May 2005 Archives
A couple of weeks ago on the monthly visit to my audio dealer, I got a chance to sit in their theatre room and see this awesome box in use.
I'm just getting a kick out of this thing! More pictures follow.
And here it is! After a long three months, I finally completed my projection system! I have a feeling that if I did this again, it would be even better!
While everyone was getting their Episode III on this weekend, I saw the new Jet Li /Luc Besson film, Unleashed.
I've gotta say, I haven't been this thrilled to see a Luc Besson film since The Fifth Element and Leon. The storyline is simple. What happens when you take a young child and train it to behave and follow you as its master? Jet Li is that child all grown up, and is now doing the bidding of a thug boss.
The opening scene is very powerful and extremely violent. The hits and acrobatics done by Li are amazing, and he's certainly kept his agility up over the years! Some extremely well done wire work, which I think are kept in a much lower profile than other films, just because Li makes the wires do less of the brute work than he does. The fight choreography is amazing. From the aforementioned opening scene, to the swimming pool battle (Li against four armed opponents), to Li and Michael Lambert dueling it out in VERY close combat in a bathroom stall, this film has some great action. Needless to say, the choreography was directed by none other than Woo Ping Yuen, who also did Kung Fu Hustle, Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2, and the Matrix trilogy. He's also done some great HK films that starred Jet Li and company.
The acting in the film was on par with what I'd expect. Bob Hoskins as the thug boss, Bart, does an excellent job, and all the secondary characters are fairly well portrayed.
Overall I'd give this film a 9 out of 10. I'm a fan of the genre, and of Jet Li and Luc Besson's previous work. Now only if they would stop putting the soundtrack to rap, and I'd be happy.
More updates this weekend! I'm steadily and slowly approaching the end. Hopefully by this weekend I'll have pictures of the result!
A more advanced tip this week, which covers greenscreen and bluescreen edge correction. Sometimes you get an annoying halo around an actor after you pull them off of a chromascreen, this little tip steers the edge colors back into the right direction.
Last week we received our newest schwag from production. And guess what, it was truly free!
While this isn't really a part of film visual effects, I thought I'd mention the new Playstation 3 that was revealed yesterday at E3.
I had the good fortune of catching a screener of this episode of Star Wars at Pixar this morning.
I'm going to try and describe the film without giving too many spoilers, if any. As I wrote above, I saw this film this morning at Pixar with my good friend and former instructor. Seeing it projected digitally with amazing surround sound is truly impressive. If you do see this film, see it in a DLP cinema.
I've seen numerous questions about this topic on various forums, and I thought I'd touch upon it as I get back to the weekly tips. While this is more of a beginner tip, next weeks tip will definitely be more advanced. Read on!
Yesterday I received the first of many screeners from the Academy.
The one I received was from HBO. It was a very elegantly prepared box which contained a large number of HBO's miniseries, series, specials, and movies from the past year. I haven't even jumped into seeing what's actually in the box itself, but there must be 40 DVDs in it!
Earlier in the week I received a small set of DVDs from the Sci-Fi channel. It seems they've cut down on their budgeting for sending out screeners, because this year they only sent two DVDs, one of their miniseries, Legend of Earthsea, which was nominated for a VES award, and a couple episodes of Battlestar Galactica on the other. Last year they send out four DVDs in some really nice packaging, and the year before that they send four as well, in a huge sphere which mimicked the Sci-Fi logo. It was very cool. I think I'll have to start taking pictures of these submissions to share!
The bulk of all these DVDs will probably come during the summer, and I'll be voting in three categories down the line for the Emmy Awards; my peer group category, Title Design and Special Visual Effects, and then two other categories of my choosing.
I have high hopes for the future of visual effects in TV, simply because while the budget is usually not the same as a film project, there is just as much creativity and dedication with the artists that create those TV effects. Now that HD is becoming more and more prevalent in todays shows, the resolution is approaching that of film, and the effects are getting more and more elaborate. One can only imagine a fully computer generated character such as Gollum in a weekly series!
I saw the pilot/season premiere on DVD last night, and it looks promising.
Even though I'm a couple years behind the curve, the upcoming movie Serenity is supposedly based in this world. I thought I'd catch up and see what I've missed before I see the movie, and I've heard good things about the cancelled series.
Joss Whedon, the writer and director, has created a sci-fi world loosely based, it seems, on the anime Cowboy Bebop, which focuses on bounty hunters in space. The characters, so far, have been fairly well established in the first 90 minute premiere, and the atmosphere of the series has been set. Similar to the new Battlestar Galactica, the zooms and views of ships in space are similar, which leads me to wonder if the crew on Battlestar saw Firefly as an inspiration to create a decrepid, dank world of future spaceships that feel used, unlike the sterile ships of the Trek series.
The visual effects of the show are pretty good. Not garish in any way, and the ships and environments have been appropriately weathered from age and flight. I look forward to seeing how the series progresses. It's a shame that FOX likes to cancel decent shows, and keep crap on the air.
My first Siggraph 2005 news update! We just got word that one of our lead compositors for Constantine will be doing a sketch at Siggraph 2005, in LA.
Matt Jacobs, who was one of the Constantine lead compositors along with Dan Cayer, will be at Siggraph 2005 to talk about his role in creating the hell highway sequences for Constantine. You can read more about his and Dan's role as Constantine leads in this VFXTalk interview. You can even ask more questions!
