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.

Virtual Production

15 Compete for VFX Oscar Race

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | 1 Comment

The list of films qualifying for the VFX Oscar has been narrowed to 15. Not too many surprises. All of the usual suspects are there, with the likely contenders consisting of Captain America: The First Avenger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Hugo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The Tree of Life happily made the cut for its spectacular birth of the universe sequence, yet Anonymous did not for its superb virtual recreation of Elizabethan London. Also, The Adventures of Tintin was overlooked. Then again, it’s competing in the animation race, which was probably a major factor.

The films are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • “Captain America: The First Avenger”
  • “Cowboys & Aliens”
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″
  • “Hugo”
  • “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
  • “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”
  • “Real Steel”
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
  • “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”
  • “Sucker Punch”
  • “Super 8″
  • “Thor”
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
  • “The Tree of Life”
  • “X-Men: First Class”

In early January, the members of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch Executive committee, who selected the 15 films, will narrow the list to 10.

All members of the Visual Effects Branch will be invited to the annual bakeoff to view 10-minute excerpts from each of the 10 shortlisted films on Thursday, Jan. 19.  Following the screenings, the members will vote to nominate five films for final Oscar consideration.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by ABC.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrIiYSdEe4E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8vdXRLBpmI

Revisiting Cowboys & Aliens VFX

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Last summer ILM had competing aliens with Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens. Now you can compare both at home on Blu-ray/DVD. In fact, Jon Favreau’s western/sci-fi mash-up arrives this week via Universal Home Ent. with an extended cut that’s 16 minutes longer. It looks and sound stunning in HD, as does Super 8. As far as Oscar, though, the J.J. Abrams homage to Steven Spielberg has the definite edge. No matter: ILM had fun with both and each offered their tech challenges. For the Daniel Craig/Harrison Ford actioner, ILM was tasked with animating a 10-foot tall, bipedal reptilian-like creature.

“We created an uber alien in evolutionary scale to make it more complicated in hierarchy,” says ILM visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, who also oversaw onset VFX production. “We used the Legacy design as a foundation and then [VFX art director] Christian Alzmann and others developed it.

“And I thought that the irony of all this was that the aliens turn up and it could be more exaggerated for them. This is not their planet. They’re frontiersmen in a way: traveling to another place and having to deal with all the adversities of the climate. And in our case, we played up the fact that they weren’t comfortable in our world. There are flies all around them; they didn’t like the light; when they were wounded and exposed, a strange fungus grew around them.”

ILM keyframed all the animation (overseen by Marc Chu) because after doing some MoCap tests (a la Super 8), they found that it didn’t work to take the motions of a human and remap it onto the creature. “I set up an all-CG test for the studio where the cowboys were mocap,” Guyett continues. “It gave you an idea of what the aliens could do and we explored some fighting techniques (including Last of the Mohicans-style hand-to-hand) to see how they would attack a creature of that size. They have a complicated anatomy that we made organic to their behavior and in relation to their ship.”

Kung Fu Panda 2 Leads Annie Noms

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Events, Movies, performance capture, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Well, how fitting that on the same day that I spoke with Jennifer Yuh Nelson about directing Kung Fu Panda 2, that the DreamWorks sequel wound up leading the pack of Annie nominees with 12. And, with Puss in Boots grabbing nine (tied for second with Paramount’s Rango), it was a very good day for DreamWorks. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what the impact will be on Oscar voting, but, for now, Yuh Nelson can bask in the glory of more epic and exotic Po.

“We are really excited about the expanded list of nominations this year…in all 28 categories,” said Frank Gladstone, president, ASIFA-Hollywood.  “All of the major animation studios are represented, as are some of the independent productions from Europe and South America. This certainly is a testament to the wide reach and appeal of animation and the people who create it.”

Special juried awards honoring career achievement and exceptional contributions to animation will also be awarded: Winsor McCay Award — Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring, and Ronald Searle for career contributions to the art of animation; June Foray Award — Art Leonardi for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation; and Special Achievement Award is given to an individual, individuals or a company for unique and outstanding achievement falling within the Annie Award eligibility period and not recognized within the existing award category structure. This year’s Special Achievement goes to Depth Analysis.

