Category Archives: 3D

SIGGRAPH conference chair Roy C. Anthony: VR, AR, AI, VFX, more

By Randi Altman

Next month, SIGGRAPH returns to Vancouver after turns in Los Angeles and Anaheim. This gorgeous city, whose convention center offers a water view, is home to many visual effects studios providing work for film, television and spots.

As usual, SIGGRAPH will host many presentations, showcase artists’ work, display technology and offer a glimpse into what’s on the horizon for this segment of the market.

Roy C. Anthony

Leading up to the show — which takes place August 12-16 — we reached out to Roy C. Anthony, this year’s conference chair. For his day job, Anthony recently joined Ventuz Technology as VP, creative development. There, he leads initiatives to bring Ventuz’s realtime rendering technologies to creators of sets, stages and ProAV installations around the world

SIGGRAPH is back in Vancouver this year. Can you talk about why it’s important for the industry?
There are 60-plus world-class VFX and animation studios in Vancouver. There are more than 20,000 film and TV jobs, and more than 8,000 VFX and animation jobs in the city.

So, Vancouver’s rich production-centric communities are leading the way in film and VFX production for television and onscreen films. They are also are also busy with new media content, games work and new workflows, including those for AR/VR/mixed reality.

How many exhibitors this year?
The conference and exhibition will play host to over 150 exhibitors on the show floor, showcasing the latest in computer graphics and interactive technologies, products and services. Due to the increase in the amount of new technology that has debuted in the computer graphics marketplace over this past year, almost one quarter of this year’s 150 exhibitors will be presenting at SIGGRAPH for the first time

In addition to the traditional exhibit floor and conferences, what are some of the can’t-miss offerings this year?
We have increased the presence of virtual, augmented and mixed reality projects and experiences — and we are introducing our new Immersive Pavilion in the east convention center, which will be dedicated to this area. We’ve incorporated immersive tech into our computer animation festival with the inclusion of our VR Theater, back for its second year, as well as inviting a special, curated experience with New York University’s Ken Perlin — he’s a legendary computer graphics professor.

We’ll be kicking off the week in a big VR way with a special session following the opening ceremony featuring Ivan Sutherland, considered by many as “the father of computer graphics.” That 50-year retrospective will present the history and innovations that sparked our industry.

We have also brought Syd Mead, a legendary “visual futurist” (Blade Runner, Tron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Aliens, Time Cop, Tomorrowland, Blade Runner 2049), who will display an arrangement of his art in a special collection called Progressions. This will be seen within our Production Gallery experience, which also returns for its second year. Progressions will exhibit more than 50 years of artwork by Syd, from his academic years to his most current work.

We will have an amazing array of guest speakers, including those featured within the Business Symposium, which is making a return to SIGGRAPH after an absence of a few years. Among these speakers are people from the Disney Technology Innovation Group, Unity and Georgia Tech.

On Tuesday, August 14, our SIGGRAPH Next series will present a keynote speaker each morning to kick off the day with an inspirational talk. These speakers are Tony Derose, a senior scientist from Pixar; Daniel Szecket, VP of design for Quantitative Imaging Systems; and Bob Nicoll, dean of Blizzard Academy.

There will be a 25th anniversary showing of the original Jurassic Park movie, being hosted by “Spaz” Williams, a digital artist who worked on that film.

Can you talk about this year’s keynote and why he was chosen?
We’re thrilled to have ILM head and senior VP, ECD Rob Bredow deliver the keynote address this year. Rob is all about innovation — pushing through scary new directions while maintaining the leadership of artists and technologists.

Rob is the ultimate modern-day practitioner, a digital VFX supervisor who has been disrupting ‘the way it’s always been done’ to move to new ways. He truly reflects the spirit of ILM, which was founded in 1975 and is just one year younger than SIGGRAPH.

A large part of SIGGRAPH is its slant toward students and education. Can you discuss how this came about and why this is important?
SIGGRAPH supports education in all sub-disciplines of computer graphics and interactive techniques, and it promotes and improves the use of computer graphics in education. Our Education Committee sponsors a broad range of projects, such as curriculum studies, resources for educators and SIGGRAPH conference-related activities.

