Saturday, December 17, 2011

James Bond: "Somebody's Gonna Die"

Inspired by The Talk Show #71 hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Gruber, I just had to make a poster for the rhetorical film, James Bond: "Somebody's Gonna Die".  Hear the context of the title around 1:31:31.

update:  John Gruber (@gruber) apparently liked this enough to retweet it, and Dan Benjamin (@danbenjamin) wrote me a nice note about the poster.  Love those guys.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

I can't tell you how happy I am that the early reviews of Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" are so positive.  We worked very hard on this picture, and Bird was an ingenious and gracious collaborator.

Industrial Light and Magic provided the film's visual effects, supervised by John Knoll, with Lindy DeQuattro as our associate visual effects supervisor. I served as the film's compositing supervisor.

The project was an exhilarating creative experience for me, and I hope I'll be able to talk more about it in future posts.

Oh, and if you plan on seeing the film, try to make it to an IMAX screening.  Several of the film's big action sequences were filmed with IMAX cameras, which includes lots of ILM effects work as well.  It will be worth the extra effort.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Visual Effects Supervisors of ILM

The visual effects supervisors of Industrial Light & Magic, 2011. Standing in the back row from left to right, Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Russell Earl, Ben Snow, Craig Hammack, Lindy DeQuattro, Dennis Muren. Seated from left to right: Bill George, Tim Alexander, Jeff White, John Knoll, Pablo Helman, Scott Farrar and Kim Libreri.

Photo is from the new book "Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation" coming soon. Read a review of the book here on FXGuide.

Photo credit: Brent Bowers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Then and Now

Two very different techniques, two very different contexts. At the beginning and end a single epic narrative.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Siri Could Work With AppleTV

click here for a larger image
I was inspired by the discussion on 5by5's excellent podcast Hypercritical (episode 38), hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Siracusa, to create this extremely quick and extremely dirty mockup of how Siri, the amazing new feature on Apple's iPhone 4S, could be implemented on the AppleTV. My idea is adding a dedicated Siri button on the AppleTV remote, as well as a microphone that sits at the top of the remote that transmits your voice commands to the AppleTV.

This solution bypasses the problems Dan and John discussed, such as shouting at the AppleTV from a distance. Plus, with the remote control/microphone only about a foot from the user's mouth, ambient noise is a much smaller issue than with a microphone attached to the set top box. Plus, it eliminates the need for an expensive iOS device (like an iPod touch or an iPhone) to be the sole input for voice commands. I suppose the entire remote would no longer be an IR remote, but a full-on Bluetooth remote. If I spent more than an hour on the mockup, I would have removed the little IR window at the top of the remote. With complete ignorance of how much power consumption Bluetooth requires in a remote control-sized unit, or what technical requirements might be necessary for this kind of functionality (not to mention the additional cost required, in order to hit that $99 sweet spot), I hacked together this quick mockup of what it might look like. I admit I rushed the on-screen interface - it's not very polished and is almost a direct lift from the iPhone Siri interface. My idea is that the regular interface would blur in the background, and a custom AppleTV Siri interface would appear. Anyway, there ya go.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"LaGuerta!" is The "Dexter" Spinoff No One Asked For

In the grand tradition of television spinoffs like AfterMASH, The Ropers, and Joey, we present Showtime's Dexter spinoff, LaGuerta!

Maria LaGuerta and Angel Batista from Dexter take their steamy romance and spectacular detective skills to the Windy City of Chicago, where the bad guys don't stand a chance.

Get ready, Chicago. Here comes LaGuerta!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Always Think Different

From the 'Think Different' 1997 Apple Computer commercial:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. 

They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. 

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.


As noted by this Hollywood Reporter article, a large chunk of Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" was filmed with large-format IMAX cameras. 
IMAX is also to include around 30 minutes of scenes shot with its proprietary cameras when it rolls out the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise.  One featured IMAX sequence includes a stunt performed by Cruise as he scaled the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai.

I hope to talk more about this film in the future, especially in regards to the visual effects, produced by Industrial Light & Magic under the supervision of John Knoll.

Be sure to check out the film when it opens early in IMAX theaters on December 16, 2011.  Unlike most films exhibited in IMAX theaters, this one will be worth seeing on the big-big screen.
This video illustrates how far the fringe right wing has taken over the Republican party. Can you imagine any one of the GOP hopefuls for President saying something like this?


Here's a wonderful comic from 2009 that sums it all up.  Created by Barry Deutsch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Excuses

Well, here we are again. Very few FXRant updates have occurred in the last few months. The time, we spoke, I had a pretty good excuse.

Well, before that excuse even finished, I moved on to some more excuses.

Now, almost changing the subject entirely, here are some random images from the teaser of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol", directed by Brad Bird, and featuring visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic.

(In the meantime, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow me on Twitter @tvaziri.)

Images selected by Randomizer Lion Edition software.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Excuse

"So, Todd, why haven't you been posting much lately?" asked a theoretical FXRant reader.

I'll answer your question with a series of images from the new trailer for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The VFX Show, "Forrest Gump"

Listen to the newest edition of The VFX Show, with Mike Seymour, Jason Wingrove and me, Todd Vaziri, talk about the visual effects of Robert Zemeckis' 1994 masterpiece, "Forrest Gump."

Download, listen and subscribe to the podcast here:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oscar Tweets

Here are some highlights from my Academy Awards-night Tweets.

