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November 30, 2009

New Moon Box Office Update

The Twilight Saga: New Moon collapsed in its second weekend, as expected after the fan frenzy of its first weekend, but still narrowly led Thanksgiving weekend with $42.9 million for a whopping $230.9 million total in ten days.

Running on the sheer momentum of its massive opening, New Moon soared past the $200 million mark on its eighth day of release and, in the process, eclipsed predecessor Twilight, which had a final haul of $192.8 million. That, of course, also made it the biggest vampire movie on record, but it did fall 70 percent, the steepest second weekend Thanksgiving drop ever surpassing Twilight's 62 percent, and, by shedding nearly $100 million from one weekend to the next, it had the largest decline ever in terms of gross. The first Twilight, though, regained its bearings later in its run, ultimately holding up well for its genre.


Posted by dschnee at 10:52 PM

November 27, 2009

Modern Mages: Phil Tippett Interview

Posted by dschnee at 10:39 PM

November 26, 2009

New Moon' shines on special effects innovator

Special effects innovator Phil Tippett worked with some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s and 1990s - including "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Jurassic Park."

But even those enormous hits didn't come close to last weekend's $142.8 million opening for the "Twilight" sequel "New Moon," with its snarling visual-effect wolves that were animated at the Berkeley-based Tippett Studio.

Tippett, whose creations include the AT-AT snow walkers from "The Empire Strikes Back" and the ED-209 robot from "RoboCop," took a break from working on the movie version of "Eclipse" (next in the "Twilight" series) for an interview in his conference room - surrounded by models, memorabilia and movie posters associated with the films he's worked on over the past three decades.

Q: Which movie had tighter security on the set, "Return of the Jedi" or "New Moon"?

A: For "Return of the Jedi," I was totally oblivious to all the fandom. I didn't notice anything, and most of the work was done on pretty secured sets. For "New Moon," it was unbelievable.

It was like a CIA operation. Some of the locations we would go to, the production would be so concerned about fooling the paparazzi, they would take the arrows pointing to the location and turn them the other way. We were actually getting lost.

Q: Did you do much wolf-related research for the movie?

A: We nailed it down early that these were not going to be traditional beast-y horror movie things. ... We watched a lot of documentaries and looked at every single picture book out there on wolves.

My co-supervisor, Matt Jacobs, took a bunch of the art department and animators to a wolf preserve outside of Los Angeles. They got into a pen about the size of this room with about 10 wolves and just spent the afternoon with them.

Q: This sequel was made in less than a year. Was your workload insane?

A: It was actually kind of fun. ... It kind of harked back a little bit to the Roger Corman days. With the vast amount of money these things make, we don't get paid much - and the speed with which you work, you have to rely on your skill and just get it done.

That's actually a lot more of a creative kind of milieu to work in as opposed to these hundred-million-dollar movies, where there are 50 executives worried about everything.

Q: What's your favorite Roger Corman memory?

A: I was working on "Piranha" and we were shooting all this mayhem, with all these swimmers. Dailies would go back to Los Angeles and Roger would call.

Joe Dante, the director, would be on the phone saying, (sounds exasperated) "OK ... OK ... OK, Roger ... fine, Roger ... OK, fine, thanks." After the conversation was over, we would immediately ask what Roger wanted. Joe would say "He just said 'more blood.' " He wanted more blood on everything.

Q: What's the last movie you've seen with no special effects or visual effects in it?

A: I don't think they make them anymore. Probably "The Informant," although I bet you there were visual effects and I just didn't notice it. I thought that movie was terrific.

Q: Is there a movie that you did good work on that no one talks about?

A: Probably "RoboCop 2," which was a terrible movie doomed from the very beginning, but I look back fondly now because it was the biggest stop-motion (film) since "Mighty Joe Young" in terms of number of shots and complexity. And Craig Hayes' design was so cool.

Q: You have the full-size ED-209 in one of your warehouses. Has anyone offered to buy it?

A: Some British group came by and wanted to buy a bunch of stuff. And I actually thought about it for 20 minutes. It was a lot of money.

Q: And you didn't do it?

A: No. It's my junk. Plus, if it's worth that much now ...


