Friday, April 05, 2024

Something We've Never Noticed in "The Abyss"

Selective attention is a concept that all filmmakers need to understand. When an audience is focusing on something, the aspects of the frame that are not directly related to the action, even if they're overwhelmingly dominant, can be rendered invisible to the viewer.

Take this scene from "The Abyss" (1989). In the middle of the most dramatic, most memorable, most heartbreaking scene in the movie, something happens.

Something happens that I didn't notice when I saw the movie in theaters in 1989. I never noticed it when I watched it over and over on my precious LaserDisc version of the film. I never noticed it when I watched it over and over on DVD. And I never noticed it when it finally debuted in 2023 on streaming. Watch this carefully, and then be amazed at what you didn't notice.

watch on YouTube

It's been like this since its release in 1989, and amazingly, has never been painted out of any subsequent releases - thank goodness. What's in the movie is in the movie. Studios and filmmakers need to exercise restraint during restorations, and resist the temptation to paint out "errors" visible in movies. For example, this bit from "Goodfellas" (which has been painted out of the most recent 4K release) and this bit from one of the "Terminator 2" Blu-ray releases, which had a ton of paint fixes and 'special edition' tweaks.

I'm working on investigating this further - I'd really like to know exactly what happened, and if anyone has knowledge about this extremely minute moment of filmmaking. Most likely, a diligent (and aggressive) camera assistant wiped the lens housing of water droplets during a filmed rehearsal, or during a take that they thought would be entirely unusable with water droplets on the glass. 

When the work is compelling, it's amazing what you can get away with.

Pointed out to me by Janne Ojaniemi over on Mastodon. Thanks, Janne!

Update 1: Bluesky user Neil Bulk told me that cinematographer Mikael Salomon pointed out the 'wiping of the lens housing during a take' in a Q&A screening, and was surprised to see Cameron use the take in the final edit.

Update 2: I've talked to two prominent "The Abyss" crewmembers, one of whom was in the editing room throughout the entire production. Both people said they never ever noticed this before, and this was 100% new to them.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Oscar Pool Ballot, 96th 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 96th 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.

Monday, February 19, 2024

I Hosted a Panel on the Visual Effects of "The Creator"

Watch on YouTube

The beautiful and moving film "The Creator" (2023) is nominated for the Academy Award for visual effects, and I had the honor of hosting a panel with the nominated team as well as director Gareth Edwards.

I was thrilled to be asked to moderate this panel, which included visual effects supervisors Jay Cooper, Andrew Roberts and Ian Comley, as well as physical effects supervisor Neil Corbould.

A general time limit was set for forty minutes, and I could ask any question I wanted - I got zero notes from Disney and ILM for my quesitons, so the questions you hear me asking are mine and mine alone. I hope you like it!

Join ILM's Todd Vaziri for a moderated conversation with The Creator's visual effects team, including Production Visual Effects Supervisor Jay Cooper, Visual Effects Supervisor Ian Comley, On Set Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Roberts, and Supervising Special Effects Supervisor Neil Corbould.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Todd Vaziri on The Incomparable, Talking "The Abyss"

It was my absolute pleasure to (finally!) be a guest on Jason Snell's The Incomparable podcast! We talk about one of my favorite movies of all time, "The Abyss" (1989). Jason, Annette Wierstra, Erika Ensign, John Siracusa and I talk about the epic James Cameron film, what the movie means to us, the differences between the theatrical cut and the Special Edition, and much more.

THE INCOMPARABLE MOTHERSHIP #701 - KEEP PANTYHOSE ON - Host Jason Snell with Todd Vaziri, John Siracusa, Annette Wierstra, and Erika Ensign

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Todd Vaziri on "50 MPH", the Podcast on the Making of "Speed"

Kris Tapley invited me to be a guest on his wonderful podcast 50 MPH, the oral history of the making of 1994's "Speed". The movie's visual effects bridge (hehe) the gap between the optical era (of miniatures and optical compositing) and the digital era. For the podcast, Kris interviewed over 100 people who helped make the movie, who reported on the movie, and some of us who are just big fans of the movie.

Digital matte paintings, CGI renderings within miniature environments – you name it, we cover it. And that’s all barely scraping the surface. We also engage some of today’s esteemed VFX artists like Todd Vaziri (AvatarStar Wars: The Force Awakens) and Jake Braver (BirdmanJohn Wick), among others, to take stock of Speed‘s legacy in their field.

50 MPH, Episode 29, A VFX Hybrid