« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

February 27, 2008

Trailer for Starship Troopers Marauder

Attack of the Toy Bugs, Spaceships on a String, and Johnny 'Cheese Factory' Rico.

I was excited about it, I was anticipating it, I was definitely curious how all of the VFX will be executed... keyword is 'was', this is going to be such a dog of a movie, just Wow. People thought Hero of the Federation was a bummer? This trailer makes Troopers 2 look like an F'ing gem, and a gem it was!

Advice? Animation, Animation, Compositing, Animation!

Ohh No they didn't just use that cliche 'Yebbbisssss' sound when the cheesy fire roars up at the end... Such weak sauce!

remember your roots... the Starship Troopers 2 Trailer
and it just might be so bad it's good below...
sonypictures.com/homevideo/starshiptroopersmarauder/trailer/

Starship Troopers III Actually Based On Heinlein Novel This Time - Some insight on ST3 Marauder from the panel @ Wondercon last Saturday.

Posted by dschnee at 6:44 AM

February 26, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles Behind The Magic

Tippett Studio and Industrial Light & Magic create CG creatures
for “The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Behind the magic in Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ “The Spiderwick Chronicles” are the magicians, that is, the visual effects crews at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Tippett Studio. Their slight of hand turned director Mark Waters’ vision of a real world inhabited by fantasy creatures into a finely crafted family thriller.

Tippett Studio founder Phil Tippett, who served as the film’s creature supervisor, “got things going,” as he puts it, on the creature design. “The objective was to take the illustrations that Tony [DiTerlizzi] had created for ‘Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide’ and turn them into biological entities,” Tippett says. “We wanted to give them a palpable sense of biology.” (a CGSociety Production Focus)

Full of images and insight, check out the rest of the CGSociety featured spread Here

See Also: Spiderwick Concept Art
J. Paul Peszko talks to ILM's Christian Alzmann about the design of The Spiderwick Chronicle's Brothers Grimm fantasy world and the characters that populate it.

Posted by dschnee at 6:39 AM

February 25, 2008

The VFX Oscar is Golden, Compass

Wow, awesome, didn't expect this, but great news! The Golden Compass took the Oscar for Achievement in Visual Effects:

“The Golden Compass” (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners)
Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood

Visual Effects Houses:
Rhythm & Hues (754 shots)
Cinesite (476 shots)
Framestore CFC (323 shots)
Digital Domain (153 shots)
Rainmaker (114 shots)
Peerless Camera Company (78 shots)
Tippett Studio (28 shots)
Digital Backlog (13 shots)
Matte World Digital (7 shots)

Congratulations Jacobs, Petzold, and the GC crew @ Tippett!
Congratulations to Jonathan Knight and Aruna as well!

I didn't see much of the Oscars last night, however I did get to see Daniel Day Lewis receive his Oscar for There Will Be Blood! The man is pretty much untouchable in the craft, completely and whole heartedly deserved.

View a complete list of nominees and winners.

Posted by dschnee at 7:03 AM

February 21, 2008

Cloverfield & Enchanted get Saturn Award Noms

Cloverfield is up for 'Best Science Fiction Film & Lizzy Caplan for 'Best Supporting Actress' while Enchanted's Amy Adams is up for 'Best Actress' and Enchanted is up for Best Fantasy Film & Best Music...

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM:
CLOVERFIELD
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
I AM LEGEND
THE LAST MIMZY
SUNSHINE
TRANSFORMERS

Sunshine!!!

BEST FANTASY FILM:
ENCHANTED
THE GOLDEN COMPASS
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END
SPIDER-MAN 3
STARDUST

Cool, as far as 'Fantasy' goes, I did enjoy Enchanted the most...

BEST ACTRESS:
AMY ADAMS
Enchanted

ASHLEY JUDD
Bug
HELENA BONHAM CARTER
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
NAOMI WATTS
Eastern Promises
BELEN RUEDA
The Orphanage
CARICE VAN HOUTEN
Black Book

Amy didn't get an Oscar nom, which is bullshit, so I hope she wins it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
LIZZY CAPLAN
Cloverfield

MARCIA GAY HARDEN
The Mist
LENA HEADEY
300
ROSE MCGOWAN
Grindhouse – Planet Terror
MICHELLE PFEIFFER
Stardust
IMELDA STAUNTON
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I dunno, I think Lizzy did great, but Rose kicked some major ass in Planet Terror...

BEST MUSIC:
TYLER BATES
300
JONNY GREENWOOD
There Will Be Blood
NICHOLAS HOOPER
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
MARK MANCINA
August Rush
ALAN MENKEN
Enchanted

JOHN POWELL
The Bourne Ultimatum

Sorry Alan (who is looking for his 5th Oscar), Greenwood's score to There Will Be Blood was chillingly great! +Alan has 3 noms in the best original song category for the Oscars...

and the VFX noms...

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS:

TIM BURKE
JOHN RICHARDSON
PAUL FRANKLIN
GREG BUTLER
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

SCOTT FARRAR
SCOTT BENZA
RUSSELL EARL
JOHN FRAZIER
Transformers

MICHAEL FINK
BILL WESTENHOFER
BEN MORRIS
TREVOR WOOD
The Golden Compass

JOHN KNOLL
HAL HICKEL
CHARLES GIBSON
JOHN FRAZIER
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

SCOTT STOKDYK
PETER NOFZ
SPENCER COOK
JOHN R. FRAZIER
Spider-Man 3

CHRIS WATTS
GRANT FRECKELTON
DEREK WENTWORTH
DANIEL LEDUC
300

Most likely Transformers...

The full list over at saturnawards.org

Posted by dschnee at 6:10 AM

February 20, 2008

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

is the new South of the Border... Disney? really? really Disney? With South of the Border as the title, you'd get a wider range of demographics, sounds decent, could be about anything, but by cutting out this crap name, who's going to want to go see it besides little girls now? Nice one.

With the writers strike resolved, Disney is the latest studio to rejigger and give more shape to its release calendar through 2009 and the early part of 2010.

Disney retitled two films: "South of the Border" (Sept. 26) becomes "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," (Variety.com)

Plot Outline:
While on vacation in Mexico, Chloe, a ritzy Beverly Hills Chihuahua, finds herself lost and in need of assistance in order to get back home.






Posted by dschnee at 10:51 PM

Spiderwick Magazine Articles + Video

Here are a couple of .pdf articles from Computer Graphics World and Animation Magazine below:

Natural Forces CGW page1
Natural Forces
'Industrial Light & Magic and Tippett Studio create delicate, monstrous, and cunning CG faries for the live-action film The Spiderwick Chronicles
' page22 | Computer Graphics World | February 2008 www.cgw.com

All Creatures Weird and Wonderful
'ILM and Tippett Studio join forces to create the magical world of The Spiderwick Chronicles'
page34 | Animation Magazine | March 2008 | www.animationmagazine.net

On to the Video: New technology from ILM builds creepier, more lifelike characters - via c|net news.com

"Muscle by muscle, bone by bone, the Industrial Light & Magic visual effects designers are using new software to create the scariest and most expressive animated monsters yet. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi goes behind the scenes of Paramount Pictures' new kids' film, The Spiderwick Chronicles, to learn more."

Posted by dschnee at 6:11 AM

February 19, 2008

Phil Tippett a special-effects pioneer


The San Francisco Chronicle ran this nifty spread yesterday... nice.

It's not hard to find Phil Tippett, who is waiting upstairs in the main building of his special-effects studio in Berkeley. Just follow the trail of Tyrannosaurus rex models, which are scattered liberally among the memorabilia from scores of science fiction films he's contributed to since his groundbreaking work on "Star Wars."

"Little boys diverge into two groups: One goes into trucks and the other goes into dinosaurs," he says. "I went into dinosaurs."

Among the special-effects pioneers of his era, many of whom have settled in the Bay Area, Tippett is a bit of a dinosaur himself. The Berkeley native carried the stop-motion animation torch longer than anyone else, and was so despondent when computer graphics took over the industry in the early 1990s, that he became physically ill. (sfgate.com)

But a decade and a half later, his studio continues to thrive - known for its superior creature effects. Tippett Studio was responsible for the monster in "Cloverfield," and the studio teamed with Industrial Light & Magic to create various beasts for "The Spiderwick Chronicles." Tippett's resume already contained a toy chest's worth of science fiction geek icons, starting with the animated chessboard monsters in "Star Wars" and the stop-motion AT-AT snow walkers in "The Empire Strikes Back."

"Phil's like this big blustery guy - he's grumpy but he's also funny," says Spiderwick animation supervisor Todd Labonte, who has worked at Tippett Studio for almost a decade. "And then you start talking about work, and he has this great understanding of animation and animal behavior."

Tim Harrington, the animation supervisor for ILM on "Spiderwick," is the latest young special-effects person to work side by side with Tippett, in awe of the living legend.

"I grew up reading about all of these guys in magazines, and Phil's work had a particularly big impact on me," Harrington says. "When I met him, it was like 'Oh my God.' All you want to do is impress him."

