Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Worth a mention - 08/19/14

Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo" Resurfaces For 30% Tax Credit

(darkhorizons.com)             Long after they originally announced their plans, Disney is finally eyeing a 2015 production start date for their film adaptation of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo". The project is aiming to start filming in Australia sometime next year.

There's a catch though. Early last year Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the studio would receive a $21.6 million tax incentive to shoot the film there. Since then though there has been a change in Government which has created doubt as to whether or not they will still commit to the tax credit.

In fact Disney is asking for an increased tax credit for 30% of the film's budget. The government's standard credit is 16.5%, but foes allow for higher credits on a case-by-case basis (eg. last year's "The Wolverine"). It will be a while yet before it's known if the tax offset will go through.

David Fincher had previously been attached to direct but departed to shoot "Gone Girl". It hasn't been confirmed if he will come back to the helm.





Rian Johnson Says Next 'Star Wars' Will Have Less CGI, More Practical Effects

As if videos from the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie featuring live-action alien costumes and full-scale X-Wing Fighters haven’t been enough of a clue, Rian Johnson, who will pick up the franchise after Abrams, says Star Wars: Episode VII will feature more practical, traditional effects.

“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome,” Johnson said on the latest Girls in Hoodies podcast. “I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”

“I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it,” Johnson continued. “I do wonder because I think kids are growing up watching those and that’s the thing that they love now, so I don’t know whether it is a generational thing, and it could be.”

VOTE: THR's Emmys Ballot is now open!

Of his own Star Wars movie, Johnson joked that it’s “boring to talk about, because the only thing I can really say is, I’m just happy,” adding “I don’t have the terror I kind of expected I would, at least not yet. I’m sure I will at some point.”

Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII will be released in December 2015, with Johnson’s Episode VIII scheduled for a 2017 release.





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Akira Live-Action Remake Picks Up Edge of Tomorrow Screenwriter

(moviepilot.com)         You might be forgiven for assuming the Akira live-action remake has crashed and burned irreparably, but it seems Warner are still attempting to kick-start the difficult production with some new life.

The live-action adaptation has been over at Warner Bros. for years. A long list of stars and filmmakers have been attached to the project, but just as soon as we hear that someone has been connected, we inevitably hear they've left for some reason or another. Currently, Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra is attached to direct, but today we've heard Edge of Tomorrow scribe, Dante Harper has been hired to write the script.

Harper provided the first spec script for Edge of Tomorrow, one of this year's standout science fiction movies. The Tom Cruise starring flick might not have done incredibly at the box office, but it did receive surprisingly strong reviews, and I can personally testify to its awesomeness. However, scripting duties were later completed by Christoper McQuarrie and others, so it's unclear how much of Harper's involvement was present in the final film. Indeed, the fact it was rewritten - although commonplace in Hollywood - does not inspire a great amount of confidence.

The last we heard, After Earth's Gary Whitta had provided a script which saw Neo-Tokyo relocated to a Manhattan Island which had been sold to the Japanese. It is still unclear if this is the story Harper will be working on or whether this concept has been scrapped. Apparently, one of the biggest issues identified by Whitta was transplanting an adult-orientated and violent manga, for the below R-rated American audience.

Collet-Serra has previously stated that he sees any live-action Akira movie as hopefully kick-starting a trilogy of movies. However, even Collet-Serra nearly backed away from the project due to concerns with the script. All of this does not particular bode well, does it?

Of course, the big issue is this: Do we really need a live-action, Americanized version of Akira? Many dedicated fans of the original might be unwilling to see the classic re-hashed into the American PG-13 action market, which isn't exactly known for delivering great remakes. Collet-Serra has said his version will not be a straight beat-for-beat remake, but will instead work off the 'spirit' of Akira. Personally, I think this is a nice way of saying their taking a highly recognizable name and making their own movie off of the back of it.

With Akira still apparently stalling at the starting gates, I do not imagine we'll he hearing much in terms of progress any time soon, although this news does at least confirm the project still has a slice of Warner's attention.






Andy Serkis' Jungle Book Continues Casting


(The Hollywood Reporter)               Warner Bros. Pictures is moving ahead with its Andy Serkis-directed The Jungle Book: Origins and has cast its first voice lead - Benedict Cumberbatch will voice the tiger Shere Khan.

The October 21, 2016 release is based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book." The film tells the story of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves. He's kidnapped by monkeys and rescued by his animal friends, including Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the panther and Kaa the python.

The film will arrive more than a year after Disney's The Jungle Book (October 9, 2015), directed by Jon Favreau. In that version, Shere Khan is voiced by Idris Elba. Mowgli is played by newcomer Neel Sethi and Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Giancarlo Esposito are providing voices as well.

Cumberbatch coincidentally played another Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. He's also provided his voice for "The Hobbit" trilogy and the upcoming Penguins of Madagascar.

Callie Kloves wrote the script for the Warner Bros. film. Her father, Steve Kloves ("Harry Potter" films), is producing.






Oz VFX House Readies 3D Chinese Animated Features

(if.com.au)            Australia’s Vue Group is completing the VFX work for the Chinese and international versions of two 3D animated features in a co-venture with production company Shanghai Hippo Animation Design.

The linguistic experts at SBS have been hired to ensure the dialogue is idiomatic on the first, Kung Fu Style, and the next step will be engage actors to voice the English-language versions.

“We will most probably use Australians but not all of them are here, so it’s a big job to co-ordinate,” Vue Group MD Alan Lindsay tells IF. He is excited by quality of the 3D animation, describing it as “extremely imaginative.”

Kung Fu Style, a comedy-adventure directed by Kerr Xu, the Shanghai Hippo Animation Design CEO, scripted by Kerr, Gu Xiao and Cao Yingjie, will be released in China on at least 9,000 screens before the end of the year.

The plot follows Kung Fu kid Dodo Lee, who dreams of being a star at Oscar Lei’s movie studio but is stuck as a puppeteer in his never satisfied father’s show. When Dodo encounters superstar Kitty Mo, dreams and reality clash and the pair find themselves in a fight between good and evil orchestrated by the power-crazed Oscar.

Lindsay said spectacular chase sequences occupy about one-third of the film, with train wrecks, cars flying through the air and thugs in gorilla masks.

Farm House II - Perfect Friends, also directed by Kerr Xu, will open in China in early 2015. The sequel to Farm House 81 sees Cluck Norris ruling the roost as a soldier with unique superpowers. Enemy spy Annie infiltrates Farm House 81 to learn the secret of Cluck's power and uses this knowledge to steal the moon's energy and to morph into the monster Anka, who is intent on destroying Farm House 81.

Among the sequences handled by Vue’s VFX team in Bunbury WA were the last 18 minutes of the film, replete with lots of shattering effects and lightning, as an alien with angel wings flies towards the moon.

Lindsay says both projects have already recouped their budgets, helped by worldwide distribution deals, excluding Australia/New Zealand, with a US company which will be unveiled next month.

The producer retained Australian/NZ rights and is negotiating with distributors. Production on a third co-venture with Shanghai Hippo Animation is due to start in eight weeks.

While Lindsay is delighted with the relationship with the Shanghai studio, he is frustrated with the tardy and cumbersome process for approving official Australian-Chinese co-productions and isn’t using that treaty.

“We will have made three films this year,” he says. “The process of getting approval under the treaty can take almost two years for one film, if you are lucky.”

When the co-venture was unveiled at SPA's Screen Forever last year, Kerr told IF the Chinese partners will fund 80% of the projects with the balance from Australia. The total production budget for the three films to be co-produced by the Vue Group and Hippo would exceed $57 million.






Ridley Scott’s New Sci-fi Movie Not Prometheus 2

(airherald.com)            When word first broke in March that Ridley Scott is working on a new undisclosed movie for 2016, it was quickly believed that this would be Prometheus 2, however the film in question has been brought forward to November 25, 2015, and with that comes the title.

It’s not Prometheus 2 – rather an adaptation The Martian by Andy Weir, and Matt Damon is tipped for the lead role.

With filming set to begin in just a few months, Prometheus 2 will not be happening any time soon. At the earliest we could say 2016, though 2017 is more likely. The slot that the Martian has been brought forward from is now being filled by Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, another book adaptation.

As for The Martian, that brings its own excitement that will keep at least some of the Prometheus fans happy. The story follows a US astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars and must adapt and survive very much in the vein of a spacey Cast Away.

“Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

On the Prometheus 2 front, not much is known about the plot, but it was written by Michael Green, and will see Michael Fassbender reprise his role as David.





