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January 29, 2007

Siggraph Encore

Browse and watch over 900 conference presentations from SIGGRAPH 2003, 2004 and 2005 with content from SIGGRAPH 2006 coming soon!

For a damn fine resource at your finger tips... check out: Siggraph Encore

my only request is that they add all of the shorts and reels that make up the Animation Theater(s) and of course the Electronic Theater Showcase!

I looked but they have yet to put up Jacob's (update your imdb will ya!) Effects Omelette Sketch Highway To Hell For "Constantine", but do include a couple of the effects omelette sketches from that day... hrrrummmph.

Posted by dschnee at 10:42 PM

January 27, 2007

Web Design

chWebDesignCGWdec06.jpgThere have been an impressive amount of coverage on the visual effects work done on Charlotte's Web, and I'm so glad to see it!

here is yet another article on the visual effects work that helped bring this children's classic to the live action arena:

Computer Graphics World's | Web Design

"Tippett Studio faced when creating Templeton the rat, the two CG stars of Paramount Pictures live-action version of EB White's classic children's tale Charlotte's Web. Director Gary Winick was adamant that the characters not be portrayed as stylized, cuddly creatures, but instead wanted them to look photoreal so they would blend seamlessly with the rest of the animal cast. He also wanted the audience's reaction to the characters to mimic that of Wilbur the pig, which is averse toward Charlotte and Templeton at the beginning of the story but grows to like them as the story progresses."

A realistic CG Carlotte and Templeton act alongside a real baryard case in the latest iteration of Charlotte's Web
When most people see spiders and rats, they immediately think creepy, scary, repulsive, and gross.

So how do you get movie-goers of all ages to form a warm emotional attachment to a spider and a rat that look so authentic they could pass for the real thing?

That was what Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) faced when creating Charlotte the spider and Tippett Studio faced when creating Templeton the rat, the two CG stars of Paramount Pictures’ live-action version of EB White’s classic children’s tale Charlotte’s Web. Director Gary Winick was adamant that the characters not be portrayed as stylized, cuddly creatures, but instead wanted them to look photoreal so they would blend seamlessly with the rest of the animal cast. He also wanted the audience’s reaction to the characters to mimic that of Wilbur the pig, which is averse toward Charlotte and Templeton at the beginning of the story but grows to like them as the story progresses.

To tackle the challenge, the studios used a combination of top artistic talent and robust digital tools. The result is a photorealistic arachnid and rodent that viewers can’t help but fall in love with, just as author EB White intended.

Endearing Designs

Set to hit theaters in North America just before Christmas, Charlotte’s Web features a bevy of barnyard animals—geese, sheep, cows, horses, and, of course, a beloved pig named Wilbur. All of these animals are voiced by actors, and they appear in the film either as well-trained live-action critters whose mouths move thanks to CG mouth and face replacements, or as realistic-looking animatronic replicas. Even Wilbur is a real pig in all but a few stunt shots, where he appears as a CG pig created by Digital Pictures Iloura.

In fact, apart from the baby spiders, which debut at the end of the film and were created by Fuel International, only Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts) and Templeton (voiced by Steve Buscemi) are always portrayed digitally, primarily because both characters had to give numerous specific performances that were key to the story line and that would have been impossible to elicit from a real spider and rat.

To be true to the story, Winick wanted Charlotte and Templeton to possess an on-screen presence that would cause viewers to eventually form genuine feelings of affection for them, without breaking the illusion that they were as real as the rest of the cast. One way he sought to achieve that goal was to have each character go through a complete story arc. For instance, in her first scene, when she catches a fly and drinks its blood, Charlotte is viewed as somewhat of a monster, revolting to all the barn animals, including Wilbur. And the audience has to go from sharing that feeling, to becoming as enamored with her as Wilbur becomes, and then being completely shattered emotionally when she dies at the end of the film.
Likewise, in Templeton’s first scene, he lets out a huge belch, making his barn mates and the audience believe that he’s nothing more than a distasteful slob. But as Charlotte, Wilbur, and the audience get to know him, they see that deep down he has a heart of gold, going out of his way to find words for Charlotte to spin into her web in an effort to save Wilbur from becoming Mr. Zuckerman’s pork dinner, and eventually helping Charlotte save her babies.

The artists made Templeton photorealistic, but toned down the modelsomewhat to make him appear less gnarly yet defi nitely not “cute.”

The other way Winick sought to achieve his goal was to ensure that the characters looked real but didn’t repulse the audience. "That was our biggest challenge when creating Charlotte," says John Dietz, visual effects supervisor at RSP. "We had to ensure that she looked like a real spider, but make her appealing to viewers of all ages."

Blair Clark, who supervised the visual effects at Tippett Studio with Joel Friesch, concurs. "We had to get the point across that Templeton is a real rat, but not frighten people in the audience who may have rat-phobia."

To do that, both teams took the same approach when designing the characters: aim for photorealism, but slightly stylize a few features to make the characters more endearing. After several months of design work, countless meetings with the director, producers, and Paramount executives, and numerous sample models, the artists finalized their designs.

Charlotte would be a photoreal gray spider with eight eyes, a plump, hairy body, eight hairy legs, and a pair of blood-sucking chelicera. But because many of her shots are close-up performance shots, her photoreal facial features would be stylized slightly to make her more lovable and to enable her to convey emotion. For example, the designers gave her face a subtle heart shape, and they made all eight of her eyes almond-shaped to suggest femininity. In addition, above each of the two main eyes, they placed a pair of secondary eyes representing eyebrows, to help her emote.

