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

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.

 

Trailering Apollo 18

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

What if there were a secret follow-up Apollo mission in December of 1973 funded by the US Department of Defense and kept under wraps by NASA that went awry, ensuring that we never returned to the moon? That’s the conspiratorial premise of Apollo 18 (opening Friday), directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov. Shot like actual footage captured by the two astronauts on that horrifying mission, the result looks like Blair Witch in space.

The minimal VFX (around 100 shots) were by Image Engine (District 9) and Russian-based Bazelevs and Artifex Studios. They are mostly focused on creative set extensions of the lunar surface that you see in the trailer. Production design is by Andrew Neskoromny and cinematography by José David Montero.

Anonymous Gets VFXY at Toronto

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Events, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Anonymous (Oct. 28), Roland Emmerich’s provocative political thriller about the identity of William Shakespeare — Amadeus meets Shakespeare in Love — is one of the techie treats premiering at The Toronto International Film Fest. The movie posits that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), is not only the incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), but also the real author of the Bard’s works. As the Essex Rebellion conspires against her succession, political intrigue abounds between the Tudors and the Cecils.

Shot at the Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, (the first major movie to use Arriflex’s new Alexa digital camera), the VFX challenge was to virtually recreate Elizabethan London. This task fell to Uncharted Territory, headed by Volker Engel and Marc Weigert, who’ve taken on more of a production partnership with Emmerich since 2012. They serve as exec producers on Anonymous.

Thus, after lots of testing, Weigert tells me that we can expect some stunning advancements in digital cinematography and High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) for photoreal environments that match seamlessly with the 70 sets that were built.

Nine Shortlisted for AMPAS Sci-Tech Awards

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Events, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Nine scientific and technical achievements have been selected for further awards consideration by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These include the Micro-Voxel Volume Rendering by Side Effects Software; Contour Dense Mesh Motion Capture by Mova (pictured above from MPC’s Hades in Percy Jackson); Cinema System for theatrical projection of stereoscopic content by RealD; Phantom High-Speed cameras by Vision Research; and the “Lowry Process” by Reliance MediaWorks (witnessed in such exceptional catalog Blu-ray/DVD titles as the Bonds and Indiana Jones, among hundreds of others).

The list is made public to allow individuals and companies with similar devices or claims of prior art the opportunity to submit their achievements for review. The deadline to submit additional entries is Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 11:59 pm PST.

The committee has additionally selected these other methods or devices for further consideration:

  • ARRI Zeiss Master Primes Lens Family (ARRI Inc.)
  • Phantom High-Speed Cameras for Motion Picture Production (Vision Research Inc.)
  • Pictorvision Eclipse (Pictorvision, Inc.)
  • FUJIFILM Black and Whit1e Recording Film ENTERNA-RDS for Archive (FUJIFILM North America Corp.)
  • Lyre Microphone Suspension (Rycote Microphone Windshields Ltd.)

After thorough investigations are conducted on each of the entries, the committee will meet in early December to vote on recommendations to the Academy’s Board of Governors, which will make the final awards decisions.

The 2011 Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

Claims of prior art or similar technology must be submitted on our online site at www. oscars.org. For further information, contact Awards Administration Director Rich Miller’s office at 310-247-3000, ext. 1131, or via e-mail at scitech@oscars.org.

Ridley Scott Wants More Blade Runner

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

Now that Ridley Scott has gotten a pleasant taste from revisiting Alien with the 3-D Prometheus (June 8, 2012), Deadline.com reports that he’s signed on for more Blade Runner with Alcon Ent. and producers Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sikes. It’s uncertain if the project would be a prequel, sequel, or spinoff (like Prometheus), since no script has been written, but the news has stoked Anne Thompson and other journos. Why not? The landmark 1982 sci-fi/neo-noir not only ushered in cinematic cyberpunk, but also the fascination with the phantasmagorical Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) that continues to this day.

Back in 1986, Scott told me he was fascinated with the notion of Harrison Ford’s weary Deckard as a secret replicant, but that he was never given the budget to convey it clearly or convincingly. As we know, he attempted to massage the clues in various iterations, culminating with the Blu-ray release in 2007 of the “Final Cut.” I suspect that this renewed opportunity to definitively close the book on Deckard’s identity is a major appeal, along with the chance to bring the imaginative and prescient universe up to date with state-of-the-art CG and 3-D. After all, the original took place in L.A. in 2019 and remains one of the best-looking films ever made.

Indeed, when I had the chance to revisit Blade Runner with Scott in honor of the Blu-ray release, he gave a hint about its timeless appeal that bears repeating: “I think it’s the cast that keeps everything really alive… and the unusual blow-by-blow and organic engagement of one character throughout each scene… Everything makes sense: If you want to read at the end of the film that there are parallels to where we are today, it’s all there… I think that when scientists get stymied, they look to the possibility of God for just sheer imagination.”

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

New Star Wars: The Clone Wars Blasts Off Sept. 16

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

Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns for a fourth season with a two-episode premiere on Sept. 16th at 8:00 pm on Cartoon Network. Battle lines intensify in the 22-episode season of the CG-animated saga from creator George Lucas and Lucasfilm Animation in Singapore. Judging by the trailer, there are even more classic connections to the original trilogy.

In the first two episodes of this three-part story arc, “Water War” and “Gungan Attack,” the inhabitants of the watery world of Mon Calamari find themselves on the brink of a civil war. The Jedi soon realize they will need the help of a powerful and amphibious ally to stop the war and drive out the Separatist invaders.

In discussing season three, director Dave Filoni told me that not only are they expanding the scope of the series with more organic environments but also improving the facial animation. Look for this to continue as well in the fourth season.

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

The Gravity of the 3-D Situation

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

In covering prestigious 3-D on Friday, I forgot to reference Alfonso Cuarón’s apparently mind-blowing Gravity (Nov. 21, 2012), which will be post-converted in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. The intimate sci-fi survival thriller stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the lone survivors from a space station disaster who must float through space to return home. Gravity was indirectly in the news today, with Guillermo Del Toro touting his friend’s ambitious film in an MTV interview for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Aug. 26). According to Del Toro, Cuarón consulted with both James Cameron and David Fincher; in fact, Del Toro hooked up Cuarón with Cameron to talk tech early on and was advised that what he had in mind was about five years away. Nonetheless, Cuarón has decided to push the envelope.

London-based Framestore is doing the VFX (under the supervision of Chris Watts, Where the Wild Things Are, 300), which is 60% animation with the balance consisting of a hybrid of CG and live-action elements (including MoCap). It’s previously been reported that the opening shot lasts about 20 minutes, surpassing the bravura long take from Cuarón’s last film, Children of Men. Good thing cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life) is shooting digitally.

So imagine Gary Lockwood’s Frank Poole from 2001: A Space Odyssey somehow making his way back home instead of being lost in space. That’s what Cuarón and Framestore have in store for The Gravity: photo-real zero-gravity in space, punctuated by the director’s long and fluid visual style, leaving “no cut points to hide behind,” according to Framestore.

Talk about crying “out for the extra element of space and depth,” which Martin Scorsese said about the stereoscopic implications of his upcoming Hugo (opening Nov. 23).

Mid-Year VFX Oscar Watch

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

In my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE, I analyze the five mid-year frontrunners for the VFX Oscar. Good thing there are five slots now, with next year’s bake-off expanding from seven to 10 (though the presentations have been trimmed to 10 minutes).