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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ramesh Raskar of MIT Media Lab on the Future of Imaging

Michael here. We know that stereoscopic 3D has already made a huge impact on cinema over the past couple of years, and that it is well on its way to your home.

But what’s next? Prof. Ramesh Raskar (left in below picture), leader of the Camera Culture research group at the MIT Media Lab and Co-Director of the Center for Future Storytelling, has his eye on the future and is working with his teams to bring some incredible new technologies into existence that will not only transform how we see movies, but how we record and share the stories of our lives.

Imagine 6D or even 8D capture and display. Personal, do-it-anywhere motion capture. Cameras that will guarantee that your subject is never out of focus, and others that can even see around corners.

A huge thanks to Prof. Raskar for taking the time to talk with me about his projects!


MICHAEL: The research you are doing seems to be aimed at what's next, beyond stereo 3D. What do you think will be the "next big thing?" Will there be something beyond 3D that will continue to provide the impetus for people to go outside their homes to the movie theater?

PROF. RASKAR: Certainly. 3D is just a piece of the puzzle. The key limitation for anything that is on traditional formats is that you are always going to trade off the resolution for other parameters. You lose resolution to see stereo on a traditional monoscopic display - lenticulars - or if you do time sequential you lose resolution in time. As resolution in space (which is pixels) and resolution in time (which is frame rate) becomes less of an issue, then you can start trading off the resolution for color, or stereo, and so on. We've already seen that a little bit, where you have six channels - some Mitsubishi and Samsung projectors support that - six primary channels, six primary colors, as opposed to three. And then either time sequential, or view sequential.

MICHAEL: The autostereoscopic displays I saw at CES were impressive, but were based on 1080P screens. I didn't get a chance to see Phillips' 4K model.

PROF. RASKAR: [For autostereoscopic] you will lose resolution in time or in space. To get more views, you need more pixels that can only be created in space or in time. The fact that autostereoscopic displays are being based on 1080p is really a legacy issue. They should really be being built on 4K, or even larger screens. And that will come. It's just a matter of time.

MICHAEL: Some have the opinion that consumers won't accept 4k in an 8k world.

PROF. RASKAR: I don't think that argument is valid. At some point it's OK to trade off resolution for stereo. But right now, at 1080P, we're just at the acceptable level of resolution. So if you go from 1080 to half of that - that's not acceptable. But once you go to 8K I think 4K would be sufficient. It's like buying a camera that is 6 Megapixel versus 12 Megapixel. Does anyone really care? It's just a marketing gimmick.

MICHAEL: Many have been pushing for higher frame rates in theaters - either 48 fps or 60 fps. But what about the idea of eliminating the very idea of discrete frames?

PROF. RASKAR: Yes, certainly. More people are talking about "frameless" rendering, in which certain parts of the image get updated in an asynchronous manner - so there is no sanctity of a frame. I'm a believer in that concept as well, but as soon as your frame rate becomes sufficiently fast - let's say it's 500 frames per second - things like frameless motions can be implemented with a 500 hz projector, or 500 hz displays. There's not that big an issue to get there. The key reason people are talking about frameless rendering is because of bandwidth. So if you have a mostly static screen, and a character moving really fast, then you don't have to update all the pixels, as not all the pixels are changing - you can save on bandwidth.

MICHAEL: So, where do you see the future of imaging heading?

PROF. RASKAR: We are creating things like 6 dimensional displays. You start with a 2D image. If you add horizontal parallax that's 3D. If you add vertical parallax that's actually 4D. And it turns out that mathematically, if you are to express the experience of a static world, it can be represented using 4 dimensional quantities, not 3 dimensional quantities. So the experience of the world is not actually, 3D, but 4D. Some people refer to this as "light fields."

The idea is that you don't represent the world with pixels, but with the rays, and what is happening along each of the rays. As you can imagine, if I move the camera around outside, I am capturing different rays of what is out there.

So that's 4D. So where does the 6th dimension come from? It's based on the lighting. Even if I create a hologram of a flower, and right next to that I put a real flower, they still don't look that similar because if I bring a flashlight then the real flower will respond with beautiful caustics (specular highlights and reflections), shadows, and reflections, but the hologram will not. It will only change with viewpoint, not with lighting. So we are creating displays that also respond to light.

MICHAEL: Do you use lenticulars over the pixels that react to varying incident light angles?

PROF. RASKAR: We use microlenses - I wouldn't call them lenticulars any more, because they are pretty complex per-pixel. We are basically using optics to channel the ambient light so that it reveals a particular part of the image; and for a given viewpoint, it recreates the particular 3D appearance of that object. So I think that things like that would become very interesting. Not necessarily for cinema in the short run, but definitely for home entertainment - where you may shoot a video of your vacation, you come home to watch it, and you want to probe your video with ambient lights, or flashlights. So it’s 3D and also responds to how it was when captured.

MICHAEL: So it has horizontal parallax, vertical parallax, as well as response to light.

PROF. RASKAR: The X position of light, and the Y position of light make it 6D. And mathematically speaking, in our field we call it an 8-dimensional reflectance field. Instead of just holding a flashlight, you could hold a video projector. And the frame buffer for that video projector is also 2-dimensional. So 4 dimensional for viewing, and 4 dimensional for illumination. So put together it is an 8 dimensional reflectance field. So in the research world, the search for 8 dimensional capture and display is a very important goal, and once we get there we can really create hyperrealistic imagery.

MICHAEL: How far along on the path towards 8D are you right now?

PROF. RASKAR: Many people have looked into 8 dimensional capture already, and some of it is already getting used in special effects, where they will capture an expression of a character under an array of lights, and they will record his/her whole appearance, so at post-production, they can manipulate it. This was used in Benjamin Button. So the 8D capture is already there in a way, but as you can imagine it is very cumbersome, very expensive, very special facilities.

MICHAEL: Like the special birdcage-like contraption used by Mova.

