Gaumont [France] | Le Merigot 208 Screening: Fri. Nov. 4 at 11:30 a.m. — AMC Santa Monica 4
is The Russian company continues its expansion into international territories with its co-production with China’s Flame Node on the most-recent entry in the fast-growing series. By Tom McLean. Snow Queen The Snow is Wizart
There’s a sense of deja vu with Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (narrated by Brad Pitt). It ambitiously picks up where the director left off in the trippy prologue to The Tree of Life, presenting the birth of the cosmos and humankind. It marks Malick’s first documentary, and, if nominated for the VFX Oscar, that would be a first for the category.
And, as with The Tree of Life, the VFX was overseen by Dan Glass ( Batman Begins, The Matrix sequels), creative director of Method, the lead VFX studio. In fact, the two projects were made in parallel, though it took Voyage of Time 10 years to complete (the feature version, Life’s Journey, narrated by Cate Blanchett, is aimed at a broader audience than the IMAX educational market).
Leveraging R&D from The Tree of Life outfit in Austin called Skunkworks, Glass and the VFX team further developed chemical experiments with liquids, dyes, gasses and fluids filmed at high-speed, both in Austin and London.
Again, with no formal script, Glass wrangled the entire timeline of life on Earth — from the Big Bang to the dinosaur age to our present human world. Inspiration through- out came from the sweeping landscapes of 19th century painter Albert Bierstadt. The richness offered layers of subtlety, from tiny debris in the cosmos to floating particulates at the microbial level, which Malick termed “Bierstadting.”
“Working with Terry is one of the greatest experiences I’ve certainly had, and you’re challenged, in some cases, to come up with things from scratch that he’s looking to feel real,” Glass says. “The way he shoots is interesting in itself, and well worth observing when we’re then trying to produce in the CG world, because he wants everything to feel independent of observation and is trying to make you unaware of the camera as much as possible. And if you’re literally trying to place everything in a frame, removing any sense of that placement can be surprisingly difficult.”
Eternal Seasons They concentrated on four areas of emphasis: Creating astrophysical imagery before the solar system existed and then conceiving and visualizing the futurescape of our universe; representing the protoplanetary disk that formed and condensed to become
Virtual reality is still seemingly all the rage, and with things that are all the rage, people want to dive right in and start developing for it without really investigating the problems stemming from new and relatively unproven technology when it come to developing the actual content. VR as completely synthetic worlds was (comparatively) cake. You build CG stuff, and then through a real-time engine you get to look around and experience the new world.
But what happens when you try to develop live-action for VR? It’s a whole new ball of wax. You have multiple cameras whose footage needs to be stitched. And each camera has slightly different color settings. And then there is a film crew hanging around — how do you get rid of them? And I haven’t even gotten to the part where you incorporate visual effects. Yikes!
Well, as usual, The Foundry has a smarty pants team with a bunch of PhDs, I’m sure, who have been looking into these problems, and the result is Cara VR, a plugin that lives inside of Nuke and provides a whole new toolset for dealing with the issues of VR.
First step in the VR process is to solve the camera array. Cara VR has a bunch of presets for the most used VR camera rigs, but the algorithm is made to analyze all of the camera footage together to build a digital rig, and it puts together everything into a single output in a long flattened image. Be- cause VR is stereo, there is a consideration for depth, and solutions for convergence can be separated to get the best convergence for distant and closer objects.
But now, what happens? Each camera looks different and there are mismatches along borders and ghosting on elements where the convergence is off. But Cara VR has a Colour Matcher node for balancing color and exposure differences, and Stitcher for massaging those edges together. Traditional Nuke tools are still functional in the Cara VR world, so you can remove or paint out items that might cause trouble if you can’t solve the problems automatically with the Cara VR toolset.
Now the cameras match, but there was rotational movement in the rig which makes the footage look like you are viewing it through an aquarium, which will cause nausea and headaches in your VR audience. And once again Cara VR tools come in with a combo of a Camera Tracker and Spherical Transform (because VR is ostensibly a projection on a sphere) to stabilize the footage — which is then fed through a MetaData Transform node to the original cameras to fix things before the stitch takes place — which maintains the fidelity of the image.
Something else to quickly mention is that Cara VR also plays nice with the ray tracer introduced in Nuke 10, so you can render 3D elements directly in Nuke using the solved camera rig. On top of that, there is a new “slit-scan” renderer that fixes the pinching at the poles of the sphere.
