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MPC reveals vfx work on X-Men: Days of Future Past

MPC, the lead visual effects studio for X-Men: Days of Future Past, delivering 372 of the vfx shots, has released a number of before and after stills showcasing its work on the film.


MPC created the future sequences in the movie, including the future sentinels, from concept art through to final compositing, the X-Jet, Xavier’s virtual world, future environments and mutant effects.


The sentinel is a 10-foot long, fully cg "mutant slayer covered with approximately 100,000 independent blades, the movement of which had to be directed artistically rather than driven by simulation," says MPC. "The vast number of objects proved too cumbersome with existing workflows so an entirely new approach was required."


Now for some incredibly complex sounding detail possibly to help explain the new workflow.... You've been warned…. this comes direct from the press release, and, to be honest, I don't understand a word of it….


MPC’s R&D team, lead by Tony Micilotta, introduced the concept of a follicle that approximated the shape and size of the final blade model. These were combined into per body part follicle-meshes and could be manipulated using standard deformers. This not only provided requisite visualization for animators, but doubled up as primitives from which transforms could be derived using trigonometric methods. These transforms were cached as particles and were subsequently ingested by a bespoke Katana Scene Graph Generator (SGG) that instanced blade models accordingly.


Back to the understandable side of vfx once more, the opening sequence of the film required MPC to create extensive matte painting and environment work as well as generating meshes, textures and particle effects. Also in the opening sequence, the character Sunspot’s flames were achieved using Flowline fluid simulation technology to produce multiple layers of volumes and particles. On top of this, the ice body of a character that turns into an iceman was created using effects layers of spray, ice crystals and 'dry ice' type effects. MPC’s team also created the character Colossus’ metallic skin and a digital double of War Path. The sequence takes place in a bunker deep underground, which involved work from the environment team to provide set extensions and finishing touches.


The climax of the film takes place in and around an ancient monastery in the Himalayan mountains. For this, MPC recreated and extended the monastery set and creating lightning effects, large swirling volumes and buffeting winds.


MPC also created a cg X-Jet, Xavier’s virtual world and Wolverine’s claws.

Here are a few before and after images showcasing MPC's visual effects work....





And here's the film trailer...


Posted 29 May 2014 by Jake Bickerton

The eight steps to creating an animated film

If you have seven minutes to spare and would like to become an expert in the different stages involved in creating a top-end animation, you'd be well advised to check out the following film.


It's an interview with Beakus's animation producer Steve Smith that's a superb overview to how an animation is created, with loads of step-by-step examples. It was commissioned by Time Out New York and created by and Smith is an excellent narrator to explain the skills and craft of animation.


Posted 14 May 2014 by Jake Bickerton

A detailed insight into designing channel identities

The six news channels of Dutch broadcaster RTL have just undergone an extensive refresh including a new identity created by designers Mark Porter Associates (who created the look for Guardian newspaper and website) and Dutch design studio Smörgåsbord Studio.


The redesign has taken 18-months, which sounds like a very generous amount of time for simply sprucing up the look. However, the work involved redesigning logos, title sequences, on-screen graphics for news, weather and business as well as creating the layout and design of the news studio set. And, of course, all designs had to work across multiple platforms.


RTL Nieuws broadcasts 17 bulletins each weekday and six weekend bulletins, and has an audience of up to two million. It also broadcasts business programming under the RTL Z banner, which airs during the day and a weather, as well as traffic service (RTL Weer & Verkeer).


“Everything has changed since we introduced our previous identity in 2007. The world of news, the way we consume news and RTL Nieuws itself," says Said Caroline Schnellen, marketing and communications manager at RTL Nieuws. 


"With all this in mind it became the right time to rethink the brand’s visual identity. We needed to show one brand, one look-and-feel, on TV, web and app. In order to do so we felt this could only truly happen if we would change all platforms at the same time. What followed was an immense project, with many parties involved and close coordination throughout."


To view the redesign and find out how it was thought up and executed, check out the short film below.



Posted 06 May 2014 by Jake Bickerton

Five filmmaking products for under £12 each

Here's an interesting film from US-based production kit shop Fotodiox showcasing its top five products for filmmakers that are all available for under $20 (around £12). The list has been compiled after consulting Fotodiox's customers and includes an LED light panel, a lens adapter, a power arm, clapperboard, gear belt and a 5-in-1 reflector.



Posted 02 May 2014 by Jake Bickerton

First Grade: the best grades of the year

Following on from Televisual’s ranking of the UK’s best colourists, we detail the productions that were picked out by colourists and producers as the best graded pieces 
of the year

In last month’s issue of Televisual, we profiled and ranked the UK’s top grading artists according to votes cast by fellow colourists and producers as well as awards nominations.

