Digital Makeup Chronicles 2 — The Life of Brian

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series The dMFX Chronicles

Practically Effective The addition of Digital Makeup in Falling Skies actually expanded the use of practical effects.  I know that may shock some of you to read.  In a time when computer Generated Imagery frequently replaces the practical world, this syndicated, wrapped series bucked the trend.  Practical makeup artists used the computer as one of their tools, not a visual effects studio, to improve what they made sculpting rubber and glueing it to actors. This series, the Digital Makeup Chronicles, explores these effects, and discusses how practical and digital worked in tandem. After all, it is not every day you… Continue reading

Tracking for FRINGE Effect — Performance Transfer in Production

Grabbing an Actor’s Performance In 2008 concepts and methods developed working on 3D conversion for IMAX films combined to solve a problem at Zoic studios for the Bad Robot TV series FRINGE. Those IMAX3D films required large amounts of match moved geometry to generate depth information.  During that time I experimented projecting two dimensional tracking information to the surface of a placed 3D model, as a simple “look-at” constraint — capturing movement that was much more accurate than that produced by hand animation.  Unfortunately it was too late in production to use it effectively. The FRINGE team faced a similar,… Continue reading

Lost Concepts: Part 4 — Transformers

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Lost Concepts

An Idea On Its Own During the production of Transformers: The Movie, I was asked to submit some ideas for poster designs, and other concepts to sell the motion picture.  I knew it was a Michael Bay film, and that he had a love for fast cars, scantily clad perfect women, and shiny metal objects, and I hoped to bring a fresh perspective — considering I had seen nothing of the film, or its designs — that was easy. I was concerned that the look of the film’s logo and advertising would be grungy, rusty, block letters  — which is the actual direction… Continue reading

VFX Archaeology: Part 4 — Nurnies and Greeblies

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series VFX_archaeology

You can’t talk about #greebles without mentioning, likely the most iconic miniature ever shot, the #starwars #stardestroyer at only 3 feet long -@FonHDavis   Context is Everything Modern cinema maintains a series of technical terms via oral tradition, that really no longer make sense. How many people really itnow the origin of terms like “Gaffer,” and “best boy?” Yes, those job titles have a clear set of responsibilities, but the origin of the term is sometimes cryptic, or humorous. Visual effects have their own terms as well, developed from a multitude of technical and artistic sources.  Digital visual effects in particular rely on some nomenclature that was… Continue reading

VFX Archaeology: Part 3 — Starship Troopers

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series VFX_archaeology

Recollections of BOSS FILM STUDIOS     A recent post of one of my photos from Starship Troopers on social media erupted into a lengthy discussion about the BOSS Film work, some of which has heretofore received little mention.  Following is a summary of that discussion, beefed up with a little bit of research from extant sources.  You may have read some of these recollections previously, but I will endeavor to add more detail, to illustrate what it took to make visual effects almost twenty years ago, so please indulge me.  Here goes: It was rumored that Paul Verhoeven saw an image… Continue reading

How We Faked The Moon Landing: Part 4 — The Visual Effects of Magnificent Desolation

To the IMAX Moon and Beyond Moon Flight Science! On September 23, 2005, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D released on giant IMAX screens. It is a 4K stereo3D experience of the Moon landings, and speculative missions from the past and future. The film was honored with the first Visual Effects: Special Venue award by the Visual Effects Society in 2006. This multi-part article is based on a presentation about the visual effects at LA SIGGRAPH, the following June, however this article is an expansion of that text to emphasize an aspect that is unique to the production. Part 1: Prep and Landing… Continue reading

Starfleet Shipyards — October 1996

In October 1996 the best place for any devotee of Star Trek to be was the Starfleet Shipyards.  These are not the in-cannon fabled shipyards of Mars, nor are they the near earth orbit construction dry-docks.  They are definitely not a large ground-based construction facility in Iowa.  The Starfleet shipyards were in Marina del Rey California, in the backyard of BOSS film studios at the shops of renowned model maker Greg Jein. Greg Jein is associated with almost every incarnation of the USS Enterprise up until Star Trek Deep Space Nine, as well as a plethora of alien ships in that same… Continue reading

How We Faked The Moon Landing: Part 3 — The Visual Effects of Magnificent Desolation

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Magnificent Desolation VFX

To the IMAX Moon and Beyond Filming on location is not an option. On September 23, 2005, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D released on giant IMAX screens. It is a 4K stereo3D experience of the moon landings, and speculative missions from the past and future. The film was honored with the first Visual Effects: Special Venue award by the Visual Effects Society in 2006. This multi-part article is based on a presentation about the visual effects at LA SIGGRAPH, the following June.   Part 1: Prep and Landing —Preparing for Stereo3D in 2005 and Beyond. Part 2: Strolling on the… Continue reading

How We Faked the Moon Landing: Part 2 — the Visual Effects of Magnificent Desolation

