This has been a banner year for blockbusters, depending on your point of view. If you're a studio exec studying box-office returns you might be unhappy with a double-digit decline in box-office revenues this summer. (Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which is looking to rake in some serious dough this weekend, might help balance the scales somewhat.) But if you're a moviegoer, you're pretty happy — looking at CinemaScore audience reviews and Metacritic's index of movie reviews, Entertainment Weeklyfound that paying moviegoers are as happy with this year's big releases as last year's — and critics think this year's movies are an improvement from last year. And if you're a VFX artist, you've got a lot to look at, from the strikingly photoreal CG of The Lego Movie to the amazing character work in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
As usual, SIGGRAPH's line-up of Production Sessions will take a long look at the work that went into VFX on an array of big movies, starting with last year's Gravity and continuing through summer tentpoles X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Transformers: Age of Extinction, and upcoming releases including Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Laika's stop-motion animated The Boxtrolls. Shorts will be represented by sessions on "The Dam Keeper" and "Feast," and Videogames will make a showing with sessions on Destiny and Killzone Shadow Fall.
Of all the sessions, the main event may turn out to be Thursday's show-closing "Twentieth Century Fox Presents the Visual Effects of X-Men: Days of Future Past," which brings together animation and VFX supervisors from four different facilities to discuss their work under production VFX supervisor Richard Stammers. Speaking on the panel will be Benoit Dubuc of MPC, Lou Pecora of Digital Domain, Derek Spears of Rhythm & Hues, and Adam Pascke of Rising Sun Pictures. Also likely to be popular are Wednesday morning's "Unmask the Secrets Behind The Amazing Spider-Man 2," with VFX supervisor Jerome Chen, animation supervisor David Schaub, and DFX supervisor David Smith; Wednesday afternoon's "Making Gravity at Framestore" with the film's VFX supervisor, Tim Webber, along with Framestore's Chris Lawrence and Martin Preston, CG supervisor and head of R&D, respectively; and, first thing on Monday morning, "Building Blocks for The Lego Movie" with CG supervisor Damien Gray, head of animation Rob Coleman, CG supervisor Aidan Sarsfield, and R&D lead Daniel Heckenberg.
SIGGRAPH also said DreamWorks Animation plans a special Wednesday-night screening of How to Train Your Dragon 2 to follow Wednesday afternoon's "DreamWorks Animation Presents The Growth of How to Train Your Dragon 2."
The Production Sessions are all held in the ballrooms in the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. If you plan to attend, you'll need a Full Conference or Select Conference pass to get in. And remember that SIGGRAPH is offering discounted registration this year to currently unemployed members of ACM SIGGRAPH or its parent organization, ACM.
Here's the full line-up of 19 Production Sessions, along with the official summaries provided by SIGGRAPH, announced earlier this month. You can also read all about them at the SIGGRAPH website.
Building Blocks for "The LEGO Movie"
MONDAY, 11 AUGUST 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
The LEGO Movie is a CG animated feature film set in a world made entirely of Lego bricks. It was critical to the filmmakers that this world maintain a highly realistic connection to the look and feel of real Lego.
What resulted was a unique, photo-realistic, stop motion aesthetic and animation style, with everything on screen including the characters, sets, oceans and explosions being built and realized with accurate CG Lego bricks.
Essential to the story was the dynamic construction (and destruction!) of any of these elements into component bricks. And with a desire to echo the creative possibilities of Lego itself, Animal Logic's team of "masterbuilders" built a comprehensive Lego toolset that ensured artists could access and manipulate individual bricks, or the bricks within any asset, to create unique and spontaneous additions to the content of a shot. The results were often unscripted and highly entertaining.
Making a CG feature is complex at the best of times, but making a CG feature constructed entirely from bricks was a new and exciting challenge. It resulted in something quite different from conventional animation processes.
Damien Gray, CG Supervisor
Rob Coleman, Head of Animation
Aidan Sarsfield, CG Supervisor
Daniel Heckenberg, R&D Lead
The Making of Marvel's “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
MONDAY, 11 AUGUST 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios, ILM, Scanline VFX, and Lola take SIGGRAPH audiences through their VFX journey as they created some of the movie’s most heart-stopping moments.
Victoria Alonso, EVP of Visual Effects and Post Production, Marvel Studios/Executive Producer Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Solider
Dan DeLeeuw, VFX Supervisor
Russell Earl, VFX Supervisor ILM
Bryan Grill, VFX Supervisor Scanline VFX
Edson Williams, VFX Supervisor Lola
The Making of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy"
MONDAY, 11 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team–the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits–Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand–with the galaxy's fate in the balance. Marvel Studios, MPC and Framestore take SIGGRAPH audiences through their VFX journey as they created some of the movie’s most heart-stopping moments.
Victoria Alonso, EVP of Visual Effects and Post Production, Marvel Studios/Executive Producer Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Olivier Dumont, Associate VFX Supervisor
Kyle McCulloch, VFX Supervisor Framestore
Vincent Cirelli, VFX Supervisor, Luma Pictures
Nicolas Aithadi, VFX Supervisor, MPC
An Insight Into the Making of "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
Merzin Tavaria and Stefen Fangmeier present a showcase detailing Prime Focus World’s groundbreaking work on Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Creating the world of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was a monumental task that involved an incredible amount of production design, as well as a tremendous amount of care to honor Frank Miller’s original vision of the popular graphic novels, while at the same time making the film aesthetically appealing for the big screen. Shot entirely on green screen, almost everything from the largest sets, to the smallest details had to be created in a computer environment. Tavaria and Fangmeier will give an insight into how the CG world of Sin City was created around the action, and discuss the challenges of completing over 2,000 stereo visual effects shots for a major feature film at a single company.
Merzin Tavaria, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director, Prime Focus World
Stefen Fangmeier, Visual Effects Supervisor, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Creating Content to Drive Destiny’s Investment Game: One Solution to Rule Them All
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
A core design pillar for Bungie’s upcoming title Destiny is the player customization and investment. Incorporating the deep customization elements from action role-playing games into the hard-core shooter dynamic has a number of challenges. Come learn the solution we have developed to enable Bungie to bring this highly ambitious plan to life. Learn about the tools, processes, design and engineering choices that enabled us to create a large variety of high-quality investment content, such as player gear, weapons, ships, usable for combat and social scenarios in game. Learn about the system that makes the most of the art created, supports heavy reuse and continuous content growth and is built for the evolution of the Destiny franchise, yet gives the artists ability to make strong visual impact in an easy and fast manner.
Shi Kai Wang, Senior 3D Art Lead
Natalya Tatarchuk, Graphics Engineering Architect
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 10:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
A decade after a devastating virus kills most of the human race, a growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar encounters a group of human survivors, triggering an all-out war as the two species fight for dominance. Join Weta Digital for a special first look at the visual effects for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes while it's still playing in theaters.
CG apes again take center-stage in this action packed sequel. Weta describes how enhancing their mobile outside motion capture setup helped animators recreate the nuances of the amazing performances delivered onset. Hear how Weta's team has taken motion capture to the stage, blending live action and digital production in the process. The team will also discuss advancements in their fur system and how they created a startling post-virus Earth.
Dave Gouge, Weta Digital
DreamWorks Animation Presents: The Growth of “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
In this behind-the-scenes panel on the feature animated film, How To Train Your Dragon 2 (June 2014), Writer/Director Dean DeBlois charts the growth of the characters and the nuanced filmmaking necessary to fully realize this next adventure in the secret and emotional world of dragons. Set five years later, Dragon 2 embraces the aging up of the characters, the matured tone, the heightened stakes, the more sophisticated design of the world and the growth of the technology required to meet these challenges. The artistic leadership of Dragon 2 will discuss the creative contributions that went into advancing the complexity and believability of the storytelling and the cinematography, as well as the leap forward the animators were able to make using Apollo, DreamWorks Animation’s ground-breaking next generation animation system.
Gil Zimmerman (Head of Layout)
Simon Otto (Head of Character Animation)
Dave Walvoord (VFX Supervisor)
Inside the Magical World of Disney’s “Maleficent”
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
"Maleficent" explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the classic 'Sleeping Beauty' and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Set in a fantastical world of faeries, magical creatures, and otherworldly environments, the panelists will discuss the large range of challenges they tackled during the production. From facial motion capture to virtual character and set design and everything in between.
Carey Villegas, Senior VFX Supervisor
David Seager, MPC CG Supervisor
Kelly Port, Digital Domain VFX Supervisor
Creating the Amazon in “Rio 2”
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
Building one tree in a CG environment can be an interesting story to tell but creating the Amazon Jungle in Rio 2 is a much larger tale! In order to bring this massive jungle to the screen, the Blue Sky team had to consider the overall scale, diversity of plants and trees, density of assets on the ground and in the treetops and choreography of moving cameras in order to give the audience the feeling of birds in flight with unparalleled views of the world's most unique ecosystem. Blue Sky Artists and Technical Directors created an infinite jungle out of a carefully designed collection of parts and assets, and brought it to life by building rigs for secondary animation. There was a constant need to find efficient ways to work with complex heavy files, create staging areas that stayed consistently overgrown all coupled with a stereoscopic version that felt as dense as it did in 2D. All of the departments had to come together to influence and support each others processes to build this technically challenging yet beautiful, lush environment that was used in multiple sequences throughout the film.
Tom Humber, Lead Set Designer
Karyn Monschein, Sr. Camera & Staging Artist and Technical Lead
John Kalaigian, Assembly Technical Director
David Barksdale, Lead Fur Technical Director
Alen Lai, Lead Effects Technical Director
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures Present the VFX of “Godzilla”
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
Visual effects artists from MPC (Moving Picture Company) and Double Negative will describe the creative and technical challenges behind Gareth Edward’s acclaimed Godzilla remake. The panelists will describe the processes involved in creating the hit movie of the summer, from the animation techniques used to bring the King of Monsters to life, through to final compositing methods.
Mike Seymour (FXguide)
Ferran Domenech, Animation Supervisor, MPC
Axel Bonami, 2D Supervisor, MPC
Stuart Farley, CG Supervisor, Head of 3D, Dneg Singapore
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
Visual Effects Supervisor Pablo Helman and the team from ILM will discuss the art and science behind the heroic Ninja Turtles. The panelists will cover a range of topics from the development of a state-of-the-art high-resolution facial performance capture system deployed for the first time on this film to animating the dynamic action sequences and generating completely CG photorealistic environments. Along with advances in full body performance capture utilizing ILM’s patented IMOCAP system, this new technology represents the highest fidelity, dynamically editable capture ever undertaken.
Pablo Helman, Visual Effects Supervisor
Robert Weaver, Associate VFX Supervisor
Tim Harrington, Animation Supervisor
Michael Koperwas, Creature CG Supervisor
Kiran Bhat, R&D Lead
Meet Your New Production R&D Department – ACM/SIGGRAPH
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 10:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
We'll look at how SIGGRAPH research results have played a role in some of Hollywood's biggest visual effects films, seen through the lens of The Matrix, Spider-Man 2, Benjamin Button, Avatar, The Avengers, Gravity, and Maleficent.
USC Institute for Creative Technologies
Unmask the Secrets Behind “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 10:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
Sony Pictures Imageworks created much of the visual effects for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, the sequel to the 2012 blockbuster directed by Marc Webb. The VFX team was challenged with the introduction of new villains, extensive digital environments and CG animation. Join Sony Pictures Imageworks visual effects leads for an inside look at this "amazing" film.
Jerome Chen, VFX Supervisor
David Schaub, Animation Supervisor
David Smith, DFX Supervisor
Industrial Light & Magic Presents: Deconstructing the Visual Effects of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
From the invading alien race that threatens life as we know it to the Autobots that rise up to protect humanity, this panel will discuss the wide-ranging scope of the visual effects work on Michael Bay’s blockbuster ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.’ The team will cover creative and technical challenges overcome in the areas of asset development, character animation, lighting, digital environments, advanced simulation work and crafting transformations unlike any ever seen before.
