Wednesday, July 13, 2016

STAR TREK BEYOND Trailer #3

The final trailer. I look forward to seeing the true impact of these space shots on the big screen:


Friday, June 17, 2016

The latest trailer for STAR TREK BEYOND

This is overdue by several weeks, but here is my blogspot link to the new Star Trek Beyond trailer. I like it much more than the first one:



I was especially happy with how one of my shots in it turned out. The rendering on the environment looks incredible. Hats off to the final VFX artists who made that happen:


Friday, March 4, 2016

Oscar Week Podcasts


I meant to post these earlier, but here are the two podcast appearances I did over the last week and a half discussing the Academy Awards. Overall, I thought this year was a step in the right direction in terms of comedic content, and I thought Chris Rock was a breath of fresh air. Spotlight was my favorite to win Best Picture, even though I had picked The Revenant (a severe underperformer) in my office's Oscar Pool. Speaking of which, I ended up with 16/24 in a particularly difficult year for predictions, what with the Best Director/Best Picture split and many close races due to early awards splitting between different nominees. One of the best examples of this was Stallone not having a SAG nomination, which ended pup being a factor in losing that category. Once again, people who picked a straight-ticket Vegas ballot were prevented from going 24/24. For more on how I made my predictions, click here. In the future I will be researching what guilds are more predictive after this year's data, and update my finding to hopefully build on what was informative this year.

For those interested in hearing some conversations around the event, here are two links to podcasts on which I appeared to discuss the Oscars. I hope you enjoy them.

Oscar Predictions Podcast 2/25

Oscar Recap Podcast 3/1 (featuring my mom)

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Oscar Predictions

Now that most of the Hollywood movie guilds have had their award shows, I'm posting the most relevant Oscar winner data that I've been compiling over the last two months. Hopefully this transparent information is handy to readers as they prepare their picks for their office pools. Be sure to also check out my last post for a digital painting I did featuring this year's Best Visual Effects nominees. My picks are listed in italics below.

Most Oscar nominations: 12-The Revenant, 10-Mad Max, 7-The Martian, 6-Carol, Bridge of Spies, Spotlight, 5-Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Most BAFTA nominations: 9-Carol, Bridge of Spies, 8-The Revenant, 7-Mad Max, 6-The Martian, Brooklyn, 5-The Big Short, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, 4-Star Wars, 3-Spotlight, Sicario, Steve Jobs, The Hateful Eight, 2-Amy, Inside Out, Theeb
Guild Awards Ceremony Schedule:
1/9: Los Angeles Film Critics Association (Critics Circle, one of many)

1/10: Golden Globes (GG)
1/17: Critics Choice (CC)
2/13: Writer's Guild (WGA)
2/28: Academy Awards
Below are the nominees, listed in order announced. In each category's parentheses are the main indicators of who will win.
Key:
(V) best Vegas odds  (B) BAFTA winner, (AA) Annie Award winner, (N) most overall nominations of the category's nominees, (RT) Rotten tomatoes score, (*) special requirement of past winners (BZ miss) category Ben Zauzmer missed in 2015 (Vegas miss) category Las Vegas odds sites missed in 2015
SUPPORTING ACTOR (*SAG winner, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, DQS - not nominated for SAG). 
  • CC, Christian Bale, The Big Short  RT 88%
  • DQS Tom Hardy, The Revenant  RT 81%
  • DQS Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight  RT 97%
  • B, Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
  • DQS, GG, V Sylvester Stallone, Creed  RT 93%

  •  
  • COSTUME DESIGN (BAFTA winner, Costume Designer's Guild, *B + CDG = lock, DQB-not a BAFTA nominee. Period usually beats Fantasy)
    • Carol  RT 94%
    • Cinderella  RT 84%
    • CDG, The Danish Girl  RT 71%
    • *CDG, B, CC, V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
    • DQB The Revenant  RT 81%


MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING (Matches BAFTA winner 60% of the time, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild, Critics Circle, N-total noms)
  • MUAH, B, CC, V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared  RT 67%
  • N The Revenant  RT 81%


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (most other nominations, misc. honors)
  • Embrace of the Serpent  RT 100%
  • Mustang  RT 98%
  • CC, GG, V Son of Saul  RT 92%
  • Theeb  RT 96%
  • A War  RT 100%

    • SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) (not enough data)
      • V Ave Maria
      • Day One
      • Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
      • Shok
      • Stutterer


    • DOCUMENTARY SHORT (not enough data, HBO screens)
      • HBO, V Body Team 12
      • HBO Chau, Beyond the Lines
      • Claude Lanzmann
      • A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
      • Last Day of Freedom


      • SOUND MIXING (BAFTA better at predicting Mixing than Editing), Cinema Audio Society, Goes with Sound Editing winner only 44% of the timeVegas miss
      • Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
      • V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens  RT 93%
      • The Martian  RT 93%
      • CAS, B The Revenant  RT 81%


