Getting More Immersed with Indiewire


  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor.  Beginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart


The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film


For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

Animation

3-D Fit For The Lion King: Retrofitting a Classic

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

I discuss the new Lion King 3-D conversion (opening Sept. 16)  in my latest TOH indieWIRE column. Disney stereographer Robert Neuman figured out a nice hybrid aesthetic for hand-drawn 3-D, and overall the added depth makes it a worthwhile experience despite the dimness factor. Producer Don Hahn, meanwhile, recalls when nobody wanted to work on this B-movie.

Rick Carter’s 9/11 ‘Aftermath’

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Production Design, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter has put together a very personal photo-exhibit called “Aftermath” of paintings he made following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“As it probably is for you, it’s still hard for me to emotionally process,” Carter explained by email. “Part of it for me personally, however, has been the movies I’ve production designed since then exploring the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war: War of the Worlds, Munich, Avatar, War Horse, and the upcoming Lincoln.

“In the last few months I’ve begun to look back over my first artistic responses to 9/11, which are represented by these paintings I wanted you to share with you. It’s all just part of my artistic journey over this last decade.”

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, it’s very fitting, indeed, to reflect on Carter’s artistic journey, delving into “the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war,” as he suggests. In War of the Worlds, the opening Martian attack was designed and shot as a gritty metaphor for the destruction of the World Trade Center, right down to the fallen embers. Munich took it a step further in its terrifying depiction of the ’72 Olympics massacre of the Israeli athletes and the Black September reprisal. Avatar then became an epiphany of sorts for Carter. “I always saw the movie as The Wizard of Oz meets Apocalypse Now,” he told me. “It’s like this EKG kind of brain wave going from Kansas into Oz and into this mystical, bioluminescent dream state, the phantasmagoric, which is what [Cameron] called it in the script.”
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see how Carter extends the nature of conscience further in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming War Horse (Dec. 28) and Lincoln, amid the horrors of World War I and the Civil War. In fact, it’s no coincidence that Spielberg is the catalyst behind four of these five films with Carter. He’s become the prime force in exploring the post 9/11 ethos in American movies.

LAIKA Goes to Wildwood

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Books, Movies, stop-motion, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Portland-based LAIKA (ParaNorman, Coraline) has found the perfect stop-motion 3-D fit in Wildwood, which it has just optioned. The HarperCollins children’s novel about an alternate version of modern-day Portland is written by Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter for The Decemberists, with illustrations by award-winning artist Carson Ellis.

Wildwood is a marvel, an exquisite, staggering, and lyrical work of art,” said Travis Knight, president and CEO of the animation studio. “It’s an uncannily perfect fit for LAIKA, commingling the time-honored qualities of classic fantasies and fairy tales with a bold, contemporary sensibility.  Colin’s captivating, melodic prose and Carson’s gorgeous, spellbinding illustrations form a rich bounty of ideas, language, and imagery.  Wildwood is a wonderful work of literature, and LAIKA is fully committed to honoring it with an exceptional, groundbreaking film.”

Wildwood, the first book in an epic middle-grade fantasy series, tells the story of Prue McKeel, whose ordinary life is changed forever when her younger brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, an enchanted and forbidding forest on the edge of Portland.  No one’s ever gone in — or at least returned to tell of it. Within this secret world, Prue and her friend Curtis embark on a rescue mission and find themselves entwined in a violent struggle for freedom amidst warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. 

“Hands down, there is no other movie studio in the entire world besides LAIKA that I would entrust Wildwood to,” said Meloy. “Carson and I were prepared to stonewall any and all suitors for the movie rights, so close was this book to our hearts. However, when LAIKA came calling, our defenses promptly came down.”

“I’m a stop motion enthusiast,” added Ellis, “and I’ve been a fan of LAIKA since we saw Coraline a couple of years back.  When we visited the studio and saw all the brilliant creative work happening there  — someone building a waist-high New England village in painstaking detail, someone else sewing pinhead-sized rivets on tiny blue jeans — we were won over completely.”

