At Escape, we've been teaching visual effects for over 11 years. Our students have gone on to work on some of the biggest films ever made, the coolest TV shows, and the best adverts to have been created, all over the globe. And yet, it still amazes me what the VFX community gets up to in its spare time!
The original Alien is an incredible film. Arguably the granddaddy of space horror, it took the 70's corporation paranoia into the black, littered flawed and earnest characters throughout a floating factory and gave birth - quite literally - to one of the most terrifying creatures in cinema history.
There’s been a huge amount of excitement surrounding Keanu Reeves latest action flick 47 Ronin, which was released on Boxing Day. We know that the VFX community in particular have had watchful eyes on how the film is received given the high levels of attention the aesthetic of the film has been given in post.
Seeing escapees working on Hollywood blockbusters is a regular occurrence here at Escape Studios, and 2014 promises to be no change from the usual schedule, as we recently spoke to escapee Simone Cilliani who has worked on one film we’re particularly looking forward to; ‘300: Rise of an Empire’, set for release in March 2014.
Let me start by clarifying; I don't have an Xbone, or a PS4. I haven't even played one yet. So this is a biased article in that respect. While the idea excites me, and if I just happened to have a spare grand to blow I would have picked them up just to have them, but because I need the money for more important things, like food, I'm still making my way through the current generation of games and consoles.
Horror films, at their core, probably garner the least amount of respect from the intuitive film goer. It's not hard to see why, as most films are designed to be windows of escapism, where the viewer allows them self to get lost in the twists of the story and emotional journey of the characters, where horrors try to accomplish the opposite; filling you with fear and dread, jumping at loud noises, making it impossible to actually settle down during the film.
Honestly, I was so busy driving over mountains on a motorbike to chase planes crashing into deserts in GTA V that I was barely even paying attention to Valve's triple announcements last week. They're making a new PC or something? I didn't care, there were heists to be having! Then this week, as I tried to play online, I received the same message as the other 10 million trying to get on...
It's been over two hours since I set a waypoint on my map, to go and steal a submarine for my next heist, but I'm nowhere near the location. I just keep getting distracted. Instead I robbed an armoured car by blowing it's doors off while cruising down the motorway and grabbing the loot. After I lost the cops, I stopped a mugging and returned a woman's purse. Then I jumped in a cable car and rode it to the top of a mountain, stole a dirt bike and accelerated down the steep cliffs getting wild air and pulling front flips for style and just about made it to the bottom before I bailed, and was eaten by a mountain lion.
Hello loyal readers, A P Miles here with sad, sad news. It seems that I've bucked the trend and decided to catch the winter cold rather early, turning my normally deep and soothing voice into a growley, crackly mess, and increasing the pressure in my head to somewhere close to 500 fathoms deep.
From it's humble beginnings as a top down shooter on MS-DOS, GTA has risen to become a flagship title of every generation of video gaming, consistently getting bigger and better with each iteration. GTA 3 was the definitive demonstration of what the PS2 was capable of. GTA IV took everything we loved and gave us more for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and incorporated outstanding multiplayer.
Here at Escape, we're always trying to help our Escapees get the best jobs in the VFX industry, as part of our ongoing commitment to every student who passes through our doors. Sometimes that means they'll work on feature films, or hit TV shows, or sometimes, as Roberto Fera was lucky enough to find out, it means music videos.
I hope you've slept well, Internet! It's been too long since we spoke. Shall we get a coffee and catch up?
Folks, it's Friday, so it's time for a bit of Friday Fun, and who better to deliver it than your good friend Ash? No one! That's who!
Happy Friday everyone! May the woo be with you. There's a good vibe in the office this morning as we sail towards August bank holiday; the sun is shining, birds are swaying, trees are singing. I might even go for a walk later.
Those of you who know me, know I'm into games. It's a great time to be a fan of video games, especially with the next generation so close to blowing all of our minds.
So the Friday feeling has been spreading around the office a bit - we've had chocolates! - and I think it’s time to share some of it with you, our loyal reader.
Fan favourite film mag Empire recently released a list of cinema's greatest VFX shots as picked by industry experts and it certainly hit all the right notes. Classic scenes from Jurassic Park, Star Wars and The Abyss were all on there, but we were particularly proud to see number 1 being Davy Jones' face from POTC:DMC, which our very own Head of 2D and tutor Davi Stein worked on during her time at ILM! Congratulations Davi!
Beware the Batman, the new show about the Dark Knight, is facing somewhat of an uphill struggle. DC have decided to dumb down their animation hour this year, meaning fans of the incredible Young Justice and Green Lantern shows that were cancelled to make room for it are already on the back foot. And it's not reminiscent of the classic Bats shows; Alfred is a young, ex-military knucklehead. Kevin Conroy isn't providing his voice skills. And it's entirely CG.
I'm not sure if you noticed, but the internet has become quite popular recently. In fact, if you're reading this, chances are you’re on the internet right now, and you might not even know it. Surprise!
In the run up to this year’s E3, it's safe to say that all eyes are on the world of gaming. Microsoft and Sony will be filling in the details about their new consoles (did you know the Xbox One plays TV?) as we fire into the next generation of interactive entertainment. So with the internet reporting on every mild rumour or leak that concerns games, it’s a bit surprising to see that KOTOR returned with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever.
What’s up guys, Ash here, welcome to the first episode of Escape Studios Tips' and Tricks video series!
