February 2007 Archives

2007 VES Festival

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Some excellent news from the VES. This year the VES Festival will be held in Beverly Hills June 8th-10th. If you're in the neighborhood, I urge you to check it out. There will be some really great presentations, and it looks like this year will be a little of a mixup. Read below to see the entire release.

VES is thrilled to present the 2007 VES Festival of Visual Effects at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills on the weekend of June 8-10th. This year our commitment to innovative programming has crossed over to include the VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time.

The VES definition of “Most Influential” is ‘those films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral, artistic element of cinematic expression and the storytelling process’

In the coming weeks VES members will vote on which 50 films out of a list of hundreds should belong to the VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time. Following that, a distinguished panel of judges (which will include a wide range of filmmakers and members of the media, in addition to visual effects industry professionals) will put the VES 50 in ranked order. Some of the top films will then be presented and discussed at the Festival.

Some of the programs that will be showcased during the Festival include:

Going far beyond conceptual artwork and storyboards, animatics are produced by dedicated previz companies and artists (as well as art directors, effects supervisors and the directors themselves), to help filmmakers zero in on their creative vision while providing studios and producers with a concrete guide for budgeting and production. Once seen as a luxury, previsualization has become a mature tool and part of most every visual effects production. Join a panel of previz veterans as they discuss the challenges of the design process, with plenty of eye-opening examples of how "visual drafts" are created.

Visual effects technology has made virtually anything possible: long-dead actors can dance with vacuum cleaners or speak new dialogue; young actors can be inserted into films made before they were born; product placement can be added in post-production, circumventing the artistic stance of the directors; performances can even be altered without the input of the cast. While many of these techniques are being used to make films better and more to their creators' vision, it can be a slippery slope. Join the VES on a raucous and freewheeling journey through this digital frontier, with examples, opinions, and plenty of controversy.

Learn how miniature effects are called upon like the proverbial cavalry to come riding in to save a picture with a visual effect. See when miniatures are built and shot on short schedules to give movies that "Wow" factor at the last minute. Also, a special surprise "Behind the Magic" featurette!

Mike Jittlov is a visionary experimental animator and creator of numerous short films, as well as the director/star of the 1989 cult feature film, The Wizard of Speed and Time. Known to both VFX professionals and fans alike as a "living special effect", Mike is also the inventor of illusions that have astounded expert magicians, a skilled practitioner of origami, and a prime example of truly handcrafted animation and "personal" visual effects. Mike will be a Special Guest of Honor at the Festival's opening-night celebration, and newly-restored versions of some of Mike's short films will be screened before various sessions throughout the Festival, bringing his artistry to a new generation of fans.

Worth it?

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As I worked over the weekend, I wondered to myself how one could do this job, year in and year out. The huge advange that this work has are the many challenges. The art and technical obstacles constantly change from show to show, and even despite some of the extremely long hours, I find the little (or big!) challenges worth it. I've been here at Digital Domain for almost a year! My year anniversary is sometime near the end of March. I can't believe it. Things have just stretched along, from show to show, Flags to Letters, to Robinsons, and now Pirates. I'll be done come late April though, when the show is theoretically done. Until then, it's six day weeks, 10+ hr days.

We've got a huge workload ahead of us, but it looks like it will come together fairly efficiently. In order to increase that efficiency, I've been tasked with helping out some of the compositors who have rolled onto Pirates on one of our many sequences. The sequence in question involves a fair amount of keying. Keying with bluescreens, and what I affectionately call sky screens. Those shots with no color at all, similar to what we accomplished on Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. You know, those tough shots. I feel pretty honored to be selected for this, simply because I'll be entering into the lead category for compositors here at Digital Domain by doing a lot helping out others than just working on my own. I'll be working under my current lead, helping him with problems on one of his many sequences, but not attending the leads meetings, and most likely not getting official lead credit on the film. Most (if not all) leads here are staff, which means they're paid for their downtime and vacation, and have other benefits. At this point, I'm not too concerned about credits. As long as I'm having fun and working on challenging shots, I don't mind. Credits are the icing on an otherwise delicious cake.

I had a wicked weekend (aside from working on Saturday). Went out to the Santa Monica mountains for the first time, and finally experienced my first SoCal singletrack.. Hot damn.. Almost as nice as some east coast singletrack, but definitely doesn't hold a candle to North Shore singletrack. The first couple times we hit the North Shore, it was very intimidating, and definitely prepares you for almost anything in other parts of the country. Just the technicality of all the trails makes for a very adrenaline pumping experience. The trail we hit yesterday was not overly technical, but had some wicked tabletops and drops, which I had a blast flying over. We however had to remain vigilant, as the trail was also shared by hikers. Most of the time we encountered them during straight sections, but we did almost run into one on a tight sweeping curve!

I have no idea what the rest of this week holds, but I'll be sure and let you, my loyal readers, know!

The Surreal Life

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Have you ever had a dream where you weren't sure if you were awake or asleep? Ya. It's called Mescaline. That's what I felt like this morning when I woke up to get ready to work.. 5, 6:30, 7:30am.. I couldn't decide at what point to arise, and when I did, it felt like a dream. Another ten hour day came and went yesterday, and now it's back again. Another thirty more hours of work, maybe more, until the next free day.

've been tossed another four or five shots, making my total count, eleven. Believe it or not, I'm on the high count for shots for this show! Several of the other artists have max of three or four. Unfortunately or fortunately, which ever way you look at it, none of my shots are what you'd call blockbuster, just difficult. We've got about 30 or 40 compers on the show. We swallowed a couple when Meet The Robinsons wrapped earlier this week. There are still a number of unassigned shots, and I'm hoping for a fairly big one, but we'll see. I'm apparently the 'toss those to him, he'll get them done quick' guy.

