Archive for the ‘Special Effects’ Category

Project X’s Driven – Partial Team Retrospective

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Recently, we touched base with some of the team members/Cogswell Students that had worked on the Project X short film, Driven. Given that no press has been generated other than a short blurb on the Cogswell website, we decided to reach out and hear what some members of the team had to say about working on the film.

The following text is direct from each person specified, and may or may not feature edits done in order to provide a smoother reading experience.
    

From Taylor Hodgson-Scott:
    

WHAT I DID ON DRIVEN!

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

I was the Lead animator on Driven, responsible for a heavy share of the 3D Animation. This involves making the characters and vehicles/bicycles move believably and have the characters emote in a way they can connect to the audience. As the lead, I also headed up the other animators to make sure their shots were consistent with the shots around them and the motion style we were targeting. Ultimately, the director had the final say, but delegating some animation critiques to me allowed him some time to allocate elsewhere in the production, and allowed other animators quick feedback.

I also compiled the reel, taking all of the latest animations/rendered shots and editing them together to view internally, and allow us to see the flow of the film and if each shot flowed into the next fluidly. Editing is important for capturing a feeling we need to convey- especially in the last third of the film when things are amping up, quick well-timed cuts are necessary for the feeling of speed.
    

PROGRAMS I/OTHERS USED!

3D Animation, Modeling, Rigging in Autodesk Maya 2011
Edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Texturing and Matte Painting done in Photoshop CS5
Rendered using the Renderman plugin for Maya 2011
Compositing was done in (Eyeon) Fusion (6)
    

DEVELOPMENT TIME:

About 4 months in Pre-Vis (Pre-Visualization), which included storyboarding and low quality animation to roughly time the film out
About 18/20 months in Animation/Rendering
    

FOR OTHERS HOPING TO MAKE A FILM!

This is more of a general mantra than a step-by-step. Production Pipeline is much better cataloged than what I can explain in this e-mail, but here’s a few rules of thumb that may be more helpful than the gritty process.
    

1) You need a story that you really want to tell. It helps if it comes from a personal feeling, because that will help drive the story and performance as you flesh your film out. It can also come from wanting to tell a series of gags or just having good times, but if you don’t care about the story it will fail and be painful to work on

2) You need to seek out and employ constructive critiques from others, inside and outside the film production. This is not about using other people’s ideas and make their version of your film, but rather taking their input to improve your work. Sometimes you need to instead take the spirit of a critique when making changes, but people are perceptive and pick up on problems that you’ll be too close to see.

3) Do as much planning in the early stages as you can, it will pay off tenfold down the road. Sometimes you’ll have to destroy an entire storyboard sequence and build it up again to do it right, but if it’s gotten deep into the animation stage already it will probably be too late to economically fix and meet deadlines.

4) Communicate with your team. So many students and (bad) professionals alike forget to do this, and it is key on getting stuff done. If you’re making a change that affects someone else, don’t leave them out of the discussion if you can help it.

5) Love it! If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be able to stick to it. Finding even the smallest thing to get excited about in a film or a scene can help carry you through the tough times.

    

From Peter Mo:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

    

As Lighting Supervisor on Driven I was responsible for ensuring consistency and maintaining a quality standard for the lighting department. Lighting is at the tail-end of the 3D production process (Composting and Video Editing come after, but they deal with 2D), so lighters often run into problems that go unnoticed through the 3D pipeline. Render crashes due to Maya nodes created during production, problems with topology or object placement or animation that only appear when you see how they interact with light, crashes and loading issues from referencing other scenes are just a few examples.

Troubleshooting was a big part of my responsibility because technical problems, ranging from little nuisances to show-stoppers, would arise on a regular basis. A lot of my early work was assessing what we could do with our available resources in terms of computing power, people-power, and streamlining things as much as possible.

We used Autodesk Maya 2013 and Renderman for lighting. Renderman has advantages over Mental Ray in a 3D animation pipeline: fast and high-quality motion blur, fast displacement rendering, and Renderman’s Deep Shadow system. Mental Ray’s raytracing capabilities are better, but we would use reflection mapping to fake glossy reflections.

