Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Worth a mention - 08/27/14

Pirates of the Caribbean 5 Production Still Awaits Australian Government’s Go-Ahead

(              "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" fans have long been waiting for the fifth installment in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Fortunately for the fans, it looks like they can finally get to see Jack Sparrow and the rest of the pirates by 2017, as the movie's directors, namely Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, have officially announced that they were able to secure a release date for the blockbuster by 2017.

Still, there has not been any confirmation about when the production for the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" will start. As reported, everyone is hoping that the movie gets to have a go-ahead for its production by early 2015.

According to online reports, Walt Disney just would not quit negotiating with the Australian Government to claim a 30% incentive for filming the massive budgeted "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" flick. To date, there is still no word on whether or not Australia has given their permission.

Some reports have indicated the initial negotiation with the Australian Government was for another movie, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." However, since David Fletcher has now left the director's spot for this movie, Disney is now interested to relocate "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" to Australia as well.

Even if it is a known fact that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise is most likely the biggest gold mine for Disney's blockbusters, preparing for the set has taken quite a toll on its production phase.

Still, fans will be glad to hear that Johnny Depp will be reprising his role as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow and that he will be joined by his co-star Geoffrey Rush. As soon as Australia says "Yes," Depp and the rest of the team will most likely start to get on with the production stages.

If everything goes as initially planned for "Pirates of the Caribbean 5," Disney could be looking at a clean $21.6 million figure.

Despite Digital Domain Collapse, Textor Signs Deal with Elvis Estate

(           John Textor, who led Digital Domain Media Group into a spectacular death spiral, is running a new company that said today it will create a hologram of Elvis Presley.

Textor’s latest venture, Pulse Evolution Corp. of Port St. Lucie, announced the deal with Presley’s estate.

“By leveraging state of the art human animation technology, Elvis will return to fans in the form of new and exciting entertainment and branding opportunities, including ‘holographic’ performances in live shows, commercials, and more,” Pulse Evolution said in a release.

Virtual likenesses of dead entertainers were part of Textor’s strategy at Digital Domain, which filed for bankruptcy and fired all of its Florida workers in 2012 despite receiving $135 million in state and city subsidies.

It was another virtual performance — a hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur — that briefly halted Digital Domain’s demise in 2012. Pac performed Hail Mary, of all songs, at the Coachella Valley Music Festival in 2012.

"Babylon 5" To Be Rebooted As A Tentpole Feature Film

(             Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski has announced plans for a feature-length Babylon 5 film that would begin production 2016.

According to Straczynski's SDCC announcement, the film would not be a continuation of the 1990s television series, but an outright reboot. That said, Straczynski has said he would like to use original cast members where he can. "I'd love to see Bruce as the President of the Earth Alliance", he said.

It remains to be seen whether Warver Bros. will support the film financially, though it's possible Straczynski could finance it himself through his own production company. Via TV Wise:

    The hope is that Warner Bros, who produced the Babylon 5 television series, would step up and green-light a "big budget" feature film once the script has been completed. But owing to the nature of the deal that Straczysnki inked with the studio to produce Babylon 5 in the early 1990s, he, rather than Warner Bros, owns the feature film rights to the show. Should Warner Bros. choose not to greenlight a B5 movie, Straczynski would still proceed with the feature, which would then be funded and produced through his Studio JMS banner on a budget of $80 - $100 million.

Google Buys Visual Effects Firm Zync

(           Google has acquired Zync, a firm that enables complex visual effects sequences to be rendered over the cloud.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, Boston-based Zync, will now become part of Google’s Cloud Platform team, with both offering “studios the rendering performance and capacity they need, while helping them manage costs,” according to Google product manager Belwadi Srikanth in a blog post.

Zync Render, which was developed with visual effects studio Zero VFX, has been used to produce over a dozen films like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “American Hustle” and “Looper,” and hundreds of commercials, totaling over 6.5 million core hours completed.

Visual effects sequences are typically processed using expensive render farms, “but with per-minute billing studios aren’t trapped into paying for unused capacity when their rendering needs don’t fit in perfect hour increments,” Srikanth said.

Until now, Zync, founded in 2011, has promoted Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud hosting platform, saying on its website that EC2 “is the only public-cloud that meets or exceeds MPAA security requirements with a Best Practices rating award.”

“Since its inception at visual effects studio Zero VFX nearly five years ago, Zync was designed to not only leverage the benefits and flexibilities inherent in cloud computing but to offer this in a user-friendly package,” Zync said in a statement. “Pairing this history with the scale and reliability of Google Cloud Platform will help us offer an even better service to our customers — including more scalability, more host packages and better pricing (including per-minute billing). With a friction-free, affordable, and elastic rendering solution, visual designers and artists in the industry can continue to do their best work.”

Zync becomes the latest company Google is adding to its portfolio.

It has purchased 26 other companies this year. It acquired consumer electronics designer Gecko on Aug. 23.


(UPDATED: AUGUST 20, 2014)

This seems like something that is heavily favored for Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” but “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has to avenge its older brother’s death at the last Oscar-go-round.  “Guardians of the Galaxy” is also slick around the edges and its about time one of the Marvel films scores in the below the line categories.  And then there’s films like “Noah” or “Maleficent” that could factor in.

Vote today:

Rejected Concept Art For "Ninja Turtles"

(             Long before the Michael Bay-produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot went into production, various visual effects houses met with the filmmaker to determine who might work on the film along with suggestions of potential turtle designs.

Illusion Industries concept artist Anthony Francisco has now shared the concept artwork he created as a part of the company's pitch to work on the film. The company wasn't hired, but the art shows you just what kind of ideas were being floated.

Take a look:

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Pacific Rim 2 Release Date Rushed Due To Godzilla 2014 Success?

  The Godzilla 2014 box office results have been revealed and the movie has been a success so far. With the "Kaiju" movie theme being a success, would Legendary Pictures rush the Pacific Rim 2 production to take advantage of the situation?

The Godzilla 2014 movie garnered a better-than-expected $93 million in U.S. ticket sales in its opening weekend and another $103 million from 64 overseas markets, the best international debut so far this year.

According to Business Week, Godzilla crushed in the U.K. and Russia, while Mexico-normally a tiny movie market-ended up as the movie's third-biggest foreign box office, with $9 million in ticket sales.

The massive debut easily towered over the last time the Japanese lizard hit theaters, in 1998. Adjusted for inflation, that movie grabbed $81 million during its opening weekend.

The contemporary Godzilla deployed a savvy strategy for attacking consumers. The film made sure not to miss large-format theaters, where fanboys and fangirls were happy to pay premiums for a supersize experience. Some 15 percent of the weekend's ticket revenue came from IMAX theaters, as each of the 353 giant screens that showed the film took in $40,057 on average.

It also helped that the movie isn't terrible, with raves from some critics and a 73 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates professional reviews.

But how does all of this relate to Pacific Rim 2?

Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull confirmed that he and Guillermo Del Toro are talking about Pacific Rim 2 and they are planning all the new stuff that will appear on the movie:

"I was literally just with Guillermo on the set of Crimson Peak," said Tull. "We talk about it and have some pretty great ideas. If they come to fruition and we get a great script, then we're open to it. Fans seem pretty passionate about it and working with Guillermo. So, we're open to it."

And Guillermo Del Toro is doing just that as it was reported that he is now writing a script/story draft to Pacific Rim 2

And not only that there are rumors circulating in various social networking sites that not only will Pacific Rim 2 have a new cast of characters and the film will take place in Japan, it will take some cues from iconic Japanese mecha animes in that Pacific Rim 2 will have Jaegers that will be formed via "combining" similar to Voltron!

This rumor comes from the fact that in Pacific Rim, the Kaiju's were being created to specifically counter the Jaegers. How can the humans counter the ever adapting Kaijus? By making Jaegers with "changing" parts by having it combine with different body parts each fight.

Real or CGI? Take the Digital Art Celebrity Quiz

(            Digital artists are often overlooked when the conversation turns to “the real art” like oil painting, drawing or sculpture, since the old-fashioned view is that no art can be born without a brush, a pencil or a colour palette. Sure, it takes a great amount of talent and skill to master these techniques, but so does the digital art. Take the quiz to find out how much of an art dealer you are - can you tell which of these images are CG-generated (fake) and which are real photographs?

Is this image real or fake?

Go Inside ILM For "Transformers: Age of Extinction" Blu-Ray Extras - "Rise of the DINOBOTS"

(              Several new TRANSFORMERS characters make their live-action debut in this film. Get a brief history of the new recruits and then go inside Industrial Light & Magic to see how they were designed and conceptualized for the film.

Full article:

1954 Godzilla Stomps Back in Ultra HD 4K

(            TOKYO -- At a humble Tokyo laboratory, Godzilla, including the 1954 black-and-white original, is stomping back with a digital makeover that delivers four times the image quality of high definition.

The effort with "4K" technology is carefully removing scratches and discoloration from the films and also unearthing hidden information on the reel-to-reel.

Experts say the chemical reactions used to make old movies stored far greater detail than was visible with the limited projection technology of the era, as well as with subsequent digital updates.

If all the hidden information of a reel-to-reel is ever brought out, quality would approximate 8K, they say.

Only one minute from the original film and from each of the sequels has been turned into 4K so far but the results are stunning enough.

Faded, blurry, yellowing footage of the radiation-breathing creature that emerged from the Pacific after atomic-bomb testing turns sharp, clear and vivid. It almost looks like state-of-the-art animation.

It's better than the original, said Toshifumi Shimizu of Tokyo Laboratory Co., the studio that undertook the painstaking effort.

"You can feel the impact of the bodies banging into each other under the suits," he said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

He said many scenes are more real and emotionally moving than what is achieved by today's computer-graphics manipulation, widespread in Hollywood blockbusters.

The details of the cityscape models, the bumpy skin of Godzilla and the metallic shine of the robots are revealed as they once were.

The craftsmen at the lab made a point to keep visible the wires from which the flying monsters hung. The goal was to stay true to the intention of the original.

In turning Godzilla films into 4K, each frame of the reel-to-reel is scanned by a special machine. Each frame is then examined for blotches and other damage that has crept in over the last 60 years. Any problems with a frame are fixed on a computer, one by one, by a film-processing specialist.

Shoko Ideriha, one of the specialists, said the team pieced together the best segments, working with the only three copies left of the 1954 Godzilla. She compared fixing film to being a doctor treating a patient.

Shoko Ideriha, a film process technician in charge of archive, checks the negative of a movie prior to scanning for digitization at Tokyo Laboratory Ltd., Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.
AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

The big catch is that 4K, also known as ultra-high definition, or Ultra HD, can't be seen in most homes or theaters yet.

For one, you would need a 4K TV, which is not cheap. Sony's 85-inch model sells for $25,000, although prices are gradually coming down overall.

More crucial still, 4K broadcasting is virtually non-existent. In Japan, it's available only in limited test programming.

But believers swear that it will become the standard of the not-so-distant future. Other movie classics, such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Gone With the Wind," have turned 4K.

What 4K promises for movie classics is astounding, said Takashi Sawa, of Nihon Eiga Satellite Broadcasting Corp., which aired all 28 Toho Godzilla classics for the 60th anniversary of Godzilla's birth, which fell this year and marked the debut of Gareth Edwards' Hollywood Godzilla.

Nihon Eiga also aired a special program on the 4K Godzilla project on its cable network, which broadcasts to 7.5 million households in Japan.

Restoring movie classics into 4K might do wonders for the chicken-and-egg dilemma for new technology, which generally won't take off until there is content people want to watch.

"TV drama shows shot in digital cannot be restored as 4K," he said. "But Godzilla can become 4K."

The Digital Double METHod - Making Of 'You're Goddamn Right!'

(            My name is Riccardo Minervino, I'm 36 years old, and I currently live in Japan where I work as 3D artist for video games.

I decided to make this fan art after I finished watching all the seasons of Breaking Bad, because I really liked the show and I think the main actor, Bryan Cranston, has an interesting face, so I thought it would have fun to model him.

Take a look:

VFX Tariff Law - Trade Provision Supporting ADAPT Legal Effort

(             Big news came last week as CA bill AB1839 was amended:

An amendment to proposed legislation to expand California’s film and TV tax credit urges trade action as a response to countries that have lured visual effects firms away with the promise of generous subsidies.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped and Assemblymember Mike Gatto for standing up to the studios and writing a provision into a bill he co-authored supporting out effort. While it’s a huge step in the right direction, I obviously have issues with the subsidies in the bill and was hoping that the trade provision had more teeth to it.

When our law firm helped the shrimping industry get trade relief from injurious subsidies, the government of Louisiana actually helped fund the legal effort. Since our legal effort costs a fraction of what the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies needed, we felt it would’ve been a small cost that could lead to a more effective outcome.

-H      "If you imagine yourself as a craftsman at ILM, you spend your days tumbling buses and animating shards of glass."       -Gore Verbinski

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Worth a mention - 08/26/14


(              Ridley Scott is a lot like Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen in that he’s become an incredibly prolific filmmaker in his 70s, but he differs from those two directors in that the projects he’s tackling are massive.  In the last four years, Scott has directed Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counselor, and most recently the Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, and in between he found time to helm a pilot called The Vatican that Showtime ultimately passed on.  Scott is next gearing up to shoot the sci-fi survival film The Martian with Matt Damon, and in a recent interview with EW he revealed that production on the pic—which revolves around an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars and must find his way home—will begin in November.

But during the interview, Scott also revealed that Blade Runner 2 and Prometheus 2 are both completely written, adding that he hopes to make the Blade Runner sequel directly after The Martian.  More after the jump.

Though he’s still putting the finishing touches on Exodus: Gods and Kings ahead of the film’s December release, Scott tells EW that he has already storyboarded The Martian and will start shooting in November:

“I think I’m going to shoot in Budapest. And we’ll probably shoot in Wadi Rum for Mars. I like Wadi Rum—it’s the best view I’ve ever seen of what could be Mars.”

Scott recently shot in Wadi Rum (which is in Jordan) for Exodus, and the location was also famously used for Lawrence of Arabia.  But Scott is already looking beyond The Martian, saying the Blade Runner sequel will happen “probably after [The Martian].”  Scott says the script, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, is finished, and he even addressed Harrison Ford’s involvement in the film, making a joke about the actor’s recent accident on the set of Star Wars:

“[Blade Runner 2] is written and it’s damn good.  Of course it involves Harrison, who is a survivor after all these years—despite the accident.  So yes, that will happen.”

Of course, Ford has yet to commit to starring in the Blade Runner follow-up despite the fact that the studio behind the film put out a press release essentially asking him to return.  But Scott appears confident that he will reprise his role as Roland Decker.

And then there’s also the Prometheus sequel, which Scott has spoken enthusiastically about in the past.  Michael Fassbender revealed that the follow-up is a “go”, but when Scott was pressed as to where it falls in his schedule if he makes Blade Runner 2 next, he admitted he’s got a pretty full docket:

“That’s the problem. I’ve got a lot of ducks in a row. But they’re all written.”

If Scott actually makes the Blade Runner sequel after The Martian, I imagine 20th Century Fox won’t want to wait around on Prometheus 2.  As such, I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott hand picks someone else to direct the Prometheus follow-up while he simply produces.  Of course, this is all contingent upon Harrison Ford saying “yes” to Blade Runner, which doesn’t seem too likely.  Though I would’ve said the same thing about Ford reprising his role as Han Solo, and look how that turned out.

As for projects that are 100% happening, though, The Martian is slated for release on November 25.

Underbidding , Globalization & Union Cards In The VFX Industry:  It's NOT Just Business

(              It's NOT just business

At last year's VES Production Summit I was approached by the owner of a small vfx shop asking why I didn't cover some of the good or successful stories. He mentioned his company and another company (both in California). I said "Good idea, I'll want to talk to you and the other company to get more specifics". To which he replied he didn't want their company named in the post.

While newspapers and magazine write more and more fact-less articles, I certainly don't want to. Writing about a vague, unspecific company that is doing ok in this industry is of little value unless we can learn some specifics that can be applied elsewhere and hopefully raise the bar for all.

I also talked to this person about several issues, including underbidding. To which he replied, "Well, isn't that just business?"  (shoulder shrug)

NO. NO is the answer, it's not 'just business'.

I talk to others and sometimes the response is "Well, isn't that just globalization?".

NO. NO is the answer, it's not 'just globalization'.

"Well", some have said, "You had to move before so it's no different now"

NO. NO is the answer. It is different than moving to one location at the start of a career.

And I talk to some in this industry and they fear being blacklisted for saying anything about any problems. They fear even doing so anonymously.  (see or  for the lack of vfx company reviews). They fear signing a secret union card or donating anonymously to ADAPT, who is trying to neutralize the politics controlling our industry. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

You could just as easily shrug your shoulders at a senseless, horrific death and simply say "Well, every dies." That excuse works very well and enables people to not attempt to do anything. Not my problem - until it is.

Full article:

Hey Marvel, 'Lucy' Hit $200M Worldwide

(              The worldwide success of Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy is responsible for pushing the talks for a solo Black Widow movie to the forefront of the Marvel and Hollywood “Next big movie” discussion. In North America, Lucy has already reached the $113.8 million mark, and now is at over $200 million globally, with 22 markets overseas still left to open.

So with Scarlett Johansson’s star brightly shining, now would be the time for Marvel to strike, and right the wrongs of the Elektra movies, finally giving a female solo hero movie the spotlight it deserves.

And, not like Black Widow is a super-hero in the strictest sense of the word, but she is a badass, global-crime fighting, super spy, member of SHIELD, who just happens to have stood next to Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man, when the world needed avenging…so she fits the prerequisites for a female hero, in my book.

Now is the time that Marvel needs to take advantage of an overwhelming public outcry for a strong female lead, in a comic book hero movie, and according Game of Thrones director, Niel Marshall, he’s just the guy to do it. During an interview with Vanity Fair, the director who has been responsible for some of Game of Thrones’ biggest battle scenes, like Blackwater and Watchers on the Wall, had some very cool things to say about female leads and Scarlett Johansson/Black Widow in particular.

 I think I’d like to do a big movie with a strong female lead, whether or not she would be a superhero. I’m more interested in characters like Scarlett Johansson in Lucy. I’m less interested in people with superpowers because I can’t identify with them. Very rarely do they get killed off, and when they do get killed off, chances are they’re going to be back . . . somehow. Yes, I’d love to do a big splashy movie with a great female lead, but it has to be someone I can believe in.

Then he was asked specifically about Black Widow.

I would love to do a Black Widow movie. That’s perfect, I would love to do that. That character is really interesting, she doesn’t have any superpowers, she just has extraordinary skills, and the world that she comes from, being this ex-K.G.B. assassin, I find that really fascinating, yeah.

For now, there has been no official word from Marvel, regarding Niel Marshall or a stand-alone Black Widow movie, but if a major Game of Thrones director who has been responsible for some of the series’ best episodes, comes calling, then it’s time to take note.

Polygon Pictures Nabs 4 Daytime Emmy Awards

(             Japan's leading CG production house, Polygon Pictures Inc., captured four awards at the 41st annual Daytime Emmy Awards for its "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

The latter was named the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program, bringing the accolade to the studio for three consecutive years.

Bestowed by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and others, the Emmy Awards recognize excellence in U.S. TV programs. The Daytime Emmy Awards cover daytime programs, many of which are intended for children.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" also won the Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Color), with the award given to Christopher Voy.

Meanwhile, "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" won in two categories.

Yasuhiro Motoda was given the Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Character Animator), with Jose Lopez honored with the Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Character Design).

The full-CG "Transformers" animated series is based on the "Transformers" robot toy line, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. The previous season, "Transformers Prime Beast Hunters" was named the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program at the 39th Daytime Emmys.

Polygon Pictures was established in 1983. The company raised its profile in Japan with "Knights of Sidonia," an animated TV series directed by Kobun Shizuno, which started airing in April.

Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) is set to air the studio's latest series directed by Goro Miyazaki, "Ronia, the Robber's Daughter," this autumn. The director is the eldest son of famed animation director Hayao Miyazaki.

VFX Companies Shall Not Hold Equity in Films, For Verily Shalt They Perish

(             So much news about Prime Focus, so little time! I have yet to post my thoughts on the Double Negative purchase which I hope to do at some point. Last year I posted about Digital Domain investing about $18 million for an equity stake in Enders Game which opened with $27M and ended with $61M domestically.

I also signaled a potential sequel where Prime Focus would invest about $19M for a stake in Sin City 2 and the result doesn’t look good. ‘Sin City 2’ Distributor: ‘It’s Like The Ice Bucket Challenge Without The Good Cause’:

Sin City 2 didn’t even crack the top five at the box office over the weekend. The film opened in the number eight slot with $6.4 million. Other new releases that opened with it included the football drama When the Game Stands Tall and the Chloe Grace Moretz feature If I Stay. Those films opened respectively at number five with $9 million and number three with $16.8 million.

Of course this has continued to be the story for most VFX facilities that try to take an equity stake (Rhythm: Yogi Bear, Dneg: Rush) in a film. I doubt studios would offer a VFX facility an equity stake if they were confident the film was going to do gangbusters but that’s just me

Polytechnic Graduate Chose Passion and a Job at Lucasfilm Singapore Over University Place

(            Nanyang Polytechnic digital media design graduate Peter Tan turned down a place at a US university seven years ago to work as an animator with Lucasfilm. He is now lead animator at Industrial Light & Magic and has worked on a string of blockbusters, including movies in the Transformers series. -

Go to university? Or work on blockbuster movies as an animator at Lucasfilm Singapore?

Faced with this decision, Mr Peter Tan, a Nanyang Polytechnic digital media design graduate, took the road less travelled seven years ago - and turned down a place at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

"I got an offer from Lucasfilm giving me a six-month contract to replace another animator going on maternity leave," said the 35-year-old, who eventually converted to a full-time position.

"People go for degrees to work in reputable companies, but I thought to myself, 'I already have the job and nothing beats work experience.' My passion has always been animation so I didn't need to think so hard."

Transformers Age of Extinction Success Drives Expansion at Hasbro Studios

(           Following the smashing success of "Transformers: Age of Extinction," Hasbro Studios is expanding to promote their pop culture properties. Bringing in Josh Feldman, formerly of Genre Films. He is reporting to the entertainment division where he will be focused on developing the many properties Hasbro has into TV and Movies projects that are said to feature "live-action and animation" as well as brand development and licensing. Read on for more details from the report on Deadline Hollywood.

Feldman will be responsible for overseeing the film division for Hasbro Studios and work on both live-action and animated properties to be developed into film. He’ll also work closely with the TV development team. He started last week, reporting to Stephen Davis, president of Hasbro Studios and Global Entertainment and Licensing for the parent, Hasbro, Inc. “His focus will be on both our franchise and new brands in live-action and animation,” said Davis in a statement. “He will work closely with the studio’s TV development, brand, design, digital and licensing teams to deliver full storytelling integration across our brand blueprint.”

VFX Analyzed - How Movies Manipulate Your Brain to Keep You Entertained

(            HOLLYWOOD, California—There’s a crazy action sequence near the beginning of Iron Man 2 in which Tony Stark first meets Ivan Vanko, a rogue Russian scientist wearing a robotic suit and wielding electrified whips. It takes place at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Stark is competing, and Vanko slices up Formula 1 cars like so much toast and puts the hurt on Stark, even after he dons his Iron Man suit. For a minute there, it looks like the supercharged Russian might prevail.

For viewers, it’s quintessential, over-the-top Hollywood action. For scientists, it’s a window into the human brain. At a recent event here hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists got together with filmmakers to discuss what both groups have learned—the scientists through painstaking experiments and analysis, the filmmakers by intuition and experience—about the mechanisms of attention and perception.

In the Iron Man 2 sequence, for example, people are remarkably consistent in where they direct their gaze. Tim Smith, a vision scientist at the University of London, presented eye tracking data collected from 75 people as they watched the clip on a flatscreen. A camera tracked their eye movements, and software created a frame-by-frame heat map. When Smith played the clip with the eye-tracking heat map overlaid, the red hot spot tightly followed the action—people focused on the dueling superheroes, especially their weapons and faces, and on the car parts bouncing around.

Jon Favreau, who directed Iron Man 2, was onstage with Smith as he presented the clip, and seemed fascinated by it. “Everything you’re looking at is real, and everything you’re not looking at is fake,” he said.

Jon Favreau speaks at a recent event hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S

The scene was shot in a parking lot in Downey, outside L.A., Favreau said. The boats in the harbor were created with CGI, as were the crowds in the stands along the race course.

“We’re constantly calculating where we think the audience’s eye is going to be, and how to attract it to that area and prioritize within a shot what you can fake,” Favreau said. “The best visual effects tool is the brains of the audience,” he said. “They will stitch things together so they make sense.”

What you can’t fake, Favreau said, are faces and physics. Favreau is working now on an adaptation of The Jungle Book, and he says almost everything is CGI except the faces. Faces are just too hard to fake convincingly, he said, even with sophisticated motion capture systems designed to capture every eye blink and facial twitch.