VFX Event Film 'London Has Fallen' Has Found Its Director

(latino-review.com)           I was pleasantly surprised by 2013's Olympus Has Fallen. I guess going in with low expectations pays off sometimes. While it didn't break any box office records, the film did make a tidy little profit and producers decided to move ahead with a sequel.

The new film is titled London has Falllen and sees the return of Olympus' three main characters.

This time around Secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds himself in London once again protecting President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) while they attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister. At some point the shit hits the fan and it's time for Banning to go into John McClane mode.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Frederik Bond (Charlie Countryman) has signed on to direct the sequel.

London Has Fallen is set to hit theatres on October 2, 2015.





Realistic Computer Graphics Technology Vastly Speeds Process


(scientificcomputing.com)              With their new method, computer scientists from Saarland University are able, for the first time, to compute all illumination effects in a simpler and more efficient way. Courtesy of AG Slusallek/Saar-UniCreating a realistic computer simulation of how light suffuses a room is crucial not just for animated movies like Toy Story or Cars, but also in industry. Special computing methods should ensure this, but require great effort. Computer scientists from Saarbrücken have developed a novel approach that turned out to be so promising, it was adopted by companies such as Pixar, which is well-known in the movie industry for its computer animation, in record time.

The realistic depiction of light transport in a room is important within the production of computer-generated movies. If it does not work, the three-dimensional impression is rapidly lost. Hence, the movie industry’s digital light experts use special computing methods, requiring enormous computational power and, therefore, raising production costs.

Companies invest to make lighting conditions for computer-generated images as realistic as possible, not only in the film industry, but also in the automobile industry. During the development process, entire computing centers are used to compute and display realistic pictures of the complex car models in real time. Only in this way, can designers and engineers evaluate the design and the product features in an early stage and optimize it during the planning phase.

“They build hardly any real prototypes. Hence, the designers want to make sure that the car body on the screen looks exactly as the real vehicle will appear later,” explains Philipp Slusallek, professor of computer graphics at Saarland University, Scientific Director at the German Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and Director of Research at the Intel Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University.

With current computing methods, it has not been possible to compute all illumination effects in an efficient way. Monte Carlo Path Tracing could depict the direct light incidence on surfaces and the indirect illumination by reflecting light from surfaces in a room very well. But, it does not work well for illumination around transparent objects, like semi-transparent shadows from glass objects, or illumination by specular surfaces (so-called caustics). This, on the other hand, is the advantage of photon mapping. However, this method leads to disappointing results for direct lighting of surfaces. Since these two approaches are mathematically incompatible (Monte Carlo integration versus density estimation), it was not possible to merge them. Therefore, it was necessary to compute them separately from each other for the particular images. This raised the computation costs for computer-animated movies like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where up to 48 pictures per second have to be computed — for a movie whose “normal” version is 169 minutes long.

In cooperation with Ilyan Georgiev, Ph.D. student at the Graduate School for Computer Science in Saarbrücken, Jaroslav Krivanek from the Charles University in Prague and Thomas Davidovic from the Intel Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University, Slusallek developed a mathematical approach in 2012 that combines both methods in a clever way. They reformulated photon mapping as a Monte Carlo process. Hence, they could integrate it directly into the Monte Carlo Path Tracing method. For every pixel of the image, the new algorithm decides automatically, via so-called multiple importance sampling, which is the best suited of the two strategies to compute the illumination at that spot.

The researchers from Saarbrücken also supplied mathematical proof that the results of the new computing method comply with those of the two former methods. “Our new method vastly simplifies and speeds up the whole calculating process,” says Slusallek.

The method “Vertex Connection and Merging‚” abbreviated as VCM, was not only accepted at SIGGRAPH in 2012, but was also very well-received by industry.

“We know of four different companies that partially integrated VCM in their commercial products only a few months after the scientific publication. The most recent example is the new version of the software Renderman developed by the company Pixar. For decades, this has been the most important tool in the movie industry. We are very proud of this achievement,” Slusallek says.

The company Pixar, famous for movies like Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. is part of the Walt Disney Company. Pixar originally got its name from Apple founder Steve Jobs. Up to now, Pixar has received 12 Oscars for its movies.

Slusallek and his research group are presenting a new scientific paper at the Siggraph conference, which is being held in Vancouver this year. They are demonstrating that the new VCM method can be implemented on highly parallel graphics processing units very efficiently. As this research has been funded by the American semiconductor producer Intel, among others, the researchers will be presenting their results at Intel’s Siggraph booth.






Warners Has Big Plans For Comic Book 'Deranged Female Killer'

(darkhorizons.com)           The show runners on The CW's "Arrow" are fairly free to use what elements of DC Comics lore they like for their series, though some parts have been declared off limits due to the studio wanting to use them for their upcoming Cinematic Universe.

One element that got teased last season was The Joker's offsider Harley Quinn. The character appeared only as a shadow and spoke one line in an episode focusing on the Suicide Squad. Unfortunately she won't be back according to producer Andrew Kreisberg who tells CBM:

"There are very few things we've asked DC Comics for that we haven't gotten. That [Quinn's appearance] was something you asked for, and what you saw is a compromise that Geoff Johns and I came up with. To even get that much was a thrill for us.

I know that they may have other plans for her, but it was certainly an Easter egg that thrilled us. But the Suicide Squad will definitely be back. Whether we see the 'deranged female killer' we saw before, we'll have to wait and see."

Kreisberg wouldn't elaborate on those "other plans" for the character, but considering the show is able to use a major Batman villain like Ra's al Ghul, it indicates someone at Warners/DC has something in mind.





Weta Workshop's GODZILLA Concept Art

(comicbookmovie.com)        To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Weta Workshop, the official site has been re-designed, featuring an archive of images from their design department for Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. Check out the concept art of the iconic monster after the jump.

Take a look:       http://www.comicbookmovie.com/news/?a=106241





How ‘World of Warcraft’ Will Fight to Stay Relevant Before ‘Warcraft’ Movie in 2016

(variety.com)             When Legendary Entertainment in 2006 announced plans to produce a movie based on Blizzard Entertainment’s “Warcraft,” the fantasy videogame franchise had completed a successful platform shift to the massively multiplayer online “World of Warcraft,” introduced in 2004, from its 1994 PC-based origins. “Warcraft” became one of the most popular and profitable role-playing games in history.

SEE MORE: From the August 12, 2014 issue of Variety

A decade later, Blizzard has been watching millions of players turn to other properties, many of them recently to free-to-play titles on mobile devices. At its peak in 2010, “World of Warcraft” had 12 million subscribers paying $15 a month. That’s been falling ever since, to 6.8 million at the end of June. And millions more could leave for so-called fremium mobile games before Legendary’s film — directed by Duncan Jones, and with a cast that includes Ben Foster, Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper and Paula Patton — is released by Universal Pictures on March 11, 2016.

Blizzard and its parent, Activision, expected to lose subscribers; a decade is a long time to commit to one game, let alone two. But they believe a film could help attract new gamers to the franchise, which revolves around a human faction known as the Alliance battling the Horde, an army of orcs, in the world of Azeroth.

Until then, however, they’re relying on new expansion packs, like this fall’s “Warlords of Draenor,” the game’s fifth, to stop the hemorrhaging. (Watch the cinematic trailer for “Draenor,” revealed Aug. 14, above).

The first expansion was “The Burning Crusade,” in 2007, followed by “Wrath of the Lich King” (2008), “Cataclysm” (2010), and “Mists of Pandaria” (2012).

For the “Warcraft” movie to succeed, Legendary knows it will have to make the film attractive to more than just the game’s core fans. While the title has become well known over the past decade, raking in more than $10 billion, the characters are still largely unknown to most moviegoers, putting Legendary and Universal in the same position New Line was in when it promoted Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Audiences’ familiarity with those successful films, as well with Jackson’s “The Hobbit” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” could help Legendary in its quest for box office dollars, and perhaps seed the start of a new film franchise.

Legendary has presented footage for the film at two Comic-Cons in San Diego, in an effort to entice “Warcraft’s” loyal fans. With more than a year still to go before the film’s release, Legendary and Universal will have to start doing some heavy lifting to introduce it to a wider base — especially those who never considered themselves hardcore fantasy gamers.

The “Warcraft” franchise is healthy, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime said this month, with the game’s revenue actually increasing over the past year, despite having fewer players. The company said that 1.5 million subscribers have already pre-ordered “Draenor,” a franchise first. The expansion pack becomes available Nov. 13.

At a press event on Aug. 14, Blizzard also debuted a new animated series, “Lords of War,” that delves deeper into the “Warcraft” series and lore. Watch the first episode below.

