• Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014
Shotgun drives VFX pipeline for summer films
X-Men Characters and Likenesses TM & © 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES -- 

Shotgun Software, developer of the cloud-based collaboration platform for creative companies (recently acquired by Autodesk), was integral to the production of over a dozen of this summer’s tentpole films. Used by visual effects studios worldwide, Shotgun played a key role in keeping artists and shots on track at facilities such as Digital Domain, Milk VFX, Framestore, Method Studios, Double Negative, Atomic Fiction, Image Engine, Rodeo FX and Factory VFX for films including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Giver, Hercules, Lucy and The Maze Runner.

Digital Domain has been using Shotgun for more than five years, relying on it recently to manage VFX workflows on features including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent and Into the Storm, releasing this August. Kevin VanderJagt was the company's digital producer on X-Men: Days of Future Past, on which Digital Domain completed more than 430 shots ranging from the 1970s Sentinels to Mystique’s shape-shifting transformations.

“Shotgun was vital to our workflow on X-Men,” said VanderJagt. “It's the backbone of our production and daily communication structure and is especially important when we have artists at multiple locations working together as one team. We rely heavily on Shotgun as the central database for all shot information -- everything we ingest from our clients, from our set survey, camera reports, lens information and plate data to our turnover notes and editorial counts all live in Shotgun. Our review notes, both internal and external, as well as our shot status and client reporting are all driven directly from Shotgun as well.”

Shotgun is also at the heart of Milk VFX’s state-of-the-art pipeline, which was custom built to leverage specific Shotgun features including the Pipeline Toolkit. For this summer’s Hercules, Milk VFX depended on Shotgun to track artist progress on a demanding range of shots. “With Shotgun we have instant access to every piece of information associated with a given shot and its status. On a massive show like Hercules, we relied heavily on Shotgun to keep our VFX pipeline running smoothly and ensure efficient collaboration across our artist and production teams,” said Will Cohen, Milk co-founder and CEO.

Framestore taps Shotgun for its feature VFX productions, enabling easy collaboration and tracking for hundreds of artists across multiple facilities on features including Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Tom Cruise thriller Edge of Tomorrow. Other studios using Shotgun to manage VFX pipelines on the season’s studio features include Method Studios (Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Maze Runner, The Giver), Double Negative (Hercules), Atomic Fiction (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Image Engine (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Prime Focus (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Rodeo FX (Lucy), and Factory VFX (The Maze Runner).

  • Monday, Jul. 28, 2014
Gadget Watch: PadFone novel as phone-tablet hybrid
This product image provided by AsusTek Computer Inc. shows The Asus Padfone X. (AP Photo/AsusTek Computer Inc.)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Companies often blend old products to give you something new.

This summer, AsusTek Computer Inc. claims you don't need both a phone and a tablet — as long as you get its new PadFone X. The PadFone works like any other phone and has a screen that measures 5 inches diagonally. When you want a tablet experience, you simply slip the phone into a slot on the back of the tablet display, which is included. All the apps on the phone now work on the 9-inch tablet. The phone is what runs the tablet. Asus is bringing this concept to the U.S. for the first time.

In some cases, apps switch to the tablet screen automatically, so you don't have to restart the video or reopen the mail app. In other cases, you'll have to close the app and reopen it after attaching the phone to the tablet screen.

For apps that have been optimized for tablets, the layout on the PadFone rearranges automatically to use the extra space. Yet it's fundamentally a phone. You can make calls in tablet mode, using earphones or the device's speakerphones.

— NICE PRICE: It's like buying a phone and getting a tablet for free. Available only through AT&T, the PadFone costs $550 without a contract, or about $100 cheaper than Apple's iPhone 5s and Samsung's Galaxy S5. With a two-year service contract, it's the usual $200 that most carriers charge for a high-end phone.

— ADVANTAGES: Because the two parts count as one device, you don't need a second data plan, which typically runs $10 a month for a tablet under AT&T's sharing plans. This setup also ensures that the tablet has cellular connectivity. Many other tablets work only with Wi-Fi.

In addition, you don't need to install apps twice. Whatever you get on your phone automatically appears on the tablet. You just pick up where you left off whenever you switch, with no need to sync data or settings.

— COMPROMISES: The phone on the back adds bulk to the tablet. It's about three-quarters of an inch at the center, where the phone slot is located. It's also heavy. The combination weighs nearly 1.5 pounds, compared with a pound for the iPad Air.

— DO YOU NEED IT? I'm typically a fan of having multiple devices for different circumstances. Here, you're getting extra thickness and weight in fusing the two gadgets.

