(nukethefridge.com) Website MarketSaw states, a source close to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has reported that 71 year-old veteran actor Harrison Ford is in negotiations to reprise his role as Millennium Falcon pilot Han Solo in J. J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII.” The deal will also include Ford returning to shoot back-to-back sequels for Indiana Jones.
Ford has been evasive concerning his return to the “Star Wars” series, but two more Indiana Jones features are said to be part of his contract clause. This is why he hasn’t ‘publicly’ or ‘privately’ committed. So, if Disney wants to have Han Solo, they’ll have to ante up two more Indiana Jones films.
What do you think about the two-for-one deal?
“Star Wars: Episode VII” will open in theaters on December 18, 2015. The film will star Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels. Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams wrote the screenplay based on characters created by George Lucas. John Williams will return to compose the film’s score. J.J. Abrams directs.
VFX Soldier Speaks To LA City Council
(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com) Last night I attended an Ad Hoc Film Committee event held by Councilmembers in LA city hall. Each speaker was allowed 3 minutes to speak in front of the council. You can listen to the whole session below. My statement is at the 1:37:36 mark:
You can hear one of the council members gasp as I revealed the ultimatum given to workers recently at Imageworks to move to Vancouver. It’s a shame there was no video of the meeting. The look on the face of Councilmembers when I revealed that taxpayers in BC pay 60% of resident VFX salaries was devastating.
Councilmember Krekorian had a surprised look at how much BC was paying for film subsidies. Councilmember O’Farrell was nodding with interest when I revealed the legal effort. Councilmember Price complimented me on my presentation after the meeting and I gave him papers explaining the effort.
Afterwards there were a good number of people who gave me their contact information interested in supporting the effort. I handed out fliers directing them to our website and the March in March event. There will be future meetings and I think it’s a good forum to have your voice heard and help shape council members knowledge.
'Ghostbusters' Sequel Still on Sfter Ramis' Death
(torontosun.com) The second 'Ghostbusters' sequel is still a go, despite the death of Harold Ramis.
The actor/director had been scheduled to make a cameo appearance along with the other original Ghostbusters, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, in the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and it was feared his death on Monday would scupper plans.
But Sony insiders claim studio bosses still want to make the film and they're sitting down with director Ivan Reitman this week to discuss how to proceed.
Filming is still set to start later this year.
Sony Santa Monica Suffers Layoffs
(mcvuk.com) God of War developer Sony Santa Monica has been hit with a round of layoffs, Sony Computer Entertainment of America has confirmed.
The publisher told IGN a reduction in workforce took place yesterday at the SoCal-based development studio, stating the cuts are the result of resource re-alignment.
"SCEA can confirm that we have completed a reduction in workforce at Santa Monica Studio. This is a result of a cycle of resource re-alignment against priority growth areas within SCE WWS,” the statement read.
“We do not take these decisions lightly. However, sometimes it is necessary to make changes to better serve the future projects of the studio. We have offered outplacement services and severance packages to ease transition for those impacted."
The layoffs were initially leaked to IGN by unidentified sources, who indicated that one of the Sony Santa Monica's active projects ended up getting canceled as a result of the staff reduction.
That bit has yet to be acknowledged by SCEA. The company also chose not to reveal any specifics regarding how many SSM employees were let go – and how many are now left working at the studio.
Sony Fast-Tracks The Smurfs 3 as Fully Animated Movie
(ign.com) The sequel won't be a toon/live-action hybrid like its predecessors.
Sony Pictures Animation is reportedly moving quickly on The Smurfs 3 and switching things up for their next screen outing.
According to Variety, "Sony is fast-tracking its third Smurfs installment, which will be entirely animated (its predecessors were live action/animated hybrids). The second installment, released last July, did approximately $215 million less business worldwide than the 2011 original ($347.5 million vs. $563.7 million). Both leaned heavily on the foreign box office, which contributed more than 70% of each film’s global box office take."
