A new Man of Steel (June 14) featurette explores Zack Snyder's new post-9/11 vision of Superman.
Playing off the alien angle for the first time Man of Steel first exposes the outsider in Clark Kent so we can be a part of his existential journey. Then once he becomes
Goodbye Clone Wars, hello Star Wars Rebels. Disney unveiled plans to produce a new Lucasfilm animated TV series, Star Wars Rebels, which will premiere as a one-hour special fall 2014 on the Disney Channel followed by airing as a series on Disney XD.
Set for the
The Great Escape, Richard III, Badlands, Sansho the Bailiff, and the original Fast and Furious are the latest home entertainment releases I've enjoyed.
The Great Escape (Fox/MGM)
This 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of the World War II classic may not be
James Cameron admitted that his recent record-setting solo dive to the Mariana Trench in the torpedo-shaped Deepsea Challenger has provided invaluable inspiration for his upcoming Avatar sequels, which will explore the oceans of Pandora and will be shot at a higher frame rate of 60 fps to improve the 3-D presentation.
“The best inspiration I got for Avatar 2 and 3 was dealing with the ‘master navigator’ culture in Micronesia,” Cameron said in Tokyo Friday, where he attended the Japanese premiere of Titanic 3-D.”
Indeed, it is presumed that the bio-luminescent colors of Avatar are inspired by the indigenous Micronesians, a seafaring culture that navigated the Pacific for centuries without the aid of compasses or charts.
Cameron, who is partnering with National Geographic, plans two more dives seven miles to the deepest point in the world before embarking on pre-production.
Here’s the first trailer for Rise of the Guardians. It’s the answer to superhero fatigue: an Avengers for fairy tales in which a Russian Santa (Alec Baldwin), an edgy Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the enchanting Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Sandman, and Jack Frost (Chris Pine) join forces to combat the Boogeyman (aka Pitch, Jude Law) — the evil purveyor of fear. Opening Nov. 21 and adapted from a new book series from Oscar-winner William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore), Guardians looks fabulous and is a definite Oscar contender for DreamWorks, judging from this trailer that turns the superhero genre on its head with the author’s renowned retro vibe and vibrant, comic-book-inspired design. It’s an enticingly fantastical world and primal story that’s different enough to capture the broad demographic appeal that failed to ignite last year’s Arthur Christmas. But as Joyce suggests, it reaches all the way back to the Jewish Golem folktale.
For Autodesk’s 30th anniversary, it resumed its semi-annual summit in San Francisco to introduce the 2013 DCC suite of Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, and Mudbox (shipping this spring and to be bundled together in an “Ultimate” package). At the same time, the software giant emphasized the importance of its cloud computing program, Autodesk 360 (formerly known as Autodesk Cloud). Autodesk 360 now provides even more cloud benefits to Autodesk Subscription customers, including additional cloud storage and the ability to access cloud services for rendering, simulation, design optimization, and energy analysis. Subscription customers now have up to 25 GB of storage and between 100 and 500 Autodesk cloud units per user, based on the suite edition they purchased, providing a competitive edge to respond to changing business requirements.
Indeed, chief executive Carl Bass (below) suggested that with such an “infinitely scalable resource,” this game-changer is akin to dry cleaning: “How much do I want to pay?” He suggested that cloud computing is the future of how simulation will be done, among other highly complex tasks, and part of a new eco-system in which “you’re the center of computing and community and collaborators.” He termed it “mobile cloud and social all in one place,” and predicted that the iPad will replace the PC.
Not surprisingly, the concept of cloud rendering is being aggressively adopted in the entertainment industry by, among others, Atomic Fiction, the spinoff VFX company from Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers Digital. In fact, Atomic Fiction is currently doing the VFX for Zemeckis’ return to live action, Flight, using a workable and efficient model for cloud rendering on a project by project basis, according to co-founders Kevin Baillie and Ryan Tudhope, who were present at the summit.
As for the new versions of the popular DCC suite, Autodesk announced a direct link between Maya and MotionBuilder and crowd simulation in Softimage as a way of competing with Massive. In addition, more interoperability is being stressed among all their software programs and various bundles.
Marc Petit (below), Autodesk’s SVP of Media & Entertainment, reiterated the goal of finding new ways of standardizing and optimizing VFX workflows to “take full advantage of globally distributed production resources.” To that end, Autodesk is working with the major studios “to develop and package workflows that address these challenges.” Virtual production and 3-D are particularly earmarked to expand the storytelling and visual potential in a post-Avatar paradigm shift.