We also used camera-projected textures in the 3D scene to better control the look and style. We rendered all frames in 32-bit/channel OpenEXR image format, which allowed us a lot more flexibility in color correction without worry of color banding. We rendered out many different passes per frame to allow us to adjust different lighting elements independently, such as diffuse, specular, reflectivity, and more, before combining them together.

Unlike the two previous projects in which I was working with students who had taken lighting class, I was working with a team that had little or no prior lighting experience. Lighting and rendering took place over 2 semesters, including a lot of training in the beginning. Even after lighting was mainly complete, re-rendering of certain things went on until the very end if changes were needed or if a problem could not be fixed in compositing.

We used render presets and light rigs as a way to keep things consistent across the shots at different times of day. We had a pre-dawn and sunrise setup for Acts 1 and 3 and an afternoon setup for the flashback portion in Act 2. The light rigs were updated and improved as needed and everyone would reference one into their scene to use as the primary light sources, for moon, sun, and sky lighting. Additional lights for characters were added on a per-shot basis and setups that lighters create that worked well were shared for others to use when appropriate.

For compositing, we used Eyeon Fusion 6. It is a powerful node-based compositing program which allowed us to quickly change or fix visual elements which would take much longer to do on the rendering side. Making certain parts of the composition modular and reusing them in each other’s scenes reduced the amount of redundant work we’d need to initially perform in order to build up a composite from scratch.

Useful effects and techniques that individual compositors came up with were also made modular, such as color correction nodes for shots that had been approved, or a heat-distortion effect that worked well. All monitors used for compositing were color-calibrated to ensure the closest possible image when viewed on any of those monitors. In additional to traditional 2D compositing techniques such as color correction, rotoscoping masks, and paint fixes, we also incorporated 3D techniques directly in Fusion.

To save on render-times for a lot of the vegetation in the environments, we pre-rendered various sprites, generated point clouds of their locations, and then imported 3D cameras and the point clouds from Maya into Fusion. The vegetation sprites would be attached to points on the point cloud and rendered from the 3D camera and placed over the 2D shot, all in Fusion.

Compositing took about 2 semesters worth of work with a few dedicated compositors and a few more that were splitting time between compositing and other responsibilities. An additional month could be counted for training since none of the students had ever used Fusion before. We had a Digital Tutors account and students studied many of their Fusion lessons. I also gave some lessons based on my experience using Fusion on previous projects.

For the first time on any project, we used our own in-house render management software instead of commercial software. It was customized to our needs and the developers were very responsive to our suggestions for improvements and additional features. Commercial render management software we’ve used in the past was not reliable and we couldn’t get the type of support we needed when problems arose. It definitely helped us all maintain our sanity–without it we’d pretty much have to take shifts around the clock to babysit each render job, especially at crunch-time.

Thinking back over the events during the production of Driven, I admit I was concerned how everything was going to come together at the beginning; however, the technology we used ended up working well enough and seeing how far the initially inexperienced team had come by the end of the project was very satisfying. I’m very proud of all the students who had sacrificed so much of their time and energy to making the film the very best they could.

    

From Steven Chitwood:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Steven handled the VFX on the short, “All effects were done in Maya 2011, specifically. I used Maya fluids, particles, nParticles. Types of effects were fire, smoke, dust, explosions, and liquids. All effects were either rendered with Mental Ray or Renderman.” he says. Other programs used in the making of Driven included ” ‘Zbrush’ for 3D sculpting of characters and some environments, ‘Renderman for Maya’ (the Rendering engine used for the film), ‘Eyeon Fusion 6′ for Compositing, and finally ‘Mel’ and ‘Python’, for scripting.

To manage the team, a combination of verbal communication, along with email and other means were used to provide both official and unofficial ‘check in’ updates. “We used Google Docs for documentation including tasks for each departments, deadlines, and milestones. We did keep track of everyone’s hours and their tasks so we could accurately predict of where the project was going.” says Steven.

