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January 26, 2011

Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed.

I like this.

I received a letter that ends, as far as I am concerned, the discussion about 3D. It doesn't work with our brains and it never will.

The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous. The case is closed.

This letter is from Walter Murch, seen at left, the most respected film editor and sound designer in the modern cinema. As a editor, he must be intimately expert with how an image interacts with the audience's eyes. He won an Academy Award in 1979 for his work on "Apocalypse Now," whose sound was a crucial aspect of its effect.

Wikipedia writes: "Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. "Apocalypse Now" was the first multi-channel film to be mixed using a computerized mixing board." He won two more Oscars for the editing and sound mixing of "The English Patient."

"He is perhaps the only film editor in history," the Wikipedia entry observes, "to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:

* "Julia" (1977) using upright Moviola
* "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Ghost" (1990), and "The Godfather, Part III" (1990) using KEM flatbed
* "The English Patient" (1996) using Avid.
* "Cold Mountain" (2003) using Final Cut Pro on an off-the shelf PowerMac G4.

Now read what Walter Murch says about 3D:

Hello Roger,

I read your review of "Green Hornet" and though I haven't seen the film, I agree with your comments about 3D.

The 3D image is dark, as you mentioned (about a camera stop darker) and small. Somehow the glasses "gather in" the image -- even on a huge Imax screen -- and make it seem half the scope of the same image when looked at without the glasses.

I edited one 3D film back in the 1980's -- "Captain Eo" -- and also noticed that horizontal movement will strobe much sooner in 3D than it does in 2D. This was true then, and it is still true now. It has something to do with the amount of brain power dedicated to studying the edges of things. The more conscious we are of edges, the earlier strobing kicks in.

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the "convergence/focus" issue. A couple of the other issues -- darkness and "smallness" -- are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen -- say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now "opened up" so that your lines of sight are almost -- almost -- parallel to each other.

We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn't. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the "CPU" of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true "holographic" images.

Consequently, the editing of 3D films cannot be as rapid as for 2D films, because of this shifting of convergence: it takes a number of milliseconds for the brain/eye to "get" what the space of each shot is and adjust.

And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain "perspective" relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are "in" the picture in a kind of dreamlike "spaceless" space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with.

So: dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?

All best wishes,

Walter Murch

From Roger Ebert's Journal posted on January 23, 2011 || 403 Comments

Posted by dschnee at 11:53 PM

January 18, 2011

2010 VFX Motion Graphic Design Census

In 2009 Jake Sargeant and Bran Dougherty-Johnson created a survey for the motion graphics & visual effects industry to get a better grasp on salary in the industry. They have now put together those findings in a very interesting document.

Click Here to Read their Findings

The 2009 Motion Graphic Design Census questionnaire was written by Jake Sargeant and Bran Dougherty-Johnson. The survey was hosted online at Motionographer.com in December of 2009. The results were analyzed by Bran Dougherty-Johnson in 2010. (blog.motionmedia.com)

Posted by dschnee at 9:12 AM

January 15, 2011

New Priest Trailer

The best one yet... click it:
in theaters May 13th

Posted by dschnee at 1:00 AM

January 14, 2011

Season of the Witch Fangorial Exclusive

Though the Nicolas Cage medieval horror flick SEASON OF THE WITCH failed to work box-office (black) magic last weekend, the film at least spotlighted some snazzy CGI FX gags by Tippett Studio (the TWILIGHT and JURASSIC PARK films, PIRANHA 3D, DRAG ME TO HELL, etc.), including (SPOILER ALERT!) the heroes’ climactic battle with a winged demon. The Oscar-winning company shared some exclusive SEASON OF THE WITCH creature photos with Fango (see below the jump), and members of the Tippett FX team answered a few questions about the shop’s infernal contributions to the Dominic Sena-directed movie.

FANGORIA: What were your marching orders on SEASON OF THE WITCH?

BLAIR CLARK, VISUAL FX SUPERVISOR: We were asked to come up with a series of different designs for the demon and a design for a partial transformation of the girl [Claire Foy]into that creature, then complete the shots of the transformation, and the demon fighting Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman in the final battle. Our visual effects supervisor Eric Leven and data supervisor Eric Marko joined overall visual effects supervisor Adam Howard and visual effects producer Nancy St. John in Shreveport, Louisiana to shoot the additional footage for the third act.

FANG: How closely was Tippett Studio involved in the designs of the demon?

