Creating movie effects on a TV Schedule – ILM’s work for Agent Carter.

Wired/FX Guide have posted a very concise look at the VFX work done by ILM, on the TV show, Agent Carter.

The television VFX work looks spectacular, but it’s even more interesting to see that these grandees of the effects industry are producing work for television*.

Is this a sign of the growing maturity of episodic television, or more related to economic conditions within the film industry?

*This isn’t the first occasion that ILM have worked on a television series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles would be one previous example.

Trying something new: A 1:6 scale miniature set, with 3D tracking and digital extensions…

Having worked exclusively in digital formats for the past 15 years, I have recently been making a concerted effort to resurrect some of my practical design skills. Around five years ago, I started to sketch more frequently, as I began to take on more of a design lead on projects. It proved a great complement to pixels.

More recently, I have looked to expand upon this positive experience and started to explore the use of miniatures in filmmaking. The shots below are of a miniature I have been developing for a sequence of shots based on a snowy environment I have designed. Two faces of a section of a building have been constructed, and set within a snow covered landscape. This miniature set design will ultimately be extended through the use of digital set extensions and 3D tracking.

Shot of the in-progress, 1:6 scale, miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
A shot of the miniature including snow and ice effects.

The shell of the building was made out of foamcore, which was then clad in balsa. The balsa was ridiculously pristine when first applied, but has since been aged and weathered with heavily diluted ink washes. The snow is a combination of polystyrene base, on top of which, model railway snow effects and marble dust (to add sparkle) have been applied. The icicles are made by applying model railway water effect gel to waxed paper. Once dried, they are glued to the eaves of the building. It’s not finished yet, but so far, it’s proved to be a hugely, enjoyable indulgence.

Detail shot of 1:6 scale miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
Detail of the miniature in it’s current stage of development.

As with any miniature, depth of field has proved problematic. The only way to counter this, has been to dramatically stop down. Testing has shown f16 to be the absolute maximum, but to achieve optimum results, I am going to need to reduce the aperture even further. The direct consequence of this, is that I then need ridiculous levels of light.

I’m currently looking at stop motion techniques to achieve small apertures, with less light and longer exposures. This approach will allow for better digital environments through better depth of field and improved image quality and resolution compared to video capture.

I wanted to post these before Fortitude is screened tomorrow, as I started work on this last Autumn but business has been very busy and limited the opportunities to work on these kinds of personal projects.

Work schedules permitting, I’m hoping to have the first sequence completed by the Spring

An earlier shot of the miniature set, prior to adding snow and ice effects.
Shot of the miniature prior to the application of snow and ice effects.

 

Elysium FX: A micro featurette for Wired by FX Guide

A very concise micro featurette by FX Guide, for Wired, that looks at the push to get back to doing more effects in-camera. Whilst the reviews for the films story have been reserved (listen to Mark Kermodes review for BBC Radio 5), there is no denying that visually, it looks stunning. Despite being introduced as a look at the return to in-camera effects, the miniatures used in the movie flash by too quickly. At the same time, arguably the showpiece of the whole film is the Elysium Torus, but that’s a CG effect. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad way to waste 3 minutes on a Friday.

Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013

As a kid, this (Valley of Gwangi, 1969) was one of the most awesome things I had ever seen when it appeared as the Saturday night movie on our black and white TV*. This movie, along with the Seven Voyages of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts were quite magical. I knew that they were models and miniatures, but I didn’t care because they were beautifully crafted and to me, seemed full of life. It was not until my teens that I discovered that the same man, Ray Harryhausen was responsible for these films, along with a whole host of other fantastic visions.

Sadly, Ray Harryhausen passed away yesterday. The obituary in todays Guardian does a better job than I ever could, but it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that cinema has lost one of it’s true greats.

*It was the mid-seventies in a tired seaside town in North Yorkshire and I would have been approx six years old. Colour TV had been invented (I’m not that old), but only a few of the neighbours had it.

Before VFX – Blockbuster movies without visual effects

“My intention is to highlight the artistry of VFX by showing you the canvas. At a time when even Hollywood can’t seem tell the difference between Oscar-winning Visual Effects and Oscar-winning Cinematography, I think it needs to be made clear which is which. Without the fantastic VFX work by talented artists, Hollywood films would not be what they are today.” – Before VFX Tumblr blog

Before VFX Tumblr Blog

Partly a re-action to the deepening crisis in the VFX industry, particularly in the US, the Before VFX Tumblr blog lets the work do the talking.

For more  information on the problems facing the VFX industry:

FX Guide: VFX Protest at Oscars

BBC News piece by film critic, Mark Kermode

 

 

 

Creating the digitial environments of Prometheus

An in-depth look at the digital environments created by MPC for Prometheus.

I found the quality of visual content in Prometheus surpassed anything offered by the story, but this is a Ridley Scott film after all and by the laws of cinema it couldn’t look anything other than magnificent.

The digital environments here are comprised entirely of landscapes inspired by the scenery of Iceland and Wadi Rum in Jordan. Visual Effects supervisor Richard Stammers talks us through the process of creating the surface of planet LV-223, from initial location scouting, through the use of Google Earth, to the final construction and composition of the digital world.

This feauturette is better than the special features supplied on the DVD/Blu-ray and well worth your time.