Tag Archives: Lucasfilm

Lucasfilm and ILM release open source MaterialX library

Lucasfilm and ILM have launched the first open source release of the MaterialX library for computer graphics. MaterialX is an open standard developed by Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group and ILM engineers to facilitate the transfer of rich materials and look-development content between applications and renderers.

Originated at Lucasfilm in 2012, MaterialX has been used by ILM on features including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as realtime immersive experiences such as Trials On Tatooine.

Workflows at computer graphics production studios require multiple software tools for different parts of the production pipeline, and shared and outsourced work requires companies to hand off fully look-developed models to other divisions or studios which may use different software packages and rendering systems.

MaterialX addresses the current lack of a common, open standard for representing the data values and relationships required to transfer the complete look of a computer graphics model from one application or rendering platform to another, including shading networks, patterns and texturing, complex nested materials and geometric assignments. MaterialX provides a schema for describing material networks, shader parameters, texture and material assignments and color-space associations in a precise, application-independent and customizable way.

MaterialX is an open source project released under a modified Apache license.

ILM’s Rob Bredow named CTO of Lucasfilm

Rob Bredow has been promoted to CTO of ILM parent company Lucasfilm. Bredow joined ILM as a VFX supervisor in 2014, but at the end of that year was named VP of new media and head of Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group (ADG), which develops tools and techniques for realtime immersive entertainment. It was during this time that Bredow helped launch ILMxLAB, a division that combines the offerings of Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound to create interactive storytelling and immersive cinema experiences.

“Rob is truly the perfect fit for this role. His passion for technology and innovation, and his experience in filmmaking, make him the ideal candidate to lead our technology efforts for both Lucasfilm and ILM,” said Lucasfilm GM Lynwen Brennan. “Rob’s many years of experience as a visual effects supervisor combined with his expertise in technology and new media enable us to continue our longstanding tradition of innovation.”

Prior to ILM, Bredow was the CTO and VFX supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks. He has worked on films such as Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Surf’s Up, Castaway and Godzilla.

Bredow is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (VFX Branch) and the AMPAS Scientific and Technical Council, and a Visual Effects Society Technology committee chair.

The future is in Park City: highlights from Sundance’s New Frontier

By Kristine Pregot

The future is here, and I caught a glimpse of it while wearing VR glasses at the New Frontier. This is Sundance’s hottest place on the mountain. The Frontier is a who’s who of VR tech, design and storytelling.

These VR products aren’t exactly ready for household consumption yet, but the New Frontier has become a spot for developers to show off their latest and greatest in this ever-growing arena.

On the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Frontier’s dark hallway, you’ll find Oculus Rifts and HTC Vive stations lining the studio walls along with masked viewers sitting on comfy couches reaching for nothing, sitting side by side, but in their own dimension of (virtual) reality.

A very impressive exhibit was Holo-Cinema, a new technology being developed by Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm to expand the Star Wars universe to your very own home. Users, wearing augmented glasses, journey through the Jakku desert and walk around a 3D C3PO while he paces and complains around you, like a hologram. If you were to walk into the room without the glasses, you would see an unfocused projection against the wall and under your feet.

Music meets storytelling was a big trend in the lab as well, with the Kendrick Lamar-scored installation Double Conscience from artist Kahlil Joseph featuring scenes from the inner city of LA rhythmically projected onto two walls and set to Kendrick’s new album.

Another fun and interactive piece that blended music with new technology was 3 Dreams of Black, a film by Chris Milk, with music from the album “Rome” by Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, and featuring Norah Jones. Check it out here.

While Sundance is one of the top festivals for filmmakers, I’m impressed with the breadth of new storytelling tools and technology that were on display. I look forward to seeing how the programmers further integrate this type of experience in the years to come.

Kristine Pregot is a senior producer at New York City-based Nice Shoes.


Film producer Sam Mercer named head of studio at ILM

San Francisco-based Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a division of Lucasfilm, has hired film producer Sam Mercer as head of ILM Studio. Reporting to Lucasfilm GM Lynwen Brennan, Mercer will oversee and coordinate the company’s operations across all four of ILM’s global studios — San Francisco, Singapore, Vancouver and London.

Mercer has produced many high-profile films over the years such as Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars; seven of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, including Signs and The Sixth Sense for which he received both Academy Award and BAFTA Best Picture nominations; Sam Mendes’ Jarhead; and Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman. Mercer is also a producer on Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy film The BFG, based on the novel by Roald Dahl.

