Location: Redwood City, Calif. No. of employees: About 15 Founded: 2015 First project: Invasion! Current projects: Invasion!, a computer animated VR short interactive movie. What We Say: A company whose founders have extensive animation roots at Pixar, DreamWorks and Zynga Games, Baobab is at the forefront of bringing that same magic of character-driven storytelling to the new VR space. What They Say: “Invasion! is an interactive movie created for family audiences and is universally appealing. Unlike other VR content, it’s not arthouse niche, immersive journalism, a movie trailer or a game. Right now, there are many tech demos (things being very small, very big, popping out at you) that are beautiful, but lacking story. We believe story comes first and VR is another toy box used to convey stories in a unique way. When the tech-experimentation phase passes, as it does for all new mediums, audiences will hunger for great stories the way that they have with books, movies, plays, etc. Baobab aims take VR past early adopters and to bring VR to the masses.” — Maureen Fan,
Co-Founder Location: El Segundo, Calif. No. of employees: 9 Founded: 2013 First project: Dragonflight Current projects: Dragonflight, The Abbot’s Book What We Say: This award-winning team of visual effects artists created one of VR’s most jaw-dropping experi- Location: Los Angeles No. of Employees: 12 Founded: 2016 (Parent company Proof, Inc., founded 2002) Projects: TBA theme park ride film attraction, with Mousetrappe. What We Say: Previz has been a game changer for VFX, and now previs leader Proof is bringing the expertise it earned on more than 300 features to the world of VR with its new PRIME division. Set up to bring in directors, cinematographers, production designers, etc., to use VR as a next-level visualization and design tool for their narrative storytelling experiences, PRIME is poised to make a real impact on the new medium. What They Say: “Proof has always been the first, best step for creatives to visualize their narrative storytelling projects for the mediums of film and television. I want PRIME to build on that legacy as the first, best step in the immersive visualization and design process for experiences that go beyond the screen. For VR experiences, we’ll rapidly iterate for review in an HMD to determine what will and won’t work in VR. We’ll plan out 360 capture in exacting detail, both for the sake of efficiency on set and to make sure that the director gets precisely what he needs to realize his vision for the project. For cultural installations, live events, location-based entertainment and themed attractions, we’ll collaborate with designers early on in the creative process using our latest CG animation techniques in conjunction with VR as an immersive visualization and rapid-prototyping toolset. The end result will be the ability to see an attraction or event (and their media content) from any angle, under any conditions and from any point of view, and all of this before a single shovel hits the ground or stage piece is constructed.” — Christopher Bellaci, Head
of Business Development &
Sales Director, Jaunt Cinematic VR Lab Location: Los Angeles Years experience: 30 First projects: Directed two-award winning MTV music videos: “Luka” for Suzanne Vega; and “Be Still My Beating Heart” for Sting. Current projects: Developing a cinematic VR story that will be a “magic realism” road trip mixing myth, archaeology, landscape and time, told through a female narrator; director on And So the Wind Blew, a multi-screen audiovisual piece that immerses the audience in a magical landscape activated by the wind; producing and directing Rhythms & Visions III, the third in a series of immersive interactive audiovisual events staged on the grounds of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. What We Say: As the director of the new Jaunt Cinematic VR Lab at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Reckinger adds to her artistic credentials a key role of helping to establish VR studies in an academic setting. This not only will help set best practices for the medium, but also help a new generation push its boundaries in unexpected directions. What She Says: “The Jaunt Cinematic VR Lab is an incubator and production facility dedicated to exploring storytelling and creative content making with emerging VR technology. The USC lab supports student and faculty creative projects that utilize the innovative Jaunt VR camera and software technology for production and post-production. Our SCA makers come from the fields of live action, animation, writing and interactive media, and we encourage them to be VR pioneers, to collaborate, mix techniques and freely explore storytelling and experimentation with the new tools of virtual reality.”
Locations: Toronto No. of employees: 350 artists worldwide Year founded: 1995 First Project: Charmed Current projects: The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl. What We Say: Visual effects talk often focuses too much on feature films at the expense of TV, which is rapidly catching up with the big-screen in terms of needing a high number of complex effects shots. Deluxe Entertainment’s Encore has been at the forefront of bringing feature-quality effects to weekly series, on weekly budgets and on weekly schedules. Shows like The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and NCIS stand out because of Encore’s efforts. What They Say: “Studios, networks, and the massive fan bases for characters like The Flash have new expectations for visual sophistication and effects in their shows. We just commit to doing the impossible – with the right team in place we dive in and do things we’ve never attempted before. With that mantra and a workflow that eliminates unproductive tasks, we took on Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow and expanded our team with like-minded people. This year we completed 59 total episodes and 6,500 shots, and we look forward to whatever challenges come our way.”
— Armen Kevorkian, Exec. Creative Dir./ Sr. VFX Supervisor Location: Burbank No. of employees: freelancers. Founded: 2013 First project: Stretch Current projects: The Purge: Election Year, Hardcore Henry, Scandal. What We Say: Staying ahead of the rapidly changing VFX and post landscape is a difficult job, and one that VFX Legion has met head-on. It’s created a fully remote, largescale post-production and VFX studio that works with a worldwide talent pool of innovators, creative thinkers and problem solvers to meet the shifting needs and budgets of contemporary content creation. What They Say: “Artists have been displaced all over the world, or senior artists are wanting to return home and stop having to travel the world to keep working in VFX. Legion is that chance. We developed a system that very experienced artists can contribute meaningful work on visual effects from all over the globe. We can keep the quality high because of the level of ownership that the artists take over their work. They truly are the most important part of the process.”
— James David Hattin, Creative Director/VFX Supervisor Locations: Boston, Los Angeles No. of employees: 75 Founded: 2010 First project: Zookeeper Current projects: Ghostbusters, The Magnificent Seven, Patriots Day. What We Say: If you saw Hardcore Henry, you saw ZERO at work — and probably didn’t notice. Not only was the mass destruction and mayhem the studio added to action sequences indistinguishable, it was all done for a feature conceived in 360 degrees and executed like a first-person shooter video game. Pretty cool. What They Say: “The funny thing about visual effects is that the better you do your job, the less noticeable you actually are. At ZERO we strive to create effects that blend seamlessly into the world, enhancing the narrative rather than distracting from it. That might mean changing summer to winter in Black Mass, or making 40 shots across Hardcore Henry’s highway chase feel like one continuous sequence. Achieving these effects with no telltale signs that a computer was ever involved is our Holy Grail. We’re continually looking for ways to make visual effects feel real, whether working on an exploding truck or an otherworldly creature. We don’t want it to distract from the story — we want it to be the story.” — Brian Drewes, Co-Founder
Employer: LAIKA Location: Portland, Ore. Years experience: 10 at LAIKA First project: Coraline Current project: Kubo and the Two Strings What We Say: Nothing has changed the way stop-motion animation is made more than the rise of rapid prototyping (a.k.a. 3D printing), and no studio has made more advanced use of it than LAIKA under the direction of Brian McLean, whose efforts recently earned him a Sci-Tech Achievement Award from the Academy. What He Says: “LAIKA’s Rapid Prototyping system takes a century-old technique of replacement animation and fuses it with 21st century 3D printing technology. By harnessing the power and control of computer animation software and combining it with state of the art 3D printers, we are able to achieve levels of emotion and subtle facial performances that the medium of stop-motion has never seen before. It is amazing what happens when you combine two powerful technologies, and put them in the hands of an extremely talented crew. It never ceases to amaze me how far the RP team pushes this technique, and in the process redefines what is considered possible. I am honored to get to work at a studio that rewards creativity and risk-taking, and alongside such a hardworking and talented group of people. I cannot wait to show the world what we have been able to do with RP and facial animation on Kubo and the Two Strings.” Locations: Corvallis, Ore. No. of employees: 60 Founded: 1997 First product: TrackIR, the original head tracker for gaming. Current products: Prime cameras, Flex cameras and Motive software. What We Say: With the line between live action and animation increasing blurred, tools like OptiTrack’s 3D tracking hardware and software are making it simpler and easier than ever to stitch the two together. Its precise tracking helps animators iterate more quickly and focus their efforts on detail work, rather than clean up. And that’s no small thing. What They Say: “We like engineering solutions for hard problems and then giving customers tools that require less and less of their attention as time goes on. Regardless of the size of the system, from the largest performance capture stage in the world to a conference room system, every customer benefits from this focus. And with massive growth in indoor drone tracking for research, and of course the explosion of VR, we’re seeing universities, high schools and even junior high schools installing systems for multidisciplinary use. That gives us a sense that we’re doing the right things in product development.”
