Monday, January 26, 2015

Sketching and doodling

I haven't drawn in what felt like eons, so it was time to go Cintiqing and scrape off the rust.

Photo reference warm up.

A battle royale between all of the 'Best Visual Effects' Oscar nominees.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 VFX "Bake-Off" Recap

This weekend I attended the Visual Effects "Bake-Off" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. It was fascinating and entertaining look at the best visual effects in film for 2014, as presented by the visual effects supervisors and vendors who produced the final results. Previs was mentioned at times as well, which was nice. At this point in filmmaking, previs settles so many storytelling, art direction, and composition decisions early on, which allows the final vendors to concentrate more of their limited time on producing photorealistic effects.

Going in to the bake-off, the finalists to choose from for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects are (bold = projects I worked on):

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Transformers: Age of Extinction
X-Men: Days of Future Past

After watching so many incredible shots throughout the bake-off, it was clear this is a very tough, competitive year. I have a feeling Marvel Studios will emerge with only one nominee. Transformers will probably be left out again. I have not seen Maleficent, but I know it did very well at the box office, which makes it a strong contender against other kid-friendly movies like Guardians and Godzilla. When all the dust clears, I think the finalists will be:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Final 10 Visual Effects Contenders Announced


Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Transformers: Age of Extinction
X-Men: Days of Future Past

The ones I worked on are in bold. Nolan's Interstellar might be a favorite for the statue, but the Academy also loves it some CG main characters, so Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stands a good chance too. Personally, I loved how Godzilla came out, and will be especially rooting for that one (although the variety of work done for Night at the Museum 3 was quite challenging to film as well).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

New interview on the TALKING MOVIES podcast

Recently I was on a podcast talking about the previs and animation work that I have done on films here in Los Angeles. Topics covered include: The Avengers, Divergent, Godzilla (2014), Night at the Museum 3, Furious 7, and The Thief of Bagdad (1940).

Talking Pictures w/Paul Booth and Josh Lange, Previs for Divergent and Godzilla 11/03

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New FURIOUS 7 trailer is now online

After an emotional roller-coaster of filmmaking, the trailer for the new Fast & Furious movie is here. Entitled 'Furious 7,' the movie will have daring stunts and more of the high-stakes action fans of the franchise expect. Working on it was a fun challenge, and I'm happy with how our previs looks to have transitioned to the final photography.

Here is the official trailer. It starts off with our cargo drop sequence and transitions into the bus rescue. These were the first sequences I worked on when I started on the project last year. I hope the fans enjoy it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Steven on Steven: Studying Staging with Spielberg and Soderbergh

I'm late on this, but I wanted to reblog this Steven Soderbergh post about his exercise to study the "staging" (moving the camera and its subjects) of Raiders of the Lost Ark, after removing all the color and replaced the audio with a techno track. This is a great way to study staging, and it's part of why it's great to watch old black and white movies, even if you're making the latest Hollywood visual effects-oriented films.
The definition of unforgettable staging. 
I recently watched a 1950 noir film by Elia Kazan called Panic in the Streets, which used particularly inventive staging back when camera movement was much more limited. In order to keep his long takes interesting, Kazan repeatedly blocked his scenes out so that characters would move close up and far away from the camera. This resulted in a single continuous shot that would overtime go from a wide shot to a medium shot to a close up and even back to a wide shot at times. There is an uncomplicated scene with just two characters, where the husband (Richard Widmark) goes around their bedroom to retrieve different parts of his Naval uniform, where this is done well. The simple things, if done well, can make all the difference with staging.

A fantastic noir outbreak disaster movie, by Elia Kazan.
 Although I cannot be 100% sure Soderbergh has seen Panic in the Streets, I would venture to guess he has, because it was a notable early "outbreak disaster film" that could have served as useful reference for Soderbergh's own outbreak movie Contagion. Watching any of these movies would greatly help a student of film understand how to build tension with advanced staging. Although I've heard it attributed to Ingmar Bergman and not David Fincher as Soderbergh does, the notion that there is only one "best" way for a scene to be staged is a high standard, and one that should be aspired to by all filmmakers.
Steven Soderbergh's own take on the outbreak disaster genre.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

THE MAZE RUNNER is now in theaters!

