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Tuesday - August 14, 2001
- Industrial Light and Magic Has Busy Summer
- NewTek Announces and Ships LightWave 7.0
- Final Weekend Box Office Numbers
- News Link of the Day - Fabio Behind the Scenes As Animator


Industrial Light & Magic Has Busy Summer
(by digitalmediafx.com) Industrial Light & Magic had a huge summer, being the primary visual effects company behind most of this summer's blockbuster movies. Industrial Light & Magic handled the visual effects for The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor, A.I., Jurassic Park 3, and Planet of the Apes.

The Mummy ReturnsThe Mummy Returns:
"In The Mummy Returns, there aren't many shots that we didn't have something to do with," said Ed Kramer, ILM's sequence supervisor on The Mummy Returns (which has grossed more than $200 million at the box office). "We were involved in more than 350 shots, creating everything on Silicon Graphics O2 systems backed with SGI 2000 series servers. SGI technology was an essential part of everything we created and rendered."

Creating a living, breathing Imhotep (the mummy himself) was top priority.

"We had to create digital skin to cover the surface of the muscles, and we wrote simulation software on the O2 systems that would allow the surface skin to react to the way the muscles were moving and rippling underneath," explained Kramer. "Those muscles, in turn, were reacting to how the bones were moving and supporting them."

Director Steven Sommers wanted plenty of holes in Imhotep's body so audiences could see through to the background, proving that this was not an actor wearing a mummy suit.

"We had to systematically remove lungs or parts of his head so that we could see right into him," Kramer continued. "We even had to create his brain, because there's a big chunk of his head missing, and when he moves, his brain has to slosh inside his skull. That required calculations based on the volume of a brain and the collision between the brain and the skull that it's floating in. We also had to paint an incredible number of texture maps, transparency maps, bump maps and displacement maps to create that rotted flesh."

Other CGI challenges included a battle sequence containing more than 10,000 jackal headed Anubis warriors, and in some scenes 40,000 warriors were needed. Digital duplication tricks weren't of much use: each warrior had to be animated and rendered individually for continuity among the shots in the sequence. "Any time you see Imhotep, the hordes of pygmy or soldier mummies or the popular WWF wrestler, The Rock, as the Scorpion King, that's ILM's CGI, all created on SGI systems," said Kramer.

Pearl Harbor:
ILM's visual effects work for Pearl Harbor (which has surpassed $200 million at the box office) included three main sequences: the aerial tour de force of the Battle of Britain; the devastating Pearl Harbor attack, including the all-digital ships in Battleship Row; and many shots in the Tokyo raid sequence at the movie's climax.

"In the Battle of Britain, we did all the dog-fighting shots using digital planes and explosions," said Michael Bauer, ILM's CG supervisor on Pearl Harbor. "We even generated the background plates for many of those scenes, cutting together pieces of sky and ocean to complement director Michael Bay's choreography. For the Pearl Harbor battle, some shots were almost entirely computer graphics. We digitally created Battleship Row with 3D models of ships based on the original 1941 blueprints. We made all the battleships, the water that they're floating on, all the smoke plumes and the giant smoke events, digital airplanes, the tracers and the tracer smoke coming from the airplanes, and the bullet hits on the water and on the battleships. Where they filmed one or two planes coming through, we'd populate the sky with our digital planes. We also made a whole library of digital sailors to complement the stunt sailors."

A.I.:
ILM's involvement in A.I. dates back to around the time of the first Jurassic Park, when Dennis Muren, one of the two visual effects supervisors on A.I., briefly discussed some ideas with Stanley Kubrick. ILM did not hear much more about the project until it was announced that Steven Spielberg would be taking over after the death of the legendary Kubrick. ILM's work on A.I. began well over a year ago, with the initial modeling, animation and lighting work all done on Silicon Graphics O2 workstations using SGI 2000 series systems as render servers. A fair amount of code, mostly plug-ins and shaders, was also written on the O2 systems.

"A.I. had one of the broadest ranges of visual effects that I've ever been exposed to," said Doug Smythe, ILM associate visual effects supervisor for A.I. "We did literally every kind of shot you can think of, including simple wire removal, blink removal and digital creature work of all kinds; digital enhancement of live action; all the CG eyeballs and prosthetics in the Flesh Fair shantytown; complete digital environments such as the excavation; combinations of miniatures with live action and computer graphics such as Rouge City; and, of course, the furry teddy bear. ILM worked on a just under 200 shots, but they were unusually long shots, which was dictated by the style of the editing. Out of the two-hour and 15-minute film, about 45 minutes are visual effects shots running 1,000 or even 2,000-plus frames long."

Jurassic Park IIIJurassic Park 3:
ILM's groundbreaking visual effects used in the original Jurassic Park earned the company an Academy Award in 1993. For 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park, ILM was again nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects. This year, Jurassic Park III, featuring ILM's dinosaurs and effects created on Silicon Graphics O2 workstations, grossed more than $50 million on its opening weekend.

Model development at ILM of Jurassic Park III began well over a year ago. ILM then completed more than 400 2D and 3D effects shots using Silicon Graphics O2 workstations, primarily running Softimage for animation. The flesh simulation application within an ILM proprietary dynamics engine, originally developed for The Mummy and written on the O2 systems, was adapted for dinosaur skin simulation. Some of the "creatures," as ILM's Tim McLaughlin, creature supervisor for Jurassic Park III calls the dinosaurs, were based on the designs of the previous films while some were new or totally rebuilt. More than 60 shots featured flesh or cloth simulations (used, for example, for the pteranodon's wings).