— Brian Nilles, Chief Strategy Officer Location: Metz, France No. of employees: 15 Founded: 1991 First product: TVPaint Animation Current product: TVPaint Animation 11 Professional Edition What We Say: Though the company is small, its reach is large because TVPaint is the best choice for efficiently creating work that looks good enough to have been done on paper. TVPaint has earned accolades and been used to make such diverse films as Song of the Sea, The Red Turtle and The Dam Keeper. What They Say: “The versatility and flexibility of TVPaint Animation combines traditional techniques (light table, animation disk, shift and trace, flip, etc.) with digital capacities (auto save, fast coloring process, special effects). ... TVPaint Animation emulates paper animation to make the digital animation experience as comfortable as possible.” — Elodie Moog, Sales Manager
Location: Atlanta Education: University of Akron, Recording Workshop. Years experience: 24 First project: Recording and post-production on an ad agency job at Beachwood Studios. Current projects: Audio post and music for Adult Swim shows, commercial work for various ad agencies and clients, and network branding. What We Say: Just as Adult Swim has helped define an entire brand and genre for animated comedy aimed at young (and notso-young) adults, Kohler’s music has brought an audio identity to the network’s shows that defines the sound of its brand as much as the animation defines the visuals. What He Says: “Since I began my career, I’ve had the opportunity to mix at Skywalker Ranch, to collaborate with great artists, and to have made music that has played continuously on networks for years, on every continent. It really makes it well worth the long hours invested. I think I will always be modifying, customizing, adding to, and, at the same time, streamlining my studio and process. It’s what influences new ideas for me. I plan to continue working in sound design, but I’m also moving toward more music composition, and hopefully into new avenues of music collaboration as we all embrace sharing and cloud options in our work process.” Location: Los Angeles Education: Villa Lobos Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro. Years of experience: Almost 40. First project: Playing music with a jazz band at a library in Rio de Janeiro at 16 years old. Current projects: The Nut Job 2, Despicable Me 3, The Last Animals. What We Say: An accomplished musician in multiple forms and genres, Pereira has helped bring the sound of music for animation into the mainstream. His lengthy list of animation credits both past and present proves he’s given shape to the interaction of animation and music in today’s industry. What He Says: “I hope I have a long life ahead of me, so my list of accomplishments is nothing compared to what is still to come. In one way or another, I write music every day and I want to continue like that forever. I’m thankful to everyone and everything for how far I’ve gotten as of now and also, I hope I can connect more my love for nature and environmental issues with my life as a musician who is willing to be part of projects that are geared towards the protection of all nature’s gifts to us.” Location: San Francisco Education: University of Chicago Years of experience: 13 First project: “Cisco Systems sponsored a massive industrial event in which four regional VPs rapped, both as a video and onstage, about their teams and ‘makin’ dealz.’ I arranged and produced the music track, and coached their performances.” Current projects: Creative Director of Music and Sound, Google ATAP. Music and sound supervisor, for Pearl, a Google Spotlight Story directed by Patrick Osborne; and Rain or Shine, a Google Spotlight Story directed by Felix Massie and produced by Nexus Productions. What We Say: VR is new territory for music, as well as for storytelling, art and visuals, and Stafford is in the trenches directly solving those problems and bringing audio flare to some of the most successful VR projects to date. What He Says: “Ultimately, music’s role in VR is the same as it is in film, theater and games: to enhance narrative and emotional impact. If I’m doing my job, the audience never has to re-think music’s role in order to enjoy a story. But in VR, music has to function differently. It has to answer new questions. Traditionally, composers and audio professionals never worry about a single audience member tilting or rotating their head. They don’t need to account for that in their music or mix. But in Glen Keane’s Duet, the musical score knows if you’re looking at the girl, the boy, the dog, or just looking up at the stars. And in Patrick Osborne’s Pearl, the mix knows when the music is sung by onscreen actors over there; when it’s played through the speakers of an aging car stereo; or when music acts as the narrative underscore. When it’s just ... music.”