With Smurfs 3 now a fully animated movie, it remains to be seen what this means for Hank Azaria's Gargamel. Will the Smurfs face a new (non-live-action) nemesis next time out? Or will Azaria simply voice a now-animated Gargamel? Such important, burning questions ...
Last we'd heard, Over the Hedge screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and Chris Poche were writing The Smurfs 3, which is scheduled for release August 14, 2015.
Life After Pi Documentary Released
(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/) Rhythm & Hues India’s Prashant Buyyala at the 7:40 mark:
We’ve had to chase a price point that’s been dropping very rapidly and the reason why the prices have been dropping quite a bit, one of the fundamental reasons is the tax subsidies that are being provided in Canada, in the UK, and other places.
Watch the full doc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Open Casting Call for ‘Jurassic World’ This Weekend
The latest installment of Jurassic Park is set to film in the islands and a local talent agency tells KHON2 that the film’s casting department is looking for local extras to be a part of the movie.
A casting call will be held this Sunday, March 2, from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Olelo Community Media Center at 1122 Mapunapuna St. All ages and ethnicities are welcome to try out.
Casting directors are especially interested in seeing families with children ages 6 to 17, twin children ages 6 to 15, and people who look like they’re in the military.
There are no fees or charges.
Ebay Buys Computer Graphics Startup PhiSix
(computerworld.com) Ebay has acquired PhiSix Fashion Labs, a computer graphics startup that makes 3D models of clothing, in a bid to offer customers a virtual fitting room.
The e-commerce giant is like its peers trying to grow its share of online apparel purchases. Research firm eMarketer has forecast that online retail sales in the U.S. of apparel and accessories will rise to $88 billion by 2016, almost as much as the largest online retail category consisting of computers and consumer electronics, up from $54 billion in 2013.
PhiSix's technology can be used both online and offline to allow consumers to see how clothes fit, look and move in different environments without actually having to try them on, the e-commerce company said in a blog post.
Virtual fitting rooms in some forms have been tried before and did not meet the preference of many users to physically try the clothes.
The 3D models will offer shoppers a virtual fitting room where they can view the clothes in a variety of scenarios ranging from walking down the street to hitting a golf club, eBay said Wednesday.
Ebay said the PhiSix technology can be used for omni-channel commerce so users can shop from any online device.
The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Ebay said it could integrate PhiSix technology across its product portfolio.
PhiSix founder Jonathan Su and his three-person team will join eBay's Innovation and New Ventures group to focus on ways to transform retail, eBay said.
This Is What Movies Would Look Like Without Visual Effects
(businessinsider.com) While watching a movie at home or in theaters, sometimes we forget the special effects that go into bringing a film to life.
This year, "Gravity," "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," "Iron Man 3," and "Star Trek Into Darkness" are all nominated for visual effects Oscars.
Would you recognize any of those films without their added special effects?
We've gathered together images from visual effects studios Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Rhythm & Hues along with visual effects software company Imagineer Systems to show what popular movies would look like without added effects.
From Oscar-nominated films to box-office successes see what popular movies would look like without effects.
Take a look: http://www.businessinsider.
Attack On Titan Live-Action Special Effects Look Terrifying
(kotaku.com.au) Remember that Attack on Titan Subaru commercial? The ad featured giant Titans. Two of them were actors in scary make up. And the third?
From the looks of these behind-the-scenes pics, the third one — the Colossal Titan — was a giant puppet. According to IT Media, seven puppeteers controlled the large-scale maquette. According to me, the puppet looks frightening.
Obviously, this was used with a combination of CG, but that’s a combination that should make fans of old style special effects happy — and scared in a very good way.
Behind the scenes photos: http://www.kotaku.com.au/
Autodesk Reveals Cloud-Based 3D Character Generator
(cgw.com) This week Autodesk expanded its cloud offering with the launch of Character Generator, an easy-to-use, web-based application that enables virtually anyone to create customized, rigged and ready-to-animate 3D characters.
Once designed, characters can be exported for a wide range of applications - from populating game scenes, to learning animation and modeling, generating models for pre-visualization, design visualization and more. Character Generator requires five cloud credits per high-resolution character download for customers on Autodesk subscription or rental plans. Students and educators receive free access to the product, and a lighter version of the app for creating low-resolution and crowd characters is accessible for anyone to try at no cost.
Formerly dubbed "Project Pinocchio," a popular Autodesk Labs experiment that resulted in the creation of thousands of characters, Character Generator was designed with customer feedback integrated throughout development, and houses a robust library of pre-built male, female and creature characters. Using intuitive slider and selection functions, users can combine and morph the physical attributes of the pre-built models – from body traits to facial features, skin color, hair styles, clothing and more – to create unique characters. Upon completion, users on Autodesk subscription or rental plans can leverage cloud credits to export their 3D creations to software packages such as Autodesk Maya, Maya LT and 3ds Max for further customization and animation, or use in game engines like Unity.
Key Character Generator features include:
An extensive collection of male, female and fantasy characters, from which users can blend two different sources to create an original design
A virtually limitless selection of skin, eye, hair, clothing and shoes to choose from
Targeted blending options to refine characters on a per feature basis
The ability to save characters in the cloud and modify them in the future as needed
Autodesk subscription and rental customers will receive access to a body, bone and blend-shape facial rig collection compatible with Autodesk HumanIK middleware to enable keyframe, motion-capture or facial animation in Autodesk software
FBX and Maya publishing options for customers on Autodesk subscription or rental plans
VFX Sign Language
(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com) On Sunday we had a well-attended pre-rally BBQ to help prepare for the March in March. Some wanted to help make signs and by the end of the day they created works of art.
So given that a reader suggested I put up a post for people to discuss good sign slogans to help with the effort. Sometimes the most effective message is the one that is visually creative and pithy!
See the artwork: http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.
The Special Effects Firms Transforming the Film Industry
(bbc.com) If you are looking for a sure thing at this year's Oscars look no further than Gravity to win the best visual effects category. Despite containing the combined star power of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the real standout of the film has been the work of London-based special effects company Framestore.
Under the guidance of VFX supervisor Tim Webber, the company worked closely with director Alfonso Cuaron to bring the tale of two stranded astronauts to the screen. Originally conceived as a small, intimate film with practical effects, Webber believed that the difficulty of representing gravity in space, or the relative lack of it, could best be overcome through digital technology.
The end result is a film that is about 80% composed of digital shots. Each frame took around 50 hours to render fully and if the entire film had been rendered using a single CPU processor then it would have taken about 7,000 years.
Actor Kezia Burrows explains how facial expressions can be captured
As performance capture has advanced over the past decade so has the quest to make a realistic human CGI face. Rather than doing away with the actor, the process actually works in conjunction with their performance, tracing and capturing the movements of their face. This information is then fed back into the software to give as realistic a digital performance as possible.
One of the most recent products in this field is the Vicon Cara. Its makers claim that the system is the world's first, out-of-the-box, 3D facial motion capture system. The light-weight helmet is made up of four HD cameras which record their movement and which allow the performer to act without their view being obscured.
While the tech still has some way to go before it can create a truly believable human CGI performance, it has reached a stage where human performances can be altered by visual effects artists afterwards, albeit in subtle fashion.
Phil Elderfield of Vicon points out that: "You can start with the true performance of the day but you can also tweak it a little bit if you want to - you can embellish it or you can play it down, you can emphasis or de-emphasis certain things and by re-creating a [filmed] world inside a computer that flexibility exists."
Spencer Kelly finds out how Bepe the blue alien is created
In 2001 the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released. The movie may be unfamiliar to many these days but it marked the first widespread release of a film made entirely using motion capture technology.
The studios of AudioMotion are based just outside of Oxford and, while the name may not be immediately familiar, they have worked on some of the biggest films and computer games of the last few years.
The company specialise in motion or performance capture which involves actors wearing a special mo-cap or performance capture suit that is covered in highly reflective dots. The location of the dots is captured by cameras all around a set and visual effects engineers are able to digitally recreate the exact movements of the actor.
