Monday, February 26, 2007

ILM and The Academy Awards

Industrial Light & Magic won its first Academy Award for visual effects in 12 years. The previous award was for the revolutionary effects in "Forrest Gump," for which Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum and Allen Hall took home Oscars.

"Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest" was an amazing collaborative effort on behalf of ILM. Every single department was challenged to perform the finest work, and the final film really illustrates this.

Much has been made about the 12 year 'drought' for ILM between "Gump" and "Pirates 2," especially after consistently earning so many Oscars previous to "Gump" (14 out of 18, to be precise). No one was more cognizant of this 'drought' than ILMers, ourselves.

But just for perspective, I wanted to give props to the ILM productions that have been nominated (yet did not win) for the Academy Awards between 1994's "Forrest Gump" and 2006's "Pirates 2":

ILM's Academy Award Nominations between "Gump" and "Pirates 2":
  • 1996, "Dragonheart" and "Twister"
  • 1997, "The Lost World," and "Starship Troopers" *
  • 1998, "Mighty Joe Young"
  • 1999, "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"
  • 2000, "The Perfect Storm"
  • 2001, "Artificial Intelligence" and "Pearl Harbor"
  • 2002, "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones"
  • 2003, "Master and Commander" and "Pirates of the Caribbean"
  • 2004, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
  • 2005, "The Chronicles of Narnia," "War of the Worlds"
*In 1997, ILM was one of many houses on "Starship Troopers," but was brought on late in production. Also, ILM actually worked on "Titanic," which won the Oscar, but in an extremely limited role.

Those are some amazing projects, with some crazy-good visual effects. Unfortunately, in almost every case, the film that won the Oscar was a much more enjoyable film, overall. Two great cases are 1996 and 2000, where "Independence Day" won the award over "Twister," and "Gladiator" beat out "The Perfect Storm." In each of those cases, the winners' visual effects, while being of very high quality, did not match the level of technical and aesthetic sophistication of the ILM nominees. However, the winners' films, themselves, are vastly superior to the losers' films.

I mean, "Twister" and "The Perfect Storm" are two truly awful films.

When it really comes down to it, the old adage is true. Visual effects are really only as good as the films they're in. You can't polish a piece of garbage movie with amazing visual effects, because in the end, it's still a piece of garbage.

And this is coming from a guy who worked on "Dungeons and Dragons." And "Van Helsing." And a lot of garbage in between.

link: VFX HQ - Academy Award Winners for visual effects

Sunday, February 25, 2007

ILM Brings Home The Oscar

"Pirates 2" wins the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, ILM's first Oscar since "Forrest Gump" in 1994. Boy, does it feel good.

Super congratulations to everyone that worked on the film! Yipee!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Must-Have Book on Visual Effects

Hey, all you kids (and you kids-at-heart) who are interested in the meat and potatoes of visual effects, I have a must-have recommendation for you.

I get a lot of emails from folks who still visit my old website, Visual Effects Headquarters, who ask me about training resources, getting a job in visual effects, learning the tools, and on and on and on. Well, here's an easy one. If you're interested in learning some of the basics of compositing from a practical, tools-based perspective, you have to buy the Encyclopedia of Visual Effects.

Written by Damian Allen and Brian Connor, the book illustrates the fundamentals of compositing techniques, with dozens of examples for Shake and After Effects.

Brian is a friend of mine at ILM. Okay, he's an acquaintance. Okay... he barely acknowledges me in the hallway. But apparently he acknowledges be enough to have asked me to contribute to the book with a description of how I used After Effects and 3D compositing to complete a shot in "Van Helsing." There are also contributions from ILM's Marshall Krasser, Pablo Helman, Tim Alexander and more.

I also talked about this shot in this post, My "Van Helsing" MacAddict Interview.

Look, just buy the book. You'll be glad you did. Oh, and looky here-- a convenient link!

link: Apple Pro Training Series: Encyclopedia of Visual Effects (Apple Pro Training)