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December 21, 2005

KONG, Kong, kong... pt2

Ok, so I was able to go see this epic again with my family over the weekend, and this time I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride.

It was exciting, and full of energy, my fiance kept looking over at me but I wouldn't turn away from the screen, I was homed in. It's a fantastic story so some of the action that occurs is a bit over the top and outside reality, but it wasn't about being grounded in reality, you can just go on this adventure in awe and laugh along this ride.

After all is said and done, it's still a bit long, some of if needed some tightening up. And other pieces never panned out, what happend to Jimmy? They built up the relationship between Hayes and Jimmy, but after they capture Kong, we never see what happend to Jimmy...

The other thing that was brought to my attention that didn't bother me until I thought about it is, once Jack and Ann fly off on the bat wing and land in the river, they cut to them running in the jungle pretty much at the native wall, I don't think this bothered me because it was leading up to about 6 of my shots in that seq, hehe but it's a huge leap from wet in the river to dry running in the jungle. Anyhow the movie works, a touch long, but some of the best action to be seen on the big screen for me, with a solid heart warming story.

As for the VFX, I've read a lot of threads and reviews and talk of the terrible spills, and dodgy this, black edges that, crappy weta compositing... and huge praise on Kong, the fur, the animation, etc.

There are a few moments and shots I cringe at, one of them my own shot that was an omit, but made it's way back int he cut. But as for the rest, I could care less, all the vfx shots are sucsessful and some are beautiful, and some are a bit dodgy, and tons nobody even thinks about being a vfx shot, but you know what? It doesn't matter one bit, it's still great work and fun to watch. Even if Ann in Kong's hand looks fakey at times... it is fake, :)

The team of compositors at Weta are made up of the best in the industry, bar none. So I'm sticking my tongue out to all the Kong Komp Bashers out there, =P

good night, and good luck.

Posted by dschnee at 9:27 AM

December 16, 2005

Shaggy Dog Trailer

Looking around the net and I came across the Shaggy Dog trailer spotted over @ JoBlo's Movie Trailers: They are using a still from one of my shots on the site, the one below with zee long tongue.

'The Shaggy Dog' Exclusive Trailer Premire


This dog show is slated for March 10th, 2006

Posted by dschnee at 4:48 PM

Academy Announces Visual Effects Competitors

in bold are my predictions for this years shortlist...

Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced the seven films in consideration for Achievement in Visual Effects for the 78th Academy Awards®.

The films are listed below in alphabetical order:

"Batman Begins"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"
"King Kong"
"Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith"
"War of the Worlds"

Fifteen-minute clip reels from each of the seven films will be screened for the Visual Effects Award Nominating Committee on Wednesday, January 25. At this screening the members will vote to nominate three of the seven films for Oscar® consideration.

All nominations for the 78th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 31, 2006, at 5:30 a.m. PST, in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements for 2005 will be presented on March 5, 2006, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PST.

- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Posted by dschnee at 10:34 AM

December 14, 2005

KONG, Kong, kong... pt1

The time has come and past, I caught the 8pm showing of King Kong on opening night with some friends, friends from Tippett, my housemate from Weta, and a slew of others. What can I say... it was great to finally see it up there on the big screen, all 3+ hours of it, whew.

I must admit, it was a bit hard for me to fully emerse myself in the movie, partly because of working on it and curiosity of paticular shots that I was waiting to see completed. So this took me out of the drama a bit, I think the length contributed a smidge to it as well, but god damn, did that gorilla look guuud! I'm still amazed at how well Kong looks.

I really enjoyed the water sequence when the Venture and it's crew start into the fog outside the island, that was a great ride and the start of the fantastic adventure the audience and I were about to take. Also because I saw how difficult those shots were and watched a lot of that sequence progress and finish up while I was there at Weta, it looked great.

I'm truly looking forward to seeing this one again soon, it was a bit of a blur looking back on it now, some what surreal, at times I'd focus on the audiences reactions, like I said I wasn't fully along for the ride but sort of watching it go by. So I think I will save any more commentary until after I see it again this weekend.

I was very excited to see that I made the credits for this epic, and with all the damn compositors up there I nearly missed seeing it!?! (bottom left hand column) :) I couldnt figure how they would leave anyone out of the credits, everyone worked there butts off on this one, and it shows.

