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News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.cnet.com

Three months before "Star Wars: A New Hope" opened in 1977, Patrick Read Johnson, then a teenager from Illinois, got to see a working print at Lucasfilm effects house Industrial Light and Magic. Technically, he's the world's first Star Wars fan. Johnson's semi-autobiographical film "5-25-77," a loving homage to Star Wars and other '70s sci-fi films, opens for a limited US release on May 25, 2017, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. The movie, about teen filmmaker Pat Johnson, played by John Francis Daley of "Freaks and Geeks," delighted audiences at early screenings. But it's the story behind its 13-year making that might be even more epic. Johnson, a lifelong film fan who put together homemade remakes as a kid, went on to direct "Spaced Invaders," "Baby's Day Out" and "Angus," and co-write the story for "DragonHeart." Though he achieved some success in Hollywood, he took a break from the industry in the late '90s and moved his family back to Wadsworth, Illinois. It was there he got the idea to make an "American Graffiti"-style movie about '70s films. He pitched producer Gary Kurtz, the man behind "Star Wars: A New Hope," "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Dark Crystal." Kurtz pushed Johnson to use his "first Star Wars fan" status as the hook for the movie -- later named "5-25-77," the date the movie opened in theaters. In the summer of 2004, cameras started rolling. Johnson got then-teenage actor Daley (Sam from "Freaks and Geeks" and later Lance from "Bones") to play the lead. After filming 75 percent of the film, production was halted because the film's financier ran out of money. Shortly after, another series of problems emerged: The Star Wars prequels. "By the time we were finished with our initial production, Star Wars had become, believe it or not, our worst selling point," Johnson said. The bad reputation of the prequels made "5-25-77" a liability to film sellers and distributors. They didn't want anything to do with it. "There was never a time I wanted to give up," Johnson added. Though there were times he thought he should let it go. Over the years, Johnson screened rough cuts of the movie at festivals in a bid to convince his collaborators the film was worth finishing. In 2007, "5-25-77" screened at Star Wars Celebration IV. Then, in 2012, Johnson made a cross-country trip in the Ford Pinto featured in the film. He held impromptu screenings of "5-25-77" along the way. The screening generated buzz in the indie film community. Then in 2013 Johnson screened the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. All these showings kept the film alive, and reinforced Johnson's belief that he could finish the film's visual effects, reshoots and music if given the chance and the money. In the years since Johnson started filming "5-25-77," Star Wars went from being beloved to being belittled because of the prequels and then to being a big business again. In 2015, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" recaptured the mojo of the original trilogy and introduced Star Wars to a new generation of fans. This past winter, "Rogue One" continued the excitement of the reboot. In December, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will land. So how did Johnson get to be the original "Star Wars" film's very first fan? As a kid, he started remaking films he liked. For his homemade version of "Jaws," he used a gallon of concentrated dye in a swimming pool to create the "bloodiest shark attack ever filmed." His mother, a champion of her son's childhood cinematic feats, eventually contacted Herb Lightman, then executive editor of American Cinematographer magazine. Lightman, played in "5-25-77" by Austin Pendleton, got Johnson a meeting with then upcoming filmmaker Steven Spielberg. During his Los Angeles visit, Lightman and John Dykstra, ILM's visual effects supervisor, brought Johnson to ILM, which was finishing up visual effects for "Star Wars." Sitting on a popcorn-covered second-hand couch, Johnson watched a working print of the unreleased film. "The film only had production sound and tons of un-composited blue screen shots," Johnson said. "Shots from the films 'The Dam Busters' and '633 Squadron' were cut in to guide the visual effects team through shooting the attack on the Death Star." Seeing Star Wars made him believe in his own potential as a filmmaker. "'5-25-77' is at its emotional core," Johnson said, "about the struggle between hope and despair. It's about believing and believing and believing without fail that you can get there from here, so long as you never, never, never quit." The same can be said about Johnson's passion and resilience. Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.


