Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Worth a mention - 11/26/14

James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open”

(             There are a few things you can probably expect from James Cameron's brewing trifecta of "Avatar" sequels. More Sam Worthington, a return to Pandora, and more eye-popping visual effects. But just how dazzling will his movies be? Well, Cameron is never one to mince words.

“I can tell you one thing about them, they’re gonna be bitchin’. You will shit yourself with your mouth wide open,” he told Empire. Indeed, the filmmaker is always eager to push the latest new fangled technology to try and wow moviegoers, and he's not backing away from the frame-rate debate, promising the next films will double the standard 24fps.

"My thinking at the time was that 60 [FPS] might be a better segue to the video market,” he said of earlier attempts to increase frame rate. “I’ll be plugging into a system that’s a little more mature, so it makes sense for me to do 48 frames at this point.” And while it remains to be seen what gee-whiz effects Cameron will bring out for the follow-up films, the production process has now found VFX personnel brought into the screenwriting fold.

”It was very revolutionary this time in terms of the way in which virtual production and performance capture were integrated into a new production system. So, it’s really more of what the viewer will experience in terms of the world, new cultures, new creatures new environments - that sort of thing,” Cameron said during a Wall Street Journal conference (via International Business Times). “We have to have a world that continues to refresh itself and be rich and unexpected.”

And shooting the movie itself is unlike the way you might think of a normal film production. “Interestingly, the term ‘filming’ is so obsolete in almost every regard because we do some image capture where there’s actual photograph, but it’s done entirely on digital cameras,” he said (via THR). “And that only represents a small part, maybe 20 to 25 percent, of the total film. The rest is completely synthetically generated.”

Will it be enough to make us shit overselves, though? We'll find out when the first "Avatar" sequel arrives in 2017.

‘Penguins of Madagascar’ Could Make $58m Debut

(Los Angeles Times)           Entering the five-day holiday weekend, Lionsgate’s latest instalment in the Hunger Games franchise is expected to stay at No. 1. The film could add between $55 million (Dh201 million) to $60 million in ticket sales from Wednesday to Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The animated film Penguins of Madagascar is tracking in second place with about $55 million to $58 million in its debut. The Warner Bros-distributed comedy Horrible Bosses 2 is expected to round out the top three with about $42 million.

This time last year, the holiday box office exploded with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Disney’s Frozen. The films set records previously held by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the highest Thanksgiving weekend grosses.

Ridley Scott to Receive VES Lifetime Achievement Award

(            While J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) will be lauded with the VES Visionary Award, British filmmaker-producer Ridley Scott will be receiving the VES Lifetime Achievement Award for a career that includes Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Prometheus (2012) and the forthcoming Biblical epic Exodus: Gods & Kings (2014).

“Ridley Scott is a defining voice of the feature, broadcast and commercial forms,” stated “Jeffrey A. Okun, VES Board Chair.  “His vision and contribution to the art is incomparable and his impact upon the visual effects and technical form is unparalleled.  Ridley has given us a body of groundbreaking work to aspire to, and for this we are honored to award him with the prestigious Visual Effects Society Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“The best filmmaking has always been the result of collaboration between artists, craftspeople and technicians, both in front and behind the camera,” remarked Ridley Scott. “Over the years I have been very fortunate to work on films that are visual at their core and thus I have always been immensely reliant on the expertise of our visual effects teams. To be honored by the Visual Effects Society with this Lifetime Achievement Award is indeed extremely gratifying.”

Ridley Scott will be releasing Exodus: Gods and Kings featuring Christian Bale (American Hustle) on December 12, 2014 and he is currently in production on The Martian with Matt Damon (Interstellar) which is set to appear on the big screen in 2015.  Scott will be honoured during the 13th Annual VES Awards on February 4, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The Top 10 Special FX of 2014 by Wired

(           Wired and Mike Seymour purpose their top 10 for the VFX of 2014.

VIDEO - Take a look:

How 4 Minutes Of CGI Dinosaurs In ‘Jurassic Park’ Took A Year To Make

(               Universal Pictures unveiled the first trailer for next summer's "Jurassic World" movie Tuesday starring Chris Pratt.

