In an earlier visit with visual effects supervisor and current head of vfx at MPC Vancouver Greg Butler, he shared perspectives on the art and business of moviemaking. At a moment when screens are flooded with summer blockbusters that are dependent on obviously CG action scenes, such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland, Greg Butler’s most recent project as a visual effects supervisor on American Sniper provides very interesting perspectives on one of the most important objectives of a great deal of the effects work in today’s movies: to enhance or significantly fill in visual information from what was created and captured during principal photography in ways so that it is invisible.
Here is a link to a full interview with Greg Butler about his work on American Sniper to understand the degree to which Clint Eastwood’s movie is completely dependent on CG in order to create the world of its story. Butler had previously worked with Eastwood on the director’s period musical Jersey Boys. You can also check out earlier discussion of invisible effects in the earlier Close-Up interview in which Greg Butler discusses his work on Amazing Grace, among other projects.
Homemade Visual Effects with Greg Butler
Of course, Butler has also helped to craft some of the most compelling fantastical and imaginative worlds and characters in recent years, including groundbreaking work on both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. Discussing one point in the creation of Gollum that illustrates the attention to detail that one must show in this work, he commented, “In the CG model setup, there was an invisible sphere behind Gollum’s eyelid that meant that whenever his cornea moved, the skin would bulge out in a realistic way. This is the one time we got to use it because he was sleeping with his eyes closed, and his eyes moved as if he was having a bad dream. We were proud of the fact that we got to use this technique. These were the sort of subtle nuances we were seeking out to bring him to life. We want you to be completely in the movie.” And that is the case whether you are conscious of the VFX being present or not — or if the filmmakers want you to know that they are present or not.
As one last comment on the “Art & Business of Moving Images” that goes back to Part 1, in our visit Butler shared perspectives that students do not often think about: the day-to-day life of working on the movie industry. He comments, “If you’re interested in working in film, your choices in life become limited – unless you find an interesting avenue that occasionally people are able to find – you’re either going to end up living in the L.A. area, or you’re going to be a nomad… in terms of developing movies, the dealmaking is all L.A. In terms of making movies, it’s L.A., but all around the world. You’re on a constant road show, touring band, carnival ride, living on a film set. And you have to live that. Maybe it’s okay when you’re in your twenties, but it’s something to consider. When it comes to post-production, visual effect, sound editing – your options open up a bit more: L.A. is still the center, but it’s broken down now, and there’s still lots of other places, like New York, London, Vancouver. And that is continuing to evolve. In fact, my company, MPC, is now opening up a new division in Montreal.”
Posted in Chapter 8, Visual Effects | Tagged American Sniper, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Gollum, Greg Butler, Jersey Boys, MPC visual effects, The Lord of the Rings, Tomorrowland | Leave a Comment »
Capturing Style – and getting the period right
How to seduce the viewer, the consumer, the public? A show that has explored that driving question in very powerful, incisive, and grownup ways has been the series Mad Men, which is reaching its final episode in just a few days. This article by Brooke Marine from Vulture features the work of co-producer Josh Weltman, who was brought on board Mad Men by creator and showrunner Matt Weiner to create fictional period-appropriate advertising for protagonist adman Don Draper.
The challenges presented by commercial work have been explored in Moving Images and in previous posts on this blog, including an appreciation of Saul Bass and the close-up interview with Kevin Goff, creator of the 2015 Esurance ad featuring the Breaking Bad Walter White character and McDonald’s “Mom vs. Dad” and “The Last Fry,” among others. Besides “seducing strangers,” as Josh Weltman puts it, how about simply keeping the attention of teenagers or college students? That’s the enormous challenge faced by any young filmmakers creating ads or PSAs for high school or university contexts. It’s also a tall order that can help any young adpeople to hone their communications skills for some of the toughest audiences imaginable. And this helps all students to understand and critique the media messages that they face every day.
Posted in Chapter 3, Media Literacy | Tagged Advertising Media Literacy, Brooke Marine, Josh Weltman, Kevin Goff, Mad Men, Matt Weiner, Saul Bass | Leave a Comment »
Leaping at you!
