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November 29, 2006

Pirates Sequel 'Breaks DVD Record'

p2DVD2disc.jpgJust Wow... Worldwide Box Office: $1,064,087,628 Million Dollars...(are you thinking of Austin Powers?) so yeah the DVD should do very well indeed... check out the Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) over @ Amazon.com and click here for the DVD Features (releases December 22, 2006)

The Pirates of the Caribbean sequel has become the UK's fastest-selling DVD of all time, says distributor Walt Disney.

Nearly 1.5m copies of the Johnny Depp film have been sold in just one week - one in every four DVDs sold in the UK.

Demand has been so great that Disney says it has had to order another one million copies from its production facilities - in the Caribbean.

Last year's biggest-selling DVD was another Disney film, The Incredibles, which sold 1.9m copies in nine months.

The film company says that if demand for the Pirates DVD is sustained, it expects to sell more than three million copies before Christmas.

Dead Man's Chest set box office records during its cinema run earlier this year, when it became the fastest film to reach the $300m (£162m) total at the North American box office.

It is now the third-highest grossing film of all time, having taken more than $1.003bn (£536m) at the global box office.

However, it still lags behind Lord of the Rings: Return Of The Kings, which took $1.1bn (£590m) and Titanic, which sold $1.8bn (£965m) of tickets.

A third Pirates film, At World's End, is due to hit cinemas in May 2007.

DVD Features:

* Available Subtitles: Spanish, French
* Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
* Commentary by screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio
* Bloopers of the Caribbean
* "Charting the Return" featurette
* "According to Plan" hour-long production documentary
* "Captain Jack: From Head to Toe" featurette
* "Mastering the Blade" featurette
* "Meet Davy Jones: Anatomy of a Legend" featurette
* "Creating the Kraken" featurette
* "Dead Men Tell New Tales: Re-Imagineering the Attraction" featurette
* "Fly on the Set: The Bone Cage" featurette
* Jerry Bruckheimer: A Producer's Photo Diary
* Pirates on Main Street: The Dead Man's Chest Premiere
* Easter Eggs

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Posted by dschnee at 7:18 AM

November 20, 2006

Constantine 2? in the works...

without Francis Lawrence directing...but remember Bullock's! said No on Constantine 2?

From rottentomatoes.com
Posted by Scott Weinberg on Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, 05:38 AM

Ftopel writes: "Constantine" was one of the better reviewed comic book movies in the beginning of 2005, but a sequel was not immediately green lit. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner assures fans that one is definitely in the works.

"Yes, with Keanu," she said. "We have been working with a team of writers to come up with a story and yes, we will."

Shuler Donner hopes "Constantine 2" will push the limits of spiritual action even further. "It's going to be a hard R. We're going to go for it this time. The area that we found, it's very scary. It's good."

"Constantine 2" won't return John Constantine to the comic book's London setting, but he will get out of L.A. "Another country though. It's outside of America."

Francis Lawrence will not be available to direct "Constantine 2," but Shuler Donner is keeping him involved. "Different director but Francis will produce it. We will try to maintain his vision."

Posted by dschnee at 11:39 AM

November 16, 2006

Race is on for Visual Effects Oscar

This article was found on (monstersandcritics.com) today... it includes 'Charlotte`s Web' and actually mentions us!?! wait who? TIPPETT! A couple of films I'm really excited to see is Darren Aronofsky`s The Fountain which releases next friday, and Guillermo del Toro's Pan`s Labryinth, both should be very imaginative, beautiful, and fantastic!

This years VFX Oscar could prove tough...there was some great work in Pirates 2 with Davy Jones, and I thought the folks at Weta and Lola did some fantastic work on X-Men 3, and Superman Returns had it's moments...I haven't seen MI3 yet, but I doubt that and Casino Royal will have any real chance...with Eragon, "Our hope is that Weta is going to do for dragons what Jurassic Park [and ILM] did for dinosaurs. " says Tom Rothman (20th Century Fox Chairman)...really Tom? Yeah, so The Fountain will showcase microphotography to simulate galactic clouds and pillars of dark matter in space for the films climax, and ditch the digital VFX route (awesome!), read more about Aronofsky's controversial sci-fi epic in the wired.com spread The Outsider. And the sweet bit of visual eye candy will come from Guillermo del Toro's Pan`s Labryinth... you should just check out the trailer, it pretty much speaks for itself. Aruna and Digital Domain created seamless supporting work on Flags of our Fathers, "The digital Iwo Jima invasion in "Flags of Our Fathers" is so faithful that even veterans have mistaken the shots for documentary footage." says David S. Cohen of Variety.com "It's provocative, but not as effects-dependent as the other contenders, and its violence may be too graphic for some."