Says Brennan, “[Sam has] vast experience as a producer and together with his long history with visual effects including eight films with ILM, he provides a valuable perspective within the VFX industry. As visual effects becomes increasingly integrated into filmmaking from pre-production through to post, Sam’s filmmaker point of view enables us to provide a unique level of creative collaboration and partnership with directors, producers and studios to bring their visions to the screen.”

Having previously been with The Walt Disney Studios as a production executive, Mercer supervised such films as Good Morning, Vietnam, Three Fugitives and Dead Poets Society. Within a few years, Mercer was promoted to VP of motion picture production for Hollywood Pictures, and in addition to Arachnophobia he was responsible for such releases as Quiz Show, The Joy Luck Club, Born Yesterday, Swing Kids and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Mercer left Hollywood Pictures to pursue independent producing on Frank Marshall’s second film, Congo.

Mercer started in the film business as a freelance location and unit production manager on such films as The Witches of Eastwick, Peggy Sue Got Married, Stripes, Swing Shift and The Escape Artist. He also served as the associate producer/unit manager for KCET-TV in Los Angeles where he received a Daytime Emmy for the live presentation of the San Francisco Opera’s production of La Gioconda.

Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, noted, “I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Sam for many years and I have come to rely on his skill as a creative problem solver. Sam has that rare ability to head off potential issues before they become real problems, and he manages to do it while maintaining an even keel and level of professionalism that has earned him the respect and admiration of every crew he works with.”

ILMxLAB formed, focusing on immersive entertainment

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and parent company Lucasfilm have formed the ILM Experience Lab (ILMxLAB), a new division that will combine the expertise of Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound to create immersive entertainment experiences.

For several years, the company has been investing in realtime graphics — building a foundation that allows ILMxLAB to deliver interactive imagery at high-quality levels. ILMxLAB will develop virtual reality, augmented reality, realtime cinema, theme park entertainment and narrative-based experiences for future platforms.

Lucasfilm EVP and ILM president Lynwen Brennan states, “The combination of ILM, Skywalker Sound and Lucasfilm’s story group is unique and that creative collaboration will lead to captivating immersive experiences in the Star Wars universe and beyond. ILMxLAB brings an incredible group of creatives and technologists together to push the boundaries and explore new ways to tell stories. We have a long history of collaborating with the most visionary filmmakers and storytellers and we look forward to continuing these partnerships in this exciting space.”

VP of new media for Lucasfilm Rob Bredow adds, “The pioneering spirit that inspired storytellers and technical artists to improvise, innovate and help imagine a galaxy far, far away is in the DNA of ILMxLAB. We see xLAB as a laboratory for immersive entertainment. It’s amazing to be working in a new medium where we get to help invent how stories are told and experienced, connecting artists with their audiences like never before.”

John Gaeta

“Cinema is a master storyteller’s art form,” says  ILMxLABcreative director John Gaeta. “Until recently, a “‘fourth wall’ has contained this form. Soon, however, we will break through this 4th wall and cinema will become a portal leading to new and immersive platforms for expression. ILMxLAB is a platform for this expansion. We want you to step inside our stories.”

Jaunt VR launches Jaunt Studios headed by Cliff Plumer

Virtual reality company Jaunt VR is opening Jaunt Studios, a new arm of the company that will focus solely on developing, producing and collaborating on live-action VR experiences. Jaunt Studios will work with creative talent to produce VR content. In addition to expanding collaborative projects with creatives and brands across music, adventure, travel, sports and other verticals, Jaunt Studios will also ramp up production of original, narrative VR content.

Jens Christiensen

Jens Christensen

Jaunt called on Hollywood vet Cliff Plumer (pictured above), formerly CEO of Digital Domain and CTO of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, to lead the endeavor. In addition, David Anderman, formerly COO and general counsel of Lucasfilm, has joined Jaunt VR as chief business officer to lead the new company’s business growth and help it meet the demand for custom VR experiences. Anderman was named Variety’s Dealmaker of the Year in 2012 for his work on Lucasfilm’s acquisition by Disney. Meanwhile Miles Perkins, Lucasfilm and ILM veteran and former head of corporate communications, will serve as Jaunt VR’s VP of marketing communications. While all Jaunt Studios employees will report to Plumer, Anderman, Perkins and Plumer report to Jaunt VR CEO Jens Christensen. Most under the Jaunt umbrella will be involved in the studio as well.

