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.

performance capture

SIGGRAPH 2012 Preview: Art and Science

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Education, Events, Movies, performance capture, previs, Production Design, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

SIGGRAPH has always been about the convergence of art and science. It’s a place to showcase the latest and greatest advancements driving the industry’s blockbuster work in VFX and animation. This year, the 39th edition of the prestigious computer graphics conference returns to the LA Convention Center (Aug. 5-9), proudly proclaiming: “I AM ART” and “I AM SCIENCE.” Read more

The Hobbit Videoblog #7

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

The practical world of effects and props and prosthetics gets its due in the seventh of eight Peter Jackson videoblogs about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14). Read more

Immersed in Blu-Ray: John Carter

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

The notorious John Carter gets a new lease on life on Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Ent.). Andrew Stanton took a big financial and creative risk, but I, for one, took the leap of faith with him. Read more

Star Wars 1313 Offers New Convergence

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Clips, Events, Movies, performance capture, Tech, Virtual Production | Leave a comment












The new, more adult-themed Star Wars 1313 was demo’d this week at E3 and the bounty hunter shooter appears to offer a more compelling cinematic convergence, thanks to the first-time collaboration between LucasArts, ILM, Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound. Read more

Digital Animation Discussed at the Academy

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

Tom Sito hosted a fascinating discussion about the  evolution of digital animation last week at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater as part of the 18th Marc Davis  Celebration of Animation series.  Read more

Digital Domain Expands into Middle East

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

Digital Domain, which recently came under attack for John Textor’s ill-advised comments about fueling its new feature animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida, with student labor from its education program, will expand its VFX, animation, and motion capture resources in Abu Dhabi. An alliance has been struck between the Digital Domain Media Group (DDMG) and twofour54, the Abu Dhabi government-backed media and entertainment hub. Read more

FMX: The Industry Watering Hole

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

I came away from my first FMX experience in Stuttgart, Germany, with a similar impression as Doug Trumbull: a wonderful watering hole to exchange ideas and learn about the state of the craft around the world. Read more

FMX: Virtual Production and Higher Frame Rates

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

I’ve returned from a glorious week at FMX 2012 in Stuttgart, Germany. Still a little jet lagged but I will be posting about some of the panels throughout the week. However, I managed to post about the higher frame rate panel I moderated with Doug Trumbull, Ray Feeney, and Johannes Steurer of ARRI for my TOH/Indiewire column, along with a few highlights related to virtual production, which was definitely the most popular track, organized by FMX primary partner, Autodesk. In fact, you can view my session at The Area.

As you might imagine, our discussion of The Hobbit was enlightening. Trumbull offered some solutions to combating the video look, Feeney said we shouldn’t rush to judgment, and Steurer suggested that there’s a balance between pushing photographic boundaries that are appealing for filmmaker and viewer alike.

FMX to Focus on Virtual Production

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

Virtual production is the hottest industry topic right now and next week’s FMX 2012 in Stuttgart devotes an entire track to it sponsored by Autodesk, the primary conference partner. The Avengers, Battleship, The Hunger Games, the new Total Recall remake, and The Lorax will be spotlighted along with Avatar, Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse, and Real Steel.

“With the advent of digital pre-production, production and post-production, virtual production completes the digital film production pipeline,” said Marc Petit, SVP, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “Virtual production places the creative decision-making back into the hands of director. The on-set real-time interaction between Autodesk MotionBuilder and Autodesk Maya software, provides a wealth of highly flexible CG assets which can flow throughout the filmmaking process and free filmmakers to focus on expressing their creative visions.”

Virtual Production I – World Building: From Avatar to Tintin

World Building involves the construction of a digital world space — the invention of a fictional universe that can include aspects such as geography, culture, and history. Production
Designer Alex McDowell (Man of Steel) curates the World Building track, which explores how these fictional worlds come into being. For one thing, McDowell and Speedcam’s director Mario Janelle analyze the fusion of two worlds when they look at World Building for indie movies using the example of Juan Diego Solanas’ Upside Down, a sci-fi take on Romeo and Juliet starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst.

By contrast, art directors Andrew Jones and Jeff Wisniewski shift their perspective to blockbuster movies: together they illuminate digital worlds spanning from the Na’vi inhabitants in Avatar‘s exoplanetary Pandora to the highly detailed world of comic-turned-film Tintin.

Virtual Production II – Previs: Spielberg’s War Horse and Wiseman’s Total Recall

What becomes of this world once it is created? The Previs track, curated by Ron Frankel (president and previs supervisor, Proof Inc) and Chris Edwards  (CEO & creative director, The Third Floor), looks at the collaborative effort that is required when complex scenes and preliminary versions of shots or sequences are visualized predominantly using 3D animation tools and a virtual environment. Edwards describes how The Third Floor branches interact and sheds light on the previs process in Len Wiseman’s Total Recall. In this context, he focuses on the building of a futuristic world that differs drastically from the 1990 Schwarzenegger cult classic.

In a second presentation, Edwards and Kevin Jenkins, supervising art director at Framestore, recount the creation of War Horse: Both specialists worked together on different key scenes. They explain how they realized the historical scenery thanks to Digital Art Direction and path-paving Previs, paying particular attention to authenticity. Moreover, Edwards elucidates how The Third Floor used detailed, emotional visualizations as a blueprint for the set construction, horse training and ultimate cinematic staging to visibly enhance storytelling in Spielberg’s War Horse.