There's a case for the PadFone, though, if you're someone who uses a tablet only at home. You can carry the phone with you during the day and attach it to the tablet screen when you get home. You don't have to worry about what apps and data are on which device.

Asus could have gone further, though, making a range of tablet screens available. You might want a 7-inch screen for reading, but a 12-inch screen for video. Why not offer choices to mix and match?

  • Monday, Jul. 28, 2014
Baselight sets the look for Clint Eastwood’s "Jersey Boys"
Maxine Gervais
LONDON -- 

Adapted from the stage hit, Jersey Boys is the musical story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. For his movie adaptation, director Clint Eastwood wanted a characteristic 1960s feel. He turned to the Warner Bros MPI team and their colorist Maxine Gervais on the Baselight color suite from FilmLight.

Shot in 2K anamorphic using an ARRI ALEXA, Gervais worked on Baselight with cinematographer Tom Stern to create initial looks. This meant the dailies had some of the character that Eastwood was looking to achieve before they even got to editorial. These looks formed the basis of the finished digital intermediate.

“I first met with Tom early on in the Jersey Boys project, prior to shooting,” explained Gervais. “Tom and I discussed doing dailies on Baselight, as they’d never done it before. We established looks that we converted into LUTs to plug into Baselight, so when we started getting the material all I had to do was grab the right look and balance things out.”

“Clint wanted to create a strong, de-saturated style with a very periodic feel to it. He really wanted to portray the sixties, so we let certain colors breathe--mostly elements of the wardrobe and details like the girls’ lipstick,” recalled Gervais. “I would de-saturate the overall picture then grasp and pull through certain colors, making it look very similar to television in the sixties.”

“It was an intricate look,” she added. “When you go very de-saturated, it always requires a little more balancing. Tom is a wonderful DP who shoots fast, knows what he wants but always got time to light it well. With Tom’s support, knowledge and understanding of how Clint works, coupled with the power of Baselight, I really felt I could do anything with the look. We ran a first pass by Clint who just had a couple of notes and then we just went from there and let our creative minds do the work. It really was a great team and a smooth DI process. For me it is an honor to work with such iconic filmmakers.”

Eastwood and Stern have already moved on to their next project, American Sniper, which they are grading in Maxine Gervais’s Baselight suite at Warner Bros. They will be using the same Baselight workflow but also introducing CDL for visual effects.

“Grading is moving away from one heroic session at the end of the pipeline towards a cumulative and collaborative process,” said Wolfgang Lempp, co-founder of FilmLight. “Today grading is a continuous process from set to deliverables, with colorists working alongside directors, cinematographers, editors and effects artists, rather than in sequence with them. That’s why we offer ‘Baselight at every stage’--not just in the grading suite, but on set, in VFX and in editorial as well.”
 

  • Saturday, Jul. 26, 2014
Euro Media deploys Grass Valley LDX Series Cameras for Tour de France
LDX cameras on their motorcycle perches for Tour de France.
MONTREAL -- 

The 101st running of the Tour de France covers a total distance of 3,664 kilometers through 21 stages. For the riders, the physical and mental challenges are hard to imagine. For Euro Media Group, the firm responsible for the overall wireless coverage, production challenges are also daunting. This year, to address the challenge, the company is using five brand-new LDX WorldCam cameras from Grass Valley, a Belden Brand, to provide up-close footage from five motorcycles that follow the action throughout each stage.

Bruno Gallais, Euro Media Group international business development head for wireless production facilities, said that the use of Grass Valley LDX Series cameras on the five motorcycles tracking the race is one of the primary changes to its RF configuration this year. “Each year, the pressure to provide higher quality, ‘heat-of-the-action’ coverage increases. The LDX Series cameras are very powerful, very high quality; we are very happy with their performance.”

To optimize connectivity of the new cameras, Grass Valley also developed a custom-made adapter kit which enables Euro Media’s RF affiliate, Livetools, to easily integrate its wireless transmitter solution for motorcycle use. Grass Valley developed the LDX RF docking interface and LDX adapter housing to allow RF vendors to integrate their own solutions. The outstanding image quality of the LDX Series, along with the custom wireless integration of Livetools, have been designed to deliver the best possible performance for these kinds of live events.

Gallais, who has been involved in broadcasting the Tour de France for nearly 30 years, has seen a lot of change. “Technology drives our ability to cover these kinds of events. As the cameras and the ways we transfer our signals improve, our coverage gets better and better. We are able to help viewing audiences around the world feel as if they are right there on the course with the riders.”

The core technology of the LDX WorldCam is based on the Grass Valley Xensium-FT CMOS imager, which enables the camera to deliver superb picture quality even in low-light conditions.

