Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ghost Protocol

I’m overwhelmed by the positive response audiences have given “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol”.  The folks that had a chance to enjoy the film in a real IMAX theater were treated to an exceptional experience - nearly 30 minutes of the film is presented in true IMAX, with entire sequences filmed with the large-format camera, giving audiences a unique, immersive experience that is, personally, far more intriguing than 3-D.

I was compositing supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic, which provided around 650 visual effects for the film, and I’m extraordinarily proud of the entire team.  The vast majority of our shots were intended to be invisible -- our goal was to stay out of the way of the storytelling and let the scenes play out without the effects calling attention to themselves.  I had a blast working again with John Knoll, our visual effects supervisor, Lindy DeQuattro, our associate visual effects supervisor, Hayden Landis, our Digital Production Supervisor, and our teams at ILM in San Francisco and Singapore and all our facility partners.  I offer humble thanks to all of them for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I’ve never had a greater impact on a film before, and I’m so proud to be associated with such a great film.  I was lucky enough to catch a screening in IMAX, and really enjoyed the movie.  In visual effects, we consider ourselves lucky if we get to work on one really, really good film in our entire career.  I’ve been lucky enough to work on a few of them, and “MI4” ranks among my favorite films to which I’ve contributed.  It was my second "Mission: Impossible" film, my first IMAX film, and my tenth anamorphic film.

Here’s a snapshot of how Brad Bird’s directorial debut has been received by the public:

Box Office

As of January 31, 2012, the film has grossed nearly $572 million dollars.  Its $203 million dollar take in North America makes it the seventh highest grossing film of 2011.  (It will most likely overtake “Fast Five” at number six, with $209M.)   “MI4” is the highest grossing “Mission: Impossible” film, globally, and will most likely become the highest grossing Tom Cruise film of all time, toppling “War of the Worlds”.

Critical Acclaim

For the fourth entry of a franchise based on a television show, “MI4”’s 93% Tomatometer rating is through the roof.  The Rotten Tomatoes summary is as follows:  "Stylish, fast-paced, and loaded with gripping set pieces, the fourth Mission: Impossible is big-budget popcorn entertainment that really works."

Visual Effects Coverage

We were blown away when we were invited to present our film at the visual effects Academy Bake-Off, which featured ten films competing for five nomination slots.  “MI4” was included in a list that also featured “Transformers 3” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. Although we didn’t get a nomination, we were grateful for the opportunity to go to the bake-off and show our reel.

Cinefex and Jody Duncan will cover “MI4” in its April 2012 issue, which should make for a great read.

The Daily interviewed John Knoll to discuss the film’s visual effects.

FXGuide and Mike Seymour expand on The Daily’s coverage with a more extensive interview with John Knoll.

Vincent Frei at Art of VFX also talks to John about the film.

Over at The VFX Show podcast, Mike Seymour, Matt Leonard and Jason Diamond go over the visual effects of “MI4” with a fine tooth comb for nearly 70 minutes, and have some really nice things to say about them.

And if you’re at all interested in how the film was shot, please read this profile of cinematographer Robert Elswit, the man behind the photography of “There Will Be Blood”, on how he shot “MI4” on film with 35mm and IMAX cameras.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The VFX Predictinator, 84th Academy Awards Edition

It’s that time of year again.  Time to feed The VFX Predictinator.

For the uninitiated, The VFX Predictinator is a formula my wife and I developed in 2010 that accurately predicted the winner of the visual effects Academy Award from 1989-2010 based on quantifiable data points.  Last year, we expanded the formula to accommodate five nominees with success -- The Predictinator accurately predicted the winner ("Inception"), just as it did for the previous 21 years.

The 84th Academy Award nominations were released last week, which means it’s time to run the numbers!  As a reminder, the nominees for the visual effects Oscar are “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II”, “Hugo”, “Real Steel”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”.

And here’s The Predictinator in action:

And if you're not interested in squinting at the final scores, here they are:
  • 8.39 Hugo
  • 6.21 Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • 5.34 Harry Potter 7.2
  • 2.91 Real Steel
  • 1.04 Transformers 3
The Predictinator predicts “Hugo” will win the Academy Award for visual effects.

Before running the numbers, I was certain that “Hugo” would post some big numbers, especially because of those 11 (gasp!) total Academy Award nominations, but I was surprised at how gigantic its final score ultimately was.  Its score was even slightly higher than 2009’s “Avatar”.  "Hugo" had an extremely high Tomatometer score (although slightly below "Potter 7.2"), and combined with its late release date (November) and its additional Oscar nominations, it walks away a score of 8.39.

Since “Apes” was the only film among the nominees with organic character animation as well as facial animation, I was fairly certain that “Apes” would have ended up with the highest point tally.  But there’s “Hugo” sitting on top with that huge score, a higher point value than any film since the first “Lord of the Rings” film in 2001.

Some notes: we didn’t classify “Apes” as a sequel, since the film is a reboot, creating a new franchise, personality and mythology from the ground up. “Transformers 3” ended up in a distant fifth place with only 1.04 points -- the lowest Predictinator score in the history of the Predictinator (1989-2011).  The robot sequel was severely punished by its low Tomatometer score (the lowest since “Poseidon”), the earliest release date of all five nominees, and its existence as a sequel.

We’ll see what happens when the winners are announced on February 26, 2012.

update: We were right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

84th Academy Award Nominees for Visual Effects

Congratulations to all the nominees for Best Visual Effects in the 84th Academy Awards.  The winner will be announced Sunday, February 26, 2012.


"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson

Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning

"Real Steel"
Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier