A bunch of world-class VFX and design artists are about to hit Melbourne and Sydney

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I’ve got to travel around to a few conferences and events recently and what I’ve found is, there’s nothing quite like hearing and learning directly from artists in visual effects and design – in person.

In Australia, it can sometimes be tricky to have that exposure to the best artists in the field. However, there’s an event coming up – in both Melbourne and then in Sydney – aiming to change that.

It’s called Gnomon Live, and it’s a full weekend event of live demos, masterclasses and panel discussions with a whole bunch of world-class artists speaking on a range of VFX and design topics. People like Neville Page, Tran Ma, Miguel Ortega, Brian Recktenwald and Josh Herman. Plus the big studios – Animal Logic, Luma Pictures, Iloura, Firemonkeys, and more, will be there.

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Alex Nice.

Another of the presenters whose attending is art director Alex Nice from Magnopus, an exciting studio which is crossing the line between visual effects and new forms of immersive entertainment. Nice has previously worked on films like Sin City, The Hunger Games and Hugo, and these days he’s exploring new art direction techniques in AR and VR.

I asked Nice about a few of his thoughts on the current state of VFX/VR/AR and about what he’ll be showcasing at Gnomon Live. Continue reading A bunch of world-class VFX and design artists are about to hit Melbourne and Sydney

Forging the fiery face of Ghost Rider for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

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Last year, the Marvel character Ghost Rider burst onto the small screen in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for seven episodes of the series. The fiery effects required to bring Ghost Rider (played by Gabriel Luna) to life were orchestrated by FuseFX. In this special vfxblog breakdown, FuseFX visual effects supervisor Kevin Lingenfelser dives into how the character’s fire effects and transformations were achieved. Continue reading Forging the fiery face of Ghost Rider for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

‘Tale of Three Brothers’ director Ben Hibon on his next creative adventures at Luma Pictures

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Director Ben Hibon’s works are pieces of animation that tend to stick in your mind for months or years. From his breakthrough short Codehunters to the masterful Harry Potter ‘Tale of Three Brothers’ sequence, Hibon has brought a definitive style to the animation he’s directed.

Now he has joined Luma Pictures as their head creative director, at a time when the studio that most people know as a visual effects shop is also branching out into animation, its own features and other content.

I recently got the chance to sit down with Hibon to discuss his journey in animated content, and about the plan at Luma. Continue reading ‘Tale of Three Brothers’ director Ben Hibon on his next creative adventures at Luma Pictures

Full liquid metal, now in 3D: re-visiting the freakin’ T-1000 walking out of the fiery truck crash

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

If you’ve never seen James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day – either on the big or small screen – now’s the time to embrace this wonder of filmmaking and effects. The movie has been digitally re-mastered and received the ‘full liquid metal 3D’ stereo conversion treatment by Stereo D. The new release just premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and will have public release dates around the world in August.

Twenty-six years ago, T2 helped usher in a new wave of digital visual effects artistry thanks to the pioneering computer graphics work by ILM, capitalising on their work for The Abyss, and then which the studio took even further on Jurassic Park.

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It was the liquid metal T-1000 played by Robert Patrick that represented the majority of this CGI work in the film. Indeed, a hero reveal of the ‘cybernetic organism’ emerging from the flames of a burning truck wreckage became one of ILM’s signature shots for years to come.

Two of the principal artists behind that work were animation director Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams and associate visual effects supervisor Mark Dippé. In this special vfxblog interview conducted at SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Terminator 2, Williams and Dippé recount their efforts to create that memorable shot, known as CC-1.

Continue reading Full liquid metal, now in 3D: re-visiting the freakin’ T-1000 walking out of the fiery truck crash

The making of ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ making of book

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I’m a collector (some might say ‘hoarder’). Most people know about the Speed stuff, but over the years I’ve also amassed dozens of ‘making of’ film books. Which is why when DK asked me last year to consult on their The LEGO Batman Movie: The Making of the Movie book, I could barely contain myself.

It would involve spending time in DK’s London offices and a week at Animal Logic, the animation studio behind the film. My brief was to identify some of the main points for discussion in the book and pick out a bunch of cool imagery to show.

I have to say, the book came out even better than I imagined. It’s a neat cross between the more common ‘art of’ books now available for animated films and the classic ‘making of’ books that I collect. Every spread does an incredible job of highlighting the huge amount of work involved, especially by Animal Logic, in bringing the film to life by showcasing concept designs, storyboards, work in progress shots and final scenes.

Also, having seen the film, the book somehow does a killer job of not spoiling the movie while still revealing so much (which is rare).  So, I hope you like the book – you can buy it at Amazon. Look out for my ‘animation consultant’ credit in the back. And I can tell you the film is awesome, too.

What it’s like to attend the ‘other’ Oscars or: How I learned a whole new story I hadn’t heard before about ‘Speed’

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“This isn’t like the other Oscars, or as I like to call them, ‘the dumb Oscars,’ where at the end of the night, 80 per cent of the people in the room are losers. You guys are tremendous. Those guys are sad.”

That was actor John Cho, of Star Trek and Harold & Kumar fame, presenting at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards, which I was lucky enough to attend last night in Los Angeles.

More on the incredible work that Cho and his presenting partner and This is 40 and How to be Single actress Leslie Mann did last night at the Sci-Techs, but first a note about how this all relates to Speed (yes, really). Continue reading What it’s like to attend the ‘other’ Oscars or: How I learned a whole new story I hadn’t heard before about ‘Speed’

The race to finish Dante’s Peak…20 years ago

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Today, many of the visual effects in the 1997 disaster flick Dante’s Peak would probably be done completely digitally. Pyroclastic flows, exploding buildings, bridges and cars being swept away by a torrent of ashen river – these are things that can be done with complex effects simulations, CG elements and masterful compositing.

But two decades ago, the techniques were still in their infancy, and a hybrid approach to realising such shots involving miniatures, practical effects and then augmenting with digital techniques, was just emerging.

c4cygjcvmaagyl_Dante’s Peak, directed by Roger Donaldson, took advantage of this approach by incorporating some of the most convincing miniatures ever put to screen – especially for the river and bridge scene – and using nascent digital effects tools to add even more layers of realism. The work was realised by Digital Domain as well as a host of other modelmaking studios and digital effects houses.

To celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, vfxblog spoke to overall visual effects supervisor Patrick McClung, then at DD, about the hybrid effects in Dante’s Peak, how the decisions about miniatures were made, and how the only slightly related Volcano film heavily influenced production. Continue reading The race to finish Dante’s Peak…20 years ago