As part of a bucket load of new visual content we're planning to upload in the coming weeks, we posted a poll onto our Facebook page - asking you the viewer, what VFX related tips and tricks you'd find most useful! If some of the titles went over your head, not to worry - as here are the explanations for each!
Traditionally, we associate Hollywood with America, both from its location and also from the type of movies it produces; it's not uncommon to see the world saved by an all-American-hero on the big screen several times every summer.
Happy New Year folks, hope you all got the things you wanted for Christmas. I certainly did; that pony was a long time coming. Let's kick off the new year with another one of my trademark spotlight blogs, focusing on Battlestar Galactica; Blood and Chrome. (Shout out to user DHW who posted about this after my last blog)
Hello, it’s me again. Have you all been well? I hope you have. You may remember me from my recent stint of blogs about web series that have started to use VFX, and left you with a passionate plea to start watching Red vs Blue, the longest running web-series in the world, based on the Halo games. Well here I am again, because the internet just doesn't stop, and recently it’s been turning out some real gems in terms of visually invigorating moving pictures.
Continuing on from Part I of this blog... then, at the start of season 8, and totally out of the blue, RvB started using action sequences, made with fully scripted fight scenes that involve stunts not possible with the previous game engine. CG had crept its way into the show, and in a big way; multiple people beating the incredible hell out of each other, huge explosions, space fights, giant weapons, and jaw dropping set pieces littered season 8, including a hilarious 8-minute sequence of Tex destroying the Reds and Blues, and flashbacks to Project Freelancer.
And here we arrive at the end of our spotlight on webseries blogs that have cool visual effects. And fittingly, we will wrap up with one of my absolute favourite shows.
Mortal Kombat is a franchise everyone's familiar with. Along with Street Fighter and Tekken, it's one of the classic beat 'em ups of early arcades and game consoles, pitching several outrageous competitors against each other in an excessively violent fight to the death for...well who cares what the reason was, it was awesome! Spawning a huge list of games from 1992 all the way to the present day, MK has helped taint innocent childhoods for 20 years. It had two major films, one acceptable, one classically woeful, and last year, around the release of Mortal Kombat 9, came a pleasant surprise; Mortal Kombat: Rebirth.
When television orignally began, there was only a handful of black and white channels, horse and carriages wandered down our cobbled streets, and people didn't need the internet because they were too busy feeding their clothes through mangles in caves, or something! The first type of TV shows were comedies, and variety shows, and over time, they evolved into dramas, then slowly into the level of award-winning quality we see today. The internet is following a similar pattern; where as video sites originally appeared so we could swap videos of people falling over and kittens kittening, the medium is steadily evolving to produce high quality dramatic web shows.
A short time ago, our current students were treated to a presentation from some chaps from Lexhag Visual Effects. Lexhag are a small post production house with in house grading capabilities and benefit from years of on-set experience to create stunning effects for mid-level tv shows, such as Whitechapel and The Fades. We were visted by Effects Supervisor Alexis Haggar, founder of Lexhag and fellow escapee (from way back when), and Senior Producer Dan Marbrook. They took the time to come exhibit some shows they'd worked on, so the Escape Students could see the quality of work a small studio can produce.
Last week was an interesting week for movie fans. Our prayers were answered when Michael Bay's production of Ninja Turtles was shut down (he decided that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should be neither mutants nor teenagers, apparently, and the world decided to hate him). The Amazing Spiderman had it's London Premiere, another 45 minutes worth of TV spots for The Dark Knight Rises were released and the world was given Abraham Lincoln; Vampire Hunter.
I was on holiday last week, enjoying the almost total lack of sun, and having a week long geekasm at the E3 coverage. Imagine my surprise, then, to come back to work at Escape to discover hardly a mention of all that awesomeness on the blog. This is not, I thought to myself, acceptable. So have a peek at this!
Welcome back everyone!! I hope you all had a cracking weekend. Right now we are going to pick up where we left off on Friday with FG Maps.
Ladies and gents, welcome to another Studios Assistant blog. Today's topic: Final Gather Maps.
So it’s almost bank holiday weekend and your old pal Ash is gonna give you another one of his awesome tips before you spend the next three days drinking your body weight in alcohol and watching The Avengers… seriously, how awesome is that film?!
Happy Tuesday, loyal readers. Here's a quick one relating to a problem that popped up a few times for the students last week. This is for anyone taking who has tracked footage into Maya and finds their tracking markers don't line up, because they've forgotten one simple step.
It's important to only isolate three separate elements per ID pass, or the technique becomes redundant. For example, if I had made both the windows and door red in the image for Part One of this blog, then any colour correction I applied to the red channel in NUKE would affect them both. You've already seen a broad example, but there's no reason you can’t use ID passes to focus on more specific areas of your render. The image above shows an example of an ID pass refined to specialise in the windows only. This kind of pass would be useful if the texture I added to the window transoms (red bits) had rendered far too dark, but everything else rendered correctly, as I would be able to adjust them without damaging the rest of my render.
Welcome to the Studio Assistant workshop, with Ashley Miles and Brad Collier-Brown, and here's our debut issue. As studio assistants, our main job is to make sure both students and escapees are getting the most out of the Escape Studios experience, which involves answering a lot of weird and wonderful questions. We thought it'd be a good idea if we blogged a few of the most common queries and solutions every week, so you guys at home could learn a little something from us too.
Around half an hour into the demonstration, after setting up the HUD and preferences, Jeff turned to the group and said, "Now, select your cube, and press the 'Fireball' button, then press play!"