Among the highlights of this expanded interoperability:
– Live character streaming between MotionBuilder and Maya provides an efficient way to previsualize a retargeting result in the final Maya scene before transferring the data between applications.
– More consistent hotkeys make it easier for Maya artists to navigate viewports in the 3D suite applications, and help artists familiar with 3ds Max to get up to speed with Softimage faster.
– The enhanced, consistent F-Curve Editor within 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, and MotionBuilder now offers consistent functionality, helping animators transition between these applications more smoothly.
Autodesk HumanIK Interoperability with CAT (Character Animation Toolkit) provides a single-step, round-trip workflow to transfer 3ds Max CAT bipedal characters between 3ds Max, Maya and MotionBuilder. Enhanced interoperability between Maya and 3ds Max enables artists to move 3D data between the applications in a single step.
All editions of the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites now also include Autodesk SketchBook Designer 2013 concept art software. This product enables artists to explore and present new ideas for characters, props, and environments using an intuitive hybrid paint and vector toolset.
Autodesk Maya 2013 delivers powerful new toolsets for dynamic simulation, animation and rendering that offer new levels of creativity, while everyday productivity enhancements help artists work faster. In addition, the Open Data initiative introduced in Maya 2013 offers tools to help facilitate parallel workflows and better complexity handling.
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 delivers ActiveShade support in the NVIDIA iray renderer; a new render pass system; and enhanced interoperability with Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop software. The 2013 version also offers new tools for motion graphics, 3D animation, and simulation.
Autodesk Softimage 2013 delivers a new high-fidelity interactive environment and powerful new creative toolsets that include a new CrowdFX simulation feature set, along with enhanced modeling, animation, physics, and selection tools.
Autodesk MotionBuilder 2013 helps production teams more reliably acquire, aggregate and refine data, and offers a new nonlinear editing paradigm for virtual production. Highlights are the option to record live motion capture data directly to disk, a flexible new HUD (heads-up display), a floating viewer, and support for broadcast WAVE files.
Autodesk Mudbox 2013 helps artists create complex production-ready scenes with greater ease, with the Gigatexel engine and the ability to work efficiently with significantly more objects. In addition, Mudbox 2013 offers new multipurpose curves, support for edge sharpness data, and enhanced interoperability with Adobe Photoshop software.
Autodesk also announced the 2013 version of its Autodesk Flame Premium software, which combines high-end visual effects and finishing tools with real-time color grading in a single solution. The 2013 version features:
– More creative and technical tools for advanced compositing and 3D relighting
– Interactivity enhancements in Action for an even more fluid creative experience
– Improved 3D tracking workflow for greater flexibility and control when positioning compositing elements in a scene
– Enhanced grading capabilities including new color grading presets to get started on look development, new media export workflow, and Tangent Element modular control panel support
I will not only be attending my first FMX but I will also present a panel about higher frame rates with Doug Trumbull and RFX president Ray Feeney at FMX 2012. The 17th conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia will take place May 8-11 in Stuttgart, Germany.
We will explore how higher frame rates will improve the quality of 3-D presentation and help forge a new cinematic language along with other innovations. While Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is being shot at 48fps and James Cameron intends to shoot his upcoming Avatar sequels at 60 fps, Trumbull is already paving the way with his Showscan Digital process of 120 fps.
In addition, Trumbull provides an in-depth look into his prolific career (from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Tree of Life). Also, Feeney presents a retrospective on the history of VFX. Feeney has created and implemented numerous new technologies, many of which have become industry standard techniques. Intimately familiar with Robert Abel and Associates (RA&A) from his time there, Feeney reveals how the innovative work of RA&A continues to influence various VFX developments and processes that are nowadays taken for granted — spanning from full ray-traced renders to fluid character animation. Read more
The TCM Classic Film Festival (in collaboration with D23: The Official Disney Fan Club) will present a 75th anniversary screening of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Plus Kirk Douglas will be on hand to introduce the first general public screening of the newly restored 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), which is surely Blu-ray bound.
On Saturday, April 14, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theater at 1:00 p.m. This film revolutionized the art of animation with its cutting edge technique, design and storytelling — setting animation in pursuit of an ever more realistic look. Moreover, it demonstrated animation’s viability as a legitimate cinematic art form. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed a special Academy Award on Walt Disney, recognizing Snow White as “a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field.” The unique Oscar trophy consisted of one full-sized statuette standing next to seven miniature versions. The film also earned an Oscar nomination for Leigh Harline’s memorable score.
