Dear Hollywood VFX, It’s over. We lost. Prove me wrong.

Do it.  Prove me wrong.  If you can.

Here’s the thing though.  This isn’t a mathematical proof. You can’t prove me wrong with arguments made of words, math, logic and history.  You can only prove me wrong with empirical evidence.  You actually have to do what I’m saying cannot or will not be done.  Then, you’ll have proved me wrong.  But you won’t. Continue reading “Dear Hollywood VFX, It’s over. We lost. Prove me wrong.”

Basic Color Science for Cinema

If you like math and really want to the skinny on it, I give you:  Bruce Linbloom.  In particular, I’d recommend the section on XYZ to RGB to XYZ transformations.

If those really huge square brackets seem scary, it’s all too tempting to cast off the math and fall back on statements such as:

  • It looks digital.
  • It isn’t organic.
  • It’s too clean.
  • It feels dead.  Not alive, like film.
  • Those are candy colors.
  • It looks too much like video.

It’s extremely tempting to speak from behind the opaque veil of divine-artistic-intuition.  But it’s not good to hide from the truth.  If one tries to pierce the veil of divine-artistic-intuition, one is often labeled a heretic and their opinion is cast away by the bourgeois (gab gab gossip gossip gasp glare).  As such, many attempts at straightening the path and getting proper color-science into the mix, tend to fail.  If someone with enough creative credentials steps into the conversation and makes an observation of divine-artistic-intuition, they win (golf clap).  Data, math and science don’t override invalid conclusions in modern Hollywood.

Continue reading “Basic Color Science for Cinema”

How to actually put VFX and animation into your film

The Visual Effects Society (of which I am a member) recently re-tweeted this article titled: “How to put VFX and animation into your film.”

Go ahead.  Read it.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.  Its’ wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong.  If you are a filmmaker, low-budget or otherwise, don’t even start thinking in the terms suggested by that article/post.

So why am I picking on some blogger?  Well firstly, Farhan has published a book and seems to feel authoritative on the subject.  Second, the VFX Society is retweeting it.  But we in the VFX industry are already under assault.  And it’s time we started taking this all more seriously.  That got me thinking.

Continue reading “How to actually put VFX and animation into your film”

EPI Book 1: it’s Complicated

FIE LLC is proud to announce the immediate available of EPI Book 1:  It’s Complicated.

The EPI books are a series of short illustrated novels, akin to a TV series or comic book. Each book moves the story along incrementally in a bite-sized manner. Each book contains illustrations of key moments from the story. The books are sold individually. They are meant to be short, cheap and fun. Like candy. Continue reading “EPI Book 1: it’s Complicated”

Rolls and other rolls

Most CGI riggers are taught about a thing called a forearm roll. It’s in many books.  Someone likely teaches them some kind of simple way to build it into their rigs.

They think they’ve got it. But when it goes through production, it breaks. And usually, they then put in a switch to “turn it off” so that animators can fix/animate it manually.

Continue reading “Rolls and other rolls”

Separating Shading From Texturing

Texturing and modeling are now very much intertwined.  One only needs to look at zBrush or Mudbox to see the reality of high density asset generation.

The secret to good photo-real rendering is in the math and science of the shader and how it renders.

The problem, is that most of the time, the person you want doing the modeling, is not the person you want doing the shading.

It makes no sense to disqualify an extremely talented asset artist because he/she doesn’t understand the intricacies of color gamut mapping, or the proper definition of a bi-directional reflectance distribution function (BRDF).

Continue reading “Separating Shading From Texturing”

Presenting “The Tree of Life” to The Academy

The awards season earlier this year was a very tense time.  I never felt comfortable posting about it because I didn’t want to toot my horn too loud.  It was all a little too big.

“The Tree of Life” movie poster, care of Wikipedia.

This past January, I was honored to present “The Tree of Life” to the VFX Branch of The Academy at their yearly bake-off.  We were one of 10 films singled out and honored to be competing for the nomination for The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

I wrote a short three page piece that was part of our overall written submission.  I was up on stage at The Academy Theater, along with Dan Glass and Mike Fink to answer questions after our highlight reel was screened.  I even had the opportunity to quickly answer a question in the very short 2 minute Q&A that followed.  To be clear:  I was personally up there for nomination for an Academy Award.  Which is an honor and moniker that really has so overwhelmed me, that I’ve kind of avoided flaunting it to the extent I probably should have.  How do you do that without just seeming like a totally self absorbed jerk?

