Weta Digital is a digital visual effects company based in Wellington, New Zealand. It was founded by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to produce the digital special effects for Heavenly Creatures. In 2007 Weta Digital’s Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Letteri, was also appointed as a Director of the company. Weta Digital has won several Academy Awards and BAFTAs.Weta Digital is part of a number of Peter Jackson co-owned companies in Wellington which includes Weta Workshop, Weta Productions, Weta Collectibles and Park Road Post Production.The company is named after the New Zealand weta, one of the world's largest insects. Wikipedia.
News Article | February 15, 2017
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--8i, a company that develops holographic technology for virtual and augmented reality, today announced a US$27 million Series B round of funding to support the launch of its new mixed reality app Holo in 2017. The new round, which brings 8i’s total funding to $41 million, was led by Time Warner Investments, with participation from Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Verizon Ventures, One Ventures, Carsten Maschmeyer’s Seed & Speed Ventures, and existing investors. This is the first investment in VR/AR for Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) through its recently formed fund, Baidu Ventures. Time Warner Investments Managing Director Scott Levine joins 8i’s board. Today, at the Code Media conference in Dana Point, Calif., 8i will introduce Holo, a consumer mobile app that gives people an easy way to create mixed reality content with holograms of their favorite celebrities, brands, and characters. Holo lets users add holograms to their real-world environments and take videos and photos they can share with friends across their social channels and messaging apps. The app provides an innovative way for influencers across entertainment, music, and sports to reach and engage their audiences, and drive a new form of user generated content around their brand. “As consumers are augmenting, mixing and creating new content on their smartphones on a massive scale, mobile presents an unparalleled opportunity for distribution of holograms,” said 8i CEO Steve Raymond. “We’re thrilled to have the strategic expertise and backing of leaders in media, technology, and communications as we bring audiences new ways to create and engage with content. With this global round, we look forward to partnering with our investors from the US, China, Europe, and Australia as we bring our technology to consumers worldwide.” “With VR and AR, we’re seeing the very beginning of a new generation of immersive media,” said Scott Levine of Time Warner Investments. “8i makes holographic human content a reality in this new era with its breakthrough volumetric capture technology, while lowering the barrier for creators. We’re excited to back this world-class team as they continue to push the boundaries of data compression and depth acquisition, and bring holograms to the mainstream with Holo on smartphones.” “We are excited to back the extraordinary team at 8i and help bring its superior holographic experience to mass audiences in China,” said Daisy Cai, managing partner at Baidu Ventures. “At Baidu, we envision a future where VR and AR can be applied in numerous industries that serve our more than one billion monthly active users." Holo currently in beta, launching in 2017 8i is testing an early beta version of Holo on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro powered by Tango, an augmented reality technology from Google. As part of the beta, 8i is testing how users interact with the new technology and a limited selection of sample 3D holograms. The company plans to officially launch a new version of the app with content partners and programming later this year on Tango-enabled smartphones, and other mobile devices. 8i develops technology that provides an easy way to record, create and experience human holograms that look real and feel as if they were in the same room. Through its 8i Studios partner program, 8i enables human-driven VR and AR projects from third party creators. Partners record a human performance using an array of cameras through an approach called volumetric capture. The company’s proprietary technology transforms the video into a photorealistic 3D hologram, which can be easily integrated into VR/AR experiences for any device using 8i’s plugin for Unity. 8i rolled out the program in April 2016, and has signed more than 100 partners to date. “As we deliver on our long term vision of enabling the evolution of media and human communication, we’re inspired to help our partners bring their own vision to life,” said Raymond. “One of these projects is a groundbreaking virtual reality experience 8i created with Buzz Aldrin and our incredible partners at Time Inc. and Soylent, which we’re excited to premiere at the SXSW:Film festival in March.” 8i’s team brings decades of experience from Weta Digital, YouTube, NVIDIA, Google, Valve, Microsoft Research, PayPal, Sony Computer Entertainment, DreamWorks, Pixar, Bell Laboratories, Viacom, Xero, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Zynga. Existing investors in 8i include RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Dolby Family Ventures, Signia Ventures Partners, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Sound Ventures (Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary), Inevitable Ventures, Freelands and Advancit Capital. Advisors include Kevin Wall (Control Room), Sam Wick (UTA), Ted Schilowitz (20th Century Fox), and Joshua Feast (Cogito). For more information visit: http://8i.com/ and http://8i.com/holo. 8i’s mission is to enable the evolution of media and human communication by giving people the best way to connect with each other and express themselves through holograms. We provide the easiest way to create, mix and experience 3D human holograms that look real, and can be viewed from any angle, on any device for virtual, augmented or mixed reality. Founded in May 2014, 8i is based in Wellington, New Zealand, and Los Angeles. Learn more at http://8i.com/. Time Warner Inc., a global leader in media and entertainment with businesses in television networks and film and TV entertainment, uses its industry-leading operating scale and brands to create, package and deliver high-quality content worldwide on a multi-platform basis. Baidu Ventures is the newly-formed venture capital investment arm of Baidu, Inc., the leading Chinese language Internet search provider. The first fund is USD$200 million, dedicated to investing in early-stage companies in the artificial intelligence (AI), AR and VR space. Led by seasoned investment professionals and former entrepreneurs, Baidu Ventures backs founders of next-generation technologies and invests globally from offices in Beijing and Sunnyvale, California.
