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