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The Mill uses Houdini February 2, 2008

Posted by farhanriaz in 3D, Review, Software, VFX.
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Time Saved is Real Tipping Point

In the end, the final look of the Tipping Point ad is a testament to the creative vision and skill of the team which resulted in a commercial that is spell binding in its impact on viewers. That achievement is all the more remarkable when one considers the tight twelve week time frame in which the production was completed while bringing to life the vision of the director.

“In the past, I had always thought about making a jump to Houdini because of its reputation as a powerful CG animation tool,” said Bares. “After using it, I realize how on certain projects I have been throwing away time writing scripts to solve production problems. Now I see that Houdini’s node-based approach is great to use period. I expect we will be seeing a steady stream of work from The Mill that uses Houdini.”

A Growing Appreciation for a Powerful Tool

The team at The Mill was pleased to see that the ramp-up time to learn Houdini was modest. An experienced Houdini artist was brought in to do the initial TD work based on pre-production plans. At the same time, he worked with the other team members to quickly get their Houdini skills productionready.

As familiarity with Houdini grew, initial plans to only use it for a small part of the pipeline was adjusted to give it a bigger role in order to better meet production requirements.

“I initially wanted to do the inner structure of the pint shot in Softimage XSI. I then realized that it was much faster to set things up in Houdini before transferring to XSI for geometry tweaking,” said Bares. “We built a very sophisticated proprietary import/export system so we could transfer geometry, particles, fluids, and hair from Maya to Houdini and back again and from XSI to Houdini and back again. This lets us to work with whichever tool is best suited to the job at hand.”

“From the beginning, we anticipated scrutiny from the client, director and agency when it came to creating the look of a Guinness pour using a tower of books,” said Jordi Bares, Joint-Head of 3D of The Mill’s London-based studio. “We needed to manage more than 60,000 CG objects, each controlled by multiple variables, while maintaining the ability to respond to client feedback.”

Using Houdini meant that the team could accommodate changes such as making the pint taller , adding more books, or creating more pages per book. For example, the ability to shift timing elements and speed in specific rows played a major role in helping to create the stop and start characteristic in the sequence that imitated the Guinness two-part pour.

“We found out very soon that we had to do the final scene in 3D. Tests involving our CG team, a concept artist and matte painter showed us that the shot was complex but do-able,” said Bares. “By rigging up the whole structure in Houdini, we could make very accurate changes. For example, Houdini let us set up specific controls for the number of pages per book and the speed at which they turned. This had a tremendous impact on the overall feeling of the shot.”

“We were able to tie in the start and stop pattern of the pour into the rig by adding per row control. Each book would find out which row it was in, read the right parameters for that row’s control and act according to instruction.” said Bares. “Even though this was one of the most difficult, jobs I have ever worked on, using Houdini gave us control over timing and speed and ultimately made the project pretty easy to manage.”

By taking advantage of Houdini’s procedural architecture, the team was able to explore creative ideas throughout the production process without ever writing a single script. They were able to load over 60,000 objects and easily manipulate them in 3D. The team also usedHoudini Mantra to render the shot and was able to build a fast and effective rendering process that helped make sequence visualization quick and detailed.

“Manipulating this many objects would have been a huge challenge in either Maya or XSI,’ said Bares.“And Mantra was able to render the whole lot in no time which made me very happy.”

The Mill uses Houdini to deliver the Perfect Pourin Guinness “Tipping Point” Ad

Getting the perfect pour on a pint of Guinness is considered part art; part science. Animators at The Mill faced a similar challenge when asked to create a Guinness pour out of thousands of books with flipping pages for the commercial “Tipping Point.”

Set in an Argentinean mountain village, the commercial follows an elaborate domino project that starts in a small house then grows to include everything from wheels to cars to flaming bales of hay. The action then culminates in a three dimensional tower of books where the pages flip in sequence to create a dramatic working model of the classic Guinness pour.

Built-in Flexibility

The team had initially planned to shoot the first few books on location then use CG to complete the shot. After a few days on set, the team quickly realized that the high altitude of 3200 m made it virtually impossible to create a real working model of the structure. The complete effect would therefore need to be created using CG. To establish a flexible process capable of meeting creative demands, the team chose to model, rig and render the Guinness tower shot in Houdini 9.

[Related Links]
The Mill
Tipping Point

~ by farhanriaz


2008 The PlayStation Evolution January 26, 2008

Posted by farhanriaz in Games, Software.
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How PlayStation will own 2008

Since the release of PSP, Sony’s been about creating platforms that aren’t just for gaming. Right now, both the PSP and PS3 are great for playing back movies, music, and displaying photos when you’re taking a break from button-bashing madness. Here’s how Sony plans to turn its PSP / PS3 combo into a real force to be reckoned with in 2008.