Alongside voting for their favourite fellow colourists, we also asked those same respondents to vote for what they felt was the very best graded work of the year across TV, ads, and film. Over the following pages we detail the top eight productions that caught the eye of the grading profession as being truly standout work.

01 Peaky Blinders
Graded by
Simone Grattarola, Rushes
The most voted for production of the year was graded by the colourist who placed fourth in our poll of the UK best commercials graders, Rushes’ Simone Grattarola.
“The grade was beautifully considered and realised.” Thomas Urbye, The Look
“You’re thrown right into 1920s industrial middle England yet it still looks modern, stylish and sexy. I love the tobacco palettes and film noir shadows that pushes the gangster vibe.” Katherine Jamieson, Halo
“Simone’s use of tonality and the interplay of shadow, creates a strong sense of atmosphere which is totally complementary to the story’s post-war setting.” Joe Stabb, Suite.
“Making British drama look as good as the American stuff.” Duncan Russell, Glassworks
“Bold, cinematic and moody. Just like the show.” Jamie Parry, Dock 10

02 Vodafone The Kiss
Graded by
Jean Clement Soret, MPC

The poll’s top placed colourist graded the second placed production, the romantic Vodafone spot, The Kiss directed by Frederic Planchon that shows the life of a couple as their kiss continues across the years.
“Such a beautiful flawless grade.” James Bamford, The Mill
“Executed with perfection.” George K, MPC
“Great transitions. Good combination of technical and artistic talent.” Duncan Russell, Glassworks
“It has a texture that is hard to describe in words, but is perfect for the piece... VFX and grading working together beautifully” Chris Rodgers Splice

03 Utopia
Graded by
Aidan Farrell, The Farm

The first placed colourist in the TV and film poll, The Farm’s Aidan Farrell,  produced the grade for Channel 4’s paranoid thriller, Utopia
“Brought to life by the grade – bold and pushing boundaries.” Tim O’Brien, Evolutions.
“Stylish and different.” Paul Staples, Encore.
“A brilliantly shot drama with a fantastic look.” Dan Coles, Tecnicolor
“The dynamic and bold use of colour complemented its dark and enigmatic narrative which was incredibly captivating” joe stabb suite

=04Total Greek
Graded by
Seamus O’Kane, The Mill

The Mill’s Seamus O’Kane provided a grade that pefectly complemented the spot’s look of 1920s footage brought back to life.
“A combination of photochemical and digital techniques which perfectly evoke another era. A great example of a colourist working the look of a project from shoot to final grade.” Chris Rodgers, Splice. “Like watching an old print brought back from the brink of destruction, the grade captivated me from the first frame.” Ross Baker, Halo
“Very creative, clever and technically impressive interpretation of an early photographic process” james tillett mpc

=04 Sherlock
Graded by
Kevin Horsewood, 
Prime Focus

Kevin Horsewood has provided the grade across the various Sherlock series and worked wonders again with 2014’s outing.
A great series complemented by a rich and complex grade.” Tim O’Brien, Evolutions.
“Incredibly rich and clean grade.” Danny Wood, Envy
“A high quality grade with strong contrast but one that didn’t crowd the story.” Simon Astbury, Unit

=04 Luther
Graded by
Jet Omoshebi, Encore

Encore’s Jet Omoshebi provided the grade for the series that the word “gritty” was made for.
“Horrific and stylish. Difficult to do, eh?” Jamie Parry, Dock 10
“It has warmth and depth of colour.” Vince Narduzzo, Narduzzo Too.
“Nice contrast between de-sat gritty scenes and colourful night shots.” Danny Wood, Envy
“It manages to make London look gritty and real yet still beautiful, despite the dark subject matter.” Katherine Jamieson, Halo.

=04 Galaxy Chauffeur
Graded by
Steffan Perry, Framestore

“Loved the Technicolor feel.” George K, MPC
“Stunningly graded cg and live action.” Ben Rogers, Gramercy Park Studios.
“It Looked stunning and the 3D worked seamlessly 
in the grade”
james bamford the mill

=04 Bridgestone Tyres Everywhere
Graded by
Matt Turner, Absolute

“Would have been really easy to have overdone it.” Derek Moore, Coffee & TV
“A really distinctive piece of work.” Denny Cooper, Rushes
“Full of looks all well done and stitched together into an interesting piece” Chris Rodgers Splice

Posted 23 April 2014 by Jake Bickerton

Creative showcase: Animated 3D printed bears

Here are a couple of interesting pieces of creative work to start the week. First off is creative agency DBLG, which has been experimenting with combining a 3D printed character with stop-frame animation (and a little bit of 3D animation for good measure). 


After 3D printing lots and lots of models of a bear in different stages of a walk cycle of climbing the stairs and stop-frame animating the results, the outcome is an eye-catching, brilliantly executed animation of a bear climbing the stairs thats beauty lies in not just being the usual cg fodder.  


