Archive for October, 2010

Denver is calling VFX veteran Doug Trumbull

The Hollywood veteran who oversaw special effects for science fiction classics such as “Blade Runner” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” wants to build a next-generation movie studio in Denver, a project that could change the way films are made and put Colorado on the map for big-budget productions.

At Douglas Trumbull’s proposed digital virtual studio, 3D and effects-driven films could be shot entirely on stage in front of a “green screen,” using patented technology such as a “zero-gravity” camera.

Virtual worlds of infinite forests and alien planets would be incorporated into the production in real-time via computer graphics.

Trumbull, a recipient of a lifetime achievement Oscar for his technical wizardry, calls filming on location with physical sets a “dying art.” He said the virtual process — with the ability to test and perfect shots using inexpensive stand-in actors — could cut production costs by more than 50 percent.

“I’m proposing a whole series of iterative live-action performance rehearsals of your entire screenplay, which could be shot in a couple of days because you have no sets, no props and almost no crew,” Trumbull said during a recent presentation at the Colorado Film School in Denver.

Trumbull, 68, visited Denver to solicit investments and scope metro-area locations for a multimillion-dollar project that was dreamed up a decade ago but is still in the early stages of development. Though private investors and venture capital officials attended the presentation, none have publicly expressed interest.

The studio could be a boon for a state that has long struggled to attract major motion film productions, which officials attribute to the lack of financial incentives.

“It could be a real game changer for Colorado,” said Kevin Shand, director of the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media. “Right now, we’re just not competitive because of the incentives out there. We have everything else production companies need. We have the crew, we have the talent, we have the infrastructure, but we don’t have the money component.”

Trumbull presented the virtual studio idea 10 years ago to major film companies such as Warner Bros. and Columbia.

“Nobody called me back,” he said. “It was seen pretty unanimously as a twisted paradigm shifter that threatened their entire business model.”

He has since tweaked the pitch, proposing to couple the studio with a film production business unit to be backed by a hedge fund or venture capital to the tune of $100 million or more.

“Pixar makes their own animated films from ideas generated within their company,” Trumbull said. “I think we can adapt the Pixar business model very effectively and apply it to live-action production.”

He said there is no shortage of science fiction and fantasy material to fill the pipeline of content.

“There are a lot of pent-up movies out there in Hollywood that got budgeted by the major studios and rejected because they were $150 million,” Trumbull said. “They would’ve been happy to spend $65 million.”

Trumbull, who lives on a 55-acre farm in Massachusetts, said he’s interested in building the studio in Denver because of the quality of life and high-tech workforce, pointing to the presence of companies such as Ball Aerospace and RealD. The latter develops 3D technology for theaters and has a research hub in Boulder.

“This is the first time I’ve made this pitch to anybody since I made this pitch in Hollywood 10 years ago,” said Trumbull, creator of the “Back to the Future” simulator ride, which had a long run at three Universal Studios theme parks.

For the virtual studio, Trumbull envisions a circular stage housed in a two-story, 15,000-square-foot building, with a state-of-the-art camera as the centerpiece.

“That camera is weightless and almost mass-less and can be grabbed and moved anywhere around the stage,” he said of the camera, which he has used to film short features.

The studio would feature an automated lighting grid that could be preset and programmed in advance. To limit financial risk, Trumbull wants the studio constructed in a way where it could be turned into an office building overnight. “If we fail, this is not a dog,” he said. “This is not a white-elephant building.”

Ed Kramer, a professor of visual effects and computer graphics at Regis University’s film school, said the concept won’t replace the traditional method of filmmaking

“But if successful, it’s going to vastly reduce the cost and much of the need for location work,” said Kramer, who worked on special effects for movies such as “The Mummy” and “Twister.”

Shand of the Colorado Office of Film said the virtual studio could help Colorado land major movie productions.

“This facility, because of the way it’s going to be structured, overcomes the financial incentives that other states offer,” Shand said. “It can be as beneficial or more beneficial to film in Colorado than it would be in some other states.”


Universal Studios/EFILM Open Virtual DI Suite

Universal City, CA–In a joint venture, EFILM, a subsidiary of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, and Universal Studios opened a Digital Intermediate suite on the Universal Studios lot, in proximity to the studio’s sound mixing stages, soundeditorial rooms, picture editing suites and other sound services. Since both final sound mixing and the DI come at the end of the post production chain for feature films, having both services in physical proximity allows the director to walk from room to room, rather than get in a car and battle traffic from Burbank to Hollywood or Santa Monica to Universal City.

What makes this new suite stand out is that it is a virtual DI room. The room is connected to EFILM’s Hollywood facility via a secure, private fiber link that transmits uncompressed 2K 4:4:4 images. That means that, in the Universal Studios’ DI suite, there is no machine room, no scanner and a minimum of hardware and software actually reside there.