“The numbers ebb and flow,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who has avoided film adaptations but supports Legendary’s “Warcraft,” on which Blizzard is closely collaborating. “We will continue to see enthusiasm around each new game release.”





Doraemon 3D CG Film Tops Box Office With 988 Million Yen


(animenewsnetwork.com)              Stand By Me Doraemon, the first 3D CG film starring the anime robot cat Doraemon, debuted at #1 at the Japanese box office this past weekend. It sold 554,911 tickets for 767,248,000 yen (about US$7.50 million) on 319 screens from Saturday to Sunday.

The movie opened on Friday during the current summer break, even though most films open on Saturday. Over its first three days, it sold 726,739 tickets for 988,257,700 yen (US$9.66 million).

According to a web survey, 88.4% of the respondent cried during the film. The audience demographics was 47% male, 21.5% in their 20s, 20.4% in their 30s, 20.4% in their 40s, and 20.4% in elementary school age or younger.

The #2 film was Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, while the #3 film was Transformers: Age of Extinction.

The manga creator duo Fujiko Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko) created Doraemon in 1969. In the story, the robotic cat was sent by a boy in the future to the present day to help the boy's hapless grandfather, Nobita. Doraemon, Nobita, and other children deal with everyday childhood issues, solve (and cause) problems with the gadgets in Doraemon's fourth-dimensional pocket, and embark on escapades through time and space.

49-year-old Takashi Yamazaki (Returner, Always: Sunset on Third Street, Ballad, Space Battleship Yamato) and 48-year-old Ryûichi Yagi (Pénélope tête en l'air line director, Moyashimon 3D CG director) helmed this 36th Doraemon film after collaborating on Japan's first feature-length 3D CG anime film, Friends: Mononoke Shima no Naki. Yamazaki also wrote the screenplay.





Is 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5' Preparing to Trade Louisiana for Australia?

(nola.com)          Is "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" preparing to shoot Down Under? That's the question many are asking after reports have surfaced that Disney is reportedly lobbying the government of Australia to boost its tax inducements for an unnamed tentpole-type film that is considering setting up shop there (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Disney isn't revealing the title of that film but, coming on the heels of the announcement of a new 2017 release date for its "Pirates of the Caribbean 5," the news has prompted speculation that the high-seas sequel -- which at one time had been planning a New Orleans shoot -- might be the film in question (via Deadline). That story tops this morning's Popcorn Breakfast, my regular three-minute(ish) movie-headlines roundup.

Find out the details on all of those items in today's Popcorn Breakfast, in the embedded video above.






Creative Arts Emmys: 'Game of Thrones' Wins Third-Consecutive VFX Emmy

(hollywoodreporter.com)             HBO’s Game of Thrones won its third-consecutive Emmy for outstanding special and visual effects.

It topped a slate of nominees that included Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, Almost Human, The 100 and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

The team that won Emmys for Game of Thrones were JoeBauer, lead VFX supervisor; Joern Grosshans, VFX supervisor; Steve Kullback, lead VFX producer; Adam Chazen ,VFX coordinator; Eric Carney, previs lead; Sabrina Gerhardt, VFX animation producer;  Matthew Rouleau, CG supervisor; Thomas H. Schelesny, CG sequence supervisor; and Robert Simon, concept designer.

Black Sails won the Emmy for supporting special and visual effects.





Pixar's "Good Dinosaur" Gets Re-Tooled

(darkhorizons.com)          This marks the first year in nearly a decade that hasn't seen the release of a Pixar animated feature. A big reason for that was due to the eighteen month delay of their proposed 2014 film "The Good Dinosaur".

At the time of the delay, the film's director Bob Peterson left the project and since then things have been dead quiet regarding the film. That is until today.

Actor John Lithgow did some voice work on the film a while back. In a new interview with Collider he confirms that due to the project being completely retooled, he will go in to record new dialogue some time in the next few weeks:

"I recorded the entire role in Good Dinosaur. They have now dismantled it and completely reimagined it, and it is a fantastic new story. So I'm gonna record again on it within the next month. Don't worry. It's coming and it's gonna be better than I ever imagined... But me and Frannie McDormand, we're still playing Momma and Poppa dinosaur"

It's unknown how many of the other previously-confirmed voice cast such as Judy Greer, Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader and John Ratzenberger will return to re-record their dialogue.





Doh!  Homer Simpson Hologram Slapped With Lawsuit

(tvmix.com)              His Fox unit has just been slapped with a lawsuit by Hologram USA, and another billionaire, Alki David, for patent theft. And with Homer Simpson at the heart of it, its sure to catch the public’s attention. (And the irony that the man behind legal actions over “copyright’ that have slowed advancements in television is now strung up in his own net over thievery won’t be lost on consumers).

At this year’s Comic-Con, Fox held an enormously buzzed about panel for the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons. Fox and James Brooks‘ Gracie Films trotted out the show’s creator Matt Groening, executive producer Al Jean and others and had them interact with a three dimensional projection of Homer Simpson. The hologram used patented technology for which Hologram USA and its partner Musion, own the exlusive rights to. Groening and the organizers of the Comic-Con event even had the audacity to make joking reference Tupac Shakur’s hologram appearance at Coachella in 2012—the most well known example of recent holography and one which paid the appropriate license fees.

You might also like: Relativity and FilmOn Networks announce feature film project

Over a thousand people are thought to have witnessed the panel at Comic-Con, and nearly a million have viewed video clips of the Homer Simpson hologram via YouTube—clips, the suit points out, that have Fox advertising embedded in them. Fox and Gracie Films have reportedly recently struck a $1 billion dollar deal that will create an online archive of all Simpsons episodes and has unleashed a flood of merchandising products from Legos and make-up to baseball jackets by cult Japanese clothing designer A Bathing Ape.

“Again Fox Television displays magnificent hypocrisy,” David said in a statement to Tv Mix. “Most producers and content owners in the TV business will tell you that companies like Fox are nothing but thieving hypocrites who hide behind their own self made rules and manipulation  of the law. Not this time Rupert.”

This is not the first major lawsuit Hologram USA has filed to protect its rights to the patent. In May, Pulse Entertainment—the company run by John Textor who famously ran Digital Domain into the grave—used the patented technology to show a Michael Jackson hologram at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. (Textor has lots of legal problems—most notably a suit by the State of Florida which wants to recover almost $100 million dollars it says Textor obtained via fraud. Read more about that here.)

Full article:        http://www.tvmix.com/homer-simpson-hologram-at-comic-con-has-rupert-murdochs-fox-under-fire/123





-H     Peter Lorre claimed that the giant squid got the role in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) that was usually reserved for him.     -IMDB Trivia

Worth a mention - 08/18/14

Former Digital Domain 2.0 CEO John Textor Demands Apology

(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com)            After my last post I received two emails from former Digital Domain 2.0 CEO John Textor. The contents of both emails were the same and posted below. The only difference between the two emails was the first one was sent with the subject “Blog” and the second was sent 15 minutes later with the subject “Private and Confidential”. I never agreed to any personal confidentiality with John Textor and given the abrasive nature of the contents I felt a response was merited on my blog:

Daniel…I understand that you are blogging about me again. Wow.

Last time around, while I was borrowing against my home to make your payroll, you did everything you could to attack me and the Florida business that was desperately trying to support the losses of Venice and your way of life. You can thank me anytime by the way.

You created a great deal of discomfort for me and many of your co-workers…and you were stupid enough to actually think you were righting a wrong, understanding nothing about the economics of the company that fed you and the people that risked everything to keep you comfortable. Let me guess, you are one of the geniuses that actually believes the California office of DD was thriving and covering its own payroll while Florida was siphoning off the profits.

Back then, I offered the unidentified Soldier an interview to help you understand the finer points of our business that you clearly did not understand…still do not understand…and you turned me down. You said it was your policy not to conduct interviews…after I was later surprised to learn that you were one of my employees, I realized that your Policy was to hide in the cubicle that I paid for, hope no one would notice and keep taking money from me for as long as you could while you stood strong in protest…anonymously of course. A fine employee you were indeed.

You are a coward Daniel. You didn’t have the courage to speak with your own voice until it felt really safe to do so. You didn’t even have the courage to raise your hand and question our programs during employee meetings…or send me an email as your CEO suggesting your shame in taking a paycheck from such an immoral company. If you had a righteous bone in your body, you would have walked out.

Seriously Daniel, I am looking for that thank you…and my wife and kids would like an apology. If not, maybe just return the money I paid you while you sold your loyalty for the celebrity of an anonymous blog.