The 2011 Annie Award winners will be announced at the 39th Annual Annie Awards ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at UCLA’s Royce Hall. For more info, please visit www.annieawards.org.

Here is the complete list of nominees:

Best Animated Feature

  • A Cat in Paris – Folimage
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles) – Perro Verde Films, S.L.
  • Arthur Christmas – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Cars 2 – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Chico & Rita – Chico & Rita Distribution Limited
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 – DreamWorks Animation
  • Puss In Boots – DreamWorks Animation
  • Rango – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Rio – Blue Sky Studios
  • Tintin – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production

  • Adventure Time: Thank You – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Batman: Year One – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas – Blue Sky Studios
  • Kung Fu Panda – Secrets of the Masters – DreamWorks Animation
  • Prey 2 – Blur Studio
  • Star Tours – Industrial Light & Magic

Best Animated Short Subject

  • Adam and Dog – Lodge Films
  • I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat – Warner Bros. Animation
  • La Luna – Pixar Animation Studios
  • (Notes on) Biology – Ornana Films
  • Paths of Hate – Platige Image
  • Sunday – National Film Board of Canada
  • The Ballad of Nessie –Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • The Girl and the Fox – Base14
  • Wild Life – National Film Board of Canada and Studio GDS

Best Animated Television Commercial

  • Audi “Hummingbird” – The Mill
  • Geico “Foghorn” – Renegade Animation
  • McDonald’s “Apple Tree”– Duck Studios/Kompost
  • McDonald’s “Suzi Van Zoom” – Duck Studios/Kompost
  • Norton “Stuff”– Psyop
  • O2 “Niggles & Narks” –The Mill
  • Statoil “Good Night” – Studio AKA
  • “The Pirate” – Meindbender
  • Twinings “Sea” – Psyop

Best General Audience Animated TV Production

  • Archer – FX Productions
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas – Hallmark
  • MAD – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2 – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • The Simpsons – Gracie Films

Best Animated Television Production – Preschool

  • Chuggington – Ludorum Pictures
  • Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates – Disney Television Animation
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Disney Television Animation
  • The WotWots Season 2 – Pukeko Pictures

Best Animated Television Production – Children

  • Fanboy and Chum Chum – Nickelodeon and Frederator
  • Kung Fu Panda – DreamWorks Animation
  • Penguins of Madagascar – DreamWorks Animation
  • The Amazing World of Gumball – Cartoon Network in Association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi

Best Animated Video Game

  • Bumpy Road – Simogo
  • Catherine – Atlus
  • Gears of War 3 – Epic Games
  • Gesundheit – Konami Digital Entertainment
  • Ghost Trick: “Phantom Detective” – Capcom
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet – Shadow Planet Productions, Gagne/Fuelcell
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One – Insomniac Games
  • Rayman Origins – Ubisoft Montpellier
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Naughty Dog

Animated Effects in an Animated Production

  • Can Yuksel “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Chase Cooper “Rango” – Industrial Light & Magic
  • Dan Lund “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dave Tidgewell “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Eric Froemling “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Jason Mayer “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Joel Aron “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Jon Reisch “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Kevin Romond “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Willi Geiger “Rango” – Industrial Light & Magic

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

  • Branko Grujcic “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”– Industrial Light & Magic
  • Florent Andarra “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – Industrial Light & Magic
  • Gary Wu “Cowboys & Aliens”– Industrial Light & Magic
  • Lee Uren “Cowboys & Aliens” – Industrial Light & Magic

Character Animation in a Television Production

  • Chad Sellers “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Michael Franceschi “Kung Fu Panda” – Nickelodeon
  • Rebecca Wilson Bresee “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Sihanouk Mariona “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Tony Smeed “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Feature Production

  • Andreas Deja “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dan Wagner “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Jeff Gabor “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Mark Henn “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Olivier Staphylas “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Patrik Puhala “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Pierre Perifel “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Live Action Production

