VFX Los Angeles

CGI and Visual Effects in the Los Angeles Movie Industry

CGI and Visual Effects in LA’s Movie Industry

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How CGI Got Its Start in Movies

The first motion picture to use computer-generated imagery, now known as CGI, was Tron in 1982, according to Digital Art: Painting with Pixels, by Ron Miller. This book describes the development of this highly specialized field of knowledge. In a chapter called “Motion Picture: Special Effects,” there is a photo of realistic, digitally-created creatures. The chapter gives a brief overview of the development of these creative techniques, one of many visual effects in LA.

The movie Westworld, which was launched in 1973, and another science fiction movie called Future World, had made use of some early digital elements prior to this time.

It was within the movie Tron that digital imagery found a way to create authentic integrity. Because the script was almost entirely situated within an imaginary world, a space within a computer, the animation did not have to be compared to or matched up with external reality. This meant that the imagery could be judged on its own creative merits.

1982: A Pivotal Year for Computer-Generated Graphics Movies

visual effects in LA

Computer art came into its own in 1982 when Paramount Pictures released Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although the computer-generated section of the movie was brief, it featured a single inspiring computer-generated sequence. An entire planet was created within the sequence. The generation of the planet took just a few seconds. This was done by using computer-generated techniques such as the manipulation of fractals described in Digital Art. Fractal art is a genre of computer art and digital art which is part of new media art. 

To create this planet, a barren rock landscape was digitally transformed. It became filled with lush vegetation and adorned with luminous clouds in the sky. The metaphoric name for this process is the “Genesis Effect.” With this digital event, the quest to achieve realism through digital techniques had begun. From that time on, the use of computer-generated graphics became an intriguing developing genre.

The Popularity of CGI in movies 

There were good reasons why CGI became popular. Artistic directors soon engaged in experimentation because it was easier to manipulate computer-generated spaces and scenery compared to building, filming, and financing whole stages and sets.

Despite the many advantages, filmmakers remained wary of what came to be called CGI. There was an incubation period in which techniques were honed to become a superior filming method. Filmmakers continued to experiment with various films. One of these films featured a character called “Stained Glass Knight.” This computer-generated character was featured in the movie Sherlock Holmes in 1954.

The Steven Spielberg and the Jurassic Park Experiment

According to Miller, Spielberg was encouraged by Phil Tippell in 1992 to digitally create the majority of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The development of a movie in which all the animal characters were created with CGI had a great impact on the special effects industry. People were astonished by how digital animators and visual effects companies in LA could realistically recreate living creatures. It could be said that the special effects genre had come into its own. In 1993, Jurassic Park won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Is Computer Animation Taking Over for Hand-Drawn Animated Films?

The Transition to Computer Animation: Are Hand-Drawn Animated Films a Thing of the Past?

man-creating-computer-animation

Today, the most valuable tool for most animators isn’t a pencil or paintbrush. Instead, most of today’s animators prefer computer animation.

Not so long ago, animators drew thousands of scenes and painted countless cels to bring an animated film to movie-goers. In recent years, however, hand-drawn cartoons have become less and less common. Instead, studios are focusing on films created using computer animation.

Does that mean art has left the field of animation or is the field just experiencing a natural evolution? Given the current state of the film industry, one has to wonder if there is a place in today’s world for those trained in traditional animation.

From Snow White to Toy Story: Computer & Hand-Drawn Animation at the Box Office

Disney Animation Studios has a long history of releasing hand-drawn animated films. The movies produced by these Disney animators were critically acclaimed, award-winning films like Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, which has entertained people for generations.

Disney’s previous history of creating only hand-drawn animated films would, however, change with the release of Dinosaur. This film would mark the studio’s first computer-animated film. In 1995, Disney’s subsidiary, Pixar, released Toy Story. This film was both a critical and commercial success. It was also the first of Pixar’s many feature films created using only computer animation. Pixar would follow the success of their first film with A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and many other box office hits.