Last night I had a chance to sit down again with my pet project, my G36c A5. It's coming along fairly well, but haven't had a chance to solidify everything. I'm currently rigging up an electronic trigger system which be toggled via the Safe>Single>Auto selector switch which exists on the current gun. There's a significant amount of hacking required to mate the A5 e-grip internals to the Marui G36c grip. Hopefully by the summer it'll be completely done. The good news is that I can still play with it without the electronic trigger, resorting to the mechanical system instead.

A great thing here at Digital Domain that I haven't mentioned yet are the training programs for employees. From someone wanting learn Nuke, to Houdini, there's something for everyone. Aside from my initial Nuke training, I haven't done any more, simply because my work schedule doesn't allow for it. Every Wednesday there's a small gathering of like minded folk (math geeks) who listen and learn about the latest techniques that are propagating our industry. Today it's A Practical Dynamics System. Other items in the past have included: Super-Helical Hair, The Complex-Step Derivative Approximation, Transformation Matrices, and Elastica Inpainting solved with Texture Synthesis Techniques. All really fun stuff. Most have been presented at places like SIGGraph, and usually it's a presentation of the paper and discussion.

UIAsolo06.jpgIn addition (holy crap, there's more?!) to all this visual effects news, I've got even fancier news. Aside from the various vfx memberships, VES, ATAS, I am also part of UIA. What does this mean? Well, I'll tell you. Those that know me well know that I've got a side business in product development. I haven't mentioned it here since it's not related to visual effects, but it's just some me news. Over the past year I've been developing a product for the general populace, unrelated to visual effects. A couple weeks ago I finally sent my disclosure to my patent agent, who will be formatting it for the USPTO and submitting the PPA for approval. In a couple weeks (or however long it takes for the USPTO to approve), I'll have patent pending on this product (one of several that I have in the pipeline), and I'm one step closer to world domination! In actuality, once it is approved, I've got the difficult task of finding manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. Lots of work, but it'll be so sweet in the end.

It's started

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Did you know that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, comes out on May 25th? That gives all the companies involved about two months to get cracking, and finish the show. Suffice to say, I'm here at Work, on President's Day, to help finish the shots that I've been assigned. It's only going to get busier and busier. The shots are very ambitious, and while I'm doing a number of difficult shots, they are not overly complex. They're not as cool as the ones I did for Constantine or Hellboy, ones that were signature to the film. However, these composites are difficult in their own right. If I do everything correctly, you'll never know that it's an effects shot.

Over the weekend I met with my VES intern, Alana, who I'll be mentoring for the next three months. We met previously at other VES events at Image Metrics and Fotokem. We sat down together at Otis and went over my reel, describing some aspects of visual effects that I had encountered, as well as explain some of the terms and tips on what we accomplished in the shots shown. I also went through her thesis, and what she hopes to accomplish for her final projects, which are ambitious, but doable. I also had a chance to explain float space vs 8bit and 16bit space using Shake, as well as touch upon color channels, which many students won't get a chance to use until they hit actual production. Overall, it was a very productive meeting. We'll be meeting again to discuss her progress in the shots she's decided to do.

VES Award Results

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Last night the VES Awards were held at the Kodak Grand Ballroom in Hollywood. We won an award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture for Flags of our Fathers! The rest of the winners are in this Word document. A good pal from Vancouver won an award for Outstanding Visual Effect in a Series as well. Congratulations Alec! Make sure to visit his site over here. In addition to this exciting weekend, the VES mentorship is underway! I received my intern / student / future compositor last week, and this first trial of the mentorship program should be quite interesting.

Forgotten Flame

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Yesterday I was busy rendering away one of my Pirates shots on the farm, and I had a small amount of downtime while I waited. A coworker of mine was lucky enough to snag a seat in our row that had a Flame outlet earlier in production, and she was away from her desk with the Flame login screen sitting there. Given it's been ages since I jumped on one, I decided to see what had changed from the last one I used (7.7.1) four years ago to this one (9.5).. And you know what changed? Me.. After logging in and seeing the familiar desktop, I looked through all the menus and promptly forgot how to do anything! I did manage to get into Action again, but that's about it. Of course, I had only spent about 3 minutes looking through the various menus, and most of the things are still there. Ah, time..

February Madness

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This is short month, and already a week has gone by without a post! What is this madness? As many of you know, I've moved on to Pirates 3. There's some really great stuff behind the scenes here, which I unfortunately (or fortunately, since I might spoil the movie for you!) can't share. I've been handed another shot, so that makes my total for the week up to five. They're not finalled, as I'm still just prepping bluescreens and elements, in anticipation for the cool backgrounds to come. They are pretty intricate, but not overly complicated. Definitely tougher than a simple A over B composite! I'm going to try and document what I do, so when you finally see the film, you'll be able to see how I composite from beginning to end. There are a couple more comments in the Open Call post that I'll be getting to early this year. It has been close to four months since you've posted your suggestions, and rest assured, I will get to more of what you want to read! Feel free to add more suggestions to that post if you'd like. While Pirates is just heating up in comp land, Meet the Robinsons 3D is wrapping up quickly. I may be doing double duty on both shows fairly soon, but that decision hasn't been finalized.

A week, maybe two weeks ago I picked up a Rubiks Cube. I've never had one, so I missed the craze when they first came out. It's a fancy little toy, and is pretty appropriate for me, as I like challenges and tinkering with my hands, as you can see from previous posts like this one and this one. After playing with it for several days, I solved it, and have slowly increased the rate at which I can solve it. I think I've got it under four or five minutes now. I don't think I'll be a quick solver that can do it in under a minute, but solving a Rubiks Cube is another party trick I can put under my belt.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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