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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.

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

Fifty years af­ter the de­but of the iconic live-ac­tion Bat­man se­ries, Burt Ward re­turns as the voice of Robin and Adam West is Bat­man in a new an­i­mated DC Uni­verse fea­ture film.

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