July 2008 Archives
A couple people know this already, but here's some concrete news. I'll be doing several presentations at the DD booth during the SIGGraph conference exhibit period. It will cover the compositing work that Digital Domain did for The Mummy 3. Here are my presentation times.
|Tuesday, 12 August||2:30pm: Compositing The Mummy|
|Wednesday, 13 August||3:30pm: Compositing The Mummy|
|Thursday, 14 August||11:30am: Compsiting The Mummy|
It's also been confirmed that I'll be at the booth for the full three days, so swing by with your compositing questions, or just to say hi! And here's a fancy image just for the sake of having one.
Digital Domain is again going to be at Siggraph, this year here in Los Angeles. From August 11th to the 15th, it's slightly different from last year, as it is a Monday through Friday event, instead of a Sunday through Thursday one. Some big events which I've heard about include the Darker/Lighter party, the Autodesk one, and the Nuke usergroup meeting on Monday. Any other big events happening that might be pertinent to visual effects that you guys know about?
DD's got some cool presentations scheduled, from Speed Racer and The Mummy, to some commercial spots. We're also in a pretty good spot on the show floor, immediate in front of one of the main entrances! Here's the direct link to the Siggraph exhibit layout. Or you can click on the image to the left to see a small portion of the floor and where we will be located. The current times for the exhibit are:
|Tuesday, 12 August||9:30 am - 6 pm|
|Wednesday, 13 August||9:30 am - 6 pm|
|Thursday, 14 August||9:30 am - 3:30 pm|
I'll be at the Siggraph booth on behalf of DD for all three exhibit days, that I know of. Come on by! Tippett Studio will also be at the show, be sure to check them out too! They will be near Laika, Lucasfilm Limited and AMD. Blue Sky will be just behind us, and Imageworks will be at the other main entrance location. Next years Siggraph will be in New Orleans again. The following Siggraphs will be; in 2010 Los Angeles, in 2011 Vancouver. Not only that, for the first time this year, a dual Siggraph will happen in Singapore in December! I don't know if any of the vfx houses here will attend, but that is sure to be interesting for our Asian brethren.
Over the past weekend, in addition to seeing Hellboy II and catching up with the first season of the X-Files and getting back to the gym, I decided to install Ubuntu on my machine. I recently purchased a larger hard drive, and wanted to repartition my system. I ended setting up an 80GB XP disk and a 30GB Ubuntu disk, just to see what this new version of Linux was like. My last foray with Linux was more than a decade and change ago, when I tried installing Red Hat 4.1 on my then, top of the line, Dell box. That experience was fraught with frustration, as I battled endlessly to get a network card to work, and unsuccessfully getting X windows and Gnome, or even KDE to boot.
My experience with Ubuntu was less than troublesome. I had heard good things about Ubuntu, and I don't have as much free time as I'd like to experiment with different flavors of Linux, so I settled with it. I installed it from within Windows (instead of straight from CD), and it recognized every piece of hardware that I had in my machine, without even prompting me! It set me up on my internal DHCP network, downloaded all the updates, and I was surfing with Firefox and Opera before you'd know it. It was EASIER to run the Ubuntu install program than XP. What a change from a decade and a half ago! All my music and video files can wonderfully, and package system is a breeze to update software with. After fiddling around with it for a day or so, I installed the Compiz FX kit, which basically adds some sweet visual effects to the windows and desktops of Gnome, and it's slick. Really Slick. Useability is through the roof. I can read all my PDFs, movies, images, my TTF fonts, MS Word docs and spreadsheets. It's great. Unfortunately I don't think I can stick with Ubuntu on its own, as I still need Premiere and Photoshop to do editing and painting work. But for general day to day surfing, document editing, movie watching and the like, it's a great OS. I'd love to be able to get my parents hooked on it!
Ah.. A nice relaxing week and weekend, recovering from the craziness that was The Mummy. It looks like it's really over, and we'll get to see the sweat and toil of the past 8+ months on the big screen in about two weeks. There's a lot of great work to see.
Siggraph is coming up in several weeks, from August 11th to the 15th, right here in Los Angeles. I'm still expecting to show up and hang out at the booth, at least once during the exhibit hall period, see some familiar faces, and meet new ones. Digital Domain has got some great presentations planned covering the past couple of shows we've done since the last Siggraph. I am still not confirmed completely on my next show, so I won't mention anything just yet. It does, however, possibly give me the chance to complete three shows this year. Last year I completed four, two of which were pretty short, The Dark Is Rising and Golden Compass.
Over the weekend I took in the new Hellboy film, and I thought it was excellent. The Golden Army was badass, and the characters and sets of this Guillermo film were quite good. The only thing that didn't really fly for me was the first 10 minutes, of an adolescent Hellboy. I could have used a different introduction to the creation of the Golden Army. DNeg did a sweet job on all the effects, I can't complain. They do some wicked work these days. Hellboy II, The Dark Knight, Harry Potter, Casino Royale, Children of Men. If you haven't seen Hellboy II and are a fan of the first one, I definitely recommend this one.
The Dark Knight came out this weekend as well, which I haven't got a chance to see yet. I'm sure it'll do great! I'll probably catch it next weekend.
The last shot is out the door! The movie comes out in a little less than three weeks. I can't wait. I ended up working on the final final of the show, a huge shot, which you actually see in the first minutes when the movie comes out, which is the title card shot. I'm pretty happy with it, all in all. After Cohen came, the small crew that was still around sat down and had dinner, and conversed over how the show went, in a jovial manner. Joel, our VFX supervisor, told us some stories about his earlier formative years, as a visual effects supervisor on Wierd Science and another last minute show called Judge Dredd. Joel won an Oscar for What Dreams May Comes in 1998.