  • Andy Arnett “HOP” – Rhythm & Hues, Illumination Entertainment
  • David Lowry “Paul” – Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal Productions/ Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions
  • Eric Reynolds “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – 20th Century Fox
  • Mike Hull “Paul” – Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal Productions/Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions

Character Design in a Television Production

  • Bill Schwab “Prep & Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Carl Raggio “Disney Kick Buttowski” – Disney Television Animation
  • Chad Hurd “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Chris Battle “Dan Vs.” – Starz Film Roman
  • Eric Robles “Fanboy and Chum Chum” – Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Gordon Hammond “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Mike Dougherty “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Robert Ryan Cory “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” – Cartoon Network Studios

Character Design in a Feature Production

  • Jay Shuster “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Mark “Crash” McCreery “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Patrick Mate “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Peter de Seve “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Sergio Pablos “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios

Directing in a Television Production

  • Brian Sheesley “Dan Vs.” – Starz Film Roman
  • Chris Savino & Clay Morrow “Disney Kick Buttowski” – Disney Television Animation
  • Dan Riba “Ben 10 Ultimate Alien” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Duke Johnson “Community” – 23 D Films, Inc.
  • Gabe Swarr “Kung Fu Panda” – Nickelodeon
  • Ken Bruce “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”– Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Matthew Nastuk “The Simpsons” – Gracie Films
  • Mic Graves & Ben Bocquelet “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Peter Hausner “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu” – Wil Film
  • Steve Loter, Christo Stamboliev, Shaun Cashman, David Knott “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Tony Craig “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” – Hallmark

Directing in a Feature Production

  • Carlos Saldahna “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Chris Miller “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Don Hall & Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Gore Verbinski “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Jennifer Yuh Nelson “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Kelly Asbury “Gnomeo & Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures

Music in a Television Production

  • Adam Berry, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Ben Locket “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Frederik Wiedmann “Green Lantern The Animated Series” – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Joel McNeely, Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda “Pixie Hollow Games”– DisneyToon Studios
  • Kevin Kliesch “Thundercats” – Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network
  • Shawn Patterson, Zeb Wells “Robot Chicken” – ShadowMachine and Stoopid Monkey in association with Adult Swim

Music in a Feature Production

  • Henry Jackman “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • John Williams “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Mikael Mutti, Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Sergio Mendes, John Powell, “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Zooey Deschannel, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Henry Jackman, Robert Lopez “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Production Design in a Television Production

  • Mark Bodner, Chris Tsirgiotis, Sue Mondt and Daniel Elson “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Peter Martin “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” – Hallmark

Production Design in a Feature Production

  • Harley Jessup “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Paul Felix “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Raymond Zilbach “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Tom Cardone, Kyle MacNaughton & Peter Chan “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios

Storyboarding in a Television Production

  • Barry W. Johnson “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Benton Connor “Regular Show” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Brian Kesinger “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dave Thomas “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Fred Gonzalez “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Joe Mateo “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Justin Nichols “Fanboy & Chum Chum” – Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Katie Rice “Fanboy & Chum Chum”– Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Rebecca Sugar “Adventure Time” – Cartoon Network Studios

Storyboarding in a Feature Production

  • Bob Logan “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • David Gosman “Rango” – Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Gary Graham “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Jeremy Spears “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Josh Hayes “Rango” – Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Kris Pearn “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Nelson Yokota “Gnomeo and Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Philip Craven “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Scott Morse “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios

Voice Acting in a Television Production

  • Carlos Alazraqui as Denzel Crocker “Fairly OddParents” – Nickelodeon
  • Dan Harmon as Jekyll “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Daran Norris as Cosmo “Fairly OddParents” – Nickelodeon
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Obi-Wan “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”– Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Diedrich Bader as Batman “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” – Warner Bros. Animation
  • H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Jeff Bennett as Kowalski “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Jeff B. Davis as Victor Frankenstein “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Jessica Walter as Malory Archer “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Judy Greer as Cheryl Tunt “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Logan Grove as Gumball “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Scott Adsit as the Creature “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Tara Strong as Timmy Turner “Fairly OddParents – Operation Dingleberg” – Nickelodeon

