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Oh my goodness.. It's been about two months or so since I last did a big update, and several things have been happening on my front in the digital world.. After the wrap of Real Steel, which officially was near the beginning of summer, we had been working on some marketing stills and sequences for the show which you may have seen here and there. Finally it's out! I've been working on the film since July 2010, so this has been a pretty long road to finally see this film in the theaters. We had a cast and crew screening last week, and it was good! Mind you, I'm a little biased and jaded since I worked on it, but if you have a son in the right age range, they will love this film, and they'll want a robot of their own.
It is now August, the eighth month of the year, and it seems like 2009 is just flying by! Time just gets shorter and shorter, and I feel that the work I have left to do just keeps growing. Two weekends ago I got together with Saeed, who some of you may remember from 2007, when we presented the VFXTalk Users Group at the Santa Monica library. We caught up as much as we could, talked about the work that lay before us, and hoped that the recession would pass us by quickly! With several of our coworkers out of commission and looking for work, it's a tough time, as evident by my six weeks off as well. Last week I got a chance to sit down with Donald, a vfxer I met online (from VFXTalk and Twitter), who came out from Florida and Full Sail to come work on the West Coast at Luma Pictures. I gave him a quick tour of Digital Domain, and we headed out to lunch to talk shop, and just shoot the breeze. It's very interesting to see how people start their careers, what they look forward to doing, and how they plan on accomplishing the tasks that lay before them.
We saw a couple movies since I last wrote.. They include Coraline, which came out earlier this year, and the cast and crew screening of G.I. JOE. Coraline was visually amazing. It definitely felt like a Gaiman film, the tone was surreal, and I was a little put off by the button eyes, which freaked me out for a bit. I mean, look at this. Doesn't that scream crazy? Overall, I got used to it, and the animation was wonderful. The traditional stop motion was quite nice to see again. I'm eager to see a new Aardman film!
On Sunday we saw G.I. Joe on the Paramount lot, and I didn't have high hopes for this movie. I was expecting something crass, unexciting, and just very cheesy. It did not meet those expectations. It was actually pretty good. Dialog was solid, acting was decent, and most of the FX were great (well, yeah :)). The action sequences were pretty well done, and the sound design for a lot of what we did was excellent. The majority of our work was at the beginning of the movie, which I'll mention more of when the film actually comes out on Friday! I'm looking forward to it doing pretty well this weekend. There's really nothing else up against it. If it does well, this year will be a trifecta! Three movies I worked on this year with amazing box office returns! Star Trek (Latest gross: $379,661,846), Transformers 2 (Latest gross: $810,189,320), and GI Joe (we'll see!). If it does pretty well, expect to see a sequel! The studios that worked on it include Digital Domain, MPC, CIS Hollywood, Frantic Films, Framestore, and CIS Vancouver. Speaking of Vancouver, a former classmate from VFS was featured in Sundays LA Times for his upcoming film, District 9. Neill was also an artist in Vancouver, and we were nominated the same year for different shows that we had worked on in Vancouver. I am eager to see how the work from Vancouver looks in this film. You may remember Neill's short, Alive in Joburg, which was the basis for this new film.
Here he is, pictured below, standing next to me back in 2001. I'm behind the beautiful lady in blue, he's standing to my left, with the white tie.
I sincerely hope that the work done for District 9 by The Embassy and Image Engine will continue to put Vancouver on the map as a place to accomplish significant VFX work. From the numerous Emmy nominations in VFX (and its first win in 2007 for Battlestar Galactica), Vancouver is creeping forward!
On the Industry Wages front, I am extremely close to finishing this primary proposal with numbers gleaned from the web and government documents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is extremely helpful! Hopefully sometime this week I'll be able to send it for review by a SCORE counselor, and then hopefully ship it off early next week to VCs and angels. I'm anticipating that we receive funding for 2010, which will allow an accelerated rate of growth for the company and its sites!
This week is also Siggraph in New Orleans! Lots of great stuff there this year at the Nuke UG, which happened last night. FXGuide has a Day 1 review, check it out!
I have this idea for a contraption that can move a person through time and space. It's revolutionary! Basically, you enter this cylindrical tube, sit down and strap in. After about 30 minutes, you fall asleep, and awake at your destination, where ever in the world in may be. I call it, an airplane. We've come a long way in a hundred years of flight. The quick flight from Guadalajara to Los Angeles was just under three hours long, of which I slept all of the way. Walking down the Third Street Promenade at 11am just after spending the morning sitting on the terrace of our friends hacienda in a third world country was surreal. The trip from a first world to a first world country is jarring as well, but not so much as this one! I've put several videos up on my youtube account of the place, be sure to check it out if you want. It's not visual effects related, but still kinda cool. The entirety of last week was spent at their place in Mexico, away from the bustle and commotion of visual effects, spending most of the week sitting by or in their pool, discussing topics from; why there isn't a good sci-fi show on TV, how the Watchmen might turn out, economics, housing troubles, management, Vancouver, Mexico, US, visual effects, special effects, weather, business, some politics, life, and almost every other subject under the sun! A good friend from Vancouver joined us, so it was the five of us, chilling for the full week. A very relaxing time was had, in preparation for the months ahead!