SIGGRAPH has always been a welcoming and diverse community, one that encourages mentorship, and acknowledges that art inspires science and science enables advances in the arts. SIGGRAPH was built upon a foundation of research and education.

How are the Computer Animation Festival films selected?
The Computer Animation Festival has two programs, the Electronic Theater and the VR Theater. Because of the large volume of submissions for the Electronic Theater (over 400), there is a triage committee for the first phase. The CAF Chair then takes the high scoring pieces to a jury comprised of industry professionals. The jury selects then become the Electronic Theater show pieces.

The selections for the VR Theater are made by a smaller panel comprised mostly of sub-committee members that watch each film in a VR headset and vote.

Can you talk more about how SIGGRAPH is tackling AR/VR/AI and machine learning?
Since SIGGRAPH 2018 is about the theme of “Generations,” we took a step back to look at how we got where we are today in terms of AR/VR, and where we are going with it. Much of what we know today couldn’t have been possible without the research and creation of Ivan Sutherland’s 1968 head-mounted display. We have a fanatic panel celebrating the 50-year anniversary of his HMD, which is widely considered and the first VR HMD.

AI tools are newer, and we created a panel that focuses on trends and the future of AI tools in VFX, called “Future Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Tools for VFX.” This panel gains insight from experts embedded in both the AI and VFX industries and gives attendees a look at how different companies plan to further their technology development.

What is the process for making sure that all aspects of the industry are covered in terms of panels?
Every year new ideas for panels and sessions are submitted by contributors from all over the globe. Those submissions are then reviewed by a jury of industry experts, and it is through this process that panelists and cross-industry coverage is determined.

Each year, the conference chair oversees the program chairs, then each of the program chairs become part of a jury process — this helps to ensure the best program with the most industries represented from across all disciplines.

In the rare case a program committee feels they are missing something key in the industry, they can try to curate a panel in, but we still require that that panel be reviewed by subject matter experts before it would be considered for final acceptance.

 

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D R19 — an editor’s perspective

By Brady Betzel

It’s time for my yearly review of Maxon’s Cinema 4D. Currently in Release 19, Cinema 4D comes with a good amount of under-the-hood updates. I am an editor, first and foremost, so while I dabble in Cinema 4D, I am not an expert. There are a few things in the latest release, however, that directly correlate to editors like me.

Maxon offers five versions of Cinema 4D, not including BodyPaint 3D. There is the Cinema 4D Lite, which comes free with Adobe After Effects. It is really an amazing tool for discovering the world of 3D without having to invest a bunch of money. But, if you want all the goodies that come packed into Cinema 4D you will have to pay the piper and purchase one of the other four versions. The other versions include Prime, Broadcast, Visualize and Studio.

Cinema 4D Prime is the first version that includes features like lighting, cameras and animation. Cinema 4D Broadcast includes all of Cinema 4D Prime’s features as well as the beloved MoGraph tools and the Broadcast Library, which offers pre-built objects and cameras that will work with motion graphics. Cinema 4D Visualize includes Cinema 4D Prime features as well, but is geared more toward architects and designers. It includes Sketch and Toon, as well as an architecturally focused library of objects and presets. Cinema 4D Studio includes everything in the other versions plus unlimited Team Render nodes, a hair system, a motion/object tracker and much more. If you want to see a side-by-side comparison you can check out Maxon’s website.

What’s New
As usual, there are a bunch of new updates to Cinema 4D Release 19, but I am going to focus on my top three, which relate to the workflows and processes I might use as an editor: New Media Core, Scene Reconstruction and the Spherical Camera. Obviously, there are a lot more updates — including the incredible new OpenGL Previews and the cross-platform ProRender, which adds the ability to use AMD or Nvidia graphics cards — but to keep this review under 30 pages I am focusing on the three that directly impact my work.

New Media Core
Buckle up! You can now import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D. So, yes, you can import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D Release 19, but that is just one tiny aspect of this update. The really big addition is the QuickTime-free support of MP4 videos. Now MP4s can be imported and used as textures, as well as exported with different compression settings, directly from within Cinema 4D’s  interface — all of this without the need to have QuickTime installed. What is cool about this is that you no longer need to export image-based file sequences to get your movie inside of Cinema 4D. The only slowdown will be how long it takes Cinema 4D R19 to cache your MP4 so that you will have realtime playback… if possible.