Twirlywoos Masha and the Bear Dot Nature Cat
elivering high-quality work for multiple platforms within short time frames and limited budgets is standard operating procedure for any animation studio. But few are likely able to live up to the turnaround standard set by Brain Zoo Studios, which has twice delivered a complete 80-minute animated feature for Marvel in six months.
“All of that production was done here in the U.S.; none of it was outsourced, which is another thing that we’re very adamant about, which is keep things local and keep things here,” says Mo Davoudian, CEO and creative director of the Encino, Calif.-based studio, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “I don’t know of any other company that’s delivered a film in six months, anywhere.”
And Brain Zoo delivers in more areas than just features. Springing from a background in gaming, the company produces animation and visual effects for everything from game cinematics and trailers to live action, motion capture, commercials, VR and animated shorts.
“To us, it’s all a variety of techniques,” says Davoudian. “The techniques are all the same and it’s just the visual bar you’re shooting for, whether it’s photoreal or it’s cartoony.”
The genesis of Brain Zoo came in the early 1990s, when Davoudian was studying industrial design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. “Jurassic Park came out and as soon as I saw what was being done with the same software I was using I was like, OK, no more cars and products,” he says.
Davoudian found like-minded students and made two short films — Nora and Firestorm — while in school and interned at a gaming company. Around graduation, he and a few friends decided to form Blue Zoo and created a demo reel that earned a lot of interest when it was shown around at E3.
“There was a need for a company like ours that would do the creative, the directing, and be able to tell a story in the cinematics and trailers,” Davoudian says. “We focused heavily on those things and set up our pipeline based on those production schedules. It gave us a lot of experience in storytelling and creating IPs, and that essentially became our expertise.”
Brain Zoo’s best-known IPs include a pair of short films: Pepe & Lucas, an award-winning animated short that’s also been spun off to an interactive book; and Nora, a recent remake of the short Davoudian made in college, which the studio also is looking to pitch as a series. Brain Zoo also has won awards for its work on video games such as Stratego, Lost Planet and Darkwatch, the later of which won eight awards overall including five Davey Awards.
While the type of work the studio does varies from year to year, the company is right now spending about 40 percent of its time on VR projects, with the rest divided between games, trailers, cinematics and commercials.
“It’s all storytelling, it’s all the same process — it’s just a matter of what’s longer and what’s shorter in terms of time,” he says.
Brain Zoo has a core group of about 20 people, which has scaled up to as many as 80, Davoudian says. And he says the company prefers to work with local talent, though it has had to venture beyond Southern California to work virtually with artists all over the world.
Having notched 20 years in business, Davoudian says Brain Zoo plans to continue to operate as an independent studio and create its own content.
“Right now it’s (a lot of) VR and television, especially television,” he says. “We’re really making an effort to do the series work and essentially become show runners to create unique and original properties for ourselves and for clients.” [
Tis a hit for PBS and an auspicious entry into animation for kids for Wind Dancer Films. By Tom McLean.
hat Wind Dancer Films’ first children’s animated series — PBS newcomer Ready Jet Go! — is a hit comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the veteran family entertainment company’s track record.
