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.

New focus on FIE

I have left my role as the Director of Software and Pipeline at Method Studios, in order to focus on FIE.

This is a really exciting time for me and I’m looking forward to dedicating myself full time to technology and consulting under the FIE banner.

Method and I have discussed a continuing consulting arrangement and hopefully we will continue to work together in a new capacity going forward.

Staff at Method Studios

Actually, this is old news.  As of January 2010, I took a staff position at Method Studios.

For FIE, this means the consulting and software facets of my company are going into a bit of a frozen state.  I will continue to develop software and tools in some capacity outside of Method, but will limit that work to open source tools most likely.

The creative development half of the company is still moving forward however slowly…

VFX World reports on the Iron Man previs effort

VFX World has published an article on previs, in this summer’s blockbuster movies.  Leading off the article is Iron Man.  Kent Seki, the previs and HUD effects supervisor gives a good window into what we did and how we did it.  He also details quite thoroughly the tools and techniques I developed for the film.  I’ve also detailed a similar account on my blog a few weeks ago.

There are a number of videos embedded in the article.  However this one is a surprise.  This is one of my range of motion tests from early in the suit design process.

Hulk Smash Previs

PLF’s short summary of the effort on “The Incredible Hulk” is a good primer on what was done for the film.  My good friend Erol Gunduz did a great job of stepping up and taking the main TD burden on the job.  My contribution was in the areas of training, tools development and some Mocap supervision in Toronto.

Alien vs Predator 2

PLF’s online breakdown of previs on AvP2 showcases our last minute previs effort and how it ended up on film.  Jonathan Roybal, Tanissa Potrovitza and myself put in some late nights late in the game to pull this off but its pretty clear from the breakdown that it was of significant use to the production, as it was pretty much shot as is.

Stay Alive

Linked is an older article from my early days at PLF regarding Stay Alive.  I got my own Q&A section.  As an added bonus, I was compared to Egon Spangler, a childhood hero and strong role model for Technical Directors everywhere.