One last thing…your recent blog continues to mischaracterize early emails, resulting in materially false and misleading statements. You have also now challenged the integrity of the Pulse team that has accurately portrayed the experience of its artists on the Pulse website. Be careful. Now that you are an accomplished and known publisher, I look forward to holding you responsible for truth and accuracy.

Feel free to call me at anytime if you think I am wrong about you…John Textor


Dear John,If anyone owes an apology it probably should be coming from you to the people that were negatively affected at Digital Domain 2.0 and the taxpayers of the State of Florida. Many of my friends and colleagues either lost their jobs or went unpaid as the company plunged into bankruptcy under your watch. During that same time Florida taxpayers we’re paying millions in subsidies for Digital Domain.

Full article:   http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/john-textor-demands-apology-from-vfx-soldier/





'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Shells Out Weekend Winning Box Office


NEW YORK (AP) — Moviegoers continued to shell out for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," while Sylvester Stallone's action ensemble "The Expendables 3" was easily out-gunned in its weekend debut.

Paramount Pictures' rebooted reptiles took in $28.4 million in the film's second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. That far surpassed the limp $16.2 million earned by Stallone's gang of aged but buff warriors.





"Star Trek 3" Has a Script

(darkhorizons.com)         While Paramount has yet to confirm whether "Star Trek" scribe Roberto Orci is directing the upcoming third film in the series, one thing that is official is that Orci is working on the script alongside Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne.

Talking with TrekMovie this weekend, Orci confirmed the first draft of the screenplay has been completed: "P & M & I wrote 'fade out' yesterday on the first draft. Things are moving. First draft is done."

Filming on the next "Star Trek" is aiming to begin in the Spring with pre-production hoping to start at the end of this year or in very early 2015. That's all still in the air though until a director, budget and release date are locked down.

If things go to schedule though it would give the studio a robust 2016 Summer line-up with "Transformers 5," "Star Trek 3" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2".

Orci also revealed in the article's comments section that he will be working alongside former partner Alex Kurtzman on Universal's reboot of their Classic Monsters into a connected cinematic universe.





Academy Selects Sci-tech Longlist

Twenty-one scientific and technical achievements, 16 distinct investigations, have been selected for further consideration by the Academy’s scientific and technical awards committee.

The deadline to submit additional entries is August 26.

The committee has selected the following technologies for further consideration:

Portable, remote-controlled telescoping camera columns
Prompted by MAT-TOWERCAM TWIN PEEK (MAT - Mad About Technology);

Drivable, high-speed vehicle platforms
Prompted by THE BISCUIT JR. (Allan Padelford Camera Cars);

Neutral density filters that remove infrared contamination
Prompted by INFRARED NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTER TECHNOLOGY (Tiffen Company);

Lightweight, prime lens sets for high-resolution cameras
Prompted by LEICA SUMMILUX-C PRIME LENS SERIES (CW Sonderoptic);

Optical audio transfer processes
Prompted by CHACE OPTICAL SOUND PROCESSOR (Deluxe);

Enabling technology of digital cinema projectors
Prompted by TEXAS INSTRUMENTS DLP CINEMA TECHNOLOGY (Texas Instruments);

Interactive blend shape modelling and manufacturing
Prompted by LAIKA RAPID PROTOTYPING AND FACIAL ANIMATION TECHNOLOGY (LAIKA, Inc.) and ILM SHAPE SCULPTING SYSTEM (ILM);
Measurement toolsets for quality control of cinematic experience
Prompted by LSS-100P (Ultra-Stereo Labs);

Displays providing suitable visual reference for feature film review
Prompted by SONY TRIMASTER EL ORGANIC LIGHT EMITTING DIODE PICTURE MONITORS (Sony Pictures Imageworks);

Collaborative, enhanceable image playback and review systems
Prompted by RV MEDIA PLAYER (Tweak Software);

High-resolution motion-capture techniques for deforming objects
Prompted by MOVA (MOVA) and GEOMETRY TRACKER (ILM);

Systems for interactive grooming and direct-manipulation of digital hair
Prompted by BARBERSHOP (Weta Digital);

Systems for placing, grooming and resolving collisions of digital feathers
Prompted by DREAMWORKS FEATHER SYSTEM (DreamWorks Animation);

Systems for modeling, animation and rendering of digital vegetation
Prompted by SPEEDTREE (IDV);

Digital technologies for high-density physical destruction simulation
Prompted by DROP DESTRUCTION TOOLKIT (Digital Domain) and FINITE ELEMENT DESTRUCTION MODELING (UC Berkeley) and ODIN - UNIFIED HPC MULTI-PHYSICS SIMULATION PLATFORM (Weta Digital); and
Efficient volumetric data formats

Prompted by FIELD 3D (Sony Pictures Imageworks) and VDB: HIGH-RESOLUTION SPARSE VOLUMES WITH DYNAMIC TOPOLOGY (DreamWorks Animation).

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 2014 Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented on February 7, 2015. The Oscar ceremony proper takes place on February 22, 2015.





‘How to Train Your Dragon 2' Passes $500 Million Box Office Worldwide

(thewrap.com)           DreamWorks Animation officially has a franchise.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” the sequel to the Oscar-nominated 2010 film, broke through the $500 million worldwide box office barrier on Thursday, thanks to a solid $5.6 million opening in China.

Also read: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2' Review: Something Gets Lost in the Leap from Romp to Epic

“We have been incredibly proud of ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2' from the moment we saw it and we're thrilled that it has been embraced around the world with such enthusiasm,” DreamWorks Animation's chief marketing officer Dawn Taubin said. “This film is not only an artistic and technical achievement for DreamWorks, but its strength at the global box office proves that audiences are embracing it as one of the most entertaining films of the year.”

Also read: Dreamworks Animation Hit With Investor Class Action Lawsuit Over Financial Malfeasance

The film, which was written and directed by Dean DeBois and stars the voices of Jay Baruchel and Gerard Butler, made $170.6 million in the United States — down from the $217 million that the original grossed in the US — and thus far, $331.2 million globally, which is a strong improvement on the $277 million the first film made around the globe.

Also read: DreamWorks Animation Loses Money for the Second Quarter in a Row

The sequel has a 92 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an outstanding figure, though a bit lower than the 98 percent the original earned.






How VFX Made The Guardians Of The Galaxy Characters Come To Life

(gizmodo.com.au)          The vigilantes in Guardians of the Galaxy are a multi-species motley crew, and naturally it took a lot of computer-based magic to come to life. FX Guide has the scoop on how a vast team of VFX artists made a mouthy raccoon, a teenage tree, and the rest of the gang look like aliens you could (almost) believe.

The VFX supervisor, Stephane Ceretti, headed up a team of more than 13 companies including MPC, Sony Pictures Imageworks and other big names in VFX. Visual effects were key to Guardians success, but the approach for each character was different:

“The most important thing for us,” says Ceretti, “was to make sure all the acting would be believable and that the actors would be able to respond to another actor. Groot doesn’t have much to say — he says ‘I am Groot’ most of the time (ultimately voiced by Vin Diesel), but he has a lot of expression on his face and this determines what he means. Rocket has a lot of lines and jumps around, so it was important for James to have a real actor there to bounce around with the other actors.”

Speaking of Groot, he presented his own set of unique challenges. He’s a tree with human qualities that only speaks one line, of course. So the way he expressed emotions became very important:

[MPC (the studio in charge of Groot)] recognised that Groot’s eyes would be key. “We spent a lot of time designing and building very complex eye dynamics,” says Aithadi. “We put a lot of detail into his textures and things that would be displaced in his irises — we really wanted to get shadows in there. And we worked a lot on trying to break the symmetry. When you look at humans what makes the eyes interesting is the imperfections — trying to make these two irises not aimed at the same place — trying to make them strange and look more human. I could watch a turntable of Groot for ages because he had this really piercing look and this wisdom in his face.”

Rocket, the genetically modified raccoon with a real mouth on him, was a different puzzle to piece together. Because he’s based on a real creature, they used actual raccoons as a reference point. But his animation is more complex than just mimicking the movements of an animal, because as you find out in Guardians, Rocket’s character has a lot of emotional layers. Emotions aside, one of the key challenges was figuring out how to make his hair look right:

For this, Framestore relied on its in-house hair system. “This uses a series of filters that are built up into a network of different functions to give each hair its shape,” explains Framestore TD Rachel Williams. “As raccoon fur is made up from a layer of short fine hair and a layer of longer thicker hairs we were able to separate these out so that it was possible to only simulate the longer hairs. In doing so we were able to simulate the full hair count of the longer hairs instead of using a low density set of guide hairs to drive the rest of the groom. This resulted in much more accurate simulations. The fur was also separated into sections as the different costumes created natural split points. This meant we could easily remove parts of the fur which were not visible in shot. It also meant we had more hair sets to manage, altogether the three variants comprised of a total of 22 hair sets.”