NATE FREDENBURG, ART DIRECTOR: We became involved very late in the film, so we had a very short development phase, but there had been no design work done on the demon when we came on. When we asked what they were looking for, we were told, “You know, a demon.” So it was an open playing field.

FANG: What were the inspirations for the design?

FREDENBURG: The demon was identified as Baal, so we started there. We looked at both old engravings of Baal and more contemporary renditions to familiarize ourselves with the range of interpretations. We decided this demon needed to be derived from old manuscripts to best support the story, so we leaned toward a classic representation.

FANG: Was it difficult coming up with something new and unique? What attributes did you want to give the demon to make it stand out from past devil creatures?

FREDENBURG: It’s always a challenge to find a fresh approach to well-established characters and monsters. Demons are amalgamations of our worst fears, and we expect them to have certain qualities. So we fully embraced the classic horns and wings you would expect. The demon possesses a girl throughout the film, so we decided to give it a more feminine look. It was also supposed to be ancient and [have gone] through many trials and tribulations in its quest to destroy the books, so we gave it a desiccated and tattered look.

FANG: What was the greater challenge: making it walk, fly or talk?

JIM BROWN, ANIMATION SUPERVISOR: Walking was the greatest challenge. Walks are always difficult with bipeds because audiences are very used to looking at walks and will immediately call out something that doesn’t look “right.” Then if you add wings, cloven feet and painful convulsions, it becomes a difficult task to create a believable walk that sells the weight, balance and emotion of the demon.

FANG: How long does it take to create a CGI sequence like SEASON OF THE WITCH’s finale?

CLARK: After the demon design was approved and ready for production, we started working on shots in early September and finished mid-November 2010.

FANG: What kind of stuff will Tippett Studio be creating for the upcoming PRIEST?

CLARK: We are working on shots of vicious, slimy, vampire goodness. Yum!

In regards to other upcoming projects (Tarsem Singh’s IMMORTALS, BREAKING DAWN, etc.), the lips of the FX supervisors are sealed. But you can learn more about these magicians here, here, here and here.


Posted by dschnee at 9:57 PM

January 12, 2011

Demonizing Season of the Witch

Tippett conjures a new kind of demon for the latest supernatural adventure starring Nic Cage.

In Season of the Witch, directed by Dominic Sena (Whiteout), Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play disillusioned 14th century knights returning from the Crusades ordered to take a suspected witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery to discover if she is the cause of the Black Plague. Later, it turns out that there is a demon involved, which can only be destroyed with an ancient book, Key of Solomon, filled with holy rituals.

Tippett Studio, under the supervision of Blair Clark, was tasked with animating the demon. "We came in at the last minute to work on the demon after they wanted a fresh start," confirms Clark, who worked alongside another Tippett supervisor, Eric Leven. The overall visual effects supervisor, meanwhile, was Adam Howard.

Nate Fredenburg and Mark Dubeau, Tippett's vfx art directors, came up with a whole series of different looks, with guidelines for a classic look with wings and horns. Fredenburg referenced lots of classic demons from woodcuts and other artworks, and they offered a broad range of looks from the animalistic to the hunched over look of a gorilla.

"That's when they came back and asked for something more lithe and feminine," Clark suggests, "so we arrived at something new, which was thin yet still muscular. We also gave it cloven feet, a dog ankle and a fawn leg. You look at a demon and you don't think delicate. From Nathan's key art it was a matter of fine tuning skin texture and coloration. They wanted the skin to appear very warn and the wing membranes to have tatters and holes."

Using Maya, Shake and Nuke, Tippett animated the demon while tackling various physical challenges, beginning with the wings. "Wings are always a challenge," Clark says. "They're either in the way or don't move the way you'd like. They were designed really well and we paid close attention to the design. Since they wanted holes in them, we decided not rip it to where we've got these big, spider web-like shapes that we were going to have to billow every time she moves. So instead we put tears that have holes warn in them rather than ripped. We've had other shows where the wings are more problematic than this and I was frankly surprised at how well these wings behaved themselves."

The dark gray skin proved another challenge given that so much of the film takes place in darkness. "We did a combination of a makeup pass, which is almost like a dry brushing over it, and then just finding places where you need to pull out some of the highlights so it has the modeling you need to be able to read in all the shots," Clark explains. "We played the skin like a rotten, mummy: nothing too moist, with a lot of wear marks on it."