Tippett walks into his upstairs conference room with his shirttail out and a wild ring of long gray hair that only adds to the mad professor vibe. Tippett is friendly, but anxious - co-workers say that's his permanent state. He relaxes a bit when he starts a film reel, which is heavy with stop-motion work from two of his biggest influences: "King Kong" special-effects worker Willis O'Brien and "Jason and the Argonauts" mastermind Ray Harryhausen.

"It was this scene right here that I saw at the (Berkeley) Oaks theater, when I was 7 years old in 1958," Tippett says, pointing at the screen as a few actors throw spears at a four-story-tall Harryhausen creation. "This was the thing that inspired me, that scene with the Cyclops in 'The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.' And I was never the same since."

With no special-effects industry jobs to aspire to, the young Tippett mowed lawns for the money to make his own stop-motion films. After college, Tippett says, he "and the 10 other geeks who were interested in this stuff" ended up at Cascade Pictures in Los Angeles, honing their skills on commercials, including ads for Brawny paper towels and the Jolly Green Giant.

Tippett and his longtime friend Dennis Muren, a six-time Oscar winner, were recruited by George Lucas in the mid-1970s to work on "Star Wars." Lucas made two sequels, science fiction directors including Steven Spielberg, Paul Verhoeven and James Cameron came on the scene, and an industry was born.

"When we first got hired to move up from Los Angeles and go to ILM, George said, 'Well, we're going to make a few pictures, and then people will probably get tired of us, and then we'll have to move back to Los Angeles,' " Tippett remembers. "It didn't happen."

Tippett became the head of the ILM creature shop, animating the Tauntaun creatures in "The Empire Strikes Back" and the dragon in the 1981 movie "Dragonslayer." He formed Tippett Studio in 1984, making the Emmy-winning CBS documentary "Dinosaur!" Tippett and fellow effects wizard Craig Hayes later hooked up with Verhoeven to work on "RoboCop."

Tippett was recruited in the early 1990s by Spielberg to help create the dinosaurs for "Jurassic Park," thinking it would be his biggest project yet. While Tippett took a traditional approach, with puppets and other animatronic solutions, Muren had found ways to use computers to make the prehistoric stars convincing.

"We had mounted 'Jurassic' as if we were going to do it conventionally, and the computer graphics were only going to be used for the big crowd scenes," Tippett says. "And as Dennis pushed the camera in further and further and further, the things held up photographically in a way that nobody really imagined."

Tippett kept working on the "Jurassic Park" team, winning his second Oscar. But even as the crew enjoyed the movie's success, Tippett realized that he was in danger of becoming extinct himself.

"It was really hard for me because I thought it was all over with completely. I got pneumonia," Tippett remembers. "I had people building big, giant motion-control rigs and had hundreds of thousands of dollars floating around. I had to pull the plug on it, and I could see everything going down the toilet."

Tippett says he struggled for a while, but kept the studio alive, investing in new equipment and adapting to the changing times. Not long after "Jurassic Park," he got a big job creating the swarm of space bugs in Verhoeven's 1997 film "Starship Troopers."

More than 10 years later, the studio has spread out into five buildings with 160 employees. Tippett Studio reflects its founder, with a healthy clutter among the cubicles. There's also an apparent prejudice against fresh paint on the walls. During a walk-through two weeks ago, many of the employees were in the middle of a beard-growing contest.

But the company also has rooms stacked with computer servers, for the complex special-effects work being done inside. The forte of the studio seems to be creature design, creating monsters wholesale as they did in "Cloverfield" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles." Tippett has a "creature supervisor" title for "Spiderwick," and the studio was responsible for some of the movie's more unconventional characters, including the bird-eating animal Hogsqueal and a reptilian-looking cave monster.

Even in the age of computer graphics, Tippett has an organic influence on the studio. Labonte says that for "Spiderwick," Tippett had the crew go to the East Bay Vivarium so the animators could understand what a toad's skin felt like. Other animators were tracking down videos of alligators and other real-life creatures to study their movements.

While many working in the special-effects industry will quietly acknowledge that studios are oversaturating summer films with special effects, Tippett openly airs his concerns - lecturing on the subject twice during an hourlong interview. He says audiences are becoming numb to the excess of some effects films, and he often prefers the results in smaller-scale ones, such as "Cloverfield."

"With theatrical feature films, people don't feel that they can really compete with television and other media unless the spectacle level is as high as it can possibly be," Tippett says. "So they just throw as much crap on the wall as they possibly can."

Which may help explain Tippett's recent entrance into low-budget filmmaking, making his directorial debut on the 2004 straight-to-DVD sequel "Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation." Tippett's offices are filled with movie artifacts, including a full-size ED-209 robot from "RoboCop" that is perched on a wall in the studio's biggest warehouse. But he seems equally proud of the more primitive effects, pointing out a small AT-AT walker that is little more than a strip of cardboard with Styrofoam backing - and still appeared in "The Empire Strikes Back."

"We pushed it way in the background. It was really crappy, but it worked," Tippett says. "That's the thing that I miss today, that sort of 'Our Gang' sense of making stuff. You only build what you need for the shot, and it's junk after that."

Tippett has several other movie projects he'd like to direct, with budgets ranging from $5 million to $25 million. They may not be perfect, but he promises they will be unique.

"I'm very much interested in the lower-budget fare, because it's where the opportunity exists to do some original work," Tippett says. "I almost don't even care if it's any good. I just want it to be different.'"

Ray Harryhausen & Friends: With Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren and others. 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Rafael Film Center, San Rafael. www.cafilm.org.

Playing now: "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Cloverfield." At Bay Area theaters.

E-mail Peter Hartlaub at phartlaub@sfchronicle.com

Posted by dschnee at 2:28 AM

February 18, 2008

Cloverfield Monster Toy Fair 08

(Toy Fair 08 photos found @ tf08.figures.com)

Posted by dschnee at 10:58 PM

Jumper teleports past Spiderwick

Jumper #1 at the Box OfficeLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The sci-fi thriller "Jumper" leaped to the No. 1 spot at the North American box office on Sunday as moviegoers ignored critics' dire warnings for a second weekend.

The movie, in which Hayden Christensen plays a man who is able to "teleport" around the world, earned an estimated $27.2 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period, distributor 20th Century Fox said.

It fended off three other rookies. The urban dance sequel "Step Up 2 the Streets" opened at No. 2 with $19.7 million for the three-day period, followed by the children's literary adaptation "The Spiderwick Chronicles" with $19.1 million. The romance "Definitely, Maybe" opened at No. 5 with $9.7 million, failing to rouse much Valentine's Day passion.

In an unprecedented strategy, all four newcomers opened on Thursday -- a day earlier than usual -- in hopes of pulling in some Valentine's Day business from couples. Including Thursday sales, "Jumper" earned $33.9 million, "Step Up 2 the Streets" $26.3 million, "The Spiderwick Chronicles" $21.5 million and "Definitely, Maybe" $12.8 million.

Here is how The Spiderwick Chronicles measured up at boxofficemojo.com

Posted by dschnee at 6:36 AM

February 16, 2008

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

what? I'm just sayin'

So why am I posting about Wolverine? Well I was a fan of the comics as a teenager, and I dig the X-Men films, and I'm definitely looking forward to this project... but (shhhhh) I might also get to work on it. what? I'm just sayin'

The Story

The Wolverine film is believed to be set approximately two decades before the events of the first X-Men. However, there may be a flashback sequence to Logan's childhood at the beginning of the movie. The story will focus on the character's violent past and his early dealings with William Stryker -- the origins of the Cold War-era Weapon X supersoldier program. The film will chronicle Logan's initial encounters with other mutants, including Victor Creed, who would soon become his nemesis, Sabertooth.

Featured Characters

Logan/Wolverine - Hugh Jackman reprises his X-Men role in this prequel that focuses on the character's origins. We believe the film will show how his skeleton was bonded with the rare and indestructible metal alloy adamantium during the Cold War-era Weapon X supersoldier program (a process he survives thanks to his mutant healing factor). In Marvel lore, the clandestine operation's original test subjects were members of the CIA's covert ops Team X, which included Logan and at least two other mutants that will come into play in the movie: Victor Creed/Sabretooth and Silver Fox.

X-Men's Sabretooth. He'll be cooler.

Victor Creed/Sabretooth - We expect the introduction of Victor Creed into Logan's world to be similar to the comic book history. Logan first encounters Creed when the two are living in the same Canadian frontier community during the 1910s. The man later known as Sabretooth intimidates everyone in the village except for Logan, a young man he suspects has feral mutant abilities similar to his own. He is also resentful of the relationship between Logan and an Indian girl named Silver Fox. Creed makes a pass at the young woman, but she rejects his advances. He assaults her and leaves her for dead. The first of many ferocious clashes between Logan and Creed then ensuses. Creed and Logan part ways, but are later reunited, their memories altered, as part of the CIA's Team X. We anticipate a much less dimwitted version of Sabretooth than was presented in the original X-Men.