PROF. RASKAR: Exactly. People have tried to do 8D capture, but nobody has tried to do more than 4 dimensional display. So our group is the first one to create a 6 dimensional display. And we built one a couple of years ago, which is really exciting. And Mike Bove is working on holographic displays, and we are working on 6 dimensional displays. We think both are really exciting. Another field is multispectral – to create images that aren’t just RGB, but have 6 or 8 color channels. If you look at the real world – a rainbow, for example, cannot be respresented that well in just 3 colors. Certain butterflies, ocean colors, with a very deep cyan, are not captured well with RGB systems, since the color-gamut is not covered with just the primaries. 3 colors is not enough. With 6, you can recreate much more realistic images. But the problem is that we don’t have cameras than can capture in 6 colors.

MICHAEL: Are you working on capture tech for 6 channel color?

PROF. RASKAR: We are working on a device with a color synthesizer. We call it "programmable-wavelength imaging." We have a camera that can change its spectrum. Say, if we are shooting videos of a butterfly, ocean colors, etc., we would pick more cyans, and at home when viewing we could boost more cyans.

MICHAEL: What can you tell me about the smart cameras and computational photography you are working on, such as the anti-motion blur technology.

PROF. RASKAR: The basic concept is that we want to simplify the capture-time decisions. The difference between professionals and amateurs is decreasing rapidly – the part that makes professionals stand apart is that they can make really good decisions at the time of the shoot. They can set the right exposure times, the right ISO, the right focus, focal plane, and so on. And amateurs are not so good at making those decisions. But if you can move all those decisions to post-capture (digitally refocus, remove motion blur, or relight the scene) then anybody in a creative spirit can create beautiful visual imaging.

MICHAEL: You have your hands full – is there any one project that is taking up the majority of your effort at the moment?

PROF. RASKAR: Every one of them is taking up all my effort!

We’re building lots of crazy things. We are building cameras that can see through volumetric objects such as fog, and give post capture control. We are working on a camera that can look around a corner using flash photography.

On the motion analysis side, we are building a motion capture technology called Second Skin, which enables us to finally take motion capture in the real world. All of the components we are building are very lightweight. We just mounted a camera and rig on a car, and one of our guys was running down the street- and we could capture that. That would be almost impossible to do with other methods. Being able to do on-set motion capture is the holy grail of motion capture. we don’t need dots – our technology is imperceptible. We could do a live shot on TV, where you have a character that’s wired up with our technology, and have a live shot that shows the transformation. James Cameron is trying similar things with his pre-vis[ualization].




I think [Second Skin] is the right direction for not just on-set motion capture, but live pre-vis. Also, The Shader Lamps technology we have built is for live feedback to the actor about where they are. Instead of a white ball telling them their eyeline, convergence points, and so on, it will all be real. It will be an integrated environment where the actors can see themselves, the director can see, and the final viewers can see, almost in real time. That’s kind of the dream. And we have pieces of the puzzle in motion capture, in cameras, and on displays.

MICHAEL: Do you see a competition emerging between lenticular-related technologies like 6D and 8D displays, and holograms?

PROF. RASKAR: The limits of a hologram and a lenticular display are the same. In our group we have done a lot of theoretical work and mathematical analysis of light transport. There’s a concept called “augmented light field” that we invented, in which we analyized data that shows that holograms and lenticular screens are the same in the limit – if you have millions of pixels in one dimension for lenticular screens. But clearly that is not practically possible, so that is why you want to use holograms. But we still have to figure out how to make holograms light sensitive.

MICHAEL: With the march of 3D, and at some point the technologies you are working on, into the home, do you still see people going out to movie theaters in the future?

PROF. RASKAR: I hope so. The goal of these new technologies should not just be recording visual memories, but recording experiences and creating an atmosphere where they can be shared. And there is a very social, very human component to both capturing and sharing experiences. As long as movie makers, distributors, technologists, and also average consumers keep that in mind, I think we can create a highly networked, very integrated set of technologies that will allow us to not just watch a movie, but actually live in a movie. And I think that’s exciting. We’re already at a place where the experience of a movie isn’t just the two hours in the theater. But that is still just the Hollywood model. How you can bring this into your everyday life is the exciting part .

Thanks very much to Prof. Raskar for meeting with me in his Cambridge, Massachusetts office, and to Alexandra Kahn for arranging the meeting!

For much more information on these projects and others, head over to the websites for the Camera Culture group, MIT Media Lab, and Prof. Raskar.

Popular Photography magazine has a great new article titled "The Future of Photography" that looks at Prof. Raskar's projects and where imaging will go in the next 40 years.

Also, BBC NEWS has an article on Camera Culture's 3 mm "bokodes" that can be read at a distance of several meters and can contain thousands of times as much information as traditional barcodes.

Raskar is the co-author of “Computational Photography: Mastering New Techniques for Lenses, Lighting, and Sensors."

World's First 3D Public Service Announcement Delivers

Jim here. I was invited to a special screening yesterday at Empire Theatres for the world's first stereoscopic 3D public service announcement. Sound boring? Well, it wasn't. The PSA was written and directed by James Stewart of Toronto's Geneva Film Company for the Tema ConterMemorial Trust. James and I have known each other for awhile and this time he really delivered - the 60 second spot had the difficult task of presenting an awareness message about Post Traumatic Stress in the lives of Emergency Workers.

To tell you the truth I was thinking that it will be very challenging to show this to a movie going audience and resonate in an appropriate fashion - its tricky. One thought going through my mind was to show a firefighter or similar emergency worker doing his/her job through the day, but at night show the effects of the stress they are under.

James took it a step beyond that by using children dressed up as police officers, firefighters and paramedics discussing their dreams of having those careers when they grow up - but also having them discuss the problems they might incur too like post traumatic stress, lack of sleep, etc. - very real adult situations. It worked extremely well. I was moved by the thing and it is only 60 seconds!

I want to thank James for the invitation as well as Empire Theatres for the facilities. These awareness messages are very important for the public and certainly draws attention to this worthy cause.

Here is that 60 second PSA that helps bring awareness of the sacrifice that emergency workers and their families make by serving their community:



If you have a worthy cause that would like to get its message out using stereoscopic 3D for movie going audiences, contact me through the "Contact Me" form below.

For more information on this post's content see www.tema.ca and www.genevafilmco.com/3d

Roland Emmerich Thinking 3D For Asimov's FOUNDATION

Jim here. Got some interesting news from an interview that Roland Emmerich (2012, INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) gave The Wrap - here is the 3D content from that conversation:

What role do you think 3D will play moving forward?
Well, it will be very much decided by a couple of movies that come out this year and next year. So far, it's going really well. I actually like 3D because it has to be digital. And I think digital projection is far superior to film projection, whether it be 2D or 3D. Because everybody thinks 3D will be big, it kind of forces people to establish digital projectors in theaters.

Could something like "2012" work in 3D?

I think there are certain movies that don't need 3D and then others look better in 3D. I think "2012" would have looked fantastic, but it was just not possible in the time we had.

Is that an area you want to explore in the future?
I'm thinking maybe Isaac Asimov's sci-fi epic "Foundation" could be my first 3D film. I don't know yet.

Hey, I am a HUGE fan of Asimov. I am totally into any 3D project involving his original work. Emmerich +3D? Who knows - but I think it will work big time. :-)

James Cameron Confirms TITANIC 3D Project On For Next Year - And Cameron In CAMO!!

Jim here. HAHA! Cameron looks right at home here - is he making a cameo CAMO appearance as a machine gunner in AVATAR? Joking. But he does look good. :-)

Oh and to those few naysayers out there that questioned the validity of one of my sources sending me a spy shot of the heavy machine gun being used in AVATAR. Today's photo CLEARLY shows that it is the same weapon that the soldier in my exclusive post way back in January was holding. Most folks know by now that my trusted sources are bang on.

A good source of mine in the UK saw this over at Empire and not only told me about it but also scanned in the article for us! So I am including the content right here for all you AVATAR fans and recommend you buy the whole magazine.

Here is excerpts of what is inside Empire Magazine concerning our favorite epic:

Perched in the office of Jon Landau, Empire is staring with some fascination at a picture of Sigourney Weaver. It's an arresting portrait shot that an excited Landau has beckoned us inside just to take a peek at. In out hands a younger Weaver gazes earnestly at us, a glint in her eyes and the slightest hint of a smile tugging the corner of her azure-tinted lips. Did we mention she's blue? A deep cerulean, in fact, with dusty cobalt stripes across the cheeks and a scattering of white, luminescent tracks tracing patterns beneath her ears - pricked up, high on the sides of her head. The effect is striking, subtly feline one, but for all the alien attributes it's clearly Weaver. Circa 1989.

"That's Sigourney's avatar," explains Landau with an obvious surge of pride. "In the story it was created 15 years or so before the movie opens and the avatars don't age with us. So we designed it based on the Sigourney of the early '90s."

If all that sounds like utter gibberish, it's because you need to dive into the universe of AVATAR, a story director James Cameron has been developing for a similar decade and a half. The tale takes place a humdred years hence, with Earth all but stripped of its natural resources and money-hungry corporations now looking to the stars to replenish waning energy supplies. One such foray has led to the lush, densely forested world of Pandora, where a mining operation is under siege by hostile wildlife, including the planet's single sentient species, the feline, blue-skinned Na'vi. A group of scientist's lead by Weaver's Dr. Grace Augustine have bio-engineered hybrid human/Na'vi bodies using their own DNA, and it's via these biological 'avatars' that they walk among the natives in an attempt to gain their trust and study the planet's flora and fauna up close.

If this all sounds more David Attenborough than James Cameron, rest assured that AVATAR is anything but a sci-fi-themed nature doc. Vast set-pieces pit embattled Na'vi against the bristling arsenal of the human security forces, with aboriginal defenders mounted atop great beasts tearing chunks out of soldiers in hulking power armour. The star of this interstellar fracas is Sam Worthington's Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-Marine who finds both new life and limbs in his powerful avatar.

"It's a movie about bullies," says Worthington when we catch up with him on set in Wellington, New Zealand. "The humans here have come to tear into the Na'vi planet and strip mine it. Meanwhile you have Sully, a guy in a wheelchair, who's lost but comes to this planet and has his eyes opened. He gets to stand up to the bullies. And, even though we're going to another planet, we're telling a story that's relevant now."

So guys - what do you think of Cameron in camo?? :-)

Further, Cameron has CONFIRMED his intention to convert TITANIC to 3D next year - this WILL BE his next project: "We're going to do Titanic in 3-D! We've already done a 90 second clip of it and it's phenomenal and gorgeous, so that's going to be the project for next year. It's a conversion of it, not native photography; we can't go back."

When asked about converting to 3D any of his previous works he said: "You know, we've thought about Terminator 2, which could be fun because I think that's a film that stands the test of time for me. I think that Aliens was a really good film in its time, but visually it doesn't quite hold up; we've kind of evolved beyond that now. I mean, for me it doesn't. Terminator 2, I think, is the cusp of where it still holds up, through now. True Lies, I don't think so; it doesn't feel right to me. Titanic absolutely, slam dunk! I want to see it!"

The TITANIC conversion sounds like something he can do on the side though - as much of the heavy lifting is done by a conversion company; unless he intends to create brand new software to do the switchover, which wouldn't surprise me terribly. I still see Cameron tackling either THE DIVE or BATTLE ANGEL next. A sequel to AVATAR is the one unknown factor to me - that could be interjected anywhere into his schedule should the demand be there - and I am sure it will be :-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

3D Quick Updates: TRON LEGACY, TOY STORY and DARK COUNTRY

Jim here. Got some quick updates for you from the 3D world:

1. TRON LEGACY: Brand spankin' new trailer - check it out!



2. TOY STORY: Brand spankin' new trailer for TOY STORY 1 & 2 - Two 3D movies for the price of one for a limited 2 week engagement starting October 2.

3. DARK COUNTRY: I am damn disappointed in Sony for shelving the 3D distribution for this movie. This Thomas Jane project looks awesome and to pull the mat out from under everyone like this sucks big time. I have not heard why Sony has decided to do this, but I am shaking my head. Here is a new trailer for the movie which now seems destined for direct to DVD:



Keep it on MarketSaw for 3D updates when they happen!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

G-FORCE: Conversion Magic Attracts The Masses

Jim here. I finally got to see Jerry Bruckheimer's G-FORCE last night and I have to say the 3D was done very well. I have been invited to see 3D live action test reels from various companies like In-Three and PassmoreLab but have not been able to check them out yet, so my first initiation to converted live action 3D movies was G-FORCE from Disney.

Here is the bottom line: 3D conversion IS a valid approach to creating a stereoscopic movie. Valid in that if done correctly it looks great. From a consumer's view, there is little to be concerned about as the end result is fairly equivalent to what can be accomplished with 3D cameras.

And consumers are loving it. G-FORCE is number one at the box office this weekend with $31.7 million of which 56% was derived from 3D screens (which accounted for only 43% of the total sites). 75% were parents and children.

I will say that on a professional level, my opinion is using 3D cameras is still the way to go as it gives the director and DP much more flexibility in creating the look you want, especially depth - but when it comes to the consumer, most will be completely satisfied with the result.

In-Three of Westlake Village, CA is responsible for this movie's 3D conversion (they call it dimensionalization). I scrutinized G-FORCE quite closely for anything I found distressing and there was nothing. Some scenes were flatter than others - confirmed by removing my RealD glasses and seeing little distortion. I find conversion works very well for layering of one element on another - like the heads up displays used by the animals in the film. It is magical how the conversion process reaches into 2D frames and stretches out a 3D environment - very cool. At times I would have liked to see more extreme depth, but perhaps that is not possible at this time with 2D->3D.

Stereoscopic dimming was not bad either. As you may know when you don those polarized 3D glasses, the light from the screen is essentially divided in half - 50% for each eye - so dimming takes place. To see this, simply remove your glasses during the show and see just how much brighter the screen is when you can see it all at the same time with both eyes. In the case of G-FORCE, there were no moments of extreme darkness and therefore indiscernable action. Far from it. So well done!

The storyline is simple and aimed at your basic children's interests: cute pets, food, love and relationships. The action is tame, yet full of special effects - which brings me to my final point...

Michael Bay - you are full of it, and/or ignorant of 3D. I asked Bay whether or not TRANSFORMERS 3 will be in 3D during ShoWest this year and he said that the way they shoot is too "aggressive" for it. Sorry. Wrong. Even if you chicken out of shooting TRANSFORMERS 3 in native 3D, you can clearly utilize a conversion company to get the job done. One scene in the finale of G-FORCE has what is essentially a transformed robot made up of smaller components (appliances to be precise) and it is a very complex piece of CG. IT LOOKED STUNNING. Your point is not well taken Mr. Bay - research it. See some demo reels - it can be done is a spectacular way - and it should be done. It really brings audiences into the shot and makes the robots even more intimidating. So, do yourself a favor and make your next giant robot movie in 3D.

In the past I have expressed my reservations about first run movies being converted in post from 2D to 3D because I think native 3D is the better path - more depth and control. I still think that is the case only in that it gives the seasoned 3D director an edge in making a superior product. However for the less experienced directors with more of a post production budget, 2D to 3D conversion makes sense and is a viable alternative. G-FORCE is an excellent example. The 3D was done well!

It is still beyond my grasp as to why someone like Tim Burton decided to go with conversion as he is far from being inexperienced - but I am prepared to write a glowing review of ALICE IN WONDERLAND should it warrant it. Because conversion works. Conversion works and quite frankly I am relieved that it does - this really should solidify stereoscopic 3D as not only the future of cinema, but its past as well. James Cameron and Peter Jackson have both just expressed a deep interest in converting their epics TITANIC and LORD OF THE RINGS to 3D - so should others. There are classic movies begging to be rejuvenated with 3D and even take another run at theaters - THE MATRIX for example.

So go see G-FORCE with your family - the kids will love it. And the 3D is very well done! :-)

Thanks to Empire Theatres for the screening. Stats courtesy of Box Office Mojo.


Monday, July 27, 2009

New Image From Dreamworks Animation's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Jim here. Dreamworks Animation has just released a new photo from their upcoming HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and it looks impressive.

HTTYD is an adventure comedy set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, based on the book by Cressida Cowell. The story centers around a Viking teenager, who lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. Initiation is coming, and this is his one chance to prove his worthiness to his tribe and father. But when he encounters, and ultimately befriends, an injured dragon, his world is turned upside down.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON is slated for release in 3D theaters on March 26th, 2010. Also - check out there official movie site here.

I am really looking forward to this one as dragons are a favorite of mine in the fantasy genre. Loved the final dragon battle scenes in BEOWULF and I am STILL a sucker for DRAGONSLAYER. HTTYD is looking great so far!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

3D Geek Alert: Sideshow Collectibles Has AVATAR License

Jim here. Just a quick note to let you know that Sideshow Collectibles has obtained an AVATAR license to create and sell premium collectible figures.

What's first you ask? How about a 22" AMP Suit fully articulated maquette with Lang's character in tow? Sounds good to me! Check out the video right here.

This isn't a Mattel toy - not that there is anything wrong with them. This is for serious collectors. I will be picking one up for sure. Can't wait to see what else is coming from Sideshow for AVATAR...

Also here are some shots via JamesCameronOnline of the finished product (or close to finished) - click to enlarge:

OMG. RESIDENT EVIL 4 In 3D!