The process achieved widespread prominence with the release of the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers, where the performance of actor Andy Serkis as Gollum earned critical acclaim.
The last decade has seen the technology develop further still with more detailed and complex movements able to be mapped while more realistic and human-like creations are now commonplace in films and computer games.
Close-Up Image Of Godzilla Looks Sufficiently Terrifying
The last few Godzilla trailers have been great and all, but has anyone else been uncomfortably reminded of the 1998 movie trailers? You know, how they built so much suspense not showing the monster in anything, all to have it end up looking like a really awkward iguana? No worries, friends. This Empire cover will assuage your fears.
Unlike the 1998 Godzilla, this one’s clearly a lot stockier and more reminiscent of the classic Kaiju movie monsters with their squat, lumbering frames. That’s definitely a good thing, although I’m still a bit wary of being excited for this movie, if only because how are they going to make me care about Bryan Cranston as much as I cared about those dorky ass-kicking jaegar pilots in Pacific Rim? (spoiler alert: I cared about them more than I would prefer to admit) But at least we can all rest easy for now, safe in the knowledge that Godzilla isn’t going to look plain ol’ stupid like he did last time.
Take a look: http://www.geekosystem.com/
DreamWorks Animation Falls as ‘Turbo’ Leads to Revenue Drop
(businessweek.com) The DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. logo is displayed in the courtyard of the company's headquarters in Glendale, California. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (DWA:US), the independent film studio, tumbled the most in more than four years after reporting a 23 percent drop in quarterly revenue, as home-video sales of the movie “Turbo” trailed estimates.
DreamWorks Animation slumped 14 percent to $30.33 at 10:05 a.m. in New York, after falling to $30.02 for the biggest intraday decline since September 2008. Sales in the fourth quarter fell to $204.3 million, the Glendale, California-based company said yesterday in a statement (DWA:US). That missed analysts’ projections of $223.2 million, the average of nine estimates.
The home-video release of “Turbo” during the quarter and the film’s expansion outside the U.S. failed to reverse its fortunes. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Oct. 29 that he believed “Turbo,” a box-office disappointment for DreamWorks Animation in July, would turn a profit. Instead, the company yesterday wrote down its value by $13.5 million.
The film “faced one of the most competitive feature film environments we’ve seen,” Katzenberg said on a conference call with investors. “While it performed fairly well during the fourth quarter at the international box office and its home-video release, it still fell short of our expectations.”
Net income totaled $17.2 million, or 20 cents a share, DreamWorks Animation said. In last year’s fourth quarter, the company posted a net loss of $82.7 million, or 98 cents a share, following the lackluster performance of “Rise of the Guardians” in theaters.
“Turbo,” available on DVD and other home-video formats starting Nov. 12, sold 3.3 million units in the period, the company said. In addition to the impairment charge, equaling about 12 cents a share, DreamWorks Animation recorded amortization expenses of $4 million on the film, Chief Financial Officer Lew Coleman said on the call.
A separate $7 million impairment was recorded for a “Rocky & Bullwinkle” short, which the company previously planned to run before its next feature film, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” which opens in the U.S. on March 7.
Analysts had expected profit of 32 cents a share, the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” released in some international markets, has collected $22.5 million to date outside the U.S., according to researcher BoxOfficeMojo.com.
Motion Capture Breakthrough: Persons Filmed Outdoors Can Now Be Easily Transformed Into Virtual Characters
(redorbit.com) So far, film studios have had to put in huge amounts of effort to set monsters, superheroes, fairies or other virtual characters into real feature film scenes. Within the so-called motion capturing process, real actors wear skintight suits with markers on them. These suits reflect infrared light that is emitted and captured by special cameras. Subsequent to this, the movements of the actors are rendered with the aid of software into animated characters. The most popular example of this is “Gollum” from the film Lord of the Rings, played by Andy Serkis.
Nils Hasler and Carsten Stoll, two researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbruecken, developed a method that works without markers. It immediately transfers actors’ movements to the virtual characters in near real-time. They presented their technology for the first time at the Cebit in 2013. The researchers used the last few months to improve their technology. “We made it more user-friendly”, explains Nils Hasler. “Now it is possible to film the movie scenes outdoors and not only in the studio.” For example, movie scenes like those from Lord of the Rings, where Gollum has to wander through the mountainous landscape of Middle Earth, wouldn’t need to be produced in the studio any longer, but could actually get filmed in the landscape where the scene takes place.
Moreover, the researchers dealt with the task of transferring the movements of two actors at the same time into two animated characters. “But the software needs a little bit more computing time to deal with two persons”, explains Carsten Stoll. Moreover, the technique makes it possible to imitate entire tracking shots. The movements of one character can thus be more easily captured from every angle.
Together with Christian Theobalt, leader of the research group “Graphics, Vision & Video” at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, they could solve another problem: with their method, they can display people in full even if they had been partly obscured by other characters in a movie scene. This novel approach is not only interesting for the film and gaming industry. Sports journalists could better comment on movement sequences during a live boxing match or judo coaches could use it to analyze the fighting techniques of their athletes immediately. “Company doctors and physiotherapists could also use the technique to prevent, for example, back pain issues for company staff, or to optimize work processes”.
To commercialize their technology, Hasler and colleagues founded the company “The Captury” last June. At the same, they are already working on first requests from industry. The researchers also won the main award within the IKT founder competition that is announced yearly by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy and includes the prize of 30,000 Euro.
The researcher will present their approach from the 12th through the 14th of March at the computer fair trade Cebit in Hanover at the booth of the Federal Ministry of Economy (hall 9, booth E24).
10 Pre-2000 Movies With Special Effects That Still Hold Up Today
With Pacific Rim, Man Of Steel, The Hobbit and Iron Man 3 all being released last year, it is clear to see that the special effects blockbuster is still alive and kicking. When employed correctly, special effects can greatly enhance the enjoyment to be had from a film; but with new technology constantly emerging, it can often be the case that what knocked your socks off last year, will barely raise an eyebrow now.
Of course this is not always the case; there are those movies which, even today, look fantastic, whether that be through the use of CGI, practical effects, set design, make up, or a combination of all of the above. For the purposes of this article, we have decided to take a look at those movies from before the millennium which were heavily reliant on special effects and yet, despite their advancing years, manage to utterly convince the audience that what they are seeing is real.
It is no coincidence that all of these movies’ special effects were completely integral to the story and so perhaps that is the reason they still hold up well. Or perhaps it is simply a case of a group of talented people at the absolute top of their game; either way you can’t help but still be impressed by what you are seeing. So read on for 10 movies with special effects which could still rival those of modern cinema.
Take a look: http://whatculture.com/film/
Why Hollywood Struggles to Quickly Clone Animated Hits
(businessweek.com) With the runaway success of Disney’s (DIS) Frozen and the explosive opening of Warner Bros.’s (TWX) The Lego Movie, animated films have had a great run in recent months. When a live-action movie becomes a big hit, it’s not long before imitators—both real and imagined—show up on the horizon. Doing the same in the animation world isn’t quite so simple.
“A lot of people who aren’t in the industry don’t realize how long it takes to get an animated film made,” says David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch. “The development process is quite long, and then production itself takes a couple of years. An animator turns out about three seconds of finished animation a week.”
Those best positioned to take advantage of these films’ success are the companies that created them. A Lego Movie sequel is already in the works, and Warner will likely schedule the next one during a more competitive season, such as summer 2016. That’s actually a remarkably short period of time in which to produce a high-profile animated film, but the Lego folks have a technological advantage. As producer Dan Lin recently told the website Collider: “We’ve been augmenting the Lego digital builder, so we have the technology to make the movie faster.”
The box-office hit came from the toy company’s first-ever theatrical release, but The Lego Movie wasn’t actually Lego’s first feature-length film. Just last year, the company released Lego Batman: The Movie—DC Super Heroes Unite and in 2010 put out Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers. Warner Bros. and Lego are also working on a feature-length film called Ninjago, a ninja-themed Lego brand that has already inspired a hit Cartoon Network animated series. Look for production on that to begin quite soon to take advantage of the new film’s success. Existing franchises, of course, can speed up faster than originals because very often key character design and development has already occurred.
