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GRAVITY: VFX Breakdown

I worked for 9 months in Australia on the academy-award winning feature film, “Gravity”. Hired as the sequence lead/sequence TD of a small team, I was tasked with creating the 3 shots of Sandra Bullock’s small spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at the very climax of the film. The challenge was to create computer-generated cloth parachutes that could be fully shaped and directed manually, while also demonstrating the high-frequency dynamic cloth behaviour of parachutes in action at high velocity.

Having three dynamic, daisy-chained parachutes each release in a tight ball, then unfurl in the wind, billow with air, and then drag out the next dynamic parachute by the ropes was no easy feat. The subtleties of the parachutes catching the wind, then continuing to ripple and “breath” as the spacecraft drifted gently to earth proved to be a fun challenge, as was the chattering of the ropes in the wind, once the space craft had touched down to water. We went to lengths to make sure the trajectory of the space craft, the amount it rocked and bounced, and the animation of the camera were designed for maximum impact at this crucial moment in the story’s crescendo. If we did our job right, the viewer should be lost in the story and not even realize the shots are entirely computer-generated art. It was detailed work, but highly rewarding to see on the big screen.

Special thanks to team-mates Mark Wendell, Victor Glushchenko, John Van Der Zalm, Sam Hodge, and Pat Sarrell.

Sandra Bullock, George Clooney Sci-Fi Drama ‘Gravity’ Pushed to 2013

Gravity is an upcoming drama film directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as surviving astronauts in a damaged space station.  I worked on this film at Rising Sun Pictures, in Australia.

Latest news about Gravity’s release date:

“One of the most intriguing movies of 2012 is now one of the most intriguing movies of 2013.

 Gravity, the 3-D sci-fi drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in open space, has been pushed from its Nov. 21 release to 2013 by Warner Bros., EW has confirmed.

“The studio remains bullish on the movie, director Alfonso Cuarón’s first film since his highly acclaimed 2006 sci-fi drama Children of Men.

“A new firm release date has not yet been set.”

source: insidemovies.com

Using Python to Automate Tasks For “Mirror Mirror”

Mirror Mirror is a 2012 comedy fantasy film based on the fairy tale “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm. It is directed by Tarsem Singh and starsLily CollinsJulia RobertsArmie HammerNathan Lane, and Sean Bean.

I recently updated a useful tool I had created in python, to help Barxseven further streamline their nuke pipeline for work they were doing on “Mirror Mirror“.

The tool is a specialized output helper, designed to automate the process of taking an image sequence and outputing a version of it in a new file format (.mov, .jpeg, .dpx, etc), for delivery to the client.

A thumbnail image representing the image sequence is generated by the script and baked onto the slate (specific slate layout matches client request).

The image sequence output also receives a burn-in on each frame consisting of the shot+sequence names, the frame number, and the number of frames in total.

The output helper offers a number of pre-determined formats available for output (preset specs are set to match the client’s requests from editorial).  The tool also allows for the quick creation of light-weight proxy images.

This tool saves artists a great deal of time and also eliminates the likelihood of human error.  The key is that it creates the slate and burn-ins automatically by parsing the path of the source image sequence.

Special thanks to my buddy Pete O’Connell, who first got me onto python for nuke, as well as having kicked off the first incarnation of the output helper.

New York Times Article Mentions The Work We Did On Feature Film, “Immortals”

The New York Times published an article about the featire film Immortals and the effects in the film.

Most of the article is dedicated to the very challenging ‘exploding heads’ sequence we did at Barxseven:

“One action sequence notable for a creative use of violence involves a god clashing viciously with humans. Though forbidden to interfere with mortal fights, Ares (Daniel Sharman) breaks the rule to rescue Theseus from Hyperion’s legions. He takes his hammer and moves quickly from soldier to soldier, smashing their heads before they have time to react. The action is slowed down, creating a burst of color that looks almost like a flower blooming, if that flower were made of brains and cartilage.

“`I wondered, how do you make a world in which gods and humans can fight?’ Tarsem Singh,the film’s director, said. ‘You have to make your own rules.’

“He proceeded on the theory that the gods’ version of real time would move so fast that humans would be virtually stationary. In battling a god, humans wouldn’t stand a chance.

“`’There are multiple elements in this sequence,’ the visual-effects supervisor, Raymond Gieringer, said. `We had to separate each one of them out to be able to have Ares in our version of real time while everybody else was in slow motion.’