I flew up to Vancouver last weekend to see some family and friends, and it is amazing how much a quick 2 hour flight can change the way you see the world.
In this case, crossing international borders, going through customs, of course it gives you an idea that you're entering another country. On the flight back last night, I went through customs and immigration for the US side while still in Vancouver. Very quick and painless, after having done the transition countless times before. However, it makes the landing and casually walking through SFO an interesting experience. After boarding the plane and taking a quick nap, waking up in San Francisco was a surreal eye-opener. It was like I wasn't really here, but I was here. The road ahead of me was there, but I was not really there, driving on it. I was controlling a body that was controlling the car that was on this road.
The differences in western societies, especially the likes of Vancouver and San Francisco, are negligible. You can spot greater differences when travelling longer distances, like I did to Australia. That was a surreal experience in itself! Flying from Vancouver to Hawaii to Sydney, It took a total of 19 hours. Half of it I slept. Waking up in Sydney, only to catch another plane to Brisbane, it was an intense 24 hours of flight.
Why am I bringing this up? Because if you're just starting out in the industry, don't limit yourself to the area you're in. Travel. See the world. It gets smaller the more you go to new and exciting places. It never gets boring, and gives you an insight into other cultures and people and environments that you should see! A great plus of visual effects is that there's film and TV work everywhere you go. While companies may be apprehensive about hiring a foreign worker, if you have the skills, dedication, and talent, you can prove to them that you can make it work.
Well, almost. Since we've delivered Sharkboy, and everything has slowed down quite a bit, we're back to doing some R&D and cleaning up the shots and archiving everything.
Yesterday was pretty exciting. As the show neared it's official end, we had some minor cleanups and internal notes to fix that would make our work that much sweeter. I don't know if you'd actually notice while watching the movie, because it will be in glorious 3D. And that crazy red/cyan 3D, not that cool polarized 3D.
I was going to wait until next week to discuss some of the trials and tribulations of the show, but I'm going to do that now while it's fresh in my mind.
We had approximately six weeks to accomplish 38 shots. Given our tight production pipeline, we really had to hit the ground running. Luckily most of the crew are studio veterans, with a couple animators hired on to complete the tight animation deadline. Given this, we were able to do minimal training. During the first couple of weeks, animation had a hugh task or blocking and creating animation for most of the 38 shots. While they were doing that, TD was doing look development on an accelerated scale, texture and model artists were busy painting and creating props, and comp was busy at work cleaning and pulling greenscreen keys for use later in the show. We had six compositors on the show, which eventually blossomed to six full time, two part time. The part-timers were brought on at the last week, and were internally TD/comper trained. They also lit several shots. A couple of the compositors, myself included, had been trained in our TD pipeline earlier in the year, and it helped tremendously during these tight deadlines when all available TDs were busy on shots.
During the beginning, every compositor was pulling greenscreens for shots that they eventually may or may not comp. This proved difficult in adjusting our keys since what the background would become is an integral part of keying a foreground. We really started picking up speed around week three, with compers working closely with TDs and matchmovers to get the stereoscopic nature of the shots down. We relied heavily on the matchmovers for this show, particularly because it was entirely greenscreen! There was a lot of cross pollination of shots between comp artists since there were so many looks to be created. One comper would pull a greenscreen, another would do the background effects, and yet another would comp the final shot. One of my shots near the end of the show had all the compers touch upon it!
Luckily we had an excellent production team, which really made it wonderful to get the shots done in a timely manner. I didn't have to work extreme overtime until the last week of the show. At other houses and shows I've been on, the production wasn't nearly as well planned.
What do you listen to to pass the time? Often it's not possible to sink yourself into the music while working, since there's so much going on that you need to be kept informed of.
During the times that I can submerse myself in music, these are the current artists I'm listening to that I have on CD and in my T5.
Outkast - Aquemini. A wicked album with such great tracks like Rosa Parks, Slump, and Skew it on the Bar, B. This hip-hop group seems to be one of the only original groups left! After the phenominal success of Stankonia, these guys have been working wonders. Of course you all have heard "Hey Ya!", but their first couple of albums are just as inventive and addictive.
Swollen Members - Balance, Bad Dreams, Monsters In The Closet, Heavy. A Canadian band that is definitely not as well known in the US as they are across the border. I've been listening to them since their first album, and they just get better with every successive album. These guys are great rhythm-makers, and the lyrics are just as inventive. They would be classified as hip-hop as well, however they do have guest artists on some of their tracks. Two of my favorites are Breath, with Canadian artist Nelly Furtado, and Long Way Down, with Sarah McLachlan.
Sarah McLachlan - Afterglow. What's this? I ran into Ms. McLachlan back in Vancouver when myself and a bunch of buddies were mountain biking in the UBC Endowment lands. She was just walking and we, literally, ran her off the trail! Of course, we didn't stop since we were barrelling down the singletrack, but at the bottom we realized that it was indeed her! Sarah has that magical voice which, when versed with her acoustical accoutrements, truly brings shivers to your body. I originally bought the CD for World on Fire, which in itself is a great song, with a pretty hair-raising music video to boot! However the rest of the CD is just as nice, with Sarah serenading me in my living room!
What are you listening to?
Well, here we are, the last day of visual effects production.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D will be wrapping up this evening, at 7pm Pacific time. I've got a short bit of time to write while I'm testing one of my shots. This show has definitely been an adventure! Thirty-eight shots in less than six weeks. What a rush!