News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.cnet.com

Forty years ago, two words flashed on movie screens and forever shifted the world's cultural landscape: Star. Wars. The movie opened in theaters on May 25, 1977, and created an instant sensation with its groundbreaking special effects, rousing adventure, inspiring heroes and chilling villains. It made household names of George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford -- not to mention Darth Vader, C3-PO, R2-D2 and the countless aliens and adventurers of the Star Wars universe. And it became a cultural touchstone for a generation. From the moment the curtain went up 40 summers ago, "Star Wars" -- later retitled "Episode IV: A New Hope" -- was more than a movie. It was a phenomenon, giving birth to a multimedia empire of movies, TV shows, books, comics and video games. From the original trilogy to the prequels, the infamous Holiday Special to the Lego Star Wars universe, that first film paved the way for modern blockbuster franchises. Star Wars even has its own annual holiday. On this special May the 4th, we kick off a monthlong special series exploring the many ways the sci-fi mega-franchise has impacted our lives. We'll have a galaxy's worth of personal memories, photos, videos and interviews right up to the actual anniversary. We'll visit the theaters and drive-ins of the '70s, and hear from fans of all ages, including some who've been inspired to make their own movies based on the mythic space saga. And we'll find out how appearing in the original film changed the lives of those involved. We kick off our look at Star Wars at 40 with CNET writer Bonnie Burton's inside story of a decade working at Lucasfilm and an interview with special effects pioneer John Dykstra, head of the Industrial Light and Magic team that won an Oscar and revolutionized the industry. The Force isn't just with us. It's stronger than ever. CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you'll find in CNET's newsstand edition.


