art Of Authenticity

“Film designers are narrative artists who translate the screenwriter’s concept into visuals that you can shoot,” says Thomas Walsh, president of the Art Directors Guild. And art directors and set designers will go to extraordinary ends to make a scene look authentic — especially when their job is to re-create something that actually occurred.

For the 1976 film All the President’s Men — about the uncovering of the Watergate scandal by reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — production designer George Jenkins and his crew meticulously re-created the Washington Post newsroom. The team did their research at the paper’s real office in Washington, D.C., Whitlock says.

“They literally itemized, measured, photographed and detailed every square inch of that newsroom. It was really incredible,” she says. “The Post sent them boxes of trash, a lot of papers, government directories, mail, things that they could use for authenticity to spread across the desk on the Burbank sound stage.”

Walsh says art directors spend countless hours foraging for artifacts to make the magic of movies look real. They’re “cultural anthropologists,” he says.

Yellow Brick Road: Neither Yellow Nor Brick

Sometimes just looking real is all that matters. In one of the most famous imaginary places — the land of Oz — the yellow brick road was not made with actual bricks, nor was it originally yellow. The path in The Wizard of Oz was painted onto a flat floor to make it a smoother surface for dancers. And the color?

“The story I’ve heard is that the initial yellow they used looked green in the camera test,” Walsh says. “Ultimately, they went down to the local hardware and bought their industrial yellow paint and it seemed to work just fine.”

So the problem of coloring the yellow brick road was solved, but what to do about Emerald City’s magical, colorful horses? Thanks to Jell-O crystals, Oz’s horses were white, then purple, then bright-red and yellow. But the solution wasn’t foolproof — between takes, the horses would lick off their sugary coatings and had to be colored all over again.

Another horse transformed by movie magic was the poor starved Civil War horse pulling Scarlett O’Hara’s wagon in Gone with the Wind. As it drags O’Hara back to her plantation home, the horse collapses from exhaustion.

“The original [horse] that was supposedly thin had gained weight, and his ribs were no longer visible,” Whitlock explains. “They had to paint dark shadows to make the horse look gaunt.”

Another special effect in Gone with the Wind required the burning of Atlanta. William Cameron Menzies and his team burned leftover sets from King Kong and The Garden of Allah in a lot in Culver City, Calif. It is said the flames were so high — at times up to 500 feet — that the local fire station received multiple calls from panicked Culver City residents. The magic of movies, designed to fool the eye with fun and fakery, to get audiences to truly believe. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Indian ‘Lord of the Rings’ CG/Live Action Hybrid Set To Start

Kireet Khurana who is best known as the director of 3D animation Toonpur Ka Superhero is all set to make a Indian version of Lord Of The Rings.

Titled Prithvi the film will be set in a mystical world and will tell the story of a man’s journey to reclaim himself. The film will be set in a computer-generated environment and will be a mixture of live and computer generated characters. Khurana said, “It will have a blend of live and created characters in a computer-generated environment. “Toonpur Ka Superhero was simple as we only had to come up with a toon world. This one is a photo-realistic world with characters and monsters created in Photorealistic CG Imagery; a first-of-its-kind for Indian cinema, so the challenges are bigger.”

Khurana is currently in talks with the technicians behind Hollywood trilogy Lord of the Rings in order to match the scale, story and visual effects of the popular Hollywood film. The Bollywood director confirms that “some of them have agreed, in principal, to collaborate” on Prithvi.

With pre-production underway Khurana is hoping to start filming for the movie by the end of 2011. Stay tuned because we will bring you all the updates, including who will be starring in the film as soon as it becomes available!

Dream Jobs 2011: Meet Weta Digital’s Master of Face Animation

(spectrum.ieee.org)                   Mark Sagar is taking a break from making faces for major motion pictures. It’s a sunny Tuesday in early summer, and he’s whipping up a couple of cappuccinos in a lounge at Weta Digital, the hot-as-the-sun special-effects house behind such blockbusters as Avatar, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the 2005 remake of King Kong. Based in a funky suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, the studio’s decor is all frowsy chic: This lounge we’re in houses a life-size stuffed gorilla, a pool table, and several racks of movie costumes. There’s a gourmet kitchen whose counters are heaped with delectables. The walls are covered with movie posters and brass dinosaurs (not life-size).

During my visit, Weta’s wizards are conjuring the dazzle for the highly anticipated DreamWorks/Steven Spielberg movie Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. But as a harried Weta publicist informs me weeks after I conclude my interviews, the effects house wants nothing—nothing—said about Tintin. Or else I’ll never eat lunch in that town again.

For now, though, breakfast is served. Sagar sprinkles cinnamon and marvels at the existence of a movieland and supercomputing powerhouse on this island, where all the other noteworthy industries involve sheep or fast sailboats. ”What’s the chance of a high-tech film company existing on an island in the South Pacific?” Sagar wonders.

Left out of this small talk, somehow, is the fact that just moments ago he learned that he and three colleagues won an Academy Award. More on that later.

Sagar is as comfortable with art and aesthetics as he is with code and computers. The art/tech tug-of-war began in early childhood, in Kenya, where Sagar’s father was a systems analyst and programmer for the East African Railways. At home, his father would build radios and disassemble televisions, firing the youngster’s imagination with the wonders of modern electronics. His mother, a painter, took young Sagar to game parks, where she would point out the animals and sketch them for him. ”From the beginning, my influences were half technical and scientific and half artistic,” he says.

He got a B.S. degree in physics and math in 1988 at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, where the family had moved when Sagar was 4. He thought about grad studies in physics, but decided instead to ”travel around the world painting and being a beach bum. I remember asking my mother for a quickie course in painting before I left.”

It came in handy. Over the next four years, he supported himself with odd jobs, bartending, and painting portraits of tourists in such places as China, Britain, and Nepal. ”It was my first inkling that I could do something artistic for a living.”

Returning to New Zealand in 1992, he enrolled again at Auckland, in a mechanical engineering graduate program. For his master’s, he built a 3-D computer model of the human eye, for a system being developed to train doctors on surgical robots. That led to a Ph.D. project in which he wrote the software to let people build biologically accurate computer models of complex human anatomy.

Then came a postdoc at MIT where, in 1996, some Hollywood types came calling, looking for smart techies to work on the technology to make virtual (computer-synthesized) actors. By this time Sagar had: 1) gotten married, to a woman named Justine he’d met during grad school; and 2) put together a computer model of the human face. He and a colleague, Paul Charette, who had built a computer vision and tracking system, combined their work into something that was basically a forerunner of a modern motion-capture system: Charette’s optical arrangement tracked dots on a person’s face, and Sagar’s software connected the dots into a computer-generated face that could be manipulated by the computer.

”We ended up making what was at that time the most realistic computer face that had been done,” Sagar recalls. It was based on Justine’s face, and what this little animation did was ask, ”Am I real or am I digital?”

VFX News 1/26

UK’s ‘Compelling Plan’ For VFX World Leader Transformation

(develop-online.net)                    Ed Vaizey, Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope to speak at the launch of the major skills review of video games and visual effects

All those involved with the UK games industry have been invited to attend next week’s presentation of the Livingstone-Hope report.

The skills review for the video games and visual effects sectors, based on input from the industries, along with universities and schools, promises to deliver a significant analysis of how the UK can best encourage and develop UK talent.

It will also sets out what the organisers have described as ‘a compelling plan’ for how the UK can transform into a world leader in both games production and visual effects.

Ed Vaizey, culture minister, Communication and the Creative Industries, is set to speak at the event, along with the report’s overseers, Ian Livingstone, life President of Eidos, and Alex Hope, managing director of Double Negative.

The presentation takes place on Tuesday, February 1st at the Vue West End in central London.

Source:            http://www.develop-online.net/news/36844/Industry-welcomed-to-Livingstone-Hope-report-presentation

‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ Shoots In IMAX

(blogs.indiewire.com)                Tom Cruise is looking to bring back his bread and butter franchise with all the bells and whistles possible. The plot is being kept under lock and key and the film is in the midst of a worldwide shoot with “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird at the helm. But just to make sure audiences get as much bang for their hard earned buck as possible, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” will feature scenes shot in IMAX. Yes, just like Christopher Nolan did for “The Dark Knight.”

This bit of info was confirmed in a press release sent out today in which a number of Paramount projects will be supersized for the format you have to pay extra for, including J.J. Abrams’ mysterious “Super 8,” Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg‘s tentpole “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” and Michael Bay‘s robots fighting movie “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Of course, those films don’t have anything shot with IMAX cameras but the studio hopes you’ll fork over a few more dollars to watch them on a bigger screen. And it’s intriguing with the release of ‘Ghost Protocol’ and ‘Tintin’ 12 days apart, does that mean the Cruise vehicle—with scenes actually shot in the format—will barely get two weeks on IMAX screens before being booted off? Hmm.

VFX Unionization In The U.S. – A No-Win Scenario ?

(Variety)           Runaway production fears loom over organizing efforts

At last week’s Academy visual effects bakeoff, Acad governor Bill Taylor introduced the evening by noting that the seven films still in the Oscar race earned more than $3.3 billion in box office and employed 2,800 artists on six continents.

It went without saying that almost none of those artists did any of that valuable work with the benefit of union representation.

Taylor went on to note the power of the vfx industry and asked the business not to squander its power in squabbling.

He didn’t say what squabble he meant, but everyone in the vfx business knows the industry is facing its first serious unionization push — an effort that’s dialing up passions on both sides.

The news that the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were seeking to organize vfx artists — after decades of indifference to pleas from their ranks — came at a peculiar time.

The combination of the 2007-08 WGA strike, the protracted 2008-09 negotiations by SAG and the recession caused the vfx business to plunge, and while the business has picked up in preparation for this year’s crowded tentpole schedule, some companies didn’t survive the downturn.