In my experience, it doesn’t take that much time, but that will be dependent on your system performance. While this is a big under-the-hood type of update, it is great for those quick exports of a scene for approval. No need to take your export into Adobe Media Encoder, or something else, to squeeze out an MP4.

Scene Reconstruction
First off, for any new Cinema 4D users out there, Scene Reconstruction is convoluted and a little thick to wade through. However, if you work with footage and want to add motion graphics work to a scene, you will want to learn this. You can check out this Cineversity.com video for an eight-minute overview.

Cinema 4D’s Scene Reconstruction works by tracking your footage to generate point clouds, and then after you go back and enable Scene Reconstruction, it creates a mesh from the resulting scene calculation that Cinema 4D computes. In the end, depending on how compatible your footage is with Scene Detection (i.e. contrasting textures and good lighting will help) you will get a camera view with matching scene vertices that are then fully animatable. I, unfortunately, do not have enough time to recreate a set or scene inside of Cinema 4D R19, however, it feels like Maxon is getting very close to fully automated scene reconstruction, which would be very, very interesting.

I’ve seen a lot of ideas from pros on Twitter and YouTube that really blow my mind, like 3D scanning with a prosumer camera to recreate objects inside of Cinema 4D. Scene Reconstruction could be a game-changing update, especially if it becomes more automated as it would allow base users like me to recreate a set in Cinema 4D without having to physically rebuild a set. A pretty incredible motion graphics-compositing future is really starting to emerge from Cinema 4D.

In addition, the Motion Tracker has received some updates, including manual tracking on R, G, B, or custom channel — viewed as Tracker View — and the tracker can now work with a circular tracking pattern.

Spherical Camera
Finally, the last update, which seems incredible, is the new Spherical Camera. It’s probably because I have been testing and using a lot more 360 video, but the ability to render your scene using a Spherical Camera is here. You can now create a scene, add a camera and enable Spherical mapping, including equirectangular, cubic string, cubic cross or even Facebook’s 360 video 3×2 cubic format. In addition, there is now support for Stereo VR as well as dome projection.

Other Updates
In addition to the three top updates I’ve covered, there are numerous others updates that are just as important, if not more so to those who use Cinema 4D in other ways. In my opinion, the rendering updates take the cake. Also, as mentioned before, there is support for both Nvidia and AMD GPUs, multi-GPU support, incredible viewport enhancements with Physical Rendering and interactive Preview Renders in the viewport.

Under MoGraph, there is an improved Voronoi Fracture system (ability to destroy an object quickly) including improved performance for high polygon counts and detailing to give the fracture a more realistic look. There is also a New Sound Effector to allow for interactive MoGraph creation to the beat of the music. One final note: the new Modern Modelling Kernel has been introduced. The new kernel gives more ability to things like polygon reduction and levels of detail.

In the end, Cinema 4D Release 19 is a huge under-the-hood update that will please legacy users but will also attract new users with AMD-based GPUs. Moreover, Maxon seems to be slowly morphing Cinema 4D into a total 2D and 3D modeling and motion graphics powerhouse, much like the way Blackmagic’s Resolve is for colorists, video editors, VFX creators and audio mixers.

Summing Up
With updates like Scene Recreation and improved motion tracking, Maxon gives users like me the ability to work way above their pay grade to composite 3D objects onto our 2D footage. If any of this sounds interesting to you and you are a paying Adobe Creative Cloud user, download and open up Cinema 4D Lite along with After Effects, then run over to Cineversity and brush up on the basics. Cinema 4D Release 19 is an immensely powerful 3D application that is blurring the boundaries between 3D and 2D compositing. With Cinema 4D Release 19’s large library of objects, preset scenes and lighting setups you can be experimenting in no time, and I didn’t even touch on the modeling and sculpting power!


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

DG 7.9.18

iPi Motion Capture V.4 software offers live preview

iPi Soft, makers of motion capture technology, has introduced iPi Motion Capture Version 4, the next version of its markerless motion capture software. Version 4 includes realtime preview capability for a single-depth sensor. Other new features and enhancements include support for new depth sensors (Intel RealSense D415/D435, ASUS Xtion2 and Orbbec Astra/ Astra Pro); improved arms and body tracking; and support for action cameras such as GoPro and SJCAM. With Version 4, iPi Soft also introduces a perpetual license model.