The designers also took some liberty with the hair on Charlotte’s body and legs. "At the macro level, the hair on some spiders is kind of spiky, and we decided to keep that look for the wide shots. But for the close-ups, we designed a downy, fawn-like quality to her hair, to take a bit of the edge off," says Dietz.

Likewise, Templeton would resemble an authentic rat, with thick fur, a long tail, long gray whiskers, and sharp teeth. According to Clark, defining the color of Templeton’s fur proved somewhat difficult. "Initially the studio was leaning toward a cute, almost mousy rat, and at one point they talked about making him white or light gray," says Clark. "But Templeton is supposed to be a sloppy, greasy, filthy character, and we wanted him to look the part.

"Wilbur’s story arc is about not being judgmental, about acceptance," Clark continues. "And if Templeton was a cute, little, white lab rat, why wouldn’t Wilbur like him? Why would he view Templeton as untrustworthy in the beginning?" In the end, the artists got approval to make Templeton’s fur gray/brown in color.

As RSP did with Charlotte, the Tippett artists also toned down some of Templeton’s features. For instance, they didn’t make the toenails on his front feet as long as those on a real rat. "We had to cut them down so he didn’t look so gnarly," says Sven Jensen, modeling supervisor.

Jensen adds that to make Templeton more endearing, the team made his eyes a bit bigger than those of a real rat, and made his eyes turn inward slightly so that when viewers see him straight on, his eyes appear to be looking at them. Plus, his head is a bit broader than the long, thin shape of a real rat’s head, and they gave him a bit of eyebrow to make his eyes more expressive. "All of these very slight design tweaks were handled with a lot of forethought," Jensen notes. "We were extremely careful not to turn Templeton into anything even slightly resembling a cartoon character, or make him Disney-cute in any way."

Creating Charlotte

Once they had made all their design decisions, the teams began the process of modeling the characters. According to Dietz, RSP used Softimage’s XSI to model, groom, animate, and light Charlotte. While modeling her body was fairly straightforward, he says that modeling her face was more complicated.

"We built a standard rig for her body, but we did her face with blendshapes," Dietz explains. Although Charlotte is a spider, she talks and conveys emotions like a human would, so first the team had to figure out where the basic muscles beneath the skin of a human’s face would map onto a spider’s face. Then the group built blendshapes in XSI to drive those muscles, and combined them to form various facial expressions. In total, the team created about 500 blendshapes for Charlotte’s face, which they translated to a slider interface for the animators.
"It’s challenging to get a believable performance out of a CG character," says Dietz. "Charlotte isn’t running around, destroying a city. She’s on-screen for extended periods delivering pretty intense dialog. We did everything we could to ensure that she would deliver the performance the director was after."

While Charlotte looks like a real spider,the team at Rising Sun Pictures tweakedthe model, giving her a heart-shaped face,for example, to make her less scary.

As most modelers can attest, it’s hard enough to create a hairy critter. But add the complicated texture of a translucent exoskeleton directly beneath the hair and the task becomes more daunting. As such, determining how the hair and exoskeleton on Charlotte’s body would look was quite challenging.

According to Dietz, the team tackled that challenge using XSI’s hair/fur tool, grooming tools, and lighting system, as well as the 3Delight RenderMan-compliant rendering system from The 3Delight Team. All the hair modeling was done on a low-res proxy of Charlotte’s body. "Then we gave her hair systems that represent spiky hair, downy hair, leg hair, body hair—a variety of hair types," he says. With the hair/fur tool in XSI, hair is applied all over the character so it resembles a Chia pet, and then the artist grooms the hair to look the way he wants. "The software gives you guide hairs, and you define denseness, length, and other parameters for them. During rendering, the software interpolates what needs to happen between the guide hairs," Dietz says.

The biggest animation challenge with Charlotte, according to Dietz, concerned the way her face moved as she conveyed emotion and spoke. "Spiders don’t have human-like mouths, but there’s a line separating a spider’s face from its chelicera, and we felt that line would be good to use as a mouth line," he says. "To give the impression that she was smiling or frowning, we’d change the angle of that line slightly."
Of course, the process of conveying Charlotte’s emotions went deeper than simply tweaking the angle of the mouth line. As Dietz explains, the animators spent a lot of time learning the meaning of each shot and the emotions the director was trying to convey, and then they built an animation library of emotions in XSI. "The audience has to understand all of Charlotte’s emotions, and so did the animators. When she’s happy, what does that mean? What does she do with her posture? Her face?" he says. "Only after all the animators were clear on how Charlotte would convey emotion were they allowed to touch a shot. It was quite a process."

Charlotte is complex, both inpersonality and in structure.Pictured here are the variousstages that eventually resultedin the fi nal look (far left).

Just as spiders lack human-like mouths, they also lack anything resembling lips, so the animators didn’t have to contend with lip sync. However, they did have to give the illusion that Charlotte was talking. To do that, they implied that a mouth existed behind the chelicera. "As Charlotte speaks, the chelicera flare out a bit and you get the feeling from the movement of those fangs that there’s a mouth moving behind them," Dietz explains.
Yet, it was difficult to determine how much to animate the chelicera as Charlotte spoke. "Our first reaction was to hit every phoneme, but real speech doesn’t work that way, so we made only the major phonemes result in movement," Dietz recalls. "The hardest part was to not be tempted to treat the chelicera as lips and end up moving them in an exaggerated way, but instead to pretend that an imaginary mouth was behind the chelicera and that they would move as a by-product of the movement of that imaginary mouth."