News Article | October 31, 2016
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 | November 11, 2016
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 | February 15, 2017
Jalil Sadool will represent Steamroller Studios as the day two keynote speaker at the 2017 Carolina Games Summit. The Steamroller Studios keynote will take place on February 5 at 1:00 pm in the Paramount Theater. “Jalil brings a wide range of experience in film, animation, and game design to the Carolina Games Summit,” Michael Everett Creative Director of the Carolina Games Summit states, “attendees of this keynote will see how Jalil must transition his workflow when creating similar animations across both AAA games and feature films.” The keynote presentation, “A Study of Creature Animation in Films and Games” will explore several pieces of creature animation from films and games and share the variety of workflows behind creating each animation. Sadool will explain that even though there are similarities between VFX, feature animated films, and games, there are limitations and rules that each category carries. Attendees will leave the session with new knowledge of the varied workflows required to achieve a similar result in animation. Tickets are available to the public and may be purchased online or at the door. Visit the official web site,http://www.carolinagamessummit.com, for a full listing of all the speakers, exhibitors, and additional details. Contact the event organizers at info(at)carolinagamessummit(dot)com for more information on attending, exhibiting or speaking at the Carolina Games Summit. About Jalil Sadool Jalil Sadool is currently the CEO/Co-Founder at Steamroller Studios as well as Co-Founder of CGTarian Online Animation School. He has worked in the Film and Game industry as a professional Animator for over a decade. He was a Lead Animator on Rise of the Planet of the Apes at Weta Digital as well as How to Train Your Dragon 2 at Dreamworks Animation. His resume also includes Avatar, Rise of the Guardians, The Chronicles of Narnia, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. About Steamroller Studios Steamroller Studios is a full service production house with a family friendly atmosphere. Our personal backgrounds are in film, having worked on such titles as Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and The Hobbit Trilogy. Our studio offers animation, programming, concept art, and more. We have worked on projects such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Worms W.M.D., Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Prey, Agents of Mayhem and many others, including our own original IP, Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse. About Carolina Games Summit Carolina Games Summit® will be held Saturday, February 4, 10AM – 8:30PM and Sunday, February 5, 2017 10AM - 6:00PM in downtown Goldsboro, NC. This hybrid event will once again delivers industry speakers, video game tournaments, concerts, exhibition booths, cosplay, educational sessions, and trading card games. Attendees will be able to compete against gamers from all over the country in a variety of popular tournaments. Enjoy all your favorite platforms including arcade, computer, and console games with both tournament and free-play options available. Additional information can be found on the official web site: http://www.CarolinaGamesSummit.com
News Article | December 19, 2016
In the ambitiously expansive 2013 science fiction film The Congress, Robin Wright (playing a famous fictional actress named Robin Wright) is an actress who agrees to sell a digitized version of herself under the contractual proviso that she never acts again. In this near-future world, performers can be wholly and photo-realistically computer generated, meaning a simple day spent in an image scanner can result in an eternity of films being constructed with their likeness. What was mildly realistic three years ago in The Congress has suddenly become frighteningly prophetic in 2016 with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stepping further into the territory of digital reincarnation than any film before it. Amongst other unexpected digital constructions, the new film brings Peter Cushing's character from the original 1977 film back to life and turns the experience of watching the film into a deep dive through the uncanny valley. But after 15 years has Hollywood finally made it to the other side? Developed by a Japanese robotics professor in 1970, the concept of the uncanny valley posits that as the appearance of robots become more human-like, our emotional responses to those robots grow more positive until a point when the robots become so life-like that our response to them is one of discomfort and revulsion. As the, now famous, graph below illustrates there is a big dip in our response to a life-like robot as it progresses towards becoming indistinguishable from humans. Hollywood's engagement in this discomforting hyperreal space began in 2001 with the first computer generated attempt at a photorealistic film, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. From 2004 Robert Zemeckis took the baton and wholeheartedly leapt into the uncanny with a series of animated motion capture experiments starting with The Polar Express then moving onto Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, which came in 2009 and consequently populated our nightmares with its images of a chameleon-like Jim Carrey. After The Curious Case of Benjamin Button served up a creepy digitally de-aged impression of a youthful Brad Pitt in 2008, we saw several films try this technique with varying degrees of failure. A young, weird Jeff Bridges leapt