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Magnificent Desolation VFX

To the IMAX Moon and Beyond We didn’t have their giant rockets, so we faked it later. On September 23, 2005, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D released on giant IMAX screens. It is a 4K stereo3D experience of the moon landings, and speculative missions from the past and future. The film was honored with the first Visual Effects: Special Venue award by the Visual Effects Society in 2006. This multi-part article is based on a presentation about the visual effects at LA SIGGRAPH, the following June. Here is an overview of the work:   Part 1: Prep and Landing —Preparing… Continue reading

How We Faked The Moon Landing: Part 1 — the Visual Effects of Magnificent Desolation 3D

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Magnificent Desolation VFX

To the IMAX Moon and Beyond The Moon landings were real — we faked it later. On September 23, 2005,  Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D released on giant IMAX screens. A 4K stereo3D experience of the Moon landings, and speculative missions from the past and future — which at the time was IMAX’s widest opening stereo3D film with 70 prints worldwide.  Produced and narrated by Play Tone/Tom Hanks, directed by Mark Cowen, with Cinematography and Visual Effects supervision by Sean Phillips.  The film was honored with the first Visual Effects: Special Venue award by the Visual Effects Society in 2006.… Continue reading

VFX Archaeology — The Lost Empire Strikes Back

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series VFX_archaeology

Exploring the Evolution of a Lost Shot From Script to Screen [Image from the Empire Strikes Back Blu-ray. Color correction emphasizes blue spill that was normally lost to viewer.] The near final shot of The Empire Strikes Back (TESB) of the Millenium Falcon flying off into the sunset — or rather the ten thousand sunsets of a spiral galaxy — is one of the most iconic, and oft-printed promotional images from the film. Due to the amount of time it takes to preduce the material to coincide with the film release, magazines, album covers, and posters must start as soon as pictures are ready, whatever their… Continue reading

Gorilla VFX: Episode 3 — Fun With Toys and Mirrors

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Gorilla VFX

Simple and Fun VFX Distraction. We all love high end Visual Effects, but anyone who loves them as much as those who do it for a career, sometimes enjoy the simplicity of doing things the film school/garage band way. As kids we devoured Cinemagic, and Cinefex magazines, and hand back-wound super-8 mm cartridges, to try and do visual effects like the pros.  That was how the pros did them.  Even Ridley Scott pointed out at the Visual Effects Society Awards in 2016, that ALIEN was made with models, paintings, and white paint flecked on a black board. Now with computers… Continue reading

VFX Touchstones: Part One — The Code Breakers

Writing Code For VFX Solves Problems, and Motivates Others It is my supposition that everyone in the visual effects business should learn to program, even a little bit, as it opens avenues that were once barriers. Whether writing the code, or just “breaking the code,” it is necessary to expand your skill set while solving problems, and look for solutions outside your immediate surroundings. Several of my inspiring career moments came from people writing software for visual effects — those whom I jauntily call “Code Breakers.” These particular programmers changed how I thought about solving VFX challenges, and altered my… Continue reading

Jason Jue — 1977-2015 — The Sassoon Six Minus One

“I sit on the beach, drink instant coffee, and dive when I can.” Jason Jue   On April 5, 2015,  The Digital Makeup Initiative,  Stereo VFX, and Stereo Conversion Communities lost one of its pioneers.  Jason Jue, VFX supervisor, compositor, and avid diver passed away. Those who knew him grieve with his family, and are all taken aback by the sudden happenings that pulled him from this world.  What I can say most about him is that he was my good friend. Jason was the third employee of Sassoon Film Design (Santa Monica, CA). Jammed into a one room office with myself, fellow… Continue reading

Digital Nimoy — Across the Final Frontier

The Digital Legacy of One of the world’s first 3D scanned actors.   I’d hoped to have written this before it happened. You never know how much you appreciate something, or someone until they are gone.  I was one of the generation raised in a world where the name SPOCK meant something more than how to raise children.  The character that Leonard Nimoy created on Star Trek gave was an ideal of logic, and personified our struggle to overcome or embrace emotion.  Mr. Nimoy gave us an unforgettable performance, and was able to eventually springboard from this character and become an author, singer, screenwriter,… Continue reading

Lost Concepts: Part 2 — Almost Human dMFX

©2015 Johnathan Banta — for MastersFX
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Lost Concepts

The Lost Concept Series explores production designs by Johnathan Banta that never saw the light of day — until now.   There is always so much work that goes into an entertainment property that no one ever sees. Were it not for the books that chronicle the preproduction of Star Wars, the world would have never seen many of the concepts that led to the designs we love (designs which now grace the prequel universe of Star Wars Rebels).  Such is the case with some work I did for the Bad Robot television series Almost Human. MastersFX was contracted to do the… Continue reading

