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.

Tech

A New War Horse Trailer Gallops on Display

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Movies, Music, Oscar, Production Design, Tech | Leave a comment

As with The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21), the new trailer for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (Dec. 28) emphasizes more action. A galloping horse named Joey leaps across the exploding battlefield at night during World War I, underscored by John Williams’ majestic score. Flashback to Albert taming, training, and riding Joey in the warmth, beauty, and comfort of rural England. But all that is shattered when Joey is taken from Albert, and we follow the horse on its epic journey that reaches No Man’s Land.

As production designer Rick Carter asserts, this is part of his post 9/11 “nature of conscience” exploration amid the “Goya-esque disasters of war.” The same goes for Spielberg as well.

RIP Steve Jobs

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

Steve Jobs has passed away from cancer at the age of 56. The co-founder of Apple and chief executive of Pixar (he became a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Co.in 2006, following the acquisition of Pixar by Disney) was arguably the leading technological visionary of our time. He transformed the computer industry, revolutionized animation, and, most recently, reshaped delivery systems with the introduction of the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad.

In 1986, Jobs purchased the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm for $10 million and spun it off into Pixar, retaining Ed Catmull, who became CTO, and John Lasseter, who oversaw all film projects as exec producer. He eventually directed the breakthrough Toy Story in 1995, the first CG-animated feature.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jobs at a Pixar party in LA to celebrate its 15th anniversary. I had just written an overview of Pixar for the Los Angeles Times that was published earlier in the day. Jobs read it and thanked me for my kind words. He was casually dressed in jeans and a button down shirt, and struck me as very easy going and caring. He asked me if I’d every been up to Pixar, and I told him that I recently enjoyed covering Monsters, Inc. “You should come up during the start of a production,” he suggested. I took him up on the offer and got the first sneak peek of Finding Nemo for Premiere Magazine.
I also remember overhearing Jobs discussing the upcoming Oscar race with a couple of his Pixar colleagues. Shrek, which eventually won, was viewed as the front-runner, but Jobs remarked that Monsters, Inc. would wear longer because it had more going for it than topical satire. Always competitive and thinking about the future.

New Action-Packed Tintin Trailer Unleashed

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

A new Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21) trailer has arrived, and it definitely amps up the action, which isn’t surprising after the slam-bang footage I viewed at Weta in July.

As I commented for indieWIRE, “[Tintin] looks like the best example yet of the fledgling and controversial [performance capture] technique, thanks to noticeable improvements in facial modeling, skin texturing, and more believable eyes. The result is a unique hybrid of caricature and photorealism. And despite the fact that most Americans are unfamiliar with Herge’s Belgian comic books, Spielberg has potentially pulled off a rousing adventure in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And that’s what Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson are now trying to emphasize.

As for the performance capture, the rendering continues to improve and I see no Uncanny Valley ill-effects. The animation Oscar race just got potentially more interesting: “Tintin clearly pushes boundaries with a new kind of artistic layering of animated expression.” But I’ll know more, of course, after viewing the finished film in 3-D.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLkgH8ORfk0

Disney Steps Up Classic 3-D Conversions

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

Well, that didn’t take long. After the surprising success of The Lion King 3D (which is expected to cross $80 million today, coinciding with the Blu-ray launch), Disney plans to roll out more animated classics theatrically in 3-D: Beauty and the Beast (Jan. 13, 2012); Pixar’s Finding Nemo (Sept. 14, 2012) and Monsters, Inc. (Jan. 18, 2013, a precursor to the Monsters University prequel, which arrives June 21, 2013); and The Little Mermaid (Sept. 13, 2013).

Originally released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast, of course, was the first animated film ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The 3-D conversion was actually completed before The Lion King‘s, and it’s already had a limited release at the El Capitan in Hollywood. Producer Don Hahn previously told me that while they learned a lot from the Beauty and the Beast 3-D conversion, The Lion King was much more challenging: the characters required more attention because of their horizontal design, as did the epic African locale. However, the result was a much more cinematic experience that pushed the envelope of hand-drawn 3-D conversion, overcaming the cardboard cutout factor.

Disney stereographer Robert Neuman figured out a wonderful hybrid aesthetic for hand-drawn 3-D. By creating the fusion of 2D animation with stereoscopic 3-D, he “created a new medium with a fresh look.”

The question now becomes: Is the enormous 3-D success of The Lion King a one-off or a game-changer?

VES Production Summit Take Aways

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

Here are some take aways from Saturday’s VES Production Summit at the beautiful Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills:

* The industry needs better educated stereographers: They should know camera as well as post/VFX. However, there’s a DP turf war going on between the cinematographer and the stereographer, so the cinematographer needs to embrace bringing the stereographer in on the trio with the director, and the stereographer needs to understand the needs of the cinematographer.

* The latest tax incentive wrinkle has high-end VFX artists being lured away to other countries as a result of better lifestyle opps. So the talent pool is definitely improving overseas.