Jim here. I don't know about you, but ZOMBIES FREAK ME OUT. I have never hidden this from view and if the world was ever exposed to a zombie takeover - I have a plan. :-)

So it is with mixed emotions that I am posting about RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE being planned in stereoscopic 3D. And not just any 3D, but the same camera tech that James Cameron co-developed and is using for AVATAR: Pace Fusion 3D. One one hand the visuals should be stunningly immersive - like you are really there... and on the other hand - it is like you are REALLY THERE. With zombies.

ShockTilYouDrop has the news from an interview with Paul WS Anderson (Writer, Director) about the next shot of the franchise, the most expensive of the lot: "I always envisioned Resident Evil as a trilogy of films, and we've been very lucky where it's a trilogy where the audience has built and built. I wanted to kick off a brand new trilogy. I'm really excited we're doing it [in 3-D] and we're using the same camera system [James] Cameron used for Avatar. There are a lot of exciting things about this one. I don't regard it as Resident Evil 4, I regard it as a re-tooling and rebirth of the entire franchise."

STYD also confirmed that Milla Jovovich will be returning along with some characters from previous movies and the video games. Expect RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE in 3D theaters on September 17, 2010!

Who else has their own plans drawn up in case of zombie invasion? I'm not alone here am I?

Avatar Toys Show Off Augmented Reality "i-TAG" System

Hi, Michael here with video of the augmented reality "i-TAG" system being demoed in the Avatar section of Mattel's booth here at Comic-Con.

Each Avatar toy will come with a special card. After a one-time software download, any card can be scanned with a webcam, summoning an AMP Suit, RDA Gunship, or other model onto the screen, which can then be moved around or given special commands.

I was very impressed with the quality of the digital models and the speed and fluidity with which the on-screen models responded to user movements or "button" input.

Check out the video below for a demo of the AMP Suit:







RDA Gunship:




The Mattel representatives were giving out the following scannable cards. http://www.avataritag.com/ should have more info soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Open Letter From An AVATAR Team Member To CHUD's Devin Faraci

**UPDATE - July 26: Here is Devin's response to the letter. Also I would be remiss in not linking to his original video post.

Jim here. Wondering if I should post this email I received from one of my key inside AVATAR sources - but what the heck - this is the Internet baby!

Now let me be clear here - most people who saw the 24 minutes of AVATAR at Comic-Con were suitably impressed - nothing has really changed in that regard. But there are always exceptions to the rule for one reason or another. Needless to say the guys working the hardest on AVATAR have been amazed at some of the few 'less than stellar' reviews of their work in progress. Let me be clear here as well - these reviews did NOT pan AVATAR or even hint at panning it; rather they think that it is not living up to its hype. "Evolutionary, not revolutionary" as one put it.

That one person is Devin Faraci of CHUD. Prior to his review of what he saw of the AVATAR clip, Devin was clear to point out that Fox hates him. Does this color his review? I believe so, but that is my opinion - and I have supported AVATAR from day one.

But of greater importance I think is getting the opinion of the guys working hard under Jim Cameron to get this epic movie done on time. To hear from ALL parties. And in particular this one source, who while conferring with others on the team wrote this open letter to Devin and felt comfortable enough to send it through me to the viewing masses.

One final note before I post his letter: I trust him. He is indeed a valued source not by what he has given but by what he has vetted for me. You see I have sources that really want to share exciting developments with everyone about AVATAR or other projects, and others who simply want to authenticate the multitude of tips and photos I receive on a daily basis. This source checks facts for me in other words. That said, I did have to edit out some expletives as of course these guys are close to the project.

So - here is an AVATAR team member's response to CHUD's Devin Faraci:

Dearest Devin Faraci

Everyone is entitled to views, yes even you Devin. which as colleagues point out you share endlessly on "Attack the show" or whatever the title may be. and all this was before a friend shared with me your views on Avatar...

Devin in your words " The story that I could gather looked very bleh" is that right Devin ? ok. "In the end I think this would have been better without all of the 'THIS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD OF CINEMA' stuff that comes right from Cameron's mouth (I heard him say essentially that at the IMAX presentation yesterday). This is an impressive step forward, but I don't think it's Jurassic Park when it comes to breathtaking new visual stuff." Now lets look at context as to what mr Cameron meant with that statement shall we

Well as you should know being an internet blog king, you understand the aspects and research and development that has to go into the pre planning of a movie. you understand that time and time again, budgets are slashed, scripts butchered, and visions compromised endlessly in favour of cheap substantial routes, which sometimes can even be a good thing. James Cameron has a vision, James Cameron has a cause, and that cause is to make the viewing experience of watching a film, better for the movie going people, not to mention the home market. James Cameron doesn't compromise. so when i read shitty statements like "The story that I could gather looked very bleh" it really f**ks me off. this movie is coming from the best people in the industry headed up with the most successful and competent director of all time. "THE STORY COMES FIRST" "THIS IS NOT A WETA DIGITAL SHOW REEL" that insults everyone involved. Avatar, is the best of everyone, and every department. No stone has been left unturned to make this the ultimate movie going experience! and that includes making the story the absolute best of its kind! so don't compare this with a Kevin Costner bore fest ok ? this is Avatar, NOT dances with wolves in space. and further more it will be a CLASSIC. and what movies are ever classic just for CGI ? so are you aware that this movie IS going to change the face of cinema ? its already started. and when the change hits home for you, lets have less bitching and whining, and have more for the people striving to make you movie going experience a better one! after all isn't that where your bread and butter is made ? unless of course you still want to be watching movies in 20 years time the way you are now ?

