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June 10, 2007

VES Festival Of Visual Effects 2007

So I flew down to LA for the final day of VES events this past Sunday. It was a short stint, but well worth it being able to catch up with a couple good friends, and geek out on some good panel action during the VES festival. I hadn't seen Aruna in what almost a year? since my wedding last July, he was kind enough to let me crash at his place and we hung out for the past couple of days down there. Aruna attended the entire festival of events so check out some of his summaries below:

Festival of Visual Effects: Day 1
Festival of Visual Effects: Day 2 - Part 1
Festival of Visual Effects: Day 2 - Part 2
Festival of Visual Effects: Day 3

So please go on into a few of my 'quick' thoughts on Sunday's lineup:

Shrek Through The Ages
I'll be honest, I could have saved my $20 bux and skipped this one. I have been to Shrek panels in the past, and they went over most of the same but with out going into great detail. The broad stroke was showing Shrek's progression over the 3 films and PDI's pipeline covering design (Guillaume Aretos), character td(Lucia Modesto), animation(Tim Cheung), and vfx supervision(Philippe Gluckman) on the 3 shows.

What most interested me was some of the first design and images of shrek and his evolution process. Otherwise the main bulk of the progression was in complexity. More characters, more environments and locations, more and diverse background characters, more clothing, more detail, etc.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: A VFX Voyage

John Knoll headed up this 2 hour voyage, and without going into great detail on any one topic, we were able to watch in awe the work on the 3 pirates films, especially on At World's End which was nothing short of fantastic.

Of most interest was the miniature work done, 1/4, 1/8 scale models of pirate ships used through out the films, these were used in account with full scale shop pieces, some floating on barges used to shoot on the deck and for a few long/wide shots. The shots where you would see the barge they would shoot the mini to get the rest of the bottom of the ship bits to composite in.

Knoll covered environments and matte painting work which was in all 3 films, used and executed masterfully. Also covered was the cursed crew of the black pearl in Pirates 1 shooting the performance plate with the actors, then shooting the clean plate without the pirates but with the other actors fighting nothing so they can toss in the cursed crew, still neat to see how they pulled that off.

So the cool work was with Davy Jones and his crew, and Knoll didn't go into any detail on the CG side of their creation,(only that they were a few guys short so they created 8 more characters for 3) but what was covered was the technique for shooting the crew and Davy Jones in camera wearing the track suit tracker duds for match move purposes, and this was using the same technique used in Pirates 2, the Imocap stuph, still damn nifty.

Ok so Davy Jones was cool, but the really cool work shown was the Malestrom, and I've talked about this briefly in my post At World's End. Complete CG ocean, and the trick getting the amount of detail in that whirlpool was to run the simulation flat adjusting all the forces on the fluid sim accordingly, then displacing the ocean south getting the pending doom of whirl back.

It was just a shit storm of elements during the sequence, the deck and crew of the ships were shot in a huge hanger with what Knoll said was just about the largest amount of blue screen fabric he'd ever seen surrounding the sets. Most of the elements you see in camera were shot in camera, smoke, rain, dust, debris,, this all looks fantastic in camera, but pulling a key? on uneven screens compositing back in Jones crew? and matching in camera elements with ones you might find in an element library, then the background with the CG environments? forget about it. They pulled it off though, sometimes using a drop of rain to hit the lens and covering up a screen pull that just wasn't going to happen, ;) I know a few folks who worked on t his sequence and it still amazes me, I feel their pain, but god damn!

Knoll showed us original plate to final comp wipes, impressive to say the least.

What must be mentioned during Knoll's presentation was his disgust for the trend of short schedules, back to that cheaper, faster, better trend... They had 4 months to do 2000 shots for At World's End, almost double that on Pirates 2, they moved up the release date up by 2 months, and Knoll expressed that they most definitely needed those extra 2 months on this one. I've already heard that they are re-working a number of shots for the DVD... it's just crazy, everyone suffers, all the artists working crazy overtime, it pushes the color timers, editors, everybody further down the chain, they hemorage money on OT, how is this cheaper? Yeah the initial number is lower, but by the end of the show? just pissing out money to get completed hopefully first time around works, because they don't schedule any time for adjustment, test audiences, and any betterment of the project, just rolling the dice while artists slave endless hours compromising family life and health. It's a truly F'd up situation. But what about the great money? yeah F' that too.

Knoll says he's going to fight for longer post-production schedules, telling the studios he's knows how to save you all money, give us more time in post!!!

The VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films Of All Time

A rare and completely satisfying treat, Knoll is back on stage moderating the panel made up of John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Doug Trumball... The topic is of course the 50 most influential VFX films, but you are soon looking in on a roundtable of VFX legends, friends sharing stories, stories of the craft, the lifestyle, the people, the how they did this and that's.

After a really well done montage of the top 50 films, I mean very well constructed piece using similar themes and emotions that re-charged my love and passion for this industry and why it is I do what I do and love what I do, we were some what briefly introduced to the panel, off into stories, then as the time melted away into specific films that the legends themselves worked on.

Aruna and I looked at each other after all was said and done, and were both like damn it's over? We could listen to these guys all damn weekend. Hopefully someday they will just have a weekend of panel discussions made up of VFX legends and top supervisors. Fantastic event.

2001 - A Space Odyssey

Douglas Trumbull treated us to a rare treat once again showing us a ton of production stills and polaroids of Kubrick, the sets, the crew, the cameras, models, etc.

This one was a bit rushed, I think either Doug needed to get out of there, or they needed to start the screening of 2001, it's a long one. But what Trumbull was able to go over was amazing, you definitely take for granted what goes into those amazing shots... well most just don't know, I've read about some, but not nearly enough as Trumbull shared some of the fantastic ways to achieve what looked like impossible shots, especially for being almost 40 years ago! I'd go into more detail, but I'm not sure I'd to much justice at the moment... stay tooned though I'd like to do a 2001 post, I'll dig up some material for it and go into some detail about it, because it's simply amazing work.


Posted by dschnee at June 10, 2007 9:05 PM