From the looks of it, the fourth installment in the series will be filled with plenty of computer-generated (CG) dinosaurs and Velociraptors.

When the first "Jurassic Park" came out in 1993, it contained very little CG. Director Steven Spielberg originally wanted the dinosaurs in the film to be done through practical effects with stop motion.

It wasn't until producer Kathleen Kennedy spotted CG test footage of a T-Rex on a computer screen at visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), that it was decided to mix CG dinosaurs in with the live action film.

There are only 14 minutes of dinosaur visual effects in "Jurassic Park," about four of which were made with a computer, but its lasting effect on movies has been monumental.

Two years later, 1995's "Toy Story" was the first full-length computer-animated movie.

Today just about every film — from James Cameron's "Avatar" to summer blockbusters like Michael Bay's "Transformers" series — owes credit to CG.

Business Insider spoke with Steve “Spaz” Williams, who was a CG Animator at ILM, the visual-effects studio that helped bring “Jurassic Park” to life.

Williams broke down the steps it took to bring the dinosaurs from paper and pad to the big screen in CG.

VIDEOS - Take a look:

The Almighty VFX Affect

(            Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings presented VFX challenges of biblical proportions.

God is the holy grail of special effects. Sure, CGI wizards have mastered creating miracles from the diminutive; it’s one thing to make Yoda or Gollum unlikely world beaters.

But when you’re talking about the Almighty, the effects have got to be, well, mighty.

For more than half a century in cinema, though, divine miracles haven’t looked so divine, the Rapture not so rapturous (at least on screen). The Ten Commandments may have boasted a cast of thousands; they still flocked through sets of Styrofoam.

“ For more than half a century in cinema, though, divine miracles haven’t looked so divine, the Rapture not so rapturous. ”

But digital advancements have written a new testament to visual effects. And with filmmakers tithing millions to render 40-day floods, parting seas and frog-filled plagues, studios are making a renewed push to capture public dollars—and awards gold.

Leading the revival is Paramount’s Noah, which already reached the masses to the tune of $362 million worldwide since its spring debut. And December marks Fox’s unveiling of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott’s take on a defiant Moses (Christian Bale) who embarks on a revolt of 400,000 slaves against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton).

Both movies feature the spectacle requisite to a nine-digit tentpole release: digital sound and pyrotechnics, gravity-defying stunt work, monstrous sets (and the occasional monster).

But they take wholly different approaches to their biblical narratives: Noah posits a world of fantastic phenomena; Exodus ponders whether divine legend sprang from the natural world.

In depicting the plagues in Exodus: Gods and Kings, VFX supervisor Peter Chiang was tasked with making each seem naturally plausible.

For Noah, VFX supervisor Ben Snow took his cues from two orders on high: the book of Genesis and Darren Aronofsky.

The Bible part was pretty straightforward. The flood narrative takes up only three chapters of Genesis but gets specific about the boat: It’s to be 450 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet high, with three decks and a side entrance.

Aronofsky’s vision was less detailed. The director, whose visual feasts include Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, was not a fan of classic sword-and-sandal filmmaking.

“Part of the challenge was meeting Darren’s vision of visual fury,” Snow says. “From the start, he said, ‘I don’t want to make your father’s Bible movie. I want to reinvent the Bible movie for the modern audience.’ He didn’t want Noah on a boat with two giraffes sticking out the back. He wanted to tweak the world, which gives you a lot of room to get creative.”

For Noah, Aronofsky and Snow combed over dozens of religious paintings to get a sense of the iconography of the period. “It’s not like other special effects, because most people already have their own visions of what things should look like,” Snow says. Religious-themed films require “an integration of faith you don’t have to worry about in other movies.”

The set version of the ark in Noah measured three-stories tall.