'Charlotte`s Web'
"Tippett Studio designed the film`s only other entirely CG character, Templeton the rat. "We tried really hard not to make Templeton too anthropomorphic," Berton says. "We wanted him to look like a trained rat, not a computer character. He doesn`t ever do something you don`t believe is real. Except, of course, talk!"

"With no "Harry Potter" or "Narnia" among this year's holiday pics, the big wild card here may be "Charlotte's Web." The live-action film promises to take the talking-animal picture (a staple on the animation side this year) to a new level."

Following is a look at the eye-popping films headed to theaters later this year.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Capt. Jack Sparrow`s soul isn`t the only trophy tempting Davy Jones, the villain from 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man`s Chest.' The creepy creation of visual effects supervisor John Knoll and his team at Industrial Light + Magic is considered by many to be a front-runner in what`s shaping up to be a heated race for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences` visual effects' prize.

Still, the path to awards-season gold will be anything but smooth sailing. Not only will 'Pirates' be sparring with numerous other summer spectacles including 'Poseidon,' 'Superman Returns,' 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and 'Mission: Impossible 3' - an impressive group of year-end entries.

'Casino Royale'

Visual effects supervisor Steven Begg might jokingly refer to 'Casino Royale' as 'Bond Begins', a reference to 'Batman Begins,' which relaunched that action-adventure franchise last summer - but the upcoming installment in the James Bond film series does usher in a new era for the suave superspy, with Daniel Craig in the starring role and a story line that details his first mission.

With that in mind, Begg says he decided to take a back-to-basics approach to ensure that the film`s visual effects didn`t overwhelm the stunts, which were designed to be both awe-inspiring yet based in reality. "I think the last few (films) in particular had an air of unreality that contradicted the reality of the stunts," Begg says.

Begg collaborated closely with special effects and miniature effects supervisor Chris Corbould, a Bond veteran, on scenes including the opening sequence, which sees the spy chase villain Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) across giant cranes high atop a construction site.

"There`s some amazing stuntwork," Begg says. "We had safety wires on them just in case, so the bulk of our work in the sequence was wire and rig removal. There were also a few greenscreen shots, purely for convenience- if they needed an extreme close-up of Daniel Craig or if we had very large drops underneath them."

The end result proved incredibly convincing, at least, according to Begg. "This is the most brutal James Bond ever," he says.

'Charlotte`s Web'

When it comes to talking animals, realism isn`t exactly the first word that leaps to mind - a fact that made visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr.`s job that much more difficult when he took the reins on 'Charlotte`s Web,' the upcoming live-action adaptation of E.B. White`s beloved 1952 children`s fable about 'some pig' and his best friend, a barn spider.

The film features a unique menagerie, with human characters like Dakota Fanning`s Fern interacting with real and digitally created barnyard critters, and required a whopping 900 effects shots. "There were times where we`d go, `That doesn`t look realistic,` and then we`d realize, `Do you notice the sheep are talking!?" Berton says with a laugh.

But the challenges faced by Berton, animation supervisor Eric Leighton and the animators at Rising Sun Pictures, who created the film`s heroine, Charlotte, involved not only achieving a consistent look among the real and computer-generated animals but ensuring that the end result would appear uniform even though the effects were split up among several key houses.

Rhythm & Hues Studios did more than 300 digital mouth replacements on real animals, while Digital Pictures animated additional animals and Fuel International created baby spiders, among other tasks. "We wanted everything to look like it was part of the same tone," Berton says. "But to make a realistic spider - they don`t have a face, you know? We had to find that balance between realism and performance. We decided to give (Charlotte) more expression but still not go over the top where suddenly she`s a cartoon."

In fact, the team reworked the initial character design to improve Charlotte`s ability to emote. "We restructured her facial muscles to permit more expression," Berton says. "We made her two main eyes bigger and moved her six secondary eyes around to create a bit more structure to her face, which gave her more femininity."

Tippett Studio designed the film`s only other entirely CG character, Templeton the rat. "We tried really hard not to make Templeton too anthropomorphic," Berton says. "We wanted him to look like a trained rat, not a computer character. He doesn`t ever do something you don`t believe is real. Except, of course, talk!


Adapting Christopher Paolini`s best-selling novel about a boy and his dragon, 'Eragon' proved particularly complicated for first-time feature director Stefen Fangmeier, despite his extensive experience with mythical beasts during his previous career as an Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor.

For one thing, the female dragon, Saphira, is blue in the novel - an unlikely color, even for a dragon. "You want to be true to the essence of her character from the book, but you still have to fit her into the scene,"' Industrial Light + Magic visual effects supervisor Samir Hoon says. "'In nature, you don`t see creatures that size that are vibrant blue. We had to come up with sophisticated rendering techniques of iridescence and scale patterns so she could be blue and still look like she belonged in the shots."