On the project pipeline, Steven said the following, “I was not in PX (Project X) during the beginning, I jumped in almost mid-way through but here’s my take. We first start off a pitch that Mike had and we discussed things of what did work and what didn’t for the story. Concurrently, we started create to concepts of the film while the modelers and animators were developing the layout of the film, also, the riggers were doing some RnD (Research and Development). Once some of the concepts were starting to be officially approved, modelers would start to make the final assets and create textures for them. Once assets, textures, and animations were done, those shots would be handed off to the lighters.

Lighters simply then light shots and render them and bring them to the next stage: compositing. Compositing is where we bring all the images together to make the final shots, making final tweaks to make the shots the way we want it. Keep in mind, when animators are done with shots and the assets are created, we also hand off those shots to the effects department (me).

There, we create the fire, smoke, dust, etc and then render those effects as well in separate images, just like what the lighters do. We then bring those also into the comp to finish the shots entirely. While we are doing this film, we are also doing an ongoing edit for the film. Towards the very last stages of the film, we edit the film and see what ever else changes/fixes we need to do.”

Lastly, in short the pipeline process is as follows “story->concept->look development->layout->modeling->rigging->animation->effects->lighting&rendering->compositing->final edit”, also “We decided to create our own render-farm. Our render-farm was used to expedite the rendering process.”

    

It’s very clear that a lot of work went into making the short film, everyone that worked on the project had a part in making it all possible. Fantastic work everyone!!

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Juan Rubio
3D Animation Student, Internal Public Relations, Industry News Coverage, Blog Administrator/Writer
Cogswell College

Recent News in Animation & more

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Source: tadoo.com

Disney is releasing two critically acclaimed and fan favorite films from the famous Studio Ghibli on Blu-Ray! Widely considered to be a masterpiece, the Oscar award winning ‘Spirited Away’ (2002, Best Animated Feature Film) as well as the charming fantasy/adventure ‘The Cats Return’ will be made available for the first time in a Blu-Ray Combo pack on June 16th here in the US.

Created by world renowned filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most celebrated and respected filmmakers in the industry, ‘Spirited Away’ is a feast for the eyes. With lush dazzling landscapes, minute details in things like environments and architecture, and a story bursting with adventure and wonder, its no wonder this film has been called an absolute masterpiece. ‘Spirited Away’ tells the tale of a young girl named Chihiro who ends up in a strange and unfamiliar world populated by spirits. After witnessing her parents undergo a bizarre transformation, Chihiro is tasked with finding the courage shes always carried as well as learning to cope with change in order to save her family and free them back into the outside world. A story for the ages, ‘Spirited Away’ is not to be missed if you haven’t already seen it.

The English-language voice cast is made up by Daveigh Chase (Chihiro), Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba/Zeniba), Jason Marsden (Haku), Susan Egan (Lin), David Ogden Stiers (Kamaji), Lauren Holly (Chihiro’s Mother), Michael Chiklis (Chihiro’s Father), John Ratzenberger (Assistant Manager), Tara Strong (“Baby”) and Bob Bergen (Aogaeru).

While the original Japanese version was written and directed by Miyazaki, the English-language version was produced by Donald W. Ernst and John Lassetter (of Pixar). Bonus content in this new release includes an introduction by John Lassetter, in addition to “The Art of Spirited Away” and “Behind the Microphone” featurettes and original Japanese storyboards, Nippon Television Special, original Japanese trailers and TV spots.

Also from Studio Ghibli comes ‘The Cat Returns’. Directed by Hiroyuki Morika the film follows Haru, a schoolgirl bored and unsatisfied by her ordinary routine who saves the life of a mysterious cat and suddenly finds her world flip-turned upside down. To alter her destiny, she must learn to believe in herself and in turn, appreciate her everyday life.