Not only is Charlotte hairy, but she also has a translucent exoskeletonunderneath the hair, which was created with Softimage’s XSI.

To light the character, the artists used the lighting tools in XSI. To get the data from XSI to the 3Delight rendering system, they wrote a proprietary RIB exporter called Affogato. All the compositing was done in Apple’s Shake.

Tackling Templeton

As with Charlotte, modeling Templeton’s body was fairly straightforward. For reference, the Tippett team used pictures of rats, as well as a real rat, named Splinter, which they brought to their offices just for this project.
After the modelers built a completely bald Templeton in Autodesk’s Maya, the model made its way to the paint department, where the team painted a basic skin layer onto it, primarily in Adobe’s Photoshop, Right Hemisphere’s Deep Paint, and Maya. Then it went back to the modelers, who used Tippett’s in-house proprietary tool called Furocious to create and groom Templeton’s fur.

(From top, l. to r.) Matchmovers create a CG duplicate ofthe set to properly place the rat. The furless rat, with colorand markings similar to the fi nal, lets artists see the model’sform during animation. The animated model is furredand lit. A close-up lets the team examine their work.

Once the modeling and fur grooming were complete, Jensen built a facial rig in Maya consisting of approximately 280 blendshapes. The animators, using Maya, were able to combine and tweak those blendshapes to create all the different facial expressions needed for realistic speech. "In animation, we’d make poses—combinations of those blendshapes—to represent phonemes and different emotions," says Todd Labonte, animation supervisor. "Then we could bust through that combined phoneme list and quickly create an initial face pass without having to animate every muscle on the face."
Templeton comprises a variety of different blendshapes. For instance, the ones on his face resemble sliders that move the corners of the mouth and the eyes to convey emotion. But the ones on his body comprise corrective blends. "Instead of a muscle system in Templeton’s body, we used a lot of corrective blends to give him a baggy rat look. So, when he raises his knee, for example, his knee blends into the fat in his belly. That really added to his realistic look," Labonte says.

In this scene, the CG Templeton bathes in digital buttermilk. The realistic liquidwas created using a mixture of Maya, Syfl ex, and photographic elements.

In addition to using Pixar’s RenderMan for rendering and lighting and Shake for compositing, the team also used Syflex LLC’s Syflex and Next Limit’s RealFlow for dynamics simulation. Syflex, for instance, was used in a shot in which Wilbur is being bathed in buttermilk in anticipation of his appearance at the county fair. "As Mrs. Zuckerman bathes Wilbur, she wrings out the sponge and the milk flows down Wilbur’s back," Clark recounts. "We tilt into the pail and you see Templeton lying on his back, floating contentedly in the buttermilk." According to Clark, the buttermilk was created using a combination of Maya, Syflex, and photographic elements of various liquids, and compositor Chris Morley handled the compositing in Shake.

Effects animator Konstantin Promokhov, meanwhile, used RealFlow extensively in a shot in which Templeton winds up covered in the contents of a rotten goose egg. In this shot, Templeton cons one of the geese into letting him have an egg that failed to hatch. He rolls it into his lair, and he eventually gets it positioned exactly where he wants it. But then the egg comes loose from its position and breaks over Templeton, covering him in a gooey, smelly mess. "It was challenging getting the yolk to flow realistically over the rat and [his] bedding," Clark says. "But [Promokhov] handled it well in RealFlow."

Another challenging effects shot involved Templeton saving Charlotte’s egg sac. "In this shot, Templeton uses his teeth to gingerly pull the egg sac from the middle of a web and then carry it away," Clark says. "This required a lot of complicated layering of effects animation, but Rosa Lin, lead effects animator, created several layers of webbing [in Maya] that had the gorgeous diaphanous gauzy look we were after."

Webs and Crows
In addition to Charlotte and Templeton, RSP and Tippett also used their talents and tools for other elements in the film. One of these was Charlotte’s beautiful webs, which RSP created using XSI and some proprietary web tools the team developed for the project. "Creating Charlotte’s webs was difficult," says Dietz. "Humans have tried to re-create web material for its tensile strength, and they haven’t been able to do it. It was hard to create in CG something that people have failed to create in the real world."

The crows, like the rest of the animal cast, are mostly real, with CG mouthreplacements. But sometimes the crows are CG, crafted in Maya.

According to Dietz, the team used their web tools to assign the different strands of the web different properties. "Webs are made up of anchor lines, which are very strong; spoke lines, which are strong but aren’t of the same consistency and quality as anchor lines; and orbital lines, which are very loose and are the parts of the web that bugs stick to," explains Dietz. "All three are different, and we needed to create a complex dynamics system to get them to interact realistically with one another, to animate realistically in a breeze, and to react appropriately when a fly gets stuck in the orbital lines, or when Charlotte walks around on the web and her feet stick to the lines and pull them, and they snap back when her feet let go."

Dietz adds that the team also treated the webs as a character in the film. A major part of the story concerns the words which Charlotte spins into her webs in an effort to save Wilbur’s life. In the beginning, when she comes up with the plan to save Wilbur by spinning "Some Pig" into a web, she’s at the top of her game and she’s good at what she does. "When the web is complete, it has a special quality to it lighting-wise [created in XSI] to give you the feeling that it’s a special web," Dietz says. As she ages, however, her webs lose some of that special quality to imply that she can’t spin as well as she used to.

Even after Charlotte is gone, her webs remain, but they are old, gray, and tattered. "These webs also required special dynamics, which we created using our web tools to make them sag and move like they’re aged," Dietz says.

