Monday, February 25, 2013

The VFX Predictinator and The 85th Academy Awards

The visual effects team behind "Life of Pi" took home the Oscar for visual effects at the 85th Academy Awards.  Congratulations to Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott and everyone involved with the visual and special effects of the amazing film.

This also marks another victory for The VFX Predictinator, our formula for predicting the winner of the visual effects Academy Award.  We created a unified formula that correctly predicts the outcome of the visual effects winner from 1989-2008; we used that same formula to correctly predict "Avatar" in 2009, "Inception" in 2010 and "Hugo" in 2011.  Well, we got it right again for "Life of Pi" in 2012.

Before the awards ceremony, hundreds of visual effects professionals rallied for a VFX protest, complete with a plane flying a banner overhead that read "BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM".  Read FXGuide's coverage here.

The awards ceremony itself was a debacle for the visual effects community.  First, presenters of the visual effects Oscar Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Samuel L. Jackson, all of whom have benefitted greatly from partnering with visual effects throughout their careers, joked around awkwardly with some poorly rehearsed schtick about respecting the artistry of visual effects.  The winners were read, and midway through Bill Westenhofer's speech, the 'play-off' music began to rumble (John Williams' "Jaws"). Before Westenhofer could finish his statement, his mic was cut off and the director cut away to Nicole Kidman and her husband.  Then, accepting the Best Director Oscar, Ang Lee failed to thank any visual effects members of his team.  In addition, Oscar winner Claudio Miranda (for "Life of Pi"'s cinematography) also failed to thank any members of the visual effects team; strange for a film whose cinematography was extensively created by visual effects artists.  Read The Hollywood Reporter's coverage here, and read Stu Maschwitz' article here for a classy recap. 

My emotions are all tied up in strange knots; I'm thrilled and inspired by the current state of artistic achievement of our industry, and also saddened by our relative powerlessness in Hollywood.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

With and Without Rhythm & Hues

A protest at this year's Academy Awards is taking place today to draw attention to the current state of the visual effects industry. While visual effects films are making billions of dollars at the box office, visual effects facilities are declaring bankruptcy and going out of business. The situation has never been more bizarre and ironic than the recent bankruptcy announcement of Rhythm & Hues, the visual effects shop that created the creatures of "Life of Pi", a film that has earned $580M worldwide, and, which many believe is the frontrunner to win the Oscar for visual effects at today's awards show.

"Piece of the Pi" Protest at the Academy Awards

I created these two graphics to illustrate the importance of visual effects to a film like "Life of Pi", and I'm thrilled that they've been passed around the internet to help with awareness of the current crisis state of the visual effects community.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Visual Effects, Oscars and Box Office

Just like last year, I thought it would be interesting to see a breakdown of the average box office earnings of each of this year's 85th Academy Award nominees, per category.

And, just like last year, it is completely lopsided.  Here is this year's chart, indicating the average domestic and international box office take of the nominees for each category, as of February 5, 2013.  Click here for a larger version of the chart.

The average Oscar nominee for visual effects earned $763M (up from $662M last year).  By comparison, the average nominee for Best Picture this year earned $202M, which is a particularly strong box office year for Best Picture nominees.  Leading the pack in the visual effects race was "The Avengers" (which earned $1.5B), "The Hobbit 1" ($956) and "Life of Pi" ($548M).

The second highest grossing category is Best Music (Song) with an average of $503M box office earnings per nominee; the category was buoyed by hits like "Skyfall" ($1.1B),  "Life of Pi" ($548M) and "Ted" ($529M).

Again, this should surprise virtually no one.  I wrote all my caveats and explanations last year, so I won't rehash them here.  This only proves that in each major cinema discipline that the Academy chooses to reward with a statuette, the average box office take of 'the best' visual effects films far exceeds any other discipline's 'best' work.

I wrote this last year when I charted the box office averages for the 84th Academy Awards:
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.

This is still true, of course.

Showing my work; a CSV of the data is here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oscar Pool Ballot, 85th 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 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.

The VFX Show Oscar Preview Podcast

Mike Seymour, Matt Wallin and I talk about the 85th Academy Award nominees for Best Visual Effects in FXGuide's The VFX Show #162.  I had a great time chatting about all things visual effects.

Of course, we go into detail about this years' VFX Predictinator results and what it all means.

Mike Seymour, Todd Vaziri and Matt Wallin discuss the five Academy Award nominated films in the VFX category and Todd Vaziri’s VFX Predictinator!
Show notes and link:

iTunes link

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Life of Pi" Wins at VES Awards

The 11th Annual VES Awards took place on February 5 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and "Life of Pi" won four awards (out of its six nominations), including Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture.

"The Avengers" took home two awards, while "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" won one award; "The Impossible" won the award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects.

The following are winners for live-action feature film categories.  To see all the nominees from feature film categories, click here; and to see all the winners visit FXGuide's coverage.  For more information on Visual Effects Society, visit their website.

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi
Thomas Fisher, Susan Macleod, Guillaume Rocheron, Bill Westenhofer

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture
The Impossible
Felix Berg├ęs, Sandra Hermida, Pau Costa Moeller

Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi: Richard Parker
Erik De Boer, Sean Comer, Betsy Asher Hall, Kai-Hua Lan

Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Avengers: Midtown Manhattan
Richard Bluff, Giles Hancock, David Meny, Andy Proctor

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Matt Aitken, Victor Huang, Christian Rivers, R. Christopher White

Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture
The Avengers: Helicarrier
Rene Garcia, Bruce Holcomb, Polly Ing, Aaron Wilson

Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi: Storm of God
Harry Mukhopadhyay, David Stopford, Mark Williams, Derek Wolfe

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
Life of Pi : Storm of God
Ryan Clarke, Jose Fernandez, Sean Oharas, Hamish Schumacher