Posted by dschnee at 10:21 PM

November 25, 2009

Why cloudy days are no good for the werewolves of 'New Moon'

Patrick Kevin Day spoke with effects legend Phil Tippett about creating the werewolf effects for "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," (and no, we're not talking about Taylor Lautner's supernatural 16 pack). You can read his previous Scene Stealer interviews and Liesl Bradner's Wizards of Hollywood series right here.

Darkness may be a visual effects artist's best friend, but his biggest enemy isn't bright sunlight -- it's the overcast day. So adding all those CG werewolves to scenes shot in cloudy Vancouver, Canada, was a particular challenge for "New Moon" visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett and his team. "On a sunny day, you get really nice contrasts, but with flat lighting and a furry thing -- the fur really soaks up the light and everything appears flat," Tippett said. "So to make it appear three-dimensional, we had to goose reality. We emphasized their shadows and used rim lights" to make the wolves stand out from the background. But that's not the only way Tippett and company played with reality. When that wolf checks out Bella, it's not a wolf's eyes, it's Jacob's. "We brought Taylor [Lautner] in and had him haul his eyelids back as far as possible and shot close-ups." They then added those eyes to the giant animated timber wolf used in the scene.


Posted by dschnee at 10:31 PM

November 23, 2009

A New Moon for Twilight

(from a larger awn.com article) Meanwhile, Tippett Studio did 60 wolf shots, with five different characters, broken up into four sequences (under the supervision of Phil Tippett with Matt Jacobs serving as co-supervisor).

"The werewolves are kind of the sentinel protectors of the area," Tippett explains. "And there's nothing from the werewolf mythology of the past: it's a curse of responsibility as the indigenous people of this country. But this gave us a chance to continue doing the dance with the talking, furry animals. So getting these wolves to behave and be lit and act in a convincing manner was our task here. These things are not the classic beasty werewolves, either. They're Timberwolves that are scaled up to be the size of the horse. One of the biggest tricks was to logistically turn a 6-foot tall guy into an 8-foot-long, 1,200-pound wolf. And there are three of these transitions in the movie. Surprisingly, we figured it out early enough.

"We engineered the performances of the actors and their pantomime leading up to the explosive moment because it's anger that motivates these people to actually shape shift into werewolves -- and it has to happen quick and everyone was on the same page with that. The only design adjustment was Chris wanted to have the eyes of the actors in the wolves' heads instead of the very distinctive, golden, wolf eyes."

Tippett additionally worked on what MacLeod calls the "vampire speed" effect, which involves the vamps running at superhuman speeds. "What we decided to do, based on some tests that we did," McLeod explains, "was to shoot any vampire in motion, as light would allow, up to 90 frames-per-second. And then we would take that into the Avid and manipulate that, come up with a speed ramp and then potentially enhance that with some post processing.

"That's where Tippett's effects came in for about a dozen shots we decided to do as a post effect. We did a little bakeoff and had a couple of companies do a test and Tippett had a good-looking test and we went with them. It was based on a happy accident that happened when they did a varied speed for the trailer shot, actually. They ran a Shake script that had a bug in it and the render came back and had an interesting liquid, transparent effect that happened to Taylor's body that resonated with Phil and Matt and they sent it to me. It was the visual equivalent of the sonic boom, in mind, where the person is moving faster than the camera can pick up.

"Then we had a recipe of stuff that did with vampire speed: we shot them stacked because we found that foreground trees were helpful, so with the wolves, we added some foreground CG trees passing by; and, for the actress running through the woods, we shot her long lens with real trees in the foreground; and a few whip pan effects. The challenge was the wolves, so we tried not having wolves and vampires running in the same shot because that would necessitate either seeing the wolves running in slow-motion or speed up the vampires so that they're running at least as fast or faster than the wolves, but that looks silly, so when we ended up having wolves and vamps in the same shot, we used that Tippett post effect."


Posted by dschnee at 9:45 PM

November 22, 2009

How Animators Tackled Werewolf Transformations in New Moon

To create an all-new form of werewolf transformation for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which hit theaters on Friday, VFX house Tippett Studios turned to R&D, 3D scans—and real-life wolves.
By Erin McCarthy

In most werewolf movies, men endure a bone-cracking, skin-splitting transformation from human into wolf. But in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, male members of the Native American Quileute tribe—descended, according to legend, from wolves—phase into horse-size wolves by popping out of their skin. And that posed a unique challenge for Phil Tippett, founder of Tippett Studios, which created the werewolves. "We characterized it as the ‘5 pounds of crap in the 2-pound bag' problem," he says. "How to get a 160-ish-pound guy to turn into a 1200-pound wolf is a trick."