A Return to the Old Ways

Despite the unquestionable success of computer animation, there were still those who loved the old way. The decision was made by Disney Animation Studios to return to its roots. In the fall of 2009, the studio released The Princess and the Frog. This film marked the studio’s first hand-drawn animated film in five years.

Movie Review: The Pixar Story

There were some who questioned this decision since some of the studios’ more recent hand-drawn films had proven to be less than successful. But the studio had faith that The Princess and the Frog would be a success. They also believed that hand-drawn animation still had a place in the film industry.

The Future of Animated Films

Only time will tell if traditional hand-drawn animation will still be able to thrive in this digital era. If enough studio executives spearhead its usage, then it will certainly have a better chance to survive. With their support, computer animation and hand-drawn animation should be able to co-exist. After all, if the story is good enough, then movie-goers will generate blockbuster ticket sales no matter what type of animation was used in the film’s creation.

Epson Crystal CG Animation

Epson Crystal Animation

 
 

VFX Supervisor: Izzy Traub
Creative Director: Charles Joslain
Director: Hiroki Kamada
Agency Producer: Kei Saido 

Little do people know, Epson’s main and oldest source of business is the manufacturing of crystals which are used in iPhones and other electronics.

VFX LA was commissioned by US based production company, Prodigium Pictures and Japanese based production company, Flag Pictures, to create a fantastical 3D animation of the Crystal which was to be used in a larger, live action presentation.

After Epson signed off on the storyboards that were created by Prodigium Pictures, VFX LA went to work for the next 2 weeks, to model, texture and animate everything from scratch, as well as a secondary particle animation that was used in the presentation.

We utilized SideFX’s Houdini to simulate the particles, model and texture the crystal and environment, as well as render. The final touches were then done in After Effects.

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Cheers,
Izzy
VFX and CG animation for high quality, budget friendly productions. 


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Epson EcoTank CG Animation

Epson CG Printer Promo

VFX Supervisor: Izzy Traub
Creative Director: Charles Joslain
Director: Hiroki Kamada
Agency Producer: Kei Saido

With the new release of Epson’s brand new EcoTank ink system, Epson was in need of a slick, CG presentation that demonstrated their product.

VFX LA was commissioned by US based production company, Prodigium Pictures and Japanese based production company, Flag Pictures.

After Epson signed off on the storyboards, VFX LA went to work for the next 2 and a half months, to create two versions of the video, each with a different version of the printer. 

Thanks for checking this out!

Cheers,
Izzy
VFX and CG animation for high quality, budget friendly productions. 


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The 3D Animations Movie Craze: Virtual Reality Through Film

History of 3D Films to Today’s Popularity of the Medium

People Watching 3D Animations

 

It seems that everywhere we look these days, we see ads for the next big 3D film. Whether it’s Avatar, Tron, or Legend of the Guardians, 3D films generally have high production values. They also tend to have many ads to back them up and make sure they turn out successful. Consumers still get excited at the prospect of seeing the latest 3D animations. The technology has been around for a long time. But it all began with the red-cyan anaglyph glasses that produced few shades of color.

According to an IGN article about the history of 3D movies written by Jesse Schedeen, 3D movies go all the way back to the beginning of filmography.

“Some debate still exists as to what technically qualifies as the first 3D film. The popular pick is a 1903 short called L’arrivee du train. This short by the Lumiere brothers depicted an oncoming train roaring into the station. The first commercially released 3D film was 1922’s The Power of Love. This was also the first 3D film to make use of anaglyph glasses.”

Modern and old school 3D technologies: what changed?

What separates the recent phenomenon, with spectacular films like James Cameron’s Avatar, from the earlier films? Schedeen traces the difference to technical roadblocks in theatre investments required for the hardware, coupled with the viewer experience being lower in the past.

“Despite these advances, 3D movies fell out of popularity by the middle of the decade. The reasons for the decline were mostly technical. 3D projectors required two reels to be displayed in perfect synchronization. Small errors in synchronization could easily lead to eye strain and headaches among viewers. Keeping reels in good repair was also an ongoing concern.”

