Edge Of Tomorrow

poster_edgeoftomorrowAfter finishing up on “Pacific Rim” at ILM, I took a few months off before starting work at Sony Imageworks on “Edge Of Tomorrow”.

cover_allyouneediskill

The film is adapted from the  Japanese novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and is meant to hit theaters June 6, 2014.

At the San Diego Comic Convention in 2013, there was a panel with the key parties involved in the making of  the film that’s pretty interesting and can be found here .

The first official trailer for the film can be found here

Pacific Rim

pacificrim_te680

pacificrim_te650

After finishing work on “Life Of Pi”, I needed to recharge and took a few months off to travel.  Prior to my departure, Industrial Light and Magic reached out and got in touch regarding an opportunity to work at their new Vancouver pod.  Conversations had moved forward while I was on the road, but by the time I had reached Bali, I was locked in to work on Guillermo Del Toro’s homage to monster films, “Pacific Rim”.

In Hollywood terms, I’de describe this film as “Godzilla” meets “Transformers” with the look of “Hellboy”.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this film.  It was as fun to be apart of as it was to finally be able to watch it as a film on its own. Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most creative, charismatic, and passionate directors in the industry.  I feel lucky to have had the pleasure to be apart his unique creative process alongside the creative vision of the talented artists around me at ILM. Working on “Pacific Rim” has reignited the spark of inspiration that I felt when I first started working in Visual Effects and I could not be prouder of the work in the film.pacificrim_te700

There are many trailers and tv spots for the film, I’ve linked the main trailer here.

There are also quite a few interesting featurettes on the film as well:
“The Digital Artistry Of Pacific Rim” Featurette
“Destroy All Kaiju” Featurette
“Jaegers: Mech Warriors”  Featurette
“Under Attack” Featurette
“Oversized Robot Sets” Featurette

As well as for those of in the visual effects industry there are a few articles that provide more information on the making of the film
“Monster Mayhem: Pacific Rim” by Ian Failes at fxguide.com
Pacific Rim Pipeline Special from fxguidetv
Pacific Rim podcast from fxguide
Pacific Rim Exclusive Behind The Scene: Designing Destruction from Wired

Life Of Pi

iluvfx_lifeofpi_1

Although the promcover_lifeofpiise of this novel would be that it would make you believe in God. Rather for me, it is fair to say that the film did change my life.

I had read the novel, by Canadian author Yann Martel, when it had first came out and absolutely loved the richness and complexity of the story. At the time, it would have been impossible to have thought it could be made into a film.  Fast forward almost ten years, and I find myself, jumping at the chance to be apart of it.  Although I had been currently living in Vancouver for work, my life was more or less based in Sydney, Australia and I had plans to be back there as soon as possible.   Fate intervened that compelled me to rethink where my life would be based when the opportunity to work on “Life Of Pi” surfaced.  I subsequently found myself jumping on a plane back to Oz to only stuff my life into a box again to move back to Vancouver.

In Hollywood terms, I would describe this film as “Cast Away” meets “Where The Wild Things Are” with the spirit of “Slumdog Millionare”, twist of “Sixth Sense”, and brought to you with the bio-luminescence and 3D technology of “Avatar”.

It is rare in visual effects that you get the opportunity to work on a film with a solid story as well as visuals.  They tend to be far and few between as the cost of visual effects laden films tend to give the studios enough to worry about that the story ends up needing to be a bit more formulaic to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.  While in retrospect, it seems as though “Life Of Pi” has done just that and won mass appeal and admiration, it is no easy feat considering the material and I applaud the bold vision and craft of Ang Lee to weave such beautiful film that is so faithful to the original novel yet doing so by painting such visual fantasy and journey in the process.

The film went on to not only do well at the box office but do extremely well in the awards season picking up multiple Oscars, BAFTAs, and VES awards among many others accolades.

In contrast, this filmed also marked a dark turning point in the Visual Effects industry whereby the companies behind the movie magic, despite imaging worlds and making the impossible real and tangible, are all mostly walking a very thin red line and find themselves ending up on very hard financial times all too easily. Rhythm and Hues (the company responsible for the tiger, Richard Parker) declared bankruptcy literally while accepting awards for their work on “Life Of Pi”.

Within the industry this has started a green (screen) revolution of Visual Effects workers that at the moment are trying to figure how to fix so the so called “broken business model of visual effect” and help eliminate the stigma of what many call the future currently as a “race to the bottom”.  There are many complex issues to solve before any really traction can be made and the has to happen on a global scale, but at the very least whats positive that has come out thus far is that there is dialogue to not only voice concerns, but also try to approach ways to solve some of the issues and hopefully provide for a more sustainable and stable visual effects industry for the future.  Hopefully this story, like the countless others that have been brought to screen in part by visual effects, will have a happy ending.

My role on this film was as a Senior Effects Technical Director responsible for simulating many of water elements required for the two stormy ocean sequences: The Sinking of The Tsimtsum and The God Of Storm.  In this film, the ocean was very much its own character with its own animation in every shot which dictates a  lot of what needed to happen.  This was a starting point that was both a blessing and a curse as it provided me with a solid foundation for my simulation, which would really only work provided that the foundation is physically possible.  When waves are animated faster than gravity and larger than life as it is often required, well, lets just say it makes my job all the more difficult and challenging! As an artist, that’s what I signed up for, so it just made it all the more rewarding in end when it finally came together.

In this film, the workflow for simulating the ocean from its animation was more or less fleshed out, but required a lot steps before you could even see a first look at what the water would look like, technical issues aside.  I took it upon myself to streamline that workflow so that it took fewer clicks and steps and automated stages as much possible. This took a bit of time to get right, but once in place allowed myself as well as others on the team to worker faster and spend more time making the water look good rather than having to work through the steps manually.  This system built scene files for the various stages automatically while also managing naming and version controlling of the simulation data.

Water comes in various forms, both in fully simulated oceans, interactive splashes, foam, spray, mist as well as rain.  For rain that was really close to camera, the details needed to hold up so that it was possible to create realistic steaks with much more complexity than is normally done in visual effects that would also hold up in stereo.  Having a background in R&D and also being familiar with the programming languages and tools at MPC, I worked alongside the lead for the R&D on the show to develop a new solution to approach rain at this level of detail that worked well enough that it went on to be used on future shows within the company.

Apart from delving into the more technical sides of post-production I was able to deliver more than a handful of shots, some of which were worthy enough to be included in the visual effects breakdown for the studio.

To say this show was easy, is an understatement.  Doing large scale water simulation is one of the hardest things you can do in visual effects. We also did not have the luxury of time to get through these shots, which were often 2-3 times longer than your average visual effects shot to begin with and each had all the bells and whistles to make every frame rich with watery goodness.  There were many late nights to get it all in its final state, but despite those long hours, I’m really proud of the work.

To see the film go on and gain so much recognition for the visuals is also a testament to the talented artists and people that I had the pleasure to work with and be inspired from.