Sunday, March 13, 2022

Oscar Pool Ballot, 94th 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 a typical Academy Awards 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 of the pool, the winner most likely would not be determined by the non-mainstream films (in other words, blind guesses).

Download the ballot here for the 93rd 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.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

I Love My Apple TV. It Should Be Better.

When the Apple TV box first appeared in our house, it sat alongside a cable box and a DVD player. Eventually, the DVD player disappeared. Over the years, our cable TV consumption slowly dissolved to a fraction of what it once was. And as of summer 2021, 100% of my family's living room TV and movie consumption comes from the Apple TV.

While I love my Apple TV, the experience could be better. Nope - it should be better because the Apple TV has positioned itself as a premium product, and it should deliver a premium experience for its customers.

Some of my buddies have been writing and podcasting about the streaming experience, diving deep into the feature sets, capabilities and limitations of the current landscape.

Joe Rosensteel wrote two recent pieces on Six Colors that are worth checking out: When Apple TV’s ‘Universal Search’ is a black hole and Searching for a better guide: Live TV in the age of streaming

John Siracusa wrote on his Hypercritical blog, An Unsolicited Streaming App Spec and a follow-up post, Streaming App Sentiments. John discussed the pieces on his two podcasts, ATP #470 and on Reconcilable Differences #177.

I'm inspired by these pieces and podcast episodes, and I hope to write more about Apple TV in the future. Heh, the last time I wrote about Apple TV was over a decade ago.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Todd Vaziri Talks "Edge of Tomorrow" on the Dune Pod Podcast

It was a genuine blast to discuss one of my favorite sci-fi movies of the last two decades on the Dune Pod Podcast.

My friend and ILM collaborator Lorelei David, Matt Haitch, Jason Goldman and I talk about "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014). We talk about Tom Cruise' charisma, Emily Blunt's amazing performance, the editing and visual effects, and much much more.

Listen to Dune Pod on Apple Podcasts, or Overcast.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oscar Pool Ballot, 93rd 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 a typical Academy Awards 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 of the pool, the winner most likely would not be determined by the non-mainstream films (in other words, blind guesses).

Download the ballot here for the 93rd 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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Lone Pine Mall: Easter Egg or Thing in the Movie?

view on YouTube

 Twin Pines Mall became Lone Pine Mall after Marty changed the future in “Back to the Future” (1985). Is that an Easter Egg or a Thing in the Movie? Let’s find out!

To me, an Easter egg is a fun gag referencing something that doesn't require full audience understanding to decode the character or plot point. For example, the Harold Lloyd "Safety Last!" clock operates as both an Easter egg and a setup+payoff gag.




If the audience member doesn't know the clock is a reference to "Safety Last!", it's okay! It's not an obstacle to them understanding key character/plot information:

--this character is obsessed with clocks and time
--setup+payoff to his dangerous stunt at the end of the movie




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

That Amazing Drone Video and The New York Times

An absolutely beautiful piece of video went viral - the stunning drone footage of Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater shot by Jay Christensen is wonderful and has been showered with praise on social media.

In visual effects, we constantly bump up against an uncanny valley of sorts when it comes to camera moves. Over the decades, audiences have become completely aware of dolly camera moves, tracking shots, steadicam, hand-held, big booming crane shots, and have integrated these moves (either consciously or unconsciously) into their cinematic vocabulary. These types of camera moves "make sense" to audiences, and therefore "feel honest". Sometimes, artists and directors who create live-action scenes rendered entirely in computer graphics go too far with their camera moves (twisting, twirling, speeding up and slowing down with magical precision), creating camera paths that are literally unachievable in the real world, forcing audiences to consciously or unconsciously reject them as "dishonest". We sometimes refer to unrealistic synthetic camera moves as "cameras of God", as in God is the only camera operator who could achieve this kind of move.

When new camera techniques become ubiquitous, audiences will accept them as "honest" and consider it part of the vocabulary.

 

That's what I was trying to get across in my hastily written tweet - that this drone shot, captured in-camera, could signify the addition of these types of authentic live-action camera moves into our cinematic vernacular.