“If you look over the years, it’s always been about family and comedy, and when we stay in those lines we do incredibly well,” says Dete Meserve, principal at Wind Dancer, best known as the production company behind classic TV shows like Roseanne and Home Improvement and hit features including the Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want.
And Ready Jet Go! is on track to maintain Wind Dancer’s reputation. The show reached 8.4 million viewers, including more than 3.1 million kids, and racked up more than 30 million streams on digital platforms through February.
Meserve is a veteran of Wind Dancer who has been promoted to principal of the company as it enters the children’s entertainment and animation sector, with Nickelodeon vet Rusty Tracy joining the company as VP of animation.
Ready Jet Go! is created by Craig Bartlett, creator of Hey, Arnold! and executive producer of Dinosaur Train. He pitched the series while discussing general family programming ideas with Meserve.
“We were doing kids shows at the time, but not animation, and we were excited about the ideas he had from a story standpoint, about looking at space and looking at Earth through the eyes of an alien kid,” says Meserve, who immediately said yes to Bartlett’s pitch.
The show — made in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena — follows young Sean and Sydney, who befriend the new kid on their street, Jet Propulsion, whose family members happen to be aliens from the planet Bortron 7. Together, they explore the solar system and the effects it has on the science of our planet.
“You have the comedic elements and the story elements that we’re all very familiar with,” says Meserve. “But then you get this other element, which really got us got us very excited, which is we get to weave into there some kind of a curriculum.”
That educational factor, plus the creative and business factors, was what led Wind Dancer to go all in on animation and require the skills of someone like Tracy, who set up a scalable production capacity for the studio.
“One of my responsibilities at Nick was being a liaison with all of the vendors that we worked with, as well as finding new talent and new folks to work with,” he says. “If I know a studio that is local or international that would be a perfect fit (for a specific project), I’ll try to place the work with the best-fit folks as possible.”
For Ready Jet Go!, all the writing and creative direction is done in Glendale, with a partner team in Vancouver doing preproduction and a studio in India doing the animation.
“It’s really quite an international process and, in terms of our growth moving forward, we’ve now built the base of the infrastructure that we need,” says Tracy. “The machine is there and at this point it is just kind of adding more seats to it as need be.”
Projects in development include Not a Box, based on the best selling book by Antoinette Portis, as well as a preschool property that Merseve says plays younger than Ready Jet Go! and is already garnering inquiries from potential partners. An announcement on a second season of Ready Jet Go! is expected soon.
With a track record like Wind Dancer’s, even creators are showing up in droves.
“We are meeting with people and looking for strong show creators,” says Meserve. “We’re trying to figure out who are the creators we’d like to work with, so we’re in that very fertile place where great ideas are coming out and in a couple months we’ll be able to announce some cool things.” [
In life, there are disqualifiers. That is, there are certain things which can be said or revealed that instantly disqualify a person from being an expert on a subject or having their opinion valued by others, and quickly reveals the self-proclaimed authority to be a charlatan.
In animation, hands down, it’s the loathsome misuse of the made-up word, “animations.” “Animations” is not a word. Saying “animations” to an industry veteran is like talking about “sheeps” to a shepherd.
Talking about “animations” is like putting ketchup on a steak or pineapple on a pizza: Just because some people do it doesn’t make it OK. Animation is more popular than ever: it’s a buzzword, it’s singular, it’s plural, but it’s most certainly not spelled with an S.
I was recently horrified to discover a leading global 3D-animation software company snuck an “animations” right in the middle of one of their render menus. Oh, the irony.
Freedom of speech? Absolutely. Freedom to use the word, “animations”? To the gallows with thee!
There is a long list of additional disqualifiers that need to be put on every professional’s “Don’t Ever, Ever Do” list, but here are a few of the repeat offenders I’ve witnessed over the decades, just to get you started:
Putting a countdown at the beginning of your animation demo reel. I’ve known more than a couple of animation recruiters who frown upon this practice, politely labeling it a tired cliché (while clearly yearning to use a much-more maligned term), that qualifies for an automatic and immediate eject, the rest of the reel to never be seen.
