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Animator never lost artistry
'True innovator,' recognized for mastery of his art, also a tragic figure who spent years panhandling on Montreal streets

Ryan Larkin, a brilliant Canadian filmmaker who brought the art of animation to new heights in an era before computer animation, and a tragic figure whose career was destroyed by drug and alcohol abuse, died near Montreal at 63 Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer. During his career, he was nominated for an Oscar for an animated short film, Walking, and became the subject of another animated short, Ryan, which won an Oscar in 2005. Between these two highlights, Larkin spent most of his life living in homeless shelters, begging for money on the streets of Montreal. The Montreal native studied at the Art School of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and was recognized early for his fluid and expressive figure drawing. Recruited by the National Film Board as a 19-year-old, he worked with the late Norman McLaren, a giant of the art of animation. Under McLaren's tutelage, Larkin brought his painter's expressiveness and masterful visual style to his film work.  Read on...

Posted: February 19, 2007

Rome Season 2: Where Less is More VFX
Tara DiLullo returns to Rome to discover how the Emmy Award-winning vfx team had to cope with less time and money in delivering work with greater scale.

Caesar may be dead but the treachery, violence and debauchery behind the machinations of the Roman Empire are only getting started as the second season of the epic BBC/HBO drama, Rome, debuted on Jan. 21. The fall of the Republic continues to be chronicled in expansive scope and accuracy against the backdrop of the smaller, human stories of love, honor and betrayal that reflect the larger issues of the ancient society imploding upon itself. Back for the thrilling ride behind-the-scenes is visual effects supervisor James Madigan. A last minute addition to the crew in season one, Madigan returns to Rome after working with vfx house The Senate on The Da Vinci Code during the production hiatus.

Posted: January 22, 2007
Pixar preparing for next film

Pixar is building a robot for 2008. Disney-owned toon studio's release next year, titled "WALL-E," is believed to be about a young robot looking for a home in outer space. Andrew Stanton, who won an Oscar for directing "Finding Nemo" and co-directed "Toy Story 2," is helming. Former Lucasfilm Digital prexy Jim Morris produces. Project is his first since he joined Pixar in early 2005. Read on...

Posted: January 22, 2007

Toon hit 'Ghost' up for live remake
Production I.G. acquires rights to 'Shell'

Toon house Production I.G. has acquired rights from publisher Kodansha to sell feature toon "Ghost in the Shell," for live-action remake, according to toon house source. Kodansha published the "Ghost in the Shell" manga by Masamune Shirow in 1989. Production I.G. then made it into a cult hit animated feature in 1995. The toon house also produced the "Ghost in the Shell" feature follow-up "Innocence" and the animated TV series "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex," both of which have been widely distribbed abroad. Read on...

Posted: January 22, 2007

2007 Sundance Film Festival Short Films to Premiere on iTunes

Sundance Institute and Sundance Channel announced they will offer narrative, documentary and animation shorts from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival for download via iTunes (www.itunes.com). A broad selection of short films from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival will be available for purchase and download priced at $1.99 each on the iTunes Store beginning Monday, Jan. 22, 2007. "I have felt, from the earliest days, that if people really care about independent film, they should pay particular attention to short filmmakers, who are the best indicators of what is coming down the creative pike," said Robert Redford, president/founder of Sundance Institute and founder of Sundance Channel." Read on...

Posted: January 16, 2007

The Future of Digital Production, According to Autodesk
Adrian Pennington reports back from the Autodesk Summit in Montreal, which included a roadmap for future development.

The stated purpose of a recent Autodesk Summit at its Media & Ent. (M&E) headquarters in Montreal was to allow journalists a peek into its roadmap for digital imaging and visualization, as well as to provide a more comprehensive overview of the division’s activities. A secondary -- dare we say discreet -- intention might have been to imprint the Autodesk brand firmly over iconic post-production tools such as Flame and Smoke. The former main Discreet building (still owned by Discreet Logic founder Richard Szalwinski) in old Montreal is being refurbed in a manner, according to former staff, which will replace the “ultra cool” of its original identity with a more corporate look and feel. Read on...