Although I have not seen it yet, I have high hopes that our previs came out well in the final picture. Congratulations to all the people who helped make the movie happen.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Just got back from an amazing experience at the Paramount Studios lot, where the crew screening was being held for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I worked on the film doing previsualization for two months while at The Third Floor, inc. The group of us at the time were all focused on the snowy mountaintop chase sequence between the Foot Clan, April, Vernon, and the turtles, and the sequence had a glut of over-the-top action that was fun to animate. It was a helpful challenge as well because we had to make lots of fast revisions, often in front of the second unit director, who would provide notes alongside us as we worked. The part I worked on that I liked the most was when Donatello slings Raphael (always my favorite turtle) into a Humvee at (0:54):

Visiting Paramount Studios was a dream come true for me and my longtime friend Paul, who I brought as my guest. He showed up a bit earlier than I did, and showed me a few landmarks on the lot before showtime. It was great to see the Robert Evans office, as well as the sound stages for Rear Window, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Coming to America, and many others. Before we went in to the theater, we got a shot near the famous arch that leads to the sound stages:

With fellow Vancouver Film School alum Paul Booth outside the gate to the Paramount sound stages (Hollywood sign in the far background).
 The Paramount Pictures theater was very nice and felt like a real theater you'd walk up to on the street, complete with a lobby. We saw it in 3D in what felt like the loudest theater I've ever been to (I guess it's known for that).
Inside the Paramount Theater lobby.
The original, classic Paramount logo.
Seeing the movie was entertaining, and I know it will blow the minds of young kids like the first ones did when I was a kid. Being a part of that cycle for the next generation of moviegoers was a treat, as it always is.

Update: So it looks like the public loved it! $65 million domestic gross ($20 million above projections). Nice to see people enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Godzilla previs article on Animation World Network

Roaring Through the Previs of 'Godzilla' (full article, with previs/final comparison pictures)

Here are excerpts that describe two of the parts that I helped with when I was on the previsualization team:

"Dan Sarto (AWN)In terms of the third act, what were the biggest challenges you faced in with the previs?
Eric Carney (The Third Floor): The sequence consists of Godzilla, who is fighting two other creatures, the Mutos, in San Francisco. We've seen Godzilla before, and he's kind of like a big lizard, so we had a fairly good idea of how he might move. But one of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to animate the Mutos. When we were given the designs of the creatures, they were still in development actually. There was a lot of exploration work with Gareth in order to figure how the Mutos would fight and how Godzilla would fight them.
We started to look at footage of animals - Komodo Dragons, bears, even some winged creatures. Gareth sent us a lot of reference material of real animals fighting. So we started out doing a lot of fight tests and sending them over to Gareth, figuring out what he liked and didn't like and developing it further. He had a vision for the film, that even though it's a monster movie, it would feel very grounded in reality. So with that in mind you have to think of these monsters just as big animals, and research how big animals fight each other. A lot of the things you might think would be cool for a monster fight aren't the kind of things real animals do. So there was a lot of exploration in finding the right tone."
DSAny highlights from your work on this project?
EC: It was a great project. In the end we had about 40 minutes of previs, once everything had been edited down. So there was a large amount of footage. The halo jump was definitely a highlight, and a lot of the imagery in the final sequence, the trailer, and the poster are close to the previs we did. Working with Gareth too was really a fantastic experience. He was a very collaborative director and a lot of the suggestions we put forward made it into the movie. Seeing the final product was great!

It really was. As mentioned in an earlier Godzilla post, the first Maya scene I animated after graduating from Vancouver Film School was a fight between two enormous monsters in downtown Vancouver. To think that the experience from back then would help inform the motion of the real Godzilla all those years later makes my head spin.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow movie review

Now that Transformers 4 is out and sucking up box office attention like a black hole, I thought I'd mention this movie. It's a great surprise, and people should see it before it's out of theaters. Third Floor did the previs and motion design for the aliens, which translated in the film as erratic and menacing. I kept thinking of alternative ways for it to have ended, but overall it was a very well done movie that could have only been pulled off by a top-notch creative team. Congrats to the filmmakers.

Now I need to finally see Looper...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Another project I helped previs while at The Third Floor, inc. Read more about it here. Releases August 8th.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bottle sketch

Value exercise with Photoshop on my new Cintiq (those who've worked with me probably recognize my trusty water bottle). I'm loving it so far, even though there seems to be too few ExpressKeys for using with Maya. As much as I've been addicted to using too many layers for digi-paintings in the past, I tried to restrain myself this time and kept the majority of it to just one.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Drew Struzan: The Man Behind the Poster review/Comic-Con reblog

It's been out for a while, but Netflix Instant Streaming has it now, and you need to see it! He is THE BEST artist you can imagine in this modern age. They had a part that showed video of him at the Comic-Con panel I attended back in 2010. Just for fun, I digged up that old blog post again:

"...Then there was the Drew Struzan panel, which I was really looking forward to. He was joined by two filmmakers that are putting together a documentary about him, 20 minutes of which they screened for the crowd. Frank Darabont, who was interviewed in the documentary, was also in attendance. Struzan seemed very surprised at the standing ovation and overall attention he received, mentioning a few times that most of his life was spent alone in his studio and he doesn't get much contact with his fans. He looks like he could be the kinder, artsy brother of Clint Eastwood:"
Giving thanks to those who have supported him.

Struzan and the Archer panel I saw later on.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is now in theaters

Now in theaters!
It's been a week, and Godzilla has had the biggest worldwide opening of 2014. However, all the media websites are projecting X-Men: Days of Future Past to do even better. Reviews are stellar, so I hope the readers of this blog make some time to see it this weekend. When you do, leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

The particular scenes I worked on have a bit of a spoiler in them, so I'll mention them in the comments section for those who would like to know what they can look for (other than Stan Lee's cameo, of course). Excelsior!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FX Podcast interview with Gareth Edwards podcast link, with interviewer Mike Seymour @mikeseymour
Link to transcript by Ian Failes

Fantastic interview with Edwards where he goes into detail the struggles directors have with previs on big-budget feature films. In my limited experience, many of them seem to come into it with a somewhat adversarial attitude, and some stay this way until the end, but most warm up to it quickly after finding out how fast their ideas can be visualized with a team of 3D artists who are also versed in filmmaking and  cinematography. He even mentions the "pitchvis" that was made to help get the film greenlit by producers, and which provided several moments that ended up in the final film.

Edwards humbly gives the proper credit to the people who helped get the film where it needs to be, including Eric Carney, who was the Third Floor supervisor on the project. This was great to listen to, and something that I hope becomes the norm for future directors as they openly discuss how helpful previsualization is to making modern, VFX-driven films.

An excerpt from the transcript:

The Power of Previs

“When we started this, I hated the idea of previs,” recalls Edwards. “I thought it was going to rob the film of its soul. The idea of trying to pick shots and decide exactly what we were doing six months before we even stood on the location or met the actors – I wasn’t really into that. Even though I used to do computer graphics, I just felt like that was the antithesis of what I wanted to do.”

But Edwards says his attitude to previs changed after working with The Third Floor and an in-house MPC team on crafting Godzilla’s major action scenes. “What I didn’t appreciate was that when you do previs, what you’re really doing is getting a chance to make a mini version of a movie without any interference from anybody – you’re completely given free rein – it’s just you and the previs guys.”

He also discusses the temptation to show everything about the monster up front, but for proper tension, there must be a "cinematic foreplay" to tease the audience, "and hopefully they won't hate you for it." When you see the movie, you definitely notice some unexpected choices that err to the side of preserving tension throughout the first two acts, for better or for worse. Learning his rationale for these choices from the interview was very interesting. I can't wait to see it again, knowing more about the theory behind the direction.

Other great, slightly paraphrased quotes

"Eric Carney, who was the The Third Floor previs supervisor, did an amazing job. There's a lot of people's DNA in this film, and I think the previs guys definitely should take some credit, because stuck to that previs a lot, and it was kind of like my crutch...When you have a video that you can hit play on and it kind of works, and you're excited about it and other people are, it's good to be able to circulate to get these shots. ..... so whenever we got to the set pieces we spent so long getting it right in the previs, so in those areas we would often just go back to the previs and get it pretty much exactly right."

"Previs became this Bible for what we were going to shoot."