Sony has huge, on-going plans to evolve and enhance what both PlayStation platforms can do. It starts with PS3 becoming the centre of all your ‘digital lifestyle’ and feeding that down to the portable PSP. So much so that Sony hopes you’ll be using a PlayStation branded product as part of your everyday life.

We’re all in it for the games but with all these developments coming to our consoles, we’re happy (and rather excited) to embrace whatever other developments Sony may have. Here’s what we’ve got to look forward to in 2008.

PlayTV – TV tuner/recorder

Sony revealed at the Leipzig Games Convention last September its plans to turn PS3 into a digital TV receiver and recorder with the new PlayTV service.

Now, if you’ve got Sky Plus already you probably won’t give a damn. But with the ability to pause live TV, and to record programs onto the hard drive for later viewing, PlayTV is a luxury that many of us will be looking forward to.

And for us gadget-loving types, it gets even cooler when you consider PS3’s Remote Play connection with PSP. You’ll be able to access all your PS3’s recordings on your PSP via Wi-Fi internet, so you could be in India beaming the latest episode of Coronation Street to your portable. Isn’t that your dream? You know it is.

This is big bananas for the PS3 as a platform too, though. The phenomenal success of PS2 was partly thanks to the legions of people who bought it simply to use as a DVD player – the uncles out there that considered the game-playing part a mere bonus.

Those same people will be picking up a PS3 for its affordable, upgradeable Blu-ray capabilities as the population converts to HD entertainment, and the inclusion of recordable digital TV is, for those people, another crucial reason to buy the console over a dedicated Blu-ray player.

Hopefully Sony will keep the price of the receiver nice and low, so it can appeal to those same people, who tend not to like buying add-ons for consoles.


Sony is taking its bloody time with this one, but it insists that the virtual world for PS3 has to be nothing short of perfect before it’s released. Of course it won’t be, but the firm’s aiming high with this one.

Home is one of those things that, if done right, could have A-bomb-like impact on PS3, bringing the PlayStation community together with a level of virtual interactivity not available on any other console. It’ll give PS3 owners their own virtual space that could become as precious to them as the MySpace and Facebook phenomenon of the internet. Sony wants it to be more of course, but one step at a time.

It could become the place you spend time in everyday, searching for new content, meeting other people and making Xbox Live feel like a relatively shallow, empty experience faced by nothing but menu screens.

Home could be incredible. But if done wrong – if it doesn’t run smoothly, connect gamers the way it promises to, feature all the constantly-added content or be easily personalised – it could just become another ignored icon on your XMB menu.

First impressions though are extremely positive, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it for ourselves. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn into a breeding ground for sub-human behaviour. Like Xbox Live is becoming.

Go! Explore – GPS on PSP

None of us have TomToms in our cars. It’s got the worst name for a gadget ever, and the three-figure price tag is a lot to pay for fancy road maps that point you to the shops. They only end up getting stolen anyway.

So Sony unveils Go! Explore for PSP, which will be cheaper, smaller and more convenient than a dedicated machine. Suddenly we’re a lot more willing to let the wonders of satellite navigation technology into our lives. In fact, we’re actually looking forward to it.

PSP will become something that we’d actually carry around with us for its directional abilities. We’re waiting to see the full service in action but having a UMD dedicated to London town or another European city could put an end to getting stung at dodgy restaurants because you couldn’t find the one you wanted.


f GPS support isn’t already good enough a reason to carry about your PSP everywhere, how about the ability to use it as a phone over the internet?

Skype, a free voice-over-IP (VOIP) program currently used by PC types, will allow PSP owners to contact each other for free, using a microphone attachment that’ll come with the software. As long as you’re in range of a Wi-Fi access point, you’re good to chat as long as you like.

You can call real phones from it too, although that’ll cost a little – but it should be reasonably cheap. The only major downer is that Skype will only work on PSP Slims. Owners of the older model – Sony’s loyal early purchasers – will miss out on it completely, or be forced to make the upgrade. Thanks for that Sony.

Profile 2.0 Blu-ray support

A slightly less significant but nevertheless noteworthy part of PlayStation’s evolution, particularly in 2008, is the expansion of PS3’s Blu-ray playback abilities.

it’s ironic that not only is PS3 one of the cheapest Blu-ray players on the market, but it’s also the only future-proof player.

Profile 2.0 Blu-ray features will be launched later this year, which will allow users to download new content for their films, including trailers, features and ringtones.

But most of the dedicated Blu-ray players on the market to date lack support for internet connection, rendering them completely incapable of supporting the internet-centred features of Profile 2.0.