A huge congratulations to all of the Weta Digital artists and technicians, and of course the compositors that sent this one home, simply amazing work.

Posted by dschnee at 11:27 PM

King Kong is Released!

in the USA 14 December 2005

visit King Kong @ imdb.com

Box Office Results Dec. 16-18, 2005

Number: 1
Weekend Gross: $50,130,145
Theatres: 3568
Theatre Average: $14,049
Weeks in Release: 1
Total Gross: $66,181,645
Budget: $207 million.

'King Kong' a Gentle Giant on Opening Day

by Brandon Gray December 15, 2005

Relative to industry and media expectations, Universal Pictures' King Kong was a big softy on opening day, grabbing $9.8 million from around 7,500 screens at 3,567 playdates.

"We think the numbers are fine," countered Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. "We think we had a great kickoff to a film that we known has great playability. Based on word-of-mouth we're confident it only gets better from here."

Director Peter Jackson's $207 million remake of the 1933 monster movie notched the 21st biggest Wednesday opening on record, significantly less than the $18.2 million start of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Prior to the debut, Universal had suggested Fellowship as a benchmark.

"Kong didn't break any records," Rocco said. "But I think exhibition is thrilled. There were no kids out of school, and there were terrible weather conditions. Kong's not a built-in franchise. It's not a geeky kind of thing. It wasn't a record breaker, but it's a solid start. A million and half people [from opening day] will be spreading word-of-mouth. I think we're going to have a fabulous weekend."

A mid-week launch of King Kong's magnitude in December prior to Christmas lacks much precedent. The Lord of the Rings pictures each opened on Wednesdays, but they struck a little later in December as the Christmas movie-going season was heating up. Rocco noted that vacation for the nation's schools doesn't start until Monday, when 42 percent will be out.

The Wednesday launch of a hyped event picture will normally equal around 25 percent to 50 percent of the opening weekend. The most notable exception was Shrek 2. The fractured fairy tale sequel began with an $11.8 million Wednesday but went on to enjoy a $108 million opening weekend.

Additionally, King Kong bowed in 36 foreign territories on Wednesday and racked up an estimated $8 million, bringing its worldwide opening day to about $17.8 million.


*Academy Award® for Best Visual Effects: Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
*BAFTA Award for Visual Effects
*Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture
*Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture
*Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture
*Critics Choice Award for Distinguished Achievement in Performing Arts
*National Board of Review Award for Outstanding Achievement in Special Effects

BoxOfficeMojo.com's "King Kong" Statistics

Posted by dschnee at 1:01 AM

December 12, 2005

1 Week To Go,

(Ok, 2Days!?!) The second to last production diary covers the New York City Times Square premiere and after party... great stuph, check it out: "Post Production Diary - 1 Week to Go!"

Here is a nice spread on some of the visual effects on Kong,

Bigger and Badder
How Weta Digital Bulked Up for King Kong

By Barbara Robertson
December 1, 2005 Source: Film & Video
VFX supervisor Joe Letteri has won two Oscars, a Technical Achievement Award, and an Oscar nomination in the past three years at Weta Digital. Now, he’s doing something really big: Peter Jackson’s King Kong. We got him on the phone, a month from his deadline on Kong at Weta’s Wellington, New Zealand facilities, to talk about the new technology and techniques Weta devised to meet Kong’s many challenges.

Size Matters
Weta Digital grew from around 420 people to slightly over 500 for Kong. Letteri drafted Ben Snow as co-VFX supervisor early and, later, added two more top supes (see sidebar, below). "We have about 20 to 25 percent more people," says Letteri. "System-wise, we’ve about doubled our capacity in terms of render farm, disk space, and everything since Rings." As on previous films, Weta built its pipeline around Alias’s Maya, Pixar’s RenderMan and Apple’s Shake. Massive software, which had moved armies for Rings, managed the digital people and vehicles that populate Weta’s digital New York.

"We also used [Digital Domain’s] Nuke a bit because it has a nice ability to work with 3D, so it’s good to help build environments and do pre-comp," says Letteri. "And we still have Infernos here."

For Rings, Weta used a separate company for DI, but for Kong, they created an in-house DI department based on a Discreet Lustre system.[Color Supervisor Peter Doyle worked with Supervising Digital Colorist David Cole and Lead Colorists Billy Wychgel and Melissa Hangleon.] "We also streamlined and improved things in the back end — the hardware side, the networking and infrastructure," says Letteri, "and we had one big philosophical change in the pipeline: We are more geared toward pulling information together at render time than carrying it through individual scenes."