The realtime tracking feature in Version 4 uses iPi Recorder, a free software provided by iPi Soft for capturing, playback and processing video records from multiple cameras and depth sensors, to communicate with iPi Mocap Studio software, which tracks in realtime and instantly transfers motion to 3D characters. This allows users to see how the motion will look on a 3D character and improve motion accordingly at the time of acting and recording, without the need to redo multiple iterations of acting, recording and offline tracking.

Live tracking results can then be stored to disk for additional offline post processing, such as tracking refinement (to improve tracking accuracy), manual corrections and jitter removal.

iPi Mocap Version 4 currently includes the realtime tracking feature for a single depth sensor only. iPi Soft is scheduled to bring realtime functionality for multiple depth sensors to users by the end of this year.

Development of plug-ins for popular 3D game engines, including Unreal Engine and Unity, is also underway.

Tracking Improvements include:
• Realtime tracking support of human performance for live preview for a single-depth sensor (Basic and Pro configurations). Motion can be transferred to a 3D character.
• Improved individual body parts tracking, after performing initial tracking, allows users to re-do tracking for selected body parts to fix tracking errors more quickly.
• Tracking improvements of head and hands when used in conjunction with Sony’s PS Move motion controller takes into account joint limits.

New Sensors and cameras supported include:
• Support for Intel RealSense D415 / D435 depth cameras, Asus Xtion2 motion sensors and Orbbec Astra / Astra Pro 3D cameras.
• Support for action cameras such as GoPro and SJCAM, including wide-angle cameras, allows users to come closer to the camera decreasing space requirements.
• The ability to calibrate individual internal parameters of any camera, helps users to correctly reconstruct 3D information from video for improved overall tracking quality.
• The ability to load unsynchronized videos from multiple cameras and then use iPi Recorder to sync and convert footage to .iPiVideo format used by iPi Mocap Studio.
• Support of fast motion action cameras — video frame rate can reach up to 120fps to allow for tracking extremely fast motions.

Version 4’s perpetual license is not time-limited and includes two years with full support and software updates. Afterwards, users have the option to subscribe to a support plan to continue receiving full support and software updates. Alternatively, they can continue using their latest software version.

iPi Motion Capture Version 4 is also available as a subscription-based model. Prices range from $165 to $1995 depending on the version of software (Express, Basic, Pro) and the duration of subscription.

The Basic edition provides support for up to 6 Sony PS3 Eye cameras or 2 Kinect sensors, and tracking of a single actor. The Pro version features full 16-camera/four depth sensors capability and can track up to three actors. A 30-day free trial for Version 4 is available.

 


Boxx’s Apexx SE capable of 5.0GHz clock speed

Boxx Technologies has introduced the Apexx Special Edition (SE), a workstation featuring a professionally overclocked Intel Core i7-8086K limited edition processor capable of reaching 5.0GHz across all six of its cores.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Intel 8086 (the processor that launched x86 architecture), Intel provided Boxx with a limited number of the high-performance CPUs ideal for 3D modeling, animation and CAD workflows.

Available only while supplies last and custom-configured to accelerate Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Maya, Adobe CC, Maxon Cinema 4D and other pro apps, Apexx SE features a six-core, 8th generation Intel core i7-8086K limited edition processor professionally overclocked to 5.0GHz. Unlike PC gaming systems, the liquid-cooled Apexx SE sustains that frequency across all cores — even in the most demanding situations.

Featuring a compact and metallic blue chassis, the Apexx S3 supports up to three Nvidia or AMD Radeon pro graphics cards, features solid state drives and 2600MHz DDR4 memory. Boxx is offering a three-year warranty on the systems.

“As longtime Intel partners, Boxx is honored to be chosen to offer this state-of-the-art technology. Lightly threaded 3D content creation tools are limited by the frequency of the processor, so a faster clock speed means more creating and less waiting,” explains Boxx VP, marketing and business development Shoaib Mohammad.


Luke Scott to run newly created Ridley Scott Creative Group

Filmmaker Ridley Scott has brought together all of his RSA Films-affiliated companies together in a multi-business restructure to form the Ridley Scott Creative Group. The Ridley Scott Creative Group aims to strengthen the network across the related companies to take advantage of emerging opportunities across all entertainment genres as well as their existing work in film, television, branded entertainment, commercials, VR, short films, documentaries, music video, design and animation, and photography.

Ridley Scott

Luke Scott will assume the role of global CEO, working with founder Ridley Scott and partners Jake and Jordan Scott to oversee the future strategic direction of the newly formed group.

“We are in a new golden age of entertainment,” says Ridley Scott. “The world’s greatest brands, platforms, agencies, new entertainment players and studios are investing hugely in entertainment. We have brought together our talent, capabilities and creative resources under the Ridley Scott Creative Group, and I look forward to maximizing the creative opportunities we now see unfolding with our executive team.”

The companies that make up the RSCG will continue to operate autonomously but will now offer clients synergy under the group offering.

The group includes commercial production company RSA Films, which produced such ads such as Apple’s 1984, Budweiser’s Super Bowl favorite Lost Dog and more recently, Adidas Originals’ Original is Never Finished campaign, as well as branded content for Johnnie Walker, HBO, Jaguar, Ford, Nike and the BMW Films series; the music video production company founded by Jake Scott, Black Dog Films (Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Björk and Radiohead); the entertainment marketing company 3AM; commercial production company Hey Wonderful founded by Michael Di Girolamo; newly founded UK commercial production company Darling Films; and film and television production company Scott Free (Gladiator, Taboo, The Martian, The Good Wife), which continues to be led by David W. Zucker, president, US television; Kevin J. Walsh, president, US film; and Ed Rubin-Managing, director, UK television/film.

“Our Scott Free Films and Television divisions have an unprecedented number of movies and shows in production,” reports Luke Scott. “We are also seeing a huge appetite for branded entertainment from our brand and agency partners to run alongside high-quality commercials. Our entertainment marketing division 3AM is extending its capabilities to all our partners, while Black Dog is moving into short films and breaking new, world-class talent. It is a very exciting time to be working in entertainment.”

 

 

 

 

 


MPC directs, provides VFX, color for Fiji Water spot

To launch the new Fiji Sports Cap bottle, Wonderful Agency came up with the concept of a drop of rain from the clouds high above Fiji making its way down through the pristine environment to showcase the source of their water. The story then transitions to the Fiji Water Sports Cap bottle being used by athletes during a tough workout.

To bring that idea to life, Wonderful Agency turned to MPC with creative director Michael Gregory, who made making his MPC directorial debut, helming both spots while also leading his VFX team. These spots will air on primetime television.

Gregory’s skills in visual effects made him the perfect fit as director of the spots, since it was essential to seamlessly depict the raindrop’s fast-paced journey through the different environments. MPC was tasked with building the CG water droplet that falls from the sky, while reflecting and magnifying the beauty of the scenes shot in Fiji.

“It was key to film in low light, cloudy conditions in Fiji,” explains Gregory. “We shot over five days with a drone in the most remote parts of the main island, taking the drone above the clouds and shooting many different angles on the descent, so we had all the textures and plates we needed.”

For the Fiji section, Gregory and team used the Zenmuse X7 camera that sits on a DJI Inspire 2 drone. “We chose this because logistically it was easier to get it to Fiji by plane. It’s a much smaller drone and isn’t as battery-hungry. You can only travel with a certain amount of batteries on a plane, and the larger drones that carry the Reds and Alexas would need the batteries shipped by sea. Being smaller meant it had much longer flying times. That meant we could have it in the air at height for much longer periods. The footage was edited in Adobe Premiere.”

MPC’s VFX team then got to work. According to lead compositor Oliver Caiden, “The raindrop itself was simulated CG geometry that then had all of the different textures refracted through the UV map. This process was also applied to the droplet reflections, mapping high dynamic range skies onto the outside, so we could achieve a more immersive and richer effect.”

This process enabled the compositors to animate the raindrops and have full control over motion blur, depth of focus, refraction and reflections, making them as realistic and multifaceted as possible. The shots were a mixture of multiple plates, matte painting, 2D and CG clouds, which ultimately created a sequence that felt seamless with reality. The spot was graded by MPC’s colorist Ricky Gausis.

The tools used by MPC were Autodesk Maya, Side Effects Houdini, Adobe Photoshop as well as Foundry Nuke for the VFX and FilmLight Baselight for color.

The latest Fiji campaign marks a continued partnership between MPC and Wonderful Agency — they previously handled VFX for Wonderful Pistachios and Wonderful Halos spots — but this latest campaign sees MPC managing the production from start to finish.

Therapy Studios provided the final audio mix.

 


Creating the 3D stereo version of Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story

At Stereo D, a company that converts 2D theatrical content into stereoscopic 3D imagery, creating 3D editions of blockbuster movies takes hundreds of people working under the leadership of a dedicated stereo producer and stereographer team. For Solo: A Star Wars Story, the studio’s Tim Broderick and Yo Aoki talked to us about their collaboration and how they supported Ron Howard’s 3D vision for the film.

Yo Aoki

Can you talk about how your partnership works to produce a 3D version of every frame in a feature film?
Tim Broderick: Think of it this way — Yo is the artistic lead and I’m the one trying to give him as much of a runway as possible. My job entails a lot more of the phone calls to the client, setting up schedules and our pipelines and managing the material as it comes over to us. Yo’s focus is mainly in the theater and working with the stereo supervisors about his approach to each show. He homes in on what the style will be, analyzes each scene and builds a stereo plan for each.

Tim Broderick

Yo Aoki: Then we come together with the clients and all talk through the work… what they’re going for and how we can add to it using the 3D. We both have our strengths in the room with the clients and we play off each other very well and comfortably, which is why we’ve been doing this together for so long.

Did your collaboration begin at Stereo D?
Aoki: Yes. My first major project at Stereo D was James Cameron’s Titanic, but my history with Tim began with Godzilla and Jurassic Park 3D, where Tim was our production supervisor. Then we worked together with Tim serving as stereo producer on Jurassic World, followed by The BFG, Rogue One, The Mummy, Ready Player One and Solo.

So, you’re not the team that leads the 3D on the Star Wars episodes?
Broderick: Lucasfilm thought it made more sense to assign a dedicated team to the stories and another to the episodes as a practical matter since the schedules were overlapping.

How do you describe the aesthetic that applies to the 3D of Solo: A Star Wars Story compared to Rogue One?
Aoki: For Rogue One, Gareth Edwards and John Knoll preferred realism, while in Solo, Ron Howard and Rob Bredow preferred to make the 3D fun and comfortable. Different approaches and both worked for the experience each film offered.

Can you explain the difference between 3D realism and 3D fun and comfortable?
Broderick: Sure, for “realism” we take more of an analytical approach, making sure objects are correct in their spatial relationships. Is that rock the correct size in perspective to K2? No. It needs to be pushed positive so it’s larger. Whereas in “fun and comfortable,” we certainly keep things realistic, but the analytical approach is more Yo putting himself in the audience’s shoes and looking at each shot and asking 1) What can we do with this shot to make it just a little more of a fun ride for the audience? And 2) Is it comfortable? What do we need to sacrifice in terms of realism to help that?

What kind of guidance did director Ron Howard provide to inform your approach to the 3D?
Aoki: Take the Kessel Run sequence, which is a wild flight through fog and debris crashing into the ship as the team runs from TIE fighters and a giant monster. There was discussion early on about playing the sequence very shallow to avoid miniaturization of the Falcon and keep it to actual scale, but by doing that you lose the fun of the 3D tunnel effect of the environment they’re in, so Ron said to cheat the reality and make it more fun. There are also rocks and debris flying past the window, which Ron wanted to pull closer to the ship for more drama. The scale is unconventional, but it’s a lot more fun playing it this way. It adds to the impact of the scene.

You’ve worked with some pretty amazing directors — Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, James Cameron — what’s the best part of the job?
Aoki: It’s been great. After each show we walk away with more ideas to offer the next filmmaker to use in their 3D storytelling.

Broderick: Definitely one of the most fun parts of what we do is spending time with filmmakers learning what they’re going for, presenting how we can aid that story in terms of 3D and having the creative flexibility to see it through.


Carbon creates four animated thrill ride spots

Carbon was called on once again by agency Cramer-Krasselt to create four spots — Railblazer, Twisted Timbers, Steel Vengeance and HangTime — for Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns and operates 11 amusement parks across North America.