I was very surprised to see The New York Times' writeup of the drone shot and its reaction from Hollywood filmmakers.



Wait - "adds to the language and vocabulary of cinema"? That sounds familiar. Sure enough, after quoting praise from Lee Unkrich, Elijah Wood and James Gunn, they quoted my tweet.


I'm thrilled that the video is getting such praise, and am humbled that The New York Times thought my comment was of any interest.

New York Times: "A Drone Went Bowling. Hollywood Noticed." by Mike Ives


Thursday, February 18, 2021

We Talked About "Sneakers" on Defocused

 


I had the pleasure of talking with Joe Rosensteel and Dan Sturm about one of our favorite movies, "Sneakers" (1992) on the Defocused Podcast.

Here's some images based on things we talked about on the show:


The film's (probable) Texas Switch

The hidden ramp for Whistler to drive over, complete with parking spot paint.

A screenshot of the San Francisco Chronicle from the film.






Tuesday, February 09, 2021

VFX Artist Todd Vaziri Answers Movie & TV VFX Questions From Twitter for WIRED Tech Support


It was a lot of fun to participate in WIRED's "Support" series for YouTube. Named "VFX Support", I do my best to answer actual questions from actual movie fans, and not sound like a complete idiot while doing so!

Thank you to everyone over at WIRED for inviting me to be a part of the program.

Here are some "show notes":


More to come.

And now, here are two things I got wrong in the video.

  • I mistakenly said "Poltergeist" (1982) was the first non-Lucasfilm visual effects project undertaken by Industrial Light & Magic, but it was actually "Dragonslayer" (1981) a year earlier. The next year saw ILM take on "Poltergeist", "Star Trek II" and "The Dark Crystal", three more non-Lucasfilm projects.
  • I also said Robert Zemeckis and Ken Ralston would use what they learned from "Forrest Gump" (1994) on "Death Becomes Her", but meant to say the exact opposite, since "Gump" was made after "Death".

Watch the video here.

watch on YouTube

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Todd Vaziri on the Talking Bay 94 Podcast

It was my pleasure to be the guest on Talking Bay 94, a terrific Star Wars podcast. 

Industrial Light & Magic digital artist and compositing supervisor Todd Vaziri has worked on every Star Wars movie since 2002, beginning with Attack of the Clones.

Whether for the prequels (including the final duel on Mustafar), the sequels (figuring out the feel of a modern Star Wars movie), the spin-offs (helping to bring Tarkin and the Kessel Run to life), theme park rides (including Star Tours and Rise of the Resistance), or Stephen Colbert’s Green Screen Challenge, Mr. Vaziri’s passion for movie-making is evident in his every shot, and in his every answer on this episode, I’ve wanted him to be a guest on Talking Bay 94 for such a long time, and man, it was so worth the wait. Make sure you are following him on Twitter: @tvaziri … he is truly one of the best people to follow, period, on that app.

Talking Bay 94

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Looking at a Shot from "Bullitt"


Trying something new. I thought I'd attempt to discuss a single weird shot in the 1968 classic film, "Bullitt". I wrote this text and made the video for Twitter (hence the 2 minutes and 20 second video limit, and you can read the original thread here.

Here's a quick video analysis of a shot in Steve McQueen's "Bullitt" (1968).


view on YouTube

An example of a similar phenomenon - in this sequence from "The Blues Brothers" (1980), the crash cam gets hit by the car, and the editors chose to keep this chaotic, potentially fourth-wall-breaking moment in the cut.


Here's the shot I'm referring to, isolated:


Update! @MarkMcKenny1 spotted these incredible videos. First, an old YouTube clip of the sequence. The original shot has a ton of light leaks and damage and a black frame! This means at some point (for DVD?), WB cleaned up the damage and also removed the black frame.


And this, a clip from @RealEOC, shows off the film damage and additional light leaks. It cuts directly to behind-the-scenes footage of the shot, and to say that the movie camera got damaged is putting it lightly. This is how catastrophic damage to a film camera can cause light leaks. That rig got completely taken out!