Fringe to Falling Skies — The Unwanted Rise of Digital Makeup

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series The dMFX Chronicles

It Came From the 1990’s Okay, this will take a little bit of back-story… In 1997, I started to write an article in conjunction with Digital Domain’s Andre Bustanoby (fresh off of Titanic VFX) for the (now archival) website VFXHQ.  This article was to chronicle what we saw as the beginning of a new methodology in VFX — a blending of practical makeup and digital tools.  We envisioned that makeup artists would embrace this new realm and create wondrous new characters with new tools and old know-how.  After all, the successful Jurassic Park was a hybrid film, combining the best of practical FX with digital FX, as… Continue reading

Vector-based Particle Emission: A 2D Method for Complex Particle Motion

    Using Motion Vectors as Fluid Forces I was stuck. The particular scene In front of me required that a character from existing footage be combined with tentacles of my own making, repositioned to come out of water at the edge of screen, combined with a sky matte painting, and fling water off of its body at every flick or tiny movement. Time was as usual, short, and running out. Since I was not planning on flailing around in the pool, and rotoscoping tons of water I needed particle systems to do this. I am fairly adept with 3D… Continue reading

The Missing Millennium Falcon

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series VFX_archaeology

Evolution of a Design     Story update: Joe Johnston on Twitter said that he did not do the original drawing that inspired the illustration in the middle of this article (which is a re-creation for research purposes only, and not an official StarWars art piece), and that he only used the cockpit and radar dish as elements. This design I saw might therefore be the work of one of the other artists on Star Wars. It could represent an alternate direction rather than a step in the evolution of the current design. That said, this is not to mislead, but now… Continue reading

Lost Art of Laine Liska

An Accomplished VFX Artist Leaves A Clandestine Legacy   • Richard Edlund, a close friend of Laine, kindly contributed this card, drawn by Laine for the Holidays. Thank you, Richard. • People working the visual effects field are often artists in many different disciplines. I am also a cartoonist, having published several strips, and I enjoy funny behind the scenes jokes scribbled by artists under pressure — I honed a lot of my skills perusing the sci-FI cartoons in the editorial pages of Starlog Magazine, and that was a great collection of cartoons by humorists, but not necessarily created in… Continue reading

BOSS Film Studios – The Last Watch

Information and title updated 03/20/2014 A patch from the old Boss Film Days. The 65MM in the title says it all.   I was there at the end. Richard Edlund’s BOSS film studios  (named after his favorite shotgun, but originally BOSS FILM CORPORATION **) was a powerhouse of creativity. It followed in the tradition set by Doug Trumbull’s Entertainment Effects Group, which Edlund purchased to form BOSS when he left Industrial Light and Magic: 65mm image acquisition and compositing. On the heels of the visual effects revival, Edlund and his team produced two benchmarks of visual effects, namely 2010: The… Continue reading

Full Starlog Magazine Archive Online

Kerry O’Quinn’s Penultimate Magazine Online Library. In several boxes in my garage sit almost every copy of Starlog Magazine up to issue 100.  They are in various conditions, some tattered, some torn, all well read.  They are an archive library.  For those who did not live in Los Angeles, and did not discover the mail order Cinefex (which was actually advertised in Starlog pages), there was Fantastic Films, Famous Monsters, Cinefantastique, and Starlog on store shelves.  I’d beg my parents, deliver newspapers, and mow lawns to buy my copy monthly. Starlog was one of the genre touchstones.  It introduced me… Continue reading

The VFX War: Part 3 — The Slight Heard Round The World

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The VFX War

Hollywood’s Juvenile Response to Brilliance. For 2014 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promises in a Variety article to “get the visual effects presentation right this year.” They are in reference to last year’s global debacle of a presentation after The Life of Pi was played offstage as the vfx supervisors were attempting to honor the artists who lost their jobs making the film — and the director who publicly thanked everyone (I mean everyone) on the show except his VFX crew who made it even possible to tell the story. A collective obscenity-laden scream bellowed around the… Continue reading

Who Is Watching VFX?

Youtube Analysis Of  VFX Documentary Viewers. In 2008 I added a Youtube Channel, dedicated to collecting, and favoriting links to documentaries and inspiring visual effects.  I uploaded several of the documentaries that I enjoyed as I was growing up (and had to take a few of them down — thank you Lucasfilm). but it seems to have a reasonably popular following.  When I started doing this there were no channels of this type I could find, but there is now a plethora of content in this realm, and the channel subscriptions follow many of those.  The uploaded content has been… Continue reading

Digital Makeup Joins The Stage February 2, 2014

Todd Masters and Johnathan Banta At The Digital Days Conference. The Digital Days Conference kicks off Saturday Feb 1, 2014. Todd Masters and Johnathan Banta (spelled wrong on their website) of MastersFX join a panel Sunday to talk about the convergence of practical and digital effects. Join us as we talk of the crossing between digits and digital.   UPDATE: The time of the panel has changed to SUNDAY FEB 2, 12.45pm – 2.15pm EA Theatre: The Bigger Picture This is the time the online program shows: Sunday     1:30pm-3pm Theatre: The Bigger Picture Integrating Practical & Digital FX –… Continue reading