So Snow began by establishing a historical foundation from which audiences could leap, employing sets so large they would have made Cecil B. DeMille proud. Noah’s ark, for instance, ran more than 70 feet long and stood three stories high. “It gave us an anchor,” Snow says. “To give it that huge scale, you could take real, physical sets and extend it with computer graphics.” Of which there is a deluge: more than 1,000 scenes with digital effects, including pairing 13,800 animals (many of them imaginary). Snow worked with Industrial Light & Magic, which helped create Noah’s Walkers—fallen CGI angels formed from cooling lava. To make the creatures’ movements realistic, Snow and Aronofsky studied footage of real ballet dancers from the director’s Oscar-winning drama Black Swan.

Snow and ILM also teamed for the movie’s requisite-but-critical water scenes. “We created this great effect of geysers from the ground shooting water that meets rain falling to Earth,” says Snow, currently overseeing special effects on the Avengers sequel. “That’s the thrill: to create something you’ve never done, or something people have never seen.”

Imagination’s Wild

If Noah leans to the fantastic, Exodus tilts toward the factual. Visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang says he wanted to capture the grand scale of the adventures of Moses. But “the main thing is to be true to the historic period,” he says. “No one really knows what Egypt in 1300 B.C. looked like. So you have to imagine what existing architecture would be like, and hopefully (the film) strikes a little subconscious chord inside you, that you know this.”

Audiences will certainly know the disasters that strike Egypt in Exodus, which wonders whether the Bible’s greatest tales were borne of very real causes. Could the Red Sea have been parted by a tsunami’s receding tides? The plagues by an ecological infestation?

“Ridley wanted to convey the sense that everything could be natural phenomenon, like an eclipse or tsunami,” Chiang says. “Not just someone waving a stick at the sea.”

Which meant the crew had to create its own natural disasters, such as having a casting call for 400 frogs that would be spread on set, then embellished through CGI to make them number in the tens of thousands.

“What I discovered is if you put 400 frogs on the ground, it actually looks like nothing,” Chiang says. “But it gave us a live model to digitally create frogs that would make up a surge several feet thick.”

Still, Chiang says, 400 frogs looks a lot more daunting when you’re trying to corral them. “In between every take, we had to pick up and return every frog,” says Chiang, who’s also been VFX supervisor on such films as Godzilla and The Bourne Ultimatum. “So the animal wranglers, camera crews, Ridley, everyone spent hours picking up frogs.”

Chiang, too, believes in the physical component of visual effects, namely sizable sets that “lead the eye to a much bigger set” on green screen. The film’s main square, which features a Ramses statue and a gallows pole, extended more than 200 square yards. The goal, Chiang says, was to express not only the grandeur of the Egyptian square, but the immensity of the problem the city faced.

Chiang says one of his primary objectives was to convey the economic trials looming over the Egyptians. “We wanted to give justice to what was, essentially, an immense slave problem,” he says. “You have 400,000 slaves building cities. We had to give a sense of the scale of that.”

But such are the demands of today’s visual effects, where spectacle often comes from the ordinary. Like frogs. “To see a giant robot is no longer special, it’s the norm,” Chiang says. “Seeing a building collapse isn’t special. But we have a chance to convey the world of Cleopatra and the Ten Commandments in a way that hasn’t been seen. So you have to check everything. Not only for scale and grandeur. To find that special effect in the simplest of things.”

Bioshock Studio Irrational Games Begins Hiring New Staff

(              Bioshock studio is now much smaller, focusing on digital titles

Irrational Games has begun hiring new staff, following the 'closure' of the studio earlier this year.

In February, as the development of the final Bioshock Infinite DLC neared completion, Irrational co-founder Ken Levine announced that the studio was to close down, with a total of 70 employees and five contractors laid off.

However, Irrational has now posted two job listings on its website, confirming Levine's plans to continue the studio with a much smaller workforce.

The studio is looking for an IT manager, but more importantly it is also advertising for a senior programmer with experience using Unreal Engine 3 and 4, suggesting a new Irrational game is in the early stages of development.

Levine made the announcement of the studio's apparent closure via a lengthy web post, detailing plans to shut the BioShock studio and form a new outfit made up of "about fifteen members of the Irrational team", with a focus on "narrative-driven" digital games "that are highly replayable".