Tippett, meanwhile, also was responsible for animating the crows in the film. According to Labonte, the group used Maya on beak/head replacement shots of live crows, to make it look like they were chatting with one another.

Other times the team worked on shots in which the crows are entirely CG. As Clark explains, Templeton and the crows don’t get along. In one scene that takes place at the fairgrounds, Templeton coerces some crows to fly at him, but instead they fly into a scarecrow. When they do, a net falls on top of them. "In this series of shots, effects animator Uma Havaligi had to combine the real plate with a greenscreen element of the scarecrow that we shot, with two CG crows on it flapping around, covered by a CG net that had to conform to their bodies," Clark recalls. All of the CG models were built and animated in Maya. To create the feathers on the crows, the team developed a feather tool within their Furocious software. All compositing was done in Shake.

A CG net also played a role in another complicated shot, in which Templeton traverses a bridge made of a ping-pong net. "It was a complicated shot because we have Templeton walking over a bridge, bouncing up and down on this net surface," says Labonte. "We found ourselves in a chicken-and-egg scenario where the lead animator, Jason Armstrong, animated Templeton and simulated the net, but then the net was bouncing differently than Templeton, so he had to re-animate Templeton to the net, and then re-sim the net, and then the net was bouncing differently than Templeton—it was a crazy infinity loop of insanity."

To solve the problem Labonte says the crew stopped simulating the net freely and began deforming it locally to Templeton’s specific actions. "[Armstrong] provided a rough animation of the bridge, and the effects animation department then simulated small surface ripples in it," he says. The net was built and animated in Maya, while all the compositing was done in Shake.

All told, the folks at RSP and Tippett Studio note that bringing this latest incarnation of Charlotte’s Web to the big screen was truly a labor of love for everyone involved. "It was hard work, but we’re very proud of the results," says Tippett’s Clark.

"Charlotte’s Web was a great movie to work on animation-wise," concludes RSP’s Dietz. "Having the opportunity to create a CG character that has personality was an outstanding experience. And I am very proud of how our team got into the character and into the process of making a movie, and not just doing special effects."

-Computer Graphics World's | Web Design

Audrey Doyle is a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World.

Posted by dschnee at 10:56 PM

January 23, 2007

79th Oscars VFX Down to 3

Nominations for the 79th Academy Awards


Hey even though Tippett Studio went un-credited on Dead Man's Chest, we still got to work on this blockbuster! and It looks like I will have worked on 2 Consecutive Best Visual Effects Oscar Winning films!!! awesome...(see also: from 2005 Winner: Visual Effects - KING KONG)

Posted by dschnee at 9:13 AM

January 18, 2007

VES Has Plenty to Show and Tell

-taken from VFXWorld.com

The Visual Effects Society (VES) hosted its annual Show and Tell on Jan. 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center, as nominees discussed the making of their projects.

Here are just a few highlights at the all-day event:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture

* PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST presenters John Knoll and Hal Hickel of ILM talked about the condensed schedule and raising the bar with nearly 20 more CG characters, including the villainous Davy Jones, and how they created the Imocap performance capture system for onset data capture.

* CHARLOTTE'S WEB presenters John Andrew Berton, John Dietz (Rising Sun Pictures) and Todd Labonte (Tippett Studio) discussed the challenges of bringing these computer-generated characters into a live-action world and were gratified to be recognized by the VES after being overlooked by the Academy.

Aruna, Do Tell! How was the VES show and tell!?!

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture

* BLOOD DIAMOND presenter Jeff Okun talked about how the phrase TIA (This is Africa), which is used throughout the movie, also applied to the vfx process. TIA meant that doing something "just now" could take anywhere from five minutes to all day, so it was a difficult shoot all around. He showed an illustrative breakdown of a scene that required military helicopters that were supplied by an African nation, but since they were brand new and shiny black, so they had to be dirtied.

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture

This was an all-ILM category...

* M:i:III presenter Richard Bluff showed a lot of footage about the scene in Shanghai. One of the fun facts was that since all lights are supposed to be out after 11:00 pm, the nighttime city scene required all the high rise buildings' lights to be painted back in.

* DEAD MAN'S CHEST presenter Susumu Yukuhiro told a bit about how Knoll shot his own lens flares because they couldn't create them digitally, even with Knoll's own software package that's commercially available.

* POSEIDON presenter Mohen Leo talked about ILM's collaboration with Stanford scientists on fluid dynamics and showed a great visual illustrating how Stanford's work was on fluid in a small cube, less than 1/100th the size they needed for POSEIDON.

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

* Sears Tools ARBORETUM presenter Laurent Ledru showed a reel in which items such as flowers open in time lapse but then petals or stamens are actually tools from Sears. For instance, imagine the inside of a flower with all its intricacies being a bunch of electric drills.

Final voting for all categories will take place via an online view and vote between Jan. 22 and Feb. 6.

Winners will be announced at the 5th Annual VES Awards gala on Feb. 11 at the Kodak Grand Ballroom in Hollywood. Academy Award-winning visual effects pioneer Dennis Muren from Industrial Light & Magic will receive the VES Lifetime Achievement Award. A complete list of all the nominees for the 5th Annual Awards is available at www.visualeffectssociety.com.

Posted by dschnee at 8:23 PM

January 17, 2007

The Spider and The Rat

"Tippett Studio's animated dogs, cats, bears, bunnies and other animals have starred in many films and TV commercials, so creating yet another furry creature wasn't the challenge; the studio's "furocious" software, which works with Autodesk's Maya and is rendered through Pixar's RenderMan, would be up to the task. The challenge for the studio was in making the rat believable in scenes with the live action animals, even though Templeton talked and behaved in ways a real rat wouldn't."