onto our screen in Tron Legacy and most recently we saw a disturbingly wooden recreation of 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Genysis (although it could be argued that "disturbingly wooden" is a pretty accurate representation of the real Schwarzenegger). Technology kept progressing and by the mid 2010s Hollywood was well and truly embedded in the uncanny valley, constantly trying new techniques but always creating strange and discordant results. Marvel has recently dipped its toe into these pixilated waters on a couple of occasions with a mild degree of success. In Ant-Man we saw a dramatically de-aged Wall Street-era Michael Douglas appear like magic in the opening scenes and then in Captain America: Civil War a young Robert Downey Jr sprung up on the screen to remind us how old he actually is. Both of these films had the luxury of not only having the real actors available to stand in for the initial shoots, allowing their real voices to be recorded and motion capture techniques to trace their facial gestures, but there was also the ability to refer to their large body of 1980s films as visual templates. These forms of "de-aging" techniques are much more prominent in Hollywood film than many realize. In fact, there are whole companies devoted to more subtle digital imaging tasked with removing wrinkles, slimming actors, or photoshopping up an actor's abs for that topless scene. Dubbed "beauty work" or "visual cosmetics," these techniques have been pioneered by Los Angeles FX outfit, Lola Visual Effects. The company has been operating since 2004, but its biggest known work didn't come until 2008 when it delivered Brad Pitt's de-aging effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. For the most part, Lola's work exists in an unseen and unspoken world of Hollywood trickery. They come in and touch up actors and actresses as part of a post-production process that is almost standard operating procedure these days. In a 2014 interview with Mashable, Claus Hansen, a beauty-work tradesman for Method Studios could only reveal, "Nobody looks like what you see on TV and in the movies. Everybody is altered." In an age of non-disclosure agreements and big-time studio lawyers, no one will name names. The only clues to whether a film has had this kind of post-production tinkering is the names of Method Studios or Lola VFX deep in the credits, but odds are that it happens more often than not. When Paul Walker tragically died in 2013 in the middle of production of Furious 7, Universal shut down production to work out what to do with its half-shot film. The filmmakers ultimately ended up reworking the story and hiring Walker's brothers as stand-ins to shoot some of his remaining scenes. CGI outfit Weta Digital was then brought in to create a computer generated simulacrum of Walker to imprint over the stand-ins' faces. Star Wars Rogue One has boldly doubled down on digital reincarnation further than any film we've seen to date. The narrative is set immediately before the events that unfolded in 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope and the filmmakers were faced with a stark choice. Do they ignore the characters that we the audience know are present in that world, or do they try to use digital technology to bring these familiar faces to life? The biggest gambit of the film is the incorporation of Peter Cushing's character Grand Moff Tarkin. Cushing passed away in 1994 so there was no option for the filmmakers to even rely on his original voice to record the lines. The costly visual effect is the film's most successful or controversial gamble depending on your personal reaction to seeing this character reappear on the big screen almost 40 years after the original film. The boldness of the move by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards and his visual effects team is undeniable. Tarkin becomes a surprisingly prominent character in the film, engaging in several long and detailed conversational scenes with Ben Mendehlson's Director Krennic. There are no attempts to hide the digital seams in the way the film approaches Tarkin's character, and after an initial silhouetted reveal we get to stare at this computer generated apparition and judge for ourselves. It's a stunningly confronting moment to be so personally thrust into the uncanny valley, for we know that not only is Peter Cushing, the actor long passed away, but we are seeing a character from 40 years ago appear exactly as he appeared in our nostalgic memories. Star Wars Rogue One lays down the subjective gauntlet. It's entirely up to the individual whether they come out the other side of the valley or not, but there is no fence-sitting here. In the experience of this writer, the film was unable to transcend the artifice of the recreation. The digital face was a perfect summation of the uncanny valley, and that is directly related to the accuracy of the execution. This was as close to a perfect photo-realistic reincarnation as we have ever seen and that is exactly why it felt so jarringly discomfiting. There is something inherently unnerving about watching such a perfect simulacrum of someone you know cannot exist. The question that Rogue One's impressive technical achievement raises is if we ever could traverse the uncanny valley with familiar faces. We are so close to being able to create photo-realistic CGI characters, but is the hurdle of familiarity unsurpassable? If we know these actors, and have grown up watching them age across numerous films, would we ever be able to accept their pixelated reappearances? If an actor has passed away could we ever believe a CGI replicant, regardless of the digital accuracy?