Actor Liev Schreiber who had been linked to the role of Stryker, is rumored to be playing Creed. While Live Schrieber was originally slated to play the younger William Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s now known that this actor will portray the character of Sabretooth instead.

So, who will be filling Stryker’s evil shoes? Danny Huston.

William Stryker - In the X-Men movie continuity, Colonel William Stryker is introduced in X2 (played by actor Brian Cox) as a military scientist who invented the adamantium bonding process that was used on Logan. You'll see Stryker again, albeit a slightly younger version, in Wolverine.

It was initially reported that actor Liev Schreiber would be portraying the character, but that's since been called into question. Rumor has it (source: CHUD.com) that Dexter actor Michael C. Hall is up for the role.

Silver Fox - Silver Fox's movie origins are also expected to be similar to established Marvel lore. She's was a young member of an Indian tribe in the Canadian Rockies when she fell in love with a mutant named Logan. But another member of the pair's remote community, Victor Creed, sought to dominate Logan. When Silver Fox rejected his advances, Creed savagely attacked her, presumably raping her and leaving her for dead. Unbeknownst to both Creed and Logan, Silver Fox survived the attack. In fact, she was reunited with both of them as a member of the Weapon X program. As mentioned, their memories had been altered as a result of the program's memory implants, so it's unlikely that they were aware of their history. In the comics, Silver Fox's only mutant ability is the regenerative power given to her by the Mutant X program.

Maggie Q was initially linked to the role, but more recently rumors of actress Michelle Monaghan's casting have surfaced.

IESB reports that the beautiful Lynn Collins has been cast. Early rumors pointed towards Maggie Q and Michelle Monaghan, but those have since fallen through as well. The 28-year-old actress was previously seen in The Number 23, The Lake House, and 13 Going on 30.

Other Mutants? - There will be plenty of other mutants appearing in the film, however briefly. We've heard rumors of higher profile cameos like Gambit (Yes, Gambit will be in it, played by Bailey Chase) and Deadpool, as well as appearances by lesser known mutants like The Blob (and Yes, The Blob as well) and Beak.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens May 1, 2009.
(Wolverine: The Basics - movies.ign.com)

Posted by dschnee at 7:38 AM

February 15, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles: A VFX Field Guide

J. Paul Peszko uncovers the secrets of The Spiderwick Chronicles, thanks to Industrial Light & Magic and Tippett Studio.

This is the longest vfx article, ever.

The amount and variety of unusual creatures from the five volumes was so daunting that the visual effects had to be shared by two studios: San Francisco's Industrial Light & Magic and Berkeley's Tippett Studio. Visual effects pioneer Phil Tippett was creature supervisor for the overall production. On set during the entire principal photography, he worked with the visual effects team from his own studio along with the team from ILM to coordinate the nightmarish logistics involved in combining live action with CG.

The team at Tippett Studio included in-house Creature Supervisor Joel Friesch, who also served as co-visual effects supervisor with Blair Clark, CG Supervisor Russell Darling and Animation Supervisor Todd Labonte.

Explains Clark: "We did all of the animation and design work on Hogsqueal, the Troll, Redcap, the goblins and bull goblins, as well as lighting, texturing and compositing and doing the final output."

(vfxworld.com)

At least, they knew what they were getting into from the very beginning. In fact, Tippett Studio openly pitched Paramount to secure the project as Clark elaborates. "We had a lot of people who were very aware of Tony DiTerlizzi's books, myself included, and I always thought they would be really cool turned into a movie... So, we were very interested when we heard that it was being looked at [for a feature film]. We had a little bit of down time after finishing a show (Charlotte's Web), and we had an elite modeler, Sven Jensen. He had some time and we asked him to make a little 3D goblin based on Tony DiTerlizzi's drawings in the books and in the field guide, which pretty much all through the production was always used as the bible."

According to Clark, Jensen "nailed" the goblin. "We had a couple of notes for him along the way, but he did such a good job on it with Mudbox and Maya, and it just looked great. It was very faithful to DiTerlizzi's drawings. We kind of took a little bit of license with his feet and his hands. In Tony's drawings, they're pretty much like chicken feet and chicken hands. We changed them a little bit so he could have an opposable thumb to shift and manipulate things a little easier. We just polished it a little bit so it would be easier to run and rock and stand. But other than that it was really cool."

Next, it was up to the animation team to do their thing. "Then Todd came on. He had a couple guys, and they started doing some tests to play with it and move it around and see what we had. They did a whole vignette of little things with just a goblin and a spear on a primitive platform. It was really promising. We decided to make more of those and finish it off with a little piece that had more than one shot. We ended up with a sequence where these goblins are running through a bunch of trees and then going into the water and swimming across the lake toward the camera. They get sucked under the surface by some shadowy shape and then the one remaining goblin turns pale and starts swimming away from camera."

When Labonte's team showed what they had to Tippett, he was blown away and decided that they should incorporate it in their pitch to Paramount. Labonte explained that they wound up making trips between Berkeley and Los Angeles while they were rapping work on Charlotte's Web. It was their excitement that sealed the deal. "Before we were even awarded the show, we started playing around with goblin tests," Labonte notes. "Get the guy rigged, and then give him a weapon and have him start running around and barking. Just sort of playing around with how do these guys run and what's their temperament. We actually showed that stuff to Paramount before we had the show, and that got them actually really excited that we were excited."

The main point of their tests, according to Labonte, was to work out the goblins' movement cycles. "One thing that Phil likes to do, in order to understand the character from a biological sort of perspective, is to get the walk cycle worked out and you also want to work out what the character does at rest. So, let the animators do a 30-second cycle of the goblin doing nothing. If you could sort of get your head around what he's like when he's sitting and thinking and not having to do anything crazy, you can get a handle on things like his basic metabolism and that kind of stuff. We also did all sorts really aggressive tests on weapons and how he holds a weapon. There was a lot of work in those regards for the goblins and the bull goblins, too. Just working out how they walk. Do they work bipedally or (are they) quadruped? We found that with the goblins that going to a quadruped walk cycle was a lot more threatening than if we got them up on their back legs..."

Their general psychological demeanor was also key to those early tests. "One of the other things that we were trying to figure out as we did pre-production was how silly to make them" Labonte continues. "Are they more comical and blundery or are they threatening and predatory? And the director really pushed us toward the more serious. These guys are the heavies for the movie so we've got to make them really scary. Our initial tests were sometimes a little on the comical side. So we were early on cued in to let's make them scary."
Once their deal with Paramount was finalized, Tippett Studio expanded their initial design phase. "We went into more of a design phase for the other characters and also revisiting the goblins to make sure they were in keeping with Mark Waters' wishes," Clark states. "The goblin stayed pretty much true to form the way we had made him through the run of the show. We made variations on him for the group. We just wanted to make sure it didn't look like the same goblin kind of stamped a hundred times. So, we did variations like fatter and skinnier ones and a little bit of height variations, some markings and a paint job and things like that to break it up."

At that point they also decided to hire more outside sculptors to create 3D maquettes. "It's just really nice in a meeting with the director to have something on the table to look at, to see the light, and to move it around in realtime," explains Clark. "We were so close with the design, and it was so defined in 2D on paper that we had to be able to get everybody in these meetings all on the same page and at the same time have something very tangible that we can all look at."
One of the sculptors they hired was Mark Newman, who lived in Berkeley."The first thing we did was to give him all the 2D artwork we could find on these characters; namely, Hogsqueal and Thimbletack, and some directions that had been passed on to us from the director," Clark says. "He went home, and when he came back, he brought back on Thimbletack virtually the same design that is in the film. ILM took his sculpture that had only gone through a few modifications along the way, and they pretty much translated that to computer graphics and made the necessary changes they needed to. But design-wise, (Newman) nailed it. Everybody that saw it said, 'Yeah, that's him.'"

Hogsqueal was the one character that went through the most changes conceptually. "There are only a few pen and ink sketches of Hogsqueal in the book, and in the Field Guide, there's a water color painting of a hobgoblin, which is what Hogsqueal is," notes Clark. "We decided to go with that one initially. So, Mark sculpted that. He was this little fat guy. He was small and had big fat ears and big eyes. He looked really cool, but when the director saw him, he said, 'No, all the other stuff looks great, but you haven't really got Hogsqueal yet. This guy looks creepy, and he's kind of a buddy to these kids as odd as he is. He's a little bit of a helper and a buddy, so we can't have him too scary.' [Hogsqueal] was always a little more porcine, a little more pig-like, not fat-like, and he should be overweight and just kind of jovial and happy and friendly. Although he's kind of a slob and someone you might question wanting to hang out with, you immediately get this feeling that as unsavory as he is, he looks friendly."

Newman went through several revisions of Hogsqueal, based on the notes that Clark had received from the production team. "Every time I talked to Mark with a little bit of feedback, he'd asked, 'Okay, what are they thinking?' I'd mention the list. It would always be a pretty short list: you need to make his arms a little bit longer, and his feet need to be a little bit bigger and this needs to be adjusted a little bit. And then I'd always have to ask, 'When do you think you can have these changes?' And he would say, 'Oh, I just made them. I'll bring it by at lunch.' Then he would bring it by, and it'd be great."

Aside from the basic body posture, the animators wanted to get a really rough face system morphed out for Hogsqueal, as Labonte explains. "With all of these guys, you've got to work on the face and give them some dialog and see how you have to modify the sculpture to get the concept right, especially with these guys that have to talk. With either concept art or early sculptures, it's hard to deal with when it gets down to actually making them speak. You've got to modify it. With Hogsqueal, he's got a lot of humorous stuff, and it was real fun to play around with."

When it came to the actual production, Labonte says Hogsqueal's performance could be a challenge as far as he was an ally to the kids. "He was a good guy. So you had to make him sort of appealing and give him a believable, friendly performance. Hogsqueal sort of models a raccoon in that he's comfortable in the natural world but he's also really accustomed to the human world. He's one of the magical creatures in the world, but he understands the human situation. So we can pick up a lot more human mannerisms. You have all the usual problems that you have with just the basic face performance and trying to get an interesting nuance and making a believable character out of him. That was sort of exciting. Animators always like to do acting shots instead of shots where you're doing lots of stunts. You have a break from the shots where you have 30 goblins. Instead you have just one guy, acting."
Next, Tippett Studio tapped another sculptor, Martin Munier, who had worked with Clark on the first Starship Troopers. "We hired him to come up with some 3D maquettes that we could have on the table for the Troll, the Red Cap and the Bull Goblins," Clark recalls. "We went through a few alterations on some of those things, mainly the Troll. The Red Cap was pretty much exactly as he was when we got the maquette finished. He didn't change very much at all. Design-wise he stayed very, very close."

The Troll initially started off as a water troll but was completely redesigned for a less ambitious action sequence. "There's a whole scene, where he's kind of like the classic troll under the bridge, and a kid narrowly escapes being eaten by him when they first cross the stream," explains Clark. "Then, when they came back, they have to trick him and trick the goblins that were chasing them, and he ended up eating a whole bunch of goblins. But there's a whole different thing that ended up in the film. At some point, the Troll was changed. He was altered to be a burrowing land creature: a mole troll, I think, he is credited as being now."
Labonte says that the Troll's design changed from a slower metabolism to a higher one when the script changed. "Our initial sentiments were more like a slow (crawl) like alligators. They're real slow and they get into this position where they almost look like floating logs. Then when they strike they go really fast. We were working on those kinds of things, those really creepy, immobile moves and then striking with a really faster action. Overall, he was just much faster. So, we dropped the slow crocodilian aspect and worked for a much more frenetic, big charging rhino kind of aesthetic."

Labonte adds that the same situation existed with the goblins regarding movement and temperament. "We were modeling their motions after amphibians like frogs and also like gorillas when they're moving, which is a really powerful, top-heavy kind of movement aesthetic. Then when they calmed down, they were much more cold-blooded, so they were like really relaxed, and they had these really slow, cool frog legs. Actually, in the movie, you don't get to see them at rest, but we worked out their body as part of the discovery process that we were doing during pre-production."

It also helped to have real life models, as Labonte points out. "Another thing we did during pre-production was we grabbed a bunch of frogs from the local vivarium. We brought them in so the animators and the modelers could touch them and feel their skin. We looked at a video reference obviously as the first step, but it's important if there is a real creature that's close to that to be able to actually feel their muscles in your hands."

Before Tippett Studio actually signed onto the project, Paramount had worked with another artist who came up with a 3D maquette of the Boggart, which is the character that Thimbletack turns into in a Jekyll and Hyde type transformation. Clark says it was very fortunate because it gave all the people that had to sign off on the various character designs the opportunity to view the same model at the same time in the same room. "And you could alter the environment it was in very easily," he remarks. "And once that was signed off on, then you really knew where you were going when you got to the digital end of things. It solved a lot of problems that eat up a lot of time in CG."

The Tippett team didn't do any of the pre-production for actual sequences. Director Waters and his staff handled all that. "We worked more on a free-form exploration of the characters," offers Labonte, "every now and then staging stuff, similar to shots that we read in the script, typical animatic sort of stuff."
He mentions that the only challenges in producing the effects were in the scale of the shots. "We were in this sort of uncomfortable position where a lot of the shots had from 12 to 20 goblins. It was tricky because there were not enough characters that we could really use a crowd simulation (program). But, if you wanted to do it by hand, it was just really daunting and time-consuming. But, we ended up doing it by hand basically."

They did the animation in different cycles with goblins at various levels of agitation populating each cycle. "So you just had to go in there and basically give one animator charge of the shot through the blocking phase so that he can work out what all the characters are roughly doing. Then we would split the shot up into multiple animators once the blocking had been establish, and you take the guys in the left mid-ground, and you take the guys in the foreground and you take the guys in the right background."

Labonte also notes one particular shot with 40 or 50 goblins. "They're all hand-animated, and there's a huge panning shot across them, where they're scrambling to get under the house, and they're tearing at the foundation. At the window, the Redcap is in there barking orders at them. And it's all just hand-keyed by two guys. That was a big challenge."

One of the ways to handle that challenge as far as lighting the scene was to use global illumination, according to CG Supervisor Darling. They start with what are known as point clouds, which are basically points in space. "It's a way to represent something with, obviously, pixels. You can get all kinds of valuable data that way," states Darling. So, we can take those and turn them into basically what are known as brick maps, which is another level of detail where we can kind of sample and get more about the environment. It's a different approach to gathering more information on a surrounding scene and then using that in rendering the character to get more realistic lighting effects with global illumination. But it's much less intense as far as the computing power that goes into it. There's a lot of new research and work that's been done by Pixar and RenderMan to leverage those technologies to make the end results really nice and less labor intensive and render farm intensive."
As an example, in the shot that Labonte mentioned above with 40 or 50 goblins attacking the house, Darling explains how they used global illumination effectively. "It's at the beginning of that where they're surrounding the house and climbing all over the place. Using this technology, we had just three CG lights placed in that scene to light what ended up being 40 or 50 goblins just because it was all driven off the environment. Normally what you'd have to do is be very precise in placing lights for each character, and it would have been very labor intensive. But our new lighting pipeline allowed us to put a light from the moon here and a light coming from the window there and then that was placed in the scene and that actually made for more realistic lighting and actually gave us a real nice result."

As an example, in the shot that Labonte mentioned above with 40 or 50 goblins attacking the house, Darling explains how they used global illumination effectively. "It's at the beginning of that where they're surrounding the house and climbing all over the place. Using this technology, we had just three CG lights placed in that scene to light what ended up being 40 or 50 goblins just because it was all driven off the environment. Normally what you'd have to do is be very precise in placing lights for each character, and it would have been very labor intensive. But our new lighting pipeline allowed us to put a light from the moon here and a light coming from the window there and then that was placed in the scene and that actually made for more realistic lighting and actually gave us a real nice result."

One of Darling's tasks on The Spiderwick Chronicles was to improve the pipeline so that the animators could work more efficiently. This brought about a couple of innovations. "One of my goals was always to make it easier for the artists to work, so that animators can spend their time animating rather than dealing with the render farm. We developed a number of new tools to enhance the pipeline. There was, what we call, the creature manager. Our animators are building various animation cycles, and it gives them a real nice interface to the pipeline so that they have all the cycles and can choose a certain one to, at least, start out as a basis."

The purpose of this feature is to make it as easy as possible for the artist to interact with the pipeline. On the other hand, what if you have technical directors and effects animators that need all kinds of controls? "We have a real nice pipeline where the same tool can appear in different forms depending on who uses it," Darling explains. "If you're an animator, you have a real simple interface to render. On the extreme side, you have a lighting TD that needs absolute control over things. So, the same tool exposes the whole interface to them. But as far as we're concerned, it's the same pipeline, the same tool. That system is called Jet."

Another innovation called Riot Control further improved Tippett's pipeline. "In the wide shot of the goblins around the house, we came up with our own crowd system to handle that because there were 120 goblins in that scene. So, we developed our own tool that we call Riot Control. That was a tricky shot because in the beginning there was supposed to be several shots that ended up only being one. It was one of those situations where you look at it and think that maybe this is a case where we want to use a system like Massive. But there were too many characters to do it by hand and also too few to invest in what it takes to bring a system like Massive up to speed. So, that was one where we decided to go our own route because it fell in that middle ground."

The new system allowed them to make use of particle maps and vary the cycles in order to build the shot. "Those goblins, their actions are actually defined by particles, and then the animators have created cycles where the goblins can run in or they can move to a walk cycle or they can move to aggressive standing movements or whatever. So we had things that we could just build up and create this interesting shot. We could also combine all those different animation cycles with different looks because we didn't want all the goblins to look the same. So, we have a bunch of different painted textures and different sizes for the goblins so they could all appear as individuals, not too different but also not too similar."

