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.

Education

In the Works: Returning to Kurelek’s Maze

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

Today’s TOH indieWIRE column is an interview with Nick and Zack Young about the fascinating restoration and expansion of their father Bob Young’s influential documentary about famed Canadian painter William Kurelek. The new version creatively incorporates animation to take us deeper into the darkly surreal and nakedly frank paintings. William Kurelek’s The Maze will premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 12 and Oct 15, and will also kick off a major exhibition of Kurelek’s work in Canada at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Oct. 13 and Nov. 26.

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!

Line-Up Set for Inaugural Palo Alto International Film Fest

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Education, Events, Movies, Shorts, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

The Palo Alto International Film Festival (PAIFF) has announced its program for the inaugural event that launches Sept. 9-Oct. 2. Highlighted by the digital restoration of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), presented by Technicolor on Oct. 1, the line-up includes 20 features and 74 short films curated from award-winning films and film festival favorites that exemplify PAIFF’s theme of innovation in art, film, and technology.

The schedule ranges from Braden King’s cross-platform feature Here, to the artistically inventive Bombay Beach by music video director Alma Har’el to such docs as Something Ventured, which delves into the world of Venture Capital firms.

The 2011 festival kicks off with a free outdoor screening of  Kevin McDonald’s Life in a Day, a documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on July 24, 2010. This will take place on Ramona Street in downtown Palo Alto. The rest of the main program will play at Palo Alto Square and Aquarius Theater over the remaining three days.

PAIFF will announce its Speaker Series and Workshops later this month. However, it previously announced “Behind the Scenes with Walter Murch” (presented by FileMaker Inc.), which will take place on Saturday, Oct 1, at noon at Talenthouse in Palo Alto.  The three-time Oscar-winning film editor will present a behind-the-scenes look at his post-production process using FileMaker Pro database management (including on his latest, Hemingway & Gelhorn, directed by Phil Kaufman, to premiere on HBO in early 2012).

Tickets to individual screenings and shorts programs are now available at www.paiff.net.

Weta to Show Off R&D at SIGGRAPH 2011

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

For the first time, SIGGRAPH is expanding beyond the U.S. and will be in Vancouver next week. And when I was recently in Wellington, I asked Weta’s senior visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin), about their presentations at SIGGRAPH.

Weta will present two new R&D advancements at SIGGRAPH: an art directable water simulation and a new subsurface lighting technique (both demonstrated in Tintin). “They need to be where you want them and when you want them,” he said about the water simulation.” And the subsurface “allows us to better resolve finer details near the top surface of the skin in a way that’s computationally cost-effective.”

Here are the presentations at SIGGRAPH 2011:

A Quantized-Diffusion Model for Rendering Translucent Materials

With these new techniques for rendering translucent materials such as human skin, modified diffusion theory and a new quantized-diffusion method derive efficient and accurate scattering functions for both offline and real-time rendering.

Eugene d’Eon
Weta Digital Ltd

Geoffrey Irving
Weta Digital Ltd

Tuesday, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm | East Building, Exhibit Hall A
Session Chair: Jaakko Lehtinen, NVIDIA Corp.

Guide Shapes for High-Resolution Naturalistic Liquid Simulation

To efficiently obtain natural-looking liquid simulations subject to art direction, this method processes approved low-resolution geometry into a “guide shape” just below the liquid surface. The final high-resolution simulation runs just a surface layer constrained by the guide, with benefits for both speed and control.

Michael Nielsen
Weta Digital Ltd

Robert Bridson
University of British Columbia and Weta Digital Ltd

Wednesday, 3:45 pm – 5:35 pm | East Building, Exhibit Hall A
Session Chair: Nils Thuerey, Scanline VFX

Sony Animation Goes Chickenhare

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Education, Movies | Leave a comment

Sony Pictures Animation and Dark Horse Ent. will develop an animated feature based on Chris Grine’s graphic novel series, Chickenhare.

Chickenhares hero is half-chicken and half-hare. The eponymous graphic novels in which Chickenhare was introduced, originally published in 2006 and 2008 by Dark Horse, follow him and his shelled sidekick, Abe, on their adventures in an amazing fantasy world filled with monstrous creatures, demonic critters, and danger lurking around every corner. The two pick up a few more friends and a few more problems, all while exploring themes of identity, family, and friendship.

Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg will exec produce for Dark Horse. Michael Lachance will oversee the project for Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) with president of production Michelle Raimo-Kouyate.

“Sony Pictures Animation is always looking for original characters, and Chickenhare is a true original,” said Raimo-Kouyate.  “This story has everything we want in an animated film — broad comedy, heartfelt emotion, universal themes, and a one-of-a-kind hero that audiences will love.”

“Chris Grine’s Chickenhare is one of the quirkiest characters we’ve ever published,” added Richardson. “We’re excited that the good people at Sony Pictures Animation responded so enthusiastically to what has to be one of our greatest comics-to-film projects yet. The more animated movies I see, the more I want to make them, and in Chickenhare we found a character so colorful and three-dimensional that he could only exist in an animated world.”

Grine, a graduate from Ringling School of Art & Design, is also the creator of 165 Bots withStuff, which were featured on the Shoebox blog.

Shane Acker Follows 9 with Plus Minus

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Education, Shorts, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

What’s Shane Acker been doing since 9? Making another post-apocalyptic short, Plus Minus.

But this time at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood for the past three years (via its Gnomon Studios production entity). Plus Minus, which is about the inferno of territorial fighting between demonic forces of art and commerce, will be released in the fall for Oscar consideration. It’s co-directed by Aristomenis (Meni) Tsirbas, best known for his work on the award-winning animated films The Freak and Battle for Terra (which was adapted into a feature like Acker’s Oscar-nominated 9 short from UCLA).

Teaming with instructors and aspiring artists at Gnomon, Acker worked with Tsirbas, Green Lantern visual effects supervisor Tefft Smith and Gnomon students to create Plus Minus, training them on the intricacies of a professional style production pipeline.

Judging from the trailer, Plus Minus looks even richer, funnier, and more operatic than 9.

Meanwhile, Acker has been tapped by HIT Ent. to direct its live-action adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine, in which a tween boy finds a way to reconnect with his father, who visited the island of talking trains known as Sodor when he was a child, but doesn’t remember it. Weta Workshop and Mattel are providing design work. Cinetic Media and the UTA Independent Film Group are handling funding and distribution. Thomas is scripted by Chris Viscardi & Will McRobb and Josh Klausner.

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