Friday, April 04, 2014

Movie Marketing Is Hard! Trailer Edition

Since it's been a while since I did one of these things...

view larger

sources:


Let's go down the checklist...
  Font - CHECK
  Black text with white outline - CHECK
  3D text - CHECK
  Cyan color palette - CHECK
  Superfluous flares - CHECK
  Giant number behind title basename - CHECK


Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Gravity" Wins The Oscar

Congratulations to the entire visual effects team behind "Gravity", the winner of the visual effects Oscar in the 86th Academy Awards.

Gravity
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

And, yes, The VFX Predictinator was right again.

Visual Effects Oscar Nominees Without Visual Effects


Your 2013 visual effects Academy Award nominees... without visual effects.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Pre-Oscars Predictinator Round Up

illustration by Graham Edwards

Tomorrow is the big Oscar telecast, so let's do a quick roundup of pre-Oscar Predictinator-related news and links.

Cinefex Blog: Predictinating the Oscars with Todd Vaziri
Graham Edwards talked with me about the origin of The VFX Predictinator and this year's prediction. The article serves as a terrific introduction to our complicated (yet simple) formula for predicting the visual effects Oscar. We also talk a little bit about my work on "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "The Lone Ranger". Cinefex is an institution; the magazine of record for visual effects, so it was a great thrill to speak with them about my work.

FXGuide: The VFX Show #179: 2014 Oscar Preview Show
Mike Seymour, Jason Diamond and Mark Christiansen have a lively discussion about this year's Academy Awards, and bring up The VFX Predictinator. One minor note: at one point in the podcast, they mistakenly say that when accepting his Golden Globe for directing "Gravity", Alfonso Cuaron made the same grievous error that Ang Lee did at the Oscars: he didn't mention the visual effects team in his acceptance speech, when, in fact, Cuaron did. (Also covered by Cartoon Brew.)

Wired: Sorry, "Gravity", But "The Lone Ranger" Is Going to Win Your Oscar
This bizarre, not-nearly-tongue-in-cheek-enough 'article' in Wired magazine posits that "The Lone Ranger" will win the visual effects Oscar.

To give you a sense of how obtuse and goofy is this article by Graeme McMillan: the published piece has Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee's last names misspelled ("Scorcese" and "Le"). It also incorrectly states that "[Industrial Light and Magic] has won three times in the last decade", within a discussion of ILM being 'snubbed' for Oscars recently. This isn't really accurate; ILM was the lead house on the Oscar-winning "Pirates 2", but was one of the many supporting visual effects vendors on the Oscar-winning "Avatar" and "Hugo".  I talked about this way back in 2007, addressing the ILM 'drought' of Academy Awards.

To sum up McMillan's theory, in 2009 and 2011 (odd numbered years) ILM contributed visual effects to the winner of the Oscar. And 2013 is an odd numbered year. So, yeah. There you go. (cough)
On Twitter, some folks are starting to understand the underlying meta-commentary about The VFX Predictinator: the Academy is relatively homogeneous and prefers to vote for safe choices. This was illustrated in The L.A. Times' reporting from 2012, Who's Who In The Academy, which features some startling statistics about the nearly 6,000 strong Academy. For example, it's 94% white.

Create on your own white, male, interactive charts at the L.A. Times.

More recently, Lee and Low Books made an infographic called "The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards", which dives deeper into the demographics of the Academy and the voting choices it has made over its history.

Infographic by Lee and Low Books

The complete lack of diversity within the ranks of the Academy membership contributes to the predictability of their choices.

Considering the complete accuracy of our VFX Predictinator from 1989-2012, I was thrilled to read this quote from Nate Silver, renowned statistician and famous for accurately predicting elections over at FiveThirtyEight.

"There's not a great statistical way to predict the Oscars." - Nate Silver

Adorable.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Oscar Pool Ballot, 86th Academy Awards

It's time for the Awesomest Oscar Pool Ballot In The History Of Oscar Pool Ballots.

Every year I create a special ballot based on the oscar.com printable ballot -- but on my ballot, each category has a different point value. The highest valued category is "Best Picture," while the mainstream films' categories are valued at two points. The non-mainstream categories (like the documentary and short film categories) are valued at one point.