The third Previs presentation, “Integrate not dominate: Previs and Virtual Production for a non-VFX show,” features supervising visual effects producer Friend Wells and Frankel, who analyze the importance of virtual production and previs for all of those film productions, which are not primarily based on visual effects — that is to say drama, comedy, and low-budget film productions in general. Both speakers base their talk on the film The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (January 2013).

Virtual Production III – Megasessions: ILM, Weta and more

Visual effects supervisor Erik Nash (Digital Domain), previs supervisor Casey Schatz (Giant Studios), and virtual production supervisor Glenn Derry (Technoprops) team up for one “Megasession” to guide the audience through the innovative workflow that helped turn Real Steel into a huge success.

In another “Megasession,” FMX goes back in time when Weta Digital’s visual effects supervisor Wayne Stables, CTO Sebastian Sylwan, and head of marketing David Gouge trace the origins of the 3-D adventure Tintin and its innovative and creative virtual production workflow back through early tests on Peter Jackson’s 2001 fantasy adventure The Lord of the Rings.

A third “Megasession” is dedicated to one of this year’s top Oscar winners: Academy Award winner and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato elaborates on his collaboration with VFX company Nvizage and the art department for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Together with Nvizage’s previs supervisor Martin Chamney, he explains how they sculpted both the practical set and digital set extensions of the railway station.

In a fourth “Megasession,” Steve Sullivan, senior technology officer at Lucasfilm, and Michael Sanders, dgital supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic, demonstrate the importance of virtual production for their everyday work at Lucasfilm and ILM.

Meanwhile, there will be two extensive presentations on Battleship as part of the “VFX: Showcases” track. Compositing supervisor Marshall Krasser explains in his presentation “Not just a Board Game” why the epic battles on the high seas and the alien attacks on Hawaii constitute further milestones in ILM’s long-standing VFX history. For this purpose, ILM implemented a novel water simulation system and utilized the digital pyrotechnics tool Plume.

Moreover, John Dietz, founder, producer, and VFX supervisor at Vispop, devotes his talk to The Hunger Games. Dietz supervised the work of Rising Sun Pictures, which contributed more than 200 vfx shots to the screen adaptation of the popular book series, including the design for the fully digital Capital City. For crowds, live actors were shot against bluescreen which were then digitally multiplied.

Show & Tell: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and Marvel’s The Avengers

Director Chris Renaud‘s  Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax will be screened at FMX in its original 3-D version. In addition, the quartet of Illumination Entertainment’s Jacques Bled, Kyle Balda, Bruno Chauffard, and Yarrow Cheney explains how the moustache-wearing protagonist was brought to life on the big screen.

Moreover, FMX will screen Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. ILM’s VFX supervisor Jeff White is joined by Weta Digital’s VFX supervisor Guy Williams to speak about the working processes involved in creating this film.

Jackson Touts 48 fps Hobbit at CinemaCon 2012

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


Peter Jackson responded to complaints about showing The Hobbit at 48 fps last week at CinemaCon in Las Vegas: He told Entertainment Weekly: “Nobody is going to stop,” he said. “This technology is going to keep evolving…. “At first it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film — not by any stretch, [just] 10 minutes or so. That’s a different experience than if you see a fast-cutting montage at a technical presentation… There can only ever be a real reaction, a truthful reaction, when people actually have a chance to see a complete narrative on a particular film.”

Last week at CinemaCon 2012, Warner Bros. screened 10 minutes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3-D at 48 fps. The higher frame rate, in particular, is a potential landmark as the industry moves up from 24 fps in the digital age to combat motion artifacts that detract from stereoscopic presentation. James Cameron is leaning toward 60 fps for his upcoming Avatar sequels. I will be addressing the topic of higher frame rates at FMX in Stuttgart on May 8th with Doug Trumbull (who’s advocating 120 fps), Ray Feeney, and Johannes Steurer of ARRI.

Meanwhile, THR reported that Peter Jackson introduced the footage via videotaped message. Jackson confirmed that the higher frame rate delivers a smoother, more life-like picture for both 3-D and 2-D presentations.

However, The Playlist reported a mixed response. Devin Faraci, for one, bemoaned the video look and wished it appeared more cinematic. This is a typical knock against higher frame rates that is being addressed technologically. Anne Thompson suggested that it “looks like super HD TV, hard-edged and rough on skin tone in the sunlight. Big vistas and long shots in the dark between Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Smeagle were fine. But fast-moving sunlight scenes with Ian McKellan as Gandalf were edgy and stark. There will be an adjustment to… this newest projection wrinkle.”

Jeff Wells, on the other hand, found it to be a game-changer: “This is the most startlingly ‘real’ form of cinema I’ve ever seen, so much so that it isn’t ‘cinema.’ …It’s like watching super high-def video, or without that filtered, painterly, brushstroke-y, looking-through-a-window feeling that feature films have delivered since forever….You’re right there and it’s breathtaking — no strobing, no flickering, pure fluidity and much more density of information. This makes the action scenes seem more realistic because it looks too real to be tricked up, and the CG stuff looks astonishing for the same reason.”

Speaking of The Hobbit, which opens Dec. 14, here are the current Jackson videoblogs: