Welcome to the latest “Getting to know” – questions that need answering. It’s based on the old Getting to know you threads that I occasionally post on the message boards here on TORn, so those familiar with them will know that the questions can be a little crazy and the answers even crazier.
This month we’re asking questions of self-described Online guy at Weta Workshop and all round top bloke, Magnus Hjert.
The Visual Effects industry in Hollywood is in the midst of a crisis that just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Entertainment Weekly has been keeping on top of the issue and posted a story today that included Peter Jackson’s thought on the problem.
In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, The Hobbit director Peter Jackson, a digital effects pioneer who co-founded the F/X company Weta Digital, says studios are taking advantage of an oversupply of F/X houses to drive down prices. “Competition between VFX houses, which the studios obviously use to their advantage, has resulted in VFX houses operating on tiny profit margins,” Jackson says. “And when we talk ‘profit,’ it’s not about the owners buying a Porsche at the end of a big movie — it’s about having a nest egg to ride out the slow periods.”
To read the full story and see links to other stories about the VFX crisis, head on over to EW.com
Another April Fools joke – courtesy of Ringer Mike…
From Weta Digital, comes this exciting press release about a certain something all fans of Sir Peter Jackson have missed…
Wellington, NZ (April 1st, 2013)–
In response to the lukewarm critical reception of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, Peter Jackson has announced that he will begin wearing his eyeglasses again.
“It was a public image decision,” Jackson says. “Fran and Philippa and I sat down and brainstormed, trying to figure out why the critics had panned the first ‘Hobbit’ film, despite its commercial success. And then we suddenly realized it wasn’t the film at all! The critics weren’t saying it out loud, but subconsciously they missed the ‘old’ Peter Jackson. And that means they wanted to see the eyeglasses.”
While Jackson hasn’t worn glasses for years and no longer uses his old prescription, he has planned a workaround to the problem. “I can simply pop the lenses out of my old frames, and we’ll be good to go– that is, if I can find them!” he laughs.
But putting the glasses back on is only the first step. Plans are also underway to add glasses back on to all of the behind-the-scenes footage of Peter that has been shot for the Extended Edition DVDs.
Since Weta Digital is already too busy working on effects shots for films two and three, Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop have been placed in charge of the eyeglass project.
“We want fans to feel like they’ve returned to the film-making world they have become acquainted with,” Taylor says. “Realistically inserting eyeglasses into Peter’s interview shots and B-roll footage will add that final crucial element of familiarity that will make this a truly nostalgic behind-the-scenes experience for the extended DVDs.”
Using a recently perfected technique combining advanced facial-recognition software with a slave-motion camera rig, the glasses will be added to Peter’s face using green screens and carefully crafted models.
Taylor has already commissioned a special 18-inch wide “bigature” of Peter’s glasses to be used in the project. “The miniatures department had felt a bit neglected lately, and they were overjoyed to take this on. One has to appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship that is going into this model. Every screw and hinge, every curve of the frame is faithfully reproduced in larger-than-life detail.”
Weta Limited Edition replicas of the glasses will be available as a Comic Con Exclusive in July 2013.
Early fan reaction to the news so far has been positive, and representatives from Warner Bros. were optimistic as well, and in a statement have expressed confidence that the reintroduction of spectacles to Jackson’s image is the right way to go towards making up for the box office disappointment of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.
Will the glasses really make a difference? What do you think? Sound off!
With its ceaseless tide of wizards, Wargs, Orcs, Stone-Giants, Skin-changers, Goblins, and, of course, Gollum, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — available on Blu-ray from April 8 — is a feast for fans of fantasy filmdom.
But it proved a challenge of Silmarillion proportions for the visual effects team at Weta Digital charged with bringing Tolkien’s fantastical romp to life. The first blockbuster to combine the dimensional hurdles of 3D and pioneering 48fps HFR technology, it’s arguably the most daunting special effects movie ever attempted. (more…)
Australian Hobbit fans will finally get a little bit of love in April. A team from Weta, and several folks from the cast of The Hobbit are making the trip across the Tasman to make an appearance at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Melbourne and on the Gold Coast, joining Karl Urban (Eomer) and Supanova MC Mark Ferguson (Gil-galad).
Supanova attendees will get the chance to see and listen to:
Graham McTavish – Dwalin. Graham McTavish (born in 1961) is a Scottish actor who has played an impressive array of characters in a slew of Pop cultural franchises. He played the character Warden Ackerman in Red Dwarf in five episodes of series 8. McTavish has also had many supporting roles in British dramas and films such as Casualty, Jekyll, The Bill, Taggart and Sisterhood. Recently, McTavish appeared in the 2011 film The Wicker Tree, Robin Hardy’s sequel to his 1973 film, The Wicker Man. He has had an “Unexpected Journey” to International stardom playing Dwalin (Brother of Balin) the Dwarf in Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films.
Stephen Hunter – Bombur. Stephen is a New Zealand actor and voice over artist, currently based in Sydney, Australia. His film and Television career started with Ladies Night in 1995 and has continued to include stints on All Saints, Love My Way, Spirited and Rescue: Special Ops. It was announced in 2011 that Stephen was to play the role of Bombur: brother of Bofur and one of the company of 13 dwarves who retake the Lonely Mountain in Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. He has since filmed Field Punishment No.1 in the Role of Aussie Bill which will be released in 2013.
Dean O’Gorman – Fili. Dean O’Gorman is a photographer and artist based in New Zealand. He got his start in the television movie, The Rogue Stallion at the age of fourteen, and Raider of the South Seas, both of which were released in 1990. He then won the role of Nurse Harry Martin in the New Zealand soap opera, Shortland Street and has appeared in both Hercules and Xena multiple times. In April 2011 he was cast as Fili the Dwarf in Sir Peter Jackson’s three-part film adaptation of The Hobbit. Kili and his Brother Fili are the youngest dwarves of the 13 and are Thorin Oakenshield’s nephews!
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast (as a Gold Coast exclusive guest). McCoy was starring at the National Theatre in “The Pied Piper”, a musical play written especially for him, when he learned that the BBC was looking for a new lead actor to replace Colin Baker in “Doctor Who” (1963). He later won the role as the seventh Doctor. Following “Doctor Who,” McCoy continues to work extensively in theatre, radio, opera, television and films. McCoy can be seen in the latest blockbuster film The Hobbit (as Radagast the Brown) and can still be heard playing the Doctor in the Big Finish audio productions of Doctor Who.
The dates for Supanova are:
Melbourne – April 12-14 at Melbourne Showgrounds
Gold Coast – April 19-21 at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
Back in February, Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling won a technical Oscar (The Scientific and Engineering Award) for developing a technique which makes computer-generated characters (such as Gollum) more life-like than ever before. In this video from Weta Digital, the team share how they do it, and what it means for the future CG-character animation in film.
Welcome to our collection of TORn’s hottest topics for the past week. If you’ve fallen behind on what’s happening on the Message Boards, here’s a great way to catch the highlights. Or if you’re new to TORn and want to enjoy some great conversations, just follow the links to some of our most popular discussions. Watch this space as every weekend we will spotlight the most popular buzz on TORn’s Message Boards. Everyone is welcome, so come on in and join in the fun!
It is a little difficult to imagine what event might have had more geek credibility on Oscar night than our own One Expected Party. GeekExchange.com certainly managed a solid report complete with the YouTube video above that shows highlights from many of the events that took the stage. They also managed a photo gallery that is definitely worth a look. You can read the entire report if you click this simple link.
Weta Digital is nominated for Visual Effects for its work on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” That means co-founder Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White could all be walking away from the Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday with golden statues. And the competition comes in the form of more folks at Weta Digital for work on “The Avengers,” and “Prometheus.” “The Life of Pi,” and “Snow White and The Huntsman,” are in the mix as well. Pundits say it comes down to Hobbit vs. Pi. Whatever the outcome, Weta Digital has had a pretty astounding year and with the warm glow of Smaug on the horizon, 2013 looks promising as well. You probably knew all that but what you may have missed are the terrific reels Weta Digital has available to help viewers (and maybe voters) understand what went into the creatures, environments and characters it created for the first of three Hobbit films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 75-year-old children’s book.
One of the six showcases on YouTube, “VFX of The Hobbit: Fantastical Creatures & Lands of Epic Beauty & Darkness,” something of a highlight of all the videos, has been watched more than the rest but for anybody who loves cinema, loves the Hobbit film, technology or visual effects, the whole collection is outstanding. And so, we present them all below, embedded in one place for your viewing pleasure.
VFX OF THE HOBBIT: FANTASTICAL CREATURES & LANDS OF EPIC BEAUTY & DARKNESS
Once again it has been a long time since I posted in this series, but what with the run-up to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure and the reaction to it, TheOneRing.net has been a busy place, and now we’re coming up on The One Expected Party on Oscar night! But I’ll delay no longer.
In the first entry I recalled getting the permission to interview the filmmakers and going down to start my work, back in September-October of 2003. The second one dealt with my first interview and tours of the Three Foot Six office building and the Stone Street Studios. Now, more of the facilities I visited.
The Film Unit
My third full day in Wellington was Wednesday, October 1. Melissa Booth called and said I could come to the new Film Unit building to meet Barrie Osborne. He, as I cannot stress often enough, was the one responsible for getting me New Line’s permission to interview the filmmakers for my book. This meeting, though, wouldn’t be for an interview. (I interviewed Barrie twice for the book, first a couple of weeks later and again during my third Wellington visit in December, 2004.) He was driving out to the old Film Unit facility that afternoon to give the people working there, sound mixers, editors, and other post-production crew members, a pep talk.
As most readers know, the race to finish The Return of the King was on by that point, and a lot of people were working long hours. I was told that Barrie often gave these pep talks, and the filmmakers really appreciated them; it was part of what gave the production that feeling of being one big family. I could at least introduce myself to Barrie and ride with him to the Film Unit; the half-hour drives there and back would allow us time to talk about my project. (more…)
Weta Digital’s Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs, Dr. Richard Dorling won Oscars Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.
Most think of film as art form and much is made about those who dazzle at its highest levels, but science has always been a key component to cinema. A group who worked on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” received early Oscar awards — for science — Sunday night. Those who perform such technical innovation rarely get even a sniff of the spotlight but Simon Clutterbuck, Richard Dorling and James Jacobs were recognized for their work bringing Gollum to life, especially for his skin and movement.
The new tech makes Gollum appear more lifelike in an approach the team calls “Tissue: A Physically-Based Character Simulation Framework.”
“The framework is used to construct and simulate the anatomical components of our digital creatures and characters,” Jacobs, a supervisor for creature special-effects told NBC. (Read the whole article right here.)
Reuters also has a story with details about the Weta Digital winners and others recognized Sunday night.
Congrats to those gentlemen and all of Weta Digital for its mastery of converting Andy Serkis’ performance to screen. TheOneRing.net will celebrate the Oscars, including other nominees for work on The Hobbit, in two weeks featuring on stage Beecake with Billy Boyd. Details to buy tickets are right here.
Software brought Gollum’s skin to life for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” earning it an Oscar for technology and science
The Goblin King from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Image by Warner Bros. Pictures
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” earned the top nomination for visual effects and six others nominations at the 11th annual Visual Effects Society Awards, set for Feb. 5 at the Beverly Hilton. “The Avengers,” and “The Life of Pi,” are close behind with six nominations each and are also in the top category.
The awards recognize special effect driven films such as those mentioned above in a different category from those features where effects play a secondary role. It recognizes work in animated films, broadcast, commercials, video games and student work. Weta Digital is represented with “The Hobbit” and a work on a few others films as well.
It also recognizes special effect characters pitting Gollum against the Goblin King, Hulk and the tiger from “Life of Pi,” named Richard Parker. There are currently 10 films on the Academy Award list for Best Visual Effects with the official nominations expected January 10. “The Hobbit,” is very likely to be on the final ballot. TheOneRing.net is hosting an awards-night celebration in Hollywood on the nights of the awards. Some tickets remain available.
Nominations for The Hobbit are as follows:
1. Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Kevin L. Sherwood
2 & 3. Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: Goblin King
Jung Min Chan
The Hobbit: Gollum
4. Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: Goblin Caverns
Anthony M. Patti
5. Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
R. Christopher White
6. Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
7. Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
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