“This solution for Euro Media Group is ideal for covering such a high-profile event,” said Marcel Koutstaal, vice president and general manager of camera systems, Grass Valley. “We design our solutions to be scalable and adaptable, giving users the ability to integrate the technology in a way that best meets their needs. It’s important for them to be able to leverage the latest technology in a competitive way.”

Euro Media Group provides clients with a complete custom-made solution for the production and delivery of all media content from broadcast through to on-line. Focused on new media, Euro Media Group is recognized for its experience in international sports, live performances and entertainment production. The Group owns 92 stages and 74 mobile units, providing customers with the greatest collection of studios and fleet of mobile facilities in Europe.

  • Saturday, Jul. 26, 2014
Cambridge Imaging Systems to preview next-gen Imagen system at IBC
Imagen media management and publishing system.
CAMBRIDGE, UK -- 

At IBC 2014 Cambridge Imaging Systems will preview the new version of Imagen, the world-class media management and publishing solution, as well as demonstrating relationships with companies including Microsoft, Quantum and Spectra Logic that will help users to create scalable, secure end-to-end workflows.

The first look at Imagen 3.4 will reveal cloud-based object storage support for Microsoft Azure and Amazon cloud services. Imagen users can now take advantage of low cost cloud storage for backups, proxies, or even as a primary resource. Imagen’s storage service now offers simple drop down menus for easy access to Microsoft Azure’s Blob and Amazon’s S3 cloud storage systems. The object-based storage solutions offered by these vendors offers scale and affordability for anyone using Imagen.

Imagen 3.4 also offers an exciting new range of stock website themes and browser-based schema editing. The new version of Imagen is scheduled for delivery in October 2014.

Cambridge Imaging Systems is also building on its relationship with Quantum, a provider of specialized scale-out storage and data protection solutions, with the introduction of IQ, a new unified production, storage, delivery and archive platform. This best of breed integration combines Quantum’s StorNext Pro STUDIO scale-out storage appliances with the flexibility of Imagen media management and publishing software. Bridging the gaps between production, archive and delivery, IQ offers next generation content storage management, long-term preservation and monetisation through a customisable web platform.

In addition Imagen’s storage service API has been extended to support Spectra Logic’s BlackPearl deep storage appliance, giving Imagen users the ability to deploy a tier of deep storage that is cost effective, easy to manage and scalable. Black Pearl takes advantage of tape’s low cost and features economical scaling to Exabyte capacities. The combined solution enables media to be moved seamlessly into mass tape storage.

Tom Blake, managing director, Cambridge Imaging Systems, said, “Working with these leading developers means we can combine our strengths and bring together the best asset management and storage solutions in ways that best suit our users. We’re excited to present these new workflows to our visitors at IBC 2014.”

  • Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014
Christie donates digital projectors to Museum of Photographic Arts
The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.
CYPRESS, Calif. -- 

Christie has donated high-performance projection technology and installation services to the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in San Diego. Installed by Christie’s professional services team, the Christie Solaria Series DCI-compliance based system will deliver digital cinema images via the Solaria One projector, as well as alternative content powered by the Christie SKA-3D cinema processor. The solution, which replaces a first-generation Christie digital cinema projector, will light up the 226-seat Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theatre at MOPA, a professional quality, nonprofit theatre venue in San Diego. MOPA is host to diverse film festivals and screenings reaching over 10,000 people annually.

Founded in 1983, MOPA has established an international reputation of excellence through its presentation of high quality exhibitions, lectures, publications and films. Its mission is to inspire, educate, and engage broad audiences through the presentation, collection, and preservation of photography, film, and video. MOPA is one of the only museum facilities in the United States dedicated exclusively to lens-based media, with holdings of over 8,000 photographs by 700 artists and a 20,000 volume research library, making it a one-of-a-kind destination for scholars, researchers, and photography and film enthusiasts of all ages.

Christie’s CEO Jack Kline was inspired by MOPA’s educational role in the community, especially its desire to expand visual literacy for people of all ages. Driven by Christie’s commitment to good corporate citizenship and support of worthy causes in the community, the company’s gift will benefit local film festivals, film directors and producers, and community groups, who partner with MOPA to bring important local and international independent films to San Diego’s audiences.

“Community giving has always been a high priority for Christie, especially when it comes to the advancement of education and the arts,” said Kline. “Our acclaimed projection technology will ensure that MOPA will not only continue to be a one-of-a-kind destination for photography, but also serve as a resource where future generations of students can enjoy and appreciate the cinematic arts as well.”