"There were a half-dozen hero-style creatures and another five or six that were used in background shots," McLaughlin said. "T-rex, which was prominently featured in both Jurassic Park and The Lost World, came back for a cameo in Jurassic Park III. We had to take a look at the dinosaur in terms of how it was structured: what its patch structure was, what its chaining rig (animation control) was, and how it needed to perform in the new movie. We knew we wanted to do flesh simulation -- flesh, bone and muscle -- on most of the featured creatures. We had to resurface the entire T-rex, using what we had originally created on SGI systems as the basis of a template, and then repainted and rerigged the creature."

Planet of the Apes:
ILM was involved in the creation of various sequences seen throughout Planet of the Apes, including the setup of the entire initial space sequence, which featured a practical model shot of the mother spaceship The Oberon, a CG model of the space pod and the creation of a tsunami effect within the nebula that sends the pod -- and actor Mark Wahlberg -- back in time. Planet of the Apes soared to a nonholiday-weekend record of $69.6 million gross for its opening weekend.

"The tsunami was a very interesting effect because we were asked to create what director Tim Burton called 'a shockwave in space,'" said Thomas Hutchinson, CG supervisor for ILM on Planet of the Apes. "He didn't want it to look like anything he'd ever seen before, so it couldn't be light pulses or anything like that. It was quite a challenge to come up with, and the R&D early on was very exciting. There were only about 10 shots, but it was a unique little tidbit that we did all with Maya and RenderMan on SGI systems."

The majority of ILM's almost five-month production schedule was compositing work, augmenting numerous battle sequences with additional apes. "They could only suit up so many actors as apes, so we did a lot of what's called tiling in compositing," said Hutchinson. "They shoot a section of actors in ape costume, then move them over in the field, change their positions and then shoot them in various bits and pieces. We edit all the footage together and composite one big sequence of many apes into one shot."

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NewTek Announces and Ships LightWave 7.0
(by digitalmediafx.com) NewTek today announced and began shipping a new version of its LightWave 3D program - LightWave 7.0. NewTek also announced that LightWave was now being used by ESC, the company behind the visual effects for The Matrix sequels, including The Matrix: Reloaded.

NewTek lists the following as new features in version 7.0, an upgrade from LightWave 6.5:

-- Motion Mixer for non-linear animation
-- Sasquatch Lite for built-in hair, fur and landscape creation and rendering
-- Sprites mode within HyperVoxels, which can now be seen in OpenGL in Layout
-- Digital Confusion, a new depth-of-field filter
-- SkyTracer 2 for universally accurate sun positions and sky creation
-- Combination Move / Rotate tool within Modeler
-- Soft reflections and refractions
-- Spreadsheet-style scene editor
-- Voxel Baking for advanced smoke and liquid effects without extensive render times
-- Airbrushing between morphs
-- Several new Light options
-- Rail Modeling tools for interactive scale, rotate and stretch
-- Particle FX enhancements including simple crowd simulation, fluid dynamics, interparticle collision and new nozzle types
-- Squash and Stretch tools in Layout
-- Speed and workflow enhancementsLightWave Applied, Version 6.5 & 7

LightWave 7.0 is available immediately for a suggested retail price of US$2495. LightWave 7.0 is available for Macintosh OS 9 and OS X-native, and for Windows 98, 2000, Me and NT4, and is running on AMD, DecAlpha and Intel processors. Product is available through NewTek's channel of authorized resellers and distributors worldwide.

In related news, Advanstar announced the soon availability of LightWave Applied, Version 6.5 & 7.0, the newest book from Joe Tracy (dFX publisher), Dave Jerrard, Jen Hachigian, and the epic software group. For more information on the book, click here.

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Final Weekend Box Office Numbers
(by digitalmediafx.com) Final weekend box office numbers are in and here are the results for the top animated and visual effects movies:

Movie

Rank

Weekend Total

Gain/Loss

Overall Total

Planet of the Apes # 5 $13.3 Million -52% $148.7 Million
Jurassic Park 3 # 6 $07.5 Million -39% $160.4 Million
Osmosis Jones # 7 $05.3 Million New $05.3 Million
Spy Kids: Special Edition # 12 $01.6 Million Rerelease $109.2 Million
Cats & Dogs # 13 $01.2 Million -47% $89.5 Million

Dr. Doolittle 2

# 15

$01.0 Million

-54%

$108.6 Million

Shrek

# 16

$684,371

-36%

$259.4 Million

Pearl Harbor

# 24

$237,128

-45%

$195.0 Million

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

# 29

$167,489

-62%

$81.0 Million

Tomb Raider

# 30

$162,891

-69%

$129.8 Million

Final Fantasy # 32 $151,611 -50% $31.8 Million
A.I. # 36 $106,217 -69% $77.9 Million

The Mummy Returns

# 38

$87,885

-7%

$201.2 Million

The gain/loss represents the movie's performance when compared to last weekend.

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News Link of the Day - Fabio Behind the Scenes As Animator

According to The Washington Post:

"After making a name for himself in front of the camera, the one-named Fabio is now behind the scenes as an animator.

The former model and romance-novel cover hunk runs his own film production company. His first project is the upcoming feature Thor: God of Thunder..."

Click here for the full story.

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