Calling yourself “Major Epic Feature Film Animation Productions Company” when you are in reality a new graduate from college looking for an entry-level job. Opening your demo reel with claims of being a company and not a single entity looking for a job makes it seem like you are trying to fool human resources into thinking you’re bigger than you really are. That, or you simply think it’s cool. Either way, this is a very effective technique for devaluing your stock in the eyes of a recruiter.
Also, fathom the person who brags about wanting to be a professional actor but doesn’t know who Kevin Spacey is.
How about the industry outsider who wants to create an animated TV series that “appeals to all ages”?
What about being a graphic designer specializing in corporate identity and not knowing the difference between stationery and stationary?
Or using such business clichés as “meet or exceed expectations,” “take it to the next level,” “win-win,” “one-stop shop” or “think outside the box” while claiming to be a business that thinks outside the box.
How about the self-proclaimed music guru who brags about starting a serious rock band that plays real music while referring to the bass player as “backup guitar”?
Lastly, what about the person who claims to be the world’s biggest Tarantino fan “except for all the violence and old music”?
Frustratingly enough, the list goes on and on. Feel free to send me your own disqualifiers and I’ll add it to the pile.
Other than providing some sort of mildly sour amusement from these risible contradictions, there’s a point to all of this. A certain level of professionalism needs to be maintained for a discipline to remain held in high regard. The more purported expert animators use “animations,” the more it reflects poorly on the industry. It only takes a few spoiled bushels to ruin the entire orchard.
The real danger in the overuse of an incorrect spelling of a word or made-up slang term, is that if said malapropism runs amok and unchecked for a long enough period of time, it has a chance of actually becoming a real thing. As a professional in your field, it’s your responsibility to keep this from happening. Don’t contribute to mass fallacy by being apathetic, which is just as reprehensible — if not more so — than aiding and abetting. In your animation travels, if you come across someone or someones (see what I did there?) that commits this heinous crime, you have my permission to reprimand and correct them with extreme prejudice.
Strive to be the greatest ambassador of your cause. Take pride not only in your work, but in your industry. Help all those involved raise the overall standard of professionalism in your chosen discipline. Both artist and client stand to benefit. Martin Grebing is a multiple- award- winning animation producer, small-business consultant and president of Funnybone Animation. Reach him at www. funnyboneanimation.com.
Phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with Captain America: Civil War, in which Cap (Chris Evans) goes rogue and battles Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) after S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes corrupted and the government tries to rein in the Avengers.
Directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, Civil War is a prelude to the upcoming two-part Avengers: Infinity War saga. The action centerpiece of Civil War is the airport battle between team Cap and team Iron Man, featuring newcomers Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther ( Chadwick Boseman) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
“We had to work very hard on a narrative level to determine how to get them there; put them in a box and trap them in a corner, forcing them to take sides with Cap and Iron Man,” says Anthony Russo. “There was deft maneuvering of plot, character, emotional manipulation and physical choreography, using their abilities against one another. Everything is an über-objective for each side. But at the same time, you have many mini-motivations, pulling everybody through the fight on different levels. For instance, Panther just wants to kill the Winter Soldier and he goes right to it. Spider-Man doesn’t really understand the stakes of the fight but he can’t believe that Tony Stark has taken an interest in him, and he just wants to impress him and help him.”
Industrial Light & Magic, under the VFX supervision of Russell Earl, handled the majority of Civil War, especially the airport battle, which took up more than 40 percent of the directors’ attention in post. Everything was shot on green-screen in Atlanta and ILM added the virtual airport as well as the intricate character animation. There was a previs cut by The Third Floor along with cuts by the stunt and editorial teams, and ILM added a few wide shots to provide more scope.