Following the success of Carbon’s creepy 2017 teaser film for the ride Mystic Timbers, Cramer-Krasselt senior art director David Vaca and his team presented Carbon with four ideas, each a deep dive into the themes and backstories of the rides.

Working across four 30-second films simultaneously and leading a “tri-coastal” team of artists, CD Liam Chapple shared directing duties with lead artists Tim Little and Gary Fouchy. The studio has offices in NYC, LA and Chicago.

According to Carbon executive producer/managing director Phil Linturn, “We soaked each script in the visual language, color grades, camera framing and edits reminiscent of our key inspiration films for each world — a lone gun-slinger arriving to town at sundown in the wild west, the carefree and nostalgic surf culture of California, and extreme off-roading adventures in the twisting canyons of the southwest.”

Carbon’s technical approach to these films was dictated by the fast turnaround and having all films in production at the same time. To achieve the richness, tone and detail required to immerse the viewer in these worlds, Carbon blended stylized CGI with hyper-real matte paintings and realistic lighting to create a look somewhere between their favorite children’s storybooks, contemporary manga animation, the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and one or two of their favorite Pixar films.

Carbon called on Side Effects Houdini (partially for their procedural ocean toolkit), Autodesk Maya’s nCloth and 3ds Max, Pixologic’s Zbrush for 3D sculpting and matte painting, Foundry’s Nuke and FilmLight’s Baselight for color.

“We always love working with Cramer-Krasselt,” concludes Linturn. “They come with awesome concepts and an open mind, challenging us to surprise them with each new deck. This was a fantastic opportunity to expand on our body of full CGI-direction work and to explore some interesting looks and styles. It also allowed us to come up with some very creative workflows across all three offices and to achieve two minutes of animation in just a few weeks. The fact that these four films are part of a much bigger broadcast campaign comprising 70-plus broadcast spots is a testament to the focus and range of the production team.”


Quick Chat: Maxon focuses on highlighting women in mograph

By Randi Altman

Maxon is well known for having hands-on artists as presenters at their trade show booths. Highlighting these artists and their work — and streaming their presentations — has been intrinsic in what they do. Sometimes they also have artists on hand at press luncheons, where Maxon talks about their Cinema 4D product and advances that have been made while at the same time highlighting users’ work.

This year’s conversation was a bit different in that it featured an all-woman panel of motion graphics artists, including moderator Tuesday McGowan, Penelope Nederlander, Julia Siemón, Caitlin Cadieux, Robyn Haddow and Sarah Wickliffe. They talked about their career experiences, the everyday challenges women face to achieve recognition and gender parity in a male-dominated work environment and strategies women can use to advance their careers.

During the panel (which you can watch here), McGowan talked about how motion graphics, in general, is very young, and how she believes there will be a coming evolution of diversity, and not just women. “I think it will happen through awareness and panel discussions like this one that will actually increase the visibility and get the word out — to influence Generation Z, the next generation of women and people of color to get involved,” says Tuesday. “We think that the young women of Generation Z, who are more familiar and very confident with technology, will branch out and become great 3D artists.”

Paul Babb

We reached out to Maxon US president/CEO Paul Babb to find out about why promoting women in motion graphics is a cause he has dug into wholeheartedly.

How did the idea for a panel like this come about?
During one of the trade shows, we got beat up a little on one of the public forums for not having enough female artists presenting. At first I was angry because in the first place I think we had more female presenters than any other company at the show, and we have historically been sensitive to it.

Then I thought about it and realized we are one of the few companies streaming our presentations. So people who do not attend shows have no idea. So I decided we had to be more proactive about it and tried to come up with some ideas to encourage more women to come out to the shows. The idea of the panel seemed to be a great starting point — what better way to find out what would encourage women in the industry than to give successful women an opportunity to discuss it and share their insights?

Did the panel turn out the way you hoped?
Absolutely. Really, all I had hoped for was to contribute to a conversation that has already started. I wanted to give some great female artists a forum to share their experiences and hopefully encourage a new generation of female artists.

The conversation was great — candid, constructive and informative.

The panel generated frank conversation about the gender gap in 3D motion graphics. Topics examined included negotiating wages, mansplaining and being “talked-over,” the importance of flexible work time for women raising families, the need for women to seek out industry mentorship and tips for industry leaders to make workplace life inclusive to women.