“It’s the same with physics,” Favreau said. In the Iron Man 2 scene, his special effects team created replicas of Formula 1 cars with the same weight and dimensions as the real thing and launched them with hydraulics or air ramps to create the flying, cartwheeling spectacle you see onscreen. “You get a tremendous amount of randomness in the way these things bounce and tumble and roll as they hit the ground and interact with each other, and that creates a sense of reality,” Favreau said.

While film makers intuitively understand things about visual perception and attention, scientists are trying to understand these things at a more mechanistic level, Smith said. He and other scientists want to know, for example, how the brain constructs a fluid perception of the visual world. “Visual perception feels like a continuous stream, but it’s not,” he said. What actually happens is that we look at one thing at a time, taking in a bit of information here, then moving our eyes to take in a bit of information over there. Then, somehow, amazingly, our brain stitches all those bits together to create a seamless experience.

That’s basically what film makers have been doing for a century, Smith said. It’s the essence of their craft. “As a psychologist, I’ve realized I can learn a lot from film makers.”

Vote For The Next Cinefex Cover

(             If you follow our Facebook page, you’ll already know the lineup for the next issue of Cinefex. In case you missed the news, however, I’m here to tell you that our Fall edition – issue 139 – is a blockbuster package covering the visual effects of four of this year’s biggest movies: Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Given such a great selection of films, which one would you put on the cover? Make your guess below – it’s just for fun. All will be revealed soon …

Cinefex 139 - What Would You Put On The Cover?

Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Physicists Use Science To Boost Animation

(            In a small, utilitarian office in Glendale, Ron Henderson methodically jotted down equations for Isaac Newton's Three Laws of Motion on a whiteboard next to his desk.

The equations, the physicist explained, are the mathematical building blocks for constructing a three-dimensional, bubble-like sphere.

Henderson could easily have been preparing a lesson at Caltech, where he once was a faculty member. Instead, he was at DreamWorks Animation's Tuscany-style campus, doing his part to bridge the divide between art and science.

Henderson was explaining the math behind a fluid-simulation technology that would help artists working on the upcoming movie "Home" draw soap bubbles inhabited by a race of diminutive aliens called the Boov.

To give them visual references, Henderson and his team began by studying drawings and photos of soap films and bubbles last year. He invited a physicist colleague from San Jose State to give a lecture titled "Bubble Science."

The physicist, Alejandro Garcia, took a low-tech approach. He arrived at the studio with boxes of liquid soap and party bubbles, using a plastic wand to fashion large bubbles for an audience of artists and technicians gathered at an outdoor amphitheater.

"He did cool things that we're not doing, like what happens when you make a soap bubble out of hydrogen and set it on fire?" Henderson said, chuckling. "What does that look like?" (The bubble made a loud boom and burst into a fireball when an assistant took a Tiki torch to it.)

That's the kind of thing that happens when the scientific set makes the move to the movies.

"What we're doing here is creating tools for artists," Henderson said. "I think it's going to be a success."

Henderson, 47, is part of an expanding cadre of high-level physicists, engineers and other scientists, including many former NASA employees, who have left careers in aerospace and academia to work in the movie business.

Demand for their services has grown as animated movies, once created by hand, push the boundaries of what can be created on a computer screen. Artists at DreamWorks, Disney-owned Pixar and other studios increasingly rely on the services of people such as Henderson to create complex algorithms to simulate realistic-looking water, fire, dust and other elements in movies packed with action and special effects.

"The physics behind what's happening in these movies is incredibly complicated," said Paul Debevec, a computer scientist and chief visual officer at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. "You need real scientists to understand what's going on. These are Ph.D.-level folks who could have been publishing papers in Physics Today. Instead, they are working on Hollywood blockbuster films."

Full article:

The 6 Most Common Mistakes With Creature Animation Demo Reels

(          Shawn Kelly was a lead animator for the character, Lockdown, the main villain in Transformers: Age of Extinction

Hello aspiring creature animators! We recently posted tips on what recruiters would like to see in a demo reel, now we have our very own Shawn Kelly, Animation Mentor Co-Founder and Lead Industrial Light & Magic Animator, on what the 6 most common mistakes he sees with creature animation in demo reels. Think your reel is up to par? Read on and get motivated!

- The Animation Mentor Crew

More and more studios are hungry for animators who have experience working with animals and creatures in a more realistic style. Many recruiters at visual effects studios, video game studios, and commercials studios have a really hard time finding quality animator candidates as demo reels with strong creature animation are few and far between.

If you are interested in this type of animation, here are some of the most common mistakes I see on demo reels. Avoid these at all costs in order to create more believable and memorable creature animation and improve your chances of landing one of those jobs!

Full article:

First CG Director of Photography Joins American Society of Cinematographers  

In 2014, Sharon Calahan, ASC was inducted into the American Society of Cinematographers, which is an invite only organization of the most elite cinematographers in the world. 1 She has worked at Pixar as a lighting director of photography for over 20 years and she is the first ASC member whose entire body of work is computer generated. The art and practice of cinematography is constantly evolving and now officially includes CG cinematography thanks to Sharon’s groundbreaking work on films like Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo”, and “Ratatouille.”

Sharon Calahan, ASC working on a shot for Pixar’s Cars 2

Cinematography Database: Sharon, can you tell us a little about your background and what you do in the industry?

Sharon Calahan: Many years ago now, I studied illustration, graphic design and photography in art school. Initially, I embarked on a career as an art director in broadcast television, then gradually transitioned into computer graphics when the industry was in its infancy; at first working on commercials and other small projects. I joined Pixar 20 years ago as they were crewing up to produce the first computer generated feature film, “Toy Story.” My focus has always been in lighting and image creation. My role at Pixar is as a lighting director of photography.

CDB: Congratulations on becoming a member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).  That is every real world DP’s dream and now perhaps every CG DP’s dream too!  Can you talk about that experience?

SC: Thank you. It was a 20-year-long dream for me as well. I didn’t think that it would really happen, but I set it as a goal to challenge myself to learn and to strive for excellence. It still feels a bit surreal, but it also feels incredibly good and an honor to be part of that amazing organization.

Supercomputing: The Behind-the-Scenes Star of the Summer Blockbuster

(              More and more, any summer blockbuster — and probably any movie in general — owes a lot to High Performance Computing (HPC). As I watch more and more movies, I notice just how convincing CGI is becoming, and this is largely due to the amount of computational power used to render the films. We’ve seen several examples over the past few years of how stunning movies can be.

For me, one film that sticks out as a visual effects milestone has to be Pixar’s Brave. The animators were very concerned with developing and rendering realistic hair; they were so concerned with this process that they actually developed an entirely new hair simulation engine, which they called Taz after Warner Bros.’ Tasmanian Devil character. One of the things that impresses me so much about the movie (which I have viewed many times partly on account of my daughters) is that if you watch the grass, the horse’s hair, or almost anything in the movie it behaves very realistically, especially when compared to other animated films.

Brave certainly isn’t alone in rendering milestones, but it definitely sticks out for me personally as one that made me stop and admire the technology. How is this possible? Taz and other new rendering techniques are taking advantage of animation techniques that previously required too much computation — until recently.

Let’s consider the example of the wind blowing in a modern animation film. Instead of animating the effect of the wind on a few main objects in the frame, animators for current films can write algorithms specifying how grass, trees, leaves, and almost anything, including background objects, should behave. Once the simulation algorithms are written, it’s just a matter of having enough servers to simulate all of the different effects on the many objects in every frame of the movie. This is why some films spend so much time rendering: Monster’s University reportedly took 29 hours for each frame of the movie to render. It took over 100 million hours of CPU time to render the movie.

But HPC’s reach isn’t just limited to animated films. For those who have seen X-Men: Days of Future Past you might recall the scene this photo comes from; it’s one of the most impressive and memorable parts from the movie — and it isn’t possible without marrying the best of computer graphics with physical scenery. Years ago, movies interweaving live action and computer graphics ranged from passable to being distractingly, obviously fake. Modern films repeatedly demonstrate that the technology has matured to where it looks and feels seamless.

All of this is only possible from the extreme computing power used by design studios. This particular scene was made by Rising Sun Pictures, and it shows how important production studios are becoming to summer blockbusters; one can rightly say that they are a new kind of movie star. I can imagine people discussing frame rates and production companies as reasons why they are excited to see an upcoming movie, similar to the ways we get excited to see a new movie starring our favorite actor or actress. That’s the influence of HPC on summer blockbusters.