There is so much more to Guardians beyond the tree/raccoon duo — characters, ships, planets and more. Which is exactly why it required an entire army of animators to bring it from the comic book pages to the big screen. But the process was was well worth it, at least from an audience standpoint. Seriously, go see it if you haven’t already. Go see it a second time if you have. And, of course, read more about the rest of the VFX process over at FX Guide. [FX Guide h/t Digg]





When Will CGI Actors Replace Human Ones?


(telegraph.co.uk)             Robin Wright is standing in the middle of a huge geodesic dome of LEDs and cameras, giving her very last performance. As she sobs bitterly, her every move and micro-expression is scanned. Later an artificial version of the actress will be created to take her place in all of her future films; the real Robin Wright will be redundant.

Princess Bride fans needn’t panic just yet, though. The scene is from Ari Folman’s new film The Congress – a trippy, dystopian vision of a future in which artifice has displaced reality. But it is a future that may be closer than we think.

Virtual characters in films are nothing new. The first – a computer-generated knight – appeared in The Young Sherlock in 1985, and since then we’ve seen everything from artificial extras in Titanic to detailed motion-capture characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. And while some virtual human faces still creep us out (Polar Express, anyone?), a few have graced our screens without us even realising. Brad Pitt’s reverse-ageing process in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for example, was created not with prosthetics but with computer-generated imagery (CGI).


“Very few people watching that film even knew that [CGI] was going on,” says Darren Hendler, digital effects supervisor at Digital Domain. “We are at the point where we can create a digital version of an actor that is indistinguishable from the real person.”

There are plenty of reasons to welcome the technology. Eventually, it could democratise movies, allowing anybody to make a film using a cast they have created. There are also financial advantages, says Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalmann, who has pioneered research into virtual humans for the past 30 years. “On some films it costs a fortune to hire real actors,” she says. “We’re able to make virtual actors look great – and as soon as we can automate the process, there will be a cost-benefit analysis. If it’s cheaper, second-rank actors will be done more and more by computer.”

According to Hendler, some actors are already embracing the process and having themselves scanned. “If they’re in a movie later on where they need to be younger, they already have that snapshot,” he says. “They are starting to archive their digital selves.” But they’re also wary. Tom Cruise, who was scanned for his role in Oblivion, had his data hand-delivered to his house and all other copies destroyed. “The more experienced actors will start to have more control over their contracts with the studios; more say over how their final digital likeness looks and how it is used,” says Hendler.

But if Folman’s vision becomes a reality, films might even be cast using digital versions of actors who have long since died. It is already possible to create fairly convincing virtual versions of actors who were never scanned, using old footage and performance doubles. And, a CG version of Paul Walker has been created to complete Fast and Furious 7, after the actor died part-way through filming.

There are also developments that could make real actors, even in their digital forms, completely redundant. “The big trend is to make virtual humans conscious of their environment and intelligent,” says Magnenat Thalmann. If successful, film-makers will one day be able to create virtual actors who respond to their direction autonomously.

Luckily for the acting community, this technology is nowhere near fruition. “I think the top actors have nice days in front of them,” says Magnenat Thalmann. “Because, although I’ve pioneered this field of virtual humans, I have never seen one that is realistic that can also act.”

Hendler, meanwhile, thinks any virtual character will be useless without a human driving the performance. “More and more we’re finding that we have to rely on actors to create anything that’s moving and believable,” he says. “The motion-capture techniques are getting better all the time and I think we’ll always rely on the capture of an actor, because that’s what an actor does. We can’t just create a performance out of thin air.”

For now, it seems, Folman’s dystopian fantasy will remain just that.





Marvel's Ant-Man Officially Begins Filming!

(comingsoon.net)           It's been a long and complicated journey for Marvel's Ant-Man, having been in development since 2006, losing director Edgar Wright, finding another in Peyton Reed, losing actors in pivotal roles, and all the while going through various script re-writes. Today, however, things are looking up, as Reed revealed on Twitter this morning that the film officially begins filming today! You can read his full tweet below.

Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Also starring Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll and David Dastmalchian, Ant-Man is scheduled for release on July 17, 2015.




Andy Serkis Happy With Anonymity

(ph.celebrity.yahoo.com)       Andy Serkis doesn't get sad that he's not on movie posters.

The actor has largely portrayed characters via Performance Capture technology, including Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings franchises and primate Caesar in the Planet of the Apes films.

It means his own face doesn't make it onto the promo pictures - but Andy has no complaints.

"Quite the opposite," he shrugged to German newspaper Bild when asked if he feels upset about the lack of fame.

"It's a season ticket for a normal life. I don't see myself on posters. My wife and children will always recognise me. So I lead a normal life. I don't get recognised on the street and I can go to the cinema without being spotted."

The 50-year-old married Lorraine Ashbourne in 2002 and they have kids Ruby, Sonny and Louis together.

In 2015 the actor will appear in Star Wars Episode VII but he won't divulge whether fans will be seeing his actual face on screen this time.

"I could tell you, but afterwards I'd have to take you down with a light sabre," he joked. "Oh, I hope I haven't given away too much by saying that. Just this: I prefer light sabres to blasters."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the second in the franchise and has received rave reviews. Andy recently admitted he has more in common with Caesar than he first thought.

"Just likes us, every ape is an individual, no single ape is like another. They have good and bad days, are very emotional and can also be aggressive," he shared.




A Star Wars Making Of Book That Focuses On Models, Not CG


(gizmodo.com)             Computer graphics and digital effects are integral to summer blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy today, but back in 1976 when Lucas created his visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic to help realize the original Star Wars, miniature models were the tools of the trade for special effects—as this limited edition version of Sculpting A Galaxy beautifully illustrates.

For just shy of $400 the set includes a book filled with over 300 photos and illustrations from the Lucasfilm archives detailing the history and use of miniature models in films over the years, which, surprisingly, are still in use in filmmaking today. The boxed set also comes with a documentary about ILM's model shop, as well as recreations of actual models of the Landspeeder and sections of the Death Star used in the original films.




'Electronic Makeup' By Nobumichi Asai Transforms This Model's Face

(huffingtonpost.co.u)                Makeup artists and CGI engineers are usually thought of as being enemies, not friends. This video shows their future might be together, not apart.

Meet 'electronic makeup' - a new type of live CGI tool which can map projections, character makeup and effects directly onto an actor's face, in real-time.

Projection-mapping artist Nobumichi Asai developed the technique based on his prior work morphing images onto buildings, cars and other large objects.

Take a look at the dramatic results:    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/08/18/electronic-makeup_n_5687140.html




-H          “I got two babies to feed, a wife to take care of, a roof to put over our heads. It’s not about me. It’s about my family.”   -Digital Artist after Digital Domain Florida is closed without notice. (2012)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Worth a mention - 08/15/14

Michael Bay To Ride Futuristic Space Vehicles For "Cosmic Motors"

(theguardian.com)           Michael Bay's next big science-fiction movie may be about futuristic space vehicles called Cosmic Motors, reports Hollywood blog The Tracking Board.

Bay, whose latest Transformers film, Age of Extinction, recently passed the $1bn (£600m) mark at the global box office, is apparently in line to direct a movie based on a book by Daniel Simon. Simon's tome has no traditional story, but instead features concept art, designs and digital renders of nine cosmic vehicles, including spaceships, race cars and motorcycles, from the fictional Galaxion galaxy. The German-born artist, a former senior designer at Bugatti and Volkswagen, is well known in Hollywood for his work designing fantasy vehicles such as the updated lightcycles in Tron: Legacy, and Hydra's tanks, cars, airships, and submarines in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Blurb about Cosmic Motors on Simon's website reads: "Cosmic Motors is a fantasy manufacturer of vehicles of all kinds, located in the center of the Galaxion galaxy. CoMo, as it is affectionately referred to by its outer space fans, was founded in the Galaxion year 8966-B… Besides their groundbreaking developments in transportation, CoMo gained fame by turning retired war machinery of other makers into the finest sports competition vehicles. The transformation of these retired war machines into racers accentuates the now peaceful state in the galaxy, even if there are still remote planets with ongoing conflicts. … Today, Cosmic Motors produces some of the finest vehicles in the Galaxion galaxy, successfully blending cutting-edge technology with battle-proven crude mechanics, packaged in a sophisticated design aesthetic."