Now it's time for some relaxing R&R. Next week I'll still be on the show for a short time, tying up loose ends. Stay tuned for the next big show! Siggraph is actually coming up very shortly. Hopefully I'll meet up with some of you there!
Oh. My. God. How many do we really need? Everyone wants to get their hands into the pot. I just received an invitation to vfxconnection.com. Do you know who started it? Marcus, the same guy that has thewishing.net. I've gotta admire his determination.
There's Myspace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Plugin, Facebook, and numerous others. There's just so much choice. Do I think it's too much? Yep, I do.. As such, You'll find me on only two from now on. One personal and one work account. I just deleted my account off of Plaxo, so I'm on LinkedIn now, until something better comes along.
A quick rip from MTV News about the Visual Effects in The Mummy 3. Surprisingly, VH1 credited MTV News for this, and put it up on their site anyway. Here's the link to VH1's posting. Or you can just read it in its entirety below.
LOS ANGELES — "The face is way too hot. It doesn't look like Jet Li, it looks like the guy from 'Saw.' It's not supposed to look like a mask!" "I've had problems with this before and I've told you about it. He's looking like a guy in black pig sh--. If you look at what we've got — he's the creature from the Black Lagoon!"
"The backgrounds are taking away from the reality we've established! Flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, flat!"
It's an oppressively hot Los Angeles day, nearly two months before "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is released, and director Rob Cohen is holding court.
With his back turned to a group of special-effects wizards from Digital Domain, Cohen sits with roughly 25 others in a darkened theater, all eyes trained on a giant screen projecting images from the film submitted for his final approval. The sequences — around 20 in all, sometimes as short as two seconds — are played on a loop. If he thinks the shot is finalized and ready for print, he'll clap his hands and ring a bell. But not one to mince words, Cohen is letting his displeasure with some of the shots show.
And in each and every case, he's 100 percent right.
"Three times a week, I sit with the lead people, the digital men. A lot of people think that directors call up [Industrial Light and Magic] and say, 'Ya, I need a dragon that talks.' I don't know how other directors work, but with me, I'm on every pixel, every detail, all the time," Cohen tells MTV News when we join him for one such session. "And I have been doing this with them since I became the director of this movie a year ago."
To be fair, Cohen's words read harsher than they sound. Watching the process of finalizing these shots unfold, it's hard not to like the oft-derided director, who is exacting, demanding, rigid and uncompromising, but also jovial and clear about what he wants.
At various points, his desires necessitate that we watch the same one-second clip upwards of 20 times, occasionally frame by exhausting frame. To the untrained eye, the clips, which include some pretty nifty battle scenes, seem perfect as they are. Anybody who can watch one second of film and say otherwise is either lying or as obsessive about perfection as Cohen.
One shot in particular — of the Chinese terra-cotta warriors marching across the desert — has been kicked back for improvements "40 times," Cohen says. And it's not the terra-cotta warriors he has a problem with — it's the background. A background that is literally seen for one second (at the most).
"I've worked on building the layers, building the layers, building the layers, and I've seen it now for final approval several times. I don't like it," Cohen insists. "I don't like the background. I don't like the relationship of the foreground to the background. I don't like the deadness of the background. I don't feel like I'm in a photorealistic environment, and this is when the army comes above ground. That wants to be one of those moments that's absolutely undiluted by doubt. You just want to go, 'Christ! This is the terra-cotta army of Shi Huang coming above ground to go into battle!' "
Other shots — notably Jet Li's transformation scene, which includes a lot of mud effects — also fail Cohen's test, although never without specific notes on how the director thinks they could be better. ("More red. Less light! Some shrubbery in the distance!")
But for Cohen, who says he'll be working on the film this way "until they pry it out of my hands on July 13," it's an arduous process with a noble goal: make the best darn movie possible.
"Maybe many directors would have accepted some of this stuff today that I kicked back, but I can't do it. These people are dead tired. We've been working seven days a week for months. And the temptation is to go, 'Nah, it's good enough,' 'cause it's dispiriting when I kick some of these finals back, but you have to," Cohen says, a broad smile on his face. "The toughest thing about being a movie director is resisting the temptation to be a nice guy."
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" opens August 1.
Today was the wrap for most of our Mummy crew (as a matter of fact, I think it's still going on). We've been slowly letting artists go over the past couple of weeks as things die down, and today was the last big hoorah. We lost the majority of our compositors, and a couple support staff, lighters, animators, and so forth. This is par for the course for the industry, companies ramp up for the show, then ramp down, so it's to be expected. This show is no different. We've got a couple shots left in house that we're just finessing up, and we should be done shortly. I'm one of the artists left over, still working on a big shot. It's almost like Pirates all over, as one of the last remaining compers, finishing up bits and pieces and making sure things fall into place and look decent. These past four weekdays have been 7am-10pm. I think on the weekends I was able to work only 10 hours. The past several weeks have been probably about 80-90 hour work weeks.
Luckily, this weekend will be first weekend free, from four weeks solid. Maybe I'll get to see Wall-E.. Or maybe Wanted. Or just sleep. For 48 hours straight.
You'd think 16 gigabytes of RAM would be enough. Of course, Nuke 4.8 can only use about three and half and change before you get farked.
Memory: Allocation failed, attempting to free memory, sbrk = 306MiB. Memory: Successfully freed some memory, continuing.
Memory: can't free any, throwing std::bad_alloc. This will probably crash!
terminate called after throwing an instance of 'std::bad_alloc'
*** glibc detected *** double free or corruption (fasttop): 0x7374fbf0 ***