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July 24, 2010

Priest Comic-Con Trailer!

Released @ Comic-Con and online yesterday... I have 2 trailer shots in there, first dialog bit "This was a Vampire Attack" then 2 shots around a woman screaming... starts around 33 sec in. They look very monochromatic, hopefully this is just a trailer treatment and the juicy red bloody bits peak through in the film. :)

Looks pretty cool. ~enjoy

Posted by dschnee at 9:12 AM

July 22, 2010

Summer Updates 2010

So I've been back to work for a few weeks now... ahhh and I returned to dive back into one of my Priest shots to perform a 3d conversion (bleh) for a Comic-Con event this week... why they are releasing this thing next May is beyond me.

*Priest Comic-Con Panel Re-Cap* and o'Cnap the Trailer!

"A year ago, director Scott Stewart visited San Diego with clips from "Legion," an apocalyptic thriller that went on to open during the height of "Avatar's" record-breaking box-office run and still did respectable business. Stewart is hopeful his new movie, the vampire thriller "Priest" with Paul Bettany, will enjoy a similar Comic-Con bounce following its Friday preview. He'll need it, as "Priest" premieres next summer in the thick of "Thor," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "X-Men: First Class."

One advantage Stewart may have: "Priest" is based on a much-loved graphic novel by Min-Woo Hyung. "It's an entirely different and distinct work," Stewart said. "We do create something of a new mythology in somewhat of a different setting." (latimes.com)

Piranha 3D is back, and this time I get to comp a shot! It will definitely be a memorable shot, and not much time to complete it, but it'll be good... in a bad way.

The Piranha 3D guys just hosted an off-site event at Comic-Con, "TOO HOT FOR COMIC-CON..." where herds of geekle were shown several minutes of never-before-seen footage that is so fantastically bloody and so intense, they couldn’t show it on site at Comic-Con! (movieweb.com)

*Piranha 3D Comic-Con Panel Re-Cap*

Siggraph 2010 starts this weekend and I'm going to head down there on Monday for The Foundry Geekfest event thing checking out the latest with Nuke and related Foundry offerings. Expo and such on Tuesday.

Ramping up over the next couple of months will be Immortals. I'm very excited to begin work on the Tarsem Singh's third feature film. (Director of The Cell & The Fall) This will be a very challenging show for us visually, it will have to look great, and I'm up for the challenge, especially on the comp end of things where I know it will be tough.

Cheers, all for now. -schnee

P.S. Jordan, were going to miss you brother, you and all your god damn kick-assery, all the best across the pond.

Posted by dschnee at 11:04 PM

July 20, 2010

Interview: Eric Leven VFX Supervisor on ECLIPSE

While speaking to actors about the movie they’re promoting is always great, if you really want to find out why certain decisions were made behind the scenes, you’ve got to talk to the filmmakers and the crew that worked on the movie. And that’s why I think fans of the Twilight movie franchise are going to enjoy my interview with Eric Leven from Tippett Studios. Because during our extended conversation, Leven (who was the visual effects supervisor on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) discussed why the wolf effects were done a certain way, the difference between Chris Weitz and David Slade on the look of New Moon and Eclipse, is Tippet Studios working on Breaking Dawn, and we also talked about 3D and other projects like Priest and Immortals.

While the entire interview is really interesting as Leven is completely honest about why the wolves looked a certain way, the thing most fans are going to love is the very end of the interview. That’s because he talks about the very limited Twilight collectibles that were made for the New Moon and the Eclipse crew. If you’re a Twilight collector, I’m pretty sure you don’t have these. Hit the jump to watch the interview. It’s time indexed so you can watch the parts you’re interested in. (collider.com)

Eric Leven Visual Effects Supervisor on THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE from ColliderVideos on Vimeo.

Below are out crew gifts that were handed out at the end of New Moon and Eclipse!

Posted by dschnee at 11:54 PM

July 12, 2010

“ECLIPSE” FX: Wolfing Out

By now, you no doubt have an opinion of THE TWILIGHT SAGA, the inescapable movie adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s novels. The latest entry, ECLIPSE, has been declared the best in the series, likely due to the more straightforward conflict and clearer stakes of its plot. While ECLIPSE is unlikely to convert non-fans, the FX are inarguably better than in the previous entries, especially the computer-generated wolves created by Tippett Studio.

When introduced in NEW MOON, these canines stayed on the leash outside of a few scuffles and bared fangs. ECLIPSE features a wilder wolf pack whose increased feral tendencies emphasize the differences between Bella’s suitors—and did we mention that the movie climaxes with snarling werewolves savagely attacking bloodthirsty newborn vampires?

The company responsible for the CG lycanthropes is Tippett Studio, founded by FX pioneer Phil Tippett, famous for stop-motion classics like the AT-AT walkers in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and the lumbering ED-209 in ROBOCOP. In the CGI age, Tippett Studio has created everything from the giant bugs in Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS to the talking pets in this summer’s CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE. For ECLIPSE, Eric Leven served as the company’s visual FX supervisor, bringing the wolves to ferocious life.