Most notably, CafeFX and Asylum visual effects of Southern California both closed their doors in recent months. Both were highly regarded for the quality of their work and their humane management.

The global pursuit of tax incentives and cheap labor has sent vfx work to Canada, U.K., Eastern Europe and India, with Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and China also getting into the mix.

As a result, even people who have been vocal supporters of unionization in the past are worried that this isn’t the time — even though vfx artists remain one of the largest non-unionized groups in Hollywood without access to key benefits such as health and retirement plans.

“If the economy was in better shape than it is now I would be all for it,” vfx supervisor Rob Legato wrote in an email.

“My only fear for the rest of the community is, at this time, the studios don’t have much of a reason to stay in Los Angeles for this type of work as it is.

“While I am all for representation and agree in principal that vfx should be unionized, I feel that the same effort to help the workers also hurts them in that the jobs will essentially go away.”

Legato worries that work will flee California, talent will follow the work (as it does already), resulting in a no-win scenario for the American vfx business.

Vfx artists have become numerous and their contributions often replace stars as the main marketing hook for many studio tentpoles.

Cinesite Scores Annie Nom for Clash of the Titans  

(animationartist.digitalmedianet.com)                  Cinesite, one of the world’s leading film  visual effects houses, has announced that Quentin Miles, animation director, has been nominated for an Annie Award for his work on the Warner Bros film Clash of the Titans, in the Character Animation  in a Live-Action Production category. The category is one of two new categories at this year’s awards created to recognize excellence in live-action  productions.

Now in their 38th year, the Annie Awards honor excellence in 26 categories in the field of animation and are presented by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood. The awards will be presented on Saturday February 5 at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California.

Among the fearsome beasts that Perseus encounters on his perilous journey to defeat Hades in Clash of the Titans are giant scorpion-like creatures known as Scorpiochs. Six of these creatures take part in one of the film’s main battle scenes – a 15-foot fighter, two 30-foot fighters, two 40-foot travellers and a 60-foot mother. The battle evolved from being three separate battles to one huge six-minute-long fight sequence, consisting of 97 shots involving photorealistic CG creatures interacting in a highly complex fight scene.

Oscars Favour Movies Using High-Tech Visual Effects

(prokit.co.uk)                    Yesterday (January 25th 2011), the nominees for 2011’s prestigious ceremony, which will take place on February 27th, were revealed.

Competing for the title of best motion picture of the year are Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter’s Bone.

Among this collection of pictures, many were created using advanced video production equipment.

This includes David Fincher’s The Social Network, which was filmed using Red Camera technology.

Fincher’s movie – based on the story of how social media site Facebook was created – could be in with a good chance of winning the prize, as it walked away with the gong for best dramatic film at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

Movies such as 127 Hours, Inception and Black Swan also demonstrate advanced use of broadcast editing tools, as they have impressive visual effects.

‘Iron Man 2’ Nabs Only Oscar Nomination Of 2010 Comic Book Movies

(splashpage.mtv.com)                  When last year’s Oscar nominations were announced, we lamented the fact that “Coraline” was the closest we got to a nod for a film based on a comic book property. This year, we have one very clear comic book movie in the mix, “Iron Man 2,” but it remains the sole representative of the comics world.

The 2011 Oscar Nominations were announced today, and “Iron Man 2” received a nomination in the “Visual Effects” category. The only comic book movie named in this year’s nominations will face stiff competition in the category from “Alice in Wonderland,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” “Hereafter,” and “Inception.”

Sure, 2010 wasn’t exactly the strongest year for comic book movies, but was “Iron Man 2” the only project worth a nod? I’d argue that there’s another movie that could have made the list, too.

When we named “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” our favorite comic book movie of 2010, we cited the amazing visual effects that director Edgar Wright incorporated in the live-action film to translate it from page to screen. From hyper-kinetic fight sequences to eye-popping digital effects, “Scott Pilgrim” felt like no other film released this year — and its visual effects were a big part of that.

While I’m fairly certain that “Inception” will run away with the category, “Scott Pilgrim” could have easily taken the place of “Hereafter” or — dare I say it — even “Iron Man 2” in this year’s Oscar Nominations. Having seen all of the films nominated in this category, “Hereafter” seems like the weakest nominee, and while “Iron Man 2” certainly looked amazing, its effects didn’t feel as groundbreaking as “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.”

Sadly, that seems like the only potential snub in this year’s Oscar nominations. While a great movie, “Kick-Ass” wasn’t quite Oscar-worthy (though I wouldn’t be upset if Chloe Moretz got a nod for her Hit Girl performance), and both “Jonah Hex” and “The Last Airbender” already got the Razzie nominations they deserved.

Universal’s ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ Turn 80

(thecelebritycafe.com)                  Universal Studios classic film versions of Dracula and Frankenstein turn 80 this year.

Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” in 1818, while Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula” in 1897. Both were made into movies before 1931. Perhaps the most famous of these was F. W. Murnau’s film Nosferatu (1922), which was the first film adaptation of “Dracula.”