Deborah Klochko, executive director at MOPA, said, “When our theater opened in 2001, we selected the finest projection and sound equipment available, including a Christie projector system. After more than a decade of near-constant operation, the current system was still serving the museum, a testament to the outstanding quality of Christie products. When the time came to replace our projector to meet current industry standards, it was only natural that we turned to Christie once again for their remarkable technology and reliability.

“The digital projection capabilities provided by Christie, combined with our ability to project 16mm, 35mm and other specialized formats, make MOPA one of the premier nonprofit venues for cinema in Southern California,” added Klochko.

Christie’s donation was joined with a $20,000 grant from Las Patronas, a philanthropic organization that has donated over $17 million to San Diego organizations since 1946.

  • Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014
HPA to host symposium leading into SMPTE 2014 Technical Conference & Exhibition
WHITE PLAINS, NY -- 

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) 2014 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition will feature a pre-conference event==the SMPTE 2014 Symposium, hosted by the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) and titled “Making Do With More.” The daylong event is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 20 at the historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

“As we consider how technological advances will improve the entertainment experience, we must also address the workflow challenges that will arise,” said Pat Griffis, SMPTE education vice president. “Each area of potential enhancement--higher resolution, greater contrast and color, higher brightness, more frames, and more objects associated with sound — brings with it new demands on workflow. Sessions within the SMPTE 2014 Symposium will address these and other next-generation workflow concerns from both a technical and creative standpoint.”

The SMPTE 2014 Symposium is among the first joint efforts of SMPTE and HPA as they move forward with plans for full consolidation by May 2015, and it highlights the strengths of both organizations. HPA is known for facilitating dialogue among all disciplines in the entertainment industry, and for its contributions to SMPTE educational events such as SMPTE 2014 that enrich and expand the larger conversation about key topics shaping the industry.

HPA is well-known for the annual HPA Tech Retreat, which brings technologists and filmmakers together to address many controversial topics influencing the industry. In developing the SMPTE 2014 Symposium as a “filmmaker’s symposium,” HPA is orchestrating sessions that take an in-depth look at advanced technologies that bring new tools to storytelling. The symposium will include creative sessions from renowned cinematographers, visual effects specialists, colorists, and other filmmakers discussing what they hope to do with enhanced pictures and frame rates.

Additional sessions will offer a look at immersive sound, its impact, and how it’s being applied today; changing models for delivery of content to the consumer--including theatrical, broadcast, physical media, and digital distribution--across TV sets, computers, and mobile devices; and the standards and practices being developed to address the changing content life cycle.

“By connecting the creative community and its supporters with the technical community at the SMPTE 2014 Symposium, SMPTE and HPA are creating an opportunity for all participants to gain a richer and deeper understanding of technology’s impact on the creative process,” said Leon Silverman, HPA president. “The new displays and distribution approaches being proposed by technology companies need to be understood in the context of how the creative community will use this extended tool kit. It is also critical that we examine the standards and workflow approaches that will be necessary to deliver something more to consumers than a higher numbers of pixels.”

SMPTE 2014 is an event for motion-imaging and media technology, production, operations, and the allied arts and sciences. Each year the event draws elite and world-renowned technology thought-leaders from motion picture studios, broadcast and distribution networks, production and postproduction communities, software companies, systems integrators, manufacturers, display technologies, distribution providers, over-the-top providers, and others leading the evolving motion-imaging industry.

  • Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014
SMPTE sets sessions for IBC2014
AMSTERDAM -- 

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) members will lead a variety of sessions during the IBC2014 exhibition in September. The Society will offer “Laser Projectors Part 1: Seeing is Believing” and “Laser Projectors Part 2: Is the Devil in the Details?” as part of the IBC Big Screen Experience. Produced and chaired by Peter Ludé, past president of SMPTE, the session will address the impact of laser projection technology on digital cinema and provide a look at breathtaking images shown on the Big Screen Experience’s 6-Primary laser projection system from Christie.

SMPTE will also co-produce “Go With UHD-1, or Wait for UHD-2?” as part of the IBC Technical Stream. In this session, Dr. Hans Hoffmann, past SMPTE standards vice president, and Howard Lukk, a SMPTE standards director, will lead a discussion with major players in this space to explore strategies and standards for content creation and delivery to the home.

Additional sessions featuring SMPTE members include “Trifocal Camera Systems” as part of the IBC Big Screen Experience; and “Movie-making in the Matrix,” presented by SMPTE Governor Richard Welsh, who will join fellow experts in examining virtualized movie production. SMPTE will also present “EDCF Global D-Cinema Update,” in which an impressive array of SMPTE panelists—including SMPTE Governor Angelo D’Alessio—will bring attendees up to speed on the latest business and technology developments in digital cinema.