Unlike some cinematic wolfmen, TWILIGHT’s pack are quadrupeds very similar to real wolves, albeit enormous by comparison. After arriving late to NEW MOON’s FX, Leven observed director Chris Weitz putting an emphasis on anthropomorphizing the otherwise physically accurate animals. “Chris wanted the audience to understand everything the wolves were feeling,” Leven notes.

Before NEW MOON, the Tippett Studio team logged time at a nature preserve in Los Angeles, observing real, fully grown wolves first-hand. That homework proved handy when ECLIPSE director David Slade requested a more menacing brood. “The work on NEW MOON dovetailed into ECLIPSE, and David came in and made it clear we were going to get away from humanizing the wolves,” Leven recalls. “We were going to make them animals again.” Such choices were informed by ECLIPSE’s story (scripted by Melissa Rosenberg), in which the tension between lycanthropes and vampires is more overt and expanded from NEW MOON. “In the second movie, they were played more like sentries,” Leven notes. “In this one, they’re wilder. You don’t know whether they’re going to jump on you or not.” Despite that, the creatures of ECLIPSE are capable of acting nuances; witness the moment in which the alpha wolf watches the Cullen vampire clan sparring with each other. While the wolf attempts to keep his threatening posture, his body language will be familiar to anybody who has ordered their dog to sit out on a fun activity.

The freedom to add character touches like this led to Leven’s personal favorite effect in ECLIPSE, when Bella (Kristen Stewart) runs her hand over Jacob-wolf in full view of Edward (Robert Pattinson). It’s a challenging effect, requiring Stewart to physically interact with the CG animal, as well as an emotionally loaded story moment, as Edward observes the connection between Bella and Jacob for himself. The end result is as striking a visual as the series has to offer, with uncanny texture on the digital fur. “That was another mandate from the director,” Leven says. “He saw the first pass and said, ‘I need more fur!’ Fur is notoriously difficult in CGI. We added to the total number of hairs, and it turned out that wasn’t the issue. It was really the style of the fur, the sheen of the fur, what happened when the light hit it.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for a director to communicate what they want,” Leven points out, “because they’re not speaking in the kinds of technical terms we use. The effects team has to establish a language with every new filmmaker. It can be pretty rough at first.”

Those differences at the helm are the most obvious within an otherwise cohesive series. “We worked with much of the same production crew as NEW MOON, but every movie with a new director is like a fresh relationship,” Leven says. “Each one wants to put his or her personal stamp on the material. David Slade has an action-oriented style and specific ideas about what he wants to see. We always want to be pushed to do our best work. Everybody here is the kind of person who wants to see vampires and werewolves tearing into each other.” Distinctions in directing style contributed specifically to Tippett Studio’s workload, which included practical stand-ins for the hairy beasts. “Chris Weitz had nothing there to represent the wolves, just a tennis ball for the eyeline,” Leven reveals. “David introduced these giant grey beanbags to put into the shots and give the actors a sense of size and weight for them.”

Despite the TWILIGHT series’ high profile, Leven is quick to point out that ECLIPSE is “still a relatively low-budget film.” According to the artist, that didn’t inhibit the quality of the FX so much as tighten the schedule, since “we didn’t get a lot of time for retakes. On a big-budget movie, they’ll tweak everything right up until the very end.” ECLIPSE is saturated with special FX, from the Cullens’ amber eyes to the much-improved-upon, relatively subtle sparkling of Edward’s skin in the sunlight. Missing such details would raise the ire of TWILIGHT’s fan base, but Leven is quick to point out that their praise is often earned the simple way: by going back to the source. “Some fans will thank us for a scene or a moment, saying, ‘That looked just like the way I imagined it from the book!’ Well, that’s because we’re using the book,” Leven says with a chuckle. “In one instance we had a new character, Quil, and we were trying to decide what color to make his fur. Ultimately, all we had to do was open the book and read what color his fur was.”

Perceptive viewers will find something familiar in the low brow and dark irises of Jacob-wolf’s eyes. “Those are based on [actor] Taylor [Lautner]’s eyes,” says Leven. “We had given the wolves human eyes in NEW MOON, to help convey their emotions. With the idea of making the wolves more animalistic in ECLIPSE, we thought about how distinctive a real wolf’s eyes are. So the wolves in ECLIPSE all had yellow wolf eyes at first, and David Slade loved it—everybody loved it. They stayed that way until very close to the end, when Stephenie Meyer came in and said, ‘Are the yellow eyes on the wolves too similar to the vampires’ eyes?’ So we went back to human eyes on the wolves.”