The fight choreography offered placement challenges as well. Leven was sent to Shreveport, Louisiana, where they were re-shooting the third act. "There was going to be a fight scene and they sent us back some cut footage of the stunt team and it was a full-on wrestling match with a lot of hand-to-hand grappling," Clark continues. "So we had Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman in the main part of this fight and we matched the placement of the stuntman standing in for the demon.

"But Ron Perlman's character has a signature move (a bear hug and then he rears back with a head butt) that was challenging to work with. At one point he tangles with the demon, which does a 180 in his grasp and they're embracing and Perlman does the heat butt into the demon, which doesn't react. And then the demon envelops him in the wings and there's a blast furnace of fire that engulfs him. We had to figure out how to achieve this effectively and economically? We did this with a combination of covering his face with little licks of flame coming up from underneath and did some 2D comp coloration changes of his skin starting to darken. We didn't want to get too grisly, since this is PG-13, so we covered him pretty quickly with flame and played the rest of it out with internally lit flames with shadowy shapes."

There's also a partial transformation sequence that necessitated facial work by Tippett. This was supervised by Leven in collaboration with Aharon Bourland, Tippett's CG supervisor. This was achieved with a blend of warping and coloration techniques. Some of the shots in the sequence were actually shared with UPP in Prague, which previously worked on plates and so there was some back and forth to attain proper continuity.

The final challenge was the death of the demon. Tippett had boards with a rough outline and empty plates with superimposed shot descriptions provided by others. "Figuring it out wasn't easy," Clark says. "We came up with something after conversing with Adam using movie terms and old film references and then turned around and explained it to everyone else in terms they could understand. It was the last shot that we finished, right up to the wire and quite an ordeal. It was a huge assembly of comping elements and animation. The demon turns and explodes and the apparition goes up through the ceiling. We did something inspired by Hellboy where we concentrated on the buildup: the demise of the demon was triggered by the reading of a verse from the book. We built it over a series of shots so it doesn't just happen in one shot. We had little patches on the demon that start to crack and result in a glow that looks like it's burning from within. It turned out pretty well. It's always difficult trying to come up with something that doesn't look too familiar."

-Bill Desowitz, senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.

Posted by dschnee at 11:20 PM

January 11, 2011

Piranha 3D Blu-ray/DVD Released!

Piranha 3D was released today on
[Blu-ray 3D] / [Blu-ray] / DVD

We did just a handful of shots, but it was a mighty fun handful and one of the best shows to work on in 2010. The one shot I had in the movie encompassed two halves of a bikini clad spring breaker falling into the water, the camera under water looking up at the surface as her upper torso splashes in and sinks past us... so awesome. It was great because went on the stage and shot in a big water tank, bits of bloody cheese cloth sinking toward camera, as well as surface splatter elements that were composited in the shot.

Piranha 3D Old School American Horror

Alexandre Aja managed to succeed where Adam Green failed, by delivering a fun gory and enjoyable horror film that didn’t beat you over the head with wink at the camera moments. Merging horror and comedy is a hard task...

Piranha 3D blends all the aspects of an 80s horror film beautifully. From its gratuitous nudity to legendary beach slaughter scene, it forces you to cringe, cheer and laugh, while never missing a beat. -horroryearbook.com

Even with all of the deadpan dramas and edgy thrillers we watch, it's still nice to relax with a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Piranha 3D is definitely one of those movies. Full of grotesque special effects, cheesy B-movie dialogue, clever cameos, and loads of nudity, it's a great for those nights when you want to turn off your brain and turn on the TV — with bonus points if you actually have a 3D TV. -uncrate.com

Posted by dschnee at 9:15 PM

January 7, 2011

Season of the Witch is Released!

in the USA 7 January 2011

visit Season of the Witch @ imdb.com

Box Office Results January 7-9, 2011
Number: 3
Opening Weekend Gross: $10,612,375
Theatres: 2,816
Theatre Average: $3,769
Weeks in Release: 1
Total Gross: $10,612,375
Budget: $40 Million
Running Time: 1 hrs. 38 min.
Distributor: Relativity
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Period Action

This mega period piece thrilla from manilla opened at 1% and is currently a chart topping %4 Fresh @ rottentomatoes.com is well... Rotten.

"A CGI freakout at the finale can't save this mundane medieval thriller about witches, devils and disillusioned knights." -The Hollywood Reporter

Posted by dschnee at 10:59 PM