"I'll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two," he said in February. "That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team.

"I'm handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative. If we're lucky, we'll build something half as memorable as BioShock."

Ridley Scott Will Not Direct Blade Runner Sequel

(                Although plans are still underway for Alcon Entertainment to bring to the big screen a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, Scott today reveals to Variety that he is no longer targeting the director’s chair. Having already helped develop the screenplay alongside Hampton Fancher (who, with David Peoples, wrote the original film), Scott remains very active in the sequel’s development, but now says his plan is to serve only as producer with a helmer expected to be announced in the near future.

“We talked at length about what it could be,” Scott tells the trade of the sequel’s story, “and came up with a pretty strong three-act storyline.”

The project, which is planned to go into production next year, should feature the return of Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard. Scott has a few potential spoilers, too, regarding Deckard’s specific role in the story.

“Harrison is very much part of this one,” Scott continues, “But it’s really about finding him. He comes in in the third act.”

Released by Warner Bros., Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The film was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction).

Scott’s latest, Exodus: Gods and Kings, hits theaters December 12 with his next, The Martian already on track for a November 25, 2015 release.

Alcon Entertainment acquired the film, television and ancillary franchise rights in 2011 from producer Bud Yorkin to produce prequels and sequels to the iconic science-fiction thriller. Yorkin will serve as a producer on the sequel along with Kosove and Johnson. Cynthia Sikes Yorkin will co-produce. Frank Giustra and Tim Gamble, CEOs of Thunderbird Films, will serve as executive producers.

Chicago Ordered Not to Touch George Lucas Museum Site

(           A federal judge has erected a force field of legal power around the site of Chicago’s proposed George Lucas museum. U.S. District Judge John Darrah has ordered the city not to alter the lakeshore location of the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art until after Feb. 26. That’s the date of the opening hearing of a lawsuit challenging the city’s right to build the new museum on the city’s Museum Campus. The order was requested by the ragtag, scrappy alliance of protesters known as Chicago’s Friends of the Parks, who probably shouldn’t have sued the Star Wars guy’s museum if they didn’t want to be referred to as scrappy and ragtag all the time.

Friends of the Parks’ request is at least partly rooted in something that happened a long time ago (2003), in a place not very far away at all. That’s when Chicago’s then-mayor, Richard M. Daley, employed a bunch of fully armed and operational bulldozers to dismantle Meigs Field Airport in the middle of the night to short-circuit a protracted legal fight. (A legal battle that, thanks to being a prequel, was both more convoluted and ultimately less fun than the Lucas Museum one.)

City lawyer William Aguiar protested that Durrah’s order was unnecessary, since the museum is still in the planning stages and fears of a midnight groundbreaking “would not be valid.” The city says that the new museum will bring new cultural and economic growth to the area, an argument eerily reminiscent of the one brought forth by the Imperial Public Relations Squadron to promote tourism at the Alderaan Big Bunch Of Rocks And Burnt Up Dead People Memorial Park back in Galactic Standard Calender Year 0 BBY.

Scott Farrar – Senior VFX Supervisor – View Conference 2014

(           Two weeks ago took place View Conference in the beautiful city of Turin in Italy. This is one of the best opportunities to meet personalities from the visual effects and animation worlds.

I took the chance to meet and talk with Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar. We made this video interview in which he talks about his background, his impressive career at Industrial Light & Magic (more than 33 years!) and also about his long collaboration with Michael Bay on the TRANSFORMERS movies.

A big thanks to Scott for his time!

VIDEO - Take a look:

A New Dawn for Special Effects as NZ Tech Takes on the Planet

(                Looking deep into the sunken eyes of the ape, nestled on the flattened nose and sloping facial expression, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes blurs the line between reality and visual-effects.

Brought to life by Wellington-based Weta Workshop, and its spin off special effects and prop division Weta Digital, the work of Andy Serkis as lead character Caesar, the chimp leading marshall, represents a digital progression akin to Charles Darwin’s first sketch of evolutionary ideas.