Regarding the ambivalent attitude of many horror fans to the TWILIGHT series, Leven refers to the potential influence of ECLIPSE’s opening-weekend gross. “Hollywood pays attention to numbers,” he says. “The second sequel to a movie about vampires and werewolves made over $150 million in five days. The success of the TWILIGHT series means we’re going to get a lot more monsters in movies.” (fangoria.com)

Posted by dschnee at 11:43 PM

July 8, 2010

Twilight Experiences an Eclipse

Tippett and Image Engine talk fur and crystals for the third Twilight entry.

In Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third in the phenomenal franchise from Summit, the warring vampires and werewolves under Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) negotiate a truce to protect Bella (Kristen Stewart). Under new director, David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), the bar has been raised dramatically and aesthetically, which extends to the vfx as well.

Tippett Studio is back handling the wolves, under the supervision of Phil Tippett and Eric Leven. But instead of the anthropomorphized protectors from New Moon, they are more believably animalistic. Fortunately, Tippett met the challenge by applying a new fur growth system developed for the upcoming Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. This replaced their customary black-and-white map technique.

"I describe it as a compositing package with a node-based system where you plug lead nodes together the same way you would in a Shake or Nuke project," Leven explains. "So by building a node-based tree you determine how much fur is grown by calculating length, width and curliness.

"We have a base layer of fur that grows out of that and then another layer of fur that grows when interpolated by RenderMan between the pre-grown hairs, which is something we've never done before. Those hairs are not as controllable, but you get a much richer and denser look, still using the same amount of memory footprint."

The wolves acted more like animals and less like humans.

The other thing Tippett did was use more HDRI on set to cut down on the lighting time. In terms of performance, Tippett made the wolves more ferocious and less human. "That was basically different types of poses," Leven adds. "They don't stand as upright as they used to and are more down and low and we made sure that their heads were below their shoulders." (awn.com)

You can read the entire article here.

Posted by dschnee at 11:28 PM

July 7, 2010

Eclipse: Behind The New and Improved Wolves

If you've seen The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, odds are you left raving about the wolves - particularly the scene in which Jacob, in wolf form, saddles up to Bella during the training sequence. It's one of the moments Phil Tippett - a two-time Oscar winner for Jurassic Park and Return of the Jedi whose visual effects house, Tippett Studio, handled the wolves for both Eclipse and New Moon - is most proud of. "That was an unusual thing for us in that most of the time, we are doing these 'god awful animals start tearing each other apart,'" Tippett told us recently, phoning from England where he’d just celebrated Ray Harryhausen’s 90th birthday. "So it was great to have a quiet moment. A tender scene that telegraphs a budding and suppressed relationship was tricky. In fact, the entire training sequence was difficult in that the wolves do nothing. A bunch of wolves standing around watching vampires train and trying to portend some kind of anxiety was tricky. It's tricky for any actor when you have to carry a certain part of the scene where you do nothing, because you have to figure out a way of filling up the nothing with something."

It was important to Eclipse director David Slade that Taylor Lautner actually film that scene with Kristen Stewart so she was able to establish eye contact with him instead of with a golf ball that could've been used as an eyeline and painted out later. The wardrobe department dressed Lautner in a neutral grey leotard and hoodie - primarily so his skin tone wouldn't bounce back onto Stewart and create lighting issues when Wolf Jacob was added, Tippett says. We, however, like to believe someone was already thinking about the DVD extras. That will be great, won't it?

The tender moment was made more challenging by the fact that Slade had a different vision of the wolves than New Moon director Chris Weitz. For starters, Weitz wanted the wolves to have their actor’s eyes. "He kind of wanted the performance to feel like the wolf behavior was being filtered through a human brain," Tippett says. Slade wanted the wolves to have wolf eyes to de-anthropomorphize them. "David wanted the performances to be more feral, twitchy, and agitated. He wanted to see wolves that were more photographically representational, which had to do with things like getting more hair follicles, making the paws smaller."

The believability of the wolves was equally crucial in the climactic fight sequence with the newborn vampire army. "We had to come up with a rationale for what happens when a 1,300-pound wolf that's running 35 miles an hour crashes into a newborn vampire [played by an actor that weighs 165 lbs], how we justify that," Tippett says. "David allowed us the transgression of saying, 'Well, let's just say that the newborns, since they're not made of human material but some kind of a more marble-like material, have an actual mass of something like 500 pounds, so they have a lower center of gravity.' And that allowed us to begin thinking about how to make all of that palpable, without thinking that they’re existing in two different physical universes." Watch a clip of how that action gets put together below. (popwatch.ew.com)

Posted by dschnee at 11:02 PM

July 1, 2010

Tippett Studio Eclipse VFX Reel

Posted by dschnee at 4:49 PM

Phil Tippett on the VFX of "Eclipse"

An exclusive MakingOf interview with Phil Tippett at Tippett Studios on the making of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse".

I was interviewed by the "MakingOf" guys this past Tuesday... can't say I was able to make it all that interesting but we'll I guess we'll find out on the makingof.com site soon'ish? Meanwhile, someone who doesn't need to try to be interesting :)

Posted by dschnee at 10:16 AM