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
With Your Own Two Hands When I was a kid, I built things with my hands. Clay, wood, paper, tape, wire, and film combined together were enough to make a movie. If you had a motion picture or still camera, you could forge the materials of this world into worlds of imagination. I would draw cartoons, and animate them with pages of typing paper, colorize black and white photos with an airbrush, and manually layout pages for offset printing or silk screened shirts. Now I use a computer, on which I spend all day rearranging electrons, which are eventually illuminated by photons, but which… Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Splitting Up to Carry On. Government kickbacks are not the only concern weighing on the VFX industry. We have innovated our way into solving everyone else’s problems, taking on the burden that used to belong to other departments. VFX have threatened the jobs of other parts of the industry for several years, and these industries have downsized or specialized as a result. Now VFX is at times overburdened with responsibility for the camera, sets, props, hair and makeup, and even actors in a movie — just fix it in post. We have always said we CAN do it, but due… Continue reading
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Great British VFX Documentaries Online. From Poppa Day to Matte Painting in the 60’s and 70’s, Dennis Lowes webpage is an amazing documentary resource of visual effects in Britain. Want some in-depth information on the making of Alien you did not know? He has multiple interviews on video with images to back it up. His videos introduce us to a great collection of talented people, and disciplined work, from which we all can learn. Great education, motivation, and fun, and there is more than what is shown in the images below (including some of Dennis’ own work if you are… Continue reading
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By any other Name it is Good Old Fashioned Sculpture. The term Dimensionalization should leave the lexicon of stereo conversion. First off, it is a buzz-word that Madison Avenue could have invented that says very little about the process, and it also calls forth images of an automated process that is simple to do. Secondly, it is a copyrighted phrase for a now defunct company, but mostly it is an inaccurate description. As an example, think of this sentence: “I have converted a 3D world into 2D with the use of a camera lens. It is now dimensionalized”. The word… Continue reading
We have come so far these days in VFX. We use computers to do everything, and forget that often the simplest methods are the best. Here is an idea: Put models in front of the camera, and take a picture with real places in the distant background. I think they used that on Aliens and The Abyss, as a matter of fact. (Do not forget the brilliant work in Dune and Conan: the Destroyer.) For us digital geeks out there, that is a dense point sampled, high dynamic range, global illumination algorithm, with energy preserving reflections — in real time. We call it reality.… Continue reading
They used to be called SPECIAL effects, and thats what matte paintings were — alchemy. What else would you call a mixture of paint, glass, and photography with magic as the result? A few years back I slammed together an outline of a book, and invited several matte painters from the Glass pane days to consider documenting the craft for a generation who is rarely taught any art technique, but surviving on raw talent. There was sluggish response at first, thinking that digital artists have little desire to learn the old ways — no longer deemed relevant. I disagree with… Continue reading
In 2008 I was struck by the lack of institutional knowledge of VFX in the industry. Each person has their collection of inspiration that brought them into the artistic field, and most of mine came from the Starlog Press, and TV VFX specials that occasionally showed up. So I set up my youtube account to inspire and educate, and I uploaded many of the old documentaries I could find. I add to the favorites whenever I find inspired VFX visuals, or documentaries that teach us more. Subscriptions to other sites usually lead to bigger collections of VFX know-how and examples.
It is important to know our history so we can learn from it. This channel is a repository, and signpost to VFX knowledge.
Welcome to the blog. What is PunkWerks, one may ask? Officially this is an offshoot site of Agrapha Productions, but it is not directly related to the VFX content the company provides — it is one of the side effects of a life of art. Those projects and ideas that don’t quite fit in, or never really leaped out. The work of a PUNK. Hence the name. This is a blog, not visual effects. At launch this is expected to be a place where I can share ideas, observations, and generally fascinating art and technology, found or otherwise. It is… Continue reading