So as you’re downloading all the sweet Blu-ray content of joy on your PS3, you can laugh in the face of your rich uncle who bought a first-generation Blu-ray player for RS 100,000 that can’t do any of it.

~by farhanriaz

Cloverfield: Reinventing the Monster Movie January 23, 2008

Posted by farhanriaz in 3D, Movies, Review, VFX.
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From the moment a mysterious little teaser attached to Transformers hit theaters last July, an Internet obsession was born. Name-less and featuring no recognizable stars, the minute-and-a-half tease started out by slowly fleshing out the basic concept of a movie shot hand-held featuring some attractive twenty-somethings throwing a goodbye party for a friend. It was all rather Felicity-like until the tease kicked into overdrive with a Manhattan explosion and the head of the Statue of Liberty rocketing onto the streets of Brooklyn. That money shot alone was powerful enough to send fanboys flocking to the web for answers.

In the seven months that followed, some mysterious and cryptic websites were found (Slusho.jp and http://www.tagruato.jp), but nothing more of note was revealed other than the fact that it was produced by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) and his creative team at Bad Robot, it was a disaster movie in the style of The Blair Witch Project and its title of Cloverfield. Pretty much aside from the creative names involved, Paramount and team Abrams were maddeningly able to squelch just about every other detail up until release, leaving everyone asking up until opening day (Jan. 18): “Just what is attacking New York City? Is it a monster?!”

Damn right, it’s a monster, and, as Abrams has stated in press interviews, Cloverfield finally gives America its very own Godzilla. Freakishly huge, impervious to standard munitions and rather pissed off for some inexplicable reason, this brand-new monster lays one hell of an 85-minute smack down on the Big Apple.

While this sounds like the makings of a summer blockbuster, Cloverfield is not. It’s a winter experiment, if you will, with a fraction of the budget of a summer movie, no stars and a visual gimmick that is literally sending some audience members running for their barf bags. Yet it broke records with the biggest box office ever for a January opening (an estimated $46 million for the four-day MLK holiday weekend) and a lot of that has to do with the monster. Created by artist Neville Page and Tippett Studio, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Blank had the fun job helping to facilitate the making of a monster, both literally and figuratively.

A long-time member of Abrams’ Bad Robot family, Blank was brought in while working on Lost. “Cloverfield was J.J.’s idea and then he hired [Lost scribe] Drew Goddard to write the script… J.J. was doing creature design and sketches four or five months before I was involved…Then they brought in Neville, who was doing design work for Avatar [and later Star Trek]…He knows such a breadth of zoology and every type of creature in existence and bringing together a hybrid of lots of different types of reality-based life. So the process of getting to what the creature [looked like] was very, very developed when I showed up. What transpired after I showed up was more skin coloration and style of eyes. There were a few design details that never really manifested, but I think they will come out in the toy,” Blank teases.

Considering the style and budget limitations on the film, Blank says from the beginning the visual effects were always about getting the most bang for the small bucks. “The trick was how do you provide this amazing experience and show enough of a really big event, but then get away from that event and don’t hang on that event? There is an ode to Jaws and an ode to Aliens where what you see less of is scarier and that’s very, very much played to. Also, a big inspiration piece for this is 9/11. We think of the monster as an event rather than a tangible thing like 9/11, which was this horrific day. When you look at lots of YouTube footage [from 9/11], this is where director Matt Reeves started. He kept saying, ‘keep it real, keep it real, keep it real.’ When you look at that [9/11] footage, there might be a camera pointed at a building coming down and then the camera hangs there for a second, like the person is in shock, but then they run and get behind a car. Then the camera is looking at a foot or a door jam or maybe underneath a car looking across the street to smoke, but the noise and the description is so compelling and drama driven that it’s seeing that piece of drama that really gave the project its soul. The visual effects were just about giving large scale payoffs.”

One of the key factors in launching the buzz for Cloverfield came from the teaser trailer that ran in the summer of 2007. The striking shot of the Lady Liberty’s head landing, scratched and decapitated on the streets of New York really promised something exciting to come. Blank reveals that trailer was literally the start of shooting for the entire project. “One of the biggest challenges of the whole project is that we started [without a script]. There was an outline so we knew the basic beats, but there was an element of the process of discovering locations and that was what [the scene] had to be because it all happened so quickly. The really stressful part for myself was while the movie was being prepped, and being prepped kind of on the fly because it’s hard to prep without a formal script, was to do this trailer. We basically had about two-and-a-half weeks to do it from the moment we filmed it to the moment it had to be attached to Transformers.