What does that mean? Technical directors now light and move low-resolution proxies rather than highly detailed geometry, whether they’re juggling complex scenes or complex characters. The high-resolution geometry rolls into RenderMan at render time.

"With a creature like Kong, you don’t want to open a Maya scene and have all the fur in it — and you obviously can’t open up a scene with all of New York in it — so we built a system that uses proxies," explains Letteri, "Everything is actually generated at render time. The system outputs whatever the camera is seeing whenever it needs it."

Working with proxies is not unusual. Studios typically use RenderMan’s RIB archives to see low-res on screen and then output high-res at render time. But rather than relying on RIB archives, Weta integrated a more flexible custom system into its pipeline.

"I’m guessing we’re not the only ones doing that," Letteri says. "As you start building bigger and more complex scenes, you still need fast feedback and turnaround time, and this is the only way to manage it. You can’t wait forever for things to update."

In addition, Kong’s demands required the creation of new simulation and motion-capture tools. New fur software made the ape hairy, new fluid-simulation software moved oceans, and new motion-capture tools helped animators ape Kong.

Super-Sized Sims
"We had a fairly good fur solution for Rings, but there wasn’t all that much fur," says Letteri. "And, there are good fur engines available — Maya’s got fur, and there’s also Shave and Haircut. But, when it comes down to putting five million hairs on Kong and making sure you can control what they’re all doing for every shot, you need your own software. If something doesn’t look right, you have to able to open it up and figure out what’s going on."

The fur-simulation software and new fur shaders generate, groom and animate Kong’s five million hairs when he moves, manage collisions with other objects, ruffle his hair in the wind and allow it to get dirty and muddy.

The crew also wrote a fluid-dynamics solver to create an ocean for Kong’s voyage to New York. The problems with commercial tools they had used and tested whirled around interaction and scalability. Some fluid solvers could manage an entire ocean or waves breaking around a boat, for example, but not both at the same time.

"When you need waves breaking off a boat in a whole ocean, it gets complicated," says Letteri. "We needed something that would do the broad solution and the small, specific solution where there is interaction."

Gorilla My Dreams
Of course, one of the biggest challenges in the film was its star. Modelers created Kong— and the digital doubles he interacts with— in Maya with help from a new tool Weta calls Mudbox. "It acts more like a painting system than a modeling system," says Letteri.

Looking for Mudbox?
See Also: Official Mudbox demonstration by Petey Konig at CA/MB Workshop! June 9-12-2006 in Montreal

To breathe life into Kong, rather than rely solely on keyframe animation for the CG gorilla, the crew turned to techniques and the actor who had created the Ring’s Gollum: they motion-captured Andy Serkis. Like Gollum, a gorilla has similar musculature to a human, even though the body and face shape is different. This time, though, the crew captured Serkis’s face and body simultaneously and the animators used data from Serkis’s performance for facial expressions as well. New software made it possible for animators to drive the CG gorilla with the mocap data or with keyframe animation, and a new system interpreted Serkis’s facial expressions before mapping data onto the 3D model.

"This is an expression-based system," says Letteri. "The software looks at the dots on Andy’s face, figures out what his expression says— that he’s sad, for example— and then applies that to Kong. We’re using mocap not just to move geometry around, but to actually interpret the actor’s expression and apply that to the character’s expression."

While Kong had to seem believable, Weta’s digital double for actor Naomi Watts had to be real. To capture Watts and create her double, the crew turned to Paul Debevec’s image-based Light Stage system at the ICT Graphics Lab. "We’ve moved more into image-based lighting than in the past for real actors and for real materials for set extensions," says Letteri.

As work on the production nears the end, Letteri sounds pleased. "We’re swamped right now, but it’s going well. The show is so big that people could take on large sequences and run with them. It’s given the crew good opportunities." And, perhaps, another Oscar nomination?

Bring In The Supes
At the start of the show, two-time visual effects Oscar nominee Ben Snow (Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, Pearl Harbor) came aboard as co-visual effects supervisor. And then, during the last few months, two more heavy-duty VFX supes were brought in: George Murphy, VFX supervisor for Constantine, The Matrix Revolutions and Reloaded, who won an Oscar for Forrest Gump, and Scott Anderson, who received Oscar noms for Starship Troopers and Hollow Man, and won for Babe.