Bay, who would also produce the film through his Bay Films company, is reportedly working to secure an original story for the project. Cosmic Motors, apparently being pitched as a space western, will reportedly be set up at Warner Bros rather than Bay's regular studio partner Paramount.





Terracotta Warriors To Become Hollywood's Next Super Heroes

(express.co.uk)             The warriors are expected to rise from the grave in the Far East to rival Hollywood comic heroes such as Iron Man and Spider-Man.

In the first collaboration of its kind, all three countries will produce a superhero movie based on the 8,000 sculptures of soldiers which were buried in about 210BC and discovered by farmers at a city-size mausoleum in China’s Xi’an province in 1974.

The intricate and remarkably intact figures are believed to have been placed in the ground to protect first emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife.

US giant Paramount and executives from Pinewood Studios, in Buckinghamshire, say the big-budget project, which will be called either Rise Of The Terracotta Warriors or Super Terracotta Warriors, could be the first of many films.

They have been in talks with Shanghai Film Group, whose president Ren Zhonglun confirmed: “A lot of projects have reached a ­practical stage.

“In the last month of 2013 and the first month of this year, there have been people from Paramount and Marvel and Pinewood Studios ­coming to talk to us.”

This is the first of what we hope will be many future collaborations that will create new revenue streams in both motion picture industries

The blockbuster’s plot will see the ­terracotta warriors come back to life in modern times to save the world from an alien invasion. It will be shot at Shanghai’s Chedun studio which technical experts from Pinewood will help to transform into what Mr Zhonglun describes as a “world class film city”.

The project is the brainchild of producer Avi Arad, whose credits include movies from the Iron Man and Spider-Man franchises.

An executive at Paramount said: “The Chinese film market is already the second biggest in the world, after the United States.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many future collaborations that will create new revenue streams in both motion picture industries.

“It is an important step forward in a relationship we believe will lead to truly global branding and franchising, with all the commercial, merchandising and advertising spin-offs that will open up.”

The Terracotta Army project will also be the first genuine film- making partnership deal between all three countries.

Marvel shot several Chinese scenes for last year’s massive hit Iron Man 3 but the extra content was derided as a stunt.

The Paramount source said: “There are more than 1.3 billion people in a country that is hungry for films. That is a market place four times bigger than the United States.

“It is a market we are anxious to play a part in and we believe the future possibilities are almost limitless.”





Former LookFX Employees Tell Their Side

(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com)            One of the big pieces of news that came out of Siggraph was David Cohen’s piece in Variety that LookFX was folding:

Look officially ceased operations doors Monday and its staff is already at work at Mass Market. LookFX partners Henrik Fett and Mark Driscoll will be co-managing directors of Mass Market’s feature division. They will report to Jay Lichtman, managing director of MassMarket.

I was sent an email from a group of former LookFX artists who wanted to share their side of the story which is posted below:

Friends and Fellow colleagues,

This letter comes from a longtime, dedicated, core group of individuals who, until recently, worked at Look Effects. Our employment ranged from several months to almost 10 years. After careful deliberation, extensive discussions, and sincere soul searching, we think it would be best to publicly tell our tale, given the news our former company has ceased operations. Closing its doors, yet the two majority owners already have new jobs to make money for their new employer, despite the fact they owe Look Effects employees hundreds of thousands of dollars. While our frustrations are admittedly high, the love we have for the Visual Effects industry and immense respect to our fellow colleagues in the industry prompted us to discuss this publicly. We want the industry more fully informed in an effort to prevent further damage to other individuals, projects or companies.

To start, the loyalty shown to the owners of Look Effects was extraordinary. Whether it was pulling all nighters to meet deadlines (recently, some stayed at the office 60+ hours in a row…without overtime), or assisting one of our other locations by helping with technical complications (such as Noah), the dedication and professionalism of our artists to not only the owners, but to each other, cannot be questioned. When payroll began to fall behind (yet again) in the middle of 2013, instead of demanding money, we asked for communication of when and how we would be caught up. We all love the work we do and are completely aware that getting paid to do what you love is hard to come by. We also understand the difficulties that our industry has faced in recent years, so we were patient on getting caught up. However, despite repeated and consistent attempts to get clarity on this, we received little to no information, and when we finally did get specific dates, they came and went without so much as an acknowledgement.

Most of us thought about leaving after almost a year of this, and some did. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, leaving a Visual Effects job is easier said than done, especially when families are involved. Many of us decided earlier this year that the disrespect for our contributions, sheer unprofessionalism in dealing with the situation, and the amount of unpaid wages owed to us (see below) had become too much and we were forced to leave a company we once loved.

To date, a majority of us recently departed employees are owed back wages, pension pay, vacation pay, IRA contributions and business expenses. For some of us, when we left we were told the company couldn’t pay us and were given a payment plan and Separation Agreement that they strongly encouraged us to sign. After attempted negotiation and barely getting any compromise at all, the owners couldn’t even follow through on what they sent to us. Many haven’t even seen a cent of the money we’re owed.

The amounts owed to each of us range from a few thousand dollars to over $50,000. We estimate the total owed to employees is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000-$400,000. This does not count any work that was outsourced to outside entities (also owed money) and other creditors. Several employees have filed claims with the Department of Labor, while some are conferring with attorneys about steps to take. While these owed wages go back to October 2013, the company consistently was late on pay, with little or no communication regarding updates. Like with much of our industry, most Look Effects artists consistently worked well over 8 hour days and over 40 hour weeks. Staff employees didn’t receive overtime pay at all (Company policy. Freelancers would receive their hourly rate only – no overtime). We also put up with a lack of communication for a long time. For each of the last several years, the same pattern occurred, albeit on a slightly smaller scale – unexpected furlough days resulting in 4 day weeks (20% paycut), missed payrolls, broken promises, and little or no communication. Whether we should have left much sooner can be debated or commented on, one thing is indisputable… Look Effects employees were extremely, extremely loyal.

Late last week (August 7th), the company sent emails to a number of employees, without warning, informing them their health insurance was cancelled. That email, sent from the current CFO John Owen (the owners rarely addressed employees themselves), wrote that the cancelled policy was as of August 1st…6 days EARLIER, leaving these same, dedicated employees, AND THEIR FAMILIES, immediately without health insurance. He also went on to say that COBRA was not available– leaving them only a week to get insurance for September and no coverage until then.

The company is now closing up after having a staff of these same 60+ people just 4 months ago, and there’s little chance of us ever being paid back (the majority of employees resigned). The core team that clients loved and those largely responsible for the production of the projects are now gone. 99% of material from Look’s demo reel is by people no longer with the company. The fact that the owners admit they owe us money, yet aren’t willing to work or communicate with us says there’s no plan in place to ensure that they follow through. It’s our understanding the owners and a few remaining employees (also owed money) are becoming employees of another company, which further validates our suspicions (Most employees had already left. 17 are all that remained, including management). There were existing projects at Look Effects, and those funds could have started some form of payback process, yet there’s been zero communication. The cherry on top is this new “division” at the new company is to be run by none other than Look Effects’ majority owners, Mark Driscoll and Henrik Fett.

The Visual Effects industry has been going through a difficult time these past few years. Industry outsiders may question our motives, some may say it’s our fault for not acting sooner. Others may even say if we don’t like it, get out. Those close enough to our industry, unfortunately, know what we’re going through from personal experience. So, regardless of public opinion, if this letter prevents one more professional in our industry from being taken advantage of, disrespected, or lied to, it’ll be well worth it. The sharing of experiences and being honest to the Visual Effects community can only help us all.

Sincerely,

Former Look FX Employees





Star Wars Films on Welsh Border

Campervans, security guards and fences have been spotted in the Forest of Dean... and it could well be because the most popular movie franchise ever is being filmed there

Full article:  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/star-wars-being-filmed-welsh-7614078





Two  "Journey to the Center of the Earth" Sequels Moving Forward

(The Hollywood Reporter)           New Line Cinema and Walden media have attached The Conjuring scribes Carey and Chad Hayes to their Jules Verne-fueled Journey to the Center of the Earth franchise. Josh Hutcherson, who starred in the original film and its first sequel, Journey 2 the Mysterious Island, will re-team with the sequel's headliner Dwayne Johnson for an additional two sequels, which they are now looking at potentially filming back to back.

Word of a third film first broke in 2012, following the impressive box office receipts of Mysterious Island, which itself teased that another film would likely be based on Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and/or that book's sequel, Around the Moon. It is noted in the trade's story, however, that a new direction is being eyed for the franchise, so the Moon may no longer be the planned destination.

The Hayes brothers recently teamed with both Johnson and Mysterious Island helmer Brad Peyton for the upcoming San Andreas. That film also stars Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd and Kylie Minogue and is set for release on June 5, 2015.