(If you're not following me on The Twitter, then shame on you.*)
  • Just saw Ben Snow on The Television
  • Just saw David Hisanaga, John Walker and Aaron McBride from @ilmvfx on The Television.
  • Here is one reason why our work on "Iron Man 2" by @ILMVFX was nominated for an Oscar.
  • Warren Beatty looks like he'd rather be anywhere other than where he is right now.
  • Oh, dear, why would they put George Hamilton's corpse on TV? Oh, that's Valentino. Nevermind.
  • Oh, I remember when Nicole Kidman was human.
  • Hugh Jackman: Movie Star.
  • Hugh Jackman is cool even in crummy movies.
  • I'm two for two tonight. (In my predictions.)
  • Robert Stromberg, former vfx artist, now has two Academy Awards for Art Direction. Yeahhh!!!!
  • I'm six out of seven.
  • I'm still a bit amazed that there are TWO categories for sound.
  • James Franco: "Congratulations, nerds," on the Technical Academy Awards. I don't know how to feel about that one.
  • My instinct was, 'eff you, Franco.'
  • That's, **Academy Award Winning Film** "The Wolfman."
  • Just saw Florian Kainz from ILMVFX on The Television.
  • You played off Aaron Sorkin, but had time for Auto-Tune the movies?
  • Technical Oscars shot = too many white dudes. And this is coming from a mostly-white dude.
  • A standing ovation for Billy Crystal - if that's not a huge rebuke of tonight's show, nothing is.
  • Yeah, The Predictinator nails it.
  • I'm happy The Predictinator got it right. But I'm sad that our work on "Iron Man 2" didn't win.
  • I'm sticking with "eff you Franco" on the "Congratulations, nerds," quip.
  • Darn - I screwed up Best Director. I guess I really really really wanted Fincher to get it.
  • Nailed it. Now I'm 17/23.
  • (For Best Actor) British + cripple + crying = guess who will win?
  • Hey, @jamesfranco. The five nominated visual effects films earned $3.5 billion dollars. So that's what nerds did.
  • Showing my work: Alice-$1.024B, HP71-$948M, Inception-$823M, IronMan2-$622M, Hereafter-$101M = $3.518B. Data from
  • Final tally - I predicted 18 out of 24 categories.

*Just kidding. It's just that I've been so busy lately, I haven't had time to post here on FXRant. So crummy Tweets will have to do for now.

22 Years in a Row

As detailed in this post, we used The VFX Predictinator to predict the winner of the visual effects Oscar, "Inception." We were correct.

Our formula has now accurately predicted the winner of the visual effects Academy Award for its 22nd straight year.

Heh heh.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

"Inception" Nabs The Oscar

Congratulations to the entire "Inception" visual effects and physical effects teams for earning the Oscar for visual effects at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Twitter Post

I may or may not be live-Tweeting the Oscars. I'm @tvaziri.

Keep your expectations low.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The VFX Predictinator, 83rd Academy Awards Edition

Last May, when the Academy finally expanded the number of nominees for the visual effects Oscar from three to five, I wrote this:
And what will this mean to The VFX Predictinator, our totally awesome formula that accurately predicted the visual effects Oscar winner across 21 years? It will require a serious overhaul, since many of the formulas are dependent on the assumption of three nominees. More likely than not, we'll have to come up with an all-new formula.

My lovely wife, who essentially initiated The VFX Predictinator project, re-examined the data and determined that it would be fairly easy to tweak the formula and treat the data in essentially the same way as did the original formula. Certain multipliers were adjusted for five nominees and other relative formulas were also updated so that the weighting of various criteria would match the original formula. Ultimately, the updated Predictinator behaves in essentially the same way as the old one.

As we learned in January, the nominees for the visual effects Oscar for the 83rd Academy Awards are "Alice In Wonderland," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," "Hereafter," "Inception" and "Iron Man 2." And here is the data for these nominees:

And if you're not interested in squinting at the final scores, here they are:
  • 7.54 Inception
  • 4.68 Harry Potter 7.1
  • 3.96 Alice in Wonderland
  • 3.58 Iron Man 2
  • 2.39 Hereafter
The formula that has accurately predicted the winner of the Oscar for 21 years straight is calling for an overwhelming victory for Christopher Nolan's "Inception." Its strengths were undoubtedly its critical acclaim, with the highest Tomatometer rating of all five films, and its eight staggering Academy Award nominations (scoring it two points), while the other four nominees earning zero points for Oscar nominations, since none of the films earned over three nominations.

"Potter," "Alice" and "Iron Man 2" all had similar numbers, with nearly identical box office earnings, but "Potter" and "Iron Man 2" lost points for being sequels. Both "Hereafter" and "Alice" suffered with poor critical acclaim, and "Hereafter's" box office, relative to the other blockbusters, gave the Clint Eastwood film no advantage. "Potter"'s second place score was earned with its late release date, coming to theaters in November (earning it a huge point).

Amazingly, this years' crop of nominees featured very little organic creature work. Only "Alice" qualified in the criteria of "Primary VFX Are Creatures," and also picked up more points with all of the facial animation featured in the film. With only 1/5 films heavily featuring character animation, the 2011 nominees are a bit of an anomaly, since regularly, most races include 2/3 or 3/3 films featuring character animation. Even with "Alice" earning these critical points for character animation, it still wasn't enough to topple "Inception"'s gargantuan point count. In fact, even if every other film earned those character animation points, it wouldn't have been enough to beat "Inception's" score.

So we shall see if The Predictinator can live again. If we're dead wrong, we'll have to determine how we screwed up, and perhaps, come up with a Predictinator 2.0 (for this new world order of five visual effects nominees), which will evolve over time. That would be unfortunate and, quite frankly, boring, since it feels quite gratifying to have a solid, mature algorithm to predict the winner of the visual effects Oscar. Starting over and patiently waiting year after year, nursing the formula back to health. Naah, we don't want to do that.

We'll know in just a few days, when the winners of the 83rd Academy Awards are announced February 27, 2011.