"A big chunk of the movie takes place in New York, another big chunk on Skull Island, and another on the voyage, so we broke it down roughly that way," Letteri says. "Ben is supervising and shepherding many of the big scenes on Skull Island and New York that we started early on. Scott picked up the new New York shots, and George has a lot of the coverage of Skull Island."

Joe Letteri’s Academy Awards History
2005 Oscar Nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for I, Robot
2004 Oscar for Best Visual Effects for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004 Technical Achievement Award for groundbreaking implementations of
practical methods for rendering skin and other translucent materials
using subsurface scattering techniques
2004 Oscar for Best Visual Effects for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
In Focus
Joe Letteri began his career at Industrial Light & Magic, where he was CG supervisor/artist on The Abyss, Jurassic Park and Casper. He was an associate visual effects supervisor on Mission Impossible and visual effects supervisor on Magnolia. Universal’s Kong, scheduled for release December 14, is his fourth film as visual effects supervisor at Weta, following the final two Lord of the Rings movies and I, Robot.

Posted by dschnee at 8:08 AM

December 6, 2005

Jackson's Kong finally unveiled

Last night with the premiere of King Kong in New York. A full scale Kong was set up in Times Square and there are some pictures here.

There are a slew of reviews out there, none of which I'm reading but they all look positive and seem to love the film. Rottentomatoes.com so far is @ 100%. Kongisking.net has tons of updates so go over there and get your fill on the latest Kong Updates...

The official site has put up 4 more TV SPOTs which include some of the last shots worked on in the shop and it's very exciting to see them completed and looking great. 3 of them also have that one shot from behind Kong grabbing hold of the native wall, it was my first shot with the monkey in it(well I did a shot with just his mit prior to that one), and it's fun to see it in the tv spots!

Here are some more TV Spots:


Over @ vfxblog.com there is a decent spread on some of the vfx of Kong with an interview with VFX Soup Ben Snow.

Posted by dschnee at 7:56 PM

December 4, 2005

Raise The Woof?

ack... a friend of mine sent me this a couple weeks ago, here it is, The Shaggy Dog US Poster.

Posted by dschnee at 10:15 AM

December 2, 2005

Thinking Outside The Box Office

I just read a great article in the latest issue of 'Wired', with an interview with Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean's 11). Soderbergh is going to release his latest film Bubble into theatres, on DVD, and on cable TV all on the same day. Saying that if you look at any of the big films in the last 4 years, 'It has been available in all formates on the day of release. It's called piracy.'

The biggest worry would then be, why go to the theatre if you can see at home on your nice projected screen without the fuss of dirty, loud, expensive theatres? I still enjoy the experience of going to the cinema, that will never change for me, but like Soderbergh says 'They're making it easy for people to stay home'.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction is of a simultaneous release in all the major formats.

Another portion of the article that interests me, while at the same time tires me is Soderbergh's interest in doing multiple versions of the same film. Stating 'I often do very radical cuts of my own films just to experiment, shake things up, and see if anything comes of it.' So the initial version would come out, then a few weeks later v2.0, recut, rescored, etc.

They say movies are made 3 times, the first time when it's written, secondly when it's filmed, and the 3rd time in editorial when you cut it all together. The director and editors have full control over how we will experience the story, so it's a cool idea to release alternative cuts, but it also seems like this concept would be abused and consumer whored out as a great way to make $$$, like squeezing 3 glasses of lemonade out of one lemon. For those seriously interested you will have ticket sales x3, dvd sales x3, etc. But then again it might just all even out becuase not everyone will watch all the versions. Anyhow cool concept, I think it could be a great thing for a few select projects, One cut could cater to the studios, another soley to the directors vision. I'd just hate to see 3 radical versions of White Chicks out there, =P

We are in a remix culture, he goes onto discuss Dangermouse's Grey Album which took the lyrics to Jay-Z's Black Album and remixed with The Beatles White Album. Onto how facinating it'd be to do a mash up of Gus Van Sant's Psyco with Hitchcock's Original Psycho, because Gus's Psyco was a shot by shot duplicate of the original.

It was a very interesting article, and it will be available to read on Wired.com on December 5th.


Posted by dschnee at 5:57 AM