“In some ways it is like evolution,” says Dan Lemmon, VFX Supervisor, Weta Digital. “Over the years we’ve experienced a lot of incremental changes from a visual effects perspective and then all of a sudden a big jump in technology arrives.”

Speaking to Computerworld New Zealand from the Weta Workshop studios in Wellington, Lemmon, who is best known for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, says the advancements made in skin rendering and facial expressions specifically have propelled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes onto a different digital level to past creations, such is the evolutionary nature of the Kiwi company.

“We’re always learning and figuring out ways to do things better,” explains Lemmon, speaking following the launch of the movie on DVD and Blue-ray last week.

“It was a great experience to work on Dawn and in terms of the project, it was like the Empire Strikes Back of its genre.

“We took something that worked really well and through our technology and close attention to detail moved it to the next level and made it an epic piece of cinema.”

Sitting in Peter Jackson’s private cinema screening room, Lemmon’s attention to detail is visible even during post production, offering an insight into why the company, which was founded in the suburb of Miramar, continues to dazzle on the global stage.

But don’t be fooled, Weta Digital isn’t all about the technology, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes representing the beating heart of Kiwi attention to detail, built on intense concentration and meticulous focus.

Such is the nature of the beast, quite literally, that lead ape characters Caesar, who pushes peaceful integration, and Koba, a champion of violent separation played by Toby Kebbell, should differ so subtly from a digital perspective.

“As leader of the apes, Caesar needed to be portrayed as an intelligent ape,” explains Lemmon, who also worked on Man of Steel in 2013. “Therefore we intentionally cheated to give him more human aspects.

Full article:

Special Effects Enliven ‘Exodus’ Epic

(              Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is every bit as extravagant as you’d expect, the epic story of Moses in Egypt now viewable through 3D glasses. But get ready for a spoiler: the Red Sea doesn’t open up like a zipper, the way it famously did in “The Ten Commandments” in 1956. Mr. Scott and his team decided to ditch the holy staff that Charlton Heston waved to part the waters for the fleeing Hebrew people.

“Ridley said from the outset that everything [including the Red Sea escape and the plagues] could be justifiable by natural causes,” says Peter Chiang, visual-effects supervisor on “Exodus.” So the Red Sea recedes to low tide, allowing the Hebrews to hurry across with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Then the film’s visual-effects wizards created a 180-foot tsunami, modeled loosely on Hawaiian surfing waves, to crash over the Egyptians.

John Turturro, Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale in ‘Exodus’ Twentieth Century Fox

Christian Bale stars as Moses, who grew up in the Egyptian palace as a prince but in fact was an adopted Hebrew baby at a time when the Jewish people were the slaves of the Egyptians. Joel Edgerton, his head shaved like Yul Brynner, plays Ramses, the future pharaoh with whom Moses was raised like a brother. The two men have a sibling rivalry, then a biblical one, as Moses discovers his roots and fights to lead his people out of bondage. Aaron Paul (”from “Breaking Bad”) plays Joshua, Ben Kingsley is a Hebrew leader named Nun and John Turturro plays Seti, a pharaoh bedizened in gold and eyeliner.

With “Exodus,” Mr. Scott returns to the swords-and-sandals pageantry he captured in “Gladiator,” another film replete with computer-generated images. Special effects have come a long way since Hollywood in the 1950s. What’s notable in “Exodus” is how computer-generated images seamlessly blend with real photography and physical effects to give the movie its epic scale. The Red Sea scene was filmed at a beach on Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. In close-ups of people fleeing across the sea bed, the filmmakers used the beach’s real waters.

In ‘Exodus,’ scenes such as the flight across the Red Sea meld real actors and special effects. Twentieth Century Fox

“We rigged up a series of Jet Skis and used their propellers to drive the water against the actors,” Mr. Chiang explains. “You’ll see the foreground with Christian Bale crossing, and maybe 30 or 40 people around him, and then CG [computer-generated] water heading toward infinity, CG horses, CG Hebrews, making up the 40,000 people crossing.”

