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

The VFX War: Part 5 — Sleep Is For The Weak

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

I’d Like To Sleep For A Week. I wrote this article in 2014: As I sit here working another wee hour on a project, I am beginning to envy my cat. As is mostly the case, I am awake because I love what I do, and fitting in another job, or research project, book (or blog) is the reason the glowing screen and pixels beckon me from my bed. There is just not time enough to do all that I must, work for the people I associate with, and get sleep. Most of the time this is my choice, as I… 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

AG_NEWS: How To Scan A Person In Less Than Five Minutes — Article Link

AG_RapidCapture In The Open Something I am working on, provided an opportunity for a recent article with VFX author Ian Failes covering one of the techniques in my AG_RapidCapture series (in development).  Essentially trying to get down to bare bones photogrammetry, best practices, rig designs, and so forth.  This article represents one of the first benefits of that research. I wish to thank my college professor for volunteering to be the subject.  Here is a link to the article: How To Scan A Person In Less Than Five Minutes by Ian Failes AG 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

Rogue One — A Format Wars Story

  During a screening of Doctor Strange at a Visual Effects Society event, someone asked the film’s Director whether he preferred the 3D version, or the 2D version? He said: “I am torn, as I love the 3D version, but also the Expanded Dynamic Range version as well.” I gravitate toward stereo3D movies, due to my history of making stereo3D films. I wrote an article about stereo conversion for The Force Awakens, recounting its masterful use of the stereo3D format. In my opinion, Doctor Strange was a tour-de-force example of fantastic stereo3D conversion, so based on the Director’s comments, I… 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

VFX Between Shots — Get Up and Build Something Real

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series VFX Between Shots

  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

Lost Concepts: Part 3 — Falling Skies

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Lost Concepts

Concept Art by Johnathan Banta As part of any creative process, there are a lot of abandoned avenues and choices. When a final  design concept is approved, all other art is shelved and a final creation guided from approved art. It is an evolution, sometimes directed, and occasionally as a last resort. For television work especially, design and manufacture of these creations happens under a very tight timeline. The TNT series Falling Skies was no different in this regard, and several concept artists (Neville Page, and Aaron Sims among them) contributed.  As Digital Makeup Supervisor for this show, I also had some… 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

Road Warriors: Part 1 — A Worldwide Walk With VFX

Join VFX.  See The World! I love my Skechers Midway tennis shoes. Older, used pairs of the shoe sit in the back of my closet in vain hope for a re-issue of the particular model — eventually I face reality and have to throw them out. I really like how the shoe looks, but the old shoes are more than just footwear; the shoes in many ways are memories. those shoes have walked in my footsteps, and are now of the places that my life, and my career in VFX have taken me. As government subsidies from several countries open up new areas… 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

The Force Awakens, and the State of 3D conversion

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Stereo Conversion is Awe Inspiring and You Should See It. In a darkened IMAX3D theater I saw Star Wars: the Force Awakens for the second time. My first viewing was at the Motion Picture Academy screening with JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Roger Guyett, and many others. I was already pretty impressed with the film, and I had a few complaints, but they were minor. As I watched it again, on a gigantic IMAX screen, at twice the brightness of a standard 3D projector, drowned in chest thumping sound, I was hooked. I took a moment to look… Continue reading