Secondly, Saphira communicates telepathically, but since the actress vocalizing the part hadn`t yet been cast, the animators couldn`t impart the unknown performer`s mannerisms to the CG character. "t would`ve been better if we`d had a track, but we didn`t," Hoon says. "We paid a lot of attention to her eyes to make them alive because they had to express a lot."

Finally, Saphira had to be animated from a hatchling to maturity, all the while interacting closely with Eragon (Edward Speleers); in two major aerial sequences, Saphira soars heavenward with Eragon on her back. The filmmaker shot those scenes against a bluescreen with Speleers on a saddle straddling a mockup of Saphira`s torso and neck that sat atop a motion rig, which was driven by the movement of the animated character and later replaced with the digital dragon.

"We wanted to get as much realistic motion from the live action as possible," Hoon says. "For some shots, we used the Cyclops motion-control camera, so both the rig and the camera were locked to the animation and we could almost see the final shot in real time on-set. But there were other times where we`ve added more secondary motion or more sweeping camera moves. It was all about making Saphira`s flight look sleek and fast."

'The Fountain'

Writer-director Darren Aronofsky`s metaphysical tale of love and death, 'The Fountain,' might span thousands of years, but the filmmaker was determined to keep the film`s most outre component rooted in the modern world - at least as far as the visual effects were concerned.

In one of 'Fountain`s' three interweaving narratives, the lead character (portrayed by Hugh Jackman) travels the galaxy in a clear, sphere-shaped spaceship that contains the mythical Tree of Life, but Aronofsky insisted that his psychedelic vision of the universe not be created using CG imagery - which he thought would look dated - but rather with optical effects that would give the film a timeless quality.

"It would`ve been so easy to say, `Oh cool, we`re going to make outer space on the computer the way they did in 'Superman Returns,'" but Darren really wanted everything to be organic,' visual effects designer Dan Schrecker says. So, he and his Amoeba Proteus colleague, visual effects designer and second unit director Jeremy Dawson - both Aronofsky`s college friends and his go-to effects gurus on 1998`s 'Pi' and 2000`s 'Requiem for a Dream' found a creative solution.

"We worked with Peter Parks (responsible for the film`s optical effects), who does science macrophotography of reactions in petri dishes, and that`s how we ended up creating all the outer-space footage," Dawson says. "There`s something beautiful about the idea of shooting outer space that way - the chemical reactions in that petri dish must be the same ones going on inside nebulas."

Afterward, Toronto-based Intelligent Creatures surrounded the shots of the spaceship set, which had been filmed in front of a 180-degree greenscreen , with a CGI bubble and then composited it onto the outer-space background. When Dawson and Schrecker finally saw the result of their labors, they were shocked by the film they`d helped to create. "This one is very heartfelt," Schrecker says.

'Night at the Museum'

It would be difficult to think of a visual effects obstacle that Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel didn`t surmount during the years he spent toiling on the films in Peter Jackson`s epic 2001-03 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. But Rygiel, also second unit director on the film, managed to find one in 'Night at the Museum' - namely, creating complex effects that would play well in a comedy.

The film stars funnyman Ben Stiller as a night watchman who has to decide what to do when various exhibits spring to life, which meant that Rygiel had to animate not only a tyrannosaurus rex and a hoard of African animals but a virtual army of miniature cowboys led by Owen Wilson. With more than 400 visual effects shots required, several houses were recruited to finish the work: Image Engine Design, the Orphanage, Rainmaker and Rhythm & Hues.

Rygiel says he was determined to keep the action as photorealistic as possible, which required tremendous attention to detail. "We wanted the lion to act like a real lion, not a caricature, but hit its marks," Rygiel says. "You can easily build a (digital) dog and stick it out there, but it doesn`t look real until you start working on the mucous membrane in the eye. Very subtle things bring characters to life hundredfold, and it was caring for all that that made these characters look real."

Another challenge facing Rygiel and his team was how to create realistic miniature environments for Wilson and his fellow toy cowboys and Roman soldiers. "We started with miniature sets, but when we got down into the microworld, there are depth-of-field problems," he says. "You need endless depth of field for our guys to appear 3 inches tall, so we decided to do the whole world in virtual. The environments were generally all 2-D matte-painting set extensions derived from the real dioramas. Then, we had our live-action guys in the foreground - Owen Wilson and his compadres and the Romans. But the other 5,000 miniature soldiers behind them were all computer-generated using Massive (Software)."

In a strange way, however, 'Night' was like going home for Rygiel. "It had that same cornucopia of effects as (`Lord of the Rings`) all folded into a comedy," he says.

'Pan`s Labryinth'

Director Guillermo del Toro and visual effects supervisor Everett Burrell first teamed up on 2004`s 'Hellboy,' a comic-book-themed piece of action and eye candy with a budget in the neighborhood of $66 million. But when it came time for the pair to collaborate on 'Pan`s Labyrinth,' del Toro`s gothic fairy tale, which had a budget much closer to $5 million, they had far fewer financial resources to draw from - even though the production is, in some ways, almost equally ambitious considering its smaller scope.

Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War in the 1940s, the story follows Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl who is taken to an abandoned mill to live with her mother`s new husband. After she enters a garden maze, Ofelia finds herself transported into a new world inhabited by fantastic creatures and watched over by a faun named Pan (Doug Jones).

"We had to really be conscious because we only had so many shots we could go all out on," Burrell says. 'So, we could shoot what we wanted, but once we get into editing, we can`t have it all. We were budgeted for 200 shots, but afterward, we were at 400-plus shots, so it was a give and take."

In order to make the shots more effective, Burrell says he and his team at CafeFX embraced the idea of dark, grainy imagery. Specifically, he used shadows to his advantage - both to underscore the dark underpinnings of the fairy tale and to enhance the atmosphere onscreen.

"The lighting was very moody, and the creatures would go in and out of the lighting, and that created a nice template for us since our creatures weren`t lit in the bright light," he says. "It helped us integrate our creatures into the environment - like Pan, who would appear in the room coming from a shadow and exit into a shadow. So, it was an interesting entrance and exit device."

© 2006 VNU eMedia. All Rights Reserved

In-you-face f/x

War, pirates, flying and fantasy take CG center stage

The race for the visual effects Oscar is still a big guessing game, since some holiday releases remain unseen, including Paramount's "Charlotte's Web" and Fox's "Eragon." But so far, the race is ecclectic, including a war zone, fantasies and a 13-year-old's fantasy deathmatch: pirates vs. superheroes.

Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" took motion-capture and digital characters to a new level. Its villains, including Bill Nighy as Davy Jones, were captured on set, in a new process that Industrial Light & Magic considers a trade secret. Allowing thesps to work in a more natural environment, vs. a greenscreen, can improve the quality of mo-cap performances -- things Academy voters notice. Nighy's eyes were digitally replaced while retaining his emotion and expression.

Fox's "X-Men: The Last Stand," though, offered perhaps the most talked-about visual effect of the year: the opening flashback sequence in which Patrick Stewart and Ian Mc-Kellen appear some 20 years younger. The rejuvenation was accomplished by Lola Visual Effects without the aid of makeup. It represents a significant breakthrough, and the kind that gets the attention of the Acad's effects branch.

In the '70s, Christopher Reeve's Superman flew with a lot of rigging, and his "Metropolis" was New York. In "Superman Returns," the city is mostly CGI and the flying Superman is often a digital double, albeit a very lifelike one rendered by Sony Imageworks. Film's shuttle disaster sequence is a highlight, and the Orphanage's shot featuring a bullet bouncing off Superman's eyeball, in closeup, is a contender for effects shot of the year.

On the other end of the spectrum are two films that re-create some of the more violent events in recent history. The digital Iwo Jima invasion in "Flags of Our Fathers" is so faithful that even veterans have mistaken the shots for documentary footage. Digital Domain rendered not just the island but many of the landing boats and digital extras. The extras and boats were given artificial intelligence so they would automatically stay on their assigned paths and avoid bumping into each other. Many explosions, with plumes of water, fire and sand, were digitally enhanced. Also, Par's "World Trade Center" features an unnervingly accurate re-creation of the 9/11 attacks.

In contention too is Warner's "Poseidon," which boasts some intricate CG work. Pic's opening, with cameras circling and zooming in on the ship, is billed as the most complex digital shot in ILM's accomplished history.

From an effects standpoint, "Pan's Labyrinth" is like "The Chronicles of Narnia" crossed with "Flags of Our Fathers." It's provocative, but not as effects-dependent as the other contenders, and its violence may be too graphic for some.

With no "Harry Potter" or "Narnia" among this year's holiday pics, the big wild card here may be "Charlotte's Web." The live-action film promises to take the talking-animal picture (a staple on the animation side this year) to a new level.

Read the full article at:

© 2006 Reed Business Information

Posted by dschnee at 11:27 AM

November 15, 2006

The Charlotte's Web Bells Holiday Teaser

charlotteswebonesheet.jpgWilbur's Size
The Rat Rules Size
Itsy-Bitsy Charlotte's Spiderlings Size

I think Charlotte looks a bit better as shown in this trailer, there are some great shots in there with back/rim lighting that highlight some of the detail and hairs on her legs and body. It gives her more shape and brings out more life to some of the other more flatly light shots...

Posted by dschnee at 7:33 AM

November 14, 2006

King Kong Deluxe Extended Edition Out Today!