"Because filming took place in Melbourne, visual effects supervisor Blair Clark worked on set with Berton and director Gary Winick while Co-VFX Supervisor Joel Friesch managed the crew in Berkeley who built Templeton. Once the show moved into production, the two vfx supes shared the challenges."

"For reference, they bought a real rat from a snake vivarium, which they named Master Splinter. "The rat looked like Templeton," says Friesch. "But Paramount wanted a white rat. We explained that white rats are lab rats." Eventually, they compromised by giving Templeton a warm gray coat. Meanwhile, the real rat helped animators develop Templeton’s performance. In the film, Templeton scurries through the barn, drops down into his rat hole, runs across a net, through a tunnel, drinks from a wax soda bottle, wallows in buttermilk, and covers himself with caramel corn and mustard."

Crawl on over to CGSociety.org for the good looking article:

At the studio, because the Tippett crew wanted to see real rat behavior, they didn’t attempt to tame Master Splinter. Sometimes to a painful degree: “We fed him through the cage to see how he tried to grab with his mouth and front legs,” says Friesch. “I got bitten six times and infected once. He bit everyone.”

But, by filming and observing the real rat, the crew developed a sense of a rat’s heart rate and breathing, how a rat ran and crawled, and how he moved his muzzle and cleaned himself. Todd Labonte, Tippett animation supervisor, twice bitten by Master Splinter, also used video reference of New York City rats to develop Templeton’s gross body movements.

“Todd and the animators were always walking a fine line,” says Clark. “Templeton is anthropomorphic - he interacts with props in a humanistic way. But he had to read as a real rat. They didn’t want him to act like Stuart Little, and yet he looks at mirrors and plops on beds.”

Labonte drew that fine line by attending to tiny details, from the tail to the ears. “His tail was tricky,” he says. “A rat’s tail is extremely stiff and unappealing. A rat holds its tail off the ground and it looks fake, like a tree branch. We wanted it to be pleasing to the eye, to add follow-through. So, sometimes we stuck his tail in the ground or obscured it with straw and put on another next to it.”

To control Templeton, animators working in Autodesk’s Maya used multiple rigs. With these rigs, they could, for example, move the rodent’s rear without affecting the front of his body and could give his tail inverse kinematics for ground contact, but forward kinematics for flopping.

Labonte springs out of his chair to demonstrate some rat behavior. “Like all animals and babies, the rat leads from the head,” he says, looking left and right, his shoulders following. “The eyes lead everything with a slight delay.”

Then, he continued describing how they animated Templeton. “When he decides to stop, his back legs pull up and he becomes a furry ball,” Labonte says. “He never stands; he pushes back on his haunches and sits. And when he’s walking on four legs, he has a particular waddle. He has a ton of butt motion - lots of junk in the trunk.”

To create the waddle, the animators pushed Templeton’s pelvis up with each step. The rat would scoot, his pelvis would roll, and then the animators would pop his back legs quickly. “There’s a scene when he’s walking along the trough with that big butt that’s fantastic,” Labonte says. “His tail is there just for leverage, he couldn’t wag it like a dog or cat.”

Templeton didn’t express emotion with his ears, either. “They’re just listening devices,” says Labonte. And, unlike Stuart Little, he didn’t gesture with his hands. “The finger work on Stuart Little was really cool,” Labonte says, “but it doesn’t work in the barnyard. We kept his hands like little mittens in front of his body.”

For Templeton’s face, the animators used a series of small, incremental blend shapes. “There aren’t any brows, so we used a lot of sliding flesh on the forehead,” Labonte says. And, to keep him from looking too rat like and scary, the animators played him nose down - no teeth.

“He has to do a lot with his nose,” says Labonte. “He has extremely small whites in his eyes. We didn’t make him wide-eyed, so we couldn’t do any eye rolls. And, his facial performance was often deadened by fur. It’s like if you cover your face in three-inch thick paste. It doesn’t telegraph subtlety.”

When animators blocked out Templeton’s actions in low res, they could toggle a shell that gave them a sense of how much the fur would affect the silhouette. “We’d have him do his rat thing,” Labonte says. “He’d sniff, talk, move his nose back and forth. We’d make sure his metabolism matched the [voice track], and then we’d nail the lip synch. Steve Buscemi’s performance was so juicy that we never had to overplay the performance.”

Although Templeton often appears in shots with other animals, usually the camera switches from one to the other because the scale is so different - particularly, when Templeton talks to Charlotte the spider. Sometimes though, characters created in various studios shared shots. Berton managed the compositing chaos at Paramount.

“Everyone played ball,” Berton says. “Everybody understood that it was necessary to share images. We were very clear about what we wanted from the vendors so that everyone was sending the same file sizes.” Berton used iChat and CineSync, developed by Rising Sun Research, which allowed the studios to view dailies using QuickTime over the Internet - a particular advantage once Berton moved back to California while work on Charlotte and other characters continued in Australia.

-care of CGSociety.org

Posted by dschnee at 7:24 AM

January 16, 2007

Event Shows VES Trends To Great Effect

The fifth annual Visual Effects Society Awards nominees showcased their prowess during Show and Tell 2007 -- essentially the VES counterpart to AMPAS' visual effects bake-off -- Saturday at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The event allowed the presenters to explain their work to VES membership before final voting. The Show and Tell also underscored industry VFX trends, notably the extensive use of synthetic environments and the creation of increasingly sophisticated digital characters. These trends were evident in the presentations of the nominees for outstanding visual effects in an effects-driven motion picture, which featured a behind-the-scenes look at the making of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Charlotte's Web" and "The Fountain."