Scott Farrar, ASC, Visual Effects Supervisor
Patrick Tubach, Associate Visual Effects Supervisor
Scott Benza, Animation Supervisor
Michael Balog, Lead FX Technical Director
The Production and Visual Effects of “Killzone Shadow Fall”
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
With the arrival of next generation consoles comes more processing power and memory… and with that, a whole lot more possibilities. Take an exclusive look behind the scenes of this Playstation 4 launch title and hear about the challenges the team were faced with during production. Learn more about the engine's new lighting and shading tech and take a closer look at how some of the effects like dynamic dust, rain and various particle effects are achieved.
Marijn Giesbertz, Lead Visual Effects
Michal Valient, Lead Tech
Making "Gravity" at Framestore
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom A-B
This talk describes Framestore’s work on “Gravity”, including the involvement in the pre-production, filming and post production of the movie.
Tim Webber, Overall VFX Supervisor
Chris Lawrence, Framestore CG Supervisor
Martin Preston, Framestore Head of R&D
Puppets, Printing And Compositing: A Unique Collaboration In LAIKA’s Animated Features
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
From inspiration to Oscar noms, Oregon-based LAIKA has garnered global acclaim for its unprecedented fusion of stop-motion and computer graphics within each feature film. The studio's environment embraces the hybrid of artistic puppet performance and stunning visual effects enhancements. Georgina Hayns (Creative Supervisor, Puppet Fabrication), Brian McLean (Director of Rapid Prototype) and Steve Emerson (Co-VFX Supervisor) will discuss their interdepartmental relationships on the upcoming feature The Boxtrolls (in theaters September 26). They will also address the challenges, solutions — and learnings — that led to the success of LAIKA's first two Oscar-nominated films: Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012).
Making “The Dam Keeper”: How Two First-Time Directors Brought Paint to Life in Their Animated Short Film
THURSDAY, 14 AUGUST 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
“The Dam Keeper”, the directorial debut of feature-animation artists Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, blends traditional hand-drawn animation with digital paintings to bring Kondo and Tsutsumi’s celebrated
painting style to life. The award-winning short film tells the story of a young Pig with an important job, and a new classmate that changes everything.
This presentation details not just how this unique film was made, but highlights the risks, rewards, and lessons learned along the way. The session opens with a screening of the 18 minute short. Afterwards, the
filmmakers will discuss how it was produced in an 9-month, after-hours schedule with 70+ filmmakers collaborating thanks to the help of cloud-based technology. Directors Kondo and Tsutsumi will also detail how the artistry of the film’s original style was achieved using Autodesk Maya, TVPaint, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects.
The film made its premiere at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and continues to screen at festivals world-wide, and received awards at the New York Children’s International Film Festival, TIFF Kids, and the 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival. Come step inside the world of “The Dam Keeper”. www.TheDamKeeper.com
Robert Kondo, Director
Dice Tsutsumi, Director
Megan Bartel, Producer
Erick Oh, Supervising Animator
Feast – A Look at Walt Disney Animation Studios' Newest Short
THURSDAY, 14 AUGUST 10:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
Join Walt Disney Animation Studios filmmakers including director Patrick Osborne (Head of Animation, Oscar(R)-winning short "Paperman") for a screening and presentation of the short "Feast".
Head of Animation, "Paperman"
Twentieth Century Fox Presents the Visual Effects of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
THURSDAY, 14 AUGUST 3:45 PM – 5:15 PM | Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, Ballroom C/D
This year, the ultimate X-Men ensemble were brought together to fight a war for the survival of the species across two time periods. With the visual effects work lead by Production VFX Supervisor Richard Stammers, X-Men Days of Future Past showcased some of the most spectacular effects of the summer. Experts from MPC (Moving Picture Company), Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues and Rising Sun Pictures will illustrate the approaches used to create a wide range of VFX work, from the creation of the past and future Sentinels, to the epic RFK stadium and White House destruction and the complexities of creating mutant powers for Magneto, Colossus, Iceman, Quicksilver, Sunspot, Blink, Wolverine and Mystique.