Voice Acting in a Feature Production

  • Ashley Jensen as Bryony “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Bill Nighy as Grandsanta “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Gary Oldman as Shen “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • James Hong as Mr. Ping “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
  • Jemaine Clement as Nigel “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Jim Cummings as Featherstone “Gnomeo and Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Zach Galifianakis as Humpty Alexander Dumpty “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation

Writing in a Television Production

  • Blake Lemons, William Reiss, C.H. Greenblatt, Derek Evanick, Diana Lafyatis, Neil Graf “Disney Fish Hooks – Fish School Musical” – Disney Television Animation
  • Carolyn Omine “The Simpsons -Treehouse of Horror XXII” – Gracie Films
  • Dani MIchaeli, Sean Charmatz, Nate Cash, Luke Brookshier, Paul Tibbitt “SpongeBob SquarePants – Patrick’s Staycation” – Nickelodeon
  • Josh Weinstein “Futurama – All The President’s Heads” – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
  • Kevin Sullivan, Will Schifrin, Ray DeLaurentis “TUFF Puppy Thunder Dog” – Nickelodeon
  • Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 – The Creditor” – Williams Street Studios, Adult Swim
  • Ray DeLaurentis, Will Schifrin “Fairly OddParents “Invasion of the Dads” – Nickelodeon
  • Steve Wermers-Skelton, Kevin Deters “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in a Feature Production

  • Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Mark Burton, Kathy Greenburg, Emily Cook, Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Kelly Asbury, Steve Hamilton “Gnomeo & Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Brian Kesinger, Kendelle Hoyer, Don Dougherty, Clio Chang, Don Hall, Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cronish “Tintin”– Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Editing in Television Production

  • Garret Elkins “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburn Industries, Inc.
  • Hugo Morales “Kung Fu Panda” Nickelodeon
  • Jason W.A. Tucker “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Paul D. Calder “Futurama” – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
  • Ted Machold, Jeff Adams, Doug Tiano, Bob Tomlin “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor

Editing in a Feature Production

  • Clare Knight, A.C.E. “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Craig Wood, A.C.E. “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Eric Dapkewicz “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Michael Kahn “Tintin”– Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Stephen Schaffer, A.C.E. “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios

The Smurfs Go Blu

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

The Smurfs came out on Blu-ray this week (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) looking every bit as good in HD in all its blueness. Plus there are a bevy of bonus features, including the new Christmas Carol short and Smurf-O-Vision: a second screen interactive feature that syncs with the movie and allows new interactive experiences for kids using their iPad, IPhone, or iPod Touch with easy to follow instructions.

But it’s the blockbuster, cutting-edge movie from Sony PIctures Animation and Imageworks that’s worth enjoying and exploring in more detail.

There were major design considerations, first of all, they involved capturing the silhouette, making the eyes believable and expressive and getting the skin texture right so that it was fleshy but not creepy. Plus they created a model (Troy Saliba was senior animation supervisor for Imageworks) with subtle variations, including pliable facial rig and proper bone structure. There were around 36 character models for film, with Gutsy (voiced by Alan Cumming), being totally new.

“There were physical limitations of anatomy that we had to deal with in creative ways,” suggests Rich Hoover, the Imageworks visual effects supervisor. “We wanted humanistic profiles, joints, muscles, bones, human-like wrinkles in the skin. But we also had to maintain volume for these [7 1/2 inch-tall] characters. Raja wanted them to have a spring in their step, so we made them jump 10-feet-per-second to keep up with the human characters they interact with.”

And when it came to hair for the ever popular Smurfette, they actually started from scratch after animating 20% because the old design just wasn’t convincing in CG. So they tweaked the volume and gave her a prettier makeover with a more modern sheen. Now it hangs down straighter.