The English-language voice cast is made up of Anne Hathaway (Haru), Cary Elwes (The Baron), Peter Boyle (Muta), Elliott Gould (Toto), Andy Richter (Natoru), Rene Auberjonois (Natori), Tim Curry (Cat King), Judy Greer (Yuki), Andrew Bevis (Prince Lune), Kristen Bell (Hiromi), Kristine Sutherland (Haru’s Mother) and Katia Coe (Little Haru).

Bonus features for ‘The Cat Returns’ include the original Japanese storyboards, original Japanese trailers, TV spots, and two features: “The Making of ‘The Cat Returns’” and “Behind the Microphone.” Again, don’t miss either of these releases on June 16th.

Source: gamepur.com

‘Uhcharted 4: A Thief’s End’ developers Naughty Dog have divulged details of major improvements to their internal facial animation rigs used since Uncharted 3 and the Last of Us. They claim face models now animate with around “300 and 500 bones”. Writer Josh Scherr spoke to GamesTM and quantified the improvements by comparing them to rigs used in previous Uncharted titles, and ‘The Last of Us’ which used “about 90 and 100 ‘bones’ in their faces.”

“We’ve completely revamped our facial animation systems,” Scherr commented. “Think about that, how detailed Joel and Elli’s pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors … Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones.”

“(This) lets us emote more, with all the ‘bones’ we can put onto (the face) – you pan round the camera to look at Nate’s face when he’s climbing and you see him grimacing and all this kind of stuff … we’re pushing detail on a macro and micro level that I think people are really going to respond to,” chimed in lead designer Ricky Cambier.

Nathan Drake face detail, source: Gamespot.com

On previous Naughty Dog games, “some of the animations might have been sample(d) at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory,” these captured frames would then be run through software to interpolate or “tween” (in-between) them to run at 30 frames per second in game. This new technology can “afford to record [footage] at 30 frames per second so that [it'd] look that much smoother.”

“If you look at the first Uncharted and how that looked versus how The Last of Us looked … I have difficulty fathoming that we’ll have that kind of graphical leap in the next several years. The reality is, we probably will as we learn the systems better, so it’s all up from here, and that’s exciting.”

Naughty Dog has said it is targeting 60fps for Uncharted 4, but the studio won’t push the PS4 game that far if it affects the gameplay in a negative way. According to director Bruce Straley, the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Gameplay Demo was hard locked at 30fps, however, the game is now achieving higher frame rates.

Source: Cartoonbrew.com

What if the dinosaurs hadn’t have gone extinct? This is the question animation studio Pixar poses in their latest film, ‘The Good Dinosaur’. Anyone who’s been following this movie knows its had trouble getting onto its feet, after a change in directors, and a pushed back release date ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is finally ready to be shown off to the public.

The story is somewhat simple, but full of the signature charm and multi layered approach Pixar has been recognized for. A boy and his puppy… except the roles are reversed, the boy is a wild child (the puppy) and the dinosaur is the one offering life lessons to the boy. With the help of the good dinosaur, the boy learns more about the world, himself, and how to be a normal human. Originally pitched and directed by Bob Peterson, the movie has been shifted over to Peter Sohn.

Peter Sohn has been the inspiration

Arlo (the boy) isn’t seen much in the trailer, with the teaser focusing more on the titular Good Dinosaur, and the situations he finds himself in. Most of the trailer is spent focusing on the asteroid that never impacted this big blue marble we call Earth. Glimpses of Arlo are seen towards the end, which is sort of a shame as Sohn won the directors position after his insistence on the boy-and-his-dog archetype. Sohn told Yahoo! the following:

The heart of it has always remained the same in terms of the boy and the dog. I’ve been very diligent with the story team to kind of protect that and focus on that more. In terms of the world, it has kind of changed a bit here and there, and some of the characters have gone out and new ones have come in.

“We’ve been trying to find physical obstacles and and emotional obstacles for our main character, and nature can represent both. In a lot of the research that we’ve done, going out into the Northwest and out into the wilderness, I cannot tell you how beautiful and scary it can be, and how quickly nature can just turn on you. And we’re trying to finding the truth in that in terms of Arlo’s growth.”

Watch a trailer for ‘The Good Dinosaur’ on YouTube, it will be released November 25th of this year, one day before Thanksgiving.

Juan Rubio

Recent News in Animation and More

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

source: (cc) flickr user fleecircus

When reading about famous animators I’ve come to realize there is a very clear trend, there seems to be more coverage of male talent vs female. Is it that I’m not looking in the right places? Or perhaps there is actually more male than female artists in general, I’m not exactly sure to be quite honest. Luckily, Canadian artist Heather Kai Smith has taken it upon herself to create a website/database called Great Women Animators.

Great Women Animators says its a “collection, dissemination and categorization of identified women who have or currently work in the field of animation.” The website features biographies, filmographies, and images from female artists from the early 1910′s up until present day, illustrators, and contributors. Not limiting itself to western film, Great Women Animators also features artists from Japan, the former Soviet Union, and other international animation regions.

The project began as a month long series of film screenings hosted by Kai Smith in the summer of 2014. At the event, the attendees analyzed and explored “techniques and thematic influences of these women animators” and took part in “discussions regarding feminism in the field of animation, masculine and feminine aesthetics, and what it means to be a woman working with animation today.”

Great Women Animators is very much a living, breathing creation, which is to say its a work in progress that’s constantly evolving. The about page reads, “This is an ONGOING project and this list is by no means comprehensive. New animators are added all the time.”. The website also features a resource list, where visitors can look at and explore related websites, events and academic journals.

The site not only sheds light on women animators, but its also a reminder of all the work that goes on behind the scenes of our favorite cartoons and and movies. Please check out the website and show your support!

source: schmoesknow.com

In other news, Pixar’s new movie “Inside Out” has been confirmed to premier at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival! Director Pete Doctor, who was behind “Up” (the first animated feature ever to be the festival’s Opening Ceremony film), producer Jonas Rivera (Up), and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen (Up) will be in attendance at Cannes, along with members of the all-star English-language voice cast.

“We are overjoyed at being included in this year’s official selection at Cannes,” said Docter. “With Inside Out, we spent years imagining — and then building — never-before-seen settings and characters within the mind. It was an incredible, fun and exciting challenge and now we can’t wait to share it with the world.”

“Inside Out” follows the story of a young girl named Riley, who moves away from her life in the Midwest when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Riley is guided by her emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the central hub inside Riley’s mind, where they help get her through her struggles in adjusting to a new city and school.

Disney/Pixar is going to premier ‘Inside Out’ in 3D in theaters everywhere starting June 19, 2015. The 68th annual Cannes Film Festival will kick off on May 13th, and you can view a trailer for the film on YouTube.

Source: Cartoon Brew

Also premiering at Cannes is filmmaker Mark Osborne’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ (The Little Prince), known for being the director of Dreamwork’s ‘Kung Fu Panda’, Osborne’s take on the french children’s story is fresh and vibrant. It will be released October 7, 2015 in France by Paramount Pictures, a US date has not been announced but Paramount Vantage has US screening rights already. The film is a new interpretation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic 1943 novel ‘The Little Prince’, presented through the eyes of a young girl who discovers the book thru en elderly reclusive neighbor.

The film features two distinct styles, a familiar and contemporary CG world while we follow the girl’s story, and a beautifully rendered paper world when following The Little Prince. In this vibrant world everything is made of different sorts of paper and animated with the meticulous process of stop motion. We see everything from scraps of torn construction paper, to elaborate sets carefully made out of tissue paper, the world of ‘The Little Prince’ offers a refreshing break from the otherwise standard style of most CG animated films today. The book is the most-translated-French story of all time, selling over 150 million copies worldwide. The new movie was developed primarily by Mikros Image in Montreal, Canada, where Osborne is currently residing.

Watch a trailer for the movie on YouTube.

Juan Rubio

Pixar’s Renderman now available for free!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Image from cganimationblog.com

For those not already aware of it, Pixar’s Renderman is now available for free for non-commercial use! What is Renderman, you ask? Renderman is a rendering plug-in that Pixar developed for use with 3D animation and modeling programs. It’s an alternative rendering method to the default options already available in programs such as Maya. As previously mentioned, use of the software is 100% free, with no limitations, feature cuts, or even watermarks to worry about. As long as whatever you produce with it is not for profit, anything is free game.

The latest version of the software, version 19, brings multiple improvements to the fray. One of which is a brand new rendering paradigm Pixar calls RIS. RIS is a highly optimized mode for rendering global illumination. It’s made specifically for ray tracing scenes with heavy geometry, hair, volumes, and radiance – with incredible efficiency in one pass. What does this all mean? Renderman can render your objects and scenes much quicker and more efficiently than many other options currently available today. In fact, it’s currently the most flexible and powerful option for VFX and cinematic imagery available to the public. More information and technical details can be found at the following link: http://rendermansite.pixar.com/view/latest-tech

I highly recommend that anyone interested in 3D animation, VFX, or 3D modeling check this out. It’s not often that the public gains free access to internally developed software from professional studios, much less a fully featured and limitless version of that same software. Pixar offers multiple tutorial videos to those new to Renderman, so users can get to know the workflow and learn to use it to its full potential. The plug-in is currently compatible with Autodesk Maya versions 2013.5, 2014, and 2015 as well as The Foundry’s Katana versions 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0. Support for Houdini and Cinema 4D is currently underway. Potentially compatible programs in the future include Modo, 3DS Max, Blender and more.

Download Renderman at the following link: http://renderman.pixar.com/view/non-commercial-renderman

Juan Rubio

Cogswell College welcomes Wajid Raza, a Lighting Technical Director at ILM

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

COGSWELL COLLEGE TO HOST WAJID RAZA, A LIGHTING

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR AT INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC,

FOR SPECIAL GUEST LECTURE MARCH 25TH

Sunnyvale, CA, March 16, 2015 — Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum of Digital Art & Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation, will host Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Technical Director Wajid Raza for a Special Guest Lecture. Karen Keister, Cogswell’s Program Director and Assistant Professor in the school’s Digital Arts & Animation Dept., made the announcement. Keister’s department regularly features one guest speaker each semester who has prominently established him/herself within the entertainment and digital arts industry.

The lecture, entitled “The VFX Pipeline,” will take place on Wednesday, March 25, from 7:30-9:30pm in the Dragon’s Den Theatre on the Cogswell College campus. Raza will discuss how the work of each artist on a large project fits into a chain of complex tasks that, when brought together, will create the ultimate visual effects. He will also cover how a visual effects studio is structured and what contributions are made by each of the studio’s different departments.

ABOUT WAJID RAZA:

Wajid Raza is currently working as ILM’s Lighting Technical Director on the upcoming Marvel Entertainment motion picture “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015.) He first joined the renowned and multi-award winning visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic in 2009 as part of its technology group. Since then, he has worked as an Assistant Technical Director, Production Engineer and Technical Director on many of ILM’s tent-pole projects. Raza was an integral part of the team behind the Academy Award winning film “Rango” (2011) and the Academy Award nominated film “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013.)

For the film “Rango,” Raza wrote software for the Layout Team and served as a Final Layout artist to bring the director’s vision from concept art to digital 3D scenes. He helped troubleshoot issues in a newly developed monolithic-process for working in multiple shots at the same time. One of the tools he wrote for Layout enabled them to create specialized cameras for the locked-off static shots in the movie. This technique enabled the addition of a “micro-float” treatment to the CG cameras, so their movements mimicked real-life camera movements.

Similarly, for the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Raza led efforts in developing new software and production workflows tailored for the film. He helped set up a distributed fracture system pipeline that was employed in key scenes.

Raza is a graduate of Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD) where he received his MFA. Earlier, he completed his BS Degree in Computer Science from Government College University in Lahore, Pakistan, the city in which he was born. Currently, he is a resident of San Francisco.

WAJID RAZA’S CREDITS WITH ILM:

2015 “AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” (currently in production) – Lighting Technical Director
2014 “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES” – Production Engineer (Technology)
2013 “NOW YOU SEE ME” – Production Support (Technology)
2013 “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” – Digital Artist (Technology)
2012 “BATTLESHIP” – Assistant Technical Director
2011 “PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” – ATD
2011 “RANGO” – Layout Artist

ABOUT COGSWELL COLLEGE:

Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four-year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, videogame, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well-known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/

# # #

Contact for Cogswell College:
Rachael Sass
Creative Services Manager
Sunnyvale, CA
408/498-5150
rsass@cogswell.edu

Media Contact for Cogswell College:
Dan Harary
The Asbury PR Agency
Beverly Hills, CA
310/859-1831
dan@asburypr.com

Toy Story 4

Monday, November 24th, 2014


When the first Toy Story movie came out in 1995, it signaled the dawn of a new era. The fully animated film paved the way for other CG (computer generated) films, and is now the most common form of animation. Over the next 15 years the sequels Toy Story 2 and 3 were released, causing generations of audiences to feel like they had grown up with the characters. Toy Story 3 was declared to be the end of an extraordinary trilogy, and many felt it was the perfect ending. The toys had encountered the worst possible obstacles but overcame them all, even facing abandonment and annihilation in the process. We collectively said a tearful, but content,“goodbye” to the toys whom we had grown attached to. Then, earlier this month, Toy Story 4 was announced.

The internet exploded.

Mixed reviews of “Why on earth are they making ANOTHER Toy Story?” and “So excited they’re making another Toy Story!” popped up everywhere. John Lasseter made an announcement regarding his decision to direct another Toy Story movie – it seems that they were presented with a storyline they couldn’t pass up. Although personally I loved the ending to Toy Story 3 and thought it was the perfect way to wrap up an amazing storyline, it’s intriguing to consider the plotline possibilities for the upcoming Toy Story 4 that will be released in 2017. It was revealed that the new Pixar film will revolve around a love story, which no doubt put fans everywhere in frenzies of speculative delight. Will it be about Buzz and Jessie? Perhaps Bo Peep will find her way back to Woody?

Whatever the plot that will be revealed, it’s a good reassurance that Pixar has a trend of making powerful sequels that either live up to or surpass the original. There’s no doubt in my mind that Pixar will continue to carry on its legacy of excellent filmmaking.

Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal Makarewicz, made a visit to Cogswell on November 19th. Michal, whose work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up, came last year and demoed an animation scene from the film Monsters Inc. Needless to say, everyone at Cogswell was very excited to see him. Who knows, maybe we’ll see some of his work on Toy Story 4 when 2017 rolls around!

Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation Student

CGI Far From Monkey-Business in Dawn of the Planet of The Apes

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The latest installment of the Planet of the Apes franchise displays some of the most innovative CGI techniques to date. Weta Digital, the CGI mastermind behind such films as Ironman, Man of Steel and Avatar, has further evolved the digital animation process to achieve lifelike effects. Actors work side by side with the digital art and animation teams to achieve realistic facial expressions bringing the computer generated images to life.

In his article, “Is This the Most Remarkable CGI in a Film Ever?” Patrick Jong Tayor comments on the sequel’s amazing attention to detail. “To make it work, Weta Digital employed dozens of wireless 3D cameras to faithfully capture the actors playing the apes, who donned motion capture suits with active marker strands, measuring position, velocity and acceleration even if the markers were obscured from camera view, and witness cameras mounted to the suits to capture facial mocap information.”

Cogswell offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. As seen with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, CGI techniques need to be ever-evolving in order to compete with the next big blockbuster.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has an interesting plotline, astounding CGI effects, and a smooth transition in the fictional 10-year time gap between films. Do you plan on seeing this summer blockbuster? Are you Team Human or Team Ape? Tell us in the comment section below.

Source: RedShark News

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” Great for CGI – Bad for Bay…

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Director Michael Bay is getting slammed with reviews on “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. The majority of which criticize his directing skills for an amateur in story line, a flopped plot-development, and an overabundance of product placement.