Meet the UK Tech Firm Making CGI Effects for Disney

(telegraph.co.uk)               Guildford is not the most likely home for one of the world’s premier specialists in computer generated imagery (CGI). Yet here Smart Cookie, a specialist agency, creates bespoke, hi-tech projects for Disney, American Airlines and BAE Systems.

The company has tripled turnover to £3m within two years and headcount has increased from eight people to 35 as companies from across the world vie to take advantage of its digital knowledge.

Britain has become a star player in the global visual effects industry. Following the box office success of Gravity, which was filmed using 95pc computer generated imagery by British outfit Framestore, filmmakers, production companies and, increasingly, advertisers are seeking to buy British.

Smart Cookie, which specialises in CGI, virtual reality, touch screen and motion control, generates 65pc of its revenue from export. Its technology has been used in projects including cutting- edge holograms, Superbowl adverts, creating the world’s largest touchscreen and the development of Harry Potter World in Universal Studios Florida.

While a significant portion of the visual effects work in the UK is being soaked up by large British companies like Framestore, smaller players are experiencing a significant uplift. “When you’re small, you’re agile,” said chairman Chris Searson.

Smart Cookie has found its niche creating high-quality content that can be used for a variety of media, which appeals to cost-conscious brands. “We do things with CGI that would cost millions to shoot in a studio,” said Mr Searson. “For our American Airlines film, there were no planes actually taking off, just one in the hangar. The heat haze was all created in the studio.

“Before, you would need to have two planes in the sky, one filming the other,” he added.

Virtual reality is also becoming a lucrative niche for Smart Cookie. The company created a digital world for an air-conditioning client, for example, where salespeople can add energy switches and trial different systems for clients, all in a virtual building.

Motion control is another big earner. Smart Cookie is one of the developers on the beta programme for Xbox Kinect, and developed gesture control apps for Planes and Transformers.

But being small has its disadvantages. “We have limited resources, so we have to make decisions like, 'Do we go with Oculus Rift or Google Glass?’” admitted Mr Searson.

Nevertheless, growth at the company is assured for the foreseeable future, he insisted. “The new Star Wars movie is being shot over here,” he said. “That just shows you that everyone wants to buy in to British creativity.”





Pirates of the Caribbean 5 Pushes -Last in the Series?


(hallels.com)             One of the latest news to hit the entertainment scene is that Pirates of the Caribbean 5, everyone's favorite captain, will be sailing back to the big screen by 2017.

The Pirates of the Caribbean 5 will have a more pirate-centric storyline with less mystical characters and possible returning characters alongside new ones to make this new adventure swashbuckling fun. Though originally slated to be released in 2016, the main cause of the delay was due to issues with the script.

Some have said that Disney would not want to compete against tough competitions slated for 2015 such as Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Batman vs Superman.
One of the biggest Pirates of the Caribbean 5 rumors floating about is that the film has been named as Dead Men Tell No Tales. It will be competing against several other films slated to be released the same year such as Despicable Me 3 and Fantastic Four 2.

Though Pirates of the Caribbean 5 has been met with several pushbacks, one thing is for such: Johnny Depp will be donning his captain's hat for this fifth installment. He will be joined by Christoph Waltz, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport and Keith Richards with film locations intended to be done at New Orleans and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, Penelope Cruz, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley will not be reprising their roles for Pirates of the Caribbean 5. Jerry Bruckheimer is once again the producer and it will be directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sanderberg.





"Vampire Academy 2" Seeks Crowd Funding

(darkhorizons.com)         There's no way to avoid the fact - this year's film adaptation of the young adult novel series "Vampire Academy" was a bomb. The first film adaptation of Richelle Mead's popular series of novels pulled in a worldwide gross of just $15 million.

Nevertheless, fans have been holding out hope that the second book, "Frostbite," could make it to the big screen one day. Now it seems they might get their wish.

The producing team behind the first film have launched an IndieGoGo campaign to get the film made. They say they have successfully funded the majority of the movie, but to get a green light they need to raise $1.5 million.

The campaign launched just over a week ago and is 11% ($171,000) on the way towards its goal. If the film gets funded, a six-week shoot is expected to take place in Europe or Australia. Piers Ashworth penned the script for the follow-up, but there's no word on whether director Mark Waters or any of the original cast will return.




How VFX Made the Guardians of the Galaxy Characters Come to Life

(gizmodo.com)               The vigilantes in Guardians of the Galaxy are a multi-species motley crew, and naturally it took a lot of computer-based magic to come to life. FX Guide has the scoop on how a vast team of VFX artists made a mouthy racoon, a teenage tree, and the rest of the gang look like aliens you could (almost) believe.

The VFX supervisor, Stephane Ceretti, headed up a team of more than 13 companies including MPC, Imageworks, and other big names in VFX. Visual effects were key to Guardians success, but the approach for each character was different:

"The most important thing for us," says Ceretti, "was to make sure all the acting would be believable and that the actors would be able to respond to another actor. Groot doesn't have much to say – he says 'I am Groot' most of the time (ultimately voiced by Vin Diesel), but he has a lot of expression on his face and this determines what he means. Rocket has a lot of lines and jumps around, so it was important for James to have a real actor there to bounce around with the other actors."

Speaking of Groot, he presented his own set of unique challenges. He's a tree with human qualities that only speaks one line, of course. So the way he expressed emotions became very important:

[MPC (the studio in charge of Groot)] recognized that Groot's eyes would be key. "We spent a lot of time designing and building very complex eye dynamics," says Aithadi. "We put a lot of detail into his textures and things that would be displaced in his irises – we really wanted to get shadows in there. And we worked a lot on trying to break the symmetry. When you look at humans what makes the eyes interesting is the imperfections – trying to make these two irises not aimed at the same place – trying to make them strange and look more human. I could watch a turntable of Groot for ages because he had this really piercing look and this wisdom in his face."

Rocket, the genetically modified raccoon with a real mouth on him, was a different puzzle to piece together. Because he's based on a real creature, they used actual raccoons as a reference point. But his animation is more complex than just mimicking the movements of an animal, because as you find out in Guardians, Rocket's character has a lot of emotional layers. Emotions aside, one of the key challenges was figuring out how to make his hair look right:

For this, Framestore relied on its in-house hair system. "This uses a series of filters that are built up into a network of different functions to give each hair its shape," explains Framestore TD Rachel Williams. "As raccoon fur is made up from a layer of short fine hair and a layer of longer thicker hairs we were able to separate these out so that it was possible to only simulate the longer hairs. In doing so we were able to simulate the full hair count of the longer hairs instead of using a low density set of guide hairs to drive the rest of the groom. This resulted in much more accurate simulations. The fur was also separated into sections as the different costumes created natural split points. This meant we could easily remove parts of the fur which were not visible in shot. It also meant we had more hair sets to manage, altogether the three variants comprised of a total of 22 hair sets."





California Poised to Hike Film Tax Credits to Stem Runaway Production

(latimes.com)            Moving to slow the exodus of filming to other states and countries, California lawmakers are poised to quadruple tax subsidies for location shooting to $400 million a year.

Legislation approved on a 5-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday also would eliminate a controversial system in which film and TV productions won tax credits based on a lottery system, regardless of the economic effect of the production.

The bill, AB 1839, must still be approved by the full Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. But legislative backers say they are confident the measure will clear all remaining hurdles, saying there is widespread recognition that California is losing one of its signature homegrown industries to other states.

Full article:     http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-california-tax-credit-20140815-story.html




'Ant-Man' FX Footage Screened

(hitfix.com)                SAN DIEGO - Marvel Studios began their Saturday panel with an opening preview reel that was basically a refresher as they ran through all ten of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, wrapping up with new footage from "Guardians Of The Galaxy," including a truly awesome shot of Thanos. It was great seeing a visual reminder of just how each of the puzzle pieces was dropped into place, how they've become more adventurous with each new film, how they've started playing with style and tone. Wrapping it up with Chris Pratt snarling, "We're the guardians of the galaxy, bitch" drove Hall H wild, which was a heck of a way for Team Marvel to take the stage.

Kevin Feige told the completely packed hall that the first film they'd be highlighting was 2015's "Ant-Man," which has been the subject of some intense controversy so far. New director Peyton Reed was on-hand to talk about his longtime love of the material, and I can vouch for him. The first time I met Reed was at Comic-Con about a decade ago, and he was just sitting in the audience at a panel, there because he was excited about whatever it was we were seeing. Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd were joined onstage by Corey Stoll, who is playing The Yellowjacket, and Evangeline Lily, who is playing Hank Pym's daughter in the film. When they finished talking about "Ant-Man" a bit, they rolled a special piece of footage that they prepared just for the con.