Joel Edgerton as Rameses and Dar Salim as Commander Khyan Twentieth Century Fox

Re-creating the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians involved a similar mix of virtual and “practical” effects. One plague was a violent hailstorm.

“Hail was interesting,” Mr. Chiang says. The special-effects team “made these pneumatic bazookas that would fire polymer balls that would bounce and shatter with the same characteristics as an ice ball.” About 30 such cannons were arranged to pepper the actors with fake hail, which splintered as it hit shields and scenery. Hail seen in the more-distant background was computer-simulated.

“The only leap of faith, really” from Mr. Scott’s plagues-as-natural-phenomena mandate, “was the death of the first born,” Mr. Chiang says. In one plague, the Nile river suddenly runs blood red. The director’s explanation, according to Mr. Chiang: “It’s a feeding frenzy of crocodiles.”

Andy Serkis Used Dancers for The Avengers

(Bang Showbiz)               Andy Serkis has revealed he hired "body-popping experts" to master Ultron's robotic movements in upcoming Marvel blockbuster 'The Avengers: Age Of Ultron'.

Andy Serkis used "body-popping experts" to bring villain Ultron to life in 'The Avengers' sequel.

The motion capture genius was asked by Marvel Studios to work on 'The Avengers: Age Of Ultron' to perfect the movements of the megalomaniac robot - played by James Spader - in the superhero movie.

Serkis - who runs The Imaginarium studio, which specialises in CGI acting - used an array of different dancers and other experts to figure out how the character should move, speak and walk.

Speaking in the new issue of Empire magazine, he said: "We did some work on Ultron. On the development of Ultron before James Spader came on board. In terms of movement styles was he going to be human-like? Was he going to be robot-like? So we worked with a bunch of different people, from body-popping experts to dancers, to this guy called Neil who's nearly eight feet tall."

Serkis and his studio also helped Mark Ruffalo with his portrayal of The Hulk, especially how to master the angry green giant's roar.

The 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' star said: "We gave Mark weights, we had voice projections so he could do his Hulk roar. On screen we could have a virtual representation of the low-res avatar of The Hulk, so he could come out and feel that sense of scale."

'The Avengers: Age Of Ultron' also sees Robert Downey, Jr. return as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth back as Thor, Chris Evans reprising his role of Captain America, Scarlett Johansson donning Black Widow's catsuit one more and Jeremy Renner returning as Hawkeye.

The Marvel sequel is scheduled for a May 2015 release.


Guillermo Del Toro Talks Pacific Rim Sequel

(                 We’ve known for a while that at least one Pacific Rim sequel is in active development, with another still bubbling away in director Guillermo del Toro’s mind. But what of the next film, headed our way in 2017? Del Toro, doing the press rounds for the Blu-ray release of The Strain, seems ready to share a few details about what we can expect.

So when does the story for the second Pacific Rim film fit into the timeline? “It’s a few years after the first one,” says del Toro. “It’s not an immediate follow-up. It is the world having been freed of Kaiju, what happens to the world after – what happens to the Jaeger technology once the Kaiju are not a threat. It’s quite a jump.”

Don’t worry, it won’t be entirely giant beastie free: we’re not going to be spending the film with Jaeger crews forming a rounders league or using their machines as a giant Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots set. But the focus will be on that post-Kaiju world initially, and del Toro has figured out that Charlie Day’s Newton Geiszler and Burn Gorman’s Gottlieb, the two squabbling scientists from the original, will definitely return.

“I think that two of our main characters like in the first one are Burn and Charlie.They are probably the guys I have the most fun writing, along with Hannibal Chau, so just from a purely selfish drive, I like writing them,” the director admits. “You’re gonna get a lot of that, but the Kaijus are very different and you’re gonna see a very different type of the robots I think. It’s gonna be quite a different adventure.” As for the likes of Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori? We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps they’ll be the focus of the third film, assuming that comes to pass...

Pacific Rim 2 is scheduled to stomp all over our cinemas on April 7, 2017.