What were a few takeaways from the panel?
I wasn’t surprised by any of the comments — good and bad. The biggest takeaway is that we have to find ways of encouraging more women in the industry, and encourage those in the industry to be more vocal.

What are the challenges they face and what do you think needs to change in the industry in general?
Other than the usual issues of a male-dominated society, the one thing that struck me is how women need to be more empowered — to toot their own horn, to recognize they are an expert and to stand up and be heard.

Maxon announced sponsorship of a new Women in Motion Graphics website. Tell us about the site offerings. Do you expect to continue to promote female graphic artists?
The Women in Motion Graphics website is intended as a resource to help women get ahead in the industry and to promote industry role models. It includes the video of the panel we organized at NAB 2018 featuring successful female artists, each working in different areas of the motion graphics business, addressing their struggles in the workplace. The artists who were on the panel share their insights into the motion graphics industry, its influencers and best practices for artists to achieve recognition. There is also a page with links to motion graphics education and training resources.

We will continue to sponsor the site and allow the women involved to drive its growth and evolution. In addition, we will continue to make great effort to get more women to come present for us at industry events, focus on doing customer profiles that feature women artists as well as sponsor scholarships and events that promote women in the industry.

Combining 3D and 360 VR for The Cabiri: Anubis film

Whether you are using 360 VR or 3D, both allow audiences to feel in on the action and emotion of a film narrative or performance, but combine the two together and you can create a highly immersive experience that brings the audience directly into the “reality” of the scenes.

This is exactly what film producers and directors Fred Beahm and Bogdan Darev have done in The Cabiri: Anubis, a 3D/360VR performance art film showing at the Seattle International Film Festival’s (SIFF) VR Zone on May 18 through June 10.

The Cabiri is a Seattle-based performance art group that creates stylistic and athletic dance and entertainment routines at theater venues throughout North America. The 3D/360VR film can now be streamed from the Pixvana app to the new Oculus Go headset, which is specifically designed for 3D and 360 streaming and viewing.

“As a director working in cinema to create worlds where reality is presented in highly stylized stories, VR seemed the perfect medium to explore. What took me by complete surprise was the emotional impact, the intimacy and immediacy the immersive experience allows,” says Darev. “VR is truly a medium that highlights our collective responsibility to create original and diverse content through the power of emerging technologies that foster curiosity and the imagination.”

“Other than a live show, 3D/360VR is the ideal medium for viewers to experience the rhythmic movement in The Cabiri’s performances. Because they have the feeling of being within the scene, the viewers become so engaged in the experience that they feel the emotional and dramatic impact,” explains Beahm, who is also the cinematographer, editor and post talent for The Cabiri film.

Beahm has a long list of credits to his name, and a strong affinity for the post process that requires a keen sense of the look and feel a director or producer is striving to achieve in a film. “The artistic and technical functions of the post process take a film from raw footage to a good result, and with the right post artist and software tools to a great film,” he says. “This is why I put a strong emphasis on the post process, because along with a great story and cinematography, it’s a key component of creating a noteworthy film. VR and 3D require several complex steps, and you want to use tools that simplify the process so you can save time, create high-quality results and stay within budget.”

For The Cabiri film, he used the Kandao Obsidian S camera, filming in 6K 3D360, then SGO’s Mistika VR for their stereo 3D optical-flow stitching. He edited in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC 2018 and finished in Assimilate’s Scratch VR, using their 3D/360VR painting, tracking and color grading tools. He then delivered in 4K 3D360 to Pixvana’s Spin Studio.”

“Scratch VR is fast. For example, with the VR transform-and-vector paint tools I can quickly paint out the nadir, or easily delete unwanted artifacts like portions of a camera rig and wires, or even a person. It’s also easy to add in graphics and visual effects with the built-in tracker and compositing tools. It’s also the only software I use that renders content in the background while you continue working on your project. Another advantage is that Scratch VR will automatically connect to an Oculus headset for viewing 3D and 360,” he continues. “During our color grading session, Bogdan would wear an Oculus Rift headset and give me suggestions about changes I should make, such as saturation and hues, and I could quickly do these on the fly and save the versions for comparison.”