This way, in a tight race for the winner, the winner most likely would not be determined by the non-mainstream films (i.e., blind guesses).

Download the ballot here for the 85th Academy Awards and use it at your Oscar party.



And if you're wondering why Tom Cruise is on my ballot... he's been on every one of my Oscar ballots. Because he's soooooooooo cool.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Gravity" Wins Big at VES Awards

"Gravity" vfx supervisor Tim Webber. Photo by Jeff Heusser

"Gravity" was the big winner at the 12th VES Awards, hosted by Patton Oswalt, earning six awards from its eight nominations.  "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" bested "Gravity" (in its only loss of the night) in the category Outstanding Animated Character, for its work on the dragon Smaug.

"The Lone Ranger" won the VES Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Film.

Also that night, VES gave its Visionary Award to "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron (presented by Sandra Bullock), and presented a Lifetime Achievement award to vfx pioneer John Dykstra.

Listed below are all of the live-action feature film category winners. To see all of the winners and to view Jeff Heusser's photos of the night, visit FXGuide's coverage here.  To learn more about the Visual Effects Society, visit their web site.


Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Tim Webber, Nikki Penny, Chris Lawrence, Richard Mcbride

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Shari Hanson, Kevin Martel

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Smaug
Eric Reynolds, David Clayton, Myriam Catrin, Guillaume Francois

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Exterior
Paul Beilby, Kyle Mcculloch, Stuart Penn, Ian Comley

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Tim Webber, Emmanuel Lubezki, Richard Mcbride, Dale Newton

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: ISS Exterior
Ben Lambert, Paul Beilby, Chris Lawrence, Andy Nicholson

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Parachute and ISS Destruction
Alexis Wajsbrot, Sylvain Degrotte, Horacio Mendoza, Juan-Luis Sanchez

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Mark Bakowski, Anthony Smith, Theodor Groeneboom, Adrian Metzelaar




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Visual Effects, Oscars and the Box Office in 2013

Just as I did for 2012 films and 2011 films, I thought it would be interesting to track the average global box office grosses from this year's Academy Award nominees, per category.


This year's numbers, compared to the last two years, were heavily skewed by the box office behemoth "Gravity" which, tied with "American Hustle", earned more nominations than any other film. With a worldwide gross of nearly $700M, "Gravity" radically boosted the average box office of all 10 categories it was featured; compared to the last two years, this is anomalous.

For context, here are the top two nomination earners and their global box office take over the last three years:

86th Academy Awards
Gravity (10 noms, $695M), American Hustle (10 noms, $188M)

85th Academy Awards
Lincoln (12 noms, $204M), Life of Pi (11 noms, $548M)

84th Academy Awards
Hugo (11 noms, $83M) The Artist (10, $34M)

As a result, nearly all categories got a major boost from "Gravity"'s box office.  Even so, Best Picture's average went down a bit to $177M average (as opposed to 2012's $203M).

The Best Animated Feature's average box office was boosted by three megahits ("Despicable Me 2" ($970M), "Frozen" ($867M) and "The Croods" ($587M)), giving the category an average box office earning of $506M.

But at the top of the heap, yet again, is the visual effects category. Buoyed by "Gravity"'s giant earnings, the average visual effects Academy Award nominee earned $698M globally.  Even with earning nearly $700M, "Gravity" is actually the third highest grossing film of the category, after "Iron Man 3" ($1.2B) and "The Hobbit 2" ($855M).

The five nominees for visual effects earned a total global box office gross of $3.5 billion.

Repeating what I've said in the past, this chart should surprise no one.  I wrote all my caveats and explanations in previous articles, so I won't rehash them here.  Put simply, the average box office earnings from 'the best' visual effects films films far exceeds any other discipline's 'best' work.

I wrote this concerning the 2011 box office when I charted the box office averages for the 84th Academy Awards, and unfortunately, this still is true.

It also illustrates the sad state of the visual effects community. The average Oscar nominee for visual effects made over $662 million globally, and yet our industry has relatively little power in Hollywood.