To pull off this bit of movie magic, VFX artists first took 3D scans of the lead werewolf actors, including Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob, and Alex Meraz, who plays Paul. "I was expecting to be in a green suit, with little pins everywhere," Meraz says. "They just had me stand on an apple box, and this big machine came up, down and over. I could watch on the monitor and my whole body was right there onscreen, a perfect scan of it."

The phasing that turned men into 1200-pound wolves was, naturally, one of the first things on the VFX artists' agenda. "The conceit for the transformation, for making the trick work, was that it had to happen quickly," Tippett says. "Our technical supervisor, Erin Boreland, came up with a system for this phasing, which she banged out in a couple of weeks. Everybody was surprised—we thought that would take months to hammer out."

Next, animators had to create the wolves. After determining what the wolves weren't—"beasty werewolf/wolfman-type things," Tippett says, "but timber wolves the size of horses"—animators had to think about conquering the uncanny valley, which occurs when something looks close to its real-life counterpart but not exactly alike, causing a feeling of uneasiness among viewers. "A lot of times, we're dealing with fantastic creatures, like the Cloverfield monster," Tippett says. "When you're doing something like that, you can get away with murder because nobody's ever seen it. But if you're doing a wolf … the audience has seen enough canine behavior to know if you make a false move. It stands out. So we immediately said, ‘We had better understand what timber wolf behavior is.' "

They started with research, analyzing documentary footage of timber wolves and reading books on wolf anatomy. But they didn't stop there. "Animators and guys from the art department went to a wolf preserve outside of Los Angeles," Tippett says. "Our guys got into a big cage with a bunch of wolves and spent the afternoon with them!" The animators filmed video of the wolves jumping, running, playing and fighting. The research helped them build computer models of the wolves from the inside out, starting with rigged skeletal systems that could move, then overlaying them with flexing muscles and, finally, layers of skin and fur.

Director Chris Weitz also wanted the wolves to have the eyes of their human counterparts. "There are a couple of extreme closeups of Jacob's wolf's eyes with Bella (Kristen Stewart) reflected in them," Tippett says. Eyes, which have to emote, are notoriously difficult to realistically pull off, so VFX artists got reference directly from the source. "When we were on the set, we got a closeup-lens camera and we asked Taylor to pull back his eyelids as far as he could stand to do and went in for a couple of closeups. That's what we used as a model for Jacob's eyes."


Key to the transformation was the action that came directly before it, so VFX artists worked closely with director Weitz and actors Lautner and Meraz to determine what that action would be. Both of Lautner's transformations happened in the air; for one, the actor was lifted 10 feet off the ground by wires, where he had to freeze in position so VFX artists could later replace him with the digital doppelgänger from his scan that would transform into the wolf. In another scene, Meraz's character, Paul, phases after Bella slaps him. "We spent some time working out the very precise level of pantomime that Alex [Meraz] would have to do," Tippett says. "It was very key into getting into the move that would allow us to make the transition into the wolf." On set, filmmakers used wolf stand-ins—stuffed figures and cardboard cutouts—to give both the actors and the animators a point of reference. Fur pelts were used to help animators determine what the lighting was so they could light the digital fur similarly, helping the CG wolves fit seamlessly into the scene.

Eventually, it was time to combine the elements. For the first transformation—when Meraz phases—"his body sort of goes out of control," Tippett says. "Then he recoils and springs out. And at that point we began to take over his forward momentum as the wolf. We had to make a digital model of Alex [using the 3D scan] that would allow for the in-between stages and, for lack of a better term, morph between the wolf shape and the human shape." The wolf head pops out first, then the rest of his body. His clothes are destroyed. "His trousers get torn off in a PG kind of way," Tippett laughs. "He's more wolf than human by that time." The entire transformation takes about half a second.