News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.cnet.com

From the moment two giant spaceships roared across the top of the screen in the opening shot of " Star Wars" in 1977, it was clear the visual effects were light-years ahead of anything audiences had ever seen. That was thanks to the creative masters at Industrial Light and Magic, the effects arm of Lucasfilm George Lucas created for his space opera "The Star Wars" and set up in the summer of 1975 in a Southern California warehouse. There, a freewheeling team of mostly 20-something artists, animators and model makers pooled their talents and enthusiasm to deliver on Lucas' ambitious vision. The driving force for this creative but unconventional bunch? "Youth and ignorance," says Oscar-winning effects artist John Dykstra, the film's then 27-year-old visual effects supervisor. "People said, 'These guys are crazy.'" The film's script, inspired by WWII dogfights and classic adventure serials like "Flash Gordon," called for epic space battles involving fleets of spaceships. That meant unprecedented numbers of effects and models, which made for a schedule tighter than a stormtrooper's trousers -- especially as Dykstra and his team had to build or repurpose much of their camera equipment into whole new systems. At their headquarters in the sunny San Fernando Valley, the team often worked through the night. "During the day it could be 100 degrees quite easily, and we didn't have any air conditioning in our buildings," Dykstra recalls. "It could get to be 130 degrees or hotter on the stages." The original "Star Wars" opened 40 years ago, on May 25, 1977, creating an instant sensation with its groundbreaking special effects and rousing sense of adventure and sparking a cultural phenomenon that has spanned decades and galvanized generations of fans. Throughout May, CNET will explore the impact of the sci-fi mega-franchise with a special month-long series. There was so much trial and error going on at ILM in those early days that a year went by before Fox, the film's backer, got to see exactly what it was investing in. Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, Dykstra remembered how studio heads would show up at the ILM warehouse during the day and find the nocturnal team hot and sweaty, but not working. "We had a hot tub that we put in the parking lot filled with cold water and people would go out and dip in the hot tub," he says. "That didn't make the studio people particularly happy." Refreshed from a dip in the tub, the young effects team applied their ingenuity to developing their own groundbreaking visual effects technology. "We were developing lighting systems, we were developing camera movement and model systems, we were advancing and changing the construction techniques of the models and their scale," says Dykstra, whose effects career spans from 1971's " Silent Running" all the way to this year's "Ghost in the Shell." Developing the new systems meant stealing from aviation, medical and military technology. "We borrowed technology from everywhere," Dykstra says. Dykstra recruited Alvah J. Miller and Jerry Jeffress, who he'd worked with at Berkeley's Institute of Urban and Regional Development. Together they'd built a rig that slowly inched a 16 mm camera around a tiny model of Marin County, California, to simulate traffic movement. They controlled the camera rig by programming a then state-of-the-art PDP-11 computer, a series of 16-bit computers also used for factory automation, air traffic control and even controlling nuclear power stations. That computer-controlled camera rig laid the foundations for ILM's first major breakthrough in motion and imagery. Where earlier sci-fi films flew a model around in front of the camera, motion control moved the camera and kept the model stationary. Dykstra, Miller and Jeffress took their experience from traffic research and applied it to "Star Wars," replacing the 16 mm camera with vastly higher-quality cameras and the tiny model cars with menacing Star Destroyers. Miller and Jeffress custom-built ILM's motion control computers. "Computers at that time were the size of several refrigerators and had the power of a calculator," Dykstra says. "The iPhone I'm talking on now has hundreds of times the computational capabilities of those original systems." They may not have been powerful by today's standards, but those lumbering 1970s computers were the key to motion control. Because the camera's movements were programmed into the computer, the motor-driven motions were absolutely precise, and could be repeated over and over. That was essential for compositing multiple models into each shot, paving the way for legendary action sequences like the Death Star dogfight. In addition to building the computers, the team designed a user interface so camera operators could program the movement they wanted. "It wasn't even on a screen," Dysktra says of the method for operating the system. "It was knobs and buttons." The resulting motion control system earned the name Dykstraflex, though Dykstra stresses the label wasn't his idea. There were some motion control shots in " 2001: A Space Odyssey," but "Star Wars" was the first film to extensively use the technique. Movies like "2001" relied on a laborious effects process that could require spending a week or two on a stage capturing a single shot. Motion control significantly sped up the process, allowing filmmakers to shoot multiple models on one sound stage over a single day. The team also took a new approach by making the miniatures very small to allow for more flexibility in shooting. When you see the actual production models at exhibitions like Star Wars Identities, it's surprising how little many of the models actually are. Measuring just a couple of inches tall, vehicles like X-wing starfighters are actually smaller than the toy versions many played with as kids. "One of the most difficult things to do is to light a miniature in a way that makes it look real," Dykstra says. The light source, the depth of field and the sharpness of the shadows all need to be right or the model will look like what it is -- a toy model -- rather than looking like a full-sized spacecraft. The list of challenges was long. Dykstra's crew repurposed aging VistaVision cameras from the 1950s to make sure the effects shot had high-enough resolution for compositing. They figured out how to use fluorescent tubes to light their blue-screen backdrops without flickering. And they built a movie camera with swings and tilts, which allowed them to precisely control focus. The hard work paid off, obviously. The effects pioneered in "Star Wars" entranced a generation and helped turn Lucas' space opera into a cultural touchstone. Dykstra and team took home the 1978 Academy Award for visual effects. And the academy also presented Dykstra, Miller and Jeffress with a special technical achievement award for the Dykstraflex system. Dykstra, who parted company with ILM after the first Star Wars film, has embraced computer-generated imagery, most recently working on the stunning visuals for "Ghost in the Shell." But even now, when visual effects rely heavily on computers, the principles developed by ILM more than 40 years ago inform today's techniques. "The earliest versions of computer-imaging programs were very recognizable to those of us who had worked with computer-controlled cameras," says Dykstra, as they were based on the same methods of breaking down movement. Digital tech has removed many of the limitations Dykstra's team faced back in the 1970s, but he isn't convinced that's entirely a good thing. "The process in a weird way informed the story in those days," Dykstra says. "You had to pare down your enthusiasm for exceptional images to what you could achieve. There was a back and forth -- you worked with a scriptwriter and director to find an illusion that you could create." He describes pre-digital techniques as being like a handwritten letter, and CGI like an email. "People tend to be a little more thoughtful about the time and effort they put into the creation of that letter," he says, adding that he tires of seeing the Empire State Building blown up and other city-smashing carnage. "With the advent of digital imaging and literally the ability to do anything, you end up with an embarrassment of riches." Working on the inaugural Star Wars film provided riches of its own. Although he never worked on any other Star Wars films, Dykstra remains proud of the first movie and the pioneering band of "kindred spirits" who created it. "The process was as much the reward for us as the final product," he says. "Everybody threw themselves into it. It was a labor of love." Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: www.cnet.com

