Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#0029 A Very Busy Winter

Hi all!  
Image via Wikipedia

Universal Studios Uniglobe 
After a 10 week hiatus, I've begun writing again, and the topic is CG Production Pipelines.  During these weeks I've been hit with the cold-flu bug three times, forced to visit both Universal Studios Tour (Hollywood) and Disneyland, trampled by dozens of visiting in-laws, settling and unpacking from my forced migration in September, and between running kids around to school and this and that and the wife to work (and this and that), there's been looking for work.  

On all fronts except finding work its been a great 10 weeks --I recovered (three times), enjoyed Universal and Mickey Mouse, survived the in-laws (who generously made sure all the fun wasn't a financial burden) and burned a lot of oil (and got the second car fixed three times).  I'm sure your lives have been just as hectic, and there were several holidays along the way to boot.

I've reviewed my posts on pipelines and have dived into the matter, getting at last to begin talking about CG Production Pipelines.  That will be in the next post (#0030), but first, let's talk a bit about some fun and not so fun stuff.

    Visual Effects Society events
During December and January, I attended three events of the Visual Effects Society, of which I am a new member (it took me a long time to turn in the application, but well worth it).  First was the VES party in December.  This was held at the ZOIC Studios in Culver City, near Los Angeles.  It was a great event and I really enjoyed seeing so many friends in the business after a long time.  

Question mark in Esbjerg 
The second event, in mid-January, was the the judging of 2009 VES Awards nominees.  This was an awesome event, held in Sydney, London, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  At each location, select groups of VES members screened and voted on the submitted work.  Each group was comprised of members who had no connection with the works in that category.  It was a long day for us in Los Angeles --from 8AM until around 6 PM, but well worth it.  Our group reviewed six categories, and it was a real treat to see all the works submitted.  The state of visual effects ART is very good indeed.

A week later was the Los Angeles VES Minifest. This was three separate events in one location, one after another. In the morning, we were treated to a panel entitled, Prosthetic Character Work in the Digital Age. This panel looked like a bust 10 minuted before it started, but suddenly about a zillion people crammed into the theater and we were treated to an informative and entertaining discussion.  We saw how important prosthetic work is today --perhaps more so as film audiences continue to demand more and more exciting and incredible effects. (For those unfamiliar with the term "prosthetic work", this does not only mean artificial limbs, but includes make-up, other body parts, and puppet-controlled characters, like the shark from Jaws.)   The compositing of prosthetic work using vfx rotoscope, 3d models and other digital techniques likewise continues to be crucial to the process.

The second session of the minifest was a screening of selected VES award categories.  The VES Awards committee selected six categories (out of some 20 or so) and screened the nominees.  I was a judge for three of the categories, and it was really interesting to see which of the many potential nominees our balloting selected.  It was also great fun to see the other three categories.  I can only say that the caliber of work was stunning.  If you can go to the VES Awards dinner next month, do so.

The Ghostbusters, (from left) Spengler, Stantz... 
The highlight of the evening was Who You Gonna Call? Special 25½ Year Anniversary Ghostbusters
Screening and Panel Discussion.
  I was tempted to skip this, it sounded like it might be a bust, but I grabbed a fish taco during our dinner break and wandered back to the theater.  I was really glad I did.  The panel, with some 12 or so of the visual effects auters, including Richard Edlund, was quite entertaining.  Edlund told us how BOSS FILMS was founded in the process, and how ad hoc everything was --for example, the camera they needed to film their work didn't exist, so they had to "invent" it and build it during production.  It was great fun hearing all the stories, which took me back to my own  professional CG beginnings, which I realized as I sat there were 27 years ago, to the day.   Afterwards they screened the film Ghostbusters,  which I always enjoy.

     3D using "2D" tools

The other event I attended in December was the L.A. Siggraph Meeting, which included several presenters, ending with my friend Steve Wright , a terrific compositor and compositing instructor, who spoke on using Nuke's 3d tools. Steve's website:  http://vfxio.com/

This was quite interesting to me, it's what caused me to trek the 70 miles down the mountain to UCLA, because I've been using 2D tools to do 3D for many years, and because I'm in the process of cross-training from After Effects to Nuke.  

Aside from the ability to displace a polygonal mesh using an image source, all the functions demonstrated as great Nuke features were old hat to me with After Effects.  However, the ease of use and 3D display seemed more powerful (although it may have been the hardware).  Steve's presentation was really good, he made it really simple for the audience.  

I was mostly amazed at how "new" this was for so many people, but then I realized that this is something I've been seeing since my video days, when we did this sort of stuff using real-time video manipulators like Ampex's ADO and Quantel's Mirage.  Flash forward 27 years and it's not real time, but it's also not video.  It looks and works great.  I look forward to sitting down to this tutorial later this week to compare for myself how NUKE and After Effects each handle 3D.

A Few Awesome Films

I finally saw 2012, Nine, and Coraline on my VES screener DVD's.  At the VES Awards events I attended I saw just enough of these films to want to see the visual effects.  All three are truly awesome, and each represents a totally different visual effects genre.  I look forward to seeing them again.

As soon as the wife gets a free minute, but no later than this week, I'm off to see Avatar.   I saw a few clips of this at the VES events, and it's a must see in 3D.

That's been my 10 weeks.  I hope yours was productive and stimulating.  Mine was great, except for that job thing.  If you know anyone who needs a 3D generalist powerhouse, a master compositor, or perhaps a CG supervisor (I know a little about that), please send them my way.  I'm really tired of Facebook games. :)

Have a great day, and I hope you enjoy my next post, #0030, The Best CG Pipeline.


Anonymous said...

i know i am commenting on an old post, but you mentioned u are planing in testing nuke and aftereffects. any news on that? will we have a nice review? (if you write software comparisons, u did in open office vs msword :)) the topic is very interesting, don't know about the rest of your readers but id like to read it. best, m.