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

MastersFX VES Nomination for dMFX

Digital Makeup Shines at VES Awards The Visual Effects Society has nominated Hemlock Grove as one of its finalists for best visual effects in a television program.  It is an achievement to have digital makeup effects (dMFX) nominated for such a prestigious award, and hopefully a trend for the community at large for acceptance of the craft. It is an honor to be part of that crew, and to be nominated by our peers. Below is a press release about the work, and a link to a video showing some of the many shows in 2014 involving the dMFX, and MFX teams in the united… 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

Lost Concepts: Part 1 — Almost Human

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Lost Concepts

  Almost Human Concept Art Occasionally a sketch can become something else.  I have taken to the iPad for illustration, as many have over the past few years.  it is convenient, and allows me to do more finished work as well as sketch on-the-fly.  Tasked to do some concept illustrations for the series Almost Human, I quickly re-purposed one of my sketches for varying concepts of android design for the (unfortunately) cancelled show.  Here are some of them: The unique elements in this were the hot-shoe attachment on the bridge of the nose, and detachable jaw kit for extra equipment packages.… 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

Gorilla VFX : Episode 2 — What I Learned From Spider-Man

This gallery contains 10 photos.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Gorilla VFX

Two Simple Tricks For Professional Results. After Jumanji it was all about gamma blasting to check the black levels, but with the 2002 Spider-Man talk at SIGGRAPH, two new composite analysis methods came to the forefront to improve quality — and almost nobody noticed. There he was, John Dykstra, at the front of the theater at SIGGRAPH talking about the work Sony Imageworks did for the first Spider-Man movie. Discussions on character rigging, virtual cameras, web dynamics, digital New York — all fascinating. Giant teams of artists making onscreen magic, and properly defining the parameters of a superhero film.  However, out of all… Continue reading

AGsketchbook — Oct. 19, 2014

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series AGsketchbook

Scribble Ships It is easy to fall into a pattern or style of illustration. To break the monotony, or creative block I occasionally like to apply an exercise I learned in Art School. The fact is, with a slight application of imagination, even a scribble can look like a face.  Therefore scribble on a page, and find the face. I figured this would work for spacecraft as well.   This illustration is named AXLE. It is the first scribble ship to be presented in the #AGsketchbook, but will not be the last. I like it because it has a James… Continue reading

The AG_Punkwerks Blog — Year One

One Year of Content and Cool Directions.   Well folks, it is officially the first anniversary of the AG_Punkwerks blog (Sept. 11 is the actual date, but it went live in October).  Thanks for your readership, and continued enthusiasm for the odd collection of things roughly hung from the limbs of a tree named VFX. Old stuff, new stuff, stuff nobody has seen, and stuff to talk about. You know, lots of stuff — eventually. What are the results? Many ongoing series: 1. Articles covering the VFX War raging between VFX workers/facilities and government kickbacks throughout the world.  More to come in… Continue reading