For Star Wars fans, the date May 25, 1977 holds religious-like importance. It's the day the original film came out. It's also the title of the new film "5-25-77," which is part teenage comedy and part love letter to late-'60s/'70s films like "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Jaws" and, of course, the film that would change everything for so many, "Star Wars." "5-25-77" is about '70s teenage filmmaker Pat Johnson, played by John Francis Daly (Sam from "Freaks and Geeks"), who re-creates his favorite movies using homemade props like his sister's bike wheels to build a model space station. Pat's film re-creations earn him a tour of effects house Industrial Light and Magic, where he gets a glimpse of an unreleased little film called "Star Wars." He instantly becomes the film's first fan. The trailer, released Saturday on Ain't It Cool News, brings us back to a time when being a geek wasn't cool. One of my favorite moments is when Pat explains what the Death Star is by saying it could take out the USS Enterprise from Star Trek with one shot. The other character is shocked and yells back, "The Enterprise has deflector shields!" It took 13 years for "5-25-77" to be made -- Daly is 31 now. It's scheduled to hit theaters in the US for a limited release on May 25, the 40th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars: A New Hope," with an announcement on a possible wider release planned for May the 4th. Hopefully, the film can satisfy our Star Wars hunger until episode 8 "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" comes out this Christmas.


News Article | January 13, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

While most people are eagerly anticipating the reveal of which stars will be competing for Oscar gold, competition between that other onscreen darling—visual effects—got underway this past weekend with the annual VFX Bake-Off. The three-hour event—thrown by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Visual Effects Branch at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters—enables 10 Oscar semi-finalist visual effects teams to explain to industry members and enthusiasts the engineering challenges in achieving complicated CGI shots and integrating them with live action. "When the famous red light goes on, you’ll need to wrap up," said VFX Branch founder Richard Edlund, motioning to a large red beacon on a stand. "For those who remember when Jim Cameron walked over and unscrewed it…well, it’s epoxied in place now." Each VFX teams had five minutes to introduce their 10-minute clips and explain the challenges of their projects, and answer three minutes of questions from VFX Branch’s 40-member steering committee. That night, they cast secret ballots for the five Oscar nominees, to be announced on Thursday, with the winner named during the 88th Annual Academy Awards broadcast February 28. The 10 films in contention were: Walt Disney’s Ant-Man, Tomorrowland, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; 20th Century Fox’s The Martian and The Revenant; Universal’s Jurassic World; Sony’s The Walk; A24’s Ex Machina; and Warner Bros.’ Mad Max: Fury Road. "This year, the main thread is the integration and disappearance of visual effects into live action. There are more visual effects than ever, but they are increasingly in the service of the film," David Morin Autodesk’s director of industry relations and business development for its media and entertainment division, told Fast Company post-event. Autodesk is the maker of Maya, the industry standard program for 3-D animation and VFX, and used by all 10 contenders. Morin noted two other trends. VFX, in the past a purview of post-production, is becoming increasingly integrated into the creative process at earlier points in the filmmaking, beginning with pre-visualization. And using the Cloud in place of expensive rendering farms has brought VFX costs down to the point where small studios can do the effects work once relegated to large ones. Following are some tidbits about each film from the teams’ designated speakers: Ant-Man’s shrinkage shots were accomplished by 25-member macro unit team, including an ant wrangler, shooting for 40 days on a to-scale miniature set, and integrating some half million photographs and 1000 frame-per-sec macro special effects. Tomorrowland, which was shot in 4K, partnered with Dolby Vision’s Extended Dynamic Range to capture the expanded color range and contrast. Jurassic World assigned motion-capture actors for each raptor, to facilitate improvised and unique signatures of movement. As a nostalgic nod, the Tyrannosaurus Rex contained scars in places where the raptors from the first film would have scratched it. Over 700 of the films 998 shots involved dinosaurs. The Martian developed a new color algorithm, based on NASA shots of the Martian landscape, to transform the look of Earth to Mars without involving rotoscoping. It took much of the blue out of the sky, but left more in the landscape. The Walk Eighty-two percent of the movie involved VFX shots used to alter weather, turn Montreal streets in Paris and New York, and extend the World Trade Center tightrope set between them. They were able to achieve this on a $35 million budget using the Cloud instead of a rendering farm, cutting their rendering costs in half. Avengers: Age of Ultron Industrial Light and Magic redesigned the Hulk’s musculoskeletal structure, skin, and hair to control nuance and infuse more of a soul. ILM was one of 20 VFX companies working on this film. The Revenant Despite intense location shots, 122 minutes of the film incorporated VFX shots from 12 vendors in four countries, most notably for the bear mauling, but also to effect nuances like wind and lighting. In a nod to director Alejandro Iñárritu’s exacting nature, VFX production supervisor Rich McBride joked, "This presentation is almost as terrifying as showing Alejandro our shots." Star Wars: The Force Awakens used real locations and sets as much as possible, while integrating 2100 VFX and some half dozen film shots. "We wanted to evoke the feelings of one of the trilogy films, but create a film with its own forward motion," said ILM VFX supervisor Roger Guyett. Ex Machina’s VFX team was included early in the design process. "Body tracking was particularly difficult. It’s harder to track someone who’s not moving much," said VFX supervisor Andrew Whitehurst. "It was really helpful to have a director who could draw—we could sketch a lot of ideas out." Mad Max: Fury Road "Almost every shot that felt live action is real," said VFX supervisor Andrew Jackson, with most of the 2000 VFX shots in the film pertaining to the Citadel, crowd extensions, and landscapes. [UPDATE: The nominees are: Ex Machina, Mad Max:Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Ex Machina took home the gold.]


The Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Market report covers market characteristics, size and growth, segmentation, regional and country breakdowns, competitive landscape, market shares, trends and strategies for this market. It traces the market’s historic and forecast market growth by geography. It places the market within the context of the wider Tele production and Other Postproduction Services market, and compares it with other sectors. The tele production and post production services market comprises of establishments engaged in providing specialized services to motion pictures and videos, such as, animation, editing, adding subtitles, and crediting. Going forward, factors such as, technological advances and growing audience demand for superior audio visuals, are expected to drive the market. Browse more detail information about Tele production and Other Postproduction Services at: http://www.absolutereports.com/tele-production-and-other-postproduction-services-global-market-briefing-2016-10275841 The Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Market Report answers the following questions: Where is the largest and fastest growing market for Tele production and Other Postproduction Services ? How does the market relate to the overall economy, demography and other similar markets? What forces will shape the market going forward? Keyplayers in Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Global Market Analytics Report 2016 Get a PDF Sample of Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Research Report at: http://www.absolutereports.com/enquiry/request-sample/10275841 The Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Market report competitive landscape gives a description of the competitive nature of the market, market shares, and a description of the leading companies. And its key financial deals which have shaped the market in recent years are identified. Scope of Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Market Report: Companies Mentioned: Industrial Light and Magic, Technicolor, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Weta Digital, Framestore, Imageworks, Rhythm and Hues, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Mr X Inc., The Third Floor, Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Sourcing and Referencing: Data and analysis throughout the report is sourced using end notes. • Get up to date information available on the specialized design services market globally. • Facilitate decision making on the basis of historic and forecast data and understand the drivers and restraints on the market. • Gain a global perspective on the development of the market. Get Discount on Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Research Report at: http://www.absolutereports.com/enquiry/request-discount/10275841 Need more details about this Report, ask our expert @ http://www.absolutereports.com/enquiry/pre-order-enquiry/10275841 Absolute Reports is an upscale platform to help key personnel in the business world in strategizing and taking visionary decisions based on facts and figures derived from in-depth market research. We are one of the top report resellers in the market dedicated towards bringing you an ingenious concoction of data parameters.