Finally, here is his quote about making on a Godzilla sequel:
"We'll see what happens...I'm sort of itching to have another crack at it, because I feel like we can do something even much better next time."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla credits

Biggest international opening of 2014 so far, and the Big G isn't done destroying yet. Great work, previs team.

The previs credits, with a logo added. Previs lead Eric Carney was credited separately up the list.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Godzilla crew screening

Last night I finally saw Godzilla at the Warner Brothers lot. Phones weren't allowed, but there was a keepsake:
The only evidence.
The director, Gareth Edwards, gave a nice intro speech talking about how thankful he was for all the hard work the teams put in. Since he started from a visual effects background, he said he knew what it felt like to do so much work and have so much credit go to another person. Apparently the cast screening hadn't happened yet, and so other than the press, we were the first people it was screened for.

As usual, I can't go into any specifics that haven't already been confirmed by the film's marketing campaign, but I will say that I absolutely loved how it came out--and my expectations were very high going into it. Not only were the VFX jaw-dropping, but Bryan Cranston's performance kept me emotionally invested from the start. What can I say? Working on the movie turned me into a fanboy. When you go see it, be sure to see it on a huge IMAX 3D screen. Anything else is an injustice to the big guy.

Congratulations to everyone that worked on it. The Third Floor team got lots of names in the credits, which was great (you'll see mine on screen left). At the time I was on the project, we were working on the following sequences, with the shots I personally worked on in parentheses:

1. Godzilla approaching the Golden Gate sequence ('boat getting lifted on a big wave' shot, shots of soldiers reacting from the boats)
2. All hell breaking loose on the bridge (kids in the school bus looking out at the military preparing to fight, navy ships launching cruise missiles, soldiers scrambling around while the bridge bets blown up)
3. HALO jump (high angles on the group as they fell)
4. Very start of the Muto vs. Godzilla showdown in Chinatown

We also did some early motion design tests (6:30) of how Godzilla and the Mutos would fight, which was a lot of fun, even though they were animation exercises that weren't for any particular shots in the movie.

A final note to wrap up this post: Back in 2001, after finishing my Softimage 3.7 training in film school, I knew I needed some animation experience with the Maya program. My classmate Sony, a huge Godzilla fan, had built, rigged, and textured two giant monsters and a city block of Vancouver in Maya, and he asked me to animate them fighting. It was the very first thing I animated in Maya, outside of the Salty the Seal tutorial. Who would have thought that all these years later that experience would help to inform the motion of the latest Godzilla incarnation? What a weird coincidence...

La Brea and Melrose,  Los Angeles

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Writeup about Proof, inc. in the Los Angeles Times this week/release dates for 2014

The Los Angeles Times has a nice writeup today of Proof, inc, the previsualization company where I am currently working on the upcoming film, Night of the Museum 3.:

Los Angeles Times: Previsualization firm Proof helps filmmakers plan for complex scenes

Be sure to look out for Night of the Museum 3 in theaters when it releases on December 19, 2014.

If you are interested to know where else you can see some of the fun projects I've worked on recently, here is a rundown for the release dates in 2014 (bold = available to see now):

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE   In movie theaters NOW. Released March 9, 2014. (uncredited)

DIVERGENT   In movie theaters NOW. Released March 21, 2014.

DESPICABLE ME: MINION MAYHEM   theme park ride, in 3D. Open NOW at the Universal Studios theme parks in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida.

GODZILLA   opens in theaters May 16, 2014.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST   opens in theaters May 23, 2014.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES   opens in theaters August 8, 2014.

THE MAZE RUNNER   opens in theaters September 19, 2014.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3: SECRET OF THE TOMB   opens in theaters December 19, 2014

It's good to be busy. Be sure to check back to this blog for updates with details on what I worked on within each project. Keep in mind that, due to confidentiality agreements, I am not able to write about anything that is not already public knowledge. That said, please come back often and please leave comments when you do!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tim Burton Sits Down With Ray Harryhausen

The push-in shot at 8:51 made me smile. It's a great moment of him really feeling the weight of Burton's overflowing appreciation for him and his work. Although nearly all of the panels I ever saw at Comic-Con were enjoyable and memorable, I regret not making it a priority to see his "Ray and Ray (Bradbury)" panels there before Harryhausen passed away.