A year in the making... take in some air...and the King Kong 3 Disc Deluxe Extended Edition is out today, whew. Everything I was hoping they would get in there is in there. They swept up the shots off the cutting room floor and completed them for our viewing pleasure. Kong's Capture sequence was a lot longer and had some great shots of Kong doing damage to the native architecture, all this and a ton more seems to be here. They had dvd crews coming through the comp department a number of times, and I was always disappointed that they never really put out a TD and Compositing video diary of the stuff we were cranking out... so again, I'm hoping all those goods will be in this edition.

So if you want the Limited Edition Weta sculpture of Kong climbing the Empire State Building you'll need to take in another breath for the... King Kong Deluxe Extended Limited Edition DVD Gift Set, ohhhBboy.

*King Kong (3 Disc Deluxe Extended Edition)Amazon*com
*King Kong (Deluxe Extended Limited Edition DVD Gift Set)Amazon*com

King Kong Extended Edition: Disc One

* 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
* English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Track
* Commentary with Director Peter Jackson & Producer Phillipa Boyens Part 1
* Sixteen Deleted Scenes (Totalling around 40 Minutes)
* English SDH, Spanish, French Subtitles

King Kong Extended Edition: Disc Two

* Commentary with Director Peter Jackson & Producer Phillipa Boyens Part 2
* The Eighth Blunder of the World Featurette
* The Present Featurette
* A Night in Vaudeville Featurette
* King Kong Homage
* Weta Collectables
* Selection of Trailers

King Kong Extended Edition: Disc Three

* The King Kong Archives
* Introduction by director Peter Jackson
* The Origins of King Kong Documentary
* Pre-Production Part 1: The Return of Kong
* Pre-Production Part 2: Countdown to Filming
* The Venture Journey Featurette
* Return to Skull Island Featurette
* New York, New Zealand Featurette
* Bringing Kong to Life Part 1: Design and Research
* Bringing Kong to Life Part 2: Performance and Animation
* The 1996 King Kong Video Gallery
* The Venture Video Gallery
* Skull Island Video Gallery
* New York Video Gallery
* Kong Video Gallery
* Arrival at Skull Island Pre-Viz Animatic
* Bronto Stampede Pre-Viz Animatic
* T-Rex Fight Pre-Viz Animatic
* Kong's Capture Pre-Viz Animatic
* Empire State Building Battle Pre-Viz Animatic
* Ann Disarms Kong Motion-Capture/Animation Comparison
* Kong's Capture Motion-Capture/Animation Comparison
* Kong in New York Motion-Capture/Animation Comparison
* DVD Credits and 1996 and 2005 Scripts (DVD-ROM)

Posted by dschnee at 6:47 AM

November 13, 2006

Spiderwick's Magical Mystery Mansion

Filmmakers build a real house in Cap St. Jacques to capture the enchantment of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Brendan Kelly @ The Gazette(canada.com)

If you happened to have taken a stroll recently in the Cap St. Jacques nature park on the West Island, you might have noticed something strange. There's a big striking looking house nestled in the woods that wasn't there just a few months back. That's the Spiderwick mansion, a magical place that will be familiar to the many young readers who've devoured the books in the popular kids series The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

The producers of the big-screen version of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which is currently shooting here, decided to build the enchanted mansion from scratch rather than film in an existing building. A major construction crew spent three months this summer putting together the impressive mansion in Cap St. Jacques. Often filmmakers will build a facade of, say, the front of a house on a film set. What's unusual here is that the producers built a real house - the only things missing for it to be habitable are heating and running water. "If you're going to call it The Spiderwick Chronicles and it's set at the Spiderwick mansion, you've got to make sure that once you visualize it, that it's going to have impact," producer Mark Canton said. "It's beautiful and it was worth it."

"They wanted to shoot the rich way," said Michele St. Arnaud, the film's location manager. The Spiderwick Chronicles - which is based on parts of several of the books in the five-novel series - is estimated to have a budget of $130 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever shot in Montreal. One reason they built the house from scratch is that the Spiderwick mansion is the main set in this flick, which Canton and Paramount Pictures are hoping will turn into a Harry Potter-like franchise movie series.

It is the story of the three Grace children - twin brothers Jared and Simon, both played by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Freddie Highmore, and sister Mallory, portrayed by Sarah Bolger from In America. They move into the Spiderwick mansion where they discover a book, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You (Spiderwick Chronicles) and an array of magical creatures, including goblins, boggarts, fairies, and the frightening ogre Mulgarath (to be played by Nick Nolte with considerable help from the computer-generated-effects department). *cough* (Tippett Studio)

The cast also includes Joan Plowright as the eccentric Aunt Lucinda, David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick, Mary-Louise Parker as the mother of the three kids, and Andrew McCarthy as her ex-husband. Martin Short will provide the voice of Thimbletack, one of the creatures.

St. Arnaud initially found a bed and breakfast in Stanstead in the Eastern Townships that she thought might work as the Victorian mansion, but the filmmakers decided it would be easier to film in a building constructed specifically for the film's needs.