This weekend, free comic book day is arriving and we are about to be hit with the Age of Ultron juggernaut. Meanwhile, for some time now, superhero tales have been popping inventively through the channels of television as well, including the current franchises of DC’s The Arrow and The Flash, among others. Recently, Marvel’s Daredevil has joined the fray courtesy of Netflix, ready for being devoured in hours of bingeing. (One student in a class discussion about sports asked if among winter sports in which he takes part one could consider binge-watching because it’s a sort of competition and includes a variety of skills in order to master its intricacies and emerge a victor from among friends.) The Daredevil TV series, created by Drew Goddard, has garnered quite a strong fan reaction for its clever retelling of the comic’s 1960’s origin story and successive development by writer Stan Lee and artists including Bill Everett and influential maverick creator Wally Wood.
Karen Page, Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson: you make it with your characters
For those interested in an interesting screenwriting lesson, this recent podcast on The Frame with show runner Steven DeKnight features many compelling discussion points and revealing commentary about scripting television series, including story structure and character development — and how they are dependent on episode length, platform, and target audiences. DeKnight also discusses details about the content of the show and how tone and violence were key issues for the show’s creators to consider.
Posted in Chapter 7 | Tagged Daredevil, Drew Goddard, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Matt Murdock, screenwriting, Steven DeKnight, The Frame, Wally Wood | Leave a Comment »
For a lesson in the art of directing from American master Steven Spielberg, here is an educational exercise courtesy of another American master, Steven Soderbergh. On his site Extension 765, Soderbergh has taken the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark and posted a version of it in which he has removed the color and replaced the entire soundtrack with a contemporary — and very Soderberghian — score, in order to study the staging, pace, and other visual elements of Spielberg’s direction. And, yes, Raiders looks superb in black and white, thanks to its cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (still alive at 103 years old!), who also shot such classics as Rollerball, The Lion in Winter, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, and one of my all-time favorites, The Fearless Vampire Killers. If you ever wondered what Raiders of the Lost Ark would look like as a silent film, this is it! And if you are looking to see how others have learned lessons from the directing (and cinematography and editing) skills of Mr. Steven Soderbergh, look no further than that little TV show Breaking Bad. For my money, Vince Gilligan and his colleagues must have spent a fair amount of time watching various examples of Soderbergh’s work to find inspiration for Breaking Bad from the tone, pace, atmosphere, and other elements of style in a number of his best movies.
Posted in Chapter 1 | Tagged Breaking Bad, Douglas Slocombe, Extension 765, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Vince Gilligan, Visual Literacy | Leave a Comment »
That’s not really what they say in French to begin a take, but it will work on this occasion. In fact, the “cinématographe” was the groundbreaking device invented by Louis Lumière, working with his brother Auguste, over 120 years ago. To mark this 120th anniversary of the birth of projected movies and the inventions, innovations, and visions of the Lumière brothers, the Institut Lumière based in Lyon, France has partnered with the Grand Palais in Paris to create an exhibition “dedicated to the flagship inventions of the Lyon-based pioneers of cinema, Louis and Auguste Lumière.”
Rachel Donadio, writing in the New York Times, states “Back before Instagram and selfies, before home movies and Kodachrome — and long before the obsessive documentation and online sharing of every moment of our waking lives — there were two brothers from Lyon whose innovations opened the door to the future.” It is appropriate that this exhibit is in Paris, where the brothers held the first paid public screening of their movies on December 28, 1895 at the Grand Café, and where they screened large-format 75mm films at the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Check out this thorough article from the New York Times for an introduction to these inspiring filmmakers, or of course consult the pages in Chapter 2 of Moving Images that describe their place in moving image history.
Posted in Chapter 2 | Tagged Grand Palais, Institut Lumière, Invention of Cinema, Louis Lumière, Lumière! Le Cinéma inventé, Rachel Donadio | Leave a Comment »