Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Ex Machina" Wins The Oscar

Congratulations to the entire visual effects team behind "Ex Machina", the winner of the visual effects Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards.

Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington, Sara Bennett

(Don't talk to me about The Predictinator right now.)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Academy's Visual Effects Posters

Over at The Academy's Facebook page, the fine folks behind the Oscars have been creating posters for various nominees.

Here is a GIF of the five nominee posters for Best Visual Effects.

Interestingly, the poster for "The Revenant" that you see above was not the first version published. In early January, when the posters were originally published, the poster for "The Revenant" featured a frame of original photography in the upper right corner: a stunt performer clothed in a blue jumpsuit, wearing a bear head. All of the other shots on all the posters were final visual effects shots. A few weeks later, a new version of "The Revenant" poster was published, featuring a final frame of a landscape shot.

Most likely, the person in the blue bear costume was stuntman Glen Ennis, who "played" the bear during live-action shooting. The bear, as you may know, was ultimately realized entirely with computer graphics by Industrial Light & Magic.

An excerpt from the Ennis interview from Global News:

How does it feel to be involved in a movie that just won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?

It feels cool. I’ve been in a lot of movies and had parts that I thought were going to be substantial; sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not. When I was doing it, I had no idea that the bear scene was going to be such an integral part of it. It was hard, sweaty work for me. And now that it’s turned into what it’s turned into, I’m incredibly proud of the work. I’m a small part — obviously the geniuses who made it look as good as they did with the CGI deserve credit — but it’s still pretty cool to be a part of it.

At first glance, one might suspect the reason for the poster change could be part of director Alejandro Innaritu's intention to keep the movie magic behind the visual effects of the bear a secret. I wrote extensively about this in my Predictinator article (jump to "Potential Spoilers"), and have also tweeted about it. Upon further reflection, however, it appears as though the 'blue bear' image was added by mistake, since every single image in each of the posters is a final visual effects shot. No other original photography, wireframes, or any other "before" photo appears. The newer "Revenant" poster merely fixes that mistake.

UPDATE: 2/23/2016: On Twitter, Gavin Graham points out that the "Ex Machina" poster contains concept art.

Visual Effects, Oscars and the Box Office in 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was the top earner of this year's visual effects Oscar nominees, at $1.98B global box office (as of 2/3/2016). 

Just as I did for 2014 films2013 films2012 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.

The five nominees for this year's visual effects earned a total global box office gross of about $3.3B. The monster earner was "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at nearly $2B; rounding out the Visual Effects nominees were "The Martian" at $600M, "Mad Max: Fury Road" at $376M, "The Revenant" at $288M and "Ex Machina" at $36M.

The 2015 chart doesn't look like any of the other years' charts, since "The Force Awakens", a $2B earner, was nominated for five Oscars, which exploded the average earning for all five of those categories. In every other year, Visual Effects towers over all the other Oscar categories.

In fact, for the first time since I've been charting average box office earnings per Academy Awards categories, visual effects is not the top earning category. This year, Best Sound edged out visual effects with an average of $682M per nominee (as opposed to Visual Effects' $657M per nominee).

The reason Sound eclipsed Visual Effects? The two categories share four out of five nominees. The fifth nominee in Sound was "Bridge of Spies" ($162M), while the fifth nominee in Visual Effects was "Ex Machina" ($36M).

The last five years at a glance:

Average global box office of Best Visual Effects films:
2015 (88th Academy Awards) - $657M
Top Grosser: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, $2B

2014 (87th Academy Awards) - $723M
Top Grosser: Guardians of the Galaxy, $774M

2013 (86th Academy Awards) - $698M
Top Grosser: Iron Man 3, $1.2B

2012 (85th Academy Awards) - $763M
Top Grosser: The Avengers, $1.5B

2011 (84th Academy Awards) - $662M
Top Grosser: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, 1.35B

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.

All data from .

Oscar Pool Ballot, 88th 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).  This year, I started with a ballot from Fandango, since didn't make a pretty, printable ballot this year. Again.

Download the ballot here for the 88th 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.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

"The Force Awakens" Wins Big at the 14th VES Awards

On February 2, the winners of the 14th VES Awards were announced. The nominees were determined by VES members who participated in the nomination judging process.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was the big winner with four awards, including Outstanding Visual Effects. "The Revenant" was next with three awards, including Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects and Outstanding Animated Performance. Finally, "Mad Max: Fury Road" took home one award for Outstanding Effects Simulations.

With "Star Wars" and "The Revenant", Industrial Light & Magic took home seven out of the eight live-action feature film awards tonight. Listed below are all the live-action feature film category winners. To see all the winners, visit FXGuide. To see all the nominees, click here.

The Winners of the 14th VES Awards (Live-Action Feature Film Categories)

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
Roger Guyett, Luke O'Byrne, Patrick Tubach, Paul Kavanagh, Chris Corbould

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

Rich McBride, Ivy Agregan, Jason Smith, Nicolas Chevallier, Cameron Waldbauer

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature
--STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS — Falcon Chase/Graveyard
Yanick Dusseault, Mike Wood, Justin van der Lek, Quentin Marmier

Outstanding Animated Performance in a Photoreal Feature
Matt Shumway, Gaelle Morand, Karin Cooper, Leandro Estebecorena

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature
--THE REVENANT  — Bear Attack
Donny Rausch, Alan Travis, Charles Lai, TC Harrison

Outstanding Models in a Photoreal or Animated Project
Joshua Lee, Matthew Denton, Landis Fields, Cyrus Jam

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

--MAD MAX: FURY ROAD — Toxic Storm
Dan Bethell, Clinton Downs, Chris Young

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project
--STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS — Falcon Chase/Graveyard
Paul Kavanagh, Colin Benoit, Susumu Yukuhiro, Greg Salter