Visual Effects Whiz Jonathan Erland to Receive Academy’s John A. Bonner Medal

Visual effects technologist Jonathan Erland will receive the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation at the Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards, to be held Feb. 11 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The award, voted by the Academy’s board of governors, is named in honor of the late director of special projects at Warner Hollywood Studios and is awarded for "outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."

Erland began his professional training in the entertainment industry studying theater at the Central School in England and film at the London Film School. In one of his earliest jobs, he was part of the team building the audio-animatronic puppet theaters for the I.B.M. Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.


‘Avatar’ VFX Wiz Letteri Compares ‘Apes’ and ‘Tintin,’ Caesar and Haddock

It's been a great year for Joe Letteri, Weta Digital's senior visual effects supervisor, with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" as the front runner for the VFX Oscar and "The Adventures of Tintin" opening today and competing in the animation category. Both are riding the crest of a new virtual production revolution and powered by the same innovative technology leveraged by "Avatar."

Yet whereas "Apes" is hailed by the industry for transforming Andy Serkis into a CG simian sensation worthy of Oscar recognition in some quarters, "Tintin," which co-stars Serkis as the scene-stealing Captain Haddock, has been criticized by traditionalists for entering the Uncanny Valley of dead-eyed zombies with its performance-captured animation.


How to become a visual effects producer

Visual Effects Producer

My working process is simple enough. A movie will come to the company with a script. Together with my visual effects supervisor, we have a meeting where we break down the script into storyboards and give them advice on how they should approach certain sequences. The main issues are whether it should be shot as miniatures, as live action elements, or if there needs to be CG [computer-generated] work in there too, and how we can do it.

A lot of our work is with computer-driven motion-control cameras. It's a way of replicating a camera move over and over again. At its most basic, in a film such as Babe, you want to shoot a lot of animals together in one scene, so you work out your camera move, put one animal in, shoot it, then swap it for another. You replicate that process until you've built up that entire scene. A lot of the rest involves filming miniatures and model work for scenes that can't be realised on set or on computer.


Harry Potter and its impact on the visual effects industry

The Harry Potter movie franchise has dazzled audiences with its magical immersion into a fantastical world filled with wizardry. But another kind of wizardry is also responsible for its big success – visual effects.

One of the many mysteries of the Harry Potter series is how much Hollywood--and the Academy--have underappreciated the high-level craftsmanship on display throughout. Bill Desowitz looks at the impact the end of the series will have on its visual effects artists. There's more at stake than the most successful film franchise in history coming to a halt with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. There's also a cottage visual effects industry in London that now has to get weaned off the wizard of Hogwarts. Double Negative, The Moving Picture Co. (MPC), Framestore, and Cinesite all came of age with Harry in the first decade of the millennium, especially on the third film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, in 2004.


L.A.-based effects company Engine Room rides the wave of ‘Soul Surfer’

Soul Surfer visual effects

The movie "Soul Surfer," which debuts Friday, tells the true story of Hawaiian teen surfing star Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and overcame huge odds to get back on her surf board and compete professionally.

Hamilton's inspirational tale provided filmmakers a dramatic focal point for their $18-million movie, which was in large part made possible through the visual wizardry of a small L.A.-based effects company that has also managed to beat the odds amid a tough economy.

The firm, Engine Room, faced the recent challenge of having to convince audiences that actress AnnaSophia Robb, who plays Hamilton, was in fact an amputee.

"The visual effects is what made the film," said the movie's director Sean McNamara.

With just 10 employees and nearly 30 outside artists, the company did the lion's share of the 750 visual effects shots in the film for less than $1 million.