CG Market Forecast To Be ~$150 Billion By 2017

(             At SIGGRAPH 2014 we saw and heard many interesting things that greatly influence the computer graphics market – hardware, software, and services. We were invited to a luncheon sponsored by our friends at Jon Peddie Research that included a presentation on the CG market, entitled “Expectations, Fact, and Fantasy.”

As usual, Jon’s comprehensive presentation covered many aspects of the CG market, but the most telling facts were his forecast that the CG market will enjoy at least 5.5% annual growth for the next few years, and that he thinks the CG market as a whole will exceed $149 billion by 2017.

Interview With Jon Peddie Research and Dreamworks Animation

He said that the computer graphics industry has been a growth industry since it was established in the late 1970s. It has weathered the storms of recessions and has emerged renewed vigor and potential, partly due to a big boost from mobile and the move to 4K, but also from emerging technologies including 3D scanning, 3D printing, augmented reality, and VR.

The computer graphics hardware market was worth $120 billion in 2013 and is expected to exceed $149 billion by 2017, with software growing slightly slower than hardware.

The hardware segment of the CG industry has had steady growth, with the exception of gaming PC sales, which dropped by 3% over the past year. The largest growth has been in workstations and monitors, with (the already high) mobile graphics segment coming in a strong third. Gaming PCs have had steady to strong growth, and the total PC gaming hardware market (which includes aftermarket sales and peripherals) is estimated to be worth over $30 billion. New activity in APIs with developments like AMD’s Mantle, Google’s driver extensions for OpenGL ES, Apple’s Metal, and the promise of DirectX 12 in 2015 all will contribute to faster, richer, and higher resolution graphics for everyone.

For CG hardware, the biggest segment for 2017 will be mobile devices, with forecast sales exceeding $127 billion.

In 2013 the CG software market was worth $14 billion (not counting services, maintenance and other aspects) and is expected to grow to $17 billion by 2017 as the industry shakes off the remaining effects of the recession and starts upgrading software tools. The software suppliers (ISVs) have also changed their sales model moving more services to the cloud.

Full article with VIDEO:

Seven Films That Dominate the Visual Effects Oscar Race

(                With the VFX Oscar shortlist coming in the next week, I predict the race will come down to seven contenders: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,"  "Interstellar," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," "Godzilla," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and "Maleficent."  Beyond that, look for the big battle between Caesar, Gargantua, and Groot.

1. Andy Serkis' amazing Caesar is still the one to beat. Weta Digital revamped its performance capture system (including bodysuits, cameras, markers, lighting and simulation of fur, skin, moisture, and especially the eyes), and went more photo-real by shooting outdoors primarily in Muir Woods under less than ideal conditions. Added detail and fidelity of performance weren’t enough: the process had to hold up to the rough elements as well as the scrutiny of IMAX 3-D, which provides further depth and dynamic composition.

We’re not even aware that Caesar is CG anymore after the look and intensity of the opening close-up. From there, it just gets better as we witness the tug of war of his epic struggle. It's such a close-knit collaboration between Weta and Serkis and it's time that the Academy honor him as well for his invaluable contribution.


2. Will the Academy honor two sci-fi movies in a row after "Gravity"? Christopher Nolan's experimental space adventure is certainly worthy and Double Negative's work is spectacular. In fact, the Gargantua black hole is so brilliant that physicists will now have actual models to study for the first time, thanks to the breakthrough Worm Renderer, which calculated the relativistically warped space around it and ray traced all the light paths around it.

Dneg also made use of miniatures of the three spacecraft by New Deal Studios as well as front projection with Barco projectors instead of green screen, which not only provided a great look visually but also allowed the actors to put themselves in that space.

3. Marvel's "Guardians" rocketed to number one at the box office this year ($331 million domestically and $770.6 million globally). Since Vin Diesel's lovable Groot taking root in our hearts, you can't ignore its VFX chances. MPC CG-animated Groot, spending more than six months developing the tree-shaped humanoid, which required some extremely complex modeling, rigging, and animation. For example, all of his branches were modeled and rigged individually to allow his body to keep it’s rigid, wooden feel. The only words Groot knows are “I am Groot,” and therefore a lot of attention was given to humanizing his facial expressions and eyes.