It’s All HPC

Because rendering is so important, we see many production studios running their own data centers. In 2013, Pixar housed 2,000 servers with a total of over 24,000 cores. One of their employees estimated it would’ve been a top 25 supercomputer. Weta Digital is another HPC production company. They have produced several visual marvels such as Avatar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and The Avengers among others. At the time that they made Avatar, they actually ran the Linpack and had their various computers verified at No. 193-197 on the Top500 list.

The need for HPC power is continually growing: this year’s mega-hit Dawn of the Planet of the Apes used 10 times the computing power required for The Return of the King (2005). As the need grows for big-time simulations, companies have a more complicated problem to solve: they must have the power to simulate at scale, but do not require the machines to be in use continuously, meaning they are racking up a large expense that isn’t in use all of the time. Additionally, current cloud offerings can’t handle the need for an extra 10,000 servers for the next two months because it would basically require bumping a significant amount of their users to accommodate the request.

This is where mature HPC experience can greatly help the movie industry. Advanced HPC schedulers such as Moab have been helping different departments share resources for a long time. Whether it is only a matter of reserving the cores or hard partitions required so that proprietary information can’t leak from one user base to the next, Moab can help provide many different options that make it possible to better utilize the entire cluster.

As movies continually depend more and more on realistic computer graphics, movie production companies will increasingly become another industry that depends on HPC. Many of the challenges the movie industry is currently facing are challenges that HPC has been solving and is constantly evolving to handle. These industries can only mutually benefit as they inevitably grow closer together.

The Academy ‘Animation Masters’ Program to Salute Winsor McCay, Walt Disney

(              The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that animation historian John Canemaker will be paying tribute to animation pioneers Winsor McCay and Walt Disney in a three part program that ends with a screening of Disney’s Fantasia. All three events will take place on Saturday, September 13 the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

‘Gertie the Dinosaur and the Birth of Personality Animation’ will commemorate Gertie the Dinosaur’s 100th birthday with a ‘salute to Gertie and her creator, the prolific comic strip artist and animation pioneer Winsor McCay. This richly illustrated look at McCay’s life and work includes four of his animated shorts, and a re-creation – with audience participation – of the legendary routine that introduced Gertie in McCay’s 1914 vaudeville act.’

The next program, ‘The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis and the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic’ — like Canemaker’s same-titled book — will explore ‘the fascinating mechanical and optical processes that enabled the Disney artists to delight the eye with dancing snowflakes, flying wraiths, erupting volcanoes and other visual treats, as detailed in a recently discovered notebook, compiled by photographer and effects specialist Schultheis during his 1938-41 tenure at the Disney studio.’

Lastly, the program will provide a screening of Fantasia.

Tickets to the event are $3 for Academy members and students and $5 for general admission and are now available for purchase at the event ticketing page.

George Lucas To Be Honored By Engineering Society

(             George Lucas is among three technologists to receive the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers highest accolade, the org announced today.

Lucas is to receive an Honorary Membership in the body, in recognition of his many contributions to entertainment technology, from founding Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar (which began as a division at ILM) and THX to advancing digital cinematography.

“In his determination to push the medium of cinema with new technologies and techniques, Lucas encountered both support and skepticism,” said SMPTE in its announcement. “It is now clear that his perseverance and vision were key factors in the eventual widespread adoption of digital cinematography in motion picture production.”

Also receiving an Honorary Membership is Leonardo Chiariglione, who is credited with the development of the MPEG standards that underlie digital video. Receiving a posthumous Honorary Membership, a.k.a. SMPTE’s “Honor Roll,” is John Logie Baird, a TV technology pioneer who died in 1946.

The SMPTE announcement included all of its 2014 honorees and nominees.

SMPTE’s highest medal, the Progress Medal, will be given to Ioan Allen, for his innovations in sound research and development programs at Dolby Laboratories. Neil Beagrie will receive the Archival Technology Medal for significant technical advancements or contributions related to the development of technology for the long-term storage, archive, or preservation of media content. Beagrie’s work includes establishing the Digital Preservation Coalition.

Clyde D. Smith Jr. is to receive David Sarnoff Medal, for outstanding contributions to the improvement of the engineering phases of television technology. Smith has been instrumental in applying digital tech within broadcast networks.

Barry Haskell will be presented the Digital Processing Medal for technical achievements related to the development of digital processing of content for cinema, television, games, or other related media.

Steve Wright is to be recognized for his work in visual effects as “an accomplished practitioner and master trainer” with the Kodak Educational Award. Wright’s books, “Compositing Visual Effects: Essentials for the Aspiring Artist” and “Digital Compositing for Film and Video,” are among the few instructional texts for digital intermediate and compositing.

Ville Pulkki will get the Samuel L. Warner Memorial Medal for contributions in the design and development of new and improved methods and/or apparatus for motion picture sound, recognizing his work in spacial sound reproduction and multichannel audio rendering.

Jim Houston is to receive the Technicolor/Herbert T. Kalmus Medal for contributions to motion picture postproduction and distribution services. Houston was key to the development of the award-winning Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), as well as other mastering standards.

Philip Tudor will receive the Workflow Systems Medal, recognizing outstanding contributions related to the development and integration of IT file-based systems into production, Tudor’s work includes numerous SMPTE committees and in the Advanced Media Workflow Association,, and he led the implementation of file-based workflows at the BBC.

Eric R. Fossum is to get the Camera Origination and Imaging Medal, recognizing technical achievements in image capture devices, for leading the invention and development of the complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensors while he was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1993. CMOS sensors are now widely used digital cameras, cell phones and many other devices.

Andrew B. Watson’s paper “High Frame Rates and Human Vision: A View Through the Window of Visibility” is to be recognized with the SMPTE Journal Award for most outstanding paper published in the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal during 2013. Benjamin Bross, Heiko Schwarz, and Detlev Marpe will receive Journal Certificates of Merit for their article “The New High-Efficiency Video Coding Standard.”

John Hudson will receive the Excellence in Standards Award for his work developing standards relating to real-time electrical and optical streaming media interfaces for video and D-Cinema production.

SMPTE will honor five individuals for service to the org: John Beckhaus, Siegfried G. Heep, Federico Savina, T.J. Scott Jr., and Peter M. Weitzel.

The awards will bepresented  on Oct. 23 at the SMPTE Honors & Awards Ceremony, held in conjunction with the SMPTE 2014 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Eight new SMPTE Fellows also will be recognized at the event: Hanno Basse, Thomas G. Edwards, Joseph J. Kane, Jr., John McCoskey, Andrew Quested, Vince Roberts, Jim Starzynski, and Colin R. Wright.

Visual Effects Company Closure Exit Form

(              Since this is happening more frequently I thought it best to create a form for visual effects workers and reporters.

------ cut here -----------------------------------------

Visual Effects Company Closure Exit Form VFX-SOL

Check all that apply.

It was announced on ____________  that  ______________________________ , a visual effects company, located in _________________________, has closed it's doors due to:

__ Subsidies
__ Bad business practices (note: requires Subsidies to be checked as well)
__ Completion of project

The vfx workers had:
__ Finished the project
__ Done above and beyond their jobs
__ Sacrificed their personal lives
__ Shown loyalty to the company
__ Solved immense technical problems
__ Gotten the company out of a jam
__ Put in unpaid hours
__ Put in unpaid OverTime
__ Put in a lot of OverTime

At the end of the project they had expected:
__ Payment
__ Pat on the back
__ Thank you
__ Wrap Party

Instead they were given:
__ Pink slips

but did not get:
__ Paid

During the project they received:
__ Missed payrolls
__ Broken promises
__ No communication with management

The owners repeatedly said:
__ You will be paid soon
__ There was a glitch in accounting
__ The bank messed up
__ The client will be wiring money soon
__ Once we complete this next sequence
__ Once we complete this next milestone
__ Don't worry, you'll be taken care of

During this time workers did not want to:
__ Do anything
__ Say anything
__ Unite together

__ Fear of blacklisting
__ Didn't want to rock the boat
__ Fear of losing work (even if it wasn't paid work)
__ Prided themselves on being individuals
__ They had faith in the managers/owners
__ They had faith in the company

Full form:

Robin Williams Genie Models Spotted in World of Warcraft

(techtimes)        Looks like Blizzard has been listening. Following a petition to immortalize Robin Williams in the game, a non-player character called "Robin the Entertainer" was spotted in World of Warcraft's upcoming expansion Warlords of Draenor.