St. Arnaud took the producers to Cap St. Jacques this spring, and when they drove up to the bungalow housing the park's administrative staff, the producers asked her - "Why don't we film here?"

The only hitch was the city of Montreal building right there. But a detail like that wasn't about to stop these Hollywood producers. They struck a deal with the city to tear down the building, and it was demolished in early July. (The five Cap St. Jacques administrators are currently working out of two luxury trailers in the park and are eventually supposed to move into an abandoned building, the Maison Richer, nearby.)

Director Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) and the rest of the crew spent most of October filming at the house in Cap St. Jacques and have now moved into Mel's Cite du Cinema studios, where the interiors of the Spiderwick mansion have been recreated. Shooting will continue there until the end of the year.

As for the Cap St. Jacques mansion, St. Arnaud said, "We're going to put a sort-of shrink wrap on the roof like they put on boats" and keep it until next spring in case they have to do re-shoots. After that, it will be torn down.

St. Arnaud notes that it also would've been expensive if they'd decided to shoot in the house in Stanstead because they would've had to put up the entire cast and Montreal crew in hotels there for a month.

"Cap St. Jacques offers the look of the country right in Montreal," St. Arnaud said. The filmmakers also shot in Rougemont, which was used for the magical forest scenes, and in Ormstown, which stood in for the small Vermont town where the story takes place. In addition, they shot the scenes with Aunt Lucinda in the sanatorium in a former convent in St. Cesaire.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is due in cinemas in March 2008.

Posted by dschnee at 1:29 PM

November 6, 2006

VFX of The Santa Clause 3

The Santa Clause 3: No Escaping These Yuletide VFX

Alain Bielik uncovers some of Santa’s vfx secrets from Furious FX and Tippett Studios in his coverage of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

VFXWorld's spread on the VFX of Santa Clause 3... below is Tippett's coverage! (more pics on the VFXWorld site, I helped comp the shot with the reindeer above)

Of Rudolph and Co.
Santa was also taken care of at Tippett Studios. Less than 10 shots were realized at the facility, but all were highly complex. The project was produced by Tim de Pala and supervised by Brennan Doyle, with Eric Leven taking over as supervisor for the last 10 weeks due to a scheduling conflict. “We created Santa’s reindeers, as we had done on the second movie,” Doyle says. “We also built several highly detailed large-scale environments such as Elfburg for the beginning of the film, and the frozen tundra of the North Pole as seen from the air. This last shot also required a CG plane to be created as well as an aurora borealis. For the reindeers, we re-used the CG models that we had built for the second movie, but ran them through a completely different pipeline. We have a proprietary new fur tool called Furocious that generates a much more realistic fur than what we used on The Santa Clause 2. The shots were animated in Maya, rendered in RenderMan, and composited in Shake.”

The trickiest part of the reindeer shots was linking the CG reindeers to the live-action sleigh with Allen and the rest of the actors sitting in it. The team started by having on-set matchmove supervisor Devin Breese previs the shots with motion control specifications provided by General Lift’s Joe Lewis. The previs was then recreated by the motion control team on the greenscreen set. General Lift’s team was able to drive the camera, but the sleigh was mounted on a hand controlled hydraulic gimbal rig. Much practicing was needed to synchronize the camera to the sleigh’s motion. Eventually a select was made and the camera move was reverse engineered to make it appear that the sleigh was moving through space, instead of the camera. They also locked the CG reindeers to the sleigh to give it the feeling that deer were initiating directional changes and the sleigh was following, rather then the other way around.”

Bringing Elfburg to Life
The exteriors and the interiors of the ice cave in which Elfburg is hidden were created under the supervision of painter Ben Von Zastrow. “We used World-Machine, a node based terrain generator, to create the basic terrain,” Von Zastrow explains. “I painted a series of masks in Photoshop to control everything from height to erosion and fed those into WM to create the terrain. Unfortunately, WM is a Windows-only application and, as such, suffers from Windows’ 2GB memory limit. As a result, I had to create it in four tiles, each of which was 4Kx4K. WM output a grayscale height field that I imported into Photoshop under OSX, and combined the four tiles into a single 8K map. Once I had an 8K height field, the whole thing was taken into Terragen via a plug-in called F.E.O. (which stands for "For Export Only"). The same tool then exported a low-res obj that I could import into Maya.
“I also created a simple plane that lived in the exact same location. I used an in-house shader in RenderMan to apply the original 8K height field as a displacement map on this simple plane and generate the actual terrain. This terrain was lit with some basic lighting, but had no shading other than a single, icy blue color. I then rendered a series of still frames of this basic, lit displacement and painted them up in Photoshop with all the details other than shadowing. These images were then projected from the same cameras used to originally render the base images onto the low-res obj imported from F.E.O. Finally, a ray-traced reflection pass was rendered and perturbed using a projected normal map to generate reflections of the aurora (which was originally created in 2D in comp).”