VES Announces Production Summit Schedule

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The Visual Effects Society (VES) revealed its schedule for the third annual Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here”) Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. According to VES exec director Eric Roth, “This year’s Summit will feature ongoing interaction between an international group of key industry leaders whose mandate is to adapt to the global nature of the entertainment industry by staying current with ever changing technologies, and rethinking production schedules and distribution channels.  Attendees will be encouraged to think innovatively in order to find better solutions for their businesses.”

With Roth laying down the gauntlet in his open letter to help facilitate better healthcare benefits and working conditions for VFX artists, the VES, as an honorary society, has a multifaceted, global constituency. Nonetheless, the VES will address a host of technical and business trends and concerns.

Presentation speakers will include:

A Keynote Address by Bob Pisano, president and COO, Motion Picture Association of America and feature presentations by Autodesk Fellow, Tom Wujec, and leading entertainment industry analyst with Janey Montgomery Scott, Tony Wible.

Panelists and Roundtable Moderators confirmed as of this date include:

  • Rob Bredow – CTO and Visual Effects Supervisor, Sony Pictures Imageworks
  • Annie Chang – VP of Post-Production Technology for The Walt Disney Studios Digital Production Technology
  • Richard Chuang – CEO Cloudpic Global Inc
  • Bob Coleman – President, Digital Artists Agency Inc (DAA)
  • Chris deFaria – EVP, Production Digital Production for Warner Bros.
  • Warren Franklin – CEO, Rainmaker Ent.
  • Ted Gagliano – President Feature Post Production, Twentieth Century Fox Studios
  • Dan Glass – Sr. VFX Supervisor, EVP and General Manager, Method Studios
  • Uday Kumar – Vice President US Operations Reliance Media Works
  • Thilo Kuther – CEO & Managing Director, Pixomondo
  • Amy Lemisch – Executive Director, California Film Commission
  • Steve Papazian – President, Worldwide Physical Production, Warner Bros.
  • Christian Roberton – Managing Director, MPC Film
  • Andy Romanoff – Industry Relations / Business Development, AbelCine
  • Carl Rosendahl – Faculty, Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center
  • Scott Squires – Visual Effects Producer
  • Randy Starr – Visual Effects Producer
  • Stephan Trojansky – VFX Supervisor / Co-Founder of Scanline VFX

The Sessions will include:

The Studios’ POV: Adapting to Innovation in a 24-Hour World

What do you need to know in order to keep up with the latest technology and keep your business on track?  Innovative digital technology has radically changed the post and distribution channels of the studios which in turn affects the filmmakers and services providers within their sphere.  Meeting these new needs requires extraordinary operational coordination and responsiveness across the studios’ global digital efforts. This reality creates a need for cooperation and conflict resolution mechanisms within and across all functions, as well as budget procedures that allow for flexibility and rapid direction changes.  The very things that push creativity and efficiency can provide new obstacles. This panel examines how studios determine a clear approach for monitoring, sharing and adapting within this globally interconnected network and the best ways to work together and maintain reasonable margins.

Success Around the Globe

Visual effects companies have expanded to multiple sites and have a true global footprint and workforce.  Multi-cultural and multi-national interfacing, altered technology and pipeline shifts, social media management, IP development and partnerships are increasingly important; yet creativity, quality, service and professionalism remain the most important elements. Additionally, as companies add an IP component, they need creative employees who can develop timely, relevant, and compelling content across a variety of media.  This panel of top executives will take a look at successful visual effects business models and crossover models from around the globe — organic growth, partnerships, acquisitions, creator-driven, niche-driven — to examine and reveal how their companies have evolved and strategized to stay relevant and successful in the current environment.  Hear from these experts on where they and the industry are headed in the near and distant future.