The new creative studio will have a location in Los Angeles, where its team will work directly with storytellers, filmmakers, musicians and artists. Jaunt’s team in Silicon Valley will continue to develop VR technology for creating cinematic VR, both in hardware and software.

To kick off the Jaunt Studios effort, Jaunt and Condé Nast Entertainment (CNÉ) announced a VR production deal at CNÉ’s Digital Content NewFront event on April 27. Jaunt Studios and CNÉ will produce two virtual reality series that explore CNÉ’s  portfolio of travel, lifestyle, fashion, sports and technology content. Jaunt Studios is also in negotiations with other top content partners.

Lynwen Brennan named GM of Lucasfilm

Lynwen Brennan has been promoted to general manager of Lucasfilm. Until now she has been president/GM of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) since 2009. Under Brennan’s leadership, ILM expanded its global footprint, opening offices in Vancouver, British Columbia and London, grew its San Francisco studio, and expanded the company’s Singapore studio.

As GM, she will oversee all operational matters for Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound, with a dual report to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman. Brennan will primarily focus on the development and execution of Lucasfilm business strategy and implementation of the company vision. She will continue to work closely with ILM CCO John Knoll and maintain oversight of many aspects of ILM’s business in her new role at Lucasfilm.

“As soon as I joined Lucasfilm, I immediately recognized Lynwen as a major talent,” says Kennedy. “She has a rare combination of business acumen and production expertise that is invaluable for a creative company. As we accelerate production of content for television, film, theme parks, and interactive games, Lynwen will focus on our strategic vision and lead day-to-day operations. With her 16-year history at Lucasfilm, Lynwen brings a wealth of knowledge to the position. I’m thrilled that she is taking a larger role in leading the company.”

“When I came to ILM 16 years ago, the pioneering spirit of the company immediately captivated me and continues to inspire me,” says Brennan. “I’m excited that I’ll be able to continue overseeing the business of ILM as I step into a role that will help lead Lucasfilm into a new chapter of technological innovation and great storytelling.”

Prior to joining Lucasfilm, Brennan had 10 years of experience in visual effects software development at companies such as Parallax Software, Avid Technology and Alias Wavefront.

Brennan holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of London.

ILM hires new, opens UK office, expands in Vancouver, Singapore

San Francisco — Lucasfilm’s ILM, headquartered here, has expanded its global operations with the opening of ILM London in the United Kingdom, the growth and relocation of ILM Vancouver and the relocation of ILM Singapore to the newly constructed “Sandcrawler” building located in the Fusionopolis business district.

Coupled with the new and expanded facilities, the company has hired key talent to staff the offices.

“We continue to embrace the global opportunities that have come with advances in technology while maintaining a strong operation here in the US,” says ILM president/GM Lynwen Brennan. “ILM has always prided itself on having the industry’s top creative talent. The difference now is that we can access incredible talent where they live and countries such as Singapore, Canada and the United Kingdom have a great deal to offer.”

Located in Central London, ILM London’s creative team will be led by creative director Ben Morris and animation director Michael Eames. The studio’s director of operations, Sue Lyster, will oversee all London-based operations.

ILM London will be working with ILM’s existing offices in San Francisco, Singapore and Vancouver on a number of releases at launch, including the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to the 2012 film, The Avengers.

Founded in 2006, ILM Singapore is the company’s second largest studio. Recently relocated to the newly constructed Sandcrawler building the location will also serve as the regional headquarters for Lucasfilm Singapore, The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia) and ESPN Asia Pacific.

ILM Singapore, under GM Colin Brown, who is also the former head of the UK Film Commission, will continue to work on Hollywood films, including the upcoming Star Wars films, regional projects and feature animation.

In 2011, ILM established its second international office in Vancouver. Initially planned as a temporary, production-based facility ILM has seen great success both in terms of attracting high-level talent and producing impressive visual effects work.

This success has led to ILM making Vancouver a permanent studio that will soon relocate to a larger facility in the Gastown section of the city. Randal Shore, has joined the studio as supervising producer and will manage day-to-day operations. The new facility will officially open in March and allow the company to accommodate the planned expansion of its Canadian workforce to meet the needs of future projects including Star Wars, World of Warcraft and Tomorrowland. The studio’s current projects include Transformers: Age of Extinction and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.