News Article | October 31, 2016
Site: www.newsmaker.com.au

MarketStudyReport.com adds “Tele production and Other Postproduction Services Global Market Briefing 2016” new report to its research database. The report spread across 35 pages with table and figures in it. The tele production and post production services market comprises of establishments engaged in providing specialized services to motion pictures and videos, such as, animation, editing, adding subtitles, and crediting. Going forward, factors such as, technological advances and growing audience demand for superior audio visuals, are expected to drive the market. The Tele production And Other Postproduction Services Global Market Briefing provides strategists, marketers and senior management with the critical information they need to assess the tele production and other postproduction services sector. Description The Tele production And Other Postproduction Services Global Market Briefing Report from the Business Research Company covers market characteristics, size and growth, segmentation, regional breakdowns, competitive landscape, market shares, trends and strategies for this market. The market characteristics section of the report defines and explains the market. The market size section gives the tele production and other postproduction services market revenues, covering both the historic growth of the market and forecasting the future. Drivers and restraints looks at the external factors supporting and controlling the growth of the market. Market segmentations break down the key sub sectors which make up the market. The regional breakdowns section gives the size of the market geographically. Competitive landscape gives a description of the competitive nature of the market, market shares, and a description of the leading companies. Key financial deals which have shaped the market in the last three years are identified. The trends and strategies section highlights the likely future developments in the tele production and other postproduction services market and suggests approaches. Browse full table of contents and data tables at https://www.marketstudyreport.com/reports/tele-production-and-other-postproduction-services-global-market-briefing-2016/ Reasons to Purchase - Get up to date information available on the tele production and other postproduction services market globally. - Identify growth segments and opportunities. - Facilitate decision making on the basis of historic and forecast data and understand the drivers and restraints on the market. - Develop strategies based on likely future developments. - Gain a global perspective on the development of the market. - Report will be updated with the latest data and delivered to you within 3-5 working days of order. Scope Markets Covered: Editing, Tape Transfers, Subtitling, Crediting, Closed Captioning, Animation, Special Effects Companies Mentioned: Industrial Light and Magic, Technicolor, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Weta Digital, Framestore, Imageworks, Rhythm and Hues, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Mr X Inc., The Third Floor, Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky Geographic scope: Americas, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, Oceania. Time series: Five years historic and forecast. Data: Market value in $ billions. Data segmentations: Regional breakdowns, market share of competitors, key sub segments. Sourcing and Referencing: Data and analysis throughout the report is sourced using end notes. The tele production and post production services market comprises of establishments engaged in providing specialized services to motion pictures and videos, such as, animation, editing, adding subtitles, and crediting. Going forward, factors such as, technological advances and growing audience demand for superior audio visuals, are expected to drive the market. The Americas was the x largest geographic region in the tele production and other postproduction services market in 2015, accounting for $x billion or x% of the global market. Asia was the x largest geographic market, accounting for $x billion or x% of the global market. Europe was the x largest geographic market, accounting for $x billion or x% of the global market. The Middle East and Africa accounted for x% and $x billion, while Oceania accounted for x% of the global tele production and other postproduction services market. Growth In Animation Outsourcing The global outsourcing of VFX (Visual Effects) and CG (Computer Graphics) animation is growing rapidly as movie production companies are looking for cost effective production options to reduce overall expenditures. Almost all American and European TV, film and commercial production companies are looking at least outsourcing bits and pieces of VFX and CG work to low cost countries such as India, South Korea and Philippines. For instance, the average animation production cost in India is one-fourth of North America and about 35% lower than countries such as Korea and Philippines. To receive personalized assistance write to us @ [email protected] with the report title in the subject line along with your questions or call us at +1 866-764-2150