Any scene viewed out of context, on an alien planet without cohesion from previous scenes, will be jarring. Avatar IS photo real. and you will believe it is a real place once you have seen it in its final form. you Devin and the rest of the negative druids will eat everyone of your words come December 18th. and if fox hates you, who could blame them. you come across as a hateful person. with very outright negative judgemental hatred ready to spew forth into this miserable world. "your walk of shame speaks volumes for the real you" while there may well be people who hate Avatar when they see it, i promise you they will be the minority, anyone who knows anything about movies in a professional light is going to be as swept up as the person next door, who goes once a year, and owns scary movie on DVD.

yes i agree we are far more advanced then WATCHMEN. lmao

but still Devin you can comfort yourself with the fact that you have The Final Destination coming soon. oh and not to mention your favorite movies of all time "which are due for further butchering" Planet of the apes. seriously... you have all the time for grown men in ape suits. and will actively try and hock the ultimate apes movie compendium or whatever its called to your "CHUDS" :-) ?
and you want to rag on 10ft tall natural blue born killers ? CGI or not, what gives ? are you for real ? what kind of movie knowledgeable journalist can look at what they saw and say its nothing short of a technical miracle. and what you saw was most assuredly the tip of the iceberg.

forgive me for the ranting, im sure i will get lampooned for being so outright in my displeasure, but hey i guess that just means we are both passionate.

keep up the witty wise journalism, it will get you places, maybe not where you want, but it will get you noticed.

i will be sure to tune in for "Attack of the BLOGGER.

and as for the rest of you, real movie fans with no hidden agenda. have faith in us and show up. we will not let you down. we promise.

you will see things never seen before, in ways never considered before, made for you by one of the last great gunslingers of our times. oh and there wont be a talking ape in sight :-) sorry Devin. we like our talking guys and girls tall and strong.

what is the in word for the online community ? EPIC FAIL ? NOT US :-)

I think my source makes some pretty darn valid points here. I happen to agree 100%.
Mr. Faraci? You have a comment on this? :-)
And of course MarketSaw readers' comments are ALWAYS welcome!

Cameron Still Wants to Do Battle Angel! Plus more from Cameron/Jackson Panel

Michael here with a report on the James Cameron / Peter Jackson panel. I'll be updating this post soon with videos and audio.

Here is our podcast of the entire panel:




Both the best news and funniest line of the night came when an audience member asked Cameron whether he was still interested in making Battle Angel Alita.

Cameron said that he really wants to do it, but that asking about his next project now is like asking a mother-to-be about her next baby while she's crowning.

Cameron talks Battle Angel:



Cameron also revealed that he hopes to include a feature on the Avatar Blu-Ray where you can see the actors' performances and those of their CG counterparts side by side so the audience will be able to see how perfect the facial capture has become, and how even the smallest details are replicated.

There was also a great discussion on the absolute importance of story and emotion in film that generated a huge audience applause.

More Videos-

Cameron on Filmmaking Tech in 20 Years (including higher frame rates):



Cameron on 3D Titanic, Jackson on Lord of the Rings 3D, and 3D Industry Discussion:



Also, head over to Movies Online, which has a transcript of yesterday's post-footage press conference with Cameron. It's a very good read.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alice, TRON: Legacy, Carol, Final Destination + The Hole reactions!

Michael here with some stuff from yesterday's 3D panels.

A new Alice in Wonderland trailer, set to rock music, is leagues above the leaked one. We get some amazing glimpses of Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, taking a shrinking potion, with the Mad Hatter, on a balcony with the White Queen, the Cheshire Cat, and an assortment of fantastic creatures. The overall style was great, and the trailer - which was shown three times - got the audience pumped.

A Christmas Carol masterfully incorportated its 3D, as can be expected by Zemeckis. We were shown an entire scene that progressed from Scrooge plucking the coins off the eyes of his departed friend's corpse, to his solitary walk back to his mansion, to his panic and fright when visited by the ghost of his departed colleague, who promises him visits from three spirits. The stylized CG works and the acting is great, but I must emphasize that there are some pretty dark and disturbing scenes and subject matter.

Lastly, TRON: Legacy looks like it will be a huge amount of fun. They just finished principal photography last Monday morning. They reshowed the test footage from last year's Comic-Con, but this time in 3D. They also showed off a very well-shot live action 2D scene of Sam Flynn (Jeff Bridges' son) entering the arcade, which has been closed for twenty years. Journey’s “Separate Ways” plays in the background as he explores the dated 80’s game machines. At the end of the clip he finds the TRON machine, pushing it aside to find a secret passage.

The movie's plot will involve Sam's search for his father. Olivia Wilde plays a confidante to Sam.

We were shown a lot of concept art from the virtual world, but what struck me as super cool was was that some of the martial arts /sports scenes were shot at 1000 frames per second with a Phantom camera, and then played back at regular speed for an amazing super slow motion effect. We were shown behind-the-scenes footage of martial artists (in 2D) performing amazing spinning flips and kicks. In finished 3D these scenes will be absolutely spectacular.

Here is a short clip to give you an idea of what this will look like:



The Final Destination and The Hole clips both caused many of the 6500 in Hall H to jump up in their seats or squirm in fear. The Final Destination is certainly not holding back in terms of violence and the creativity of its kills. And, other than Avatar itself, it has the best live-action 3D I have seen. Everything is bright, crisp, and framed to perfection to surround the audience with the action. The Hole isn't up to that level 3D-wise, but it definitely has a very strong scare factor: possessed dolls and clowns are always scary.

But The Final Destination footage - which included scenes at a car racetrack, in a mall, and in a swimming pool - was as seamless and immersive as any 3D to date. I could feel the years of knowledge and experience of PACE and the Fusion Camera System in both this and the live action Avatar footage.

Official Avatar Website is Live! (with Horner's Music?)

Michael here.

http://www.avatarmovie.com/

Could this be some of James Horner's music we are hearing? I love it - meditative and emotional.

Also, follow the official Avatar Twitter feed for breaking news, and join the official Facebook page here!





Thursday, July 23, 2009

Avatar Panel Vids!

Michael here with videos of the Avatar panel.

I'll be posting this in parts. If a video is not yet working, it means that Youtube hasn't finished processing it yet.

Part 1:



Part 2:



Part 3:



Part 4:

Avatar Trailer on Aug. 21 & 15 Minutes of Footage!