In his recent review, Boston Globe columnist Peter Kenough noted that it was “all shot and edited as if by a Cuisinart. In short, the cinematic equivalent of being tied in a bag and being beaten by pipes.”

This is the first installment of the Transformers franchise that we won’t be seeing resident protagonist Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf. Instead we get the Hollywood star power of Mark Wahlberg, however his performance is also highly criticized. “Wahlberg spends a lot of time looking with awe and terror into the blankness of a green screen, later filled in post-production by Bay’s monumental, juvenile special effects’, critiques Kenough.

However “monumental” and “juvenile” the special effects are, one can’t help but step back in awe at the advancements in CGI animation and digital special effects. Shots of giant alien spacecrafts, a prehistoric dinosaur extermination, cityscape battlegrounds, giant robotic aerial dogfights, and rumors of a robotic Oreo cookie.

According to his review (embedded above) Mr. Sunday Movies says, “The special effects cannot be faulted… They should almost be called VERY-Special Effects.” Cogswell offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. Special effects are key in producing summer blockbuster hits, especially those directed by explosion king Michael Bay.

Do you think Bay’s a CGI-Genious, or a bogus bomb of a director? Are you planning on seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction? Are you Team Optimus, or Team Bumblebee?

Source: The Boston Globe

Jackson’s Slave to the Rhythm “Hologram” Isn’t a Hologram

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

The media is a-buzz with headlines highlighting the revival of deceased King of Pop Michael Jackson at the recent Billboard Awards. Jackson’s estate released his new single “Slave to the Rhythm”, which debuted as a holographic performance of the star moon-walking across the stage. The problem is, the hologram, isn’t technically a hologram. It’s an illusion that has been around for centuries.
It’s an old technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. It’s frequently used in theater, magic tricks, and dark rides (like Disney’s Haunted Mansion). The technique utilizes glass, certain angles, and special lighting methods, creating the illusion of objects seeming to appear and disappear on command.


In her article “What’s Holography’s Future” for DigitalCinemaReport.com, Linda Law explains the phenomenon in regards to another recent “holographic” performance of deceased rapper Tupac Shikour at the 2012 Cochella Music Festival. “This [updated technique] alone did not make Tupac revive. It required shooting in very high resolution, some amazing CG work using a body double, and the mapping of Tupac’s head to the body as well as very powerful projectors that make the projected image look quite real. The fact that he moves around showing different parts of himself helps the illusion but it is still 2D… These may be quite effective and engaging and for all who have not seen an actual hologram, quite believable as holograms. I do think that with clever use of this medium many creative and engaging productions will be made.”


The Tupac “hologram” reportedly cost over $400k to create, and with other stars like Janelle Monae and M.I.A incorporating “holograms” into their performances, this new niche form of entertainment has lots of potential for future growth, especially in the digital art field, utilizing CGI and the updated “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion to bring back the some of our favorite artists from the dead.
Would you pay to see your favorite artist perform as a “hologram”? Do you think the Michael Jackson “hologram” was creepy or cool? Let us know in the comments.

Sources:
Article: http://www.digitalcinemareport.com/article/what-holography’s-future#.U35CW9xboeE
Images: http://www.controlbooth.com/threads/peppers-ghost-projection-surface.30412/

http://music-mix.ew.com/2012/04/16/tupac-hologram-coachella-video/

‘Old’ Movies Whose Special Effects Still Hold up Today

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Some of the movies we grew up on are great for so many reasons; and a big part of that was the special effects that went into them. Remember how real the dinosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’ looked? Or how jaw dropping it was when the White House was obliterated in ‘Independence Day’? While we may laugh at some of the effects in past movies compared to the insanely real visuals in today’s movies; some can still be classified as ‘Awesome’! Visit this article for a list of 8 ‘Old’ Movies Whose Special Effects Still Hold up Today, as well as the most notable parts in the movie (complete with video)!

Which major flicks did they leave off the list?