Deluxe Entertainment Services Group COO Warren Stein notes that the company has similar configurations of adjacent sound stages and DI rooms in Toronto and Australia. Deluxe also has a similar virtual DI suite on the Fox lot, for internal use. The Universal Studios DI suite is the first such virtual suite to be available to incoming projects.

According to Universal senior vp/sound services Christopher Jenkins, his filmmaker clients have been asking for this kind of set-up. “All the directors want a DI suite [on the lot],” he says. “As soon as they’re into final mixing, it’s a loss of their time and attention to have sound services on the lot but have to leave to do the DI. We’ve got the sound facility here, and now we have a DI suite for all comers.”

The DI suite features both film and digital projection, with a 2K digital projector, with capabilities of screening 3D for both XpanD and RealD 3D systems.  EFILM executive vp/GM Kevin Dillon, who also manages the EFILM virtual DI room, notes that EFILM uses a proprietary version of Autodesk Lustre for color correction. “We have worked closely with Autodesk to build out from the Lustre,” he says. “We have our own image science team and we’ve built our own LUTs for the variety of film stocks and film labs, as well as the new digital cameras such as the Canon DSLRs and ARRI Alexa.”EFILM also works with VFX houses for plate timing. “We providfe them with viewing LUTs, so they don’t go off in a different direciton,” he says, adding that the company works on testing with VFX supervisors at no charge.

The new virtual suite has no resident DI; DI artists from EFILM’s Hollywood facility will work on the lot, as requested by specific directors. The first films to go through this new DI pipeline on the Universal lot are Fast & Furious 5The Little Fockers and The Thing. Filmmakers who work in the room will have their films scanned at EFILM’s Hollywood facility, but can see the exact same images they’d see in the DI room on the Universal Studios lot.


3D Television Net plans ambitious slate

The 3D joint venture between Sony, Imax and Discovery unveiled a large and exclusive slate of first run series of original programming and acquisitions. Tom Cosgrove, President and CEO made the announcement of native 3D programs that willl air 24/7 when the channel launches in 2011.

The channel will feature one of the most extensive libraries of 3D content in genres that are most appealing in 3D, including natural history, adventure, theatrical releases and IMAX movies.

The series and films announced today are (in alphabetical order):

Original Series

Abandoned Planet

Explore the strangest places on earth — entire cities now completely devoid of all humanity.  This series of one-hour programs sheds light on why people have abandoned the places they once called home and what happens after they leave.  Produced by Flight 33 Productions.

Africa in 3D

From Gannet Island and its 100,000 seabirds of the same name sharing one giant rock, the 60,000 flamingos at Kamfers Dam, the Luangwa River and its 30,000 hippos and much more, this series of one-hour programs captures the richness and diversity of the world’s second-largest continent.  Produced by Aquavision Television Productions.


China’s beauty is little seen, often hidden and always surprising.  This hour-long series studies the thronging cities, epic vistas and spiritual heartlands of this huge and mysterious nation in stunning 3D.  Produced by Natural History New Zealand Ltd. (NHNZ).

Jewels of the World

This hour-long series gives viewers unprecedented access to UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage’ sites, where the planet’s natural and cultural gems are catalogued and protected, including:  the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru; the Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia; and the Grand Canyon National Park in the United States, among others.  Produced by Natural History New Zealand Ltd. (NHNZ).

Exclusive U.S. Premieres

Attack of the Giant Jellyfish (Discovery)

This hour-long program explores the myths and realities behind the global explosion of deadly jellyfish, including the giant Nomura, whose strength and size makes them capable of capsizing boats and wreaking havoc on the high seas.  Produced by Story House Productions.

The Haunted (Discovery)

Using infrared cameras and sensitive recording devices, a paranormal team investigates true, chilling and terrifying stories of animals and their owners who are experiencing the unexplainable.  This one-hour program is produced by Picture Shack Entertainment.

Into the Deep 3D (IMAX)

This IMAX special takes audiences on a spectacular three-dimensional exploration of the undersea world. Using the IMAX 3D camera in its underwater housing for the first time, this film captures unique marine life and magnificent underwater vistas.

Magnificent Desolation:  Walking on the Moon 3D (IMAX)

Through the magic of IMAX 3D, narrator Tom Hanks takes viewers to the lunar surface to walk alongside the 12 extraordinary astronauts who have been there to experience what they saw, heard, felt, thought and did.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Sony)

Inspired by the beloved children’s book of the same name, this animated 3D feature follows inventor Flint Lockwood and a brainy weathergirl as they attempt to discover why the rain in their small town has stopped, and food is falling in its place.

Monster House (Sony)

A suburban home has become physically animated by a vengeful human soul looking to stir up trouble from beyond the grave, and it’s up to three adventurous kids from the neighborhood to do battle with the structural golem in this comically frightful tale.

Lori Jane Coleman A.C.E. is coming to Dodge College

If you want to make it as an editor than you have to assist and one person knows what it takes to make the cut.

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