DBLG says: "The most exciting [of our recent work] is a studio project we've been working on over the last few months, which combines 3D animation, 3D printing and stop-frame animation. DBLG's in-house studio projects are a platform for us to experiment with creative ideas and above all have fun. Massive thanks for Blue Zoo for the character animation and Resonate for the audio mix and sound design."




Next up is some work for Fujitsu called Together We Can Make It Happen, from Blink director Tomas Mankovsky, which messes around with perspectives to create some interesting results. The spot was posted at MPC, which says the following: "A combination of complex set builds and a range of vfx techniques were used. MPC’s vfx team, led by Timo Huber, approached the spot utilising vfx techniques including matte painting, set extensions and clean up to remove extras and props on-set."


"The brief was to visualise the support and solutions provided by Fujitsu with ‘stage-hands’ that are seen providing invisible assistance to empower businesses. MPC was present on set to advise the production team on the complex shots where choreography was paramount."


Fujitsu - Together We Can Make That Happen from Blink on Vimeo.




Fujitsu - Together We Can Make It Happen 


Director: Tomas Mankovsky

Production Company: Blink Productions

Agency: mcgarrybowen London

Creatives: Brad Woolf and Dan Bailey

Executive Producer: James Bland

Producer: Ewen Brown

Agency Producer: Ben Catford


VFX Producer: Chris Allen

VFX Supervisor: Timo Huber

Grade: MPC

Colourist: Jean-Clément Soret

Posted 14 April 2014 by Jake Bickerton

Brilliant vfx breakdown from MPC

It's always really enlightening to see visual effects breakdowns and witness just how much creative and technical work goes into key visual effects shots. Here's a great example from MPC, showing a generous selection of the 550+ visual shots the company completed for Disney's The Lone Ranger. The vfx covered in the film ranges from full cg canyons, caves and Comanche attacks to cg trains, horses, birds, arrows, fire and scorpions.

MPC's team was led by vfx supervisor Gary Brozenich and producer Oliver Money and was completed at both MPC Vancouver and MPC London. The London team created a group of cg scorpions that emerge from the ground and crawl onto the faces of Tonto and Lone Ranger before being licked by a cg muzzled Silver.

The scorpions are full cg throughout the shots built and animated by the team, and any time Silver laps at them his head and mouth are cg. The creatures were created through high-end Shader work and development, and used MPC’s proprietary hair and fur simulation software.
The team also completed horse and rider simulations and full cg cave interiors.

MPC’s VFX Supervisor Gary Brozenich on working with Director Gore Verbinski

“The Lone Ranger needed to bring the epic scope of the classic cowboy film but made with the tools and perspective of a modern filmmaker," says MPC's vfx supervisor Gary Brozenich. "It allowed us to go bigger and bring greater spectacle than its predecessors, taking the possibilities vfx brings and pushing the visual as far as they could be, but without tipping into anything fantastical that may take you out of what is a very rooted and aesthetically earthy film.”

Posted 17 February 2014 by Jake Bickerton

Polaroid's US$999 Ultra HD 4K TV

There’s been a lot of speculation and educated guesswork about how long it will take for 4K/Ultra HD to become a mass-market consumer format over the last year. The general thinking seems to be that once the cost of the screens is slashed from the £10-15k price point to a price much more within the reach of tech-enthusiast early adopters things would start to accelerate quickly.

Well, that has now happened at CES 2014, which has kicked off in Vegas, showcasing a plethora of the next generation Ultra HD screens, including a $999 model from Polaroid.

Polaroid’s president and CEO Scott W. Hardy described the 50” Ultra HD 4K Television as, “a state-of-the-art product at an affordable price point”.

We’ll have to see if the floodgates open up with similar priced TVs from competing manufacturers, but for an Ultra HD set to be priced at such an amount so quickly is a sign the adoption of all things 4K might well happen sooner than many had previously expected.

Now all anyone who buys one of these screens needs is a decent range of 4K content to show off their TV and a means of getting hold of that content in the first place.

The dramatic decrease in the cost of ownership of Ultra HD TV screens has triggered analyst IHS to radically increase its forecast for Ultra HD TV sales. It says there will be growth of 500% in Ultra HD LCD TV shipments this year, to 10 million screens shipping in 2014. And by 2018, IHS predicts 38.5million Ultra HD LCD TV sets will be sold.

"While television brands will show off their massive new ultra-high-definition sets at CES, the real focus for Ultra HD makers in 2014 will be cost reduction," says Jusy Hong, senior analyst for consumer electronics & technology at IHS.

“But Ultra HD sets still have a long way to go before they command a major share of the overall market. In 2018, Ultra HD will account for only about 16% of all LCD TV shipments."

Posted 07 January 2014 by Jake Bickerton
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