But with polarized glasses becoming available in theatres, 3D movies are now a huge and profitable enterprise. This is despite the higher equipment costs required. New innovations are also becoming a reality like glasses-free stereoscopic 3D viewing through “auto-stereoscopic displays.”

Success and Profits From the 3D-Film Industry

Exactly how successful have 3D movies have been so far?

How big 3D movies are?

Was Avatar the only 3D movie phenomenon or is the technology really popular amongst moviegoers? the popularity is huge.

Avatar was the fourth most successful movie to ever hit the box office. “They owe their thanks to 3D films,” according to the article which cited several reports to support this fact. “Avatar and other 3D films owe their success to the more expensive ticket costs to pay for the special glasses needed to watch,”. The same article also explains how the movie did so well, despite the 2008 recession.

With the ticket prices going up and more people watching movies on home-theatres, fewer people are going out to the movies these days. Producers and studios are looking at other ways to “reel” viewers in. Doing this through sensory-and-immersive experiences like stereoscopic 3D is a smart business move for them.

Many consumers nowadays will only pay premium theatre prices to watch films that offer a better or more unique experience. The 3D craze still hasn’t hit it big for home theatres so the premium certainly is worth it for viewers and techies to watch these on the big screen. Even the ones who have huge HDTVs at home and surround sound systems at their disposal still prefer to go to a theatre for a true 3D experience. But as 3D makes its way into homes and Blue-ray players worldwide, what will be the next sensation, or technology, to bring people into theatres?

Glasses-Free Displays

 

Like any craze related to technological innovation or popularity, 3D theatre profits can dwindle and die off if advancements cease. The technology will need to keep moving forward to a more glasses-free and interactive experience to stay popular. As mentioned earlier in the IGN article by Jesse Schedeen, auto-stereoscopic displays are becoming more widespread as is evident with the gaming-system, Nintendo 3DS, which can offer this “glasses-free experience.”

But once this starts stepping into consumers’ homes and the theatre loses this edge, what more can studios do to keep people going to theatres? They will have to create unique experiences for users. One example would be to add head tracking to glasses, or somehow invent peripheral-free head tracking through camera lenses. They will need to keep adding immersive “virtual reality” experiences a step ahead of the home theatre in order to maintain the current numbers of theatre attendees.

Head-Tracking Technology

Head tracking is a technology aimed at allowing users to shift their views along with their head movement. It has been used in PC gaming as of late through accessories. TrackIR is an example of this sort of peripheral. The on-screen view will shift depending on how you turn your head. This is impressive technology but it still hasn’t caught on for gamers outside niche audiences. The difference for this technology could be using it in movies and theatres.

Conclusion

Will films continue to advance past Blue Ray into another medium as theatres fall behind? Or will theatres always be a step ahead of the consumer home-entertainment market? Will people embrace 3D animations for the home not just as theatre experiences? How about glasses vs glasses-free stereoscopic 3D movies? Will there be room for both technologies in the coming years or will one die out? These are the questions that keep companies like Samsung and Sony up all night and we, as consumers, can only answer with our feedback and wallets.

 

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Toyota VFX Breakdown

Toyota Weather Enhancement

VFX Supervisor: Izzy Traub

Heavy rain was crucial to demonstrate the new safety features that Toyota had to offer. However, it wasn’t possible to do practically on set due to having a small water tower.

VFX LA had to add not just falling rain, but rain to the windows and rafters. We also cleaned up the shot, removing logos, signs, address change, and adding another parking meter.

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Izzy,
VFX for low-budget feature films and commercials


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Fake Railing & Window VFX Breakdown

Girl breaks through fake railing

Aimee, Part 2

VFX Supervisor: Izzy Traub

Fake railing and fake windows bring this fight scene to life.

This was for Lee Whittaker’s short film Aimee ( https://www.aimeemovie.com/ ).