D'Eon E.,Weta Digital |
Irving G.,Weta Digital
ACM Transactions on Graphics | Year: 2011
We present a new BSSRDF for rendering images of translucent materials. Previous diffusion BSSRDFs are limited by the accuracy of classical diffusion theory. We introduce a modified diffusion theory that is more accurate for highly absorbing materials and near the point of illumination. The new diffusion solution accurately decouples single and multiple scattering. We then derive a novel, analytic, extended-source solution to the multilayer searchlight problem by quantizing the diffusion Green's function. This allows the application of the diffusion multipole model to material layers several orders of magnitude thinner than previously possible and creates accurate results under high-frequency illumination. Quantized diffusion provides both a new physical foundation and a variable-accuracy construction method for sum-of-Gaussians BSSRDFs, which have many useful properties for efficient rendering and appearance capture. Our BSSRDF maps directly to previous real-time rendering algorithms. For film production rendering, we propose several improvements to previous hierarchical point cloud algorithms by introducing a new radial-binning data structure and a doubly-adaptive traversal strategy. © 2011 ACM.
News Article | March 4, 2015
Epic Games announced a partnership with Academy Award-winning visual studio Weta Digital during a 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) press event this morning. The two companies have come together for a new virtual-reality experience called Thief in the Shadows, which uses CG assets from the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Epic announced that Thief in the Shadows is available on the GDC expo floor today, running on the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype hardware. This had attendees swarming the company’s booth within minutes. I managed to squeeze my way in to try the demo for myself. The VR experience is set in the Lord of the Rings universe, with viewers taking on the role of a hobbit thief. It began in a massive treasure chamber, one so large that I had to crane my neck fully to see it all. Dimly lit piles of coins shimmered under my feet. I could see even dimmer caves in the distance, set off by massive statues on either side. I had to physically turn around to take it all in. Some of the coin piles began to move, with gold sliding down toward my virtual feet. Smaug, an enormous dragon, pushed his face out of a large pile and began to swim around the coins, Scrooge McDuck style. He began to speak in a thunderous voice, claiming that he could smell a thief among his treasures. Smaug circled me, forcing me to turn around in circles to keep track of his motion. His movements and voice became increasingly aggressive — so much so that I caught myself stepping back as he moved nearby. Smaug moved in after taunting me for a bit, placing one of his massive eyes directly above my body as he scolded me for breaking into his chamber. His face was massive — so big that I had to turn my head all the way up and swing it back and forth to take just to take it in. The level of detail in his closeup was astounding — every scale and tooth was photorealistic. I could almost smell his breath. The dragon runs on the new Nvidia Titan X graphics processor, also announced this morning during Epic Games’ event. This has the demo running at 90 frames per second, making for a smooth experience, which had the fire he breathed on me looking like a special effect straight out of a Hollywood film. The quality of virtual reality experiences is increasing at a rapid rate. This segment of the market is still in its infancy, and we’re just now at the point where creators are joining together to accelerate its development. Nvidia’s GPU, Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, and Oculus’ latest prototype came together to create this virtual world, making for one of the most immersive and impressive VR showcases yet.