It was in 1931, however, that Universal Studios would make both stories into movies which would forever ingrain themselves into the public consciousness when it came to the count and the monster.

Dracula was released on Valentine’s Day of that year. Bela Lugosi portrayed the count and his performance became instantly iconic. Frankenstein was released around Christmas and Boris Karloff’s performance as the creature made from cadavers became just as memorable. To this day, these are the depictions which come to mind whenever people think of Dracula or Frankenstein.

The success of these films led to other roles for Lugosi and Karloff. Many of these were also in the horror field. Lugosi’s later films include classics such as White Zombie (1932), The Black Cat (1933) and Son of Frankenstein (1938). Karloff would go onto other memorable films such as The Mummy (1932), Targets (1968), as well as voicing the title character in the classic cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

Universal would use the success of these films to begin their reign as the king of movie horror for the next 20 years. The studio would go on to create other classic monster movies such as The Mummy, The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

Factory VFX Expands to New Orleans – Tax Credits Helps

(bayoubuzz.com)                    Today, Greater New Orleans, Inc., the economic development alliance for the 10-parish Greater New Orleans region, announced that Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Factory VFX has opened an office in New Orleans. The company made the decision to expand to Louisiana due in large part to the state tax incentives available for qualifying productions. Factory VFX currently has an outstanding track record of work in the following forms of visual effects: compositing, plate reconstruction, wire/rig removals, matte paintings, rotoscoping, and match moving.

“We chose to open an office here because of the great vibe in the heart of the city. New Orleans is such an artistic city. It was an easy decision to place our visual effects team in this beautiful city full of amazing artists,” said Eric Christensen, CEO of Factory VFX. “We’ll be bringing some of our northern California Digital Commandos to New Orleans to help get us started as well as to train some of the local artists. We’re all very excited.”

Working with sister company RotoFactory, Inc. in their northern California offices, Factory VFX has completed work on over 60 feature films, commercials, and episodic television series since 2006. Factory VFX’s clients include Columbia Pictures, Fox Studios, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. Studios. The firm has worked on such feature films as Lincoln Lawyer, The Next Three Days, Anonymous, Furry Vengeance, 2012, and the upcoming The Big Year and Fast & Furious 5. The New Orleans office will be located in the Nelson Building Complex on Prytania Street, a centralized location for production crew during the filming of major projects.

“Factory VFX is a huge win for our area. Looking at our film production sector in the Greater New Orleans region, it’s not enough to have production companies just film here and outsource their post-production work to other places,” said Michael Hecht, President & CEO of GNO, Inc. “We want to become a film industry hub, and Factory VFX is helping us achieve that goal.”

Factory VFX began exploring the possibility of doing business in New Orleans last summer. GNO, Inc., Louisiana Economic Development, Louisiana Entertainment, and the City of New Orleans Film Commission worked in tandem to facilitate the company’s move here and to introduce Christensen and his staff to key members of the entertainment community.

“Factory VFX is another big win for Louisiana’s growing entertainment industry,” said Sherri McConnell, Director of Louisiana Entertainment. “Their presence in New Orleans adds to our robust motion picture infrastructure and provides more options for filmmakers to post their films in state, while taking advantage of the production incentives. Factory VFX’s commitment to Louisiana further demonstrates that the incentives are working to grow an indigenous and sustainable entertainment industry.”

Factory VFX will initially bring a group of visual effects artists from California to open the New Orleans office, but the company plans to hire up to 50 new employees in the coming years as it expects operations to grow quickly thanks to its client base.

“We are interested in working with the local digital arts community, and we hope to become involved with training programs through NOVAC and other venues,” said Liz Crawford, Producer with Factory VFX.

ILM and Skywalker Sound Nominations

(starwars.com)                    Once again the talented people at Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound have been acknowledged for achievement in the year’s slate of movies.

In the category of Best Achievements in Visual Effects, ILM’s work on Iron Man 2 has been nominated for an Academy Award. Recognized in the nomination are ILM’s Ben Snow, along with Janek Sirrs, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick.

Skywalker Sound was also honored with four nominations, including Toy Story 3 for Best Sound Editing, Tom Myers and Michael Silvers nominated; Tron: Legacy for Best Sound Editing, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague nominated; Inception for Best Sound Mixing, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick nominated; The Social Network for Best Sound Mixing, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten nominated.

Other Star Wars alumni to receive nominations today include Natalie Portman (Episode I-III), Best Actress for Black Swan; David Fincher (Episode VI), Best Director for The Social Network; and Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (Episode IV and Episode III, respectively) for Best Makeup, Wolfman.


(HollywoodNews.com)                  Emmy Award® winner Bill Taylor, ASC and Emmy Award® winner Syd Dutton have been selected to receive the Art Directors Guild’s coveted honorary Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award, it was announced today by Thomas A. Walsh, ADG President, and Awards co-producers Dawn Snyder and Tom Wilkins. Taylor and Dutton are co-founders of Illusion Arts, where they earned credits on nearly 200 films. As Illusion Arts wound up its 26 year run, the company completed dozens of shots for Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009) for supervisor Robert Stadd and some key environments for G.I. Joe. One of their first major assignments was to create special effects for the new version of the television series The Twilight Zone.