What turned the sequence around, however, was having Ant-Man turn into Giant Man and Spider-Man taking inspiration from the battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back to take him down by wrapping his web around his legs.
“He grows to 50 feet and that was a big mass and weight change from an animation standpoint,” Earl says. The Russos decided that he should stagger like a “drunken baby” and Rudd moved around in a mo-cap suit like Godzilla. They worked on further mo-cap retiming with different beats for grabbing, running and jumping, and used various tools to stitch the performance together and then augmented it with key-frame animation.
“One of the most interesting things about the sequence to me has been that poor (AntMan) couldn’t be more of a red shirt in the whole fight and then he ends up being the central piece when he turns (into Giant Man),” says Anthony Russo. Spinning a New Webhead The big challenge, though, was introducing Spider-Man into the MCU. Like all the other Avengers, his movements and web-slinging needed to be grounded in real-world physics. ILM did numerous tests with the Russos, who wanted him to be a kid just getting used to his powers. “So he didn’t hit the perfect pose,” says Earl, who previously worked on The Win-
as well as
movements and convert them into vectors, which can be exported to an STMap, which can then be used to distort the logo or paint swab in a way that follows the movement.
Overall, it’s not the biggest release The Foundry has ever done, but they’ve made up for the lack of volume with a huge helping of productivity. New seat pricing starts at $4,274, plus maintenance after the first year.
Why get a workstation tower when you can get a laptop that does the same job? (Honestly, I can think of a lot of reasons, but work with me on this.) The most recent release of the ZBook from Hewlett-Packard has really begun to blur the lines of what it means to be a workstation versus a laptop.
I’m reviewing the ZBook 17” G3, and it’s quite a monster. But despite its size, it’s surprisingly lightweight at nearly 8 lbs. It’s not a featherweight MacBook Air, but then again, an Air doesn’t have the firepower that the G3 does. This HP has 32GB of RAM (but can hold 64). I have 500GB of storage, but the system is capable of taking a couple of HP Turbo Drives for a total capacity of 4TB. Yeah. TERAbytes.
On the video side, an NVidia m5000 with 8GB drives the display. My display is standard, but there are Ultra HD and DreamColor touch options for the G3. I have Adobe CC installed, along with Maya 2016 and Max 2017. All are running at the same time at the moment, and the cooling fans aren’t even kicking in. In fact, the laptop is nearly silent. But then again, maybe I’m not hearing it over the Bang & Olufsen audio.
The sides of the body are filled with IO ports including a RJ45 port, 4 USB3s, an HDMI, SD Card and Smart Card reader and two Thunderbolt 3 ports (yeah, that technology that started out on Macs).
That not enough for you? You can get a Thunderbolt expansion dock that plugs into the power and one onboard Thunderbolt port. This doubles the amount of peripherals you can connect at one time and adds in a DisplayPort 1.2 for good measure. And it’s about the size of a pack of pencils.
This variant that I’m writing this article on is about a mid-level version. Neither the sup-iest super model nor the base model. If I were to choose a portable workstation that I could run around on a film set while showing previz to directors, or putting together rough comps, this would certainly be on the top of the list of contenders. Prices range from $1,549 to $3,899, depending on options. Todd Sheridan Perry is a visual-effects supervisor and digital artist who has worked on features including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The release of both Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back and the 18th and most recent feature, Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most-popular franchises in animation and gaming history. The creation of Satoshi Tajiri, a shy game designer whose predilection for collecting insects as a boy earned him the nickname “Dr. Bug,” Pokémon is a multibillion dollar empire and an icon of popular culture throughout the world.
By 1999, the Pokémon games, toys, trading cards and TV programs had become so omnipresent, Time and other journals that usually ignored the existence of Japanese animation ran articles about them. Major newspapers reported on teachers banning Pokémon games from the classroom, children were accused of stealing trading cards and problems arose when Burger King ran out of promotional toys tied to the first movie. By 2014, more than 21.5 billion Pokémon trading cards had shipped worldwide — that’s almost three for every person on the planet.
The popularity and its attendant publicity led to a number of curious kerfuffles. Some fundamentalist Christian groups complained about the conflict they saw between biblical cre- ationism and the Pokémon that evolve into higher forms. But in 2000, Sat2000, a satellite TV station run by the Vatican, said the trading card and computer games were “full of inventive imagination,” did not have “any harmful moral side effects” and were based on “ties of intense friendship.”
In the Middle East, weird rumors arose that Pokémon was somehow anti-Islamic and/or pro-Israel. One rumor claimed “Pokémon” meant “There is no God in the universe,” another that it meant “I am Jewish” in Japanese. It’s actually an elision of “pocket monster.” In 2001, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s highest religious authority, issued a fatwa banning the Pokémon franchise, claiming it encouraged gambling and promoted Zionism.
Adding It All Up Although the Pokémon craze peaked years ago, it remains staggeringly popular. The TV series run to more than 800 episodes, plus numerous specials. More than 260 million video games have been sold worldwide. Not to mention plushes, T-shirts, backpacks, et al. On a typical day, eBay lists more than 400,000 Pokémon items, with some sets of rare trading cards offered for as much as $175,000!
The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back grossed $86 million in its 1999 American theatrical release, beating South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, The Iron Giant and Princess Mononoke, and setting a box office record for a Japanese animated feature that still stands.
The Mewtwo and Hoopa movies share a basic plot with several of the other features: a new, eclipsingly powerful Pokémon appears and refuses to believe that friendship between humans and Pokémon is desirable or, in some cases, possible. In its wrath, this new creature threatens to wreak havoc on the world and/or humanity. It falls to the irrepressible Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japan) and Pikachu to change the enemy’s mind by demonstrating the unbreakable bond of affection they share. That storyline often feels problematic, as the threat of such massive destruction is simply too big for the main characters to handle. Ash is a good kid, but no one really wants him standing between them and world destruction, any more than they’d want Elroy Jetson to take on Mothra.
The TV series, which follows Ash’s efforts to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time, works better. Like the games on which they’re based, these adventures always stress friendship, honesty, fair play and good sportsmanship. If a Pokémon grows too weak during one of the ritual battles, it faints and must be taken to a Pokémon Center to be healed. No Pokémon or human is ever seriously injured. A trainer who mistreats his Pokémon gets his comeuppance — and a stern talking-to from Ash. Although some parents object to the series as product-based, there are many worse things for kids to watch on the air and on disc.
As many original Pokémon fans have become parents, they’ve been introducing their kids to Pikachu, Charizard and Squirtle. The franchise shows no signs of fading away: A 19th feature is slated for release in July in Japan, and a new Nintendo 3DS game will be out for Christmas. However, The Hollywood Reporter recently offered some dismaying news: Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Sony are said to be close to completing an auction for the live-action film rights to the Pokémon franchise.
I can hardly wait. [
Zoology: The Roundtables, The Origin of an Animal Tale, Research: A True-Life Adventure, Z.P.D. Forensic Files (Easter Eggs guide), Scoretopia and Deleted Characters. The standalone DVD comes with Scoretopia and music video, and the Digital version has an exclusive “International Character Reel.” Plenty to keep the whole pack (or herd, or colony, or zeal of zebras) entertained.
[Release date: June 7] ference speaker gig. There, a chance encounter helps him realize what — and whom — has been missing from his life. The Blu-ray ($39.99) offers a few intriguing featurettes: None of Them Are You: Crafting Anomalisa, Intimacy in Miniature and The Sound of Unease. But really, this masterful film stands on its own two plasticine feet just fine.
[Release date: June 7] leasing a Collector’s Edition BD & DVD of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time the same day. The first title in the new “Hosoda Collection” is priced at $49.98 and includes premiere screening event footage and behindthe-scenes feature, director’s talk and music video for Hanako Oku’s “Garnet” and is bundled with an exclusive 52-page book full of making-of spotlights, interviews and artwork. [Release date: June 7]