Showing my work, CSV of this year's data.


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Dolly Zoom in "Ratatouille"

The subtle dolly zoom in "Ratatouille". Scroll down for a large, annotated film clip.

Vashi Nedomansky has edited a brilliant 8 1/2 minute montage called "Evolution of the Dolly Zoom", which is a big hit on the internets. Thankfully, Nedomansky did not feel the need to add every single dolly zoom used in the history of cinema, especially since the 1990's the trick shot technique has long since turned into a visual cliche -- a crutch to crudely jackhammer an emotional reaction from the audience. Nedomansky's montage flows extremely well, especially with his soundtrack choice: Bernard Herrmann's haunting music from "Vertigo".

My first exposure to the dolly zoom was Steven Spielberg's "Jaws". I nearly burned out my VHS copy of the film, rewinding its dolly zoom shot over and over again to study the effect. Many years later I saw Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo", which many regard as the origin of the technique in popular cinema.

To sum up the effect of a dolly zoom: the camera moves closer to a subject while at the same time zooming out its field of view. The effect could also be achieved in reverse: the camera dollies away from the subject while zooming in its field of view. The effect is jarring - the world seems to become a foldable accordion; we rarely see these two processes happening at the same time in cinema. One can dive deeper into the mechanics of the dolly zoom here.


The camera move is most often used by directors who want to visually punctuate a dramatic emotional turn; a character's world is being turned upside down, and their relationship with the world has dramatically changed in a single moment. In "Jaws", Spielberg used it at the precise moment Chief Brody's deepest fears came true, as he witnesses a brutal shark attack at the beach. (For "Jaws", Spielberg began the shot with a long lens and the camera far away, then dollied close to Roy Scheider while zooming out.) In "Quiz Show" director Robert Redford applies the technique as Charles Van Doren takes his first step into a world of deceit and fraud inside the game show booth, betraying his values by cheating on a television game show.

In contrast, in"Goodfellas" Martin Scorsese uses the technique to illustrate Henry Hill's increasing pressure and paranoia.. Hill meets with Jimmy Conway, but is fearful that Conway is setting him up for a fall. As they sit down at a restaurant for their discussion, tension fills the screen as the background dramatically increases in size while Conway and Hill remain consistent, visually mirroring the intense, increasing stress these characters are under. (For "Goodfellas", Scorsese does the opposite of Spielberg's "Jaws" example: he begins the shot with the camera close to the actors, slowly dollies backwards while zooming in during the move, collapsing visual depth during the shot.)

Evolution of the Dolly Zoom by Vashi Nedomansky

And, most dramatically, its use in Tobe Hooper's "Poltergeist" is terrifying. Simulating the awful dream-like feeling of running without getting anywhere, with your goal receding into the distance, Hooper (and Spielberg) designed a shot where Diane Freeling, desperately running down a hallway to rescue her children from ghosts, sees her children's bedroom drift into the distance, putting them out of reach. It's a truly nightmarish sequence, visually portraying a loss of control.


In his video edit, Nedomansky also smartly includes context for these dolly zoom moments, rather than simply creating a supercut of dolly zooms cut together. This way, students of film can catch a glimpse of the surrounding shots, giving a bit of context as to how and why the dolly zoom was used by the filmmaker.

However, not included in Nedomansky's cut is the subtle dolly zoom in Brad Bird's "Ratatouille", one of my favorite uses of the technique in the last decade.

Why do I find this use of the dolly zoom in "Ratatouille" so brilliant?  For one, most audiences did not even consciously realize the effect was occurring because a critical piece of the emotional core of the film was being delivered to the audience. In the shot, the camera is focused on the television in the background, giving the audience important information about Remy's culinary hero, Chef Gusteau. The chef gives our hero an inspirational speech across space and time (through the television), and reminds Remy of the all-important notion that "Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great." The shot begins with a conventional move; the camera dollies towards Remy, with the television in focus. In the middle of the shot, the camera slows to a stop, and begins to dolly backward just as a zoom-in begins. Remy remains the same size in screen space, but the television screen blows up dramatically. A lovely feature of this effect is not only the collapsing depth (which focuses our attention), but also the ever decreasing depth of field. Remy becomes more out of focus as the shot progresses (since the focal length is getting larger), which is exactly what would happen with real-life camera systems.