Posted: January 16, 2007

Maya 8.5 Released: Introduces Unified Simulation Framework

Autodesk Maya 8.5 has been released and is now shipping, providing artists enhanced creative control, enabling faster completion of complex animations and simulations. "Autodesk is committed to making Maya the foundation for modern production pipelines. Maya 8.5 supports industry-standard Python scripting, offering improved workflows and development productivity," said Marc Petit, Autodesk's Media & Ent. vp. "We're excited to offer Maya 8.5 as a Universal application for both Intel-based and PowerPC-based Macintosh computers. As well, the software features innovative new capabilities for character animation; the new Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework enables interactive simulations while keeping artists in full control of the animation." Read on...

Posted: January 16, 2007

Plenty of Animation and VFX Blu-ray Bound

There were a slew of Blu-ray announcements at CES, including Warner Home Video's that the animated HAPPY FEET from Animal Logic will be released this year along with the HARRY POTTER and THE MATRIX franchises. Also, WHV announced that SUPERMAN RETURNS was the #1 Blu-ray title in 2006. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Home Ent. announced that CASINO ROYALE will bow in Blu-ray on March 13, 2007. This marks the Blu-ray debut on a 50GB dual-layer disc encoded in MPEG-4 AVC. Read on...

Posted: January 9, 2007

Joseph Barbera, 95; animation giant co-created "Flintstones,' 'Yogi Bear'

Joseph Barbera, who, with his longtime partner William "Bill" Hanna, created such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Jonny Quest, died of natural causes Monday at his Studio City home. He was 95. During the 1940s, Barbera and Hanna were MGM's blue-ribbon cartoon directors, winning seven Oscars for the "Tom and Jerry" shorts. After MGM closed its animation unit in 1957, they moved to television, where they created a series of hits in the 1960s, beginning with "The Flintstones," the first animated series in prime time. Read on...

Posted: December 28, 2006

Disney lays off animators
Cuts come as 'Meet the Robinsons' finishes production

Disney is laying off about 160 employees, or 20% of the total staff, from its feature animation unit. Move comes as the Mouse House has greenlit "American Dog" as its next feature toon to move into production, most likely for a 2008 release. Cuts aren't connected to the company-wide layoffs the Mouse House went through in summer. Feature animation was excluded at the time, apparently fitting in with CEO Bob Iger's public insistence that toons are a core part of the company's future. Unlucky employees are expected to be notified in the next couple of weeks. Read on...

Posted: December 11, 2006
Here Come The Smurfs

Apparently computer animation has made it much to easy for Hollywood to make animated movies, because they’re running out of ideas and resorting to adapting 80s cartoons into feature films. The new, computer animated, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t far off, and now it looks like there’s movement on the long rumored Smurfs movie too. Moviehole has smurfed up a great scoop on the project, in an interview with Producer Jordan Kerner. Kerner confirms what we already knew, “It’s a 3-D/CG Smurfs. You just can’t make those guys live – it’d be a little weird, but a 3D Shrek world of them - that’s fantastic.” Oh I don’t know about that Jordan. Rubber suits worked pretty well for the Ninja Turtles. Ok, maybe not.  Read on...

Posted: December 11, 2006

The Nativity Story: Making the VFX Look Real
Renee Dunlop traces the work of Hammerhead and Digital Dream and various vfx pros on The Nativity Story, in which the mandate was fit in seamlessly with the naturalistic look.

Sometimes when the stars align, miracles can happen. Such is the tale behind the making of The Nativity Story (opening Dec. 1 through New Line), based on the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of the baby Jesus. Director Catherine Hardwicke's main focus was to remain as historically accurate as possible, with attention to detail on the architecture, the customs and what information was available. There is a theory that the Star of Bethlehem was actually the planetary convergence of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, an event recorded by the Chinese recorded around 5 B.C. The Nativity Story used this and the struggle of Mary and Joseph as a basis for the film.  Read on...