Ultimately, we did not make it to the next phase, which was the nomination for the “Best Visual Effects” award itself.  However, the film did get nominated for “Best Picture.”

At this point, I’m very comfortable with the reality that our “Universe” sequence is a primary component of the film.  Were it removed, it would greatly change the character and value of the film overall.  I’m also very comfortable claiming both creative and technical authorship of our piece along with my collaborators, Dan Glass, Mike Fink and Doug Trumbull, under Terry’s direction.  And I couldn’t be prouder of our team and work.

I spent over two years working directly with Terry, in Austin Texas, on the project.  I was afforded the rare opportunity to take the “Universe” sequence from Terry’s words on the page, through creative development, and to final composite and conform.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be that involved in a project in such totality again, unless its my own.

As with any creative project I get that deeply involved in, there are all kinds of things that I’d want to change.  It’s never finished.  It just happens to be done.

Tree of Life Trailer Released

The trailer for The Tree of Life is out and about.

I spent over two years working on this film for Terry and couldn’t be prouder of its impending release.  I will receive a Digital Effects Supervisor credit on the final film.

I am also extremely proud of the VFX team as a whole and the work that has been accomplished.  I am greateful to Dan Glass, the Visual Effects Supervisor, for the opporunity to work with him on such a worthwhile piece.

Terry is famous for being tight lipped and letting the work speak.  I’ll honor that stance.

Stop reading.  Go watch.

Global Storage 2 VFS

So, I’ve been quietly working on Global Storage, verison 2.

Verison 1 never really went beyond a "neat thing" I made.  I evaluated it for usage on Terence Malik’s "Tree of Life" and decided it wasn’t mature enough yet, to trust production assets to.  I also evaluated GlusterFS and MooseFS at the same time and came to the same conclustion regarding those offereings at that time.  Instead, I went with a venerable NFS cross mounting solution, leveraging the power of my network switch and the inteligence of the my artists, rather than the filesystem, to handle the workload.  Once I set down ground rules, and taught my team to follow them, all was well.  That soution doesn’t really scale.  But it was fine for that show.

However, I’ve recenlty found myself really missing the functionality that Global Storage was mean to bring, as I’ve been working a lot in Unity3D and other digital asset heavy environments.  So I have gone back in and started a rewrite from scratch.  The base tennets of the system have not changed.  But I decided to break backwards compatibility in order to address a lot of the "bigger facility" issues I’ve been exposed to during my time as the Director of Software and Pipeline at Method Studios.

Some major changes:

  • All SSH back end and communication for security
  • Bazaar rather than Subversion as a base level revsion system.  This allows a more distributed asset managment system just like Bazaar allows a more distributed development system than Subverion does.
  • Virtual File System via FUSE.  Looks exactly like a native file system but, on closer inspection, it isn’t.  Its way more.

That last item, the VFS is one that I may hold off until version 2.5.  Its designed with it in mind.  Its just that I may finish everything up but that and push it into use using symlinks as a glue mechanism before I dive into the FUSE module.  We’ll see.

Currenlty Global Storage 2 (a.k.a. gls) is awake.  It can log into a minimally configured server and set up some base level storage buckets.  It can manage SSH and RSA passwordless login for a user (somewhat important to a system premised entirely on SSH network commuincations).  I’m implementing the Bazaar storage bucket types right now actually. Hopefully it will do somethign impressive enough to show off, very soon.

I guess the other piece of this puzzle is as follows:

gls is likely going to be the basis of all my licensable technology.  I’m going to use it as my distribution, licening and updating machanism.

In a lot of ways, this is turning into version 2.0 of the "Tree of Life" pipeline.  I figure if I can solve the scalability and multi-site concerns of Method, along with the budget, image size and quality isues of "Tree of Life," then I’ve gotten something pretty compelling.