The elf village was modeled by Paul Zinnes, including 1,000 cards on which painted trees would be projected. Von Zastrow painted each of the houses in basic UV space and then rendered a single frame of the entire image in RenderMan with some basic lighting. He also rendered a single frame, from the same camera, of streetlights illuminating white buildings using mental ray and Final Gather. These images were combined in Photoshop and then painted on top of to give the final image of the elf village.

In the first movie, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) became Santa Claus. In the second, he found a new wife. In the third opus, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, opening from Walt Disney Pictures on Nov. 3, he must foil Jack Frost’s (Martin Short) crafty scheme to take over Christmas. Directed by Michael Lembeck, The Escape Clause, turned out to be a greater technical challenge than the first two movies, as more than 90% of the action took place at the North Pole. It meant that the elf world had to be significantly extended, with many new magical locations being introduced to the audience. A large part of this universe was created via elaborate sets designed by Richard J. Holland, but its real magic was crafted by digital artists at Furious FX and Tippett Studios, the two facilities selected by vfx producer David Yrisarri.

Having just delivered 115 shots for Sky High for Yrisarri, Furious FX was a logical candidate to handle the bulk of the work on The Santa Clause 3. The team included vfx producers Tracy Takahashi and Tiffany A. Smith, CG supervisor Mark Shoaf and creative director Kevin Lingenfelser. “We delivered just under 180 shots, which accounted for our largest project total to date and our most complex CG effects so far,” notes co-founder and exec producer Scott Dougherty. “We also had the notable distinction of being the first vfx house to alter the brand new Walt Disney Pictures CG logo (introduced with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) via an added opening segment where the logo is revealed in a snow globe, then picked up and shaken by Santa.”

Altering a Landmark Logo
It was Lembeck’s idea to extend the camera pull back on the Disney logo to reveal the snow globe in which it is supposedly encased, and then introduce Santa Claus, creating a smooth transition with the opening shot. “They wanted to get the audience into the movie right away,” Co-founder and exec vfx supervisor David Lingenfelser explains. “The only problem was that we got this assignment about three weeks before our deadline… And since we were altering the company’s logo, the approval process was more complex than it typically is. After heavy previsualization, we shot a locked off plate of Santa holding a base without any snow globe mounted onto it. Then, we tracked a CG snow globe to that base and projected that onto our CG camera move, so that the plate would move at the exact same rate as everything else in the shot. We used the 2K file of the Disney logo and tracked it to the snow globe, adding CG snow and a through-glass effect. All this was modeled, animated and rendered in Maya, before being composited in Shake, our main pipeline for this project.”

Although 80% of the CG elements created for the movie were rendered in Maya, there were some specific shots for which the team felt that RenderMan or mental ray were more appropriate. “Basically, whenever we had heavy effects particles that required motion blur, we used mental ray,” Lingenfelser notes. “That was the case for the magical gold dust that appears many times in the movie. And when we needed a lot of motion blur on a heavy CG object, like the toy mobile or the gift bag, we employed RenderMan.”

Revealing the Great Hall of Snow Globes
Snow globes also played a key role in the Snow Globes Room sequence, an extremely important effect for the director. Lembeck wanted it to be the most magical scene of the entire movie. In this sequence, the Hall of Snow Globes is revealed in all its glory. Surrounded by huge carved ice windows with changing colors, about 60 snow globes float magically in the room, each encasing an image linked to a previous Santa. “When we shot the plate, all that existed were the two actors and the frame of the room,” Lingenfelser says. “We added all the floor-to-ceiling windows, with CG frost animated to softly form and dissipate, the floating snow globes and their content, the snow falling down in the room, plus the artificial snow inside each globe, and all the interactive light on the environment. As a final step to give it a little bit more of a magical feeling, we added many highlights and glints on the globes that turned on and off.”

All the elements for this sequence were created in Maya. Once the team had the live-action plate, CG artists started by layering in the background windows. “We ran a lot of single frame tests playing with different shades and colors of background. We wanted to see what would give the best translucency on the frost layers covering the glass, without revealing any of the exteriors. We did about 60 iterations before finding the right balance. We then covered the windows with several layers of CG frost passes, and within Shake, we added little glints on the highlights of the glass that would twinkle quickly and go away. After that, we put in three layers of CG snow globes: background, mid ground and foreground. For the background globes, we decided to have some fun and included humorous objects, such as a snowman on a tropical island. Since the globes were all rotating, we had to use CGI to create every object. We even included a three-dimensional image of the director, for which we projected still photographs onto 3D geometry.”

