Join us at 10 am PST for a live chat with "Battle: Los Angeles" vfx supervisor Everett Burrell.
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Variety tech guru David Cohen answers your questions about the industry. Chat starts at 10 a.m. PST.
(Editor’s note: Author Jeff Siedlik is a designer at Variety who attended last week's Comic Con. He submitted this piece to Technotainment.)
Dave Gibbons is the penciller and inker of the most celebrated graphic novel in comics’ history, but he’s hardly one to stick with tradition. The man whose style steered “The Watchmen” – along with a slew of other comic works – no longer uses pencils or ink to do his work.
Gibbons says he uses Smith Micro’s Manga Studio Pro, which combines the comics-related aspects of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator with 3-D capabilities. It’s not a photography program that’s applied to comics, it’s software specifically developed with comics in mind.
“For a long time, the tech guys had no artistic vision, while the art guys couldn’t grasp the tech,” says Gibbons. “With Manga Studio, the developers and artists worked very closely to put out something specifically for comics.”
Laying out panels, a process considered tedious by many artists, can be done in seconds. Brush strokes can be nudged and tweaked to precision. And complex 3D objects such as cars can be imported, rotated and re-used from one panel to the next.
And in a world where many professional pencillers complete one page per day, Gibbons says he’s now able to pencil, ink and letter six pages per week. – assuming he doesn’t keep re-tweaking the work
“The best thing about the computer is that you can keep changing your mind,” he says. “And the worst thing about the computer is that… you can keep changing your mind!”
Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios continues to surprise people. The game development house headed by the former major league pitcher took the wraps off of its first game – “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” – last week. Now it’s showing some of the talent behind it.
Celebrated artist and writer Todd McFarlane worked with Zoic Studios to create the trailer for the game (viewable here), which is based on the works of R. A. Salvatore.
It’s an impressive lineup of talent that surprised many casual industry observers, who assumed Schilling would take the easy route and create a baseball game. What they don’t realize is that he’s a long-time gamer, who has been watching the industry for years.
Leading the development team on the game is Ken Rolston, a 25-year industry veteran best known for his work on the “Elder Scrolls” franchise at Bethesda. (He was lead designer on “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” one of 2006’s most critically acclaimed games.)
Zoic, meanwhile, is an fx house who has done work on ABC’s “V” and “Flash Forward” as well as Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”.
Interested in learning the latest about where 3D entertainment is going? Variety and the Entertainment Technology Center will host the 3D Entertainment Summit on Sept. 16 and 17 at the Hilton Los Angeles in Universal City, CA.
The Summit will feature never before seen 3D presentations of trailers, footage and video games as well as hands-on tech demos and networking receptions. Among the speakers are:
- Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO & President of Dreamworks Animation
- Michael Lewis, Chairman and CEO & Co-founder, RealD
- Sandy Climan, CEO, 3ality Digital
- David Hill, A.M., Chairman & CEO, Fox Sports Television Group
- Greg Foster, Chairman & President, Filmed Entertainment, IMAX
- Bob Dowling, Co-Producer & Conference Chairman
- Peter Bart, Vice President & Editorial Director, Variety
Forgive the plug, but as 3D becomes more and more widespread in the entertainment world, it's good to know where you can get some expert opinions on where it's going. You can learn more about the Summit at http://www.3d-summit.com/
Backstage at the Oscars after collecting his statutette for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Digital Domain's Eric Barba said he hoped that the studios would dust off projects that demand photo-realistic digital humans -- and that that is already happening. Today we get another indication that he is right.
Image Metrics, the facial motion capture company, has announced that London vfx studio Double Negative is beta-testing Image Metrics' latest offering. Image Metrics uses an array of miniature cameras to do markerless facial performance capture, then uses that data to animate a CGI face. It's been used to let actors perform a new commercial "starring" "I Love Lucy" characters Fred & Ethel, for example.
Image Metrics' software was repurposed by Digital Domain for one part of its "Benjamin Button" pipeline, but DD's pipeline was cobbled together with technology from several sources, including Image Metrics' rival Mova.
I spoke to Image Metrics' Kelvin Duckett, who explained what's new about what DNeg is testing: Previously, Image Metrics did almost everything in-house. They ingested the data, animated the final digital face and sent the completed animation back to the client. Clients who wanted to tweak that animation had to come to Image Metrics offices in either Santa Monica or England.
Now, Image Metrics can send the data to DNeg, who will do their animation in their own facility, with a software plugin from Image Metrics that works with commercial software. DNeg can tweak to their hearts' content, in their own facility, with their own security. (And DNeg has experience with high-security projects. On my one visit there, during production on "Batman Begins," the computers for that picture were on a separate floor with its own, isolated computer network and restricted card-key access.)
DNeg has become one of London's more important vfx studios and their website lists many major movies in production. So what are they using this softare for? Managing director Alex Hope would only tell me: "We are using it within our general R&D effort. I'm afraid at present I can't discuss project applications." -- which is normal for vfx shops, especially if they're doing tests for a future studio tentpole. It sounds like they're looking at a future project that's not already announced. But clearly something's in the works that involves some heavy-duty work on digital humans.