Hi, Michael here with the news so many of us have been waiting for: the Avatar trailer will be released on August 21 in all formats.

This day has been announced by Fox as "Avatar Day."

Also on August 21, an extended (15 minute) look at Avatar will unspool only in 3D in IMAX and select theaters.

Click images for the official press release. And stay tuned for more to come!


Avatar Footage Report: Pandora is REAL

UPDATE 07/24/09: a bit more on the "photorealism" question some are asking about. Avatar is a revolutionary leap forward in that it is the manifestation of a huge number of first-time achievements in filmmaking. Cameron has created an amazingly cohesive, detailed, and beautiful world that I believed I was there, and, like the Time magazine writer, I wish I could go back now.

As for photorealism, the humanoid chararacters are at least two steps ahead of the best CGI characters to date (King Kong and Davey Jones).

In the first few seconds of seeing Jake's avatar my mind was a bit boggled - *very slightly* rejecting it because I knew on a *factual* level it does not exist (or at the very least, humans have never laid eyes on any alien creature). But this wore off after about 4 seconds. The CG is perfect. The aliens exist. Cameron and his team have achieved their goals with flying colors.
If such aliens were real, that is what they would look like. Their clothing, the lighting, the interaction with the jungle, the dirt and cuts they may get...all are real.

Michael here. Right now I am mindblown from experiencing 24 minutes on Pandora. Cameron has visited another planet and shot footage there.

Jaws were dropped, minds were blown, and people are still processing how far beyond anything we've seen this is. I'll be updating with more detailed impressions soon.

SAME DAY UPDATES:

There aren't any "effects" in this movie: everything is real. The world - from the huge trees to the smallest insects to the retracting, spiral-shaped plants to the moss that lights up when stepped upon - simply exists. I believe that Avatar is such a remarkable accomplishment in so many different ways that I would agree that it looks 10 years ahead of anything out there. And the 3D is the most seamlessly immersive I have ever seen.

But the most important point I want to get across: the characters work, the performances pop off the screen and already come across as iconic.

Emotion and tension are not only present, they infuse every scene. I was immediately reminded of Aliens and the amazing chemistry between the characters in that film. Jake, Ney'tiri, Quaritch, Dr. Augustine, Spellman, Tsu'Tey all vibe with each other wonderfully, creating some great moments of interaction. These characters WORK.

And the non-human characters are real. You will not only believe that the Na'vi and Avatars exist, but you will immediately begin forming the audience / character bond. There is no problem with the uncanny valley here - we are now looking at it firmly from the other side. The way in which the avatars resemble their human controllers goes a long way towards accomplishing this, as do their large, catlike eyes (the eyes of the na'vi seem even larger).

At the press conference following the Hall H presentation Cameron mentioned that Sigourney Weaver recently saw the film, and cried afterward. Cameron knows that this has to be an emotional journey at the core, and that the action - as mind-boggling as it is - must have stakes. He said that this is the reason a chase scene in the first Terminator film still holds up so well today.

I'm looking forward to an extraordinary film this December. As Cameron said at the press conference, it's firing on all cylinders.

More details soon.

3D Shorts: Disney is Cratcheting Up The Heat In 3D At Comic-Con!

Jim here. Disney is jumping down the 3D rabbit hole for Comic-Con - can't wait to see what they have in store for us this year. One thing is for sure, these guys mean business. 3D business. Disney knows entertainment and have been doing 3D for a long time - what better studio to keep the pressure on the others?


Keep it on MarketSaw for fast 3D updates from Comic-Con and breaking images like these official title photos. Disney will have updates soon on their upcoming 3D projects including TRON LEGACY, Zemeckis' A CHRISTMAS CAROL and Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Should be a blast!

3D Geek Alert: YouTube Developing Selectable 3D Video Formats

Jim here. I have had a few readers send this in to me so I thought I should put it up for you. I will preface this by saying I am not all that keen on anaglyph 3D, but this is really cool so here you are.

A skunkworks project (in this case taking only 20% of a developer's time) for delivering multiple different types of 3D video is underway. The developer's username is YouTube Pete and he has posted to the forums about his progress. This is pretty standard for Google - love their energy.

Here is an example video for you - check it out (you can make your eyes go lazy to blend in the two angles into one):



NOTE THAT YOU CAN CHANGE THE 3D FORMAT WITH THE DROPDOWN BOX HERE. The selections include Red/Cyan, Amber/Blue, Green/Magenta, Parellel, Cross-eyed, Mirror Split, Left and Right.

Thanks to everyone that sent this in to me. It's a cool thing - at least while we are waiting on a modern, stereoscopic 3D home video standard. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Pictures from Mattel's Avatar Booth!

Michael here with more pics from the Avatar section of Mattel's booth.

The Ampsuit is making a huge impression - everyone loves it. A ton of people can't wait to see the footage tomorrow. Comments I overheard ranged from "I've got to see this" to "this is as cool as the Owlship last year" to talk about how great a director Cameron is.











Here are the pics:








































































AVATAR Toys Make Comic-Con Debut!!

Jim here. Comingsoon has got the goods this time on a display of AVATAR toys at Comic-Con - Check out these images! I have to say I can't believe we are finally seeing these things - it has been forever.


Click to enlarge the photos.

Obviously we have to buy these darn things (available in October) - its the closest we have been to actual characters yet! :-)

What do you think guys? Personally, the video game has me hyped up more than these figures, but - what the heck... AVATAR is upon us! Check out the huge fires burning in the background of pic #2 - Care to speculate what is going on there? Taking out a village? Thanks again Buzzz!




MarketSaw is at Comic-Con!

Hi everyone, Michael here. As of about 3:30 pm the line for Thursday's Hall H events is already at least 150 plus, with groups of people waiting underneath tents or with blankets and sleeping bags.

Many of the chairs are unoccupied, so it seems people are taking turns waiting in line, or holding seats for people who have not yet arrived. So the actual number of people holding spaces could be 300 or even higher.