Monday, November 02, 2020

"How I Letterboxd" featuring Todd Vaziri


I recently chatted with Jack Moulton at Letterboxd about how I use the Letterbox app, and we went deep into how we look at movies throughout our lives. This was an especially fun interview, and I hope you like it.

How I Letterboxd: Todd Vaziri, https://news.letterboxd.com/post/633713925562761216/how-i-letterboxd-todd-vaziri



Saturday, January 25, 2020

Oscar Pool Ballot, 92nd 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 a typical Academy Awards 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 of the pool, the winner most likely would not be determined by the non-mainstream films (in other words, blind guesses).

Download the ballot here for the 92nd 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, November 24, 2019

Acting Through a Mask


As a kid watching this bit of performance by David Prowse in "Return of the Jedi", I was absolutely convinced that Vader's mask was--somehow--changing and emoting. I could see the conflict going on inside of Vader.

Breaking it down today, we realize it's not solely Prowse's performance (his posture, his timing, the angle of his head tilts, the slow head turn to his Emperor then back to his son in pain) that sells the emotion; there are several contextual aspects of the scene that add to it.

🎞️ music: Williams' original trilogy score is at a literal crescendo, achieving its emotional zenith
🎞️ costume: we have never seen Vader's costume this dirty (weakened & vulnerable)
🎞️ camera move: there are very few dolly-in moves in the original trilogy, especially in closeup

In summary movies are cool because it's never just one thing that makes a scene work.

It's every craft working together to achieve a common goal.

Original tweet.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Pretend Disney+ Artwork


Disney has been tweeting artwork for each of the movies and TV shows that will be available to stream on its new network, Disney+. One particular tweet caught a lot of folks' attention:

Yep, that's the 1947 20th Century Fox classic "Miracle on 34th Street", rebranded as a Disney film, since Disney now owns and controls all films under the 20th Century Fox banner. Unsettling as it is, I wondered what it would look like if other Fox hits were rebranded as Disney films.

 Here's a link to the original "Die Hard" tweet, where you can follow the thread to my artwork for "Predator 2", "Fight Club" and "Alien".


 




Bonus: never-before-seen "Predator 2" version:





Sunday, November 03, 2019

I Was on the Light the Fuse Podcast


It was my absolute pleasure to be a guest on the always-fun "Mission: Impossible" podcast, Light The Fuse. Charles Hood and Drew Taylor asked terrific questions and really know their stuff. I'm really proud of this appearance.

Light the Fuse, #67 - Todd Vaziri Part 1
An interview a year in the making (seriously), we talk to Industrial Light & Magic visual effects supervisor Todd Vaziri (@tvaziri on Twitter), who worked on two installments in the franchise! We talk about how he got into the series, working on “Mission: Impossible 3” (including the bridge sequence), the shot J.J. Abrams did himself, and where you can spot R2D2 in the movie! We also get into the Dubai sequence from “Ghost Protocol,” so hang on tight!
https://www.lightthefusepodcast.com/podcast-episodes/2019/9/27/episode-sixty-seven-todd-vaziri-interview-digital-effects-artist-for-mi-3-and-ghost-protocol-part-1

Light the Fuse, #68 - Todd Vaziri Part 2
In the second half of our episode with the legendary Todd Vaziri (@tvaziri on Twitter), we do a deep dive into the visual effects of “Ghost Protocol,” including some secrets from the car park sequence, where the A113 Easter eggs are hidden, and what he contributed to the gecko gloves. Also, we get him to dish about what it was like working with Steven Spielberg, Rian Johnson and Michael Bay.
https://www.lightthefusepodcast.com/podcast-episodes/2019/10/4/episode-sixty-eight-todd-vaziri-interview-digital-effects-artist-for-mi-3-and-ghost-protocol-part-2


In the episodes, we talk a lot about one shot in "Mission: Impossible III", a shot I went into great detail here at FXRant: Visual Effects Camera Work: "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Mission: Impossible III"

Here are some supporting tweets to the episodes: