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Serkis and Weta Talk Photo-Real Performance Capture for 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

From the outset, with that tight close-up of Caesar's face, it's clear that Andy Serkis and Weta Digital have taken performance capture to a whole new realm of photo-reality The detail and emotional intensity are extraordinary. We're not even aware that Caesar is CG anymore. We are totally immersed in the moment and from there it just gets better as we witness the complexity of Caesar's epic struggle.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • July 11, 2014 12:05 PM
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Matt Reeves Brings a New 'Dawn' to 'Planet of the Apes'

No "Apes" director has gone through the looking glass to explore the human condition as ambitiously as Matt Reeves. As a result, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is the smartest and most compelling kind of summer tentpole, with Andy Serkis delivering his most powerful performance as Caesar, and Weta Digital making a quantum leap in performance capture. We are totally immersed in Caesar's struggle to prevent war with humanity, and forget that we're watching a CG character.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • July 4, 2014 7:26 AM
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  • 1 Comment

ILM Reanimates Badass Transformers for 'Age of Extinction'

Keeping up with Marvel isn't easy, but Michael Bay and Industrial Light & Magic have brought new life to the badass Hasbro bots in "Transformers: Age of Extinction," introducing a sleek new sci-fi design and a new army of fire-breathing Dinobots. At the same time, Bay has smartly ventured into China and has replaced Shia LaBeouf with Mark Wahlberg as a single dad and failed inventor, which also kicks the franchise into higher gear.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • June 25, 2014 4:00 PM
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Mid-Year VFX Report: 'Godzilla' and Marvel Rule

Without a "Gravity" this year, the wow factor might not be as strong but certainly the Oscar race is now wide open. Yet in surveying the first-half of 2014, only "Godzilla" looks like a potential nominee. But there are still plenty of bake-off contenders, with solid VFX work on display in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "Maleficent," and "Edge of Tomorrow."
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • June 20, 2014 9:47 AM
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  • 1 Comment

How Sony Imageworks Embraced Challenging Animation, Gritty Realism and Alien Mimics for 'Edge of Tomorrow' (VIDEO)

Sony Pictures Imageworks, which is moving its headquarters from Culver City to Vancouver to stay competitive, embraced gritty, CG photorealism for the first time with Doug Liman's smart and trippy "Edge of Tomorrow." Truly "War of the Worlds" meets "Groundhog Day," with Tom Cruise caught in a nightmarish loop, the aliens he's up against were a strange, tough animation challenge for Imageworks.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • June 6, 2014 4:27 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Director Robert Stromberg Talks 'Maleficent': Cutting Edge Virtual Cinema and Age-Old Emotional Storytelling

The path to directing from VFX and production design has certainly been a natural one for two-time Oscar winner Robert Stromberg ("Avatar," "Alice in Wonderland"). And after re-imagining Disney's iconic "Sleeping Beauty" with "Maleficent," he not only wants to continue directing but also explore new tech frontiers. In fact, Stromberg has formed his own virtual company, Hydra (in partnership with The Third Floor previs boutique and "Maleficent" production designer Dylan Cole), so he can be on the cutting edge of total cinematic immersion.so he can be on the cutting edge of total cinematic immersion.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • May 30, 2014 2:26 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Director Gareth Edwards Returns to the Nuclear DNA of 'Godzilla'

Director Gareth Edwards ("Monsters") has admirably returned to the Toho roots of "Godzilla" 60 years on and made the Kaiju myth as relevant as ever, even adding a humanistic twist. Drawing on the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster as inspiration (what if it wasn't a natural disaster?), and utilizing the best that CG animation has to offer, Edwards delivers the thrilling monster goods along with a sense of melancholy.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • May 16, 2014 2:10 PM
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Sony Imageworks Gets Electrified Over Cutting-Edge 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' VFX (VIDEOS)

The "Spider-Man" franchise serves as a good barometer for assessing the recent VFX evolution of Sony Pictures Imageworks. In "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," though, it's about the power to energize Electro (Jamie Foxx), thanks to advancements in lighting (using the 3D application Katana) and rendering through ray-tracing along with a more efficient workflow that empowers the artists.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • May 2, 2014 1:41 PM
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Backstage at the 2014 Oscars

As expected, "12 Years a Slave" earned best picture Sunday night at the 86th Academy Awards, while "Gravity" dominated the crafts, winning seven, as well as best director for Alfonso Cuaron. The reverse-engineered blockbuster took home awards for cinematography, VFX, editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and original score.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • March 3, 2014 5:00 PM
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Anatomy of a Scene: Dissecting the Bravura 'Gravity' Opening

The extraordinary 13-minute opening of Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" is like a mini-movie, setting up the zero-gravity world in space, the two astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the mood, the tension, the crisis, and the metaphor. I break it down with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel (Chivo) Lubezki, production designer Andy Nicholson, VFX supervisor Tim Webber, sound mixer Chris Munro, and editor Mark Sanger.
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • February 14, 2014 2:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment

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