Whether "Robin the Entertainer" actually makes it to the final cut of the expansion remains to be seen but the NPC really does exist. Spotted by WoW database site Wowhead, the NPC appears to be a djinn and looks a lot like "Genie" from the Disney movie Alladin which Williams lent his voice to.

WoW players are in agreement that the NPC is a fitting tribute to the actor who recently passed  but many have pointed out that the model is not new, having been taken from the game's previous expansion. They're referring to Asaad, the third and final boss of the Vortex Pinnacle in Cataclysm.

If the exact same djinn appears in Warlords of Draenor, some will be disappointed because this means that Blizzard is simply recycling models. Others have argued, however, that probably the model is still in development and the NPC Wowhead found was just its first iteration. Still, others think that the NPC is capable of transforming and that the djinn is just one of its forms. It has also been speculated that "Robin the Entertainer" will replacing Perry Gatner from The Burning Crusade as a stand-up comedian for Shattrath's World's End Tavern.

There's no official word from Blizzard about a WoW tribute to Williams, but a "we're taking care of it" response after the petition came out was more than enough to satisfy many players. Given the overwhelming response at just the possibility of a tribute NPC being included in the coming expansion, Blizzard should definitely take this as a cue to keep on working on it.

While the NPC is included in game data for the expansion, it has not been reported to have appeared in any part of the beta as well. Players are very much aware that the "Robin the Entertainer" they saw now might be nowhere near what would be included in Warlords of Draenor when it comes out, but there is comfort in knowing that it's highly likely that Williams will be forever a part of one of his favorite games.

Aside from the djinn, two other NPC models were found by Wowhead in patch 6.0.1 of the beta build of Warlords of Draenor. One was a human male and the other was a human female, possible in reference to Williams' characters in Mork & Mindy and Mrs. Doubtfire, respectively.

Take a look:

-H       Blade Runner reappears two or three times a year in various forms of science fiction. That's why I've never re-visited that.  I feel I've done it.   -Ridley Scott

Monday, August 25, 2014

Worth a mention - 08/25/14

"Sin City 2" Declared D.O.A.- Opens To  $6.5 Million

(             Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension Films/TWC), once again directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez with returning cast Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and Rosario Dawson, joined by Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Jeremy Piven and more. Like The Expendables 3, having so many stars didn't do much to convince the film's target male audience to spend their money to see it in theaters as it bombed badly with only $6.5 million its opening weekend in 2,894 theaters for a pitiful 8th place showing.

For some perspective, the original Sin City made nearly TWICE that amount in its opening DAY in April 2005, but obviously, waiting nine years for the sequel wasn't the wisest idea and fans of Frank Miller's comics no longer cared anymore. Ironically, the movie got slightly better reviews than If I Stay and way better reviews than When the Game Stands Tall.

For the second Sin City, post house Prime Focus took on all of the visual-effects work and all the 3D work for a film where every single frame requires visual-effects work and 3D imaging. That’s a whopping 2,300 shots, two times over, a staggering number for a single company to handle. It was also worth a $12.5 million stake in the film, whose budget has been estimated at between $60 million and $70 million.

The resulting deal was greeted with substantial skepticism in Hollywood. After all, how often does a vendor become an investor, particularly at this level?

‘Star Trek 3’ Delayed: More Reason The Movies Should End

(          Star Trek 3 has been delayed, according to a new report from Variety, posted online at Christian Post, and we think that’s just more reason why it’s time for the film series to end.

Before you get up in arms about that statement, Trekkers, let us preface it by saying that the new series has been fun, and that we love the original crew as much as anybody.

But this new info is somewhat disturbing. From the online report:

“Roberto Orci, writer and producer of the last two ‘Star Trek’ installments who is now reported to take over J.J. Abram’s directorial reign, revealed that there still isn’t word about the sequel from the film studio itself.

“‘Well, I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch… The studio has yet to even read the script. I’m in the middle of writing it, with the talented team of [John D.] Payne and [Patrick] McKay. They are true ‘Star Trek’ fans, as well. So, I can’t even think anything about the future until I give them a script and they greenlight it. Until that happens, everything else is just a rumor.’

“Setting aside the release date rumors, fans may already have an idea as to the forthcoming movie’s plot.

“‘In this movie, they are closer than they are to the original series characters that you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So their adventure is going to be in deep space,’ the 41-year-old producer said.”

Okay, why is this disturbing? Well, the film was supposedly coming our way sometime in 2015, alleges CP. It’s difficult to see how that will happen — or even a 2016 release date — when a script hasn’t been approved or even looked at.

And while we’ll stack Star Trek up against Star Wars any day of the week when it comes to space-faring awesomeness, the idea of competing with the new post-Jedi films isn’t a very good one.

Besides, film has always been Star Wars’ domain, while Star Trek has always worked better on the small screen. Yes, many of the old movies were fun — particularly II, IV, and VI — but movies have been far too limiting for the Star Trek Universe.

The original series, as started by Gene Roddenberry and expanded by a host of talented filmmakers, actors, authors, etc., was able to move beyond the basic good guys-bad guys trap of the big screen and tell some genuinely thought-provoking and philosophical sci-fi tales.

That freedom has been lacking in the new series.

While the new Star Trek films are fun, they are, at their core, action films, and action was only a sliver of what Star Trek was all about.

While Orci promises a film that is more Star Trek than anything we’ve seen so far, movie audiences generally don’t have the patience for that.

That’s why we’d love to see the original crew make a comeback on the small screen. Someone, please hand this off to Netflix. If you can get the film crew back, fine. If not, re-cast.

One great way of making it work with the current crew — all of whom are active on the big screen — is to film the entire season at once, working around their schedules.

Then, if you need to, follow another Starfleet ship for the following season, or until you can get the Enterprise crew back.

Otherwise, just sign a new cast to binding long-term contracts, and follow them season-after-season.

One thing is for sure: Star Trek movies need to stop, at least for now, and the franchise’s full TV potential must be priority moving forward.

California Incentives Bill Urges Trade Action to Curb Flight of VFX Jobs

(               An amendment to proposed legislation to expand California’s film and TV tax credit urges trade action as a response to countries that have lured visual effects firms away with the promise of generous subsidies.

The amendment calls call for a strategy that has been previously opposed by Hollywood studios, which have benefited from the availability of post-production subsidies in Canada, Great Britain and other countries. In late May, for instance, Sony announced that its Imageworks special effects facility would be moving to Vancouver, further eroding the once-thriving visual effects industry in Southern California.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, (D-Los Angeles) principal co-author of the legislation, told Variety through a spokesman earlier this month that he planned to add the provision.

The amendment is essentially a resolution: It has no force of law. Nor does the legislation, AB 1839, include any funding for a legal effort being launched by visual effects artists to pursue trade action.

But the language of the amendment expresses support for the goal of the group, the Assn. of Digital Artists, Professional Artists & Technicians, or ADAPT, which is to pursue a complicated legal process in which trade officials would be compelled to pursue tariffs on such things as visual effects and music scoring, the type of work that has been lost to other countries. Such tariffs would help bring parity to the cost of such work.

The amendment reads, “It is the intent of the Legislature to urge the United States Congress and the Intl. Trade Commission to investigate aggressively and impose sanctions, including tariffs, on productions and elements of production, including visual effects, virtual photography, and music scoring, that are digitally distributed and electronically transmitted, in its definition of ‘articles’ protected by the Tariff Act, to combat unfair and illegal competition from international parties.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the MPAA said, “First and foremost, it’s critical that this legislation pass and be signed into law.  We support growing California’s VFX industry. A more productive step toward doing that is elsewhere in the bill — in the enhanced VFX credit. The passage of this bill is crucial — it will put California on the verge of adding billions to its economy and reclaiming good jobs, including VFX jobs, in one of its iconic and homegrown industries.”

The legislation also provides a 25% incentive for visual effects and music scoring work for the production of a movie in California. At least 75% or at least $10 million of the visual effects work must be done in California.

Daniel Lay, author of the VFXSoldier blog and one of the leaders of the ADAPT effort, said it was “fantastic” the amendment was added, but urged legislative leaders to help finance the legal costs, which he said would be only a fraction of the cost of the bill’s $400-million-per-year tax credit program. He noted that the state of Louisiana assisted the legal effort to bring trade relief to the shrimp industry. ADAPT is raising money for its effort, in which it is working with a Washington law firm that specializes in trade issues.