Aside from creating the transformation, the biggest challenge for the animators was making the wolf fur look realistic. "Our art department just spent months getting the fur groomed and painted and working with the animation," Tippett says. "The effects animation team spent months working out the dynamics of the fur [using in-house fur-simulation tools] so it wasn't stiff. In once scene, Jacob [as a wolf] ends up on a cliff overlooking the ocean on a stormy day, and all the trees in the background are blowing around—so all the fur has to blow around. Dynamically, figuring all that stuff out is really tricky."

Tippett's next challenge is tackling Eclipse, the third film in the Twilight series, which filmed almost immediately after New Moon. Tippett's digital wolves have several big fight sequences in the film. "It's huge," Tippett says. "We're ramping up on it. We're just starting to get shots now."


Posted by dschnee at 1:35 AM

November 21, 2009

Another New Look for Tippett Studio

Tippett Studio has performed another overhaul from their previous website, and also showcases our 25 Years Logo.

Check it out @ www.tippett.com

New Moon currently takes center stage on the main page, lots of clips and content to browse through, and the quotes from the "Phil Says" section is sweet!

Posted by dschnee at 7:46 AM

November 20, 2009

New Moon is Released!

in the USA 1 November 2009

visit Twilight Saga: New Moon @ imdb.com

Box Office Results November 20-22, 2009
Number: 1
Opening Weekend Gross: $142,839,137
Theatres: 4,024
Theatre Average: $35,497
Weeks in Release: 2
Total Gross: $233,334,668 Million
Budget: $50 Million
Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.
Distributor: Summit Entertainmnt
MPAA Rating: PG-13

New Moon dawned with a hot-blooded estimated $140.7 million on approximately 8,500 screens at 4,024 sites over the weekend, charting as the third highest-grossing opening behind only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3 and the biggest of 2009. With the advent of New Moon, not to mention an excellent showing by The Blind Side, overall business surged 56 percent over the same weekend last year when Twilight and Bolt debuted and was the second-highest seen in history, behind the weekend that The Dark Knight opened.

$26 Million on the Thursday night Midnight showing alone...New Moon shattered the midnight opening record, raking in an estimated $26.27 million at 3,514 sites showing the movie starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

It sold a mind-boggling $80 million worth of tickets on Friday, according to preliminary estimates. That way surpasses the one-day record of $67 million set by "The Dark Knight'' last year.

BoxOfficeMojo.com's "Twilight Saga: New Moon" Statistics

Posted by dschnee at 6:31 AM

Shamless New Moon Plug

Posted by dschnee at 1:26 AM

November 19, 2009

Meet the Creator of Taylor Lautner’s Hirsute Alter Ego

Animation pioneer Phil Tippett knows a thing or two about creating movie monsters. His Berkeley, Calif.-based company, Tippett Studio, has conjured up creatures that run the gamut from the destruction-bent monsters in “Cloverfield” to the gluttonous rat Templeton in “Charlotte’s Web.” So when “New Moon” visual effects supervisor Susan MacLeod needed an fx house to step in and create the hulking werewolves in “New Moon,” the second installment of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga, which opens in theaters tomorrow, she knew whom to turn to.

Marching orders for Tippett’s crew consisted of creating wolves that looked realistic — well, as realistic as horse-sized timberwolves can be — but also stayed true to Meyer’s book, with each wolf’s distinguishing characteristics intact. (Alpha male Sam is the largest and has black fur, while others sport different colored coats.) “We approach all of these characters from cradle to grave,” said Tippett, who said his team researched wolves’ physicality before starting, with some animators crawling around with the fanged beasts at an animal preserve.

The company is responsible for making suggestions during the storyboarding process, being on set to monitor production and making sure everything’s shot properly — and then overseeing post-production, to make sure the color is being corrected. Given the frenzy surrounding the “Twilight” franchise, has Tippett heard from any extreme fans, either to praise to lash out?

“To be honest, the fans haven’t been on my radar,” he said. “We went directly from shooting “New Moon” to [third installment] ‘Eclipse.’ The studio is making these thing so fast, with such a quick turnaround.” In fact, Tippett said “New Moon” is the first film he’s ever worked on that was done start to finish in one year. “When we were halfway through the visual effects on “New Moon,” we started pre-production on “Eclipse.” Our heads are still spinning.”

And speaking of “Eclipse,” does new director David Slade differ in his approach to wolves than “New Moon” director Chris Weitz?