News Article | February 26, 2017
Site: www.cnet.com

"La La Land", "Arrival" and "Manchester by the Sea" might be slugging it out for multiple Oscars, but they're not the only contenders at the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday. A handful of sci-fi and fantasy films have made the shortlist for best visual effects, recognising the cutting-edge movie magic that made our eyes pop in 2016. Will the award be rigged in favour of "Deepwater Horizon"? Can "Doctor Strange" conjure Marvel's first Oscar? Perhaps the bear necessities will come to "The Jungle Book", or maybe "Kubo and the Two Strings" will string out a win. Or will "Rogue One" prove a force to be reckoned with? And the nominees are... It's easy to assume modern visual effects are all achieved at the click of a mouse, but sometimes you have to go old school. So for this true-life tale of a horrifying disaster on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig, the filmmakers built a vast tank of water in a Louisiana parking lot and plonked in a huge model of the Deepwater Horizon rig, 85 percent of the size of the real thing. Industrial Light and Magic then added digital pyrotechnics using Plume, the company's own Oscar-winning software for generating flames and smoke. What are the odds? The combination of a big set with modern effects to tell a story of real-life heroism makes this feel like a solid Oscar-worthy effort, but it lacks the wow factor of other entrants. While rivals like "Deepwater Horizon" and "The Jungle Book" are all about whipping up perfect re-creations of reality, Marvel's "Doctor Strange" throws out the concept of reality entirely. ILM (again) led the effects companies transferring the psychedelic visions of legendary Marvel artist Steve Ditko to the big screen, creating what is simply one of the most visually spectacular movies ever. Where other groundbreaking effects extravaganzas like "The Matrix" or "Inception" lean heavily on one or two big showpiece effects, "Doctor Strange" busts out a new eye-popping gimmick in every action sequence. Whether it's cities being turned inside out, a fight sequence unspooling backward, or kaleidoscopic astral planes where the rules of reality simply don't exist, this flick is a dazzling cavalcade of gorgeousness to make your head spin. What are the odds? Marvel has been Oscar-nominated six times in past years for visual effects, but it's never won. If any film deserves to break that streak and claim the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first Academy Award, it's the frankly jaw-dropping "Doctor Strange". The "Jungle Book" effects team spent weeks in the jungles of India studying leaves, trees and moss to build a computer-generated jungle strewn with millions of CG leaves and twigs. Young actor Neel Sethi was then integrated into the digital jungle where he interacted with CGI animals. Elements of Christopher Walken's distinctive visage were incorporated into the character of chief ape King Louie, created by effects experts Weta. The wizards at MPC created the rest of the animal characters, sometimes drawing on the facial cues of the all-star cast, which included Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. "Our teams took a lot of time looking at videos of animals and studied their biology in order to capture their likeness," MPC's Adam Valdez explains. "Artists at MPC are anatomy specialists, sculptors, students of physics and actors. You need all of these skills to construct, then animate, then render a realistic animal." What are the odds? "The Jungle Book" celebrates and updates a classic movie for the modern age, and that's the sort of thing the Academy loves. Bit of an odd one, this. The delightful fairy tale "Kubo and the Two Strings" is nominated for best animated feature -- alongside out-and-out cartoons -- and for best visual effects, alongside live action films. It's the second such animated movie to also be nominated for VFX, after "The Nightmare Before Christmas". That's because it's a stop-motion production, employing physical puppets and sets that were then embellished with CGI effects. "There are some shots that are entirely practical," director Travis Knight told me when "Kubo" was released. "There are shots that are almost entirely CG. And then there are some shots that are blended." The puppets are created by production company Laika using cutting-edge techniques such as stereoscopic photography, laser-cutting, 3D printing and rapid prototyping. The scale of the models can be seen in the film's closing titles, which show the filmmakers working on a skeleton demon standing 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall and weighing 400 pounds (180 kilograms). What are the odds? This enchanting and beautifully crafted fairy tale richly deserves the recognition -- and, hey, with two nominations it's got two chances to take home a statuette. The effects of "Rogue One" are all about grounding the fantastic in gritty reality. The filmmakers drew on photos of real war zones to create verisimilitude in the battle scenes -- and I mean they literally drew on them, photoshopping Imperial Stormtroopers and Rebel X-Wings onto images from the Vietnam War. One of the highlights of the film is the snippy droid K-2SO, a CGI creation built around a motion captured performance by Alan Tudyk. The actor wore 13-inch stilts to create the droid's hulking form. More controversially, the film used computers to digitally re-create the character of Grand Moff Tarkin from 1977's "A New Hope" -- despite the fact that star Peter Cushing died more than 20 years ago. A CG model of Cushing's face was mapped onto a performance by actor Guy Henry, with controversial results. Some viewers found the digital performance jarring, while critics questioned the ethics of resurrecting a deceased performer. What are the odds? It's tempting to see the computerised Cushing as a watershed in movie history. If the Academy rewards the digital grave-robbing in "Rogue One," it could be seen as acceptance of the use of CGI to resurrect even more dead stars in future. For sheer dazzling imagery, it has to be "Doctor Strange". But visual effects are more than just creating a beautiful image -- they're about furthering a story and bringing characters to life. That brings us to "Kubo" and "The Jungle Book", two films blurring the lines between what's considered an animated or live action film. "Kubo" creator Laika has been nominated several times, so we'd fancy it's about time they took home a gong, but the Academy could well follow the example set by the Visual Effects Society's awards and be charmed by the old-school appeal of "Jungle Book". Update: And the winner is... "The Jungle Book"! Here's how cutting-edge technology helped the "Jungle Book"'s herd of animated animals win the day. Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here's your place for the lighter side of tech. Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.


