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.

VES

Remembering Steve Jobs, VES Summit, Gaeta

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

In this week’s TOH indieWIRE column, I elaborate on my memorable encounter with Steve Jobs and recap last weekend’s VES Production Summit and my casual conversation with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Film Fest. Somehow it all fits.

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.

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.

VES Issues Bill of Rights

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

The Visual Effects Society (VES) today issued a Bill of Rights that more forcefully addresses the downward spiral of working conditions and benefits for VFX artists and dwindling profit margins for facilities than its previous open letter. Indeed, it was approved unanimously by the VES board.

“In the VES Open Letter, we said it was time to step up as the voice of the visual effects industry by talking to all parties regarding their concerns,” said Eric Roth, VES exec director, in a prepared statement. “At this time we have engaged in a vigorous dialog with key stakeholders at all levels and believe our Bill of Rights lays out the vital concerns of each segment of the industry  Our next step is to focus on bringing all parties together to seek solutions.”

To address these concerns, the VES Bill of Rights states that visual effects artists and practitioners, facilities, and studios all have basic rights that need to be upheld in order to recognize the contributions of each group while improving the quality of life and work for artists, practitioners, facilities, and studios.

For artists and practitioners, the VES advocates “a clear understanding of the work he/she is being hired to perform, including knowing what they are being paid per hour, per week or per job, as well as the duration of the assignment, with strict adherence to all local labor laws and tax codes regarding overtime, sick time, vacation time, working conditions, safety, and other aspects of a professional work environment…”

Crucially, the VES calls for “quality health care coverage no matter where in the world he/she may be working.”

The VES suggests that facilities should be entitled to a “clear and reasonable deal memo with the artists and practitioners for hire delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion, and the agreed upon price; and retain ownership of their intellectual property and proprietary tools…”

Meanwhile, studios should be entitled to “a clear and reasonable contract delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion of the project, and the payment schedule based on the agreed upon price; be informed in a timely manner before incurring any excess charges, delays or problems with work for which it has contracted…”

The first opportunity to address the Bill of Rights will be at the third annual VES Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here”) Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The VES Bill of Rights can be accessed at:www.visualeffectssociety.com/visual-effects-industry-bill-of-rights.

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.

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.

 

10th VES Awards Scheduled for 2/7/12

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

The Visual Effects Society (VES), which represents approximately 2,500 VFX artists and practitioners worldwide, will hold the 10th Annual VES Awards Show on Feb. 7, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Annual Awards show is where the most outstanding work in 23 VFX categories is presented and the artists who created them are honored.

Meanwhile, in light of the recent open letter from VES exec director Eric Roth about the “unsettled” state of the VFX industry, there should be plenty of discussion and debate about jobs, healthcare benefits, and unionization/guild representation at the upcoming Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace”) on Oct.1, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, at the Montage in Beverly Hills (http://www.visualeffectssociety.com/production-summit-2011).

Among the confirmed speakers will be Ted Gagliano (president of feature post at Twentieth Century Fox), Steve Papzian (president worldwide physical production at Warner Bros.), Bob Pisano (president and COO, MPAA), Stephan Trojansky (co-founder Scanline VFX), VFX guru Doug Trumbull, Tony Wible (director of media & entertainment, Janney Montgomery Scott), and Tom Wujec (Autodesk fellow).

Important dates for the 10th Annual VES Awards:

•           Aug. 15, 2011 — Rules & Procedures (www.visualeffectssociety.com/ves-awards)

•           Oct.10, 2011 — Submissions open

•           Nov. 15-30, 2011 — Period for uploading of viewing materials

•           Nov. 30, 2011 — Submissions close

•           Feb. 7, 2012 – Awards ceremony, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California

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