Archive of the Production Category

Siggraph 2008 CAF Award Winners

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but…a couple of days ago I wrote this entry, France dominates Computer Animation Festival, which is pretty self-explanatory. Now, I’m writing to tell you of the winners in the Siggraph 2008 Compuater Animateion Festival, and guess what?

France dominated.

Here’s the list, all deserving winners. Congratulations to all the nominees on a great exhibition!

Best of Show Winner
Gobelins l’école de l’image, France more

The Virtual Cinematography of Speed Racer

Speed RacerA lot of focus this year at Siggraph has been on stereoscopic 3D and its emergence as a new language of filmmaking. If 3D is a new way of making movies, then the vast visual effects team that worked on Speed Racer discovered a reinvention of 2D filmmaking.

Visual Effects Supervisor John Gaeta calls the style pioneered on Speed Racer many things. Among them: “virtual cinematography,” “photo-anime,” and “2 1/2 D” layering. When he and Dan Glass first started working on the project, it was a liberating experience to force themselves to let go of the need for any kind of photorealistic element. This quality is something ingrained into any visual-effects artist worth his salt from the get go. Letting go of that instinct is like asking a cat to ignore a mouse. more

James Cameron, More Celebrate Life and Work of Stan Winston

0115_stanwinston.jpg“He was fearless,” says James Cameron. Stan Winston always had the charisma to talk nervous producers into letting his creature effects and make-up studio create expensive, experimental visual effects for their movies. Cameron should know, because some of Winston’s most famous and groundbreaking work was done for Cameron’s 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Last night at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, hundreds gathered to pay tribute to legendary Hollywood effects guru Stan Winston, who died this past June. The man left a huge legacy of memorable and award-winning visual effects moments from movies such as Jurassic Park, Aliens, A.I., Iron Man, Predator, and Edward Scissorhands. Jody Duncan, author of “The Winston Effect” interviewed Cameron and some of Winston’s other collaborators about the keys to Winston’s success. more

Machines and Monsters: Secrets Revealed!

spoilerwarning-cloverfield-monster05.jpgThe only thing more popular than laptops and Starbucks at Siggraph this year is the double-feature panel featuring the visual-effects wizards behind Cloverfield and Iron Man . Tippett Studio and Industrial Light & Magic split the bill to reveal some of the secrets behind two of 2008’s biggest FX-heavy blockbusters.

The Tippett team, headed by Eric Leven, gave the impression that the best kind of movie to work on is one with a limited budget and nothing to lose. Such a project was pitched to them as a kind of “Blair Witch meets Godzilla.� Originally Cloverfield was budgeted at $25 million when they got the call from J.J. Abrams’ team to work up the monster, known affectionately as “Clover.� Once the filmmakers got the original tests back from Tippett, the excitement they generated resulted in more money. more

The Enduring Influence of Two Old Men

alice2.jpgSiggraph 2008 covers a wide spectrum of educational topics concerning animation, so it’s no surprise that the conference isn’t always looking into the future if there’s something important to glean from the past. The storied history of classic animated movies from the Walt Disney Animation Studio still holds so much for the animators of today to learn from. This morning’s panel “A Tribute to the Life and Work of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston” featured seven top animators of today sharing memories and discussing why these two of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Menâ€? continue to serve as inspiration. more

Live-Action 3D is the Future

Journey to the Center of the Earth at Siggraph 2008“Live-action 3D is the future/Teach it well and let it lead the way,” Whitney Houston once sang, I believe. Oops, wrong bad joke. The big joke among people who make 3D stereoscopic films is that it is way more work than making a regular 2D film because you have to make the same film twice.

This summer’s Journey to the Center of the Earth was shot in stereo with dual Sony HDC-950 HD cameras mounted on Pace Technologies‘ 3D HD rigs. The movie’s Visual-Effects Supervisor Christopher Townsend was on hand to explain that there is no cheating space when you’re filming live-action 3D. You can’t use any of the solutions normally associated with 2D movies, such as flat matte paintings for backgrounds, 2D compositing, or any 2D cueing traicks at all. Journey to the Center of the Earth is the directorial debut of longtime visual-effects supervisor Eric Brevig and the movie was the first ever full-length stereoscopic motion picture shot in HD to be released in digital 3D. more

Viva Chihuahua

The major studios are finally starting to get the hang of this viral video business. Tippett Studio‘s marketing chief Lori Petrini pointed that out to me a few minutes ago as she showed me a couple of YouTube! videos created by Tippett to strategically help promote Disney‘s upcoming film,Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Tippett is doing some of the effects on the film, but also made the videos “Viva Chihuahua” and “Heel Chihuahua” that you can easily find on YouTube (but in case you can’t, try: or more

Break the Rules, But There Will Be No Pie-Throwing!

It’s the same general approach, only with very different visual presentations.

Robert Neuman, stereoscopic supervisor at Walt Disney Animation, showed a trailer for the upcoming computer-animated feature Bolt, which is from the talking-animal variety of kids-oriented films. In this movie, John Travolta voices a dog who thinks the popular TV show he stars in is real life. Neuman stressed the importance of using 3D as an aid to storytelling and not as purely a gimmick, something echoed by all the presenters so far today. Having objects flying nonstop at the screen seems to be a William Castle-like relic from the past. more

Breaking the 2D Chains, new DreamWorks Animation movie!

monstersvsaliens1.jpgI never thought about it like this before, but what we know as a close-up shot isn’t really a close-up at all. Phil “Captain 3D” McNally from DreamWorks Animation likes to instead refer to this staple of 2D cinematography as a “big-up.” The object isn’t any closer to the the audience, it’s just bigger.

That’s just one example of the redefining of traditional movie terminology that McNally peppered throughout his talk about discovering the difference between 2D and 3D moviemaking this morning during the Animated 3D Cinema: Imaginary Worlds Brought to Life panel. Because 2D techniques are so ingrained in filmmakers and audiences as the only way to make films, it is ironically seen as real life. In reality, 2D moviemaking is the art of converting a spatial world into a flat one. McNally showed a clip from the studio’s Kung Fu Panda that was quite impressive in 3D, but then revealed the process behind converting a 3D production through the 2D filter- about 1/3 of the clip was the same, 1/3 was slightly adjusted 2D footage, and 1/3 of it was new or extended edits. more

Mo Cheaper Mo Cap

Mo cap is entering a golden age–or maybe a green one, as both new and established companies alike are churning out product to get or gain market share. As I mentioned in two earlier postings, established companies like Vicon as well as newcomers like Reallusion are just two companies at the show with cool gear in the booth or promised ‘real soon‘.
In part, it‘s because of the growing popularity of a more sophisticated generation of mo cap-based projects like Pirates of the Caribbean (just saw behind the scenes previews of Zemeckis‘ Beowolf at the Electronic Theater–looks great!).

The elements used in mo cap technology are being spun off for other uses too. Long-time motion tracking manufacturer InterSense ( collaborated with 3D virtual studio developer Cinital ( to create the latest in previsualization stages for Stargate Digital, which recently opened a virtual studio in Van Nuys, California. more


The editors of Digital Content Producer and millimeter post live from Siggraph as the news happens. Check back several times a day for the latest industry news, reports from press conferences, and product introductions.


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