Yesterday we hit up the theatre to see Watchmen. It was a long movie, but what do you expect. It was a very intensive novel. I appreciated all the work that went into it, and the movie did show the backstories of some of the characters during the title sequence, as well as bits parts of characters throughout the movie. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Was it an identical retelling of the story in the book? No. Actually, I enjoyed the ending to this film almost more than the book ending, and I can see why they changed it. Both mediums have their pluses, and I am glad for the changes in the film. Jackie Earle Haley did an awesome job as Rorschach. The reveal of him when he gets arrested was just as powerful as in the novel, as well as the end of the movie and Nite Owl screaming no. A pretty powerful scene. The epilogue at the end was kinda hammy, I could have done without that guy from Eureka.
A disappointment for me was the stoic line by line retelling by the characters. At times it seems they have no emotion, no attachment to the characters they're playing. Just reading lines of dialog. That was a shame for a lot of the characters, as the action scenes were very well done. The opening scene of The Comedian battling the intruder in his home was excellent. This is how powerful characters should fight, with weight and substance. So many films don't contain it.
On the visual effects front, congratulations to the teams that worked on it. There were some great effects and some invisible effects that worked well. I can only imagine the discussions in dailies dictating how blue Dr. Manhattan should be! Cheers for dealing with it!
As a treat for all my hard work at Siggraph (ha!), I decided to splurge a little.. So I picked up an eeeBox yesterday, which came today in the mail. I picked the jet black one, and it's pretty darn sweet. While it is an XP Home box, I'm sure there'll be an Ubuntu distribution for it sometime in the future! There's also a wicked ExpressGate (linux) boot, it comes up pretty much immediately on turning on the box, which allows you to use Skype, surf the internet, browse photos, and chat.
It's easy to get set up, just plug in all the bits, and away you go! It even comes with a USB keyboard and mouse. No network cable included, but it's got 802.11b and n! It also has a 10/100base-T port (can't tell if it's GigE). The hard drive comes split between two partitions; when you check Windows Explorer, the C: drive is 39.9GB (8 used / 32 free) and a D: drive (31.3GB free). I quickly installed Quicktime 7.5, Firefox, and Opera, and I think I'm done for now (I might fool around with flock), but will continue to play with it as time goes on. It does only have 1GB of RAM, but I think I'll pick up another 1GB SO-DIMM and just toss it in, especially for XP. So far it'll play 720p QT movs. I haven't had a chance to toss any 1080p footage its way, but the monitor that I'm using for it is only 1280x1024, so it would have to rescale the footage down.
I'll probably toss some Python tools on it, as I'm starting to learn Python, all over again. Especially now that Nuke 5 can utilize python, I think it would be a smart move. I can also use Python to generate web pages, so I will use the eeeBox as a web development machine too. The django framework looks pretty promising.
One thing that sucks so far is that the VESA mount to attach it to an LCD panel only works if your LCD stand does not block the VESA attachments! Case in point, check the image below. Check your LCD panel, and tell me if its like the image below, or if the stand mounts and covers the VESA area. Seems like slight oversight there. It would have been nice to invert the bracket so you could attach the box over the existing mount.
Looks like I'll have to rig something up in the meantime!
We hit the theatres Sunday morning to see Cloverfield in all its glory. The great thing about going at that time is that there's no line up, and it's half price, at six bucks a person! There were a number of great trailers in front of the film, including a teaser for the next Star Trek, and of course, The Dark Knight, all of which look great!
The film itself was short, at around 75 minutes long. The story progressed quickly though. I felt that it could have been longer, or even better, this could be one story among many in a miniseries! I left the theatre wanting more; more effects, more story, more drama. The effects work was wonderful, and integrated beautifully with the erratic camera work. If you see the movie, make sure to sit further away from the screen, as it's filmed from a handicam ala Blair Witch, and could really make you nauseous. It took a little while to get used to it. Tippett Studio and Double Negative worked on the visual effects, while Company 3 took care of the DI and The Third Floor managed the previs. I can only gather that Tippett did the creature effects, while DNeg worked on greenscreens and matte paintings. Overall, they did a spectacular job!