(I've written about "Ratatouille" and its thoughtful camera work before; if you're interested, click here and scroll down for other "Ratatouille" articles.)

Director Bird could have simply dollied in toward the television as Gusteau gives his speech, but he chose to execute a dolly zoom. The scene lays groundwork for the emotional themes of the film. The dolly zoom underscores this important, emotional moment.

The dolly zoom from "Ratatouille in context with annotations, by Todd Vaziri

The effect is used in "Ratatouille" with confidence and elegant subtlety; like previously stated, most viewers do not even realize the perspective is flattening out*, which is antithetical to the modern, in-your-face cliche use of the dolly zoom. The technique is generally used as punctuation (usually an exclamation point), screaming "The characters are going through something significant RIGHT NOW!" In this scene from "Ratatouille", the dolly zoom is simply part of the mise-en-scène  and not the focus of the shot. Like the editing, costumes, and the lighting, the dolly zoom is not meant to be seen, but felt.

Although the effect has been done in animated projects before, it is extremely rare to see the technique outside of live-action. Pulling off a flawless dolly zoom in live-action takes repeated rehearsals and intense, precision choreography between the camera operator, camera assistant, grips and actors.  The zoom and dolly need to ramp in and out of their curves with grace, and requires the crew to execute the move with nearly a hive-mind. (Just look at all those dolly zooms in Sam Raimi's "The Quick and The Dead" in Nedomansky's supercut. For the most part, the initial starts and ultimate ends of the moves are left on the cutting room floor, but the shots add an additional variable - the animated dutch angle, where the camera rolls during the dolly zoom. Just the thought of the intense choreography that was required to pull off those complicated moves makes my head spin.)

In computer animation, the intense precision required to pull off a flawless dolly zoom in live-action is greatly simplified with curve editors plotted on a computer screen. In the digital realm, where pretty much any camera move is possible, the filmmaker is allowed to express himself with precision nearly impossible within the confines of the real world.

The bonus, super-quick dolly zoom from Ego's bite of Remy's food. For the animated GIF above, I've edited out the flashback, retaining only the start and end of the flashback, which reveals the extremely subtle dolly zoom effect.  As a bonus, notice how the lighting on Ego's face is neutral/cool before the flashback, but after the flashback he's bathed in a warmer light on his face, visually underlining his new, warmer perspective.

In fact, Bird sneaked an additional dolly zoom into "Ratatouille", albeit a brief one. In the film's single most dramatic and memorable shot, Anton Ego's first taste of Remy's ratatouille dish throws him into a childhood flashback. The first frames of that flashback, depicted as an extremely fast whoosh with the camera traveling backwards in space (and time), settling on a young Anton Ego at his childhood doorstep, begins with a smash dolly backwards that actually ends up moving through young Ego's pupil and settling on the final composition. The flashback whooshes away, revealing the present, and the camera inverts the action with the reverse of the initial dolly zoom. The effect is disorienting and barely visible, introducing this radical and unexpected flashback, and ultimately enhances the emotional impact of the brilliant shot.

*Before publishing this article, a Google search for "dolly zoom Ratatouille" came up with zero results discussing the Gusteau dolly zoom, which I found quite remarkable.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The VFX Predictinator, 86th Academy Awards Edition

UPDATE: Yep.

Now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, it’s time to fire up The VFX Predictinator.  This year’s predicted winner may not surprise you. But first, here's some background for those of you just joining us.

The VFX Predictinator is a formula my wife and I created to predict the winner of the visual effects Oscar. We designed the formula before the 82nd Academy Awards based on 20 years of data (1989-2008); it assigns point values to certain criteria of each nominee. Part 1 of the series.

Using the same formula, we have correctly predicted the last four years of Oscar winners (“Avatar”, “Inception”, “Hugo” and “Life of Pi”). For 24 years, this single formula has correctly predicted the winner of the visual effects Oscar.

