Friday, November 21, 2014

Worth a mention - 11/21/14

Tired Weta Digital Artists Will Soon be Getting Sleep

(               We have learned from two sources that Weta Digital delivered its final shot Thursday night, leaving the final touches on the final reel of the final film. Pure speculation here, but that must be an emotional process, knowing that the great big collection of talent is completing the task it set out to do years before. And for Jackson and those around him, it is definitely the end of an era.

A lot of tired workers at Weta Digital will be getting sleep soon but the filmmakers now begin the job of promoting the film around the world, starting with the world premiere in London.

There is of course the extended edition of the final film, but heading directly to the home video market is different from unfurling a film in a theater. But there you have it folks, this is the last work week for the full post-production team on The Hobbit. Fans will feel an era has ended as well.

So is the film finished or is just Weta Digital’s work finished? Or is only a division of Weta Digital’s team finished? Nobody who knows is saying for sure (although we have asked!) but it is very possible “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” has had its finishing digital touches added and is complete. All this inspired by the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Typically the director or some combination of the director, producers and studio work on the film until they nail down its moments, beats and running time. Then the digital team finishes the film, working and polishing as much as time and money allow. With Jackson films, Weta Digital finishes parts way ahead and parts at the very last minute, working with the director closely. Concurrently, the score and sound effects are being mixed into the final finished product.

The film is shot in high frame rate, 3D and sound comes in a variety of format choices at the cinema including the most complicated and best sound: Dolby Atmos. All of these processes take time. In other words, there may still be a lot of details to get done before the film is done, but finished or not, the end is near and it is like twilight on the final day of Middle-earth movie making. Only clips for the inevitable extended edition remain and then, Jackson and company will soon say goodbye to Middle-earth forever.

'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Blazes to $17M Thursday Night

(               That's behind the first two films, but is by far the best showing of 2014; overseas, the movie is pacing ahead of 'Catching Fire'

Starved fans propelled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 to a stellar start Thursday night at the North American box office, where the movie scored $17 million, by far the best showing of the year.

The penultimate installment in Lionsgate's blockbuster YA film series hopes to become the first franchise Hollywood's history to have three installments open to $150 million or more in North America, not accounting for inflation.

Read more Inside the 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1' Premiere: District 13 Comes to L.A.

On the same weekend a year ago, Catching Fire opened to $25.3 million Thursday night on its way to a $158.1 million debut. However, Catching Fire had the advantage of playing in Imax Theaters, while Mockingjay doesn't (Imax is still carrying Interstellar).

And in general, Thursday night grosses have been less than in the past for tentpoles.

Two years ago, The Hunger Games grossed $19.7 million on its first Thursday night before topping out at $152.5 million for the weekend (that film didn't play in Imax).

One thing is assured: Mockingjay will score the top opening of the year so far in a much-needed boost for the domestic box office as the year-end holidays get underway, easily eclipsing the $100 million debut of Transformers: Age of Extinction this summer. Moreover, it will be the biggest three-day opening since Catching Fire.

Until now, this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy boasted the year's top Thursday night start  ($11.2 million).

Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence reprises his duties for Mockingjay, which again stars Lawrence opposite Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and introduces Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer to the series based on Suzanne Collins' blockbuster YA book series.

Lionsgate decided to split Collins' final book into two films. Director Lawrence shot them back-to-back at a reported cost of $250 million. Mockingjay — Part 2 is set to open Nov. 20, 2015.

The franchise is also a huge performer overseas, and so far overall, Mockingjay is running 5 percent ahead of Catching Fire as it begins rolling out across the globe. It opened to more than $1 million in Australia midweek, the top opening of the year so far. And in South Korea, it is pacing 41 percent ahead of Catching Fire and in the U.K., 10 percent. Some Latin American markets are up as much as 55 percent.

Mockingjay — Part 1 opens in virtually every foreign markets this weekend, although it won't be released in China until next year.

Sci-fi Feature  'Alpha' Gets Brad Pitt to Produce

(               The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Brad Pitt will produce the sci-fi film Alpha for his Plan B production company.

The film will be written by Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson. Not much is known about the plot other than its being described as a sci-fi survival tale in the vein of Jack London, who wrote the classic survival stories Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Canadian director Anthony Scott Burns has been chosen to helm Alpha. It will be his feature debut as a director.

Pixar Releases Next Generation RenderMan For Commercial Use

(             Pixar Animation Studios today announced the long-anticipated commercial release of RenderMan’s RIS rendering architecture, introducing advanced methods for physically-based photorealism. Representing a major leap forward in the development of feature film rendering, RenderMan’s new progressive renderer supports multiple types of light transport including a state of the art uni-directional path tracer supplied with source code and a new bi-directional path tracer (VCM). Along with enhancements to Pixar’s acclaimed REYES renderer, this powerful combination provides artists with multiple rendering solutions within one unified framework for the utmost in artistic flexibility and creativity. With a modern architecture built from the ground up to render global illumination with unsurpassed speed and productivity, RIS establishes a forward-looking foundation through which RenderMan is addressing the rapidly evolving demands of visual effects.

“The new RIS is very fast, very stable, and very simple to use. I got great results within my first 2 hours,” said Eugene Riecansky, Creative Director, Rockstar GFX. “This new version is going to be a game changer and I’m thrilled to be using it.“

“Pixar has really outdone itself with RIS for RenderMan 19,” said Brandon Fayette, Lead Artist at Bad Robot Productions. “The speed, quality, and ease of use that the new substrates bring are mind-boggling. You can setup a character in a shot fully knowing that the nature of the shaders won’t change with lighting. It speeds up the look development process significantly.”

Additionally, Free Non-Commercial RenderMan is to be released in early 2015 so that the development of additional supporting materials can be delivered to a diverse user base. Unrestrained by functional limitations, watermarking, or time restrictions, Free Non-Commercial RenderMan will be made available to academic institutions, students, trainers, researchers, developers, and for personal use. Those interested in exploring RenderMan’s latest capabilities are invited to register in advance for Free Non-Commercial RenderMan on the RenderMan website (

Availability & Compatibility

RenderMan is compatible with the following 64-bit operating systems: Mac OS 10.9, 10.8 and 10.7, Windows 8 and 7, and Linux glibc 2.12 or higher and gcc 4.4.5 and higher. RenderMan is compatible with versions 2013.5, 2014, and 2015 of Autodesk’s Maya, and with versions 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0 of The Foundry’s KATANA. RenderMan is available commercially either as individual licenses with volume discounts or through custom site licensing packages tailored for each customer. In addition, Pixar’s annual maintenance program provides access to ongoing support and free upgrades. For more information please visit or

This Altered 'Jurassic Park' Test Footage Will Make You Rethink CGI

How mind-blowing is it to think that "Jurassic Park" could have been made using stop-motion animation, the same technique used to bring Jack Skellington to life in "Nightmare Before Christmas"? Pretty darn mind-blowing. Now, thanks to crafty Redditer aDinoSupremacist, we can share with you some of that original T-Rex stop-motion test footage -- with a CGI twist!

VFX artist Peter A. Montgomery applied a motion blur to the stop-motion animated carnivorous dino, giving her (they're all hers, right?) an uncanny realism that almost trumps the CGI version that made it into the movie. Here's what went into it, according to Montgomery:

Full article and VIDEO - Take a look:

VFX Oscar Race May Overlook Weighty "Insterstellar"

(             The Oscars are still three months away, but movie awards season got off to it its unofficial start over the weekend with the 2014 Hollywood Film Awards. The prizes, which were televised for the first time in their 18-year history, gave fans their first chance to see who might take home the hardware when the Academy Awards air on Feb. 22, 2015.

The Hollywood Film Awards have historically been an accurate indicator of future Oscar success, as films, actors and filmmakers try to pick up momentum for their Oscar campaigns. In fact, of the four actors who won at the 2014 Oscar ceremony, three had picked up trophies at the Hollywood Film Awards first.

“Interstellar” -- The Hollywood Film Awards group does not announce nominations, so it is impossible to know how closely a non-winner was considered, but Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic was shut out of every award over the weekend. Not only did it fail to win for best film, acting or directing, but “Interstellar” also missed out on cinematography and visual effects, losing to “Birdman, and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” respectively. The whiff by “Interstellar” boosts the argument that the weighty and complicated film might be underappreciated and misunderstood come Oscar time.

Engineering Danger: Sony Pictures Imageworks & Guardians of the Galaxy

(              An opportunity to participate in the Marvel Universe beyond Spider-Man was presented to Sony Pictures Imageworks during the production of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).  “They called us and said, ‘We need to have 100 shots in a couple of months.   Can you help us out?’” recalls Sony Pictures Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor Pete Travers.   “It was right over Christmas break so timing wise it was a little problematic but we said, ‘Hey, this Marvel, whatever they want we’ll jump at it!’  It ended up going really well.”  Marvel approached Sony Pictures Imageworks again for assisting in the launch of the new cinematic franchise Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).  “Captain America was more of a live-action thriller where Guardians of the Galaxy is purely Sci-Fi.  The Captain America work that we did was mostly compositing.  We did a gunfight sequence and it all had to look photo-real and practical.  But with Guardians the big thing we had to do was to build the engine room of the Dark Aster; that had a lot more design work certainly than Captain America and a lot more 3D.”

Full article with pics:

Andy Serkis Says Planet of the Apes Series Could be More Than Three Films

(             Even before Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened in theaters this summer, 20th Century Fox was already making plans for a third film in the rebooted franchise, but after “Dawn” outgrossed the preceding “Rise” by over $225 million and became the highest-grossing film in the series, the studio might have begun thinking even bigger.

Speaking with MTV, Caesar himself, Andy Serkis, was asked about the setting for the upcoming third film and revealed that the next one may not be the conclusion to the franchise.

“It’s very, very early in where we choose to drop anchor in the next film. It could be five years after the event, it could be the night after the events of where we left ‘Dawn,’ so it’s very difficult to know where the story is going right at this moment because it’s being written as we speak. I know that part of the desire for Matt [Reeves] to do this next movie is about continuing the enjoyment of seeing these apes evolve. So I don’t think we’re going to see a situation where we’re jumping….It might be three films, It could be four. It could be five. Who knows? But the journey will continue. It might not necessarily be summarized or completely fulfilled in this next one. The point being, eventually we know that we’re going to end up back at ‘The Planet of the Apes,’ but whether it’s this film or not, I don’t know.”

The Untitled Third Planet of the Apes film will be directed once again by Matt Reeves, who is co-writing the script with Mark Bomback. It’s set for release on July 29, 2016.