“In terms of sheer momentum it created, that was amazing. But it’s one thing to be prepping a movie that quickly and it’s another thing to be prepping a movie and delivering something as high scale as that trailer… Taking things from previs to shot execution and development of the model was really fast and a tough juggling act. It came out great and created a lot of buzz. We went back and tweaked the shots after, so the shots in the movie have evolved from what was seen in the trailer. Mostly, there is a better model of the Statue of Liberty head. The full trailer actually shows the new Liberty head to compare.”

While the gimmick of a first person POV witnessing a monster attack is compelling, Cloverfield’s success lies in the execution and visuals of the monster. Blank says they were gratefully given enough money to get the right vendors to do the job. “Even though the movie was low budget, the visual effects budget we had was a good size. We were dealing with big movie vendors and we hired Double Negative in London [under the supervision of Mike Ellis] and Tippett Studio [under the supervision of Eric Leven]. Tippett has a terrific reputation as a creature house and they made the monster. They brought it to life. But the thing I was trying to do, though, is that I’ve always had a philosophy of matching the talent with the task. Tippett is a full-service visual effects company capable of doing lots of things and, obviously, we went to them for their creature work but they ended up doing a lot more. With Double Negative, I was really impressed with their work on Batman Begins and Children of Men.”

But the tight budget also meant that more vfx had to be utilized to fill the production gaps. “We were trying to shoot on a small set with a bunch of greenscreen and make everyone believe it,” Blank continues. “I give a lot of credit to Production Designer Martin Whist because he had the least amount of resources to produce something believable. We kept saying to him, give us the front 10 or 20% in front of camera for real and we’ll do the rest. A lot times you would expect on a movie like this for the set to comprise 50 to 60% of what is going on and visual effects is completing the lower half. But visual effects were doing a lot more than that. For example, we had a very large sequence on the Brooklyn Bridge. What was created was basically a 150-foot stretch for the board planks, a few benches and then lighting fixtures were in place where they would be on the bridge, but the railing, the lamps and everything is CG. In New York, we shot helicopter plates on the side of the Brooklyn Bridge to make the environment, but the actual structure of the bridge was 99% visual effects. The only thing that was not was the ground these people were walking on.”

It was so much work that Blank confirms it’s not really even quantifiable. “The one thing about this movie is that it’s basically a big monster movie done in The Blair Witch style, so there is no traditional camera coverage. You can have shots that go on and on for a minute and within one shot you can have three-dozen visual effects going on. Roughly there were 150 plates in play, but in terms of actual quantifying how many effects, I’m the wrong person to ask,” he chuckles, and then pleads that it’s the breadth that really counts here.

Blank adds that, unlike traditionally filmed movies, Cloverfield found the bulk of its vfx work in adding elements rather than subtracting them. “We had about 32 days of shooting and a few days of additional shooting and about 10 of those were on a greenscreen stage. What Martin Whist created was very minimal, it was great, but visual effects were adding a crazy amount of additional stuff. Everything we saw looked great, but it was not as much as you would expect to see. So the amount of resources that was given to production was spent really wisely.”

Of course the pièce de résistance of the film is the actual monster itself and Blank says he is thrilled with the end results and the process of getting him there. “I am really proud of the creature from a design perspective, so a lot of props to Neville Page and for Tippett Studio for realizing something really amazing looking. But the other big thing was there was some shared material between Double Negative and Tippett because they are houses that use similar pipelines — as they basically use Maya and Shake for everything. That was factored into the decision [to hire them] because it happened so quickly, so sometimes you couldn’t think, ‘Well, I’ll give this here and that there.’ I knew there was going to be some shifting. It created a situation where the people were all using the same [systems], so it might be a case of Tippett generating a little piece of a creature but then giving it to Double Negative to put into a broader-based environment piece. Tippett did all the creature work [overseen by Animation Supervisor Tom Gibbons], but they did some environment work too. Double Negative did more shots on the show than Tippett, and I know [it will all be about] ‘the monster, the monster, the monster,’ but a lot of people will be unaware of the extent of the environment creations going on in the film. Big credit goes to both houses.”

With all the hype said and done, Blanks says he knows the movie delivers. “I think everyone will have a wild ride…[and] rather than the monster having a personality [like Godzilla or King Kong], it’s more of an entity or an event. This movie is more like a fantastical 9/11 re-imagining. It is a monster movie but an experiential one. I think it is going to be viewed in a unique way and in some ways it may be difficult to compare. Ultimately, there are 60 some creature shots and that’s not a ridiculous, crazy amount and many of them are cheating. But trust me: you’ll get a good look at him,” he laughs.

And after you do, you’ll certainly be able to appreciate Page’s invaluable contributions, as well as Tippett’s. Funny enough, Page says that Abrams initially approached him anonymously by e-mail while he was working on Avatar, mentioning how he adored his Gnomon Workshop training DVDs. Page assumed he was a young student. “Felt a touch clueless, to say the least. I blame J.J., however, for the misinterpretation. His e-mail was so personable and matter of fact that it did not feel like a major director wanting to collaborate on a movie. The moral to this story is pretty obvious.”

And naturally what was initially pitched to Page by the filmmakers was short on creature details. “They wanted it big. They wanted it to be something ‘new.’ It had to adhere to some story points, but it was wide open. I listened; I took notes. I couldn’t pass this up. I accepted.”

But coming up with something new, especially on the heels of The Host, was an extra challenge. “Whenever I’m asked to design something that is ‘completely new,’ ‘fresh’ and ‘that has never been seen before,’ I get nervous. I have a long philosophy on this, but I will say that ‘new’ things need to be familiar as well. If not, then they are maybe too difficult to understand and comprehend. The hardest thing, in a way, was to not repeat any of the stuff that I did on previous films. The good news was that Cloverfield’s parameters lent itself to developing something ‘new’. In other words, the original creators (J.J., producer Bryan Burk and screenwriter Drew Goddard) set the tone and we all developed it together. Furthermore, I was afforded the opportunity to hire a great talent, Tully Summers, to help me out. He is such a treat to work with. And he was an invaluable resource of ideas and execution on both the Big Guy and his parasitic friends. I had heard about The Host during the development of Clover, but did not see anything until I was done with the design. I dug The Host. I thought that it was such a success in so many ways. Some people are drawing conclusions that Clover and The Host are similar in design. They are in that they ravage and seem to originate from the water, but the end results are quite different. However, when I finally saw some of the concept art, there were some very obvious similarities. But then again, I think that we were both channeling similar biological possibilities.”

Page suggests that understanding the monster’s motivations is key and to do that requires researching as many aspects of the life you are creating. And he starts the design process more as an actor than as a visual artist.

“My preference for doing most design is to start with pencil and paper. Rough sketches. Again, none of us really knew what it was going to be, so I went for the shotgun approach. Generate as many design variations as possible and see which ones get closest to the target. I did floating gasbag tentacular things, sea serpenty things, arthropods, whatever. But, what guided us were the narrative needs. Which is great, because nothing was to be superfluous. I prefer when things are purposeful. Utilitarian, if you will. As for how many sketches it took to get to the center of this tootsie pop? Never enough. I love the process, the drawing, the sculpting, but I had so little time to do ‘cool’ art. So, I really had to be very efficient with time and process: Maybe 80 sketches to establish a direction, six clay sculptures to assist and then many, many hours of digital sculpting to finalize the design. In terms of efficiency, I try to make every moment count in my days, especially when on multiple projects. The sketchbook is always with me.”

Page’s design process begins with slowing down and trying to think clearly. But no drawing until the mental images start to flow. “Sometimes I start with big gestural silhouettes, other times with loose, gestural lines. Either way, I am looking for interesting forms. While in this mode, I am tapping into all of the research I have done and keeping in mind all of the pertinent story points and, of course, all of the clients desires and comments. I may do some of these drawing digitally using Photoshop on either a Wacom tablet or a Cintiq. Sometimes I will bust out a lump of clay and explore some ideas there and, other times, I may sculpt digitally using ZBrush. In the end, ZBrush was used for all final development and the final sculptures for use by Tippet Studio.”

Not surprisingly, Page insists that he did everything to avoid comparisons to Godzilla: no dragons or lizards in this creature’s DNA. “Granted, it is huge, comes out of the water, has a tail and ravages Manhattan, so there were some major elements that kinda screamed Godzilla. But the design and biology and history are very different. For me, one of the most key moments in our collective brainstorming was the choice to make the creature be something that we would empathize with. It is not out there, just killing. It is confused, lost, scared. It’s a newborn. Having this be a story point (one that the audience does not know), it allowed for some purposeful choices about its anatomy, movement and, yes, motivations. The hardest thing to accept, in terms of making a truly plausible creature like this, is its scale. Nothing would look like this at that scale [the size of a skyscraper], and that is to assume that anything could ever really be that scale as a living organism on land. Other movies that had gigantic monsters have helped pave the way to the ‘suspension of disbelief.'”

Tara DiLullo Bennett is an East coast-based writer whose articles have appeared in publications such as SCI FI Magazine, SFX and Lost Magazine. She is the author of the books 300: The Art of the Film and 24: The Official Companion Guide: Seasons 1-6.