Could a Frozen sequel also be in the works? Disney tends to shy away from theatrical sequels to its features, instead relying on similarly positioned original films to carry the day. Last summer word had already filtered out that Disney was working on Giants for 2016, another musical fairy-tale reboot that seeks to do for Jack and the Beanstalk what Frozen did for Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
As for a new Disney princess movie, fans will have to wait until 2018 for the studio’s South Seas-set Moana. Could that open sooner, to capitalize on Frozen’s success? Not likely, as even concept art for the film hasn’t been released yet. In the meantime, Disney could conceivably try to spin off Olaf the snowman (a fan favorite) in a series of direct-to-video shorts, not unlike the way the studio took advantage of Mater the tow truck from Cars. Illumination Entertainment, responsible for the Despicable Me films, has done something similar with popular short videos featuring the beloved Minions.
Other companies looking to capitalize on these films’ success will have to tread carefully. Last November, the small distributor Phase 4 Films replaced the U.S. home video art for the Canadian animated film The Legend of Sarila, changing the title to Frozen Land and even using Disney’s own Frozen logo. The Mouse House immediately took legal action, and in January the parties reached a settlement preventing Phase 4 from referring to Frozen in any of its marketing materials.
Another possibility for a Frozen-related animated film was dangled last December when Minkyu Lee, an animator and visual development artist who worked on the Disney hit, posted some images he had created years ago for an animated film based on Wicked, the long-running Broadway show featuring characters from The Wizard of Oz. A live-action film of that property has been in development hell for years. Could it now be reimagined as an animated film? The producers would be crazy not to at least consider it. They could even get Idina Menzel, Frozen’s own Queen Elsa, to reprise her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West.
The fact is that while imitation can be hard in the animated world, it’s not unheard of. “Back in the 1990s, after the success of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, you had lots of companies trying to fit musical numbers into their films,” recalls industry veteran Tom Sito, now an animation professor at the University of Southern California and the author of Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. Genndy Tartakovsky, director of Hotel Transylvania and the upcoming Popeye, for Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE), says something similar could happen now: “I’m sure there are studios all over town going through their vaults looking for animated film ideas with strong female characters, as a result of Frozen.”
But in many ways, Tartakovsky suggests that recent successes will end up being most helpful for animators working on their own dream projects. “Both The Lego Movie and Frozen have actually been very helpful to us as we work on Popeye,” he says. “We’re trying to contemporize a property that has been around for decades, while also keeping the essence of what it’s been for 50 years. Both of those movies have done that so well, in different ways.”
Sony Can't Survive On 'Spider-Man' Alone
(forbes.com) Sony Chairwoman Amy Pascal has promised a new Spider-Man film every year.
In a Variety piece eye-rollingly titled “Analysts: Sony Needs More Bigscreen Franchises“, Sony has come under fire by media analyst Harold Vogel. Vogel claims that a lack of major franchises for Sony Pictures is “creative entropy”, although I would argue just the opposite. Whatever distaste I may have for the opinions on one media analyst being greeted as quasi-factual “news”, he and I do agree on one thing. Despite Pascal’s claims that she will craft spin-off franchises involving Venom and the Sinister Six which will create what amounts to a new Spider-Man movie every year, the studio cannot subsist on just Spider-Man.
As I mentioned last week while discussing Guardians of the Galaxy, the sheer variety in terms of scope and genre is what makes the shared Marvel universe manageable in the long term. Those who prefer somewhat real-world geopolitical action will flock to Iron Man or Captain America while those who want fantasy adventure will prefer Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy. An expanded universe based around Peter Parker’s New York City is still (most likely) a bunch of Spider-Man movies. Moreover, I would argue that Sony has not been “dragging its feet” on new franchises so much as attempting to create new film franchises that don’t pan out.