Meanwhile, Framestore animated the badass Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) as well as Groot in a hand-off of assets when they performed together. The first creative challenge was creating a believable talking, bipedal raccoon. Rocket needed to look naturalistic, but at the same time he had to be made to do things raccoons don’t do, such as shooting people with big guns.

4. "The Battle of the Five Armies" represents the culmination of Peter Jackson's 20-year cinematic love affair with Tolkien. He therefore caps his "Hobbit" finale with total war, a psychological thriller containing more of Benedict Cumberbatch as the vengeful Smaug and the shape-shifting Dark Lord, Necromancer/Sauron (no doubt the inspiration for Voldemort).

With Middle-earth as a battlefield above and below the Lonely Mountain, the VFX is much grander and complex. Weta unveils its new physically-based renderer, Manuka, for greater model complexity and for breaking down light transport from beginning to end. It will surely come in handy with the upcoming "Avatar" sequels, and was already tested in parts of  "Dawn of the Apes" (rendering all the apes with their massive fur in nearly one pass).

5. For the first CG "Godzilla," MPC delivered a photo-realistic Kaiju that was believable and empathetic. From the underlying bones, fat, and muscle structure to the thickness and texture of his scales, Godzilla was given lots of detail.

With respect for Toho's original "man in a suit" version, Godzilla was animated as a fluid living and breathing creature with the addition of humanistic elements to capture his attitude and personality. MPC's artists used a mixture of body language and carefully designed facial expressions, which allowed them to translate articulation without breaking believability. MPC's animation team utilized a variety of references, including the movement of bears and reptiles, as a basis for the keyframe animation that propelled Godzilla.

6. Keeping up with Marvel isn’t easy, but Industrial Light & Magic brought new life to the badass Hasbro bots in "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (the fourth best box office performer) by introducing a sleek new sci-fi design and a new army of fire-breathing Dinobots. There's a coolness factor applied to old friends, Optimus and Bumblebee, who are a little more majestic and a little more powerful. The coolness factor applies to the new Decepticons as well, such as Lockdown, a bounty hunter whose head transforms into a canon but otherwise hides behind a gray 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Coupe.

A new wrinkle, though, is that the Dinobots transform from humanoids, not vehicles. They are bony with pivots and joints and hinges and shock absorbers. If only they were more prominent in "Age of Extinction."

7. Finally, you can't discount "Maleficent." Consider the enormous presence of Angelina Jolie as the beloved Disney villain-turned empathetic ally, and the fact that it ranked fifth at the box office. In terms of VFX, though, the major tech advancement was Digital Domain’s facial capture of the three flower pixies played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple, which required a more complex range of expressions and  mouth shapes (assisted by a new system developed by Disney Research in Zurich, as well as digital 3D models supplied by the Light Stage system of Paul Debevec, chief visual officer at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies).

The character design entailed creating photo-real pixie versions of the actors, stylized but still making them recognizable. This also demanded extremely complex hairstyles, especially Temple’s, long free flowing curly hair. The hairstyles required extensive development of DD’s grooming and simulation tools. Additionally, there were complex, multi-layered dynamic wardrobes made of flowers petals, hairy thistles, leaves, and twigs. They also took facial capture to the next level with  blood flow maps and compression of lips when blood drains out of them.

We'll find out soon enough if all seven get shortlisted for Oscar consideration.

Watch: Impressive VFX Reel For Wes Anderson's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

(             When you hear someone talk about a movie that’s “effects driven,” they’re most likely talking about big-budget blockbusters like “The Hobbit” films or the upcoming Spider-Man sequel. You normally don’t hear a Wes Anderson film being mentioned in the same breath, but maybe that’s a mistake. As we all know, the best type of visual effects are the ones you don’t notice and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is filled with such subtleties. So if you’re a fan of Anderson's latest, but did not notice all the visual effects, this five-minute video should enlighten you.

VIDEO - Take a look:

-H                  -"We did "The Terminator" for the cost of Arnold's motor home on the second one."   -James Cameron