~by Tara DiLullo Bennett

2008 VFX Sneaks: The Top 20 Movies January 17, 2008

Posted by farhanriaz in Movies, Review, VFX.
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What VFX-filled movies will dominate 2008? How’s this for starters? The introduction of Iron Man and Speed Racer along with the return of The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Narnia, James Bond and Star Trek. Plus a couple sci-fi remakes, an animated leap into sci-fi and a few curiosities. VFXPakistan offers a glimpse of the most anticipated movies we’ll be covering this year, so mark your calendars.

1. Cloverfield (Paramount Pictures, Jan. 18)
The mysterious J.J. Abrams-produced horror film finally surfaces (Godzilla meets Blair Witch?). Five young New Yorkers run for their lives as they elude and document on video a monster the size of a skyscraper. Directed by Matt Reeves (Felicity) with overall vfx supervision by Kevin Blank (Lost, Alias, M:i:III). Double Negative and Tippett Studio are the lead vendors. The biggest vfx revelation, of course, is the much-anticipated “monster” that was designed by Neville Page and modeled/created by Tippett.

2. The Spiderwick Chronicles (Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies, Feb. 14)
The world of Spiderwick, adapted from the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, is filled with CG goblins, boggarts, fairies and sprites from Industrial Light & Magic and Tippett Studio. Director Mark Waters says, “These creatures are combinations of creatures that could’ve lived here. We raise the jeopardy and excitement because of CGI.” Legendary animation and VFX pioneer Phil Tippett served as Creature Supervisor, overseeing the design and development of Hogsqual, the Troll, Red Cap and the army of goblins and bull goblins. ILM, under the vfx supervision of Tim Alexander, worked on Mulgarath, Thimbletack and his alter ego, the ill-tempered Boggart, the majestic Griffin, a rapacious Raven, the Snake, Sylph and a host of magical and elaborately detailed sprites.

3. 10,000 BC (Warner Bros. Pictures, March 7)
Will lightning strike twice after the success of 300? That’s the big question with this prehistoric epic by Roland Emmerich about a young mammoth hunter’s quest through uncharted territory to secure the future of his tribe. Karen Goulekas (The Day After Tomorrow) reunites with Emmerich as overall vfx supervisor, with seamless work shared by Double Negative, MPC, The Senate VFX and Machine VFX.

4. Doomsday (Universal Pictures, March 14)
The “Reaper Virus” has broken out in the UK, killing hundreds of thousands, with the British government building a wall in desperation, and then having to deal with another sudden outbreak 30 years later. Neil Marshall (The Descent) tackles this post-apocalyptic actioner as a gritty, throwback to oldstyle filmmaking. However, there’s still plenty of vfx from Framestore CFC, Double Negative, The Senate VFX and Machine FX.

5. Iron Man (Paramount Pictures, May 2)
Director Jon Favreau brings the legendary Marvel superhero to the screen, with the idiosyncratic Robert Downey Jr. starring as the billionaire industrialist/genius inventor who dons the high-tech suit of armor to save the world. John Nelson is the overall vfx supervisor, with ILM as the lead studio under the vfx supervision of Ben Snow and animation supervision of Hal Hickel. Word has it there’s more Imocap and hard surface innovation in store. Stan Winston Studio, The Orphanage, Embassy VFX and Gray Matter FX also lend support.

6. Speed Racer (Warner Bros. Pictures, May 9)
Go Speed Racer! The Wachowskis return to directing after The Matrix trilogy, and tackle a next-gen version of the famed anime series, with Emile Hirsch as Speed, Christina Ricci as Trixie, Matthew Fox as Racer X and Scott Porter as Rex Racer. Digital Domain gets top vfx honors, as John Gaeta supervises along with Dan Glass. Judging by the teaser trailer, we expect the anime universe to get a whole new stylized look, and anticipate a genuine creative exploration using cutting edge HD production process techniques and everything else learned from The Matrix experience. Also contributing are Cafe FX, ILM, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Evil Eye and Buf.

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Walt Disney Pictures, May 16)
Dean Wright (who shares vfx supervision with Wendy Rogers) admits the bar has been raised in this second installment of the Narnia franchise. There is not only more action, but also more complex models from Creature Supervisor Howard Berger. “There are huge battles in this film, so we’ve got a lot more character integration,” Wright says. Since this time they shot primarily in the Czech republic, it made financial sense to use London-based MPC and Framestore CFC along with Weta Digital. Framestore is doing Aslan, Trufflehunter, the badger, the River-god sequence, kids entering and leaving Narnia; MPC is mainly doing the battles; and Weta is focusing on: a werewolf, a wild bear and all of the environments for the castle.

8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount Pictures, May 22)
Harrison Ford dons the fedora and whip one last time in the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise under the direction of Steven Spielberg. It’s the 1950s and the Red Scare and this time out Indy goes after the mysterious Crystal Skull with Shia LaBeouf tagging along (presumably as his son) and Karen Allen returning as old flame Marion Ravenwood. ILM handles vfx chores, of course, with Pablo Helman (War of the Worlds) supervising.

9. The Incredible Hulk (Universal Pictures, June 13)
The Hulk returns more in line in the Marvel mold, with Edward Norton stepping in as Bruce Banner and fighting his nemesis Abomination, and Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2) directing. Rhythm & Hues (in collaboration with R&H India) is the lead studio, under the supervision of Betsy Paterson.

10. WALL•E (Disney/Pixar, June 27)
After traveling underwater in Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton takes Pixar into outer space for the first time with this poignant tale of a lonely robot. Stanton says his inspiration is the great live-action sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s, and confirmed at Comic-Con that there will be a first-time live-action sequence of some kind. Oscar winner Ben Burtt of Skywalker Sound provides innovative sound design, which is integral to the movie. Should offer lots of eye-popping animated vfx, too, with advancements in virtual lenses and set design at Pixar.

11. Wanted (Universal Pictures, June 27)
Opening opposite WALL•E is this actioner starring Angelina Jolie as Wesley Gibson, “the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known.” Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch and Day Watch) makes his Hollywood debut, with overall vfx supervised by Jon Farhat (Doom).

12. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal Pictures, July 11)
Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy to save the Earth once again with his band of misfits in Guillermo del Toro’s sequel to his cult hit from Dark Horse and creator Mike Mignola. Double Negative is the lead house and Mike Wassel is the overall supervisor.

13. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros. Pictures, July 18)
Director Christopher Nolan delves deeper into the Caped Crusader: Batman (Christian Bale) and detective James Gordon (Gary Oldman) team up with Gotham’s new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to battle The Joker (Heath Ledger). Not surprisingly, this is no Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson. Nick Davis is the overall vfx supervisor with Framestore CFC and Double Negative sharing lead duties, with support from Buf and New Deal Studios. We anticipate more virtual set design wonders.14. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal Pictures, Aug. 1)
In this third outing, directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious), Brendan Fraser is joined by his son (Luke Ford) as they unearth a shape-shifting mummy (Jet Li) who was cursed long ago by a wizard (Michelle Yeoh). Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues share vfx duties this time out.

15. Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (New Line, Aug. 8)
Brendan Fraser is back again this summer in a stereoscopic remake of Journey to the Center of the Earth, directed by Eric Brevig, former ILM vfx supervisor (Pearl Harbor, The Day After Tomorrow). Vfx duties are divided between Hybride, Meteor Studios, Frantic Films and MOKKO Studio.16. James Bond 22 (Sony, Nov. 7)
Daniel Craig returns as 007 in the first direct sequel in the Bond franchise, as he goes after the leaders of the terrorist organization introduced in Casino Royale. Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) directs with the aim of delving deeper into Bond’s psyche. Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) plays the lead villain and Ukranian actress Olga Kurylenko (Paris, Je T’aime) comes aboard as 007’s leading lady. Kevin Tod Haug, who has collaborated previously with Forster on The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland, serves as visual effects designer.

7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros Pictures., Nov. 21)
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) begins his sixth year at Hogwarts and discovers a mysterious old book that helps him learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past. Director David Yates returns from The Order of the Phoenix. Double Negative and MPC share vfx duties this time out with lots of support as well, including ILM.18. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount Pictures, Nov. 26)
Director David Fincher (Zodiac) ventures into new emotional territory with this adaptation of a fanciful story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Brad Pitt stars as an unusual man born in his 80s and ages backward, spanning the end of World War I in New Orleans of 1918 and following into the 21st century. Digital Domain handles lead duties here and we anticipate some cutting edge virtual human technology.

19. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox, Dec. 12)
Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs the remake of this legendary sci-fi classic about an alien visitor and his giant robot that visit Earth with a stern warning about universal peace. Keanu Reeves steps out of the Matrix and into the iconic role of Klaatu made famous by Michael Rennie. We expect some noteworthy vfx.20. Star Trek (Paramount Pictures, Dec. 25)
What better way to spend Christmas Day than with the crew of the Starship Enterprise in this origin story from J.J. Abrams? Chris Pine is Kirk, Zachary Quinto is Spock and Karl Urban is Bones. ILM is handling vfx duties under the supervision of Roger Guyett.