Trailering New John Carter

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Burroughs. The new John Carter trailer shows off more action, more CG, and more of sultry Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah Thoris. Double Negative, Cinesite, MPC, and the other contributors have populated this Southwest-looking Mars with cool creatures, bolstered by sci-fi looking space ships, graphics, and pyrotechnics. Straddling fresh with familiar, Stanton’s naturalistic approach was probably the best after Avatar. Opens March 9.

Pixomondo Helps Hugo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Clips, Events, Movies, Oscar, stop-motion, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Pixomondo came of age with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, tapping more than 400 artists in 10 of the company’s 11 facilities in Germany, the US, Canada, China, and the UK with a unique 24/7 global pipeline for 800 plus VFX shots.

After an Autodesk sponsored screening on Monday night at the Landmark in LA, Pixomondo VFX supervisor Ben Grossmann explained that they had a hand in tailoring every conceivable kind of animation, including stop-motion for a toy mouse that the compositors complained lacked motion blur because they didn’t realize Scorsese wanted to go old school for his valentine to film history and preservation.

Pixomondo’s London facility completed a heavily-CG opening fly-through sequence and shots involving the inside of the train station; Stuttgart handled most of Georges Méliès’ apartment, graveyard sequences, and Paris exteriors; Berlin managed complicated fire and debris VFX simulation scattered throughout the film along with portions of the train crash sequence; Shanghai completed shots focused around the clock tower staircase and green screen composites; Beijing worked on a magic show sequence, crowd duplication, match-moving, and wire removal; Burbank created a magical animation sequence of flying papers, character animation and CG face replacement; Toronto and Frankfurt worked on train station coverage, with Frankfurt executing Hugo’s nightmare transformation into the automaton. Pixomondo’s LA team completed specialized shots throughout the film, and Hugo’s nightmare in the train station, while also acting as the hub for all VFX work and editorial for other studio-produced VFX shots.

Grossmann told me that the VFX was intricately intertwined with the 3-D as part of the narrative, and that everything for Scorsese was based on 3-D. The idea was to be on the set with the characters. You’re with Hugo in the train station; up in the clocks; in the toy store; or with Méliès in the toy store or his glass studio. It was about the thrill of discovery. In fact, to get 3-D so precise and to have so much control over it was difficult but vital. They worked very closely with all the principals, particularly Rob Legato, the production VFX supervisor who had previous stereo experience on Avatar.

“You string it all together and then sweeten the interocular distance and convergence for different parts of the shot,” Grossmann explains. “It means the stereo settings are constantly changing. For instance, you start out by separating the left and right eye cameras by 10 feet at the head of the shot and then slowly start animating them closer together as you get closer to the station, so that by the time you’re swooping through the crowd of people, the interocular distance gets much shorter. For a lot of our big stereo shots we matched the camera separation to the human eye. Most 3-D movies have a 1/4 of an inch or a 1/2 of an inch. And a big stereo shot would be about an inch. On Hugo, a big stereo shot was 2.2 inches. That’s unique. It takes a lot of refining.”

Hugo: The 3-D Game Changer

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

In my latest TOH column at Indiewire, I explore Hugo’s ground-breaking 3-D with production VFX supervisor Rob Legato and Pixomondo’s VFX supervisor Ben Grossmann. If Hugo looks more dimensional than other 3-D, that’s because they matched the camera separation to the human eye. Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese is now inspired to convert classic 3-D (House of Wax, Kiss Me Kate, Dial M for Murder) with the help of his Film Foundation so we can view it in perfect convergence.

Jackson Unveils 3-D Hobbit Video Blog

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

Peter Jackson recently released production video blog #4 for The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14, 2012). This one’s devoted to 3-D and they provide a nice intro to how it works: Jackson shows off the Red Epic camera system and the 3ALITY stereo rig; Gareth Daley, the 3-D camera supervisor, explains interocular distance; Angus Ward, the stereographer, reveals how one camera shoots through a mirror and another bounces off a mirror; and Sean Kelly, the lead stereographer, describes the convergence point. There’s some nice green screen footage shot on set. View all four video blogs below:

Jennifer Yuh Nelson Talks KFP2

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

When Jeffrey Katzenberg needed a director for Kung Fu Panda 2, he turned to his secret weapon: the shy but quietly assertive story supervisor, Jennifer Yuh Nelson.