* Former MPAA president Bob Pisano suggested that sequencing and pricing have to be rethought since time-based windows obviously don’t work in the era of social media.

* X-Men: First Class had a hectic four-week post schedule for VFX and the whole production was turned around in less than a year, but, because they pulled it off, there’s a concern that this will become the norm and not the exception.

* Rise of the Planet of the Apes was hailed as “Apeatar” in the way that it leveraged the Avatar performance capture system and was done quickly and efficiently. But the original version had James Franco dying but it didn’t test well, but you can be sure the alternate version will be touted on the upcoming Blu-ray.

* A lack of clarity and preparedness before you go into production is consequential — that is the systematic problem at the heart of so much abuse of VFX artists that the VES is currently trying to address in its Bill of Rights.

Geeking Out with Gaeta at the Palo Alto Film Fest

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

It’s always stimulating talking to John Gaeta. Yesterday, I got to do it publicly for an hour at the inaugural Palo Alto International Film Festival. Gaeta discussed his vision of “deep cinema” and more complete convergence with interactive media, the breaking of the fourth wall, if you will. He traced the pioneering experiments in photographic motion by Eadweard Muybridge (appropriately in Palo Alto and the festival’s iconic logo) to his “Bullet Time” innovation in The Matrix to the current Kinect work with games that he’s doing with motion sensing technology at his Float company in San Francisco.

It’s Gaeta’s contention that while the movie industry is creatively stagnating, we’re on the verge of a new renaissance of technological innovation that will transform both movies and interactive entertainment into a deeper and more subjective experience within a decade. We’re talking holodeck with complete volumetric capture so viewers can watch from the viewpoint of the director or select their own individual perspectives. In other words, imagine going into the Matrix with Neo, or racing into the Photo Anime of Speed Racer, or being transported into the watercolor heaven of What Dreams May Come, let alone the dynamic world of Charles Foster Kane or the distant Pandora or some future universe conjured by a visionary director.

“The whole sensor revolution, really, is starting to pour itself in all manner of application… For instance, the only way to port people in a holographic way would be real time spatial acquisition of them and their textures and to bring them into some common viewing space.”

Gaeta said there will always be one thread of popular entertainment driven by the big or small screen experience because of the immense power of performance sculpted by storytellers in a way that we can’t construct ourselves. “But I do think that the universe these auteurs create is a place I might want to go deeper into… so that by toggling off the camera I could get a free view version and do anything I want, but it’s still the performance: I’m not bending the performance, I’m not changing it, I’m not changing the angle, and I can get all sorts of incredible, expository information…”

But there’s a dark side to the technology, Gaeta warned: Your life is going to be metricized and monitored in every way by Big Brother. But such invasion of privacy he hopes will be halted. Time will tell what will be unleashed.

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.

ADG Wants to Organize Previs Artists

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

Visual effects artists aren’t the only ones being courted by guilds and unions: The Art Directors Guild, Local 800 of the IATSE (ADG), wants to organize previs artists, and has launched an informational site called Artists for Direct Action.

“It’s a natural fit for previs talents to be represented by the Art Directors Guild,” said president Tom Walsh in a prepared statement.  “Our new site will let them know what they can do to claim for themselves the rights all other ADG members currently enjoy.”

ADG claims a long history of visualization synergy with previs artists through its existing crafts professionals: production designers and art directors; scenic and graphic artists; set designers and model makers, illustrators, storyboard, and matte artists.

ADG organizer Peter Koczera noted the guild’s new website will be regularly updated and that he personally is available 24/7 to guide previs artists through the procedures they may follow to assert their rights as artists in the workplace.

It just so happens that I have a prominent association with both the ADG and The Previsualization Society. In fact, I moderated a day-long previs session at the ADG back in January 2008 that directly led to the formation of the Society (see above photo). So I understand the craft of previs and its importance to the industry, and the tug-of-war that exists in a competitive but mutually respective turf war. Moreover, I also understand and appreciate the artistic importance of the crafts associated with the ADG, and how they are leading the way in a whole new digital paradigm.

Thus, in trying to be balanced, I reached out to the Society and got the following response:

“The Previsualization Society, a non-profit trade organization, was formed for a singular purpose — educating professionals who consume and practice previs in order to maximize the effectiveness of the process. A previs department collaborates with a wide range of disciplines and departments from one end of production to the other. Everyone involved needs to be working together toward a common purpose, and the Society has been tasked to focus on fostering the necessary understanding. The ADG was the original anchor and host of the ASC-ADG-VES Joint Technology Subcommittee on Previsualization. The first announcement of The Previs Societies existence was made at ADG headquarters. The Previs Society will continue to pursue our mission of education regardless of what actions the ADG takes in pursuit of its goals.

“The Society was formed to be a collaborative voice for the previs discipline. ADG seems to want to draw the Society into the debate over whether unionization  is right for employees and employers involved in previs. The Society is not the forum for this debate and should not be drawn into it.

I will definitely be exploring this further.