~ by farhanriaz

NVidia Quadro FX 5600 January 10, 2008

Posted by farhanriaz in 3D, Games, Hardware, Review.
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NVidia Quadro FX 5600
Written by Eric Beaulé

The NVIDIA Quadro FX5600, introduced in March 2007, is designed to tackle the most demanding 3D animation, rendering and visualization tasks. We’re not talking about a gaming video card here, but rather a high-end professional level graphics card based on the G80GL GPU with a hefty 1.5GB of onboard memory. The Quadro FX5600 along with the FX4600 is NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. We have put NVIDIA’s top model, the FX5600 to the test, and you wll find our results and comments below.

Our test machine was a Dual Core AMD Opteron Processor 275, which is 2.21 GHz with 2.00GB of RAM running Windows XP Pro SP2, and the Quadro FX5600 resolution was set to 1600×1200.
The tests were done using real-word 3D scenes from a current HD 3D TV production. We did our tests by mainly importing very large existing scenes, mostly from Autodesk’s 3dsMax8, and ZBrush 3.1 from Pixologic. Yes, 3dsMax9 was available at the time, but the available material was created with the previous version of 3dsMax.

The installation of the Quadro FX5600 went very smoothly. The board is a full size graphics Card (12+ inches) which is almost the full length of a PC case, lengthwise. The card takes up two slots in the back of the host PC. The board connects to a PCI Express Bus. It also requires two auxiliary PCI Express 6 pin power connectors aside from the PCI-E host bus. One thing to keep in mind is to uninstall the video driver form the previous card before installing the FX5600, that is, if you are doing an upgrade.

For our test, we installed the 162.62 WHQL certified driver, which was the one available at that time. A newer version of the certified driver will be available by the time you read this article. For our testing purposes, it proved to be very stable and reliable. The driver was a breeze to install; even the Dual View option installed right away without a reboot. This is quite different, in my experience, as NVIDIA entry level cards usually require several reboots.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX5600 installed: Shown above 2X6 pin connectors & full length card 3dsMaxing The first test we ran was to import a very large size 3dMax8 scene from the Sci-Fi spoof 3D animation show, “Tripping The Rift”. The scene consisted of a heavily detailed background and five characters. In technical terms, the scene contained 987 objects, 166 lights and 1,183,273 polygons (faces). The Turbo Smooth function was set on 2 for all of the characters. We started moving the scene in a circular motion on the X and Y axis, and what we got, to our amazement, was ultra smooth and fluid movements without any lagging whatsoever. I mean, we were expecting great results, but this was nothing short of amazing. Since many textures and lighting artists do struggle while tweaking these large scenes, the director and animators literally stood in awe at the performance of the Quadro FX5600. And that was only our first test.

Another quick test was done with the particle flow in 3dsMax8. Nothing special here, except the FX5600 did effortlessly handle 1000 polygons per second with the 3dsMax generated particles.

Our second segment was done within the new ZBrush 3.1 from Pixologic.We went all out and used a very large canvas of 4000 pixels for our model, with a face texture of 4096X4096 using the pixel-tri-shader. That did not take a toll on the FX5600, however, it proved a bit difficult to move the model around. Upon resizing the canvas to 2000 pixels, which is still a rather good size canvas, it was business as usual for the Quadro FX5600.

For the technically inclined, our model had 5,775,360 polygons (yes, that’s 5 million), and was set to “best.” Lights were in Zmode, shadow length was set to 400, alias was set to 8, and super sample was on 4 for our render test.

We then proceeded, and did an alpha test on a 2000 pixel canvas, with a 1,443,840 polygons model using the Lazy Mouse for precise and controlled brush strokes. Again, everything worked seamlessly and fluidly. The FX5600 is no slouch when it comes to keeping up with graphics refresh.

As we wanted to push the Quadro FX5600 to the limit and see how far we could go with it, we used Zbrush’s HD Geometry, which is an advanced sculpting feature. We created a model which in the end was made up of 92 million polygons (yes, that is correct). Then, whichever region we’d select to work on, the sculpting was fast and responsive. Editing and sculpting sections (or subdivisions) was handled very easily and precisely by our test card. We experienced no waiting or delay while pushing the FX5600 to (what we thought was) the limit. Again, we were pleasantly surprised.


I was expecting to review a very good graphics card, but it really did exceed my expectations. The Quadro FX5600 with its 1.5GB of onboard RAM performed flawlessly in all our tests. Anything that was thrown at it, was successfully handled. Although in the higher price range of the graphics card market; it retails at MSRP of $2999, it will, without a doubt, serve the most demanding users. Also, It offers the instant gratification and rewards of the new power-hungry features and functionalities from all the latest software.

I truly believe that the FX5600 would greatly benefit any busy freelance graphic artist, or animation/graphics studios that works with demanding graphic data. In my opinion, it will speed up workflow,and improve render and delivery time.

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