Riot Control not only allowed animators to build a middle ground shot between a small group and a massive one, it also helped them to manage the way the goblins behaved and looked. "It also allowed us to choose the cycle and to choose what kind of goblin we wanted like a green goblin here with a weapon and a brown goblin there without a weapon," Darling notes. "That was the one shot where (Riot Control) was used. Everywhere else we had a crew of animators that were really talented. Todd talked about this where we had two animators working on it, and they split things up, and they did a really good job. The actual animation crew, I believe, was 30, which was the largest amount of animators that Tippett has ever had on just one show. But on any particular shot, just one animator could handle it, but the sheer number of goblins (attacking the house) required that the shot be split up."
There were some 15 shots where Tippett and ILM had to share characters. Darling details some of the challenges involved in their collaboration with ILM. "We had to make sure that everything looked correct so that we had our way to manage color and they had their way to manage color. But, when we exchanged the images, we put them back into the original mutual color space.

"There's this scene where their character picks ours up by his head. So what we did was we were able to cache out our animation so that we could give them what amounted to an empty shell of a character that didn't have any of our rigging or anything so we could block out our animation that way. So, it was totally not at all dependent on anybody's proprietary pipeline. In the end, one studio would do the final composite dependent on which one character was favored more than the other that would be the final person to finish it."

In all, Tippett Studio did a little more than 300 shots with a team of 100 artists. It took about 18 months to complete their work. They modeled in Maya and Mudbox then used a 3D paint package and used Photoshop, mostly with Maya and RenderMan. Then they used Shake to do all their compositing.

Now let's move across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's Presidio where ILM is housed. There, award-winning Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Alexander, whose credits include the last two Harry Potter films, guided the development, animation and integration of the film's heavy, Mulgarath, the ogre, Thimbletack and his mean-tempered alter ego, the Boggart. Alexander's team also created a variety of fantastical supporting characters, such as Byron, the majestic Griffin, a rapacious Raven, the Snake, Sylphs and a host of magical and elaborately detailed Sprites. Alexander also oversaw the effects artistry involved in creating the seamless interaction between lead twin characters Jared and Simon Grace.

All in all, ILM created some 370 shots for a total screen time of 30 minutes. "We had 215 artists working for 15 months to create the shots, and out of the 357, about 230 were 3D shots," according to Alexander. "There were over 203 character animation shots, but then there were also all of the Sylph shots that weren't necessarily animated but simulated. On top of that, there were also all the digital matte paintings and so on."

Other work included creating digital environments for many scenes and all the doubling shots for Freddie Highmore, who played twin brothers, Jared and Simon Grace. All animation was done in Autodesk's Maya, which was then imported into ILM's in-house Zeno, where the team did lighting and simulation work. "All of our cloth sims were done there," Alexander adds, "and we also have our Fez system that lives both in Maya and Zeno, so an animator can choose which package he wants to use." All compositing was done in Apple Shake. "We do have an in-house package as well, but we're mainly a Shake house."

Along with Visual Effects Art Director Christian Alzmann, Animation Supervisor Tim Harrington was a key member of Alexander's team and provided insight into the driving inspiration that earmarked ILM's work on the production. "We've had some films that have a large variety of creatures, but the cool thing about the creatures in Spiderwick or the most challenging thing, I think, was just trying to make them look like they're grounded in reality and a part of nature," Harrington says. "One of the common themes we thought about when we were doing all the research for the project was that each creature had to be based on some kind of creature that we know in nature so they didn't come across as funny, goofy animated characters in a live-action film. We wanted them to be a part of this Spiderwick world that the filmmakers were creating."

The team spent a great deal of time studying animal behavior for each character. "For instance, for Thimbletack," Harrington notes, "we looked at lemurs and small mammals, and for Mulgarath, we researched gorillas and boars and big, ugly hairy creatures."

Another challenge that Harrington cites was the fact that there have been so many fantasy films recently, like the Potter and Narnia franchises for example, that these same type of creatures had appeared in other movies. "We wanted to bring a new spin to them. Traditionally fairies and sprites are just little humans with insect wings. So, with the flower sprites, for instance, we came up with this idea of creating a little fairy that's actually made out of flower petals to do something different. The challenge with that was, okay, that looks different, it looks cool, but how do we make this thing fly because it doesn't really have any wings? So, again we looked at nature, and we found some underwater creatures that kind of propelled themselves like jellyfish. Maybe you could have a similar movement like that to propel itself through the air, and then you use its big flower petals as kind of a glider and just glide through the air instead of flying."
Another area where the team thought they could push the boundaries of the R&D department was facial animation. "We've done facial animation before, and we had a pretty good system," says Harrington. "But we thought this would be a great opportunity to push the R&D department to come up with some new tools for creating facial animation. For instance, Thimbletack, we knew he was going to have to go through a wide range of expressions, and in some shots he would go from happy to angry to confused all within the span of two or three shots because he's kind of a manic character. So, the R&D department created this next-generation animation system called the Fez." It's basically replacing our old Cari facial animation system."

To go along with the Fez, ILM's R&D department came up with two new facial interfaces. "One of them is called Facedon," reports Harrington. "One of the problems that we always run into when we're creating creatures for these films is that you have a crew of 25 animators, so it's really hard to keep the performance consistent because each animator and each artist has their own span and their own style. Sometimes it's really challenging to keep the character on-model. When you watched the first season of The Simpsons, there's something about the drawings; they're not quite there. They're a little off. It's because they're off model."

The idea behind the Facedon interface was to bring back the concept of the model sheet that was used in traditional animation as a reference for all the animators. The sheet would contain various drawings that would illustrate how the character looked in different angles or different expressions. "The animators could reference that and keep everything consistent," Harrington explains. "So, the concept behind this Facedon module was to have something similar to a model sheet except make it more interactive. The idea is that you have a library of preset expressions for a character like Thimbletack created by the animation supervisor and approved by the client or director. So, you have happy, angry, enraged, sad, and the animators can use this tool to bring up all these facial expressions and quickly block in the facial animation for the shot. They can pop in one expression, or they can mix and match different facial expressions. So, they can use the eyes from one expression and the mouth from another expression to create a new one."

What Harrington likes most about Facedon is the consistency that it brings to the facial performance. "It gives the animators the same starting place and the same foundation to keep the character on model, but it doesn't lock them in a box.

"Face Select is another interface designed to go along with the Fez system. "Once you have your animation blocked in, you would use this next tool, Face Select, for fine tuning the performance," explains Harrington. "Before, we just had a bunch of sliders that had a bunch of different names. The animators had to learn what the names meant and what each control did to the face. So, with Face Select we came up with the concept of actually creating an interface for facial controls based on human anatomy. Imagine a Gray's Anatomy illustration of a human face with all the facial muscles. The interface has a little graphic of a human face that's got all the muscles. Say, you want to pull the mouth up, you would actually click on that muscle in the interface, which is Zigomatic Major, and it would bring up the control for that muscle so that you could pull the corner of the mouth up or down."

Harrington also points out that the Face Select interface is quite intuitive to use. "Traditionally, we used to spend a lot of time technically trying to debug shots and learn what the controls did, and the animators spent probably half of their time dealing with technical issues. Most animators are pretty familiar with human anatomy because they went to art school, so now they have an interface that makes sense. It was something that they could just jump right in. Within an hour, they would be up and running animating the face. Now they've got 80 to 90% of their time doing their creative work as opposed to spending half of their time dealing with technical issues."

Another ILM innovation, Rapid Prototyping, was utilized not only to build low-resolution CG models of the characters for study, but also to apply some basic movement, sometimes putting a staffer in a motion capture suit to begin assigning some early moves. As Alexander explains, "The director can actually see the character moving and can begin making decisions about physical proportions and movement early on."

The animators could then make use of the reference video shot during the recording sessions by the actors, in order to include as much of their characterizations in the creatures' personalities as possible. "That kind of thing is extremely helpful," Alexander adds. "We can add in twitches and other body language that we saw when he was making the recording, and we can put all that expression into the character. The Martin Short reference was extremely helpful for Thimbletack's lip synch, for example."
Harrington details the important intermediate role that Rapid Prototyping in creating a character rig. "With Rapid Prototyping, once the characters are designed, we scan the flat art, and then the art department would take these images and scan them into the computer, and they would really quickly mock up a 3D model. It didn't have a lot of detail. It was just enough to flesh out the proportions and the scale of the creature. From there, we use some proprietary software that we have called Block Party. We can run this model (the rapid prototype) through Block Party and within an hour, it creates a rig that the animators can use. If it's a humanoid, you can also map on the human anatomy. We have bones and muscles in the Block Party system that can be remapped onto these creatures based on their proportions. From there we can start mocking up some animation."

He cites Mulgarath, the ogre, as an example of how Rapid Prototyping can quickly fine-tune a character's design. "We did a lot of Rapid Prototyping animation with Mulgarath. One of the concerns when designing that creature was his legs were too short. When you design it in 2D, the image could look fine, but it's not until you get it in the computer and you get it moving around that you know whether it's going to be an issue or not. Doing this Rapid Prototyping, when we got some animation going, we could see how (Mulgarath) was moving. It became an interactive thing with the director where we could get him involved. What do you think? Should his arms be longer? Should his legs be longer? How do you want him to walk? To be more human? To be more gorilla? It's something that you can turn around really quickly and make those modifications and show him what you've done and get more feedback. The big win with that is that you're making all these design choices before you create the final model and before you get into shot production."

Harrington believes Rapid Prototyping is the key to preventing costly redesigns. "I've been on a few films where it looks great in 2D. Then you design it and model it and do a turntable, and nobody is really looking at how this thing walks. Nobody is doing any walk cycles. Nobody is studying if these proportions are going to have a negative effect on how it moves. So, you're actually in shot production when you realize his knees are too high, and it makes him look like he's walking on stilts. The good thing about Rapid Prototyping the model is that you can hit those big design decision head on right in the beginning before you get into shot production and waste any money having to redesign the creature."

Like the animators at Tippett Studio, Harrington says that, in the beginning, they often referred to DiTerlizzi's images. Then things changed. Then everything was up to how director Waters responded to their designs. "He was in the driver's seat," Harrington notes. "For instance, the original Mulgarath design in the book is a lot different. It's more, I don't want to say friendly, but it's not as scary as what we went with. When we got a hold of the design, we were like this is a great opportunity to scare the shit out of kids with this feature. We want this to be a ride for them. We don't want this monster to be just a Muppet that they're not really scared of. So, I think we went crazy and just cranked up the scariness of that guy. When we showed it to Mark, we thought maybe that's a little too scary, maybe that's a little too R-rated. We don't know if Mark's going to go for it. But he went for it. Nick Nolte's the voice, and it just fit. That creature's design and Nick Nolte's voice just came together."

Harrington enjoyed the archetypal aspect of Mulgarath's character. "Mulgarath was one of those creatures that was really fun to do. As far as figuring out his character, he was probably the easiest to figure out because his character was such a one note. He just wanted that book, and he just had to get that book. His motivation was clear. He just had to be a scary monster. He was one of the creatures that we tackled in the beginning. He came together really quickly, and everybody was really happy with him."

Thimbletack, on the other hand, was more of a challenge. "He was a little more manic," Harrington points out. "He was kind of an English butler type of character, and Eric Idle was going to be the voice, but they couldn't get him. So, Martin Short became the voice, and they did a few rewrites, and during the rewrites because he had been in the house for a number of years by himself protecting the book, his character became a little more manic, a little more crazy. So, the challenge with Thimbletack was that he had to go through this wide range of different emotions within one sequence sometimes. He got to explode into anger, and then being scared and then being sad, all within three or four shots. In both animation and acting that was probably the most challenging in that area."
Another major challenge was Thimbletack's transformation into the Boggart. "Transformations traditionally in computer graphics are always extremely difficult," states Harrington. "This was no exception, but we came up with a pretty cool solution as far as rigging. We modeled Thimbletack first. Then we used that same topology to reverse model it into the Boggart so that they had a one-to-one match as far as their topology goes, so you could blend between them. Then we actually created a rig that you could animate the scale of the bones on. If you needed to go from Thimbletack's skeleton to the Boggart's skeleton, you had a slider that controlled each limb, the body, the chest and the head. They were all separate controls so you could actually stagger different body parts to get a more organic, chaotic feel when he was exploding into the Boggart."

Harrington says that they actually decided to downplay the transformations. "A lot of times when people do these transformations in movies, it becomes this big hero movement where the music swells, and maybe the camera stops and starts circling around. We wanted to do the opposite. We didn't want to stage it so that it was this big effect that everybody had to marvel over. We wanted to downplay and make it part of Thimbletack's performance. So we made his performance dominate the shot. When he's freaking out and delivering a line, we wanted to get the performance right. Then on top of that, he just happens to be transforming. Blisters are popping out, and he's trying to keep them back. His arm explodes into the Boggart (arm), and finally he just explodes into the Boggart."

In addition, Harrington explains that the animators approached the transformations with two different philosophies. "When he goes from Thimbletack to the Boggart, we wanted it to be a painful, explosive quick thing because it's motivated by anger. Then when he transforms from the Boggart back to the Thimbletack to be more soothing and calming. It's motivated by being soothed by the honey, which is the only thing that can calm down a Boggart and turn him back into a brownie."

In the Thimbletack transformation rig, the animators could blend between Thimbletack and the Boggart in the shot, and actually be able animate a creature that is half-and-half and be able to pose him. "A lot of time when you do those types of shots, the scales change and the pivots change," Harrington points out, "and his hand might move away from the wrist. So, it gets really difficult to pose him when he's in the in between stage. With this rig his wrist stayed where it needed to. Everything was locked down. The pivots didn't change. Just the proportions changed."

For Alexander, the biggest challenges were creating the sequences with the Sylphs and the Griffin. "The Sylphs had a look that was very hard to define," he says. "We had shots with five of them in it, and shots with thousands, and trying to get a pack of a thousand dots to look like anything proved to be very tough."

Alzmann notes, "They look essentially like dandelion seeds that you might come across drifting on the wind, but with tiny faces on them."

To deal with this, the team used various scale models. "For close-ups, we had a full-rez model so we could see their face, and then each hair was modeled and put on the model and sim'ed," Alexander reports. "Then we'd go down from there all the way to the point where we were just projecting a 2D texture onto the particles, depending on what scale they were to camera. But even the middle rez Sylph had the ability to be either simulated or hand-animated. And on top of that, we simulated the hairs on their head as well."

The Griffin was modeled as a half-bird, half-lion creature. "So there's that underlying geometry," Alexander continues. "Then we have these two, very stubby wings, and then we placed individual feathers, all modeled, for his wings. So there are layers and layers of feathers that were modeled and then hand-placed, and those get simulated and they collide with each other, so that the feathers don't penetrate each other. Then the rest of the body feathers and the feathers on its head were procedurally generated by putting hair splines on the Griffin, and then adding feathers to the splines."
As for the actual flight sequence with the Griffin, Harrington explains how they solved that challenge. "We knew we were going to have to shoot the actors on a rig. So we spent a lot of time with the director prevising that sequence just to work out all the shots so we knew which shots were going to be live-action kids on a rig and which were going to be digital double kids. Once we had the previs all locked down, we took the animation from the previs Griffin and pumped that into the motion rig that was on the bluescreen set, which the kids sat on. So, the kids could actually react to the movement of the Griffin in the previs. For example, when the Griffin banks to the right, the rig would tilt to the right, and the kids could lean with it. The other tricky part about the Griffin sequence was that Freddie Highmore played both twins (Jared and Simon Grace). So, we had to treat two passes when we were shooting the kids on the rig. The first pass was Freddie playing Jared with Mallory. Then we had to do another pass with Freddie playing Simon. Once we had those elements, we brought those into the computer. Then we could pull in our real Griffin animation model and put him on top of that and start refining the animation so that it looked like they were actually riding on his back."

The Griffin ride provides both the fun and excitement of a roller coaster ride. Harrington explains: "Conceptually, the sequence is really cool. In one of the original versions of the film (script) there wasn't really a light moment for the kids where they're having fun. The cool thing about the Griffin sequence was that the beginning of it starts out really fun. They're enjoying themselves. They're riding up into the sky, and it's all beautiful. Then we came up with the idea of it being like a roller coaster ride. It's exciting and you're adrenaline is pumping as you're going up to the top of that thing. Then, once the roller coaster goes over the edge and starts screaming down the other side, that's really scary. That's the concept behind the Griffin ride. It's going to get more and more chaotic and scary and dangerous as the sequence progresses."

Sounds a lot like the overall journey of The Spiderwick Chronicles.

J. Paul Peszko is a freelance writer and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He writes various features and reviews, as well as short fiction. He has a feature comedy in development and has just completed his second novel. When he isn't writing, he teaches communications courses.

(The vfxworld.com Article with images...)

Posted by dschnee at 11:32 PM

Cloverfield Toy Revealed!

Well here it is... in all it's 'glory'? The Cloverfield Monster Toy from Hasbro. I though I had posted about the toy before, but I guess not, so here are the details and link to the Hasbro site below, ~enjoy.


Cloverfield Monster Features:

* 70 points of articulation and incredible life-like detail
* Authentic sound
* 14� tall
* 10 parasites
* Two interchangeable heads
* Statue of Liberty head accessory
* Special Cloverfield collector�s edition packaging

In conjunction with the launch of the highly anticipated CLOVERFIELD movie release, Hasbro, in a partnership with Bad Robot and Paramount Pictures, has produced a super-articulated and highly detailed limited collector�s edition Cloverfield Monster.

The Cloverfield monster is available exclusively through HasbroToyShop.com. Reserve your Cloverfield monster today to have the opportunity to receive it when it ships later this year. Limited quantities are available.

Includes 3 AAA Batteries.

WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD. Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years.

Cloverfield TM & � 2008 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

So how much?
Price: $99.99 - heyOhhh! and not until October!