Deadline Approaches for Oscar Shorts

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

This coming Monday is the deadline to submit entries in the Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film and Foreign Language Film categories to be considered for the 84th Academy Awards. Complete entries must arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by 5:00 p.m. PT that day.

In the short film categories, filmmakers must submit an entry form, one film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. Pixar’s La Luna by Enrico Casarosa is an exquisite animated entry. In the Foreign Language Film category, filmmakers must submit entry forms, one English-language subtitled film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. Only one motion picture will be accepted from each country.

Complete 84th Academy Awards rules are available at http://www.oscars.org/rules. Additional information may be obtained by contacting Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil via phone at (310) 247-3000, ext. 1116, by fax at (310) 247-2600, or by e-mail at tsvitil@oscars.org.

Getting Immersed with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Fest

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

As part of the inaugural Palo Alto International Film Festival this weekend, I will have a casual conversation with Oscar-winning visual effects designer John Gaeta (The Matrix movies, Speed Racer) about interfacing with media, the future of movies, and possibilities for more experiential storytelling. The event will take place Sunday at 3:00 at Talenthouse in downtown Palo Alto, and will be streamed live.

Additionally, there will be two screenings of Méliès’  A Trip to the Moon, with Technicolor’s Tom Burton discussing the celebrated digital restoration (Saturday at 2:00 and 4:00).

Here’s the complete speaker line-up:

Friday, September 30, 12-1p

2 – 3 p.m. Tim Draper: The Future of Media, http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/timdraper_paiff2011_paiff2011

3 – 4 p.m. Making the Startup Kids with Vala Halldorsdottir and Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/makingthestartupkids_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. How Much Is Your Idea Worth? with Saad Khan (CMEA CapitalFilm Angels) and Eric Edmeades (Kerner Group), moderated by Sunil Rajaraman (Scripped.com); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/isyourideaworthanything_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6:30 p.m. Global Cinema Tomorrow with Alesia Weston (Sundance Institute), Santhosh Daniel (Global Film Initiative), Jasmina Bojic (United Nation Association Film Festival); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/globalcinematomorrow_paiff2011_paiff2011

7-8 p.m. Encyclopedia Pictura: Isaiah Saxon, Daren Rabinovitch, Sean Hellfritsch; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/encyclopediapicturaisaiahsaxondarenrabinovitchseanhellfritsch_paiff2011_paiff2011

Saturday, October 1, 11-12p

3:15-4 p.m. Paul Debevec: Achieving Photoreal Digital Actors; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/behindthesceneswpauldebevec_paiff2011_paiff2011

4:15-5 p.m. Steven Gaydos:  Writing “Road to Nowhere”; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stevengaydos_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:15-5:30 p.m. Uwe Bergmann: Photographing Molecular Particles; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/uwebergmannphotographingmolecularparticles_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6 p.m. Stuart Bowling: Advances in Cinema Image and Surround Sound; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stuartbowlingadvancesincinemaimageandsurroundsound_paiff2011_paiff2011

6-6:30 p.m. Jim Helman: Hollywood in a Digital Worldhttp://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jimhelmanhollywoodinadigitalworld_paiff2011_paiff2011

6:30-7 p.m. Jens Peter Wittenburg: Beyond 3D; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jenspeterwittenburgtheimpactof3donstorytelling_paiff2011_paiff2011

Sunday, October 2, 2-3p

10:30-11:30 a.m. Digital Filmmaking & Distribution: Whose Tail is Wagging the Dog? with Michael Murphy (EVP, Gravitas Ventures), Dale Djerassi (President of Djerassi Films, Jaman Networks Advisory Board), John McCrea (GM, Tunerfish), and Danae Ringelmann (Indiegogo.com).  Moderated by Britt Bensen (Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder at On Demand Weekly); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/amovieinsearchofanaudience_paiff2011_paiff2011

12-12:30 p.m. Nickhil Jakatdar: The Future of Mobile and Movies; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/nickhiljakatdar_paiff2011_paiff2011

12:30-1 p.m. Brett Crockett: Delivering Cinema Sound to Mobile Devices; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/brettcrockettdeliveringcinemasoundtomobiledevices_paiff2011_paiff2011

3-4 p.m. Interfacing with Media: A Conversation with John Gaeta.  Moderated by Bill Desowitz (indieWire); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/breakingthefourthwallaconversationwithjohngaeta_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. Ditching the Divide – Merging Technology to Manufacture Cinema with Matthew Meschery (Director of Digital Initiatives, Independent Television Service (ITVS)) 
Katie Gillum (Associate Director, Disposable Film Festival) 
Hannah Eaves (Vice President/Digital & Engagement, LinkTV) 
Michella Rivera-Gravage (Director of Digital and Interactive Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)) 
Tanya Marie Vlach (Eye-Camera/Eye, Tanya).  Moderated by Santhosh Daniel (The Global Film Initiative); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/ditchingthedivide_paiff2011_paiff2011

The complete festival lineup is available at: http://paiff.slated.com/2011/schedule/week