Industrial Light + Magic visual effects supervisor John Knoll related that the big step in "Pirates" was the realistic performance of the CG Davy Jones and crew. This was accomplished using an ILM technique called iMoCap, which allowed the effects team to shoot and reproduce the actors' performances used as the basis for the CG characters on set during the actual shoot, rather than separately on a motion capture stage. Knoll also placed emphasis on digitally enhanced backgrounds, from Cannibal Island to the sea.

Visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr. described "Charlotte's Web" as a "tremendous example of how visual effects can be used most powerfully. The story could be told the way the author wanted it to be told. ... It takes place in a live-action world." He also said the digital characters, including the fully CG spider Charlotte, represented a "notable move forward in more realism in synthetic surfaces. The faces of the animals that speak are much more complex than they would have been previously. The animation was very subtle because it had to match the live action."

The team from "Fountain" described a massive compositing job to create painterly environments that began with the microphotography of Peter Parks combined with CG and practical elements. The goal was to create a unique "outer space" that looked timeless and served as the emotional core of the film.

VES members will participate in final voting for the VES Awards online from Monday-Feb. 6. The competition includes 21 categories for outstanding work in features, broadcast television, commercials, music videos and games.

The VES Awards will be presented Feb. 11 at the Kodak Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, where the society also will bestow its lifetime achievement award on visual effects pioneer Dennis Muren.

The VES Show and Tell kicked off a big week for the visual effects community. AMPAS' bake-off is set for Wednesday. "Pirates" was the only VES finalist in the visual effects-driven motion picture category to also make the Academy's shortlist. The VES finalists do not typically mirror Academy Award nominees, though in three of the past four years the same film won each.


Posted by dschnee at 11:08 PM

January 9, 2007

5th Annual VES Awards - Nominations List

5thAnnualVESawards.jpgAruna was selected as a VES Judge this year! and recently attended voting at the screening facilities of FotoKem in Burbank, read all about his adventures here.

Charlotte's Web is up for 2 Noms! including:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture
Congrats to Blair Clark! along with: Karin Joy, John Berton, and John Dietz

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture - for Templeton in Charlotte's Web
Congrats to Todd Labonte, Jason Armstrong, Sven Jensen, and David Richard Nelson!
Los Angeles, January 8, 2007 - The Visual Effects Society (VES), the entertainment industry's only organization of visual effects professionals, today announced the nominees for the 5th Annual VES Awards recognizing outstanding visual effects in twenty-one (21) categories of film, television, commercials, music videos and games. Nominees were chosen on Saturday, January 6, 2007 by a panel of over eighty (80) visual effects professionals, all VES members, who viewed hundreds of entry submissions at the screening facilities of FotoKem in Burbank. The announcement was made by Eric Roth, VES Executive Director, who says "This year we had 30% more submissions than last year, and from seven different countries. Along with this growth, we've also seen our awards show grow in industry stature. It's very gratifying to know that companies all over the world want to get one of our trophies. Clearly, they see the value in getting VES recognition."

On January 13, 2007, the VES holds its heralded annual event - the VES SHOW AND TELL EVENT 2007 - which will afford an opportunity for VES nominees to demonstrate the secrets behind the visual effects "magic" that earned each artist a place for this year's awards. "The sophistication of the work increases constantly," says Jeff Okun, VES Awards Committee Chair. "We're now at the point where even the industry professionals can't tell what’s real and what's a visual effect. Our Show and Tell gives the artists a chance to show their colleagues and the public what the current state of the art is. I know I always learn something new at this event and that's what makes it vital to the concept of competing for awards. Our voters are educated."

The SHOW AND TELL EVENT 2007 is free to VES members and is also open to the public at $20 per ticket. Tickets to the event, which will be held at the Skirball Cultural Center, are available by calling the VES office at (310) 822-9181 or may also be purchased at the door. Final voting for all categories will take place via an online view and vote between January 22 and February 6, 2007.

Winners will be announced at the 5th Annual VES Awards gala on February 11, 2007 at the Kodak Grand Ballroom in Hollywood. Academy Award-winning visual effects pioneer Dennis Muren will receive the VES Lifetime Achievement Award. A complete list of all the nominees for the 5th Annual Awards follows and is also available on the VES Awards website at www.vesawards.com

The nominations are:

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture
Charlotte's Web
Karin Joy, John Berton, Blair Clark, John Dietz

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
John Knoll, Jill Brooks, Hal Hickel, Charlie Gibson

The Fountain
Jeremy Dawson, Dan Schrecker, Mark Soper, Peter Parks

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture

Blood Diamond
Jeffrey Okun, Thomas Boland, Tim Crosbie, Neil Greenberg

Children of Men
Lucy Killick, Frazer Churchill, Timothy Webber, Paul Corbould

Flags of Our Fathers
Michael Owens, Matthew Butler, Bryan Grill, Julian Levi

The Da Vinci Code
Barrie Hemsley, Angus Bickerton, Gary Brozenich, Paul Riddle
Children Of Men

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special

Fight Science
Mat Beck, Kymber Lim, Manny Wong, Jack Matsumomto

Nightmares and Dreamscapes - Battlegound
Eric Grenaudier, Sam Nicholson, Mark Spatny, Adalberto Lopez