As an IBC2014 partner, SMPTE is once again supporting the Rising Stars program, which offers exclusive conference sessions tailored to tackle the topics most important to young professionals. This popular program gives new entrants to the broadcast industry the opportunity to meet top industry experts across a series of specially staged sessions and events. Throughout the show, SMPTE members will volunteer their time and expertise to provide guided tours of the exhibition floor to Rising Stars participants. Through this program, SMPTE helps to foster the successful rise and advance of young creative, business, and technology professionals working within the industry.

  • Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014
Professor Brian Cox to give keynote address at IBC2014
Professor Brian Cox
AMSTERDAM -- 

Professor Brian Cox, the world-renowned physicist and multiple award-winning broadcaster, is to speak at IBC2014. Cox will take part in the IBC Conference keynote session “Television’s Expanding Universe” on Sunday, September 14.

Professor of particle physics, explorer and rock star, Cox is recognized throughout the world for his stunning hit TV series discovering and explaining the wonders of life and the universe. Originally inspired to become a physicist by the landmark TV series Cosmos, today Cox is motivating a new generation of inquiring minds through the multiplatform world of television, social media and the internet.

“I’m very much looking forward to speaking at IBC2014. Television programmes like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and James Burke’s Connections had a great influence on me when I was younger, and it’s my view that television is still the most powerful and direct way of inspiring new generations of viewers. Integrating television with social media and the internet enhances that potential. But of course power comes with responsibility, and whilst we celebrate our continuing success, we must also take our responsibility to educate, inform and influence seriously. Can we still strive to be Reithian in today’s multi-platform, multi-channel world? We’d better try if we want to remain relevant, influential, and successful.”

A brilliant thinker, charismatic communicator and musician, Cox will give a keynote address in which he will explain how his unique storytelling style evolved and consider the impact of television’s expansion since Cosmos first aired in 1980. Credited with making science engaging and accessible to millions, Cox will also be giving his thoughts on the physics of television and its future evolution.

The IBC Conference is recognized as a world-leading forum for debate and knowledge exchange, uniting a mix of visionary keynotes, panel discussions and master classes with the most influential thought leaders, opinion formers and cutting edge organizations shaping the industry’s future. Keynote speakers, selected for their authority, relevance and strong opinions, offer a wealth of experience and challenging perspectives as they discuss the influences and factors driving the industry agenda.
 

  • Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014
Vicon slates presentations for SIGGRAPH 2014
OXFORD, UK -- 

Vicon, the motion capture technology specialists for the entertainment, life sciences and engineering industries, has announced a series of customer presentations that will take place at its SIGGRAPH booth (#733) on August 12-14 in Vancouver, Canada. Customers spanning media and entertainment, education and virtual product design will share their motion capture expertise and provide insight into their latest projects. Vicon will also unveil groundbreaking new products, and enhancements to its existing motion capture software.

    Framestore’s motion capture supervisor Ben Guthrie, and senior motion capture technical director Gary Marshall, will reveal how they used Vicon motion capture systems for the Academy Award-winning blockbuster, Gravity.

    Leading motion capture studio The Capture Lab will provide insight into how they are creating unique, automated motion capture pipeline tools using Vicon cameras and Blade 2 software.

    Autodesk 3D artist Lukas Faeth will present ‘3D Automotive Visualization with Autodesk VRED Professional’, demonstrating immersive virtual prototyping in action using Autodesk VRED 3D visualization software, a live Vicon system and Tracker software.

    Karl Abson, lecturer in creative technology at Bradford University, will present "An Introduction to Quadruped Motion Capture," using motion capture of a horse in this beginner’s guide to capturing four-legged creatures.

    James Brown, visualization designer at 3D visualization specialists Lumiscaphe, will demonstrate how the company uses Vicon Tracker software and the Apex tracking tool for virtual manufacturing and design.

    Alexis Vartanian, CTO at 3D visualization solutions provider TechViz, will give a presentation on displaying high-resolution 3D virtual prototypes in real time directly from desktop 3D applications in a fully-immersive 3D virtual environment, using TechViz XL software alongside Vicon Tracker and Apex.

Throughout the show, display systems specialist Pufferfish will showcase their latest multi-touch stereoscopic 3D display with Vicon Tracker and Bonita systems. The new display represents a major step forward in virtual reality, whereby volumetric data exits the CAVE virtual environment and enters the room.

Videos of the presentations will be available to view after SIGGRAPH on Vicon’s YouTube channel.

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