      SOUND EDITING (Motion Picture Sound Editors, American Cinema Editors, BAFTA. Goes with Sound Mixing winner only 44% of the time)
      • ACE, V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
      • Sicario  RT 93%
      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens  RT 93%
      • The Martian  RT 93%
      • B The Revenant  RT 81%


    • SUPPORTING ACTRESS (SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, DQS - not nominated for SAG)
      • DQS Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight  RT 74%
      • V Rooney Mara, Carol  RT 94%
      • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight  RT 97%
      • SAG, CC, V Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl  RT 71%
      • B, GG Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs  RT 85%


    • VISUAL EFFECTS (BAFTA 9/10N-most overall nominations, Predictinator, S-space themed helps, V-VES winner)
      • Ex Machina  RT 92%
      • CC Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
      • S The Martian  RT 93%
      • Predictinator, N The Revenant  RT 81%
      • B, VES, S, V Star Wars: The Force Awakens  RT 93%


ANIMATED SHORT (not enough data, Annie Awards, DQA - not nominated for Annie)
  • DQA Bear Story
  • DQA Prologue
  • V Sanjay's Super Team
  • DQA We Can't Live Without Cosmos
  • AA  World of Tomorrow


ANIMATED FEATURE (BAFTA, Golden Globe, Annie winner, DQG - not nominated for Golden Globe, DQA - not nominated for Annie) BZ miss, Vegas miss
  • Anomalisa  RT 93%
  • DQG, DQA Boy and the World   RT 95%
  • GG, AA, B, CC, V Inside Out  RT 98%
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie  RT 99%
  • DQG, DQA When Marnie Was There  RT 89%


PRODUCTION DESIGN (BAFTA 5/7 recently, Art Directors Guild, BAFTA+ ADG = lock. Period usually beats Fantasy)
  • Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
  • The Danish Girl  RT 71%
  • ADG, B, CC, V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • ADG The Martian  RT 93%
  • ADG The Revenant  RT 81%

CINEMATOGRAPHY (*normally requires a Production Design nomination, G-ASC winner a weak predictor)
  • Carol  RT 94%
  • The Hateful Eight  RT 74%
  • *Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • ASC, B, CC, V,* The Revenant  RT 81%
  • Sicario  RT 93%


FILM EDITING American Cinema Editors (ACE + BAFTA winner agree - 5/5), BZ miss
  • ACE, The Big Short  RT 88%
  • ACE, B, CC, V Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • The Revenant  RT 81%
  • Spotlight  RT 97%
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens  RT 93%


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE (tough to predict, multiple nominations, DGA, BAFTA)
  • B, CC, V Amy  RT 96%
  • DGA, Cartel Land  RT 91%
  • The Look of Silence  RT 96%
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?  RT 81%
  • Winter on Fire  RT 94%

ORIGINAL SONG (no good predictor, GG, Critics Choice went to an un-nominated song this year, Critics Circles)
  • "Earned It" - Fifty Shades of Grey  RT 25%
  • "Manta Ray" - Racing Extinction  RT 77%
  • "Simple Song #3" - Youth  RT 74%
  • V "Til It Happens to You" - The Hunting Ground  RT 93%
  • GG "Writing's on the Wall" - Spectre  RT 64%


ORIGINAL SCORE (GG the best but a weak predictor) BZ miss, Vegas miss
  • Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
  • Carol  RT 94%
  • B, CC, GG, V The Hateful Eight  RT 74%
  • Sicario  RT 93%
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens  RT 93%


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (WGA, DQW- no WGA nominationVegas miss
  • Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
  • DQW Ex Machina  RT 92%
  • DQW Inside Out  RT 98%
  • WGA, B, CC, V Spotlight  RT 97%
  • Straight Outta Compton  RT 88%


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY (WGA, USC scripter award 5/5 last 5 years, BAFTA, DQW-no WGA nomination, DQB- no BAFTA nomination)
  • WGA, B, CC, V The Big Short  RT 88%
  • DQW Brooklyn  RT 98%
  • Carol  RT 94%
  • DQB The Martian  RT 93%
  • DQW, DQB Room  RT 97%


DIRECTOR (DGA winner, DQD - not nominated for DGA)
  • Adam McKay - The Big Short  RT 88%
  • CC, George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • DGA, B, V Alejandro G. Iñárritu - The Revenant  RT  81%
  • DQD Lenny Abrahamson - Room  RT 97%
  • Tom McCarthy - Spotlight  RT 97%


ACTOR (SAG winner, DQS - not nominated for SAG)
  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo  RT 70%
  • DQS, GG Matt Damon, The Martian  RT 93%
  • SAG, B, CC, GG, V Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant  RT 81%
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs  RT 85%
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl  RT 71%