The Hogfather - Episode 1
Oliver Money, Simon Thomas, Kim Stevenson, Stephen Jolley

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series

Battlestar Galactica - Episode 303b “Exodus”
Gary Hutzel, Michael Gibson, Alec McClymont, Brenda Campbell

Prehistoric Park - Episode 4
George Roper, Matt Fox, Laurent Hugueniot, Kevin Spruce

Smallville - Season 6, Episode 1 "Zod"
Mat Beck, Brian Harding, Trent Smith, John Wash

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

Alias - Reprisal/All the Time in the World
Kevin Blank, Jay Worth, Steve Fong, Kevin Kutchaver

Commander In Chief - EP 112 “The Wind Beneath Her Wings"
Mark Kolpack, Adam Ealovega, Mark Spatny, Mike Enriquez

ER - Scoop and Run
Sam Nicholson, Scott Ramsey, Adam Ealovega, Anthony Ocampo

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

Rexona - Go Wild
Andy Boyd, Stephane Allender, Dan Seddon, Abby Orchard

Sears Tools - Arboretum
Rich Rama, Cedric Nicolas, Laurent Ledru

Travelers - Snowball
Dan Lemmon, Eileen Moran, R. Christopher White, Paul Story

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video

Killers - Bones
Chas Jarrett, Dave Child, Paul O'Shea, Andrew Bell

U2 and Green Day - The Saints are Coming
Matt Winkel, Mark Glaser, Wayne England, Graham Fyffe

Best Single Visual Effect of the Year

Children of Men - Birth Sequence
Tim Webber, Lucy Killick, Andy Kind, Craig Bardsley

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
John Knoll, Ned Gorman, Jakub Pistecky, Tom Fejes

Boyd Shermis, Rhonda Gunner, Kim Libreri, Philippe Rebours

X-Men: The Last Stand
Eric Saindon, Cyndi Ochs, GG Heitmann, Roger Shortt

Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game

Assassin’s Creed X06 Trailer
Jade Raymond, Nicolas Cantin, Raphael Lacoste, Christophe Martin

Fight Night Round 3 for PS3
Sjoholm Christopher, Kat Kelly Hayduk, Hilson Rob, Jepson Celia

Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game

Assassin’s Creed E3 Trailer
Jade Raymond, Thomas Giroux, Raphael Lacoste, Anne Mai Le Bouyonnec

Hellgate: London 2006 - E3 Trailer
Tim Miller, Jerome Denjean

Warhammer Fantasy
Tim Miller, Jerome Denjean

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

Fields of Freedom
Sam Nicholson, Scott Ramsey, Adam Ealovega, Jon Craig

Greece, Secrets of the Past
Craig Barron, Ken Rogerson, Glenn Cotter, Chri Evans

Roving Mars
Alan Markowitz, Dan Maas, Jeremy Nicolaides, Johnathan Banta

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture

Charlotte’s Web - Templeton
Todd Labonte, Jason Armstrong, Sven Jensen, David Richard Nelson

Charlotte's Web - Wilbur
Grant Adam, Daniel Fotheringham, Avi Goodman, Paul Buckley

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest – Davy Jones
Steve Walton, Jung-Seung Hong, Marc Chu, James Tooley

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture

Cars - Mater
Larry The Cable Guy, Mike Krummhoefener, Tom Sanocki, Nancy Kato

Monster House - House
Umberto Lazzari, Mike Kimmel, Kui Han Lee, Owen Demers

Happy Feet - Mumble’s Banishment
Damien Grey, Tim Gibson, Carl Prud’Homme

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video

Battlestar Galactica - Episode 217 "Downloaded"
Ryan Cronin, Louie Hinayo, Andy Asperin, Trevor Adams

Dr. Who - Episode 2, Series 2
Nocolas Hernandez, Jean Claude Deguara, Neil Roche, Jean Yves Adouard

Geico - Chat
David Hulin, Seth Gollub, Andy Walker, Jenny Bichsel

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture

Mission: Impossible III
Russell Earl, Richard Bluff, Giles Hancock, Dennis Martin

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Chris Stoski, Susumu Yukuhiro, Jack Mongovan, Greg Salter
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture

Mohen Leo, Daniel Pearson, Willi Geiger, Matt Brumit

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video

Coke - The Greatest Gift
David Hulin, Nathan Hughes, Jenny Bichsel, Andy Walker

Elisabeth - Episode 1
Dave Bowman, Jimmy Kiddell, Russell Horth, Gurel Mehmet

ESPN - Monday Night Football Remote Open
Luke McDonald, Danny Braet, Minory Sasaki, Josh McGuire

Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Bruce Holcomb, Ron Woodall, Charlie Bailey, Carl Miller

The Good Shepherd
Matthew Gratzner, Forest Fischer, Enrico Altmann, Leigh-Alexandra Jacob

V For Vendetta
Jose Granell, Nigel Stone

Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Broadcast Program

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2, Episode 218 "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"
Steve Graves, Jose Perez, Mark Shimer, Chris Zapara

Commander In Chief - EP 112 "Air Force One"
Mike Enriquez

Dodge - Fairy
Matthew Gratzner, Forest Fischer, Jon Warren, Scott Schneider

Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Eddie Pasquarello, Francois Lambert, Jeff Sutherland, Tory Mercer

Pat Brennan, Mark Hopkins, Nelson Sepulveda, Mark Nettleton

The DaVinci Code - Saint Sulpice Sequence
Mathew Krentz, Jordan Benwick, Enrico Perei, Rafal Kaniewski