Each snow globe required at least 11 passes: a brass base with its own highlight, the 3D interior object, reflections, refractions, artificial snow, and finally, diffusion. “Multiply this by about 60 snow globes and you’ll get an idea of what this sequence involved,” Lingenfelser observes. “To create a realistic refraction, we actually flopped the live action image upside down and tracked it to the globes. Seeing the actors being refracted upside down really sold the whole concept of the room. This sequence is visually so rich that you probably need to view it ten or twenty times to really see the amount of detail that we put into it…”

The advantage of breaking the shots down in many passes was that it gave the team much more control to tweak the images and get exactly what the director wanted. “If Michael preferred to have, say, less reflections or less refractions, we could back them off in 2D without going back to the 3D stage and re-rendering. In the long run, it probably saved us time, because we had so much more control on the 2D side.”

Giving Santa and Jack Frost Their Magic
Another major contribution from Furious FX was the creation of Jack Frost’s powers. The character is able to instantly freeze anything or anybody with a single breath. The Frost breath was a particle animation created and rendered in Houdini through a collaboration with Martin Labs. CG artists used 3D animation to reveal Frost’s diminishing powers, and to also show the character defrost on screen. Short was first shot twice, once performing the action with a blue jacket (as bad Jack), and then, with a white one (as good Jack). The key aspect of the sequence was the frosted blue jacket breaking up into hard pieces and falling off of Jack, revealing the pristine white cloth underneath. “We used high-resolution photographs of the real jackets, and scans of the fabrics, to create realistic cloth textures on our CG replicas,” Lingenfelser explains. “We then replaced the real jackets in the shot with the CG versions on which we did all the animation within Maya: cracks appearing, more and more chunks falling off… In the last shot, we transitioned to the live action Martin Short wearing the white jacket. The last tweak was to paint out Frost’s frozen eyebrows to complete the transition from bad Jack to good Jack.”

Artists at Furious FX also got to tackle Santa Claus and his many gadgets. The toy mobile was created in Maya and rendered in RenderMan, based on the practical prop that had been used on set. The colorful carousel is revealed in a unique manner, when Santa starts bouncing a simple chain up and down. “At the beginning, it’s just a chain, but we replaced it with a CG version and animated CG particles running down the geometry,” Lingenfelser says. “The particles quickly draw the shape of the mobile, and, finally, the full toy appears out of the particles. We also created a nice sequence where Santa comes down a chimney. The plate was shot with a chimney set, but we replaced it with a CG model that we animated to stretch and open up for Santa. Tim Allen was shot separately. During plate photography, we had the practical effects team turn the fire down, and then back up. Later on, we timed Santa coming out of the chimney with the moment the fire went down.”

As for cave, it was created in two stages. The first, the cave walls were done by painting projected displacement maps and rendering out still frames with basic lighting. Then, icy textures and details were painted to suggest massive ice walls. The mountains and terrain were accomplished more or less the same way as the exterior tundra shot.

Although the project was full of challenges, both technical and artistic, it ended up being one the most enjoyable films for Lingenfelser and the Furious FX team. “We were given the freedom by the director to shoot the way we needed in order to achieve the best effects. I couldn’t have dreamt of a more collaborative effort.”

Alain Bielik is the founder and editor of renowned effects magazine S.F.X, published in France since 1991. He also contributes to various French publications and occasionally to Cinefex. Last year, he organized a major special effects exhibition at the Musée International de la Miniature in Lyon, France.

Posted by dschnee at 10:22 AM

November 3, 2006

The Santa Clause 3 is Released!

in the USA 3 November 2006

visit The Santa Clause 3:The Escape Clause @ imdb.com

Box Office Results November 3-5, 2006

Number: 2
Weekend Gross: $19,504,038
Theatres: 3,458
Theatre Average: $5,783
Weeks in Release: 1
Total Gross: $?
Budget: $?

Domestic Total as of Nov. 13, 2006: $41,767,257

Ohhh Boy... is anyone going to see this? Almost $20,000,000 worth a #2 spot, nice! Don't fake the cold front, go see it for Tippett's VFX!!! Borat opens today, it's not looking good... and currently SC3 is getting a whopping %19 Rotten rating on rottentomatoes.com... :(

Fresh..."A thing of consummate craftsmanship, a smoothly engineered and fundamentally lifeless object that's nevertheless capable of giving even the grinchiest moviegoers a brief attack of the warm-and-fuzzies." -Justin Chang, Variety

Rotten..."This movie is either going to warm the coldest cockles of your heart, or you're going to throw up all over yourself before slipping into a diabetic coma." Kevin Carr, (7)M Movie Review

BoxOfficeMojo.com's "Santa Clause 3:The Escape Clause" Statistics

Posted by dschnee at 6:55 AM

November 1, 2006

Charlotte's Web Trailer 2

charlotte the spider.jpg

You get to see a lot more of the spider and the rat rules in Charlotte's Web Trailer 2 - see it BIG here.

Posted by dschnee at 6:52 AM