ACTRESS (SAG winner, DQS - not nominated for SAG)
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol  RT 94%
  • SAG, B, CC, GG, V Brie Larson, Room  RT 97%
  • DQS, GG Jennifer Lawrence, Joy  RT 60%
  • DQS Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years  RT 98%
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn  RT 98%

PICTURE (PGA winner, DQP-not nominated for PGA, DGA winner, BE-Best Ensemble SAG nom/win, (BS) Best Screenplay nom, WGA nom, Normally needs 7+ nominations, N-most nominations)
  • BS, CC The Big Short  RT 88%
  • BS, Bridge of Spies  RT 91%
  • BS, Brooklyn  RT 98%
  • GG Mad Max: Fury Road  RT 97%
  • BS, The Martian  RT 93%
  • B, N, GG, V The Revenant  RT 81%
  • Room  RT 97%
  • WGA, BS, BE, Spotlight  RT 97%


Helpful links:
Guild nominations leaderboard

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/oscars-your-essential-guide-short-867680

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_film_awards#/United_States

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016 Best Visual Effects Oscar Race artwork and works in progress

Last year I thought it would be fun to sketch a little battle scene between all the visual effects nominees for the Academy Awards. This year the contestants came from Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian. This is a challenging one to predict, but I think it will go to Star Wars, despite that franchise normally being passed over in this category. There was some strong early buzz for Mad Max and a late surge from The Revenant, which is the only film in the category I have not seen at the time of this writing.

This year I wanted to step it up a bit, and used this piece as an introduction to Corel Painter 2016. As a longtime Photoshop user, it was a bit wobbly getting started (I still don't have a good solution for an eraser tool hotkey), but I've liked the program more each time I used it, and find the brush selection easy to use and helpful to reconnect with when I used to paint with oils or work with conte crayons. Color mixing is also seems much easier.

Ex Machina's Ava,  Mad Max: Fury Road's Imperator Furiosa, The Revenant's Hugh Glass, Star Wars's Rey, and The Martian's Mark Watney having it out for Oscar gold.

Here's how the process went:
Three thumbnails were sketched in my phone's Painter app to test compositions. The iconic Mad Max War Boys were originally featured more prominently, and in the second one Rey gives Hugh a good smack. The third composition had Rey and Finn trapped on the floor of a canyon. The initial idea on the left ended up being chosen.

A closer look at the "approved" thumbnail. Mark was originally in his Mars Rover back in the midground, and Hugh rode the Revenant bear while firing at us with his rifle (but that was a bit much). A Star Wars fleet helped fill the sky, but this was later dropped to help balance out the players.
After I brought the sketch into Painter, I made my first line pass, focusing mainly on the foreground fighters. Hugh replaces Finn next to Rey, and Mark replaces the War Boy. To help guide the focal point of the Oscar, I added a rifle on Hugh's back to help flow up to it from the bottom of the composition. It was around this time I was reading Hereward Cooke's Painting Techniques of the Masters and Ray Bethers' Composition in Pictures, which helped with the composition.
Something wasn't right with Rey. I had decided to pick Star Wars as the winner around this time, and she needed to have a larger role in the composition. I still wanted her staff to provide the same tangent pointing to the Oscar though, so I sketched up some poses and settled on the "Force grab" one.
Final "ink" pass, with some background detail sketched in. This was all done using the Scratchboard tool up to this point.

The "underpaint" pass, below the inks layer. Getting used to the different brushes now, including the conte crayon. For this piece, I remembered to pick a particular color to fill the background with and paint over, which I normally forget to do. As you'd expect, it helped immensely in tying the color palette together.

At this point, I thought a more dramatic sky with a Mad Max-style lightning storm could work better, but it would have undermined all the lighting I had painted on the characters up to that point. I decided against it based on time constraints.

The subtler sky, styled to look like it could belong in the worlds of either Mad Max or The Martian. I made small adjustments to the background landscape to help draw attention to the area where the Oscar statue is. After this I went back to Photoshop for the text pass and called it a day.
Or, when put all together:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Using 3D Animation to Examine Composition in Vermeer's "The Music Lesson"

I've been watching videos on classic painters this week, and came across Vermeer: Master of Light, a 2001 documentary about the master narrated by Meryl Streep. It started out slow and straightforward for those familiar with the painter, but then it cut to a segment that truly impressed me. Taking an incredibly close look at his painting "The Music Lesson," the filmmakers used 3D animation to rearrange the elements of the painting to help better understand the impact of its final composition. They do such a great job with their presentation that there's nothing I can add. Kudos to those who worked on it. Watch:



It's examinations like this that serve as a helpful reminder of how much thought goes into the simple arrangement of elements in an image. Painters like Vermeer thought about these things to a staggering extent.