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program, Commercial or Music Video

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2, Episode 218 "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"
Lane Jolly, Don Kim, Matt Smith, Chris Zapara

Coke - The Greatest Gift
Murray Butler, MaryAnne Lauric, Nathan Hughes, Pedro Sabrosa

Sports Heaven
Geoff McAuliffe, Yafei Wu, Robert Sethi, Jimi Simmons

Travelers - Snowball
Laure Lacroix, Lyse Beck, Steve McGillen, Matt Holland

Outstanding Special Effects in a Motion Picture

Casino Royale
Chris Corbould, Peter Notley, Ian Lowe, Roy Quinn

Superman Returns
Neil Corbould, David Brighton, David Young, Robert Higgie

Posted by dschnee at 6:24 AM

January 8, 2007

Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture - 2006

5th Annual VES Awards Nominees...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Eddie Pasquarello, Francois Lambert, Jeff Sutherland, Tory Mercer

Pat Brennan, Mark Hopkins, Nelson Sepulveda, Mark Nettleton

Th DaVinci Code - Saint Sulpice Sequence
Mathew Krentz, Jordan Benwick, Enrico Perei, Rafal Kaniewski

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2, Episode 218 "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"
Lane Jolly, Don Kim, Matt Smith, Chris Zapara

Coke - The Greatest Gift
Jared Jones, Jason Korber, Geeta Basantani, Ryan Dutour

Sports Heaven

Geoff McAuliffe, Yafel Wu, Robert Sethi, Jimi SImmons

Travelers - Snowball
Laure Lacroix, Lyse Beck, Steve McGillen, Matt Holland

Congratulations to all the 2006 nominees, (good luck, Laure Lacroix, Lyse Beck, and Weta!) - That Traveler's Snowball spot was great! (watch it: youtube or quicktime)

For the complete list you can visit Visual Effects Society - nominees or download the 5th Annual VES Awards Nominees pdf.


Posted by dschnee at 7:59 AM

January 2, 2007

Top 10 F/X Scenes in Movie History

This is from popularmechanics.com
Today, many digital effects are so subtle that movie audiences often don't notice them — but it wasn't always so. We asked industry insiders to pinpoint the biggest breakthroughs in digital F/X history.

BY Erin McCarthy
Published in the January, 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics

Click here for the list...

1. STAR WARS (1977)

Motion-control photography, in which a computer is used to control a long, complex series of camera movements, made possible the spaceship battles in Star Wars. It would have taken too long to film the scenes manually, says Anne Thompson, deputy film editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

2. TRON (1982)

It wasn't the first film to use computer-generated (CG) graphics (and many effects were hand-drawn) but the sci-fi video-game fantasy flick Tron was the first to use computer imagery to create a 3D world, making it one of the pioneering CGI films. "Effects people said, 'Let's see what the computer can do,'" says Harry Knowles, movie critic at Ain't It Cool News.


"Morphing" was first used in Willow (1988), but in T2 the effect was "jaw-dropping," Knowles says. The liquid-metal robot's humanoid texture, which was layered onto a CG model, looked frighteningly real.


Faux alpinist Sly Stallone was held up by wires that were later digitally removed. The ability to erase wires changed how stunts are done: Now stars and stuntmen can be put in real-world environments as well as in front of green screens.


Although they enjoyed only about 6 minutes of screen time, Jurassic Park's digital dinos were a revelation: They introduced CGI live animals with realistic movements, and believably textured muscles and skin. The photorealisitic digital elements were intercut with animatronic dinosaurs.

6. FORREST GUMP (1994)

While most filmmakers in the early '90s used digital effects to create fantasy, the creators of Forrest Gump altered history. Using Kodak's Cineon system, they digitized archival footage, and composited Tom Hanks's character into historical clips.


Although much previous work had been done to make CGI water look real, The Perfect Storm's monster wave scene set a new benchmark. "Water is an organic thing that's hard to create in software," says Andy Maltz of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. "To make it look believable was a big thing."


For the huge battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the filmmakers created Massive, a computer program that generates crowds of artificially intelligent individuals "who make their own decisions based on behavior patterns," Knowles says. This makes for more realistic battles.


Director Robert Zemeckis used a large motion-capture stage and up to 200 cameras to gather data from the performance of Tom Hanks and other actors. This data was used to help animators create digital versions of the actors while maintaining their performances.


The creators of the film about worldwide climatic disaster took more than 50,000 photos of New York City and scanned them into a computer, providing "a 3D, photorealistic model of the city," Thompson says. After that, destroying the metropolis with a giant digital wave was a piece of cake.

What are your thoughts?

Posted by dschnee at 9:32 PM

January 1, 2007

Happy New Year! and my Best Films of 2006

Here are the top 10 films I enjoyed the most in 2006, from those I have seen anyway...

10 - I'm leaving this one open to any of the following still on my list to see from 2006: Flags of our Fathers (Clint Eastwood) / Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood), The Queen (Stephen Frears), Dreamgirls (Bill Condon), Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick), and Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu).
9 Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski)
8 Charlotte's Web (Gary Winick)
7 Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)
6 The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
5 Brick (Rian Johnson)
4 Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón)
3 The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald)
2 The Prestige (Christopher Nolan)

1 The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky)

Worth a Mention:

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
Curse of the Golden Flower (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia) (Yimou Zhang)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
X-Men The Last Stand (Brett Ratner)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
The Illusionist (Neil Burger)
Superman Returns (Bryan Singer)

Posted by dschnee at 2:21 PM