Makeup Effects Legend Rick Baker To Guest Judge  Syfy's Hit Series 'Face Off'

(            Premiere Features Makeup Legend and Academy Award-Winner Rick Baker (American Werewolf in London, Planet of the Apes, Men in Black) and the Return of Judge Ve Neill (The Hunger Games)

NEW YORK – November 20, 2014 – Syfy’s critically-acclaimed reality competition series Face Off – the network’s most watched unscripted series – will return on Tuesday, January 13 at 9PM for an action-packed eighth season themed “Return of the Champions.” In a twist on the show’s traditional format, three former champions, Rayce Bird (Season 2), Anthony Kosar (Season 4) and Laura Tyler (Season 5), will return in the premiere and select teams of five new artists who they will coach throughout the season.

Additionally, the Season 8 premiere will be super-sized over two episodes.  At the end of premiere, host McKenzie Westmore delivers a challenge twist in lieu of an elimination, forcing the action of the premiere to carry over into the next week’s episode.  Makeup super-legend and seven-time Academy Award-winner Rick Baker (makeup artist for American Werewolf in London, The Men in Black trilogy, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Planet of the Apes) will appear in both episodes, first mentoring the artists and then appearing as a guest judge.

In a first for the series, Season 8 will feature an instant “watch and win” sweepstakes.  During each episode, fans will be prompted to discuss who their favorite contestant is by using Twitter - making them automatically eligible to win a weekly prize.   At the end of each episode, one lucky fan will be announced in an on air spot, on Twitter and featured on the Face Off show site on

Season 8 will also feature the full-time return of fan-favorite and Academy Award-winning judge, Ve Neill, who recently wrapped work on The Hunger Games franchise.

Face Off is a competition/elimination series exploring the world of special-effects make-up artists and the unlimited imagination that allows them to create amazing works of living art. As a member of the multi-generational family dynasty whose name is synonymous with the make-up effects field, actress McKenzie Westmore brings expertise to her role as host of the series.  Some of SFX world’s most celebrated figures judge the competition – multiple Academy Award-winner Ve Neill (The Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean), industry veteran Glenn Hetrick (CSI: New York, Heroes, Legion), and creature designer Neville Page (Avatar, Prometheus). World-renowned Hollywood makeup artist Michael Westmore (Star Trek) serves as the contestant mentor.

The Face Off contestants will be whittled down week by week, until only three remain for a finale showdown.  The winning artist will receive $100,000, a 2015 Fiat and a VIP package courtesy of Kryolan Professional Make-Up to one of their 85 international locations.  Kryolan Professional Make-Up continues as the official make-up sponsor of Face Off.

Stephen King’s The Stand Now Planned as Four Films

(              Warner Bros. Pictures’ plans to adapt Stephen King’s massive 1978 novel The Stand into a single film are no more. Instead, attached writer/director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) reveals to Kevin Smith’s Hollywood Babble-On Podcast (via /Film) that he’s now looking at adapting the book into four features.

“I really wanted to do an A-list actor, really grounded, credible version of the movie,” says Boone. “…I sold [Warner Bros.] on a single, three hour movie… So what happened is the script gets finished, I write it in like five months. Everybody loves it. [Stephen] King loves it. $87 million is what it was budgeted at. Really expensive for a horror drama that doesn’t have set pieces… They came back and said ‘Would you do it as multiple films?’ and I said ‘F–k yes!’…So I think we are going to do like four movies.”

Previously adapted as a television miniseries in 1994, The Stand tells the story of a full-scale apocalypse, driven by the accidental release of a biological weapon and the ensuing struggle of good versus evil carried out by the world’s final survivors.

“I loved my script,” Boone continues, “but I was willing to drop it in an instant because you’re able to do an even truer version this way… I can’t tell you anything about how we’re going to do them or what’s going to be in which movie. I’ll just say we are going to do four movies, and we’re going to do ‘The Stand’ at the highest level you can do it at with a cast that’s going to blow people’s minds. We’ve already been talking to lots of people, and have people on board in certain roles that people don’t know about. We’re looking to go into production next year, maybe in the spring.”

There's A Giant Problem That The Animation Industry Will Have To Deal With

(              Next week, The Penguins Of Madagascar will be opening on a wide release platform, allowing audiences around the country to see the cute and cuddly adventures of Skipper and his brothers in arms. For the most part, those screens will be equipped with digital projectors that display the film at the highest image quality possible by theatrical standards. While this seems like the right move forward in terms of progress, it nor represents an as of yet unreported drawback, in particular for films of the animated variety. While 4K projection has upped the game for live action films, it's going to prove to be hell for CGI animated films.

The BBC reported today that the 4K revolution is proving to be a stumbling block for the animated market, as it not only puts a strain on the limitations of the machines that are currently used in the production, but they also could cause the production teams to run into delays with the time it takes to actually make the movie. To be more specific, animated films are currently running at 2k resolution and 24 frames per second, and the higher end that filmmakers like Peter Jackson are pushing for run at 4K resolution, and at least 48 frames per second.

According to Bruno Mahe, the technical head at one of Illumination Entertainment's studios, the resolution of current animation projects would have to be bumped up by at least 2.5 times. Increased resolution means increased memory needs, which means that the render farms of 20,000 computers that Illumination uses currently (amounting to a memory allocation of 680 terabytes on last year's Despicable Me 2) need to grow accordingly.

Judging by the 2.5 figure Mahe provided the BBC, as well as the current figures Illumination Entertainment has provided for their production purposes, a film like next year's Minions would require 50,000 computers in the render farm, with a memory allocation of 1.7 petabytes to be shown in 4K/48fps. If the budget increases at the same rate, $190 million would represent the new budgetary figure for a "state of the art" 4K animated film. Though if Minions performs as well as Despicable Me 2 did last summer, it would make those production costs back in no time, as a $190 million budget would only require a $285 million return to be considered 1.5 times profitable. (Despicable Me 2 made $970.8 million internationally.)

However, the economics "just do not support it," according to Bruno Mahe. While $190 million might not sound like that big of an investment, there's probably a lot more moving budgetary parts that need to be accounted for with such an expansion. Factors such as all of the software upgrades, and all of the additional animators that need to be added onto the payroll could account for those missing factors we don't have the cost data to crunch.

The future of cinematic experiences is already a fluctuating prospect, with the digital vs. film war pretty much a one sided fight at this point. Throwing animated films into the mix makes the marketplace even more unstable, especially considering how many 4K projectors are in operation at this current moment, with that number continuing to grow as time goes on. Here's hoping that the cost to upgrade animated films into a more high resolution friendly environment doesn't put companies like Dreamworks Animation into hotter water they they already are against studios like Walt Disney Animation Studios that'll be more than able to foot the cost of the future.

For now, you can enjoy The Penguins Of Madagascar in theaters (4K or not) next Friday.

Greengrass To Helm New Take On "1984"

(              George Orwell's dystopian classic novel "1984" is getting another big screen outing with "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Captain Phillips" helmer Paul Greengrass attached to direct.

James Graham will pen the script for this new take on the material. No word on the nature of this adaptation - whether it will be period or a more contemporary version - but considering Greengrass' previous work you can expect a bunch of subtext about ubiquitous surveillance in modern society.

Scott Rudin and Gina Rosenblum are producing. The project is still in early development with Greengrass' re-teaming with Matt Damon on another Jason Bourne film which is expected to go first.

Digital Paint Supervisor:  A Digital Dream Job Came From Thin Air

(           With any feature film, it's the work you can't see that adds to the bigger picture.

For Weta Digital's Quentin Hema, his job as digital paint supervisor is to remove items from footage in films such as The Hobbit.

"Most people really don't know what that means, " he said of his title.

"If a stunt actor is hooked up to a wire we take that out.

"Andy Serkis plays a lot of our [computer- generated] characters.

"It's our job to paint him out so the [computer- generated imagery] can be painted over it.

"If we've done our job properly you shouldn't be able to see it."

The Miramar resident has spent much of his career painting over Andy Serkis in films, but has no complaints.

"If Andy's in it, you know it's a good one."

There were different ways of painting over footage, he said.

Some took longer than others, depending on whether each frame needed hand painting digitally or if shots could be completed all at once.

Hema entered the film industry by chance.

"Like all things, it was a little bit of luck.

"There was no film or effects industry when I started and no visual effects schools in New Zealand.

"I didn't know it was what I would end up doing because it wasn't here at the time."

Hema began work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring as a paint artist, and learnt on the job.

"It's a job where you're constantly learning.

"The film industry evolves so much. Each film is a one-up [from the previous one]."

After finishing The Return of the King, Hema was promoted to supervisor and has enjoyed the management side of his role since.

"I wanted to know how everything else worked and what other departments were doing, " he said.

He is working on several films at the moment, including the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies, due for release in December.

Hema leads a crew of 64, half of whom are Australasian and the rest from further afield.

"Everyone really wants to be here and is super dedicated and passionate about what they're doing.

"You get to meet so many good people and make good contacts as well."

Being able to work on amazing films was also a privilege, he said.

Hema has worked on 44 films since 2001, including X-Men, The Chronicles of Narnia, Iron Man and The Hunger Games series.

He was nominated for a Visual Affects Society award for his work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and has worked on eight Peter Jackson films.

"Working on Peter's films is always great, because that's what we originally started doing and there's all the hype around it that makes it more exciting.

"Each film is different. I love starting projects and seeing them as they progress.

"I don't even know how they've done it because you focus on what you've got to do. When it comes together sometimes what you see is mind-blowing, even for us."

Virtual Reality Filmmakers Say Questions Outnumber Answers — And That’s Okay

(              On the eve of consumer virtual reality, with a slew of VR headsets based on common mobile phones going on sale this month and next, the buzz has turned away from gaming and toward movies and other media “experiences.” And there’s still a lot we don’t know about how those experiences should look.

People experimenting with VR movies, though, remain confident that they’re on the right track, and say the reason questions outnumber answers right now is because of how much is changing in VR.

For readers who haven’t tried on a virtual reality headset yet, it might help to understand what content creators are trying to do. While many game developers, the first people to support headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, say they want players to make virtual worlds that are as believable as real ones, Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen said the aim of cinematic VR is slightly scaled back.

Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen with the company’s virtual reality camera

“Our goal is to achieve an emotional connection with a user, to forget about the technology completely,” Christensen said. “That’s the goal, to feel like you’re there and amazed by the beauty of the music or the nature that you happen to be in.”

In other words, they don’t need to fool you — just entertain you.

Still, Christensen’s goal is more or less in line with the VR content world’s favorite buzzword, “presence.” That’s shorthand for any sort of VR experience (game, film or otherwise) that convinces the user of something unreal. In Jaunt’s case, the challenge is to make the user feel the energy of a live Paul McCartney concert, even though they aren’t really onstage with Sir Paul.

A new short film called “Zero Point,” released by a different cinematic VR company called Condition One, briefly achieved presence for me in a seemingly pastoral scene of bison walking through a field. My head naturally followed the bison along their path, but I noticed they were turning to look back at the rest of their herd — so I turned, too, only to get a face full of curious beast.

“‘Oh! The bison is right there!’” Condition One CEO Danfung Dennis quoted another viewer as having said. “Everyone has that experience.”

In reality, of course, the animal was inspecting Dennis’s 3-D camera rig, which probably looked out of place in the middle of a field. But as a viewer, taking the place of that camera, I instinctively leaned away to try and get some distance from a thing that wasn’t there.

So, if it’s possible to get presence, what are the problems?

For starters, the resolution of the screens on mobile phones — the only devices supporting consumer VR at the moment — is lower than the film guys would like.

“The screen resolution is really perfect now if you hold it at arm’s length,” Christensen said of his Nexus 5, a premium Android phone. “When you bring it up to your eyes, with lenses, suddenly you need more.”

When phones are too close to your eyes, Dennis added, you get a “screen door effect” — meaning you may notice lines in the image that break the feeling of presence. Future devices need to have panels that are at least 1440p to fix the problem, he said.

"Zero Point" / Condition One

Another big aid to presence that you won’t find in the first round of cinematic VR content is positional tracking. What that means in layman’s terms: You can turn your head to see more of a scene happening all around you, but you can’t currently move your head or body to inspect different facets of a 3-D object. When the bison came up to inspect me in “Zero Point,” I leaned away out of instinct but my perceived distance from it stayed the same.

One source experimenting with video in virtual reality at a prominent company, who asked not to be named, said cinematic VR will never really click with audiences until positional tracking is possible. It only works now in computer-generated experiences such as Oculus’ Crescent Bay demo, which used an external camera to track users as they walked around in virtual rooms.

Christensen and Dennis said positional tracking in live-action video is possible, to an extent. Dennis speculated that the best way to achieve this is to use special depth-sensing cameras, similar to the Xbox’s Kinect, to collect data about how far away objects are from the various normal-camera lenses. This information could make the 3-D effect of a video more dynamic, changing as users move their heads around, though it still wouldn’t get a bison out of my face.

The last questions is a big one: Just what will filmmakers trained to shoot movies for 2-D screens be able to bring into VR?

Not a lot, as it turns out. In both Jaunt’s Paul McCartney demo and Condition One’s “Zero Point,” camera cuts are eschewed in favor of slow fading transitions. And for the most part, no matter where a camera is, it’s holding still.

“We’re so used to cuts now,” Christensen said of scene transitions. “When they first introduced it to cinema, cuts were a big deal. It took a while to figure out the whole language. Now people are comfortable with them, and that extends to VR, but not moving the camera when you’re not moving, yourself.”

That’s because the brain wants vision and motion to align; when there’s a mismatch, some people feel sick. Dennis said Condition One has learned a counterintuitive truth while shooting VR content, though: When the camera does need to move, slow movement may be the worst kind for motion sickness.

“In traditional filmmaking, you ramp the camera up to speed and ramp it slowly down to stop,” he said. “In VR, you want to go instantly from zero to 60. It minimizes the mismatch between your inner ear and what your mind is seeing.”

And some kinds of movement are just unworkable. Dennis said a scene in “Zero Point,” shot from the perspective of someone slowly riding down an escalator, had to be cut because the artificial altitude change made a lot of viewers sick.

“Moving down or rising at 45 degrees is very uncomfortable,” he said. “The tripod can be very limiting, but it’s the safest thing so far.”

Despite all this, content creators say the added immersion of virtual reality outweighs the current limitations of the technology. Jules Urbach, the CEO of Los Angeles-based rendering company OTOY, said VR is a “very easy sell” in Hollywood at the moment.

“VR is something that all six major studios and other content creators take very seriously,” Urbach said. “At this point, everyone kind of gets it. They remember Cinerama: Three screens were more immersive than one. Movie studios understand that greater immersion is a big deal.”

Ridley Scott Says ‘Prometheus 2′ Will Feature a New Form of Alien

(            The word “alien” is a big deal when talking about Prometheus and its potential sequel. Ridley Scott‘s film was, after all, a return to the universe he helped create in his defining 1979 film Alien. The signature alien — the xenomorph — from that film even made an appearance in altered but recognizable form at the end of Prometheus. But for the sequel, which will follow the character played by Noomi Rapace on a new journey, Scott says there are entirely new plans in mind. See what Scott has to say about new aliens in Prometheus 2 below.

Talking with The Australian (via SciFied) Scott had a few things to say about the sequel:

[Prometheus 2 is] fresh” and “getting away from gods and dragons and shit. If I see one more dragon I’m going to shoot myself. Stop the dragons.” Rather than a dragon, Scott describes his original Alien as “the definitive dragon and he’s a motherf . . ker. The alien’s real which is why it’s probably one of the scariest monsters in film history,” Scott says. “So withPrometheus 2 what I’m trying to do is reintroduce a fresher form of alien in the third act.” The Prometheus “baby” alien was, he concedes, “awfully close to the alien” that tormented Sigourney Weaver. His next one promises to be very different.

So it’s not that there will be no aliens, but that they will be different. And, really, no big surprise there. Scott demonstrated with Prometheus that he isn’t simply interested in rehashing the same old concepts from Alien, so there’s no reason to expect him to change that path now. There’s a bit of paraphrasing in that quote above, but the Australian promises a more full account of the interview, which was timed to promote Exodus: Gods and Kings, will run this weekend.

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Creators Invited me to be an Ape

It’s truly the arrogance of man, or perhaps just the entertainment journalist, to stand in front of a troupe of motion capture gurus hard at work ‘being’ apes, and think, “Yeah, I could do that!”

We’re in the “large volume” at Weta Digital, a dedicated performance area that is quite literally a volume (remember your high school maths?): a three-dimensional space ringed by infrared cameras that pick up the “dots” (layman’s terms), or markers, on the actors’ bodies and record their movements.

The volume is currently standing in for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ climactic scaffolding battle between Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Koba (Toby Kebbell), and two of Weta’s motion capture guns, Craig Young and Isaac Hamon, have been busy scampering around the volume busily showing off their ape-aping skills for the past half hour.

Dressed in trademark mo-cap “pyjamas” (grey velcro jumpsuits to which passive markers are attached), and with their ‘arm extenders’ (effectively abbreviated crutches) on, when “action” is called, they dissolve instantly from a humanoid posture to quadropedal, leaping on top of tables and racing around the volume at a speed that feels particularly simian. They’re also so good at it that they make it look, well, kinda easy.

So, when animation supervisor Dan Barrett generously asks the assembled press horde if anyone would like to try “being an ape”, naturally my hand shoots into the air.

Full article and VIDEO - Take a look:  

-H         - "No film has captivated my imagination more than King Kong. I'm making movies today because I saw this film when I was 9 years old."     -Peter Jackson

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worth a mention - 11/20/14

Virtual Reality School Established To Produce 3D Artists, Modelers and Programmers

(            A California virtual reality company has partnered with the city of Duncanville on a school aimed at developing content creators, programmers and artists who can learn faster, decide quicker and remember better.

The Duncanville Entrepreneur School will open next year and consist of an augmented and virtual reality classroom for 30 students and a development lab with the latest in virtual and augmented reality technologies, Dan Lejerskar, chairman of Irvine, California-based EON Reality, told me in an interview.

The goal of the school is to serve the virtual reality needs of Dallas-Fort Worth and Texas and promote faster knowledge transfer, Duncanville Mayor David Green told me in a separate interview.

Students that graduate from the school will be snapped up by industry and form the foundation of a virtual reality based economy around Duncanville, Green said.

"We want to make this a virtual reality center," Green said. "We have an exclusive for North Texas to be the home of EON and all of their training. We feel very fortunate and excited about it. We think this is going to be a game changer."

Students who meet the admission criteria and are selected to participate will attend tuition free. Enrollment is expected to begin May 1.

The Entrepreneur School is a $1.5 million investment by the city of Duncanville in the economy of the future with a matching investment in the project by EON, Green said.

The school will focus on VR applications for education, energy, transportation, health care and sports.

Demand is high for VR training to produce 3D artists, modelers and programmers, Lejerskar said. Virtual reality is used in applications that are as small as smart phones and as big as the large, interactive cinema domes that totally immerse users in the experience, he said.

Highlander Reboot: Tom Cruise Targeted to Co-star

(               Tom Cruise has been linked with the Sean Connery mentor role in the new take on Highlander...

Here's one from our Never-Saw-That-Coming-Dept. The planned reboot of the Highlander movie series, that Summit Entertainment is working on, is targeting Tom Cruise for one of its leading roles.

The Wrap reports that Cruise is being earmarked for the mentor role in the new Highlander, the part that Sean Connery took on in the original film. One of Cruise's representatives admitted that Highlander is "one of many projects that come to him and he discusses," noting that the actor is "far from talks". Furthermore, Cruise has been "offered tons of projects."

Which doesn't sound quite so promising. Given that Tom Cruise is still taking on pretty much exclusively leading man roles - he's currently filming Mission: Impossible 5 with director Christopher McQuarrie - it seems unlikely that the part in Highlander is something that would appeal. Yet stranger things have happened.

Highlander is being directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who did second unit directing work on Maleficent, and was the visual effects supervisor on Snow White And The Huntsman. We'd imagine that Summit will want to get cameras rolling at some point next year.

Strategy of DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is Questioned

(                  It has been a rough month for Jeffrey Katzenberg.

In the space of a few weeks, the mogul and co-founder of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. has been rebuffed by three high-profile potential buyers: Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp., Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and Hasbro Inc.

Katzenberg, known for driving a hard bargain, may have overplayed his hand. The studio executive was said to be pursuing a deal worth about $3 billion — about $1 billion above the company's current market value. In the case of Hasbro, investors also balked at the idea of getting into the volatile movie business and the company risked alienating its main licensing partner, Walt Disney Co.

The collapse of deal talks left some Wall Street analysts wondering what Katzenberg's strategy is.

Jeffrey Katzenberg helped revive Disney's storied animation studio in the 1980s and 1990s with such hits as "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid." (Chris Pizzello / AP)

"It does look desperate," said Eric Wold, a media analyst with B. Riley & Co. "I'm sure [Katzenberg] can find something if he keeps looking around, but I don't think these actions are going to help the valuations."

The succession of failed deals undermined DreamWorks Animation's stock price, sending it on a roller coaster ride since late September. Investors sent shares up 26% when SoftBank appeared poised to make an acquisition, before the stock came crashing back down again.

The biggest volatility came Monday after Hasbro backed out. Shares plunged 14% in the biggest one-day drop since the studio went public in 2004. The stock closed Wednesdayat $22.70.

But, even before Wall Street began speculating about a new buyer for DreamWorks Animation, the stock had already been suffering. Shares have fallen 36% this year as the company's financials have been squeezed by box-office misfires.

"This is a company that is facing major operational challenges," said Vasily Karasyov, an analyst with Sterne Agee.

The failed talks mark a rare and humbling moment for Katzenberg, a legendary figure in Hollywood.

Katzenberg, 63, helped revive Disney's storied animation studio in the 1980s and 1990s with such hits as "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid." After a highly public feud with his former boss Michael Eisner, Katzenberg left to form his studio 20 years ago with partner director Steven Spielberg and music mogul David Geffen.

The Glendale studio, which was spun off into a separate company in 2004, churned out such big hits as the "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" movies.

In recent years, however, the studio has struggled to replicate the success of its earlier films. Three of the studio's last five films have resulted in write-downs: "Rise of the Guardians," "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and "Turbo."

The studio's next animated sequel, "Penguins of Madagascar," is expected to do solid business when it debuts next week. (DreamWorks)

The misfires have eroded profits and led to cost-cutting at the studio, which including the elimination of more than 300 jobs last year after taking an $87-million write-down on "Guardians."

"This is a company that continues to fail to live up to expectations," said Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG, who has a sell rating on the company. "I don't know why somebody would want to buy them."

DreamWorks bounced back this summer with the hit "How to Train Your Dragon 2," which has grossed more than $618 million at the worldwide box office. The studio's next animated sequel, "Penguins of Madagascar," is expected to do solid business when it debuts next week.

The outlook for next year is more uncertain, however.

"DreamWorks has a relatively rough year ahead of it," said Tony Wible, a Janney Capital Markets analyst.

Wible and other analysts do not have high hopes for "Home," an original movie due out in March.

And, as The Times reported this week, DreamWorks has decided to push back the release date for "B.O.O.: Bureau of Other Worldly Operations," two people close to the studio said.

The movie, directed by Tom Wheeler and featuring the voices of Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, was set to debut June 5. But DreamWorks executives are weighing releasing the movie in fall 2015 or in spring 2016.

Katzenberg was said to be unhappy with the progress of the film and concerned about the competition next June, when Pixar will release its movie "Inside Out."

A spokesman for DreamWorks Animation said: "Animated features are our most valuable asset and we regularly evaluate how to maximize their value, including determining the most opportune time to release a film."

Late next year, DreamWorks will release the third installment of the "Kung Fu Panda" franchise. The movie is expected to do well, especially in China, but could lose business to Disney's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which opens five days earlier on Dec. 18.

The box-office challenges explain why Katzenberg has been eager to find a buyer sooner rather than later. Although DreamWorks remains financially sound, operating as a stand-alone movie studio will be increasingly challenging, analysts say.

For instance, rival Walt Disney Co. is able to shore up its balance sheet via a variety of businesses, including theme parks, television networks such as ESPN, and the Marvel franchise. DreamWorks cannot offset its losses when an animated movie sputters. Nor can it count on once-booming home video sales to help drive profits, given the collapse in the DVD business.

What's more, the market is more crowded with new rivals that can produce popular movies at lower cost.

Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. have scored some surprise box-office hits with the "Despicable Me" films and "The Lego Movie," respectively. Disney also has raised the competitive stakes with such releases as "Frozen," the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.

"We have been inconsistent," Katzenberg acknowledged in an interview this year. "The only thing I can guarantee you is we are our harshest critics."

He declined to comment for this story.

Despite the uneven box-office results, DreamWorks could still be an attractive target for suitors.

One bright spot has been its investments in television and digital media at a time when more advertising is moving online.

DreamWorks last year signed a landmark deal to produce 300 hours of animated shows for the Netflix streaming service. It also acquired Awesomeness TV, the popular teen YouTube network, for $33 million. DreamWorks has been in talks to sell a stake in the venture to Hearst Publishing.

Revenue from television and other non-film businesses is expected to grow to 35% of the company's overall revenues of about $1 billion in 2015, up from 22% in 2011, Wible said. "He's done a good job of getting DreamWorks diversified," Wible said of Katzenberg.

DreamWorks also has strong business ties to China.

That could make it attractive for a Chinese investor eager to expand into Hollywood such as e-commerce giant Alibaba. DreamWorks operates an animation studio in Shanghai with Chinese partners that is producing animated and live-action content for Chinese and international markets, including "Kung Fu Panda 3."

Related: Wall Street cheers possible Hasbro-DreamWorks Animation deal
Richard Verrier

"The company is still a potentially attractive takeover play," said Tuna Amobi, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ. "Jeffrey may have to lower his expectations now and perhaps be a little more amenable to a deal he might have otherwise rejected."

Philip K. Dick's Short Story ‘The Crawlers’ Adaptation in the Works

(                 A big screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story “The Crawlers” is in the works from producers Edward R. Pressman of Pressman Film and the author's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett of Electric Shepherd Productions, TheWrap has learned.

Jason Lapeyre (“I Declare War”) will direct from a script by Kalen Egan and Travis Sentell.

Described as a riff on the small-town monster movie with a twist of Texas noir horror, “The Crawlers” is set in the late 1960s and follows a young government land-surveyor as he wanders off course into Boyle, Texas. After interacting with some of the strange, secretive residents, he follows a trail of disturbing rumors and unearths the town's terrifying history, discovering that the townspeople aren't the only residents of Boyle.

Pressman Film's COO Jon Katz will executive produce with co-writer Egan, who happens to be a development executive at Electric Shepherd. Pressman Film's director of development Melissa Robyn Glassman will serve as co-producer.

Contemporary visual artist Patricia Piccinini will design the creatures, and Emmy-winning makeup artist & creature designer Steve Johnson (“War of the Worlds”) is on board to do the visual and creature effects along with his partner, filmmaker Robert L. Lucas, and their team at Brick and Mortar Productions.

“As a long-time fan of Philip K. Dick's storytelling, I am honored to partner with his daughter, Isa, to bring this unique piece of his work to the screen,” said Pressman. “Jason Lapeyre's vision combined with artist Patricia Piccinini's haunting designs and Steve Johnson's special effects savvy makes this the perfect team to do the job.”

“I'm absolutely thrilled to be working with extraordinary independent filmmaker Ed Pressman to produce ‘The Crawlers,'” said Hackett. “His contributions elevate this project in every way. ‘The Crawlers,’ a psychological horror film in the tradition of ‘Rosemary's Baby’ and ‘Don't Look Now,’ is the first horror film based on my father's work. His grand theme around what it means to be human is fully examined in this dark and poignant tale.”

“Brick and Mortar is thrilled to have the opportunity to develop a never-before-seen hybrid of both practical and digital FX to bring the creatures to life,” added Johnson.

Pressman recently wrapped “The Man Who Knew Infinity” starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, and he's currently developing an adaptation Edward Abbey's book “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” which will be written and directed by “Catfish” filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Pressman is also developing a reboot of “The Crow” with Relativity, a “Bloodsport” remake that will be directed by James McTeigue and the drama “Happy Valley,” which will star Al Pacino as the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Hackett is the founder and CEO of Electric Shepherd Productions who served as an executive producer on “The Adjustment Bureau,” which was based on one of her father's short stories. As a producer, she's currently developing “Ubik” with Anonymous Content, and she's also an executive producer on “The Man in the High Castle,” a television pilot that Electric Shepherd is co-producing with Ridley Scott‘s company Scott Free for Amazon Studios.

Lapeyre's first feature, the gritty crime thriller “Cold Blooded,” won Best Canadian Film at Fantasia 2012. His second feature, “I Declare War,” was an official selection of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Film at Fantastic Fest the same year. It was later released theatrically by Drafthouse Films. He's represented by APA in Los Angeles and Vanguarde Artists in Toronto.

Katz negotiated the deals on behalf of Pressman Film, while Chris Tricarico negotiated on behalf of Electric Shepherd Productions.

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

(               Welcome to the first annual Verge Hack Week. We’re totally blowing up our site: we’ve given our reporters and editors the entire week to play with new tools and experiment with new storytelling ideas, while members of our amazing product team have gathered in New York to help build all sorts of interesting new things. Learn more.

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.

Take a look:

Ed Catmull on Wage-Fixing: “I Don’t Apologize for This”

(               Pixar and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull is at the center of the animation industry wage-theft scandal. (Photo via Shutterstock.)

The wage-theft scheme run by big animation studios is finally receiving some mainstream media attention after a significant piece was published today by Bloomberg News.

The most damning revelation in the Bloomberg piece again centers around Pixar and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull who has emerged as a central figure in the scandal and has allegedly been fixing wages in the animation and visual effects industry since the mid-1980s. Bloomberg has uncovered a previously-unpublished quote from Catmull’s January 2013 deposition.

No Apologies from Catmull

During the deposition, Catmull was asked about a 2007 email he had sent former Disney chairman Dick Cook in which he criticized Robert Zemeckis’s ImageMovers for paying its employees too generously.

In that email, Catmull told Cook that they’d “avoided wars up in Norther[n] California because all of the companies up here—Pixar, ILM, Dreamworks, and couple of smaller places—have conscientiously avoided raiding each other.” He also acknowledged a secret deal between Pixar and Disney that ensured the employees of the two studios “cannot be considered to move back and forth.”

When Catmull was confronted by lawyers at the deposition about these activities, which suggest both illegal corporate behavior and possible violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, he responded incredulously:

Like somehow we’re hurting some employees? We’re not. While I have responsibility for the payroll, I have responsibility for the long term also. I don’t apologize for this. This was bad stuff.

Apologies from Catmull or not, the lawsuits against animation studios are piling up, with three already filed in hopes of a class-action settlement. These cases are inspired by the original High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation that involved companies like Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel.

While that earlier case still hasn’t been settled, it ruled in favor of the employees. “Once there’s a visible test case, you look around to see where else it’s happening, and the next cases are easier to put together,” law professor Orly Lobel told Bloomberg.