Allow me to reiterate that this discussion is not about artistic or technical achievements. This isn’t about who ‘deserves’ to win due to aesthetic achievement, technical prowess, or cultural significance; the whole point of this exercise is to prove that Academy voters are simply predictable when it comes to determining how they will vote. As a reminder, the visual effects branch of the Academy determines the nominees in a bake-off, while the full Academy membership of nearly 6,000 members votes on the winners.

Academy voters ride waves of popularity, acclaim, perceived challenges and their own short memory spans when voting for winners of Academy Awards. Many admit they haven't seen even a majority of nominated films. We designed The Predictinator to account for these things: for example, popularity (box office), acclaim (Rotten Tomatoes score), memory span (month of release), plus other criteria which can affect voters' emotional choices.

Is the nominee a sequel? Blech. Has its lead actor won an Oscar before? Oh, well, it’s got my vote! Is the movie filled with robots that destroy things? Meh, no thank you. I just saw this movie two months ago! I remember it!

Let’s see what the formula says about the 86th Academy Awards:


“Gravity” is the predicted winner, with 9.67 points. Its margin of victory is quite similar to last year’s winner, “Life of Pi” over its next closest competitor.

Alfonso Cuaron’s film excelled in nearly every piece of criteria; it was a critical darling (it had the highest RT score of all the nominees at a whopping 97%), earned a lot of money (the third top grosser), and was released late in the year. The film was one of two non-sequels nominated, which helped as well. Nominees that are sequels have their scores reduced by 0.5 points.

But most importantly, “Gravity” earned 10 total Oscar nominations, blowing all of the other films away. Previous winners “Life of Pi”, “Hugo” and "Return of the King" earned 11 total Oscar nominations. And over the last 24 years, the film that earned the most Oscar nominations among the visual effects nominees won the visual effects award 20 times.

Putting the final nail in the coffin, “Gravity” stars Sandra Bullock, who is an Oscar winner herself, giving the film another point.


Last year, “Hobbit 1” had the third highest Predictinator score; this year “Hobbit 2” earned enough to be in second place. Strengths for “Hobbit 2” included its month of release (December) and its respectable Tomatometer and box office scores.  It was the only film that qualified for the extremely important “Primary FX are organic creatures” criteria, plus the subsequent “facial acting” criteria, for its creation of Smaug, the talking dragon. However, these positives weren't enough to overtake the juggernaut that is “Gravity”.

The relative lack of organic creatures in 2013 mimics 2011 and 2010; like those years, only one film had organic creatures as their primary visual effects. In both of those years, the creature film was not the predicted (nor actual) winner. If our 2013 prediction is true, it will continue this bizarre pattern.

At third and fourth place was “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Iron Man 3”, two sequels that were well-reviewed and earned lots of money at the box office, but were penalized for being sequels, and without primary creature work. Plus, they were released earlier in the year, and didn’t earn enough additional Oscar nominations to earn any points.

“The Lone Ranger” earned a dismal score of 1.17 points; it was destroyed by its low Tomatometer rating and its relatively minuscule box office. But its low score was not record-breaking. At 1.04 points, “Transformers 3” has the lowest score of The Predictinator’s history. “Ranger” has the second lowest, with “Alien 3” as the third lowest.

Stepping away from the statistics for a moment; there’s no denying that “Gravity” has captured the imagination of the public and of Academy voters.  The innovative techniques used in the creation of the effects, along with its flawless execution and gorgeous aesthetics (combined with the fact that it is a nearly universally-loved film) give this prediction emotional support. The Predictinator numbers quantify the wave of popularity and acclaim for the film.


You might respond to this prediction with Um, well, duh, of course ‘Gravity’ will win the Oscar. I don’t need a formula to tell me that.

I would be the first to admit that it would be truly surprising if "Gravity" didn't take home the Oscar.  Lucky for us, The Predictinator seems just as accurate predicting the obvious winners as the nail-biters.  How many people were predicting “Hugo” to win over “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the final “Harry Potter” film?  Or "The Golden Compass" winning over "Transformers"? Or "Babe" over "Apollo 13"? The Predictinator nailed these winners, plus also correctly predicted the lopsided victories of “Avatar” and “Inception”.