Sony could have unleashed an entire multimedia universe based around Will Smith’s After Earth had the film clicked (there were allegedly plans for comic books, video games, and the like). White House Down could have been the next great action franchise had it performed in relation to its budget ($200 million but with a $150 million budget), and Film District’s cheaper rival Olympus Has Fallen will be getting a sequel. Elysium made money ($286 million on a $115 million budget) but wasn’t necessarily franchise material. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($90 million worldwide on a $60 million budget) didn’t exactly become the next Hunger Games, although producer Constantin is making a sequel anyway. So it’s not that Sony has been actively avoided the construction of potential franchises so much that their would-be newer properties haven’t quite panned out. It’s a trial-and-error process and sometimes there’s mostly error.
The Smurfs 2 still made $347 million worldwide, even if that’s down from the $567 million gross of The Smurfs. So we’ll still get a Smurfs 3 in August 2015. They’ve got 22 Jump Street and Think Like A Man Too set for June, along with a new James Bond film (a co-production with MGM) dropping in November 2015. They have a a viable animation division that pumps out hits like Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Their next Denzel Washington vehicle is allegedly so good that it’s already getting a sequel, which would be Washington’s first if The Equalizer 2 comes to pass. And while it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to sequels or action figures, it’s hard to imagine the Will and Jada Smith-produced and Quvenzhane Wallis/Jamie Foxx/Cameron Diaz-starring Annie not being a monster in December, 2014.
There is an unfortunate reading of box office as it relates to studio health that often states that a big box office hit doesn’t count in the big picture if it doesn’t fit into the expected “boy-friendly sequel-friendly fantasy action” template. This Is The End scoring $126 million worldwide off a $32 million budget “doesn’t count” because it’s not a mega-budget superhero film and likely won’t spawn a sequel. American Hustle earning over $200 million worldwide doesn’t count because there will be no American Hustle 2. It’s that thinking that makes a film like Sony’s recent Robocop remake more likely to be emulated than Zero Dark Thirty ($132 million on a $30 million budget) or The Call ($68 million worldwide on a $13 million budget) even though those films will (presumably) end up making far more money in relation to their budgets than the sci-fi would-be franchise starter ($142 million thus far on a $100 million budget).
A studio cannot live by tent poles alone, but the creation of new franchises that may become tent poles requires trial-and-error. It’s no secret that Sony didn’t have a great 2013. As I more-or-less wrote last year, the worst thing they could do is look at their 2D originals that perhaps didn’t pan out and see only The Smurfs 2 and Grown Ups 2 as the way of the future. A healthy handful of franchises can maintain a studio and allow it to both grow new would-be franchises and produce (or distribute) old-school movies that don’t necessarily lend themselves to video game tie-ins. But the idea that Sony should be faulted over the short term because a handful of would-be franchises didn’t pan out is just the kind of thinking that harms the industry overall.
Sony Pictures already has enough healthy properties (Spider-Man, 007, Resident Evil, its animated properties, the seemingly surefire Goosebumps adaptations, and its comedy star vehicles) to survive and even thrive as they foster new franchises, attempt to reboot older ones (Men In Black, Ghostbusters, Charlie’s Angels, etc.), take some financial hits, and occasionally distribute “real” films like Captain Phillips or Looper. A film slate built on the overexposure of Spider-Man will do little more than to to kill audience interest in the web-slinger while leaving the studio with that much less money and release date real estate to foster other would-be franchises for the future. Point being, Sony had a bad summer. It happens. As you recall, they had a terrible summer 1996 (The Fan, Multiplicity, The Cable Guy, etc.) only to roar back to life in 1997 with My Best Friend’s Wedding, Men In Black, and Air Force One. The worst thing Sony can do is panic and just overload on the one surefire property they own while ignoring their very real successes.