Like Katana, this is a niche product and, for a plug-in, is kind of expensive. But hey, if you want to be at the forefront of technology, it’s the price of admission. When VR production becomes more ubiquitous, I suspect the price will come down as the supply increases. www.esri.com
Few classic television series have enjoyed so long a life as the live-action 1966 Batman show, which starred Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo and defined those superheroes in the public mind for decades after production ended.
With superheroes being so popular, it’s no surprise Warner Bros. and DC Comics have been keen to revive the series, recently issuing it for the first time on home video, publishing a hit Batman ’66 comic-book series, and now bringing back West, Ward and former Catwoman Julie Newmar for the animated feature Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, out now on Digital HD and coming Nov. 1 to DVD and Blu-ray.
For much of the crew, working on a new Adam West Batman story is a childhood dream come true. “I remember sitting there in that meeting when they were (first) talking about it and I just said, ‘Oh my god, somebody else is going to get to direct this because I’m too busy!’” says director Rick Morales, a veteran of animated comics shows as well as Warner staples such as LEGO and Scooby-Doo. “Luckily, things just kind of lined up and a few months later, the line producer called me up and said, ‘Do you have any interest in this?’ I was, like, ‘Yes, of course!’ I couldn’t pass it up.”
“I had a day job on Teen Titans Go!, and once I heard of it, I begged them for a chance to work on it,” says Michael Jelenic, producer and co-writer with James Tucker on the movie.
Much of the writing work involved finding the right approach to the material. Jelenic says they had a number of goals, including doing things the original TV series never would have been able to do on its budget, while also making it feel like a movie and injecting a bit of satire, using the West version of Batman to comment on the Batman of today.
Jelenic and Tucker broke the story together. “He’s the super fan of Adam West Batman and the (artist) Dick Sprang comics (of the 1950s), so he knows every reference and everything that’s been done,” says Jelenic.
The Camp Element Part of the trick to the camp approach was to have the characters take very seriously the absurdities of their predicaments.
“If the characters are taking it seriously, the kids will take their cues from how the heroes are reacting, and the adults will be able to take it on another level,” says Jelenic.
“There’s a little bit of a wink and nod to the camera, but the characters themselves, they take it seriously,” says Morales. “I think that was one of the things that trying to get right was a little bit difficult.”
Having the likenesses of West, Ward and Newmar was a solid foundation for designing the characters, which fell to Dusty Abell. “He’s very good at doing likenesses and he’s got a real classic-style look to his stuff and he’s a big fan,” says Morales. “I think It was probably a dream come true of his to be able to do likenesses of Adam West and Burt Ward.”
But lacking likeness rights to all the actors from the classic show meant digging into other sources and, in the process, creating a show inspired by the original but not directly copied.
“We made a lot of adjustments and we made a lot of changes,” Morales says. “We drew from older Golden Age and Silver Age comic books as well. We used a lot of different sources for reference. We did our best to try to make it feel like it was a period piece.”
“I approached it like a comedy, but it’s a little different than a regular comedy, where everyone is telling jokes,” says Jelenic. “They’re telling jokes, but there’s not a big arrow on the fact that it’s jokes, so you hope the audience gets the absurdity of the situation and knows you’re doing it intentionally.”
With the DC projects taking typically 12-14 months from start to finish, Jelenic says Caped Crusaders was in animation for about nine months and faced some additional deadline pressures to ensure release in the 50th anniversary year.
And this isn’t the end for West, Ward and Warner Bros., with a sequel in the works for 2017 with William Shatner playing the voice of Two-Face.
But the thrill for the makers of Caped Crusaders was working in the iconic style of the classic TV show with the original actors to offer a different take on Batman.
“I just love the idea of it being a commentary on Batman as a whole,” says Morales. “I love when he goes bad, and there’s a scene in the space station where he just goes crazy, and he’s beating the hell out of the villains with some brass knuckles, which is something the Adam West Batman would never do. When we screened it in New York (at Comic-Con) the reaction of the crowd was exactly what I was hoping it would be — just kind of shock, but then it became funny because we put the cards in there saying ‘Brutalize!’ and all these really kind of violent things. … When that Batman goes bad, he basically becomes the Batman that we know today from film and the modern comics, which I think is hilarious.” [
LAIKA head Travis Knight made his directorial debut this year to wide critical acclaim, as the studio once again outdid itself artistically and technologically. Kubo is a young boy with a supernatural gift