Did you have to be coaxed into directing? And what was it like?

I’m not a naturally aggressive person as far as trying to get promoted or anything like that. I’m pretty much happiest if I’m sitting and drawing. I had to be coaxed. I think it’s about how to protect the film because a lot of people over the course of the [production] have a lot of great ideas, but you have to hold on to the original story you intended to tell. Which is demanding and hard over three years. That level of stamina involved is a big thing.

How were you able to achieve even more richness in this sequel to Kung Fu Panda?

The same production designer and art director, Raymond Zibach and Tang Heng, came back and they carried through the look of the first film, and were freed by the advancements in technology to increase the scale of a lot of the sets that we had. On the first film we could only go so far before technologically hitting a wall, and on this one we could build a whole city and it was all completely practical and have the characters punching everything, which was lovely.

What about the look of Lord Shen?

R&D with feathers, with cloth, with complexity of the rig. Shen can move his tail, he fights, he’s got flowing robes. Having him walk across a room would’ve been difficult and we have him doing crazed acrobatics. That would’ve been incredibly memory intensive for the computers.

What was the biggest challenge in returning to Kung Fu Panda?

We worked very hard for a deeper understanding of the characters in the sequel. And you have to raise the stakes and the understanding more to have an impact on the audience.

Sarah Smith Talks Arthur Christmas

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

After completing Arthur Christmas, director Sarah Smith had a chance to chat about the first collaboration between Aardman and Sony.

What was it like creating a combination of the traditional and modern approach to Santa?

We never thought of it as a recipe — oh, we need bit of this and we need a bit of that — in a way, it entirely comes from the original concept of how could you really get the job done in today’s world and what would it take? And then you come up with this brilliant and amazing high-tech operation: the idea that things have changed with the times. And in a funny way, it just seems incredibly obvious. And you think: Of course, why would Santa still be the Victorian [image]? He’s moved as times change. But in the middle of that, when the high-tech operation fails, the only way to do it is the old way. It’s not an either or and it’s not a kind of formula to try and please the audience, particularly with the logic of the story, which is, when the big machine breaks down and all you’ve got is the sleigh in the shed to do it with. And the whole point of the movie is not that one way is good and the other is bad; it’s that why of it all, really.

What was your take away?

The thing about animation is that it’s an incredibly enormous and intense experience. The thing I didn’t realize when I went into it was the unbelievable amount of different talents that come and give yourself to your movie, which is just gobsmacking all the way through. So many fabulous people contributed along the way. On the flipside, just the enormity of doing it is really mind-boggling. It’s sort of like the longest labor and childbirth in the world, and I haven’t had time to sit back and enjoy the baby yet to forget all of that.

What do you think Aardman’s take away is?

So far, Aardman are incredibly delighted with it. I think they feel that it is properly an Aardman movie even though it was made in different locations. The studio obviously feels creative ownership of it and the fact that’s doing well in the UK makes everyone happy. Obviously we’re waiting to see how it does in the States and elsewhere to see what that means for the future. And in terms of more CG films, I think the collaboration with Sony has been tricky but fruitful for this movie because we’re bringing together very different kinds of film cultures in doing it, but it ended up with the best of both worlds. I think one of the biggest take aways for me is that it’s incredibly, personally demanding for lots of people to keep moving their lives around the world during the making of a film. And my aspiration would be, if and when we’re ever going to do it again, it would be great to do it in a home studio all the way through. It adds such an enormous amount of pressure and asset and cost to everyone as well as the making of the movie. I so envy Pete Lord sitting in Bristol making his Pirate movie from beginning to end. But I would be the first to say that the Imageworks pipeline that they’re capable of doing would be very difficult to replicate in a startup CG environment because they are very seasoned, the pipe is very well-known.