Availability: This product will begin shipping on or about 09/30.
Estimated Delivery Dates
Standard (7-10): 10/09 - 10/14
Priority (3-5): 10/03 - 10/07
Express (1-2): 10/01 - 10/02

Cloverfield Movie Monster Toy from Hasbro

Posted by dschnee at 6:31 AM

February 14, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles is Released!

in the USA 18 January 2008

visit The Spiderwick Chronicles @ imdb.com

Box Office Results February 15-17, 2008
Number: 3
Weekend Gross: $19,080,000
Theatres: 3,847
Theatre Average: $4,959
Weeks in Release: 1
Total Gross: $21,389,000
Budget: $90 million
Running Time: 1 hrs. 37 min.
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG

"A caution to parents: The computer-generated goblins and ogre -- courtesy of East Bay-based creature master Phil Tippett -- are fairly frightening creatures. My own almost 4-year-old, who flees the room whenever Nemo's mother meets her fate, would not be able to handle these scenes. I'd recommend the film only for the 8-and-older crowd." (contracostatimes.com)

Awesome.

BoxOfficeMojo.com's "The Spiderwick Chronicles" Statistics

Posted by dschnee at 6:59 AM

February 13, 2008

Spiderwick Reviews + Screening!

Tippett's Screening of The Spiderwick Chronicles is tonight, I can't make it due to a prior engagement, but I'll try and post up the overall reaction tomorrow.

Reviews are trickling in... %78 Fresh and a 61 metascore at the moment...

Here are some of the reviews out there on the interwebs:

"A caution to parents: The computer-generated goblins and ogre -- courtesy of East Bay-based creature master Phil Tippett -- are fairly frightening creatures. My own almost 4-year-old, who flees the room whenever Nemo's mother meets her fate, would not be able to handle these scenes. I'd recommend the film only for the 8-and-older crowd... The Spiderwick Chronicles is a modern-day family film, using swords, magic potions and otherworldly CGI creatures to dispense with divorce demons and adolescent anger-management issues." (variety.com)

"An enjoyable adventure fantasy that pushes all the requisite buttons while still managing to throw in a pleasant surprise or two, Paramount's big-budget gamble has impressive talent to burn on both sides of the camera... along with the other lively sprites, hobgoblins and assorted visual effects -- mesh seamlessly, thanks to the usual state-of-the-art contributions of Industrial Light + Magic and Tippett Studio, while Caleb Deschanel's patented bright, airy cinematography provides a welcoming, naturalistic setting for all the otherworldly developments." (hollywoodreporter.com)

"For much of the movie Waters sustains the delicate balance between scary fantasy and human story. But CGI is a seductive mistress and toward the end Spiderwick bogs down in a crescendo of effects and action, before fizzling into tearful reconciliation on all fronts." (sfweekly.com)

"The Spiderwick Chronicles is actually not as bad as it sounds, though what charm it does have rests largely on Highmore's shoulders. As family friendly fantasy movies go it's pretty solidly in the middle, its resolve to take no chances whatsoever keeping it from ever being more... But not nearly as annoying as the various CG creatures that inhabit the world. While the effects themselves are quite good (not entirely realistic, but it's an aesthetic that actually fits with their out-of-this-world nature) the characterization is awful." (comingsoon.net)

"The Spiderwick Chronicles may not be in the same fantasy league as the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. Yet the family flick based on the books of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is an all-around class act, even if its world of ogres and goblins is a bit stale in the wake of its more ambitious cousins in the over-the-rainbow genre." 2.5 out of 4 stars (canadianpress.google.com)

"The CGI creatures are well-produced, but many of these mythical beasties are scarier when they're invisible. If there's one element of the film that fails miserably, it's the attempt at comic relief from Martin Short (as a honey-addicted house sprite) and Seth Rogen (as a hobgoblin who spits in the humans' faces so that they can see the otherwise invisible creatures)... While 'Spiderwick' won’t necessarily delight parents as much as, say, the Harry Potter series, it still makes for a pretty nifty family outing to the movies." (msnbc.msn.com)

"The Spiderwick Chronicles is not great fantasy, but it's on more solid ground than The Golden Compass and will seem less baffling to some. There's enough here to keep adults engaged, which is an important component of any motion picture that wants to be known as "family entertainment." I would place The Spiderwick Chronicles comfortably in that category. 3 out of 4 stars" (reelviews.net)

"It's a little too incomplete in its storytelling to make adults love it, and far too scary for young children to enjoy. (The screening was not without tears.)
That leaves Spiderwick on an island, without a target audience. Which is kind of a shame - had the story been stronger or the CGI creatures toned down a bit, it might have scored big with adults and children." (azcentral.com)

"This movie probably won't appeal to those lacking in the children department. The artsy crowd will condemn it as, well, not a work of art, and the Lord of the Rings crowd will scream "blasphemy!" and possibly "plagiarism!" But truth be told, this really was an entertaining movie, and it should appeal to anyone looking for an engaging flick." (weeklydig.com)

Posted by dschnee at 6:48 AM

February 12, 2008

Spiderwick Stuff + Toys!

I found this article over the weekend 'Spinning 'Spiderwick Chronicles' for the screen' from the New York Daily Times...

Tippett's studio came up with Mulgarath's goblin army, a menacing cave troll and the slobby hobgoblin Hogsqueal (voiced by "Knocked Up's" Seth Rogen). The veteran Tippett, whose creature credits go back to the original "Star Wars" and include the Oscar-winning "Jurassic Park," has seen his business evolve from puppets and people in monster suits to "150% digital. We used to be limited by physical reality. We're much freer now to play with things in terms of performance. It allows things to be alive."

More stuff here with
Supervisors Series: Phil Tippett, Faries, Goblins, and Character Design in The Spiderwick Chronicles

+3 More Video Clips! these showcase our goblins and Redcap in a couple sequences, head on over to filmschoolregects.com

Also some fun stuff, I found some Spiderwick Toys online! There over at: spiderwick.tystoybox.com and they look... OK, just check out the big old sweet torso cross section point of articulation click on em' below:

Posted by dschnee at 6:41 AM

February 11, 2008

VES Announces 2007 Winners

Looks like it was a big night for ILM and Transformers, with Pixar's Ratatouille taking home a vew awards as well. Pip was robbed!!! Davy Jones won the award for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture.

The 6th Annual VES Awards were held on Feb. 10, 2008 at the Kodak Theatre Grand Ballroom in Hollywood by the Visual Effects Society. Dennis Muren presented Steven Spielberg with the VES Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes the contribution that his vast body of work, as both a director and producer, has made to the art and science of visual effects. Nominees were chosen Saturday, January 5, 2008 by panels of VES members who viewed submissions at the FotoKem screening facilities in Burbank. (fxguide.com)

On the compositing front, Transformers won for Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture with its desert highway sequence. (well deserved) Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial went to NIKE's 'Leave Nothing' spot. It's pretty slick.

See Also: A VES Recap @ vfxhack.com

The winners of the 6th Annual VES Awards are: or in .pdf here

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture

Transformers
Scott Farrar, Shari Hanson, Russel Earl, Scott Benza

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture

Ratatouille
Michael Fong, Apurva Shah, Christine Waggoner, Michael Fu

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Razor Mike Gibson, Gary Hutzel, Sean Jackson, Pierre Drolet

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series

FIGHT FOR LIFE - Episode 4
Philip Dobree, Nicola Instone, Marco Iozzi, Matt Chandler

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program

ROME 2 - Episode 6 “Philippi”
James Madigan, Barrie Hemsley, Duncan Kinnard, Gary Broznich

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

SMIRNOFF Sea
William Bartlett, Scott Griffin, Dan Seddon, David Mellor

Best Single Visual Effect of the Year

TRANSFORMERS - Desert Highway Sequence
Scott Farrar, Shari Hanson, Shawn Kelly, Michael Jamieson

Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game

HALO 3 - Halo 3 Footage
Marcus Lehto, Jonty Barnes, Stephen Scott, CJ Cowan

Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game

WORLD OF WARCRAFT: THE BURNING CRUSADE - Cinematic Intro
Jeff Chamberlain, Scott Abeyta

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

SEA MONSTERS
Sean Phillips, Jack Geist, Robin Aristorenas, Mark Dubeau

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END - Davy Jones
Hal Hickel, Marc Chu, Jakub Pistecky, Maia Kayser

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture

RATATOUILLE - Colette
Janeane Garofalo, Jaime Landes, Sonoko Konishi , Paul Aichele

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Broadcast Program or Commercial

CHEMICAL BROTHERS - SALMON DANCE - Fatlip shots
Nicklas Andersson, Mike Mellor, Sylvain Marc, Florent DeLa Taille

Outstanding Effects in an Animated Motion Picture

RATATOUILLE - Food
Jon Reisch, Jason Johnston, Eric Froemling, Tolga Goktekin

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Motion Picture

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END - The Maelstrom
Frank Losasso Petterson, Paul Sharpe, Joakim Arnesson, David Meny

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program or Commercial

BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE - 002_05
Phi Tran, Matthew Lee, Martin Hilke, Andrew Roberts

Outstanding Models or Miniatures in a Motion Picture

TRANSFORMERS
Dave Fogler , Ron Woodall , Alex Jaeger, Brian Gernand

Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture

TRANSFORMERS
Pat Tubach , Beth D’Amato , Todd Vaziri , Mike Conte

Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program or Commercial

NIKE - Leave Nothing
James Allen, Rob Trent

Outstanding Special Effects in a Motion Picture

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
John Richardson, Stephen Hamilton, Richard Farns, Stephen Hutchinson

Outstanding Special Effects in a Broadcast Program or Commercial

ACTIVELY SAFE - Lexus Hydrant
Dave Peterson, Anthony De La Cruz

Posted by dschnee at 7:26 AM

February 8, 2008

The Effects of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Here's a small article with a big title for The Spiderwick Chronicles...

The last we heard from The Spiderwick Chronicles, we entered a world of goblins, snakes, monsters, and trolls. Now, it's time to actually hear from the people who created that universe.

Directed by Mark Waters, The Spiderwick Chronicles is based on a series of children's books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Taken from the first few in the series, this film follows the adventures of twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace (Freddie Highmore plays both roles), and their sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger), as they find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of fairies and other creatures. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films went to two of the only places on this planet who could design these amazing creatures - George Lucas' ILM and Tippett Studios. Each studio split up the duties to create characters and the architecture." (comingsoon.net)

For Mark, it was a different experience for him bringing the animation side to his directing world. "It's actually been fun, because it's been directing animators the way we would work with actors. The nuance that these guys bring to the animation level is incredible. You first put the movie together the way you think it is, and it's just a thimble full of what the movie will become."

After Freddie and Sarah, the voice cast boasts of Hollywood star-power - Nick Nolte as the evil Mulgrath, Seth Rogen as Hogsqueal and Martin Short as Thimbletack / Bogart. "You bring in a Seth Rogen and Marty Short, you do the lines that are scripted, but they do extra lines, and you play around with the scenes. Especially because those guys are great comedic writers and actors as well, they come up with stuff as well. And you can go so much beyond that in the animation. It's great not being able to be constrained with motion capture."

Mark's process for shooting the animation made it a lot easier because of the technology of ILM and Tippett. Their processes were shown to them just a few days after shooting a certain scene on set. "We took entire animation sequences and did them as we were shooting other scenes. And when you're on the set, you've got Freddie Highmore, and he's acting with Thimbletack (the loveable mouse-like creature voiced by Martin Short). First, he's acting opposite a nine-inch mannequin we made, and I've got an actor on set doing the lines for Thimbletack. When that's over, we sent it to these guys, and we wanted ILM to be doing these lines, doing these actions. They would do this rough animation of them doing moves. Through several levels of the process, he looks like this photo-real little creature sitting in your living room. Every time another level would be done, I would be in amazement; I'd be like, 'Oh my gosh, that's magic.' And they would say, 'That's why we call ourselves that.'"

But even the guys at ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) were excited to work on The Spiderwick Chronicles. "We had the privilege of working on this film from the creatures to the environments," noted supervising animator Christian Alzman. "Being that this is a fantasy film, the genre demands that it has its own set of rules, that it has to be based around forest creatures. This is a magical place, we never wanted to leave; the best part about working here is we get to see it all the way through."

The same definitely went for the guys over at Tippett. "This has been a fun ride," says Phil Tippett. Phil's staff echoed his thoughts, notes Anthony Lucero. "As soon as we read it, we had to do it. It's great creatures, really cool script. It was so cool, we did it from the computer, and then had a 3-D maquette model made out of that; this was the other way. We hit it out immediately, and we were able to play with all these toys."

Because "Spiderwick" is based on the book series, a lot of the creatures already have their own look. For the animators at ILM, that was an easy start. "For the actual 'Spiderwick' books, Tony gave us a world that was such a great jumping off point. That makes everything a lot easier, for sure. But his work helps speed up the work."

Both authors were perfectly fine with moving beyond their original ideas when it came to the film, says Mark Waters. "With Tony and Holly's blessing, we didn't want to make a film only for 10-12 years old; we exploded it a bit and went for the more dynamic, a little more action packed. In the books, they have to cross a bridge with a troll; in our movie, they're in a scary chase sequence with a troll. They liked the idea about making it into a grander scale. Just the complexity of this planning - having one actor play two characters, especially with the special effects team on set."

One instance of making this a grander scale flick – Mark built an entire exterior of the kid's house, and had ILM re-create that house for most of the digital effects. "There are lots of scenes of coming in and out of that house. Most houses that look like this are in the historical register, and you have to walk through them with socks on – and they don't take kindly to having goblins attack them. In order to do that, we knew we had to build it from scratch. You just don't want to settle for something where it's just 'good.' The house represents 'Spiderwick' throughout the movie."

With ILM and Tippett Studios involved, you know The Spiderwick Chronicles is going to be amazing. You can check it all out in theaters when it opens conventional and IMAX theaters on Thursday, February 14th. Check out more photos from the film here!

Source: Steve Chupnick over @ comingsoon.net

Posted by dschnee at 10:55 PM

A Crystal Skull Before The Spiderwick Chronicles

Paramount will attach the first teaser for "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" to fantasy pic "The Spiderwick Chronicles" on Feb. 14, with the spot to hit the Web shortly thereafter.

Reason for the delay is that the film only recently wrapped, so much of the material that would go into a memorable trailer just wasn't ready until now. (Variety.com)

See Also:
Confirmed: 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' Trailer Arrives Next Week (cinematical.com)

and here's a short article about director Mark Waters...
In The Spiderwick Chronicles, director Mark Waters pumps peril and thrill

"The authors were really supportive. They told [coscreenwriter] Karey Kirkpatrick and I, 'You are spending a ton of money on this movie and it has to play bigger than [the 2006 Kirkpatrick-written film] Charlotte's Web in terms of the audience.' We knew we had to pump up the volume a bit, and they were very supportive of us making the action sequences more visceral, more dynamic, and scarier. Of course, we didn't want to lose the kids. I had this barometer in my mind that I wanted to make it scary enough that my five-year-old would want to grab my arm when she was watching but I didn't want her to run out of the room. She got scared by Ratatouille, so she is a wimp. But if I felt that it would make me cringe or her want to look away, then I knew I had gone too far."

Posted by dschnee at 6:41 AM

February 7, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles Fantasy Trailer

Mobile Game... Enter a world of imagination on your mobile device!

here are some comments about the trailer:
"I think the trailer cost more then the game."
"It was good till there was gameplay =/"
"this looks absolutely terrible"
(gametrailers.com)

Posted by dschnee at 7:00 AM

February 4, 2008

South of the Border Marketing + Lead

I mentioned before that we've gone South of the Border and along with this main show going on, we are also doing a marketing project for South of the Border, this is pretty much a spiffy teaser trailer for STB.

So I started on this project today, and what's really cool about it is, It's my first project working as a lead compositor! This is great, I'm totally excited and happy to be given the opportunity. We have a great team working on it, a couple dozen shots, and just a couple of months to finish it up, I'm sure it will prove to be a great learning experience, along with fun and exciting too!

Posted by dschnee at 9:32 PM

Spiderwick's Lovin' It, SK Happy Meals

I'm not sure when these toys will run in McDonald's though. That's all I got, not much else to say. :)

Posted by dschnee at 7:13 AM

February 2, 2008

The Clover is out of the Bag - Monster Revealed!


So I have a lot of info to share about Cloverfield, it's been released in Europe this past week and has been doing really well across the pond. Tippett has sent out this press release 'TIPPETT STUDIO CREATES THE MONSTER THAT DESTROYED MANHATTAN' about our work on the Monster. There is also a great article on the work that Double Negative did on Cloverfield, work that hasn't been getting enough attention, work well worth a ton of attention! It's just that the monster tends to steal the show... hrmmm what else, ohh yeah, so during the season opener of Lost this past Thursday, the came out with this new TV Spot that shows the entire b part of cf045, they actually show the monster stomping his hand into the street and roaring over head, so I guess the cat's out of the bag now... I guess that's what you do when the 2nd weekend drops some 68%... :) I haven't been able to find the new TV Spot online until today, but not only did I find the crappy youtube version, but over on Yahoo Movies! they put up damn near the entire CF (cross fire) sequence online... and in HD!("The Monster Revealed" (1:05)480p, 720p, 1080p) So the 'Clover' is definitely out of the bag...

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were all excited about the Cloverfield Monster making the Cover for Cinefex, but JJ and Paramount wouldn't let us release any pictures of the monster... enough time has passed now and it's too late for a cover, then the release it, well sort of. Were still going to get a small spread in Cinefex #113 but the cover would have been a huge high five.

I only worked on 1 shot in the cross fire sequence, and they only show the tail end of the shot in this sequence, so I trimmed the quicktime to showcase just that shot I worked on, check that out here

How Double Negative Smashed Up Manhattan

'Cloverfield' does well overseas

Press Release: TIPPETT STUDIO CREATES THE MONSTER THAT DESTROYED MANHATTAN

cloverfieldCF010bPart.mov

Posted by dschnee at 2:15 PM