And, yes, I spotted lots of Twilight shirts, and one of the Comic-Con staff asked me if I was looking for the "Twilight line." However, I did talk to a few people while waiting in line for my badge who were at Comic-Con for Avatar. One of them could barely contain her excitement for it.

Stay tuned to MarketSaw for the very latest from CC09!





MUST SEE: New ALICE IN WONDERLAND Trailer!!

**SAME DAY UPDATE #2: Can be viewed here.

**SAME DAY UPDATE:
Well that was fast! Disney has pulled the trailer. You might be able to find it on YouTube for awhile. I suspect this is something they wanted to release at Comic Con - so in other words, it should be back fairly quickly if you missed it.


Jim here. Got a must see for you - check out the new ALICE IN WONDERLAND trailer! The Tim Burton / Disney project is due to hit theaters March 5, 2010.

Whatdayathink? Not a bad trailer at all! I am impressed. It will be VERY interesting to see how well the conversion from 2D to 3D is done. I am sure it will be spectacular.


There is a lot riding on it :-) More coming up - stay tuned! Comic Con is upon us!!





Thanks for the headsup Buzzz!

RAPUNZEL Sneak Peak...

Jim here. Got a glimpse of Disney's RAPUNZEL for you! Well it is not much of a shot, but things are starting to happen on the production.

As you may be aware, this is a Disney Animation effort and should be well received. Anticipated release of the stereoscopic 3D animation is Christmas 2010.

RAPUNZEL will be directed by Glen Keane and Dean Wellins. In this new telling of the classic fairy tale, "Rapunzel," audiences will be transported to a stunning CG fantasy world complete with the iconic tower, an evil witch, a gallant hero and, of course, the mysterious girl with the long golden tresses. Expect adventure, heart, humor, and hair … lots of hair, when Rapunzel unleashes her locks in theaters for the 2010 holiday.

Further, (via GeekTyrant) we have a piece of YouTube history with some test footage from the project (then entitled RAPUNZEL: UNBRAIDED) and some older concept art.

I am very enthusiastic about seeing how Disney will treat the classic tale. Though maybe it is because I have extremely short hair...







Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Year Of 3D: A Massive Paradigm Shift Is Happening

Jim here. 2009 was always going to be "The Year Of 3D". Even a financial crisis around the world cannot hold it back and that is saying something. Despite credit drying up and trying economic times, people are flocking to the theater - and in particular 3D theaters.

The real numbers are spectacular. Take the current monster box office hit ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS - It will hit $152 million in domestic take this weekend.

Variety has a great piece about this - here is an excerpt (emphasis is mine):
"Overseas auds are proving every bit as willing as moviegoers in the U.S. to pay a premium for 3-D films. Of the 11,652 screens that "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" opened on, only 2,126 were 3-D screens, or 18%. Yet the 3-D playdates generated $51 million in ticket sales, or 34% of the total opening gross.

The dazzling overall results underscore the revenue potential of 3-D titles, as well as the value of a family franchises like Ice Age, of which "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is the third installment.

"Dawn of the Dinosaurs" should ultimately gross more than any summer tentpole besides "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." It's already passing Sony's "Angels and Demons" ($334 million to date) and should soon overtake Paramount's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" ($365.1 million to date).

Theater owners also say the return on the investment they made to install 3-D screens has been quicker than expected."

So ICE AGE is doing exceedingly well. Theater owners are finally seeing the polarized light and making more money. What about the other 3D movies?

Here are the leading 3D movies of the year so far:

- ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS - $152m Domestic / $362m Foreign / $514m World (Still Playing - 19 Days)
- MONSTERS VS. ALIENS - $198m Domestic / 176m Foreign / $374m World (112 Days)
- Pixar's UP - $279m Domestic / $48m Foreign / $327m World (Still Playing - 52 Days)
- CORALINE - $75m Domestic / $39m Foreign / $114m World (147 Days)
- MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D - $52m Domestic / $24m Foreign / $76m World (56 Days)

The biggest issue this year has been the lack of 3D screens and having to cut short successful 3D runs for the next release - a prime example was CORALINE being cut short by The Jonas Brothers concert movie which ultimately proved NOT to be another Hannah Montana windfall.

Now with theater owners realizing just how fast the return on investment will be for 3D screens, we are seeing more and more conversions - just in time for the fall and winter seasons.

We all know what happens when AVATAR hits on December 18 - and it will be the icing on the cake for The Year Of 3D. And will it ever taste sweet. The past few years have been full of debunking your standard movie journalist and blogger fodder of '3D is a gimmick or a fad' and finally - FINALLY - most are catching on that 3D is here to stay and is a welcomed improvement to how we view movies.

AVATAR is not the only big 3D movie coming out in the next several months - we also have G-FORCE, THE FINAL DESTINATION, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, TOY STORY 1 & 2 and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. All of which will find success.

But when James Cameron's epic 3D adventure AVATAR hits us, it is game over. PARADIGM SHIFT. We will see things that will leave us spellbound - think STAR WARS, THE MATRIX and JURASSIC PARK all wound up into an even greater story and universe. Then add the best stereographic 3D immersion possible from the master himself.

I can't think of a better way to cap off The Year Of 3D than by seeing records fall through AVATAR. Think TRANSFORMERS 2 made some money? Think again - AVATAR will have much better special effects (photo real!), better acting, better directing (Bay is still against shooting in 3D!) and a better story. Did I mention that it will have a better story? I don't think TF2 had a story really, other than Shia swapping out his "no, no, no, no, no" in favor of "go, go, go, go, go". But AVATAR has been in development for over a decade by one of the world's greatest storytellers.

It will be a very good year when all is said and done. The beauty of it is that we are just at the cusp of something truly wonderful. Spielberg and Jackson are coming. So is Ridley and Bruckheimer. So are many, MANY more. It is going to be a heckuva ride and I am ecstatic I have been in it since day one! And like I said, when AVATAR hits us... Shift Happens.

Stats courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.

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