In 1997, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was named one of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time by the American Film Institute (AFI). The following year, the AFI named it the greatest American animated film of all time. Read more
SIGGRAPH Mobile, inspired by the Symposium on Apps at SIGGRAPH Asia 2011, is a first-time SIGGRAPH program developed to showcase the latest advancements in mobile development.
SIGGRAPH Mobile seeks innovative mobile pioneers to submit their latest discoveries in the field of mobile graphics and apps. The program is divided into four submission categories:
Presentations – One speaker presents on a single topic, technology, or result Panels – Multiple speaker presentation and discussion of a particular area Workshops – Hands-on tutorials for current mobile technologies and tools Demonstrations – Full-day demonstrations of the latest and greatest mobile applications, software, and hardware Read more
The Muppets took Hollywood by storm again last year (winning an Oscar for best original song “Man or Muppet”) thanks to Jason Segel’s adorable reboot with co-star Amy Adams, reminding us of the timeless appeal and evergreen spirit embodied by Jim Henson’s winsome gang. “The Wocka Wocka Value Pack” Blu-ray from Disney Home Ent. sparkles. It’s a delicate balancing act with such kitschy material, but they pull it off with the signature zany humor and fetching warmth. And the set includes such fun extras as “Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets” (a look at how Muppets and humans interact); and unreleased theatrical spoof trailers.
Meanwhile, Look FX’s work on The Muppetslast year served the film well. “The one-word description I would use is ‘finesse,’” suggests Max Ivins, the VFX supervisor for Look FX. “This is not a brute force, tour-de-force use of CGI. It was a finesse job of how to get those hairs from the Muppets back into the shot. And also how to roto out and get rid of all those puppeteers heads and everything else that’s out of place. There were some pretty incredible rig set ups to enable the puppeteers to do their thing that in the past you wouldn’t have seen.” Read more
Cartoon Brew reports that Glen Keane has departed Disney after nearly 38 years. Keane is the supervising animator most identified with Disney’s second Renaissance (Ariel in The Little Mermaid; Beast in Beauty and the Beast; Aladdin in Aladdin; Tarzan in Tarzan). It’s sad but not surprising given the bittersweet experience he had on Tangled(he never could quite conquer his hybrid vision for Rapunzel). In fact, Keane confided to me a year ago at DreamWorks’ annual Oscar brunch — of all places (they were trying to woo him) — that he probably should’ve left Disney to make Rapunzel as an indie. He liked the idea of doing something smaller and uncompromising in 2D. Maybe that’s just what he’ll do now that he’s on his own. Or continue down the path of creating a better hybrid.
All I know is that Keane is one of the few contemporary geniuses from animation I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He’s so talented, creative, curious, and innovative. He never stops drawing and thinking about the craft and and what young people are doing. He could’ve abandoned the CG Rapunzel and go back to a hand-drawn vision when John Lasseter took over Disney. But he adored the challenge — he had something to prove. Read more
I spoke with VFX supervisor Sheena Duggal about The Hunger Games, the year’s first blockbuster (the third highest opener of all-time at $155 million). They somehow wrangled 1,200 VFX shots (64 minutes worth) in 23 weeks at a fraction of the cost. It’s ubiquitous but mostly transparent, of course, in keeping with director Gary Ross’ vision of a gritty, verite visual design that focuses on the POV of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). In other words, we are immersed in the Hitlerian, dystopian, survival of the fittest nightmare.
Duggal supervised the work of more than a dozen VFX companies (including Hybride, Rising Sun Pictures, Pixomondo, ILM, Rhythm & Hues, Whiskytree, Digiscope, Clearcut FX) along with previs by The Third Floor and Halon and postvis by Proof.
“There was tremendous pressure on us that we were constantly looking for creative ways to make up for the lack of time and money,” Duggal explained. “And then we had to work really hard to come up with extra solutions and then sell these out, particularly things like the Tribute Parade, which is an epic sequence.” So with a limited set and space they put on this elaborate Nuremberg-like rally with massive roto. Read more
Last week we reveled in the IMAX’d trailer for Prometheus (June 8 in 3-D), which is awe-inspiring. The iconic spaceships and architecture and Geiger vibe are palpable, yet there’s something wondrous as well. It had lots of VFXy action as well. This week we’re treated to the longer, more leisurely international trailer, which goes deeper into the alien mythology and the overall narrative flow while maintaining the mystery. There’s photographic evidence of the remnants of an ancient alien culture, which leads two scientists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) on expedition to discover our origin. Along for the ride are android Michael Fassbender and corporate exec Charlize Theron. Oh, are they in for a surprise. And so are we. Read more