 

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Izzy,
VFX for low-budget feature films


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Floating Ghost Effect

Floating Ghost Haunts Sleeping Beauty

Aimee, Part 1

VFX Supervisor: Izzy Traub

Lee Whittaker’s short film Aimee ( https://www.aimeemovie.com/ ) required a combination of subtle and larger-scale visual effects work. We solved some interesting on-set production challenges with VFX, which would have been very expensive to tackle live.

The project was also a good example of how on-set and post teams can work together, starting from the very beginning of production, to achieve amazing results without breaking the bank.

The process began with on-set VFX supervision work. Knowing, in advance, what we were going to do, and helping the on-set production team tweak things to ensure that we had what we needed, was immeasurably helpful.

The most difficult shot in the film, by far, was this one.

The flying ghost girl, Aimee, had been shot underwater in slow motion against a green screen. The pool wasn’t entirely clean, so there were tiny pieces of debris everywhere that had to be removed. Cleaning up the green screen around the girl’s hair was also challenging (as cleaning around hair usually is). The biggest task here, though, was addressing the bubbles coming out of Aimee’s nose and mouth, especially when she screams. On set, those bubbles crossed in front of her face on numerous occasions. This meant that we weren’t just cleaning things up. Pieces of her face and even her teeth had to be repainted in every frame where a bubble was interfering.

Soon I’ll post another very cool VFX shot we did on Aimee.

I’d love your feedback! Leave me a comment here:
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Thanks for checking this out!
Izzy,
VFX for low-budget feature films


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Weapons Room Set Extension

This gun arsenal was added to the set in post, enhancing production value.

For the low budget Film Sleepless (that I also directed), we didn’t have the budget for this weapons room and set design that I wanted. (For reference, here’s the vfx projector-phone shot from the same film).

For the above scene, the character was supposed to walk up to our elaborate gun rack and take one off the wall. The problem? We couldn’t afford to rent high-end prop guns for the day. And a friend who had ‘promised’ to bring his own guns, didn’t show up with them!

The only solution was VFX. Luckily, the type of guns we were able to drop into the scene were better than the ones we were going to borrow and amped up the production value considerably.

Our weapons room looks real, thanks to the gun wall and we would never have been able to attain this with the budget we were working with.

I estimate we saved $2700.00 by doing these CG props in post, rather than in camera.

I’d love your feedback! Leave me a comment here:
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Thanks for checking this out!
Izzy,
VFX for low-budget feature films


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Reduce Vehicle Rental Costs

See how the producer saved over $20,000.00 on this airplane shot

Certain kinds of vehicles can be very expensive to rent. Consider the cost of renting airplanes, tanks, helicopters, or exotic sports cars. A single Lamborghini can cost anywhere from $1500.00 to $2500.00 per day to rent, with a large deposit and extra insurance.

Renting specialized vehicles can be costly! But swapping those expensive vehicles out with identical VFX models can slash production costs and allow you to spend your money on other project components.

Take the above shot for example. For the film, FML, the producers and director wanted to have a custom banner being pulled through the sky by an airplane. They needed the sky to be perfectly blue and couldn’t afford to wait for the weather.

Had they decided to do this shot practically, the cost could easily have surpassed $20k.

Here are the categories of estimated savings;
*Wages for camera & support crew
*Pilot
*Airplane rental
*Fuel
*Airport fees
*Craft service (food for crew)
*Insurance
*Banner production
*Camera and gear rentals
*Transportation (crew and gear)
*Payroll Admin
*1099 Reporting Admin

By choosing to do this shot in VFX, production time was saved. And the weather did not need to cooperate!  Doing it in CG gave the director 100% control over all the factors in the scene.

Adding specialty vehicles to your project is a great way to boost production value. And VFX makes it possible, even if your production budget is limited.

Inexpensive vehicle rental

I’d love your feedback! Leave me a comment here:
LinkedIn Discussion Group.

 

Thanks for checking this out!
Izzy,
VFX for low-budget feature films


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