Studios Want Cases Dismissed

Lawyers for the animation studios being sued, including Pixar, Lucasfilm, Disney and DreamWorks, deny any wrongdoing, and claim that the new lawsuits are “belated attempts to spin off fresh litigation from a Department of Justice investigation that began more than five yaers ago,” and that it’s “now well over.”

At a November 5th hearing, studios asked the district court judge overseeing the litigation, Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, to dismiss the cases because animation artists waited too long to sue.

This Was The Hardest Transformer For The Movie's Visual Effects Team To Make

(                 “Transformers: Age of Extinction" is out in theaters and with it comes a new batch of Transformers to excite on screen.

As one could imagine, it takes an incredible amount of hard work to make the Hasbro toys look incredible on screen.

That’s where the visual effects crew of Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) comes in.

We caught up with ILM’s Scott Farrar, the visual effects supervisor on "Transformers: Age of Extinction,” who explained how long it takes to bring a Transformer in the film to life.

"It's a long struggle because they're not simple models," Farrar told Business Insider. "They're made of thousands of pieces. One robot might take 15 weeks or more to build just for the model maker to make the pieces and to paint, and assign gestures. Then it's another 15 just to rig it so it basically has a skeleton that you can animate."

There are at least 10 new Transformers in the latest sequel joining Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. However, there's one Transformer Farrar says was more complicated for the ILM team to put together.

"Crosshairs was as difficult as we've ever had," said Farrar. Paramount / Transformers Age of Extinction trailerIn the film, Crosshairs transforms into both into both a Corvette and a helicopter.

A lot of that had to do with the Transformer's chrome face which is difficult to work with because of the reflections you normally see on a chrome surface.

"One thing that we try and do, that I spend most of my days doing, is trying to light these things so they look as photoreal as possible," explained Farrar. "Well, to do that with a metal surface, like a car, what are you seeing? Color. But, you also see the reflection of the environment. You see the world around."

"A reflection of a face that has to show emotion but reflect everything is difficult inherently to deal with," he added. "So we do all these little tricks to change what the reflections look like so we can read the face better, so you can see the lights and darks. And then we added a little bit more scorch and dirt and color. We added a little bit of brass to his cheeks and his chin and different things to help you see what his facial emotion is when he's speaking or looking toward the camera. It took a while but we go in and we have to figure these things out."

Crosshairs is also the only Transformer we see on screen who turns into both a car and a helicopter, a nod to incarnations of the toy.  Paramount PicturesCrosshairs transforms into a Chevy Corvette C7 Stingray

Farrar said seeing the final project on screen is extremely rewarding for the ILM crew.

"It's a tribute to a monumental task that this crew accomplished. A lot of these folks have been with me through every other movie," he said. "That helps a great deal. There's so much commitment to the quality of the work ... the quality of work and the imagery have gotten better and better."

Simpsons Take On NZ Film Industry / Tax Credits

(            D'OH!: Fox's The Simpsons takes a crack at New Zealand's film industry

D'oh! Popular American TV cartoon show The Simpsons has taken a poke at New Zealand and its film industry.

But don't have a cow man, there's an upside.

In an episode aired in the US yesterday, Bart Simpson and his best buddy Milhouse raise the topic of The Hobbit, turned into a movie trilogy by Kiwi filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson.

As Bart plots to get even with a bullying teacher, he says: "The Hobbit taught us every dragon has a chink in its armour."

Milhouse replies: "It also taught us that New Zealand's beautiful landscapes and attractive tax credits add up to a film maker's paradise. For more information". (The website redirects to

Subtitles then appear, calling New Zealand, "The Milhouse of Australia".

It's not praise.

Milhouse is an insecure bespectacled geek, who is frequently the butt of jokes. He is insecure and exhibits a generally depressed demeanor.

In 2010, New Zealand's National-led Government ensured the Hobbit trilogy would be made here, using a generous package of tax-breaks after Jackson threatened to move production to eastern Europe.

The Government also rewrote employment laws to make New Zealand more attractive to studio bosses Warner Bros.

This isn't the first time The Simpsons has referenced the iconic films.

After the show last month staged one of its most elaborate couch gags yet, it depicts the Simpson family travelling across a Tolkien-esque landscape, with stingy boss Montgomery Burns as the dragon Smaug, bartender Moe as Gollum, Homer's buddies Lenny, Carl, and Barney as the three trolls, big-haired Marge Simpson as Gandalf, and the rest of the family as hobbits.

As was only appropriate for a Jackson tribute, it was one of the longest director's-cut-length couch gags ever. While the show's opening credits are usually just a few seconds, this was a minute and a half.

Sony Hoping More Spider-Man Will Increase Profits

(               Sony is looking to blockbuster movie tie-ins to boost its movie and TV revenues by over a third in the next three years

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the firm behind 'The Amazing Spider-Man' movie, is looking to bring in between $10bn and $11bn at the end of the financial year ending March 2018. This is a 36% increase over this year's forecast, $8.1bn.

Sony Corp CEO Kaz Hirai said to investors: "The entertainment businesses have been profitable for 18 consecutive years, they are a steady source of income for Sony.

"Sony Pictures, which is celebrating 25 years as part of the group, provides a steady stream of income, releasing 90 movies that have taken the number one spot at the U.S. box office.

"We are positioning our television and movie and movie production businesses as growth sectors for Sony."

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said: "We forecast SPE to have $10-11 billion in sales with a profit margin of seven to eight percent, through, a sharper focus on tentpole releases, along with stronger revenues from the television businesses."

How Disney Built and Programmed an Animatronic President

(             Animatronics have powered some of sci-fi and fantasy cinema's most imposing creatures and characters: The alien queen in Aliens, the Terminator in The Terminator, and Jaws of Jaws (the key to getting top billing in Hollywood: be a robot). Even beloved little E.T.—of E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial—was a pile of aluminum, steel, and foam rubber capable of 150 robotic actions, including wrinkling its nose. But although animatronics is a treasured component of some of culture's farthest-reaching movies, it originated in much more mundane circumstances. According to the Disney archives, it began with a bird.

Among the things Walt Disney was renowned for was bringing animatronics (or what he termed at the time Audio-Animatronics) to big stages at his company and elsewhere. But Disney didn't discover or invent animatronics for entertainment use; rather, he found it in a store. In a video on Disney's site, Disney archivist Dave Smith tells a story of how one day in the early 1950s, while out shopping in New Orleans antique shop, Disney took note of a tiny cage with a tinier mechanical bird, bobbing its tail and wings while tweeting tunelessly. He bought the trinket and brought it back to his studio, where his technicians took the bird apart to see how it worked.

Full article:

Will We Ever Get To See China's Disastrous Answer To Avatar?

(             It's been two years since we showed you the trailer for Empires of the Deep, the legendary $130 million epic about mermaids that was geared to be China's answer to Avatar. The movie actually filmed back in 2010. Will we ever see it? Hard to say. Update: We heard from one of the film's directors.

More behind-the-scenes info has been coming out about Empires lately. In particular, back in July, an extra who played a bunch of roles in the film released his filming diary, in which he talks about playing a quasi-Spartan soldier, a villager who gets captured by pirates, and a merman. Part one is here and part two is here, but the gist of it is that filming was chaotic and went on for months, with the extra having to show up for makeup at 4 AM and then report on set at 9 AM, only to find that filming didn't start until 4 PM because none of the crew had shown up — and then they were losing light.

Trailer - Take a look:

Volfoni 3D Wins Prestigious International 3D and Advanced Imaging Society Technology Award

(              The International 3D and Advanced Imaging Society awarded this week, nineteen companies on the occasion of the Society’s 5th Annual Technology Awards held at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. This ceremony celebrates the people, the organizations and the technologies breaking new grounds in entertainment and media.

Volfoni 3D has been honored as a leader in innovation with a Lumiere Statuette for its SmartCrystal Diamond, the most elegant, portable, and brightest, passive advanced 3D-polarizer on the market.  “ It is with great pleasure that I accept this award on behalf of Volfoni 3D. Warm thanks to the International 3D Society for granting us this distinctive honor” said Thierry Henkinet, President of Volfoni during the ceremony.

Smart Crystal™ Diamond is a truly standout product, earning high marks for its quality and affordability. The secret of success of this new system is in the unique “Triple Beam” technology, which was designed in Europe and powered by Volfoni. Thousands of Volfoni's systems are now installed in cinemas around the world.

“I must congratulates Volfoni R&D team for their non-stop innovation. Creative 3D technology is the heart of our strategy , culminating with our SmartCrystal Diamond. This prize encourages us continue to those efforts” added Henkinet.

Holographic Airport Avatar "Eva" Goes Live 

(              SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio International Airport has debuted a new, hologram-like virtual helper for passengers waiting in security check-in lines.

On Wednesday morning, the airport introduced two avatars in Terminal A.

The projected video images, named Eva, are activated when passengers approach their human-shaped figures in the general line near security checkpoints and in precheck lanes, and help to expedite the TSA screening process.

"We're one of the first airports, if not the first airport, to have an avatar like Eva in the precheck lane for the TSA," San Antonio Airport Systems Director Frank R. Miller said. "The reason for that is that a lot of people who aren't familiar with the TSA and the precheck protocols don't realize that they don't have to take off their shoes or their jackets. So the avatar in precheck, that's the information she's putting out."

The avatars, which speak both English and Spanish, are the result of a program the airport implemented some months ago to make the security check-in process faster.

The avatars play an active role in engaging passengers who might not stop to read informational signs.

"I've seen people walk right by a sign for precheck, as an example, and they do everything that they don't have to do. With Eva, yeah, it is something new. It's different. People will stop, take a look at it, and it helps them to focus on the fact that you're getting closer to the screening checkpoint," Miller said.

As for how people will react to Eva, Miller said the airport has already received mixed reviews.

"As we've heard, it's cool. Some people think it's creepy. But it's a way that people are now focused on an image that is telling them how much easier it is -- or how it can be easier -- to get through the screening checkpoint," Miller said.

Miller said the airport is focusing on Terminal A right now, but he would not rule out another Eva for Terminal B in the future.  


-H           "Disneyland is virtual reality."            -John Hench  (Lead developer of the hydraulic giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)

Pixar’s Jim Morris Upped To President

(             Disney toon execs Andrew Millstein of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Jim Morris of Pixar Animation Studios have been promoted to new President posts at their respective studios, the Mouse House’s Ed Catmull announced today. Both will continue to report directly to Catmull.

Morris previously oversaw production on Pixar’s features, shorts, DVD content and theme park projects as the studio’s General Manager and EVP Production, also overseeing Pixar’s Studio Tools, Systems, Development and Human Resources. A producer on Pixar’s Oscar-winning WALL•E, Morris came to Pixar after serving as President at Lucas Digital overseeing Skywalker Sound and ILM. Powerhouse Pixar has enjoyed 14 consecutive No. 1 box office openings and releases the Pete Doctor-helmed Inside Out next summer.

“I’m continually impressed by Jim’s business and creative acumen,” said Catmull. “He truly understands film production inside and out, and his management of Pixar allows its culture to continually grow, explore new areas and technology, and advance new ways of storytelling.”

"Transformers 5" Delayed to 2017? Michael Bay's Absence May Cause Problems for Optimus Prime

(            "Transformers 5" is still very much in its early stages (right now, all we can 100% confirm is that "Transformers 5" exists), but one of the things that seemed like a lock was a potential 2016 release date.

But that might not be the case anymore.

Enstars is reporting that the film's projected 2016 release date is now being bumped back to 2017, due to the mass amounts of controversy and behind-the-scenes trouble surrounding the film.

The biggest, of course, would be the absence of Michael Bay. The director, despite being the subject of so much hate by those who don't particularly care for the "Transformers" movies, is a driving force for the series. And he's more or less confirmed that he won't be directing the fifth film.

The director told IndieWire that the difficulties of making the "Transformers" films had started to weigh on him, and he'd be moving on to other things- "There's a lot that's unexplored, but that's for the next director to figure out." Bay also said, "they're hard movies to do and it takes every day for two years. They're fun, but they're hard."

Right now, Bay may be interested in working on a film about the attack on the Benghazi embassy, which doesn't sound any more fun than a film about giant robot dinosaurs (actually, it sounds less fun), but is probably a good change of pace.

KDrama Stars also has news of the alleged release date change for "Transformers 5," also adding that the film may see somewhat of a change from the previous ones, given that Bay (and potentially Mark Wahlberg) will be leaving. This may have something to do with the delays we're hearing about.

Check back soon for the latest news on "Transformers 5," and if it can eventually find its own director and a new release date.

Animators Face 4K Film Technology 'Challenge'

(             THE advent of 4K and high frame rate films presents a "huge challenge" for studios using computer-based animation, an expert has said.

Bruno Mahe, technical head at studio Illumination Mac Guff, said the resolution of animated films would have to be increased by about 2.5 times.

The time required to generate such high-resolution images could hit production schedules.

It may mean studios having to re-think the way they make movies, Mr Mahe said.

Current animated movies are made to be viewed at 24 frames per second (fps) and at resolutions of about 2K.

But the advent of technologies such as 4K and frame rates of 48fps and higher means that the resolution of animated films will have to be substantially increased, said Mr Mahe, whose studio was behind films including The Lorax, Despicable Me and Minions.

"They are both going to present a huge challenge," Mr Mahe told the BBC.

Simply scaling up existing images to bridge the gap would not work. "That just looks horrible, no-one wants that," he said.

Instead, animators will have to produce characters and scenes that are more detailed so they look good at those higher resolutions and film speeds. This presents a problem because computer-based animation is such a time-consuming task.

Before now, directors of many animated movies have had to take tough decisions about how they tell a story because there has simply not been enough time to generate all the images needed within the film's production schedule, he said.

While higher speed computers and networks removed some of this pressure, the time it took to create or render frames was still the limiting factor in how quickly a film could be finished, he said.

Illumination currently has 20,000 computers in a "render farm" that is used by animators to produce the individual images and scenes that eventually become a movie.

Shipping high-resolution images back and forth to animators consumes huge amounts of memory, said Mr Mahe.

In 2007 the total amount of memory used while Illumination worked on its Dragon Hunters movie peaked at about 12 terabytes, he said.

This grew substantially by the time Illumination made Despicable Me 2 when peak memory use hit 680 terabytes.

The best way to solve this problem would be to use the fastest memory, known as flash, said Ron Bianchini, head of Avere which helps firms build responsive networks.

"But 600 terabytes of all flash memory would be absolutely cost prohibitive," he said.

That becomes even more true when studios have to produce movies with resolutions 2.5 times higher than they do today to cope with the new technical demands, said Mr Mahe.

"The economics just do not support it," he said. "You cannot just make your render farm 2.5 times bigger. You need to be much smarter than that."

Bill Irwin on Voicing and Puppeteering TARS in Interstellar

(             To this day, Bill Irwin isn't quite sure why Christopher Nolan asked him to voice the helper-bot TARS in his latest epic, Interstellar. We can make an educated guess: Irwin is a veteran stage and film actor specializing in vaudeville — he's been dubbed “the Clown Prince” — whose appearances range from Waiting for Godot to The Good Wife to Subway Stories and Sesame Street. If any character actor could conquer the mechanical demands of the mostly practical TARS (yes, they really built that shape-shifting monolith), a nimble thespian with a degree from Ringling Bros. Clown College would be a logical choice.

Vulture spoke with Irwin about the demands of bringing TARS to life, his intensive work with Interstellar's special-effects and stunt teams, and finding a sardonic voice to fit TARS's programmed personality.

Christopher Nolan opted to build a functional TARS instead of creating the robot with CGI. What was he hoping an actor could bring to it?
I’m not sure he entirely knew. The conversation was one of those pivotal life-changers. He talked about [how] the normal way to do this would be to engage an actor to come in during [post-production]. He didn’t want to do it that way. He wanted the actor to be part of the scene. Part of his storytelling genius is he has an engineer’s mind and eye. I saw it as he was describing it. Weeks later, I found myself in L.A. at the special-effects room, and someone had made a plastic model of what Chris and his collaborators had envisioned. From that, the special-effects guys built something out of sheet metal and rivets. Chris would peek in from time to time. In order for it to locomote, there [had to be] pieces of wood on the floor. Chris immediately saw how the pattern of pieces would have to go to make it locomote. But you couldn’t do that all the time, so it then had to have little feet that would extend, deploy, and the thing would have the clearance to walk.

We were pushing this thing around. A wonderful stunt-double, Mark Fichera, whom you see in the movie doubling people in spacesuits, he and I were assigned to this. We would push this thing around. At first it was a matter of gripping a cable that you’d have to grip hard. Then, as it looked more and more like what Chris, [visual-effects supervisor] Paul Franklin, and the designers wanted, it got heavier. At points, the shop guy would say, "I’m gonna have to give you just a minute …" There was a lot of "just a minute"s. Eventually, they transformed it to a compressed air system. It went from squeezing the breaks on an old bicycle to playing a video game.

This sounds a bit like puppeteering. Was the experience akin to any of your past roles?
Not comparable. As I look back now, it’s fascinating that the word puppeteering never came up in that first conversation with Chris Nolan. It didn’t come up for awhile, but it became good shorthand for what we found ourselves doing. It was very visceral, muscular puppeteering because it stood five feet high and was jointed in varying ways and could be reset. You operated it from behind, pushing it, meaning you were attached at the chest and each ankle, so you could push various parts of it, and your hands are on the controls in the back of the machine. Or, if they wanted to look at the machine straight on and have it walk away from camera, you were behind it, backing up.

At some point, there were bits of scratch videos that we’d send over to Chris and the stunt coordinator to show we were earning our per diem while wrestling with the machine. Chris would come to the shop: "What about going through a doorway?" So they quickly built a doorway, and we’d wrestle it through. Mark Fichera is younger and stronger than I am, so he got the tougher assignments where sheer musclepower was involved. But he’d hand it off to me when character movement was involved, as it gradually got to be. We did all this work in Burbank, then suddenly, we had to go to Alberta, Canada, they needed the machine to go through doors and do dialogue at the same time. That first day was trial by fire. The machine wasn’t acting like it had in Burbank. So we’re trying to get it to work while Chris and the AD are telling us that camera is ready. Then Chris keeps giving me dialogue that's not on any page. It was a great storytelling adventure. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But some days were easier than others.

This sounds like the most Henson non-Henson endeavor ever.
I’ve never heard Chris Nolan and Jim Henson’s names linked before, but that’s an interesting connection.

Many of the Henson movies use full-body "puppets" that are closer to costumes. That sounds like the case here.
Actually not, which is why I’m hoping some of these videos surface in a well-sanctioned, well-explained milieu where Chris is narrating. We were about 18 inches behind it. There are Henson rigs that work like that. Because I worked on Sesame Street […] I worked around it. There’s a guy named Marty Robinson who built some puppets for me for shows and, in his time, has operated the bigger Sesame Street puppets, where you’re looking at a video screen and giving it life from inside or behind. So I’ve been around it and absorbed some of it.

Scenes where TARS appears on the ocean planet were filmed at Icelandic locations. How did it work operating him there?
We'd be standing in ice-cold water up to our thighs in Iceland, with metal that hadn’t been tried out. We just wanted to do what we were supposed to do. There was the weight plus the water displacement. Aerodynamics were now hydrodynamics. It couldn’t go as fast as we wanted it to go. At one point, I was marking the scene and having fun doing the dialogue — this was actually CASE’s voice, not TARS, it wasn’t my voice heard, but for operating the machine and working with Chris, I’d lay down a guide track. So I’m acting with Wes Bentley and Anne Hathaway, and it’s their first moments on this new planet. They’re striding through the water, and I’m striding, too, but Chris wisely says, "Do you think you can make it go that fast, Bill?" No, I’m running through water, I couldn’t go that fast! We gave him what we could give him on camera and he artfully used that. Then Paul Franklin gave TARS the abilities beyond what we could do as puppeteers.

Chris first described those four plints, solids, and they’re infinitely articulate thanks to highly developed circuitry within the machine. Any time Chris could get something to work on camera, sometimes shoving the thing. "Make the finger come out!"

Through all the practical elements, how did you find time to develop a character?
One of the maddening things was they were always taking the machines apart and putting them back together, to chip them or cannibalize them for other things. There were four machines. One had an arm that folded out from the main body and even had some fingers. They were rarely around to be rehearsed with. We were pains to the special-effects guys. "Any chance we could get a hold of the eight-walker rig?!"

TARS isn't spontaneous like a human, but he isn't a droll operator like HAL 9000. Where did the robot's personality have to land to fit with the technology and themes?
Chris said — and I think he’s prophetic with this — "Robots won’t look humanoid nor anthropomorphized." That’s what movies have done up until now, but it doesn’t make much sense, engineering-wise. But quite conceivably, they’ll pattern artificial intelligence after human beings. One of my favorite lines is Wes Bentley explaining it to Matthew McConaughey: "They program him to have a personality. They think it makes a unit more cohesive."  

It all started with what was on the page. The script is brilliant. Befuddling, at times, but brilliant. There was personality in this machine. And a point of view. His first job was to apply electric shock and subdue and arrest Cooper. Then he comes to serve Cooper. The persona jumped right off the page, somewhere between a former Marine commander and a high-school gym teacher. We would shoot scenes and lean into it more. Chris took a specific contour of when he wanted to hear a little more of the John Wayne angle, or less. It was programmed to have personality, but it didn’t get overbearing.

DreamWorks Animation Boss Can’t Make a Deal

(              In Hollywood, it’s not unusual to have a few failed marriages.

But for DreamWorks Animation and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, his two failed merger talks have taken the company stock down more than 30 percent this year.

Albert Fried & Co. analyst Rich Tullo told The Post that DreamWorks’ market cap at $2.2 billion should be in the same ballpark as other media industry stocks MSG and AMC Networks, which trade at more than double that valuation.

“It’s an example of the management team destroying value instead of creating it,” Tullo said. “These guys have a lot of good movies and good content. If someone else had these assets, the stock should be performing better.”

Shares closed Monday’s session at $22.31, down 14 percent. For the year, the stock is down 31.5 percent after investors signaled their disappointment that merger talks broke down with toy maker Hasbro on Friday. Earlier talks with SoftBank also stalled just weeks ago.

Katzenberg also gauged interest among other big media companies, including Time Warner, Comcast and 21st Century Fox in recent years.

More recently, he has been replacing senior management, naming a new chief financial officer, Fazal Merchant, who started in September.

Separately, sources wonder about DreamWorks’ possible role in the press leaks last Wednesday, when news of two potential deals — one with Hasbro and another joint venture with Hearst Corp. hit the Hollywood news outlet,

In reporting the news, the Web site also floated that Katzenberg would take the chairman’s role at Hasbro, leading to finger-pointing at the DreamWorks camp.

The leaks, which freaked out Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, also spooked his investors.

Meanwhile, Katzenberg owns 1.43 percent of the company and sold 20,700 shares on Nov. 6.

The company’s largest shareholder is Horizon Kinetics, which held 11 million shares on Sept. 30, while other big share owners include PrimeCap Management, which holds 9 million shares as of the same period.

 Framestore To Provide VFX For The Age of Starlight

(             Professor Brian Cox is to write and direct The Age of Starlight that will be presented at the 2015 Manchester International Festival that, according to press materials, is "a world first show about the origin of the universe and everything within and without it."

It will be directed by Kevin MacDonald, the Oscar-winning film director whose films include "Last King of Scotland" and "One Day in September." It will feature computer-generated imagery created by Oscar-winner Tim Webber and Framestore, the VFX team responsible for the film "Gravity," and technology by Rony Abovitz and Magic Leap

In a press statement, Professor Cox has commented, "The Age of Starlight will invite an audience to face the biggest questions about our existence, our place within the universe, and the origin of our universe itself, using new technology to create an experience beyond anything that has been possible before."

Alex Poots, CEO and artistic director of Manchester International Festival, adds, "MIF has assembled a remarkable group of people to tell a complex and beautiful story about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going - in a completely new way. Over the last two years we have dreamed up a genuinely radical and truly experimental project, at the very limits of what is possible. It’s a risk, but it’s one worth taking."

Thanks to 3D Printing Movie Miniatures Aren’t Dead ... Yet

(               In your favorite movie back before computer graphics were economical, handmade miniatures were used. From the USS Enterprise to the city used in The Fifth Element, miniatures have had a long history in Hollywood. Computer replacements have been a more recent addition to the visual effects of a movie or TV show. I dare say it should not be the only tool a filmmaker has at his disposal. 3D printing would be a great tool to do miniature work and augment computer graphics.

Eventfully it becomes more practical to switch to the use of CG based models. Starting as early as the TV shows, Seaquest (1993), and Babylon 5 (1994), where Lightwave and the Video Toaster on the Amiga computers were used. It moved steadily to the point where now almost all movies and TV shows use computer graphic based models instead of miniatures in production.

With the advent of 3D printing, it can be economical to use miniatures again as a production tool. You could model your miniature on the computer using the very same software used in making computer graphic based models. This could be a great option for the independent filmmaker who may not have the resources for a large visual effects budget to do a lot of CG. Instead they could use a 3D printed model with a blue screen and pro tools for basic Chroma keying and a laptop. All the independent filmmaker would need is someone to model the object that needs to be printed. The rest can be done with traditional artistic skills, like painting. No need to employ a computer graphics team.

3D printed miniatures are also a more economical solution. Imagine using a 4K camera like the Red Epic. Filming the miniature in full resolution or the more common half resolution at 2k. To do that in CG could be very expensive. You would have to employ a render farm or try to do it on the smaller scale on the home computer. You will either pay for it in your own time or pay for it from the render farm.

Or it may not need to be a production miniature. It could be used for tie-ins. For example recently the movie Interstellar was released in theaters. As part as the promotion for this movie, they printed a 12ft long miniature of the computer graphic space ship seen in the movie. This was a great marketing gimmick that encourages people to see the movie.

An area miniatures are still used a lot for is pyrotechnics. When you need a real world object to blow up, miniatures come in handy. 3D printers could be used to create the entire building or simple to print the objects that will go into the building, like furniture and fixtures.

Lastly, stop motion movies. We already see the use of 3D printing with characters. Why not go beyond that, and print the entire production? This could include everything from the city to the cars to the props the characters use. You could even make molds that one could melt clay into to make clay animation.

Bringing back miniatures

3D printing could be a great tool to bring back miniatures in movies and TV. The technology gives filmmakers and his visual effects team more creative options for their projects. Don’t think miniatures are dead yet!

Marvel vs. Pixar: Can You Guess Which Acquisition Has Done Better for Disney?

(           Between them, Marvel's The Avengers and Toy Story 3 have brought Disney more than $2.5 billion in worldwide box office grosses. Credits: Marvel Entertainment, Pixar Animation Studios.

Thanks to the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and a ballooning slate of new films, most investors believe Marvel is the key to Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) future. Yet the numbers tell a different story. Pixar has contributed more profit since taking up residence at the House of Mouse.

You wouldn't know that to look at the box office data. Marvel's The Avengers set new opening weekend records in May 2012, going on to earn over $1.5 billion worldwide. Among Disney pictures, only Frozen has produced more profit since the studio took full control of Pixar in May 2006.

No doubt adding Marvel in 2009 had an impact. But that first deal -- the Pixar deal -- changed everything. Had it not worked out as well as it did, I'm not sure CEO Bob Iger would have been inclined to spend $16 billion over six years to beef up Disney's studio and licensing business.

According to data compiled by S&P Capital IQ, Consumer Products now generates about $4 billion in annual sales, up from $2 billion at the time of the Pixar deal. Studio Entertainment is back to producing over $7 billion in annual revenue after two consecutive fiscal years below $6 billion. Further growth could be in store next year and in 2017, when live-action Star Wars movies head back to the big screen. (Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.)

And how have investors fared? Quite well. From the close of the Pixar acquisition on May 9, 2006, to today, Disney has added roughly $90 billion in market cap -- from just over $62 billion to more than $155 billion as of this writing. Pixar is probably responsible for over half those gains. Here's why:

Full article with number breakdowns:  

Why Aren't Real Dinosaurs Cool Enough for 'Jurassic World', Hollywood?

(             Oh Hollywood, to raise my hopes and then crush them so. Life found a way to see fit to give us another, much-anticipated Jurassic Park sequel in the shape of next year's Jurassic World. But the influence of cigar-chomping Hollywood executives seems likely to set any chance of it being half-decent on the path to being extinct.

A little disclosure up front. I'm one of the world's biggest Jurassic Park fans. It was my Star Wars growing up -- I was the perfect age to become infatuated with the dazzling dinosaur effects in the film and at a susceptible age to totally buy into its merchandising blitz: I had the video games, the toys, the wallet, the posters, the T-shirt. Heck, I still have the T-shirt, and my most prized possession is the "fleshy" rubber-skinned Jurassic Park T-Rex toy that takes pride of place on top of my bookshelf. In fact, were someone to get me the Command Centre this Christmas, I'd still probably jump with glee much like I would have done as a seven year old.

So, you can probably guess at how excited I am about Jurassic World. It's lining up to be pretty darn good -- Colin Trevorrow (responsible for the best film no-one saw, Safety Not Guaranteed) has co-written and directed it, Steven Spielberg (who brought Jurassic Park to the silver screen originally) is producing, and star-of-the-moment Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation) is set to lead. So far so good.

Except for one detail: it will have genetically modified dinosaurs in it. It's long been rumoured (a script circulating a few years ago hinted at "weaponised" dinos). This has seemingly been confirmed by a tie-in Jurassic World LEGO set featuring a so-called "D-Rex" (ugh), with translucent skin and red eyes. Here's a picture of it (well, the toy anyway), courtesy of GrooveBricks / IGN:

No, no NO! Keep this Steroidsaurus shit out of it! When you're making a monster movie about the coolest creatures to ever walk the Earth, why the fuck do you have to go and redesign them? Though it's only loosely a "science-based" fiction, you take the franchise into a whole other direction with such inventions. You may as well be watching Pacific Rim.

It's not as if dinosaurs weren't already lethal predators, terrifying enough to have Star Lord shitting his pants as he runs through the jungle. If the movie-makers are looking for a fresher dinosaur than the tired-old T-Rex, why not give some screen time to the recently-uncovered "Gore King"?. And if you're looking for a scene-stealing 3D spectacle, what about the 65-tonne Dreadnoughtus, the largest dinosaur ever? Not only does it really have that badass name, but it's another recent, incredible find by real-world paleontologists:

Why revive Jurassic Park at all (it'll have been nearly 14 years since Jurassic Park 3 came out by the time Jurassic World hits cinemas) if you're not going to bother keeping what made those films so special in the first place -- the dinosaurs?

I don't get this obsession with ramping everything up to excessive levels -- what's the D-Rex going to do that a T-Rex can't? Talk? Breathe fire? Go watch some shit like Dragonheart for that. It's making the assumption that those troublesome millennial kids with their Instagrams and Call of Dutys and YouTubes and Sexting won't care or be able to pay attention unless their senses are bombarded with total synaesthetic bollocks. The D-Rex, to me, has a whiff of "Star Wars-prequel syndrome" to it -- all CGI flash, but with none of the heart of the originals.

Jurassic Park, for me and my similarly-aged school friends, meant so much, on levels I only appreciate fully now that I'm older. It was majestic, full of creatures so incredible that it blew our little minds to think that they'd ever actually lived, and taught us an appreciation of natural history that no museum trip ever could. I realise now that it was also a celebration of the nerd, the geek, the scientist -- the hero is a paleontologist, and the film itself couldn't exist without the pain-staking efforts of hundreds of years' worth of dust bowl digs at paleontology sites. Start adding fictional creatures into the mix, and it undermines a legacy 65 million years in the making.

Full article with follow-up tweets:

Hollywood Divided by Prospect of first Academy Award for Motion-capture Role

(           Tarzan's chimpanzee sidekick Cheetah was never recognised by the Academy Awards, but the clamour is growing for an ape - albeit played by a human - to win an Oscar next year.

It has emerged that 20th Century Fox is campaigning for the British actor Andy Serkis to receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Caesar in the summer blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Should he win a statuette, he would be the first actor to gain an Oscar for a performance using motion-capture technology.

However, Hollywood is divided over whether playing a computer-generated chimpanzee is truly acting or simply an animation devised in the studio's effects laboratories.

Actors dress in Lycra suits with reflective marks that allow the cameras to track their movements and feed the data to visual effects specialists.

They can digitally overlay images using the actors' exact movements and expressions making the results more realistic and more complex than other digital effects.

Phil Elderfield, entertainment product manager at Vicon, which makes motion-capture systems, said: "We are teetering on the edge of recognition for some performances motion capture has delivered. This is a remarkable piece of work and Andy's performance is deserving of consideration."

But Hollywood star Jeff Bridges has sounded a note of caution. "Actors will kind of be a thing of the past," he told the LA Times.

"We'll be turned into combinations. A director will be able to say: 'I want 60 per cent Clooney; give me 10 per cent Bridges and throw some Charles Bronson in there'."

The cast of the Apes movie are in Los Angeles to promote the DVD release of the film, which proved a smash hit in cinemas, taking US$707.4 million ($897.3m) at box offices around the world.

According to industry insiders it is likely Serkis' case for the nomination will be pushed while he is there.

Serkis has become the godfather of motion capture, using the technology to create iconic characters including Gollum from The Lord of the Rings series and King Kong.

Yet Apes co-star Gary Oldman has cast doubt over whether his performance was "the sort of thing" the Academy will accept because of the heavy use of computer-generated imagery.

Julie Parmenter, managing director of UK film and television post-production house Molinare, said: "In this case, the animal he's portraying comes from his expertise and understanding of the role and that is truly acting.

"It is a powerful role in the film, a costume may have been superimposed on him but it's still him acting."

A similar row broke out in 2010 when fans of Avatar made a case for its stars including Sigourney Weaver to be recognised by the Academy despite being cloaked under digital imagery.

Parmenter added: "It is a fine line. Too far and you're just going into the realms of animation.

"This film has a much stronger case than Avatar. That looked really computer generated. With this it looks like there is someone still there underneath."

Four years on and times may be changing over the use of motion capture, which depends on the actor beneath the pixels.

Martin Brown, assistant general secretary of actors' union Equity, said: "It simply hasn't been a matter for debate in Equity.

"No one is asking if Andy Serkis is acting or not.

"No concerns have been raised to us. It's new work and actors are moving with it."

The 50-year-old Serkis describes himself as "evangelical" about the technology and has even set up his own motion-capture company, The Imaginarium Studios. He has long believed motion capture had not been given its due.

He said there was no difference between his non-digital performance as Ian Drury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and Caesar.

"How it's cloaked and manifested on screen, that's a different thing, but people often don't get that it is all acting."

Evidence of Alleged Apple-Google No-Poaching Deal Triggers More Lawsuits

(                Evidence produced against Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOGL) and some Silicon Valley cohorts about an alleged conspiracy not to recruit each other’s employees has sparked new lawsuits claiming other tech and entertainment companies engage in the same anti-competitive conduct.

Pixar President Edwin Catmull acknowledged the use of such agreements when he was questioned by lawyers for thousands of employees who sued his company, along with Apple, Google and four others, in 2011. An unapologetic Catmull said he was trying to help the industry survive by stopping hiring raids, remarks that triggered a trio of complaints in the last three months against animation studios in California.

Likewise, a Google document revealed in the case from three years ago -- the search engine owner’s 2007 “Restricted Hiring” and “Do Not Cold Call” lists of all the companies it agreed not to recruit from -- has resurfaced as key evidence in complaints brought in the last two months against Oracle Corp.,

Full article:

10 Animated Shorts Advance in 2014 Oscar Race

(               LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 10 animated short films will advance in the voting process for the 87th Academy Awards.  Fifty-eight pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

“The Bigger Picture,” Daisy Jacobs, director, and Christopher Hees, producer (National Film and Television School)
“Coda,” Alan Holly, director (And Maps And Plans)
“The Dam Keeper,” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, directors (Tonko House)
“Duet,” Glen Keane, director (Glen Keane Productions & ATAP)
“Feast,” Patrick Osborne, director, and Kristina Reed, producer (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
“Footprints,” Bill Plympton, director (Bill Plympton Studio)
“Me and My Moulton,” Torill Kove, director (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada)
“The Numberlys,” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, directors (Moonbot Studios)
“A Single Life,” Joris Oprins, director (Job, Joris & Marieke)
“Symphony No. 42,” RĂ©ka Bucsi, director (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest)

The Academy’s Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting at screenings held in New York and Los Angeles.

Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist.  Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco in December.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

DreamWorks Animation Deal Talks Sabotaged by Anonymous Letter

(                THR was among outlets that received the highly detailed missive as negotiations with Hasbro broke down after an irate Disney caught wind

This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The termination of merger talks between DreamWorks Animation and Hasbro has plunged the company behind Shrek and Penguins of Madagascar into a state of high anxiety.

The stalled Hasbro negotiation is the second in recent weeks to be leaked to the media only to be declared dead within 48 hours. THR revealed Sept. 27 that Japan's SoftBank was interested in buying DWA for as much as $3.4 billion. Around that point, however, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son had started to cool to the idea. DWA was angling to sweeten the price when news of the talks broke and the potential deal was scuttled.

It is unclear whether that leak was in part to blame, but the news motivated Hasbro, which is said to have first toyed (so to speak) with the idea of acquiring DWA two years ago. No serious talks took place then, but Hasbro recently had been prepared to engage in a substantive discussion. In the wake of the SoftBank leak, a knowledgeable source says DWA tried to hold information about the conversation as close to the vest as possible. Nonetheless, news of those prospective talks soon became known.

Certainly the leak did damage, as Hasbro's stock slid nearly 5 percent (and DWA's stock spiked). But there was another major obstacle to a deal: Sources confirm that incensed Disney executives conveyed to Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner that they would deem the toy manufacturer a competitor should it acquire DWA, imperiling huge contracts involving Marvel, Star Wars and, per a very valuable agreement set to begin in 2017, princess merchandise from Frozen and other titles. Deals with Disney are estimated to generate nearly a third of Hasbro's business. A source with knowledge of events says Disney execs had "a nuclear-level reaction" to the talks with DWA. Both Disney and Hasbro declined comment.

Suffering from a recent spate of underperforming movies, DWA's stock is off 37 percent this year and saw a one-day drop of 14 percent to $22.31 per share Nov. 17 in the aftermath of the Hasbro discussions. Though DWA was the one approached by both SoftBank and Hasbro (although it is not officially for sale), two aborted negotiations made public in less than two months risks casting the company as "the girl nobody wants to date," as one industry executive puts it. Though negotiations and deal discussions run rampant in Hollywood, more often than not without consummation, the public nature of CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg's talks can make for bad PR for a publicly traded company. "Repeated efforts to sell reflect poorly on DreamWorks Animation and especially on Katzenberg," says Steve Birenberg, president of investment advisory firm Northlake Capital Management.

No doubt, DWA has been subject to an unusual amount of leaks around its private talks, a level of activity that has the whiff of an agenda. The company was rattled to learn of an anonymous, highly detailed, lengthy letter recently mailed to several press outlets — including THR — apparently with the goal of derailing the Hasbro deal. Not only did the letter spell out details of the discussions, it also disclosed DWA talks to sell Hearst Corp. a 25 percent stake in AwesomenessTV for $81.3 million (DWA paid $33 million for the teen-skewing digital company in 2013).

Further, even as every studio fights to find optimal release dates for their films, DWA is the only one whose share price fluctuates largely based on its calendar and individual movie performances. The anonymous letter suggested upcoming issues with DWA's release schedule — information that seems to have been at least partially confirmed when sources said Nov. 17 that DWA will move B.O.O.: The Bureau of Otherworldly Operations out of summer 2015, at least in part due to dissatisfaction with its creative direction. Meanwhile, the company's holiday movie for 2015, Kung Fu Panda 3, is walking into a firestorm as it is set to open Dec. 23, just days after Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens hits theaters Dec. 18. Other upcoming big bets: Boss Baby currently is set for 2016; Bollywood Monkey Superstar, not yet in production, is set for 2017.

The company had not previously disclosed changes to its release schedule, though Katzenberg said in an Oct. 29 earnings calls that DWA would be "flexible" in dating its movies, adding, "You can look at our release schedule as the intent of the moment. I just have to say, every time something happens in the marketplace, we're going to respond to that in the most offensive way we can to protect the performance of those films."

DWA, whose movies are distributed through 20th Century Fox in a deal that runs through 2017, has faced losses on recent releases, including Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Turbo (and has disclosed that it is facing SEC scrutiny over the write-down on the latter film). But one executive with ties to the company says that despite its misses, DWA overall has had "a really good track record" with numerous films that grossed more than $500 million worldwide, including The Croods ($587.2 million) in 2013 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($618.8 million) this year.

Still, the recent developments are unlikely to help Katzenberg sell DWA for the type of premium that the company seems to feel makes it worthwhile. Even after the Hasbro talks leaked, shares rose only 14 percent and remained 37 percent below what is believed to be Katzenberg's target price of $35 per share, indicating investors weren't confident a deal would close at that price. The median price target of Wall Street analysts who cover the stock is just $22, or 59 percent below what Katzenberg seems willing to accept.

Given the collapse of potential deals with SoftBank and Hasbro, it seems for now that DWA will continue to rely on the performance of its movies and pursue diversification where it can. BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield, who has long been negative on DWA, sees little hope for a sale at the kind of price that DWA has been seeking. "The problem is, at the end of the day, it's a movie studio," he says. "Not everybody gets a Hollywood ending."


-H               "For animation, it's one shot, one thought.  It's pretty much a true way to go."        -Henry Selick