We'll see what happens when the Academy Award winners are announced on March 2.  UPDATE: Yep.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

86th Academy Award Nominees for Visual Effects

The nominees for the 86th Academy Awards have been announced. As always, the nominees were determined by the visual effects branch of the Academy after attending a bake-off of 10 films.  The full Academy membership will vote on the winners of each category.  The awards ceremony will take place on March 2, 2014.

Here are the nominees for Achievement in Visual Effects for the 86th Academy Awards. Congratulations to all who helped bring these images to the screen.

GRAVITY
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

IRON MAN 3
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds

THE LONE RANGER
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton


And, yes, I will run The Predictinator on this year's group of nominees. Stay tuned.  And here it is.


Friday, January 17, 2014

VES Announces Nominations for 12th VES Awards


The Visual Effects Society has announced the nominees for the 12th VES Awards. The nominees were determined by VES members who participated in the nomination judging process.

Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" earned the most nominations, totaling eight, including Best Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Film.  "Pacific Rim" earned six noms, while "Iron Man 3" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" earned five each.  "Star Trek Into Darkness", "The Lone Ranger" and "Man of Steel" each earned two nominations.

Earning one nomination was "The Great Gatsby", "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", "The Wolf of Wall Street", "White House Down", "Oz: The Great and Powerful" and "Elysium".

Some interesting tidbits from this year's nominees: films that are in this year's Academy Bake-Off that didn't earn any VES nominations include "Oblivion", "Thor: The Dark World" and "World War Z".  In contrast, "The Great Gatsby", "Man of Steel", "Mitty", "The Wolf of Wall Street", "White House Down", and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" earned VES nominations while not being invited to the Academy Bake-Off.

Listed below are all of the live-action feature film categories. To see all of the nominees, visit FXGuide's coverage.  To learn more about the Visual Effects Society, visit their web site.


Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Tim Webber, Nikki Penny, Chris Lawrence, Richard Mcbride

Iron Man 3
Christopher Townsend, Mark Soper, Guy Williams, Bryan Grill

Pacific Rim
John Knoll, Susan Greenhow, Chris Raimo, Hal Hickel

Star Trek: Into Darkness
Roger Guyett, Luke O’Byrne, Ron Ames, Ben Grossman

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, Kevin Sherwood, David Clayton


Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
Rush
Jody Johnson, Moriah Etherington-Sparks, Mark Hodgkins, Antoine Moulineau

The Great Gatsby
Chris Godfrey, Prue Fletcher, Joyce Cox

The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Shari Hanson, Kevin Martel

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Guillaume Rocheron, Kurt Williams, Monette Dubin, Ivan Moran

The Wolf of Wall Street
Robert Legato, Mark Russell, Joseph Farrell, Lisa Spence

White House Down
Marc Weigert, Volker Engel, Julia Frey, Ollie Rankin


Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Ryan
Max Solomon, Mathieu Vig, Michael Brunet, David Shirk

Oz the Great and Powerful: China Girl
Troy Saliba, In-Ah Roediger, Carolyn Vale, Kevin Souls

Pacific Rim: Kaiju – Leatherback
Jakub Pistecky, Frank Gravatt, Cyrus Jam, Chris Havreberg

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Smaug
Eric Reynolds, David Clayton, Myriam Catrin, Guillaume Francois


Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Elysium: Torus
Votch Levi, Joshua Ong, Barry Poon

Gravity: Interior
Harry Bardak, Nathan Walster, Jonathan Fawkner, Claire Michaud

Gravity: Exterior
Paul Beilby, Kyle Mcculloch, Stuart Penn, Ian Comley

Iron Man 3: Shipyard
John Stevenson-Galvin, Greg Notzelman, Paul Harris, Justin Stockton

Pacific Rim: Virtual Hong Kong
Johan Thorngren, Jeremy Bloch, David Meny, Polly Ing


Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity
Tim Webber, Emmanuel Lubezki, Richard Mcbride, Dale Newton

Iron Man 3
Mark Smith, Aaron Gilman, Thelvin Cabezas, Gerardo Ramirez

Man of Steel
Daniel Paulsson, Edmund Kolloen, Joel Prager, David Stripinis

Pacific Rim: Hong Kong Ocean Brawl
Colin Benoit, Nick Walker, Adam Schnitzer, Victor Schutz

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Christian Rivers, Phil Barrenger, Mark Gee, Thelvin Tico Cabezas


Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: ISS Exterior
Ben Lambert, Paul Beilby, Chris Lawrence, Andy Nicholson

Pacific Rim
David Fogler, Alex Jaeger, Aaron Wilson, David Behrens

Star Trek: Into Darkness
Bruce Holcomb, Ron Woodall, John Goodson, Thomas Fejes

The Lone Ranger: Colby Locomotive
Rene Garcia, Steve Walton, Brian Paik, Gerald Gutschmidt


Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Gravity: Parachute and ISS Destruction
Alexis Wajsbrot, Sylvain Degrotte, Horacio Mendoza, Juan-Luis Sanchez

Man of Steel
Brian Goodwin, Gray Horsfield, Mathieu Chardonnet, Adrien Toupet

Pacific Rim: Fluid Simulation & Destruction
Ryan Hopkins, Michael Balog, Patrick Conran, Rick Hankins

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Areito Echevarria, Andreas Soderstrom, Ronnie Menahem, Christoph Sprenger


Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Elysium
Jean Lapointe, Jordan Benwick, Robin Hackl, Janeen Elliott

Gravity
Mark Bakowski, Anthony Smith, Theodor Groeneboom, Adrian Metzelaar

Iron Man 3: Barrel of Monkeys
Michael Maloney, Francis Puthanangadi, Justin Van Der Lek, Howard Cabalfin

Iron Man 3: House Attack
Darren Poe, Stefano Trivelli, Josiah Howison, Zach Zaubi

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Charles Tait, Robin Hollander, Giuseppe Tagliavini, Sean Heuston




Thursday, January 09, 2014

Movie Marketing is Hard! "WTF Happened to Movie Posters"


A brilliant, comprehensive look at today's bland and lazy modern movie posters, created by Good Bad Flicks.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

"Grown Ups 2" Trailer with Music from "2001"


The teaser for Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” was given high praise from moviegoers for its beautiful, evocative imagery. The rhythm and pacing of the teaser, combined with the gorgeous visual effects work of a group of paratroopers gliding their way into the ravaged San Francisco skyline, made it one of the most memorable teasers of the year.

Most importantly, the “Godzilla” teaser succeeded because it teased; it didn’t reveal a shred of the film's plot or character, or show audiences exactly what the movie is about, which is refreshing.

One of the reasons the “Godzilla” teaser works so well is the music -- in fact, the first time I watched the trailer, I shouted at my computer screen, “Hey, that’s cheating!” The filmmakers used the music from a sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the famous Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite scene, which features the dazzling slit screen photography, shot by the visual effects legend Douglas Trumbull.

“Any trailer that uses that music would look cool!” I joked. And then, I wondered if that’s really true? Can any trailer with the music from the “2001” stargate sequence look cool?  Challenge accepted!

So I put the Lux Aeterna orchestration from “2001” (by Gyoergy Ligeti) underneath the “Grown Ups 2” trailer, starring Adam Sandler, the least-cool trailer I could think of.  I did some minor picture editing to make the edit work, sweetened the audio and added some stingers.


Now that looks like a terrifying movie. Maybe even more terrifying than the original.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Movies Are Long

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is *how* long?

Just for kicks, I put together the thirteen most popular films in North America last weekend and listed each film's running time, from longest to shortest.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street - 179 minutes
  • The Hobbit 2 - 161m
  • Hunger Games: Catching Fire - 146m
  • Mandela - 139m
  • American Hustle - 129m
  • 47 Ronin - 127m
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -125m
  • Saving Mr. Banks - 120m
  • Anchorman 2 - 119m
  • Grudge Match - 113m
  • Frozen - 108m
  • Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas - 105m
  • Walking With Dinosaurs - 87m
The average running time of the top thirteen films at the box office is 128 minutes.