News Article | February 11, 2014
You get to the Shire long before you get to the Shire. You pass through Rohan, too. That's the beauty of northern New Zealand. Leave Auckland, and with the right set of eyes, you're transported to Middle Earth. A few hours south is the tiny town of Matamata, home to Hobbiton. Originally just a set and slated to be torn down after filming, it got turned into a tourist attraction. When they rebuilt it for the Hobbit movies, they built it to last. Now you can tour it all, looking as good (or better) than it did during filming of the movies. If you can't make the trek to New Zealand, here's a huge photo tour of the whole place. I'll be honest -- I wasn't sure what to expect. I've been on a lot of film sets, and they're quite often a disappointment. There's a lot of detail left out of film sets and props, and since they're far enough away the camera doesn't pick up the lack. That wasn't the case here. For me, the tour started early in the morning in Auckland. The train service in New Zealand isn't great, so it's largely busses (unless you rent a car). From Auckland to Matamata is several hours, then from the Middle Earth-themed visitors' center, it's another few minutes drive to the main entrance of the still-active farm where Hobbiton sits. You get glimpses of the hobbit-ness as you go over the lovely rolling hills of the area. After your tour guide lays down a few ground rules (no wandering off, etc.), you walk a few steps down a path and suddenly you're in Hobbiton. The effect is fantastic. It's less a film set and more a recreation of another world. It looks more like it does in the movies than what I had expected of a well-used film set. Each hobbit hole -- and there are dozens -- is decorated and maintained. There are groundskeepers (big people, not Sam-sized) tending gardens and maintaining the grass, trees, and flowers. The hobbit holes are different sizes, depending on how they were used during filming, and what actor or character they needed to appear a certain size. Only Bag End itself is full size. After walking through the lower areas, you work your way overhill toward Bag End. The view is fantastic, even without Weta Digital's skilled hand making it look more Middle-Earthy. I was a little disappointed we didn't get more time in front of Bag End, but it was great to see it so close, and so real. You can't go in, of course, because there is no "in." Each hobbit hole, while externally complete, has little more than a small space on the other side of the door (so actors can enter and leave). From Bag End, the tour works its way down to the party field and the tree where Bilbo gave his birthday speech. From there, around the pond to the Green Dragon Inn. This is fully functional -- an actual pub with ale and food. You get one free drink with the tour, from a selection of beers brewed specifically for Hobbiton. I got a stout, and it was actually quite good. You can order food, but we weren't given much time. I believe if you skip the bus and drive yourself to the Shire's Rest, the gift shop/gate house for Hobbiton, you might get more time. After a few more pictures, we caught the bus back to the gift shop, and then back to Matamata and Auckland. It was a long day, 13 hours, and a lot of time on buses, but you get to see a chunk of the incredible New Zealand countryside, and of the awesomeness of Hobbiton. Highly recommended. Check out HobbitonTours.com for more info. If you should get to New Zealand, it's also worth making your way to the beautiful city of Wellington and doing a tour of The Cave at Weta FX. You can't take pictures, but you get to see and touch costumes and props from "LotR," "The Hobbit," "District 9," and more. I stayed at The Dwellington, which was a fantastic few days. Check out the gallery for all the photos. Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he's written on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. plasma, active versus passive 3D, and more. Still have a question? Send him an e-mail! He won't tell you what TV to buy, but he might use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff or Google+.
News Article | January 20, 2015
Last week there was a surprising omission from the list of Oscar nominees in the visual effects category: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Weta Digital, the VFX team behind the movie’s special effects, did massive—and massively striking—battle sequences for the film and it was startling to not see the movie nominated, especially since the previous two Hobbit films had gotten nods in the same category. However, that doesn’t diminish the impressive, large-scale conflicts Weta designed for the film. Here’s how they used crowd-simulation and other software to make the powerful clashes in The Battle of the Five Armies.
News Article | July 27, 2015
New Zealand-based Booktrack, a company that adds movie-style soundtracks and ambient audio to e-books, announced that it has closed a Series B investment round of US$5 million. It was led by Singapore’s COENT Venture Partners and New Zealand’s Sparkbox Ventures. Booktrack previously raised US$3 million with its Series A financing led by Sparkbox Ventures. The company will leverage the recent closing of the Series B investment round to drive growth through marketing innovation, acquisition of premium content and allowing any publisher, self-publisher or musician to create and sell Booktrack titles through its marketplace. Backed by investors including Peter Thiel and Weta Digital, using Booktrack Studio, anyone can bring digital text to life by adding a synchronised soundtrack from a database of more than 20,000 audio files. One can then publish the content — whether a book, short story, screenplay, poetry or travel blog — for anyone to read on the Booktrack Bookshelf. The audio plays in sync with the storyline paced at each individual’s reading speed. Also Read: Debunking myths in sheep land; meet the innovators of New Zealand “Booktrack is creating a new marketplace for authors, publishers and musicians to create soundtracks for their e-books and reach a new audience of more than 2.5 million readers while earning new revenue streams,” said CEO Paul Cameron. “This Series B raise will allow us to aggressively grow our reader base and premium content offering. Booktrack will continue to help schools, parents and people looking to re-engage with reading in a modern, immersive and fun way while also increasing comprehension and retention,” he added. This announcement comes on the heels of other major developments at Booktrack. Publishers and self-publishers can now market and sell their Booktrack titles to the community of nearly 2.5 million readers. The company is now selling Premium Booktracks created and choreographed by Booktrack’s sound engineering team through its online e-book store.