The work is noteworthy because it comes at a time when when many small to medium-sized California effects houses have been losing bids to foreign rivals that can do jobs for less because of generous tax credits available in such countries as Canada and Britain, or that can tap into low-cost labor in India, China and Singapore


‘Tron: Legacy’ visual effects secrets

Tron Legacy visual effects
This month's blockbusting hit Tron: Legacy is something of a cult phenomenon - a phenomenon that glows in the dark. Special effects supervisor Eric Barba was kind enough to talk us through the mind-bending, CGI world of Tron, spilling the secrets behind the magic of our favorite scenes

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Green Screen Technique

green screen technique

green screen technique

Green screen technique, means the blending of video or photographic pictures taken in two unique places, with one acting as a background and presenting a sense of the talent undertaking in that area. This procedure entails removal of one color to bring in another picture which can serve as a background for the subject. The phrase Green screen technique is used since the green color is popularly used as backdrop because the digital video cameras include picture sensors that happen to be responsive to this color than other colors. This supplies the cleanest mask, in addition to the other facility of reduced light needed to glow green which is also simply because of the picture sensors' higher sensitivity to this color. Green screen technique is found in many science fiction and horror movies which call for a lot of "effects" to produce the false impression of transporting us to the times that the story is coping with.

The word Green screen technique is used as the green color popularly used as backdrop because the digital video cameras are equipped with picture sensors that are responsive to this color than other colors. This offers the cleanest mask, in addition to the other facility of reduced light essential to glow green which is mainly because of the picture sensors' higher sensitivity to this color. Green screen technique is found in many science fiction and horror movies which involve a lot of "effects" to create the illusion of moving us to the times that the story is dealing with. Some critical factors which should be remembered while utilizing this Green screen Technique involve sufficient lights, cameras of premium quality which can generate fantasy through the green screen. Realize that if you are using lighting in a non-professional means, your product will end up with different shades and shadows on the screen.

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Visual effects jobs vanish to outsourcing

Visual effects are the bane of Hollywood movies and jobs in the industry are starting to disappear to more distant locations. As global competitors creep up on Hollywood's expensive salaries, studios want to maximize their investments and save money. So how bad is it in the visual effects industry if you're considering a career?

If you want to see the names driving Hollywood's growth, you have to stay for the movie's credits. The very end of the credits. After the actors and electricians — sometimes even after the people who serve the tacos on set — come the visual-effects artists. These are the people who make superheroes fly and cities fall into the ocean, and the effects-reliant films they work on, like Avatar and the Harry Potter franchise, are Hollywood's biggest moneymakers. 

Their place in the credits says something about visual effects (VFX) artists' place in the Hollywood pecking order. Ironically, just as they are peaking in creativity and propelling box-office hits, VFX companies are facing a crisis years in the making. Thanks to fierce global competition, the hangover from Hollywood labor unrest and a lack of negotiating power with studios, many VFX firms are closing up shop or outsourcing to stay afloat.

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Visual effects for Tom Cruise’s ‘Knight and Day’

Learning to understand visual effects and how they are applied in the movies is always interesting. Summer movies are ripe with effects shots galore. For James Mangold's Knight & Day, vfx supervisor Eric Durst oversaw more than 700 effects shots to help tell the story of a secret agent and his unwilling partner pursued around the world. We delve into the digital Running of the Bulls work by Rhythm & Hues and the European train effects by Weta Digital.


Entering ‘Green Zone’ visual effects shock and awe

Director Paul Greengrass, whose frenetic filmmaking style has been popularized by the successful Bourne franchise, revs it up for the Green Zone, a political thriller starring Matt Damon about the futile search for WMD during the chaotic early days of the Iraq War.

Once again, Greengrass chose Double Negative to make it all look convincing with his own version of "shock and awe" (LipSync Post was also a contributor).

Indeed, since shooting in Iraq was obviously out of the question, the London-based studio was tasked with doing the next best thing: making it look exactly like Bagdad in 2003 by shooting in Morocco. This was ideal for all the urban scenes, back street houses and maze-like passages. In fact, in addition to meticulous research, some of the cast members were actually serving soldiers who had toured the real thing and the filmmakers were greatly reassured by how authentic these soldiers found the locations.


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