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Comparing The "Man of Steel" Teaser and Film



The teaser for Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" arrived in July 2012, nearly an entire year before the film would ultimately be released in theaters. Trailers are pieces of art unto themselves, and must tell a story in a much different way than the final film; sometimes artistic choices are made in service of the trailer, regardless of how it might affect the final product.

In many cases, the color timing for promotional material is handled by the trailer house, whose sole job is to serve the needs of the trailer; the context of the greater, final film is of little or no significance. In contrast, the final color timing of a finished film serves to underline and enhance the emotional beats of a film.

From a practical point of view, color grading smooths out inconsistencies from shot to shot (slight differences in color temperature, exposure, etc.). The process also enhances and underlines emotional beats of the story.  Just like the musical score and sound effects, color grading with a 'color script' of the film can accentuate the 'feeling' of a scene; for example, cold, emotionless scenes can have a cool tint, while passion-filled sequences could go golden if the director so chooses.

"The Matrix" (1999) movie bar code

"Pleasantville" (1998) movie bar code

The fascinating Movie Bar Code Tumblr illustrates a film's color script by compressing film frames into a single average color, then displaying all those frames in a giant bar code. Just look at the differences between films like "The Matrix" (which hops in and out of the green Matrix world and has deep, dark sequences) and "Pleasantville" (which starts in color, jarringly shifts to black and white, then slowly reintroduces color again).  A few curated, contrasting color scripts have been collected by Visual News.  

The "Man of Steel" teaser, containing footage released nearly a full year before the finished film allows audiences who are interested in visual effects and color timing to peek behind the curtain and witness some of the choices made by the filmmakers over the course of that year.


As you can see from the still frame comparison, a few changes were made from teaser to final film:

- snow - Falling snow was added to the final film with visual effects. The surrounding shots in the final film are significant time cuts, so the snow was not added for continuity reasons.
- color grading - The environment has been cooled off, draining any warm values away, skewing towards cyan (underlining the cold isolation Clark Kent is feeling at this moment). Clark's skin tones have been warmed up a touch, while it appears some blue was taken away from the sky, possibly in an effort to balance the shot. Without the sky tint, the shot could have appeared monochromatic and dull. The slight bit of yellow in the sky fights with the predominantly blue/cyan frame, giving it a counterbalanced palette.
- lens flare - The addition of a lens flare in the final film is what inspired me to investigate the shot in the first place, since I didn't remember seeing the flare in the teaser.  One could argue that the flare adds a bit of punch to the shot, but one could also argue that the shot doesn't need any additional punch. Conceptually, a lens flare adds visual excitement to a shot. Does this particular shot need it? The shot is about isolation; at this point in the film, Clark is on a solitary journey, hopping from job to job like a nomad, in an attempt to conceal his true power and identity. Does this shot require a visual exclamation point to convey these feelings? Also, from a practical point of view, the exterior scene is completely overcast, and the synthetic flare's source is the side of the truck's headlight housing, which makes the addition of the lens flare that much more curious. The camera is nowhere near the light cone of the bulb.

Another curiosity noticeable on the single frame comparison is the significant difference in clarity of Clark's eye. Even more strange: the final film frames before and after this particular frame do not have this 'touch up'. Why would this single frame be isolated for a paint job on Clark's eye?

the difference composite

When the shot is lined up both temporally and spatially and run through a difference filter, we can see the changes between the teaser and final film more clearly.  The warm/red tones of the difference composite indicate the areas that were cooled off. One can also notice the addition of the lens flare (which shows up as a bright glow in the difference composite).

The difference composite also solves the mystery of Clark's eye. His eye socket is actually being lifted (and warmed) due to a soft lens reflection, tied to the additional animated lens flare. Careful study of the difference composite reveals the lens reflection in his hair on the frame before, and against the sky in the frame after. The reflection element is effectively boosting Clark's eye on that single frame which clears up his sunken eyes, which gives the feeling of increased clarity. Watch the HD video for the complete analysis.

MAN OF STEEL Comparison on Vimeo
 
Stu Maschuwitz has written extensively about the emotional effects of color timing, so if you're interested in this kind of stuff, you should read Stu's work. I particularly like his comparison of deleted scenes telecine footage with the final color timed film.