“Having a new director makes a huge difference,” said Tippett. “Chris was a more classically-oriented flimmaker. David comes from rock videos, so his temperament is more visceral and fast-paced.”


Posted by dschnee at 12:18 PM

New Moon Biggest Premiere in Hollywood History?

The consensus from Tippett and the gang that went down for the premiere was that it was the biggest premiere in Hollywood's history, with more people coming out than in the great hay day of Hollywood with movies like Gone With The Wind...

An estimated 3,000 screaming fans were present. Some traveled from as far away as Canada, Minnesota and Florida to catch a glimpse of the New Moon stars. But even the uninvited came out in droves. Thousands of screaming fans holding signs and snapping pictures crammed the sidewalks hoping for a glimpse of their favorite fang-toothed characters.

Again, Online ticket sellers Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com reported this week that "New Moon" is their biggest advance ticket seller of all time.

Hollywood watchers think vampire romance "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" could take a nearly $100 million bite from movie theater box offices when it debuts this weekend, and score one of the biggest openings ever for a non-summer film.

Only 29% Rotten on rottentomatoes.com but is anyone expecting an Oscar from this one? ;) They will still come out in droves to see this thing... Tonight's are company screening, and I'll post something tomorrow about the event.

Consensus: The Twilight Saga's second installment may satisfy hardcore fans of the series, but outsiders are likely to be turned off by its slow pace, relentlessly downcast tone, and excessive length.

Posted by dschnee at 7:24 AM

November 16, 2009

"New Moon" Tops Pre-Ticket Sales

Tonight's the Premiere in LA, Thursday we have our studio's screening, Friday this damn thing will is released... and all the team Jacob, team Edward fans will go ape shit... I don't know that I've worked on a film that this many people will go and see... possibly King Kong, but I'm thinking this one will be more nuts.

Five days before its US domestic release, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" has become the top-selling pre-release title in online ticketing provider Fandango's ten-year history.

The film, which is currently taking in 86% of weekly ticket sales on Fandango, has beat out "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", "The Dark Knight" and the first "Twilight" film in terms of pre-sales.

Thousands of Thursday night midnight showtimes for "New Moon" are already sold out across the country. The question now is what will the opening weekend be? The film is set to easily smash both the $35.9 million opening day and $69.6 million three-day opening weekend of the first film. By how much is the question.


Posted by dschnee at 10:01 AM

November 10, 2009

New Moon "Battle" TV Spot

features even more of our wolf shots... great to see, but they show too much. ~enjoy

Posted by dschnee at 10:01 PM

November 6, 2009

Monster-maker rises to 'New Moon' challenge

Phil Tippett talks 'Twilight' werewolves
'New Moon'

After a long career creating creatures, Phil Tippett still enjoys sinking his teeth into new challenges like 'New Moon's' furry werewolves.

Master creature-maker Phil Tippett has been hard at work on the "Twilight" franchise, especially the werewolves for the upcoming "New Moon," which have proven especially challenging.

"A lot of the stuff we're shooting is in the worst conditions possible for computer graphics," he says. "The skies are overcast, so the lighting is very flat. Unlike something like 'Transformers' or 'District 9' where you have a lot of light kicking off hard-shell candy surfaces, we have ... wolves (with) fur, and fur soaks up light."

The "Twilight" pics are being made at a breakneck pace, with post on one overlapping shooting on the next. But even scrambling with the second unit to make their daily quota, says Tippett, "We just have a blast. We call it doing the Vulcan mind-meld thing, where we're reading each others' minds because we're working so fast."

Tippett gained fame among "Star Wars" fans for his "go-motion" animation for "The Empire Strikes Back" (Remember the Imperial Walkers?), then won an Oscar for "Return of the Jedi."

In 1984, he opened his own shop, Tippett Studios. He switched to digital vfx, won a second Oscar for his digital dinosaurs on "Jurassic Park," and is still going strong as he celebrates his studio's 25th anniversary.

"I never imagined I'd be around this long," Tippett says, "but I did imagine, as a kid growing up in Southern California, that I would have my own visual effects studio in Berkeley, because that's where I was born and that's where my extended family was."

As for his work on "Twilight," Tippett can only smile. "Everybody tries to have fun," he says. "I hope that leaks out on the shots."


Posted by dschnee at 10:03 PM