It starts with a long tracking shot through Pym's personal lab. We hear the conversation between Scott Lang (Rudd) and Hank Pym (Douglas). Pym is trying to convince Lang to help him steal something. Lang protests that he's not a superhero and Pym tells him that's exactly the point. "You're not an egomaniac." Lang keeps trying to wiggle out of it, and Pym growls at him, "Jesus Christ, Scott, it's like you already shrank your balls." In the end, it sounds like he talks him into it, promising, "It's just a small job," just as the camera stops on a shot of the Ant-Man helmet.

What followed was a really lovely little glimpse at the actual suit in effect. It's just after Lang breaks in to steal some of the tech that Darren Cross managed to take from Pym in his business take-over. He's running from the building, shrunk down to ant size, and he can hear Pym talking to him through the earpiece in the helmet. Pym tells him that he's got to get to the edge of the building, where there will be a ride waiting. That ride turns out to be a flying ant, and Pym tells him to just use the helmet to command it.

Good advice, but then Lang trips and falls, and the helmet starts to sputter and spark. As security starts to close in, Pym tells Lang to just jump off the edge of the building, and when he does, a group of ants swoop in beneath him. He manages to saddle up, get some control, and then fly directly into an air vent in a building, as the title treatment came up.

Look, I get some of the complicated feelings and the disappointment that people feel right now about the "Ant-Man" project, and I think I'm pretty clearly on the record as being a massive fan of Edgar Wright's work. I am dying to see any film from Edgar, but this particular Marvel film would have been a blast. There are going to be lots of things in the movie that are there because of the work done by Edgar, Joe Cornish, and cinematographer Bill Pope. Their ideas are going to be in the film, and there will be scenes and sequences that are directly out of what they wanted to do. But it looks to me like the team that's in place, including Reed, is going to do their very best to bring these characters into the Marvel Universe in a way that's going to keep the hit parade marching along.

"Ant-Man" is in theaters on , 2015.





"Ant Man" Open Casting Call Saturday at Pinewood


(thecitizen.com)               The glamor of Hollywood is coming to call on Fayetteville Saturday. According to New Life Casting’s Facebook page, the first open casting call for the city’s Pinewood Atlanta Studios is this weekend.

“New Life Casting is hosting an Open Casting Call on Saturday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The call will be held in the Studio Café in the Production Centre @ Pinewood Atlanta Studios on 461 Sandy Creek Road in Fayetteville. Enter the building through the side entry in bus parking [Veterans Parkway side of the Centre]. We are seeking all types of extras, ages 18 years and older. A few characters needed include: military, scientists, business men and women, ravers 18-23. Please bring your own pen and be prepared to have your picture taken and to complete a short form for our data base. Also, bring your headshot and resume if you have one. If you’re not able to attend, you may go to http://www.newlifecasting.com/ to sign up.”

The casting call is for Marvel’s “Ant-Man” and will be the first production created at Fayette’s new studio.

According to Wikipedia, “Ant-Man” is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics characters of the same name: Scott Lang and Hank Pym. The film is produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is intended to be the twelfth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Peyton Reed is set to direct the film written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Adam McKay, with Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll starring.

In “Ant-Man,” Lang must help defend Dr. Pym’s Ant-Man technology and plot a heist with worldwide ramifications.

In mid-2013, a study by Georgia Tech determined that once all three phases of the studio are developed, there could be as many as 3,400 jobs tied to the studio and ancillary businesses that are necessary for the TV and movie productions that will take place.





It Took Some Real Wizardry to Make ‘Oz’ Effects

(google.com)              They had no computers. No green screens. No Industrial Light and Magic.

So how did filmmakers create the snarling tornado and other wonders in “The Wizard of Oz”?

Seventy-five years ago, special effects had to be truly special. If you wanted visual sorcery that left audiences spellbound, it took a movie MacGyver to make some magic.

And for “The Wizard of Oz,” that magician was A. Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie.

From 1936 to 1962 Gillespie served as the head of special effects at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on more than 180 feature films, including “Ben-Hur,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” and “Forbidden Planet.” He was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four.

We asked John Fricke, a New York City “Oz” historian and author, how Gillespie did it.

The twister

The special effects experts couldn’t just take a camera out to Kansas and wait for a tornado. They had to make one.

“They tried a test first with a water vortex, and talked about rubber, and finally settled on cloth,” Fricke said. “They came up with a 35-foot-long muslin stocking that they wrapped around chicken wire to give it a conical appearance.”

Gillespie rigged up a gantry crane, rotated by a motor, that traveled the length of the soundstage. The base of the tornado was fastened to a car below the stage, where the crew moved it along a track.

The farmhouse, fence, barn and prairie all were done in miniature, and clouds were painted on glass. Wind machines and dust added the final touch. They filmed the tornado sweeping across the prairie from several angles, at distances, coming close to the camera and going away, Fricke said.

“Once the (tornado) film was complete, they showed it as rear projection behind the actors,” he said.

How realistic was it?

“The Weather Channel did the one hundred most memorable moments in weather history,” Fricke said. “Number fifty-something was the tornado in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Several meteorologists said it was that depiction of a tornado that made them want to pursue careers in meteorology.”

The winged monkeys

In one of the most frightening scenes in the movie, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) sends her army of flying monkeys to abduct Dorothy (Judy Garland) and attack her friends. Gillespie considered animating the scene but scrapped the idea after realizing it wouldn’t look right.

“So they employed about a dozen diminutive men,” Fricke said. “Some were jockeys, and they used a couple of little people who played Munchkins. They put them in costumes and hung them by very thin piano wire from the sound stage, like live marionettes. Battery packs on their back caused their wings to flap.”

Gillespie used rubber miniatures to add scores of other flying monkeys to the scene.

The melting Witch

Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West, “liquidating her,” as the Wizard later explained.

“It was the most basic thing in the world,” Fricke said. “They put Margaret Hamilton on a small elevator platform that dropped below the soundstage. They tacked the hem of her witch’s dress around the outside of the elevator so it would stay up. Then the air rushing up the elevator shaft puffed up her skirt.

“Also under the skirt they put dry ice for the steam effect. And then the finishing touch was they put a bigger witch’s hat on her head when she was melting so it would look like her face was smaller.”

Hey, who needs computers?





Michael Bay Says He'll Hand Off 'Transformers 5' To Another Director

(blogs.indiewire.com)             Asked what’s next for the “Transformers ” franchise literally a few hours after he finished “Transformers: Age of Exctinction,” Michael Bay quipped half-seriously, “there’s a lot that’s unexplored, but that’s for the next director to figure out.” He added “they’re hard movies to do and it takes every day for two years. They’re fun, but they’re hard.” Bay has talked about a potential handoff in the past, saying he’d oversee a new cast and some pre-production, and then split. But it seems he meant it this time.

In an interview with USA Today, the paper says the filmmaker “believes he will pass the baton for future Transformer movies to a new director while he turns his focus elsewhere.”

"There's kind of a new chapter, a new direction in movies I want to make," Bay said. "I have a lot of stories to tell. And it's about flexing new muscles." One of those directions is a passion project, a documentary regarding elephant poaching which the filmmaker has discussed in the past.

Should this come to pass, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. One could argue that,  through his Platinum Dunes production shingle, Bay has already handed off projects to some of his younger protégés, like Jonathan Liebesman, director of this weekend's box office champ “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (which did so well at the box-office a sequel is already on the way).

“Transformers: Age of Exctinction,” is the highest grossing film of 2014 worldwide and will likely remain so for the rest of the year. The movie is also the 9th highest grossing picture of all time worldwide. Domestically, it’s the third highest grossing film of the year and may very well make it to #1. Bay has conquered blockbuster filmmaking and thus has nowhere to go in the genre, so perhaps he has a sincere desire to test his mettle in other cinematic arenas.





Are These The 10 Best Looking Movies That Have Used CGI?

(gizmodo.com.au)           Though CGI may be overused in some movies and poorly executed in more, some visual masterpieces have relied on the fantastic tool to create beautiful worlds that push the possibilities of our imagination. Here’s Watch Mojo’s list of the 10 most visually striking movies that are filled with CGI.

Gravity
Avatar
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Life of Pi
Tron: Legacy
Jurassic Park
Inception
What Dreams May Come
The Matrix
300

VIDEO - Take a look:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxHX2PB5osM   




-H          “It’s a bitch working with robots. Ten thousand moving parts and you have to make them emote.”     -Micheal Bay   (Details Magazine, 2007)