Yu J.,Industrial Light and Magic | Turk G.,Georgia Institute of Technology
ACM Transactions on Graphics | Year: 2013

In this article we present a novel surface reconstruction method for particlebased fluid simulators such as Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics. In particle-based simulations, fluid surfaces are usually defined as a level set of an implicit function. We formulate the implicit function as a sum of anisotropic smoothing kernels, and the direction of anisotropy at a particle is determined by performing Principal Component Analysis (PCA) over the neighboring particles. In addition, we perform a smoothing step that repositions the centers of these smoothing kernels. Since these anisotropic smoothing kernels capture the local particle distributions more accurately, our method has advantages over existing methods in representing smooth surfaces, thin streams, and sharp features of fluids. Our method is fast, easy to implement, and our results demonstrate a significant improvement in the quality of reconstructed surfaces as compared to existing methods. © 2013 ACM.


News Article | June 28, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

The model of the Star Trek starship USS Enterprise, which has been featured prominently at the Smithsonian's basement gift shop, is about to be beamed up to the central atrium on Tuesday, June 28, as part of the upcoming celebration of the museum's 40th birthday. Malcolm Collum, a conservator for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, explained that they decided to showcase the Enterprise replica in recognition of the historical significance it had gained over the years. The Star Trek starship model was donated by Paramount Studios to the museum in 1974, back when Star Trek was simply a short-lived television series. However, just when the show started to gain popularity among sci-fi fans, the Enterprise replica started to show several structural failures and was already falling apart. Some of the housings for the Enterprise's engine, known as nacelles, have started to sag, while the paint job on the model were also beginning to flake. This spurred Collum to transfer the starship to the museum's conservation laboratory for some much needed repairs in 2014. Collum and his colleagues were able to restore the USS Enterprise to resemble its original form back in 1967, when it was used during the filming of the Star Trek episode, "Trouble with Tribbles." They made use of stills and photographs from old episodes in order to get the look of the original. This was the first time the replica received modifications for close to 50 years. Some of the modifications to the starship Enterprise Collum and his team made include applying a fresh coat of green-gray paint to return it to its original color, replacing old incandescent bulbs with LEDs that won't cause any fires when turned on and adding an authentic deflector dish to replace the one that was missing when the replica was donated in 1974. "When you turn on the lights, it just brings the ship to life," Collum pointed out. "It's an incredible transformation." The Smithsonian also collaborated with Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) visual effects studio to add details to the Enterprise to make it look more like an authentic starship that has traveled through space for years. ILM placed streaks and specks of bronze paint to its exterior, as well as letterings on the side of the starship using the same technology used to make the original markers on the model. The USS Enterprise is one of the many aerospace and aviation models set to be featured during the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's birthday celebration. The museum will stay open all night on Friday, July 1, to allow visitors to stargaze at the Smithsonian's observatory, view space-themed films and even participate in scavenger hunts organized by the museum. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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