Both Taylor and Dutton were visual effects artists on numerous notable films together, including U-571 (2000), The Fast and the Furious (2001), Bruce Almighty (2003), and Casanova (2005). More recently Taylor and Dutton co-supervised Milk (2008) for which they created more than 150 “invisible” shots.

Inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s miraculous effects in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and fueled by a lifelong interest in stage magic and sleight-of-hand, visual effects supervisor and director of photography Taylor, began his career as an optical cameraman specializing in blue screen compositing. In 1974 he created optical effects (and title song lyrics) for John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s ultra-low-budget Dark Star (1974); in the same year he began work at Universal Studios Matte Department as the cameraman for the renowned Matte Artist Albert Whitlock, a longtime mentor. Dutton, his future business partner, came on board a month later. The Hindenburg (1975), Taylor’s and Dutton’s first film with Whitlock, received the Special Achievement Award for visual effects from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Starting off in the mailroom at Universal Studios, Dutton was first exposed to the art of matte painting through daily visits to the studio of Whitlock. Dutton’s talents were recognized at an early age and his personal ambition to improve his artistic skills followed him through studying art at U.C. Berkeley where he received his BA and Master’s Degrees. Soon after graduation, Dutton’s interests broadened to include filmmaking and writing. He feels that the most successful special effects are those the audience does not realize are effects at all. He strives for realism, whether it is recreating the past in an ancient Roman city or imagining a future world. He has worked for a diverse group of the top directors, including: Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Wolfgang Peterson, Robert Redford, Mel Brooks and more.

In 1985 Taylor and Dutton won the Emmy® for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for their work on the television miniseries “A.D.” In 1981 Taylor was awarded the Technical Achievement Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the concept and specifications for a Two Format, Rotating Head and Aerial Image Optical Printer. Additionally, in 1992 Dutton won the Emmy® for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Source:          http://www.hollywoodnews.com/2011/01/25/bill-taylor-and-syd-dutton-to-receive-art-directors-guilds-cinematic-imagery-award/

Oscar Brouhahas – “Tron: Legacy” Bumped From Best VFX Nom

(btlnews.com)              As for imbroglios and brouhahas, perhaps the most interesting was in the visual effects category, where presumed front-runner Tron and visual effects supervisor Eric Barba (who’d previously won for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) were left off the list, replaced, it would seem, by the redoubtable Michael Owens’ work for Clint Eastwood in Hereafter. This clears the way for Inception as a heavy favorite, though Iron Man 2 was nominated, along with the latest Harry Potter installment.

In addition, Disney’s other non-Pixar tent-pole picture Alice in Wonderland was nominated in the same category, about which, VFX supe Ken Ralston said “the nomination is wonderful because working on Alice was one of the best creative experiences of my entire career. Tim Burton  trusted us with his vision and the work on the screen is the result of an amazing collaboration with hundreds of brilliant artists, including my fellow nominees and a great team on set. You hope to have an experience like this at least once in career and I am so happy that our peers recognized the extraordinary complexity, detail and accomplishment that the visual effects Alice in Wonderland represents.”

Full Press:    http://www.btlnews.com/awards/state-of-the-union-%E2%80%93-oscar-style/

VFX News 01/26/11

UK’s ‘Compelling Plan’ For VFX World Leader Transformation

(develop-online.net)                    Ed Vaizey, Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope to speak at the launch of the major skills review of video games and visual effects

All those involved with the UK games industry have been invited to attend next week’s presentation of the Livingstone-Hope report.

The skills review for the video games and visual effects sectors, based on input from the industries, along with universities and schools, promises to deliver a significant analysis of how the UK can best encourage and develop UK talent.

It will also sets out what the organisers have described as ‘a compelling plan’ for how the UK can transform into a world leader in both games production and visual effects.

Ed Vaizey, culture minister, Communication and the Creative Industries, is set to speak at the event, along with the report’s overseers, Ian Livingstone, life President of Eidos, and Alex Hope, managing director of Double Negative.

The presentation takes place on Tuesday, February 1st at the Vue West End in central London.

Source:            http://www.develop-online.net/news/36844/Industry-welcomed-to-Livingstone-Hope-report-presentation

‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ Shoots In IMAX

(blogs.indiewire.com)                Tom Cruise is looking to bring back his bread and butter franchise with all the bells and whistles possible. The plot is being kept under lock and key and the film is in the midst of a worldwide shoot with “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird at the helm. But just to make sure audiences get as much bang for their hard earned buck as possible, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” will feature scenes shot in IMAX. Yes, just like Christopher Nolan did for “The Dark Knight.”