Moreover, Lay expressed doubts that the visual effects incentives in the California legislation could compete with those offered in other countries, particularly Canada. He has calculated that incentives can cover almost 60% of a British Columbia visual effects worker’s salary.

“Yes, they are trying to ratchet up the subsidies in California, but there is no guarantee that the work will be done here,” Lay said.

In an interview on Friday, Gatto said that he did encounter resistance from the studios for adding the trade provision.

“I don’t think they were entirely happy with that portion of the bill,” Gatto said. “Ultimately, we have to do what is right for the interests of the taxpayer.”

Nevertheless, he said that he was reluctant to add a provision that would provide funding to a private law firm, saying that it would be “problematic in California.”

The bill, AB1839, heads to the Senate floor next week, and then will have to return to the state Assembly.

If it passes — as it now expected — it will head to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. He has not announced whether he will sign the legislation. In interviews and discussions with other elected officials, he has previously expressed concerns about seeing one of the state’s signature industries slip away, but also that the state not engage in a “race to the bottom” in the quest to land private sector jobs.

Gatto said that talks are ongoing with Brown and his staff. Asked if the governor was supportive of quadrupling the tax credit to $400 million per year, Gatto said, “I certainly hope so, but if everything I have heard is correct, he still requires a little bit of convincing just for the program, period, much less the number.”

More on this topic (Handing Hollywood more tax money):  

It's All in the Details: These Miniatures Changed Movies

(          An ode to the golden days of special effects, from 'Batman' to 'The Fifth Element'

Perhaps it’s having grown up in the ’80s and a hearty dose of nostalgia in the face of overwrought visual effects in modern movies, but there’s something indescribably powerful about the special effects in films like Blade Runner, Alien, and Dark City. It was an era before CG took over, a time when nearly a century of practical special effects culminated in whole armies of craft workers and artists that knew how to bring the audience to another world or dimension.

Visual effects masters like Douglas Trumbull, the mind behind the visual effects in Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey pushed the limits of filmmaking in the blockbuster era and beyond.

In a welcome change from the prequels — and trends in big-budget Hollywood effects — Looper director Rian Johnson recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the new Star Wars films would return to some of the practical effects that the originals used so effectively to help you suspend disbelief. Few spaceflight sequences feel as real or urgent as the Millenium Falcon flying through the Rebel Fleet on the way to the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

With these sequences in mind, we take a look at some of our favorite modern practical effects to grace the silver screen, from the moodiness of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles to the intricacies of Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham City.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Following legendary films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, visual effects legend Douglas Trumbull moved on to work on the return of Captain Kirk and crew in the first big screen adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock’s interaction with the sentient V’Ger cloud, which masterfully mixed both in-camera and post-production techniques, recalls much of 2001’s far out finale.

Alien (1979)

Packed with an all-star team of talent including H.R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon, and director Ridley Scott, Alien’s haunting design still holds up decades later.

Full article with pics:

Tomb Raider' Reboot To Go Wilde

(            "Tomb Raider" reboot is one of the highly anticipated movies by game and movie enthusiasts alike.

MGM is partnering with GK Films to bring Lara Croft back to the big screen.

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"I am thrilled to partner with [MGM CEO] Gary [Garber] and his MGM team on rebooting this successful 'Tomb Raider' film franchise. The enthusiasm over the recent game release is very encouraging and we can't wait to bring it to the big screen," Graham King, GK Films founder, said in a statement.

It has also been reported that Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby who were tapped to pen the script have already completed their job, waiting for the go signal of the studio.

King expressed his thoughts for the planned Tomb Raider reboot movie to Collider:

"It's something that, for me anyway, is different, you know rebooting a franchise that I didn't produce to begin with. But there's something about her character and going back to her roots, and that's what we're doing with this. You're actually gonna meet her before she has all her powers as Lara Croft. It's more of a character study, but it's a really fun, fun adventure story."

And then shared more about the planned film to Coming Soon:

"[The 'Tomb Raider' reboot] does have a lot of really great characters, but it's a lot of action and a lot of fun, and for me, it's something very different. I've not really done a movie like that before, but I really gravitated to rebooting this franchise and we're going to give it a shot."

The hit game was previously adapted into two movies on 2001 and 20013, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," both were starred by Angelina Jolie. Both movies also did fairly in the box office and were poorly received by critics, earning $131 million domestic and $65 million domestic, respectively.

While, no official announcement has been made as to who will be playing the titular role, "Tron: Legacy' and "House" star Olivia Wilde is reportedly being eyed to replace Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Henry Cavill's girlfriend Gina Carano, whose great physique and MMA history, is also reportedly being linked to the project.

Are you excited for "Tomb Raider" reboot movie, Kpopstarz readers? Who's your choice to play the role of Lara Croft? Sound off in the comments section below.

Japan Image Council Launches Animation Artist-in-Residency Program

(            The Japan Image Council (JAPIC) has announced its new program, “Animation Artist in Residence Tokyo 2015.”

This project, organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunka-cho/Government of Japan) and run by the Japan Image Council since 2010, is an artist in residence program which aims to provide three outstanding young animation artists from around the world with an opportunity to come to Tokyo and create new works while directly interacting with Japanese animation culture. In doing so, JAPIC aims to promote both the creation of excellent works of animation and cross-cultural exchange in the media arts.

During their stay in Tokyo, the promising young animation creators from overseas carry out the production of new animated works under the guidance of Japanese animation professionals, visit animation studios and educational institutions, and engage in interactions with people involved in animation or other aspects of culture. The results of these efforts are presented at the end of their stay in Tokyo and after returning to their respective countries at film festivals both domestically and abroad.

The deadline for submissions for this year’s program is September 10, 2014. After the selection process has been completed three successful applicants will be invited to participate. Their period of stay will be 70 days between the 7th of January and the 17th of March, 2015, during which time they will receive funds to cover travel, accommodation, educational fees, and other expenses. In the past four years, JAPIC has had participants from the U.K., France, China, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, the U.S., Finland and Israel.

Marvel's "Guardians" Is Summer 2014's Biggest

(       James Gunn's Marvel Comics adaptation "Guardians of the Galaxy" has racked up $251.8 million at the domestic box office in just four weeks.

This weekend it officially passed Michael Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" ($243.8 million) to become the top grossing movie released this summer in the United States.

In fact, within the next few days it's expected to surpass Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" ($259.7 million) to become the top-grossing movie of 2014 domestically. The news comes as 'Guardians' re-took the top spot at the North American box-office in its fourth weekend with a $17.6 million haul.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" still reigns supreme worldwide though with a worldwide box-office take of $1.07 billion. 'Guardians' isn't even close yet with just $489.5 million worldwide, but it has yet to open in numerous territories including China and Japan.

Sony PlayStation Network and Other Game Services Attacked

(           Sony's PlayStation Network was forced offline for much of Sunday by a cyber-attack in what appears to be a campaign against several online gaming services.

Microsoft's XBox Live, Blizzard's, and Grinding Gear Games are among others to have reported being disrupted over the weekend.

The attacks coincided with a bomb scare involving a flight carrying a Sony executive.

An American Airlines jet was diverted after a threat was made online.

A warning that the flight - from Dallas-Fort Worth to San Diego - was carrying explosives was subsequently repeated by a Twitter account that had been used to claim responsibility for the online attacks.

John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, had been tweeting about his firm's efforts to combat a "large scale DDoS" before posting a message saying he was about to board the plane.

DDoS stands for distributed denial of service attack - a technique in which many computers are used to flood an online service with requests in an attempt to overload its systems.

Blizzard's Diablo III has faced disruption after was attacked

After the threatened plane landed in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr Smedley tweeted: "Yes, my plane was diverted. Not going to discuss more than that. Justice will find these guys."

A spokeswoman for Sony said that the FBI was now investigating the diversion. However, the Bureau has yet to issue a statement of its own.

Jihadist links

A Twitter account that has claimed responsibility for attacking Sony and the other video games firms has linked the attacks to the jihadist group Islamic State, posting: "Kuffar [non-muslims] don't get to play videogames until bombing of the ISIL stops."

It also makes several references to Isis - the former name used by the Islamic militants.

But it is unclear whether this is a diversionary tactic, since an earlier post by the same account states: "Sony, yet another large company, but they aren't spending the waves of cash they obtain on their customers' PSN service. End the greed."

To complicate matters another hacker, who is associated with the Anonymous hacking collective, has claimed responsibility for the DDoS on the PlayStation Network, saying they mounted it to highlight vulnerabilities in Sony's system.

This hacker has criticised the other claims of responsibility and posted screenshots that purport to support their case.

Full article:

'Gremlins' Remake 2014 Release Date Gearing Up

(kpopstarz)             Gremlins remake release date hasn't been set yet, but the film is definitely in the works with original scribe Chris Columbus on board to produce the project in addition to the planned Goonies 2 movie.

According to Slashfilm, the new Gremlins movie will be based 30 years following the original film as a "sequel-style reboot" and not a remake.

The news came from The Tracking Board, however there has been no official announcement for both films as of the moment thus, the news should be taken with a grain of salt.

Columbus is said to be joining Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg - producers of Beetlejuice sequel - in producing the project that is reportedly on the fast track as Warner Bros. is eager to make the Gremlins remake for years.

The new film would be based on the original film following the story of a boy with a very unusual pet that turned out to be monstrous creatures. The original movie had a sequel on 1990 titled Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

While, Steven Spielberg is also reported to executive produce the remake no further details are yet to be announced. Original star Zach Galligan allegedly wants to be involved in the project as well.

However original Gremlins movie director Joe Dante will not be involved in the remake according to reports.

Columbus did mention in one of his interviews years back that "it would be fun to go back and revisit."

However, he's quite pessimistic about the Gremlims remake release date and production saying:

"I think it's impossible to recreate in a CGI environment. I think it will inevitably lose some of its charm. Those are edgy Muppets in a sense and you don't want to lose that sense of anarchy that those gremlins had, because behind the scenes are 25 puppeteers making them to come to life," says Columbus.

However he did say the same about the on going Goonies sequel, "But as Steven said, 'How can you really be going underground finding another gigantic pirate ship filled with treasure? What can be the next adventure?'"

With all the successful remakes and reboots in the movie scene, it's not impossible for Columbus and Warner Bros. to pursue with Gremlins remake/sequel.

'Infamous' Developer Sucker Punch Hit by Layoffs

(              Sucker Punch may be one of Sony's best developers, but even that isn't protecting the studio from a new round of layoffs.

Sucker Punch, the Sony-owned first party studio behind PlayStation franchises like Infamous and Sly Cooper, suffered an undisclosed number of layoffs today.

After rumors began to swirl, Sony confirmed the rumors with an official statement to IGN, saying "SCEA can confirm a reduction in workforce has taken place at Sucker Punch Productions. Sucker Punch is appreciative of the tremendous work team members contributed to the inFAMOUS and Sly Cooper series, and wishes them the best in their next endeavors."

It is still unclear exactly how many employees were let go as a result of the layoff, but the wording of Sony's statement makes it appear that at least some longtime members of the team who worked on the Sly Cooper series have been axed. The last Sly Cooper game developed and released by Sucker Punch was Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves back in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, meaning it is possible some of the employees let go had worked at the studio for close to 10 years. After the release of Sly 3, Sucker Punch focused on the Infamous franchise, a heavy-hitter for Sony's game platforms.

Infamous: Second Son released in March and was an important early exclusive that helped to attract gamers to Sony's new PlayStation 4 console. The first downloadable expansion for Second Son, called Infamous First Light, is set to release on Aug. 26, and Sony is even releasing a Sly Cooper CGI animated movie in the near future.

Sucker Punch was founded in 1997, first making a name for itself in 2002 with the release of the original Sly Cooper game on Sony's PlayStation 2 console, a game that combined a cartoon style with stealth and platforming gameplay to great success. Sony bought Sucker Punch to make games exclusively for Sony platforms shortly after the development studio's success with the first Infamous title in 2009, and since then has released Infamous 2 and Infamous: Second Son.

Sony seems to be riding high on the success of the PlayStation 4, recently announcing more than 10 million consoles sold worldwide. Even though the exact number of employees fired is still unknown, for the company to be enjoying that kind of success but still be forced to layoff employees does not bode well. While Sony's game division continues to succeed, the rest of the electronics

Over 40 DC & Marvel Movies Will Hit Theaters In The Next 6 Years

The fourth and final comic book movie superhero blockbuster of 2014 is in theaters with Guardians of the Galaxy setting multiple world records for its August opening weekend. Now, we can look forward to what the studios will bring in the coming years.

10 Forgotten Superhero Movies & Why You Should Watch Them

Looking ahead has been made easier than ever this year thanks to Marvel Studios continuing to announce release dates further and further into the future (they added six around Comic-Con), and Sony attempting to blow open the Spider-Man movie franchise with a slate of movies that feature other characters as the lead(s). Then of course, there’s Twentieth Century Fox who are finally going to bring their Marvel properties to the forefront with annual releases and a “serious” reboot of the Fantastic Four. They even announced a followup already.

Finally, there’s Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment who are using the followup to 2013′s Man of Steel to launch their own shared cinematic universe, and they just announced 9 additional DC movie release dates yesterday. Everyone wants a part of the shared universe pie and everyone is racing to plant their flags for the future. As a result, we currently have 30 films scheduled for the next six years, with at least 10 more to be announced in those years as well.

Full article:

VFX Tentpole "Into the Storm" May Not Recoup Budget in US

New Line's giant tornado disaster flick Into the Storm (New Line/WB) rounded out the Top 10 with $3.8 million and $38.3 million total. It looks like it won't recoup its $50 million budget from North America alone.

2014 CG Conference VIEW - Keynote Speakers Announced

(            TURIN, Italy – Keynote speakers  Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, Glen Keane, and Tom McGrath will highlight the 15 th  annual VIEW conference, Italy’s largest computer graphics conference, which will be held October 14 to 17.

“Alvy Ray Smith, Glen Keane, and Tom McGrath are highly respected gurus in the computer graphics and digital entertainment industry, and we are ihonored to host them in our beautiful city,” says conference director Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez.

As Gutierrez explains, Alvy Ray Smith invented core computer graphics technology and co-founded Pixar, the first studio to make a CG feature film, the famous Toy Story. “Glen Keane created and animated some of our most renowned and most-loved Disney characters: Tarzan, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, and Aladdin. Now, he’s working with Google to create a state-of-the-art interactive, animated story for mobile devices. Tom McGrath wrote and directed one of the most successful CG animated feature film franchises, the three-film Madagascar series, the first to give CG animated characters a wacky cartoon style, ” she adds. In November, DreamWorks will release the fourth film in the series, The Penguins of Madagascar, for which Tom McGrath was a writer and executive producer and also the lead as the voice of Skipper the Penguin.

The 2014 VIEW conference will take place October 14 to 17 in Turin (Torino), Italy, a baroque city in the foothills of the Alps known for cars, chocolate, and cinema. The largest computer graphics conference in Italy, VIEW is celebrating its 15 th  year of bringing top talent and remarkable visionaries to Turin. The VIEW conference follows the annual VIEWFest digital film festival. Most talks are in English, with translation available to and from Italian and English.

 “We will roll out announcements to introduce more speakers and our workshop series over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned,” Gutierrez says. “I am so enthusiastic about our 2014 program. It matches the amazing conferences we’ve had before and takes us beyond.”

‘Transformers’ Fan Due in Court for Modifying His Maserati to Look Like a Decepticon

(            An unidentified Braintree man is in hot water with authorities for painting his 2010 Maserati to look like a Transformer.

Like, from the movies.

The Patriot Ledger reports Braintree Deputy Police Chief Wayne Foster stopped the driver over the weekend because he “didn’t know of any [police] department that had a Maserati.” The vehicle had been painted to resemble the character Barricade, a Decepticon Transformer that changes from a cop car to a terrifying, spike-fingered robot that has major beef with the series’ protagonist Transformer, Bumblebee.

UPROXX points out the car appears to be a Maserati Quattroporte, a ride that “starts at $102,500.” They also note, “Barricade is only a police vehicle in the Michael Bay movies, and it’s actually portrayed, in vehicle form, by a Ford Mustang.” The juxtaposition in decision making seems... off. But so do a lot of things in this scenario.

The owner was charged with impersonating a police officer — which based on this photo, is a very fair assessment — and is due in court on a TBA date.

As Foster told the Ledger, the in-question vehicle’s slogan “Deceptions punish and enslave” was a bit of a detour from their usual “protect and serve.”

-H      For Sin City (2005) white blood was created by the use of fluorescent red liquid, bathed in black light.  In post-production, the liquid was turned white.      -IMDB Trivia