Posted: December 11, 2006
Is Th-Th-That All, Folks?

Mike Hernandez has had it with the new offerings of animated movies. Other than “Cars,” the summer hit from Pixar Animation Studios, he would rather watch the re-released animated classic “The Little Mermaid” with his 4-year-old daughter, Alicea. “They had a good message,” Mr. Hernandez said of “Cars” and “The Little Mermaid” after attending a recent matinee of “The Little Mermaid” at the El Capitan movie theater here. Of other, newer films, he said, “I don’t pay too much attention.” With more than a dozen computer-animated movies being readied for release by next summer, Hollywood is facing viewer fatigue worthy of Sleeping Beauty. Analysts and industry executives have long warned of a coming glut of computer-animated movies. That time has come. Read on...

Posted: October 3, 2006

Open Season Diary: Building the CG Pipeline
In the second Open Season production diary, Sony Pictures Animation describes the establishment of a production pipeline in collaboration with Sony Pictures Imageworks for its first 3D-animated feature.

It starts with a strong foundation. For nearly a decade, navigating through the most explosive and dramatic shift in digital production, Sony Pictures Imageworks established one of the most robust production environments in the industry. During the period starting in 1997, Imageworks steadily grew its character animation capabilities, always with the goal of ultimately producing all-CG animated features. The roots of today’s pipeline began production of Stuart Little. The pipeline really involves four major areas: creative set-up, production management, technology, animation and rendering. Read on...

Posted: October 3, 2006

Hot Spots Showcase 4: The Best in Animated & VFX Commercials
This year’s “Hot Spots Showcase” curates the best in animated and vfx commercials, music videos and game cinematics from our readers as well as a special showcase of the best of the best from Stash DVD Magazine.

Each year, AWN puts out a call to its readers working in commercials, music videos, IDs and game cinematics to compile a showcase of what they feel is the best of their work. We compile one piece from each company and each year “Hot Spots” gets bigger and better. In addition to this year’s reader submitted work, we have a special section of the Showcase, dedicated to the best of the best from Stash DVD Magazine. Read on...

Posted: October 3, 2006

The Art of Digital Show

Opening Night Reception
Saturday October 7th, 6-9 pm

At the elegant Lyceum Theatre Gallery, located in Horton Plaza. Reception is Free to Attend. The Art Of Digital Show is an international exhibition of digital art taking place October 6 through November 19, 2006. The show was judged by Hugh Davies, the Director of theMuseum of Contemporary Art San Diego.  Read on...

Posted: October 2, 2006

Disney rakes it in on iTunes

When Apple announced the addition of feature films to the iTunes store last week, Disney was the only studio on board - most others signed up to Amazon's two week old movie download service, Unbox, presumably due to their fear of piracy and the tougher restrictions imposed by Amazon on its customers. Seven days later the other studios may be having second thoughts as Disney announces that in its first week it has sold over 125,000 films through iTunes bringing in $1 million, according to CIO. Read on...

Posted: September 25, 2006

Talking veggies stir controversy at NBC

Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber always had a moral message in their long-running "VeggieTales" video series. But now that the vegetable stars have hit network television, they can't speak as freely as they once did, and that's got the Parents Television Council steamed. The conservative media-watchdog group issued a statement Wednesday blasting NBC, which airs "VeggieTales," for editing out some references to God from the children's animated show. "What struck me and continues to strike me is the inanity of ripping the heart and soul out of a successful product and not thinking that there will be consequences to it," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council. "The series is successful because of its biblical world view, not in spite of it. That's the signature to `VeggieTales.'" Read on...

Posted: September 25, 2006

Chris Landreth on SIGGRAPH 2006 Electronic Theater
Chris Landreth finds inspiration in all images computer-generated at SIGGRAPH’s 2006 edition of the Electronic Theater.