This bit of info was confirmed in a press release sent out today in which a number of Paramount projects will be supersized for the format you have to pay extra for, including J.J. Abrams’ mysterious “Super 8,” Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg‘s tentpole “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” and Michael Bay‘s robots fighting movie “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Of course, those films don’t have anything shot with IMAX cameras but the studio hopes you’ll fork over a few more dollars to watch them on a bigger screen. And it’s intriguing with the release of ‘Ghost Protocol’ and ‘Tintin’ 12 days apart, does that mean the Cruise vehicle—with scenes actually shot in the format—will barely get two weeks on IMAX screens before being booted off? Hmm.

VFX Unionization In The U.S. – A No-Win Scenario ?

(Variety)           Runaway production fears loom over organizing efforts

At last week’s Academy visual effects bakeoff, Acad governor Bill Taylor introduced the evening by noting that the seven films still in the Oscar race earned more than $3.3 billion in box office and employed 2,800 artists on six continents.

It went without saying that almost none of those artists did any of that valuable work with the benefit of union representation.

Taylor went on to note the power of the vfx industry and asked the business not to squander its power in squabbling.

He didn’t say what squabble he meant, but everyone in the vfx business knows the industry is facing its first serious unionization push — an effort that’s dialing up passions on both sides.

The news that the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were seeking to organize vfx artists — after decades of indifference to pleas from their ranks — came at a peculiar time.

The combination of the 2007-08 WGA strike, the protracted 2008-09 negotiations by SAG and the recession caused the vfx business to plunge, and while the business has picked up in preparation for this year’s crowded tentpole schedule, some companies didn’t survive the downturn.

Most notably, CafeFX and Asylum visual effects of Southern California both closed their doors in recent months. Both were highly regarded for the quality of their work and their humane management.

The global pursuit of tax incentives and cheap labor has sent vfx work to Canada, U.K., Eastern Europe and India, with Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and China also getting into the mix.

As a result, even people who have been vocal supporters of unionization in the past are worried that this isn’t the time — even though vfx artists remain one of the largest non-unionized groups in Hollywood without access to key benefits such as health and retirement plans.

“If the economy was in better shape than it is now I would be all for it,” vfx supervisor Rob Legato wrote in an email.

“My only fear for the rest of the community is, at this time, the studios don’t have much of a reason to stay in Los Angeles for this type of work as it is.

“While I am all for representation and agree in principal that vfx should be unionized, I feel that the same effort to help the workers also hurts them in that the jobs will essentially go away.”

Legato worries that work will flee California, talent will follow the work (as it does already), resulting in a no-win scenario for the American vfx business.

Vfx artists have become numerous and their contributions often replace stars as the main marketing hook for many studio tentpoles.

Cinesite Scores Annie Nom for Clash of the Titans  

(animationartist.digitalmedianet.com)                  Cinesite, one of the world’s leading film  visual effects houses, has announced that Quentin Miles, animation director, has been nominated for an Annie Award for his work on the Warner Bros film Clash of the Titans, in the Character Animation  in a Live-Action Production category. The category is one of two new categories at this year’s awards created to recognize excellence in live-action  productions.

Now in their 38th year, the Annie Awards honor excellence in 26 categories in the field of animation and are presented by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood. The awards will be presented on Saturday February 5 at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California.

Among the fearsome beasts that Perseus encounters on his perilous journey to defeat Hades in Clash of the Titans are giant scorpion-like creatures known as Scorpiochs. Six of these creatures take part in one of the film’s main battle scenes – a 15-foot fighter, two 30-foot fighters, two 40-foot travellers and a 60-foot mother. The battle evolved from being three separate battles to one huge six-minute-long fight sequence, consisting of 97 shots involving photorealistic CG creatures interacting in a highly complex fight scene.

Oscars Favour Movies Using High-Tech Visual Effects

(prokit.co.uk)                    Yesterday (January 25th 2011), the nominees for 2011’s prestigious ceremony, which will take place on February 27th, were revealed.

Competing for the title of best motion picture of the year are Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter’s Bone.

Among this collection of pictures, many were created using advanced video production equipment.

This includes David Fincher’s The Social Network, which was filmed using Red Camera technology.

Fincher’s movie – based on the story of how social media site Facebook was created – could be in with a good chance of winning the prize, as it walked away with the gong for best dramatic film at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

Movies such as 127 Hours, Inception and Black Swan also demonstrate advanced use of broadcast editing tools, as they have impressive visual effects.

‘Iron Man 2’ Nabs Only Oscar Nomination Of 2010 Comic Book Movies

(splashpage.mtv.com)                  When last year’s Oscar nominations were announced, we lamented the fact that “Coraline” was the closest we got to a nod for a film based on a comic book property. This year, we have one very clear comic book movie in the mix, “Iron Man 2,” but it remains the sole representative of the comics world.

The 2011 Oscar Nominations were announced today, and “Iron Man 2” received a nomination in the “Visual Effects” category. The only comic book movie named in this year’s nominations will face stiff competition in the category from “Alice in Wonderland,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” “Hereafter,” and “Inception.”