Continental Breakfast Roundtables

To jump start the morning of the Summit, the event is introducing Breakfast Roundtable discussions.  This hour long aspect of the Summit will be for those attendees who want to discuss and share information on a particular subject with their fellow attendees.  Each table will have a moderator who is an expert in their topic. The objective is for everyone to join in on the discussion and glean new information.  A time for attendees to do the talking.

  • Animation Trending
  • The Challenges of 3-D stereo
  • The Challenges of 48-60fps
  • The Challenges of Digital Color
  • 2-D to 3-D conversion
  • Chasing and Taking Advantage of Tax Incentives
  • Moving to 4K: Impact on VFX Schedules, Budgets
  • Finding Financial Investors for Original IP
  • Open Source Development/Trends
  • Niche Market: How Best to Focus My Company
  • How to Build and Maintain Creative Staff
  • Canada: The Next Soho
  • Partnering with International Companies

For more info, go to www.visualeffectssociety.com/production-summit-2011.

Oscar Watch: Rango Honored by Hollywood Film Festival

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Festivals, Movies, Oscar, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

I’ve just posted my analysis of Rango being honored today with the Hollywood Animation Award at indieWIRE’s TOH blog, and the implications on the animated Oscar race. Despite Rango being the front-runner so far, it’s the widest open race in years.

Method Enters Australia

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Deluxe-owned Method Studios (The Tree of Life, Contagion, Abduction) has added Australia to its arsenal of facilities with two in Sydney and one in Melbourne. This further expands Method’s network of studios in L.A., Vancouver, New York, and London.

Joining the award-winning group under the Method banner is a brand new commercial facility in Sydney’s fashionable waterside district of Walsh Bay, and the Deluxe owned and operated commercial post-production business in Melbourne previously known as MRPPP, and Sydney-based feature visual effects studio at Lane Cove previously operating as CIS-Postmodern.

The Method Australia feature visual effects facility will include a dedicated software team under Paul Ryan, VP of Technology and former CTO of WETA, the goal being the ability to share tools, assets, and shots across the facilities.  The feature division also includes VFX supervisor James Rogers, who has enjoyed close collaborations with filmakers such as Alex Proyas and Baz Luhrmann.

“Uniting our Australian visual effects businesses under the Method Studios brand paves the way for those creative facilities to work together even more synergistically,” said Stefan Sonnenfeld, president of Deluxe Creative Services. “It’s our plan to continue to increase the level of collaboration among all the creative facilities within Deluxe’s global network to further benefit our clients both creatively and financially wherever they may be.”

“Method Studios in Australia launches with a team that is already well known in the local Australian and Asian markets,” added Dan Glass, Method Studios’ EVP, senior visual effects Supervisor.  “We share the same goals of a strong creatively driven brand and will be working together to build on our creative and technical resources for both commercials and feature films.”

“Being part of Method’s international network means we can really raise the bar creatively for local clients,” said Alaric McAusland, head of Deluxe in Australia.  “With the recent increase in the tax rebates for feature film production, our international clients will also be able to get their visual effects done locally.”

Feature work being completed across the Method brand includes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Fox, directed by Timur Bekmambetov), Dark Shadows (Warner Bros., directed by Tim Burton), Clash of the Titans 2: Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros., directed by Jonathan Liebesman), and J. Edgar (Warner Bros., directed by Clint Eastwood).

On the commercial front, the Method Australia group will also share resources with the Method facilities in the U.S, which have recently won VES and AICP awards for Halo Reach: Deliver Hope, among others.

In addition to visual effects, the Walsh Bay and Melbourne commercial facilities offer high-quality end-to-end creative solutions including editing, color grading, 3D & 2D design, and finishing.  Deluxe Australia, along with Deluxe companies EFILM and Stage One, are co-located within the Sydney visual effects facility.