Not every studio has to be Disney, which has basically become “all tent pole franchises, all the time”. The classical meaning of the tent pole used to be 1-3 films a year that were major pictures, predetermined hits if you will, that could hold up the studio over the year and both make them lots of money and help them weather the storm of periodic flops. But it’s all-but reversed today, with small hits like This Is The End helping to soften the blow of big-budget under-performers like After Earth. We can’t complain as film fans about the glut of remakes, sequels, and big-budget franchise entries and then discount the successes outside that specific criteria. Variety is the key to a healthy studio, a healthy industry I’d argue, in terms of the films they produce or distribute and the respective production and marketing costs associated with those films. You need the American Hustles mixed in with the Men In Blacks.
Sony can ill-afford to over-saturate the market with Spider-Man films. But more importantly, they shouldn’t have to.
MPC Opts for OptiTrack Mo-Cap
(animationmagazine.net) International vfx studio The Moving Picture Company (MPC), which recently lent movie magic to World War Z and Man of Steel, has revealed its reliance on its 18-camera OptiTrack motion-capture set up, now supplemented with Prime 17W cameras and Motive software. The mo-cap system is overseen by Global Head of Crowd Simulation and Motion Capture Adam Davis at MPC’s London, U.K. headquarters — but the setup is also leveraged by MPC’s international outposts including Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York, Amsterdam, Bangalore and Mexico City.
MPC had previously invested in an earlier generation of OptiTrack, but the new enhancements to Motive and the Prime 17W upgrades offered a an economically viable advantage to the studio. Through integration with MPC’s proprietary asset management system, artists at all the studio’s facilities around the world are linked in an open infrastructure that allows each studio remote access to the stage. (MPC performed its first transatlantic motion-capture shoot for Man of Steel). The team submits a request for moves and associated characters, shoot data and reference video are recorded in Motive and sent to a database, from which it is processed, solved onto skeletons and exported to Autodesk MotionBuilder for editing.
MPC also utilized its OptiTrack system to develop a twitchy motion for the zombies of World War Z. With the addition of the new cameras and Motive, MPC is now using motion capture for more prominent hero shots as well, which will be seen in its upcoming films like Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Maleficent and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Jail for Man Who Tried to Blackmail Transformers 4 Film Crew
(scmp.com) Mak Chi-shing demanded the crew pay him HK$100,000 during shooting on October 17 last year.
An air conditioning technician who tried to blackmail the film crew of Transformers 4 into paying him HK$100,000 has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail.
Mak Chi-shing, 27, demanded the sum from the crew as they shot part of the film at North Point on October 17 last year.
He was convicted today in the District Court, which found him guilty on one charge of blackmail and one of assaulting a police officer.
His elder brother Mak Chi-hang, 28, was acquitted on the blackmail charge with the judge citing insufficient evidence.
But the judge convicted the elder brother of resisting a police office while he was struggling with the crew. The elder brother was sentenced to six weeks in jail.
Judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen noted that the case involved a foreign filming crew and had been broadly reported by the media.
"The case affected the reputation of Hong Kong as an international city," said the judge. "[The negative publicity] could affect foreigners deciding whether to travel to or work in Hong Kong."
The judge said this was an aggravating factor in the sentence..
The court had earlier heard that the two brothers ran an air-conditioning shop in King’s Road, Quarry Bay, outside which the Transformers crew were filming on October 17 last year during a 10-day shoot in the city.
The night before filming, a crew member agreed to pay HK$1,000 to the pair for the inconvenience. But when the crew arrived, the two brothers played music loudly at the scene. The younger brother then demanded HK$100,000. Later, the brothers and other men began moving bricks out of the shop to obstruct the crew.
VFX Oscar Protest Site Goes Live
(vfxsoldier.wordpress.com) Thanks to Bran Dougherty-Johnson who helped design the ADAPT logo. Note that the domain link up is still making it’s way through the internets. Let me know if there are any issues.
There will be some huge news coming out tomorrow. Be on the look out for it on twitter and this blog.
-H The models used for the German U-boat in Raiders of the Lost Ark were rented from the production company that was making Das Boot (1981). The company, however, had forgotten to tell this to the crew of Das Boot, who were surprised to find the model suddenly missing. -IMDB Trivia