Sure, 2010 wasn’t exactly the strongest year for comic book movies, but was “Iron Man 2” the only project worth a nod? I’d argue that there’s another movie that could have made the list, too.

When we named “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” our favorite comic book movie of 2010, we cited the amazing visual effects that director Edgar Wright incorporated in the live-action film to translate it from page to screen. From hyper-kinetic fight sequences to eye-popping digital effects, “Scott Pilgrim” felt like no other film released this year — and its visual effects were a big part of that.

While I’m fairly certain that “Inception” will run away with the category, “Scott Pilgrim” could have easily taken the place of “Hereafter” or — dare I say it — even “Iron Man 2” in this year’s Oscar Nominations. Having seen all of the films nominated in this category, “Hereafter” seems like the weakest nominee, and while “Iron Man 2” certainly looked amazing, its effects didn’t feel as groundbreaking as “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.”

Sadly, that seems like the only potential snub in this year’s Oscar nominations. While a great movie, “Kick-Ass” wasn’t quite Oscar-worthy (though I wouldn’t be upset if Chloe Moretz got a nod for her Hit Girl performance), and both “Jonah Hex” and “The Last Airbender” already got the Razzie nominations they deserved.

Universal’s ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ Turn 80

(thecelebritycafe.com)                  Universal Studios classic film versions of Dracula and Frankenstein turn 80 this year.

Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” in 1818, while Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula” in 1897. Both were made into movies before 1931. Perhaps the most famous of these was F. W. Murnau’s film Nosferatu (1922), which was the first film adaptation of “Dracula.”

It was in 1931, however, that Universal Studios would make both stories into movies which would forever ingrain themselves into the public consciousness when it came to the count and the monster.

Dracula was released on Valentine’s Day of that year. Bela Lugosi portrayed the count and his performance became instantly iconic. Frankenstein was released around Christmas and Boris Karloff’s performance as the creature made from cadavers became just as memorable. To this day, these are the depictions which come to mind whenever people think of Dracula or Frankenstein.

The success of these films led to other roles for Lugosi and Karloff. Many of these were also in the horror field. Lugosi’s later films include classics such as White Zombie (1932), The Black Cat (1933) and Son of Frankenstein (1938). Karloff would go onto other memorable films such as The Mummy (1932), Targets (1968), as well as voicing the title character in the classic cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

Universal would use the success of these films to begin their reign as the king of movie horror for the next 20 years. The studio would go on to create other classic monster movies such as The Mummy, The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

Factory VFX Expands to New Orleans – Tax Credits Helps

(bayoubuzz.com)                    Today, Greater New Orleans, Inc., the economic development alliance for the 10-parish Greater New Orleans region, announced that Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Factory VFX has opened an office in New Orleans. The company made the decision to expand to Louisiana due in large part to the state tax incentives available for qualifying productions. Factory VFX currently has an outstanding track record of work in the following forms of visual effects: compositing, plate reconstruction, wire/rig removals, matte paintings, rotoscoping, and match moving.

“We chose to open an office here because of the great vibe in the heart of the city. New Orleans is such an artistic city. It was an easy decision to place our visual effects team in this beautiful city full of amazing artists,” said Eric Christensen, CEO of Factory VFX. “We’ll be bringing some of our northern California Digital Commandos to New Orleans to help get us started as well as to train some of the local artists. We’re all very excited.”

Working with sister company RotoFactory, Inc. in their northern California offices, Factory VFX has completed work on over 60 feature films, commercials, and episodic television series since 2006. Factory VFX’s clients include Columbia Pictures, Fox Studios, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. Studios. The firm has worked on such feature films as Lincoln Lawyer, The Next Three Days, Anonymous, Furry Vengeance, 2012, and the upcoming The Big Year and Fast & Furious 5. The New Orleans office will be located in the Nelson Building Complex on Prytania Street, a centralized location for production crew during the filming of major projects.

“Factory VFX is a huge win for our area. Looking at our film production sector in the Greater New Orleans region, it’s not enough to have production companies just film here and outsource their post-production work to other places,” said Michael Hecht, President & CEO of GNO, Inc. “We want to become a film industry hub, and Factory VFX is helping us achieve that goal.”

Factory VFX began exploring the possibility of doing business in New Orleans last summer. GNO, Inc., Louisiana Economic Development, Louisiana Entertainment, and the City of New Orleans Film Commission worked in tandem to facilitate the company’s move here and to introduce Christensen and his staff to key members of the entertainment community.

“Factory VFX is another big win for Louisiana’s growing entertainment industry,” said Sherri McConnell, Director of Louisiana Entertainment. “Their presence in New Orleans adds to our robust motion picture infrastructure and provides more options for filmmakers to post their films in state, while taking advantage of the production incentives. Factory VFX’s commitment to Louisiana further demonstrates that the incentives are working to grow an indigenous and sustainable entertainment industry.”

Factory VFX will initially bring a group of visual effects artists from California to open the New Orleans office, but the company plans to hire up to 50 new employees in the coming years as it expects operations to grow quickly thanks to its client base.

“We are interested in working with the local digital arts community, and we hope to become involved with training programs through NOVAC and other venues,” said Liz Crawford, Producer with Factory VFX.

ILM and Skywalker Sound Nominations

(starwars.com)                    Once again the talented people at Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound have been acknowledged for achievement in the year’s slate of movies.

In the category of Best Achievements in Visual Effects, ILM’s work on Iron Man 2 has been nominated for an Academy Award. Recognized in the nomination are ILM’s Ben Snow, along with Janek Sirrs, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick.

Skywalker Sound was also honored with four nominations, including Toy Story 3 for Best Sound Editing, Tom Myers and Michael Silvers nominated; Tron: Legacy for Best Sound Editing, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague nominated; Inception for Best Sound Mixing, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick nominated; The Social Network for Best Sound Mixing, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten nominated.

Other Star Wars alumni to receive nominations today include Natalie Portman (Episode I-III), Best Actress for Black Swan; David Fincher (Episode VI), Best Director for The Social Network; and Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (Episode IV and Episode III, respectively) for Best Makeup, Wolfman.


(HollywoodNews.com)                  Emmy Award® winner Bill Taylor, ASC and Emmy Award® winner Syd Dutton have been selected to receive the Art Directors Guild’s coveted honorary Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award, it was announced today by Thomas A. Walsh, ADG President, and Awards co-producers Dawn Snyder and Tom Wilkins. Taylor and Dutton are co-founders of Illusion Arts, where they earned credits on nearly 200 films. As Illusion Arts wound up its 26 year run, the company completed dozens of shots for Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009) for supervisor Robert Stadd and some key environments for G.I. Joe. One of their first major assignments was to create special effects for the new version of the television series The Twilight Zone.

Both Taylor and Dutton were visual effects artists on numerous notable films together, including U-571 (2000), The Fast and the Furious (2001), Bruce Almighty (2003), and Casanova (2005). More recently Taylor and Dutton co-supervised Milk (2008) for which they created more than 150 “invisible” shots.

Inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s miraculous effects in Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and fueled by a lifelong interest in stage magic and sleight-of-hand, visual effects supervisor and director of photography Taylor, began his career as an optical cameraman specializing in blue screen compositing. In 1974 he created optical effects (and title song lyrics) for John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s ultra-low-budget Dark Star (1974); in the same year he began work at Universal Studios Matte Department as the cameraman for the renowned Matte Artist Albert Whitlock, a longtime mentor. Dutton, his future business partner, came on board a month later. The Hindenburg (1975), Taylor’s and Dutton’s first film with Whitlock, received the Special Achievement Award for visual effects from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Starting off in the mailroom at Universal Studios, Dutton was first exposed to the art of matte painting through daily visits to the studio of Whitlock. Dutton’s talents were recognized at an early age and his personal ambition to improve his artistic skills followed him through studying art at U.C. Berkeley where he received his BA and Master’s Degrees. Soon after graduation, Dutton’s interests broadened to include filmmaking and writing. He feels that the most successful special effects are those the audience does not realize are effects at all. He strives for realism, whether it is recreating the past in an ancient Roman city or imagining a future world. He has worked for a diverse group of the top directors, including: Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Wolfgang Peterson, Robert Redford, Mel Brooks and more.

In 1985 Taylor and Dutton won the Emmy® for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for their work on the television miniseries “A.D.” In 1981 Taylor was awarded the Technical Achievement Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the concept and specifications for a Two Format, Rotating Head and Aerial Image Optical Printer. Additionally, in 1992 Dutton won the Emmy® for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Source:          http://www.hollywoodnews.com/2011/01/25/bill-taylor-and-syd-dutton-to-receive-art-directors-guilds-cinematic-imagery-award/

Oscar Brouhahas – “Tron: Legacy” Bumped From Best VFX Nom

(btlnews.com)              As for imbroglios and brouhahas, perhaps the most interesting was in the visual effects category, where presumed front-runner Tron and visual effects supervisor Eric Barba (who’d previously won for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) were left off the list, replaced, it would seem, by the redoubtable Michael Owens’ work for Clint Eastwood in Hereafter. This clears the way for Inception as a heavy favorite, though Iron Man 2 was nominated, along with the latest Harry Potter installment.

In addition, Disney’s other non-Pixar tent-pole picture Alice in Wonderland was nominated in the same category, about which, VFX supe Ken Ralston said “the nomination is wonderful because working on Alice was one of the best creative experiences of my entire career. Tim Burton  trusted us with his vision and the work on the screen is the result of an amazing collaboration with hundreds of brilliant artists, including my fellow nominees and a great team on set. You hope to have an experience like this at least once in career and I am so happy that our peers recognized the extraordinary complexity, detail and accomplishment that the visual effects Alice in Wonderland represents.”

Full Press:    http://www.btlnews.com/awards/state-of-the-union-%E2%80%93-oscar-style/