 

First Digital 3D Rendering from Ed Catmull

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Clips, Education, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

This an invaluable piece of computer graphics history: The first 3D rendered film comprised of Ed Catmull’s left hand created by Catmull and Fred Parke (with audio by Robert Ingebretsen) when they were grad students at the University of Utah in 1972. Eventually this film demo found its way into Futureworld in 1976 (how appropriate). In fact, Ingebretsen’s son, Robby, discovered that his father had a copy of the 8mm reel. After hearing Catmull speak a couple of years ago at his alma mater, Robby and his uncle were invited to take a tour of Pixar, which resulted in Catmull giving his permission for the film to be digitized. Robby made it available earlier in the year on his website, nerd plus art.

It’s a treasure trove of pioneering computer graphics and footage revealing how Catmull mapped the polygon vertices that make up the three-dimensional model, including texture mapping, 3D anti-aliasing, and z-buffering. Enjoy!

Another Trip to the Moon with Méliès

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

The digitally restored, hand-tinted A Trip to the Moon (1902) by the legendary father of special effects, Georges Méliès, screens this weekend at the Telluride Film Festival and next Tuesday at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater. I write about the restoration in my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE.

Star Wars Tweaks for Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | 1 Comment

The internet is absolutely apoplectic about George Lucas tweaking Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Blu-ray (Sept. 16 from Fox Home Ent). Hardcore fans are even calling for boycotts. First, we supposedly learned that Darth Vader utters “Nooo!” while cringing at Emperor Palpatine electrocuting his son, Luke Skywalker, and then again when hurling his master to his doom.

Now, there’s further outrage over the complete CG Yoda in Phantom Menace; some new blinking Ewoks in Return of the Jedi; and a louder shriek from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to scare the Tusken Raiders in the desert.

Well, get over it. There’s symmetry when you recall that the younger Anakin/Vader bellowed a similar “Nooo!” when learning that his wrath caused the death of the love of his life, Amidala. And the CG Yoda is merely introduced earlier (he was originally CG in only two wide angle shots before the complete transformation in Attack of the Clones). As for the CG toying with the Ewoks, that’s a minor improvement. And if the audio embellishment of Obi-Wan turns out to be true, that’s not so bad either. It’s an emotional outburst that comes as a nice surprise.

Lucas is always revising Star Wars — we all know that. I’ll concede that Greedo shooting first was revisionism at its worst, but that’s an old battle. The rest of these are within the realm of acceptable. I can’t wait to experience Star Wars going Blu. I’ve been waiting since 1995 (on the eve of the DVD launch), when I first heard about Blu-ray from none other than Lucas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bZ0OLfNlN4

DreamWorks Animation Adds Mari to its Arsenal

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

DreamWorks Animation has purchased a site license of Mari to enhance its in-house pipeline, and has already begun using the digital paint tool from The Foundry on some of its upcoming productions. The announced DreamWorks slate consists of: Puss In Boots (Nov. 4); Madagascar 3 (June 8, 2012); Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21, 2012); The Croods (March 1, 2013); Turbo (June 7, 2013); Me and My Shadow (Nov. 8, 2013); Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 21, 2014); and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20, 2014).

Mari allows artists to concentrate on painting detailed, multi-layered textures directly onto 3D models in a fluid and natural way. Mari was originally conceived because no existing commercial product could handle the complex, highly detailed development work required for 3D painting.

Darin Grant, head of production technology at DreamWorks Animation said, “We have a number of ambitious projects in our pipeline and we need to make sure we have the best technological tools in the industry.  Mari provides us with an interactive and intuitive workflow for 3D painting that helps our surfacing and matte painting artists to achieve that ambition…”

“We’re delighted that after a vigorous evaluation of Mari they’ve taken the decision to deploy it across their studios,” added Jack Greasley, Mari product manager of The Foundry. “This is a vote of confidence in Mari from a proven leader in the industry, and helps position Mari as the new industry standard for digital paint.”

Mari 1.3 is available on Linux and Windows. To find out more visit http://www.thefoundry.co.uk/products/mari/.