“That slow motion applies to the complex explosion of the heads in the scene. To achieve this Mr. Gieringer worked with the Montreal effects company BarXseven. They spent months creating the simulations for the head explosions, building a biologically accurate re-creation of the bone, cartilage and gore involved.

“Despite the carnage the effect is as artful as it is graphic.”

Read the full article here.




“Shapeshifter” Featured on Motionographer

During the year I worked with Charlex, I worked on numerous TV commercials for clients such as Verizon, Fidelity and Clairol.

My primary responsibility when they brought me on was to provide rigging and animation support to a small team of creatives working on the film “Shapeshifter”, Charlex’s latest short film.

Here’s a link to the motionographer article, along with the film itself embeded into the article.  Complete Credits for the film are at bottom of the article.

“Across The Universe” With Julie Taymour: From The Lion King to The Beatles

 Julie Taymour was the director of Across The Universe.  She was chosen for her creativity and dynamic visual style.

I was hired by FX Cartel to help develop some of the more hallucinogenic effects in several of the musical numbers in the film (including Bono’s rendition of “I am The Walrus”, and Selma Hyak as the bang-bang-shoot-shoot nurses).

Julie Taymour is widely known for directing the stage musical, The Lion King, for which she became the first woman to win the Tony Award for directing a musical, in addition to a Tony Award for Original Costume Design. She was also the director of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Taymor has also worked in film, directing Titus (1999) and Frida (2002). Both movies received positive reviews for their stylish filming; Frida was the more acclaimed of the two, garnering Oscar nominations in six categories and winning in two (Best Makeup and Best Original Score).  In November 2008, Taymor directed a film version of Shakespeare]’s The Tempest, released in December 2010.

With a collection of 35 Beatles songs, Across the Universe is a 1960s love story set to the music of The Beatles, and featured performances by BonoJoe CockerEddie Izzard and Salma Hayek. Taymor both directed and co-wrote the story for the film.


Across the Universe received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy as well as an Academy Award for Costume Design.

The Magic of “Mr.Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”

“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” is a tale about a change in the management of the strangest, most fantastic, most wonderful toy store in the world.  The film stars Natalie PortmanDustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman.

I was Barxseven‘s CG Supervisor for this project, which included being on-set in Toronto, to take high dynamic range images of the set lighting.

Back in Montreal, our team was challenged with bringing magic to the toy store by having inanimate objects come to life, demonstrate playful personalities, and seem to move on their own.

Lighting integration was key, as the computer-generated characters needed to integrate seamlessly and photorealistically with the film’s live-action footage.

Some of the work we did on this film included creating a magical room of enchanted balls, bringing life to a 6-foot wooden dinosaur who is as playful as a puppy, and embuing personality and photo-real believability into the CG-double of an enchanted, magical, wooden cube.  I also rigged the tentacles of a pink squid that magically escapes from the pages of a children’s book about the sea.

Because Barxseven is a smaller company, I was a very hands-on supervisor.  I did the master lighting, look dev, character rigging, most of the modeling and texturing, and helped develop the in-house render-layers  script we developed for this project at the time.  We had to be creative with the allocation of render-resources, as these were especially limited.

This was the directorial debut of rising Hollywood star, Zach Helm (writer, “Stranger Than Fiction”).

“Stranger Than Fiction” Gets An Enthusiastic Thumbs Up From Roger Ebert

Stranger Than Fiction is a meditation on life, art and romance, and on the kinds of responsibility we have. Such an uncommonly intelligent film does not often get made.” – Roger Ebert


Stranger than Fiction is a comedydramafantasy film directed by Marc Forster, written by Zach Helm, and starring Will Ferrell,Maggie GyllenhaalDustin HoffmanQueen Latifah, and Emma Thompson.

I was the CG Supervisor for Barxseven on this project, during Barxseven’s early startup days.  Our work on “Stranger Than Fiction” was largely one of challenging set-extensions with hand-held shots, and bleeding-bluescreens on sets that had much blue in the art direction.

Technically accurate models, pixel-perfect texture maps, resourcefully-efficient lighting-integration, and very exacting 3d camera tracking would sum up the bulk of our 3d challenges on this project.

If we did our job properly, the audience should have no idea that there are any computer-generated visual effects at all.

Skeletal Study

Quick pen scratching

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