Every year in the late summer since 1974, SIGGRAPH has been the annual highlight of all things related to computer-generated imagery. And, arguably, the highlight of SIGGRAPH is its Electronic Theater, a two-hour compilation of the most innovative, influential, exploratory, whimsical and occasionally depraved imagery created using computers over the past year. Over the years the Electronic Theater (ET) has developed into a major animation festival, but compared to other animation festivals, the ET generally has a strong geeky element—giving as much attention to emerging research in CGI as to short CG films with great stories. In past years, the ET shocked and awed SIGGRAPH audiences with demonstrations of then-new techniques like Raytracing, Soft Body Dynamics and Particle Systems. Read on...
Posted: September 8, 2006
What we can expect from the new special effects added to the original series.
On the heels of the surprise announcement that the original Star Trek series has been reformatted in high definition, with new CGI special effects, CBS Paramount conducted a conference call yesterday to discuss the changes to the series and what fans can expect. The participants were the President of CBS Paramount Domestic Television, John Nogawski, and Dave Rossi and Michael Okuda, the visual effects producers on the new versions of the series. Read on...
Posted: September 8, 2006

Beefing Up Animation Software
Researchers believe the secret to making animated characters look more realistic is in the muscles.

Computer animations have become increasingly realistic over the years, but a few lingering nuances still trigger our brains to recognize that a character is not flesh and blood. It's the subtle details -- a facial expression or muscle movement -- that usually gives it away. But now researchers from the Bournemouth University in the U.K., have developed easy-to-use tools that make skin and the muscles underneath it move more realistically. When animators build a character, they usually start with its external appearance, rather than internal features such as skeletal structure and musculature, says lead researcher Jian Zhang... Read on...

Posted: September 8, 2006

d'Artiste Concept Art
Concept Art by the Masters

Now available! d'artiste: Concept Art presents the techniques of leading concept artists Viktor Antonov, George Hull, Andrew Jones and Nicolas “Sparth” Bouvier. In this masterclass tutorial book, these four authors bring readers through concept art techniques used to create environments, characters and machinery for film, television and video games. Learn more about the book here.

Posted: August 17, 2006

Sneak Peek at Sony Pictures Animation Films

To celebrate the launch of upcoming Sony Pictures Animation films, ComingSoon.net was invited for a sneak peek at the company's future releases. During the special presentation, Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital, announced that Sony will turn the classic children's story Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs into a feature film.  "It's my pleasure to introduce here for the first time a film here that we haven't put out any information about yet. This is a project that we put into development right after we formed the company," Landau proudly revealed.  Read on...

Posted: August 16, 2006

World Trade Center: Documenting with Invisible VFX
Alain Bielik talks with the visual effects artists assigned the sensitive and difficult duty of recreating 9/11 for Oliver Stone’s film, World Trade Center.

For any visual effects artist, recreating a real life event is always a particularly challenging assignment. But when this event is as well documented and as deeply emotional as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it can be a daunting prospect. When dealing with such an iconic moment in history, you should better get it just right… In World Trade Center (released by Paramount on Aug. 9), director Oliver Stone recreates the 9/11 tragedy from the perspective of two Port Authority Police Department officers who were trapped beneath the collapsed towers. Since the script is based on a true story, authenticity and accuracy were of paramount importance for the filmmakers. To recreate what happened outside and inside the World Trade Center, overall visual effects supervisor John Scheele split the effects shots among four vendors: Double Negative, Giant Killer Robots, Animal Logic and CIS Hollywood. Read on...
Posted: August 16, 2006

US Schools Take Notice of Growing Video Game Industry

Home video games have been around since the late 1970s but are enjoying unprecedented growth right now. Economists expect the video game industry to add thousands of jobs in the coming years. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports that schools also have taken notice of the industry's rapid growth and are helping game players to become game creators. The video game industry's regular trade shows are opportunities to show off the latest software that totaled some $8.2 billion in sales in 2004. These glitzy games have humble beginnings in dimly lit offices like the ones at Bethesda Softworks. Alex Tran and other game testers work to find flaws, called bugs, in new games.  Read on...

Posted: August 11, 2006

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