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Autodesk Helps Shape Movie Magic

This year's most celebrated movies feature groundbreaking work created by artists at movie studios and visual effects boutiques all over the world. Throughout the film production pipeline--from film set to theater screen -- many of these artists rely on Autodesk digital filmmaking tools. For the 14th consecutive year, every film nominated for the Best Visual Effects Academy Award (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT) was shaped with Autodesk technology.

The Third Floor VALKYRIE recently received the Visual Effects Society (VES) nomination for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture. The Third Floor used Autodesk Maya and Autodesk Mudbox software extensively to design the film's previs sequences. To help accurately model realistic landscapes of wartime Germany, North Africa and Hitler's bunker, the studio combined global positioning system (GPS) data, location photographs and 3D assets in Maya. The software was used to provide real-time control over the shots' look. "Autodesk software is the backbone of all our feature film design work. We were very proud to be a part of VALKYRIE, and we could not have done it without Autodesk tools," said Chris Edwards, previsualization supervisor and CEO of The Third Floor.

Sony Pictures Imageworks VALKYRIE's lead vfx house, Sony Pictures Imageworks, completed 600 "invisible" vfx shots. The studio's core vfx tools were Maya for modeling, rigging and animation, and the Autodesk Flame system for interactive compositing. "The highly interactive Flame toolset was the perfect solution to seamlessly composite computer-generated elements," said David Takayama, senior Flame artist at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Weta Digital For computer-generated (CG) monolithic robots, inscrutable shape-shifting spacecraft and vast swarms of ravenous nanobots, Weta Digital employed over 250 artists to produce more than 200 shots for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Weta's CG newborn Klaatu shot was recently nominated by VES for Best Single Visual Effect of the Year. Compositing Supervisor Areito Echevarria described a particularly complex sequence of swarming aphids: "Maya was our key tool for modeling, rigging, animation and lighting and was used in conjunction with in-house tools for the swarm particle effects. Maya allowed our artists to control and direct the character performance while maintaining an organic feel."

The Orphanage Using Maya for the bulk of the 3D work, The Orphanage created over 150 shots on THE SPIRIT, a completely green-screen production. "I appreciated the challenge of filling in the big, blank slate. Every frame needed to be both beautiful and cool," stated Rich McBride, The Orphanage visual effects supervisor. "Maya just works. It's the best tool for rigging and animation. It's simple, straightforward and rarely has any hiccups."

Rising Sun VFX house Rising Sun Pictures completed 73 shots on THE SPIRIT and over 150 on the epic AUSTRALIA. Ian Cope, communication manager from the studio, said, "We were brought onto AUSTRALIA very early in the process. For our previs on the film, Maya gave artists the ability to easily turn around iterations and react to client feedback in a quick and straightforward manner." To handle a complex sequence involving a drove of real and CG cattle, the studio created Posse, an in-house proprietary crowd simulation tool that worked fluidly with Maya. "This allowed us to intelligently reference and manage the individual cow assets and the cow collisions. Developing Posse, and knowing it can work seamlessly with Maya, strengthens our studio and is a valuable asset for securing future projects."

LOOK Effects Hollywood and New York-based LOOK Effects has its work featured in THE SPIRIT, THE WRESTLER, BEDTIME STORIES and YES MAN. Henrik Fett, LOOK partner and visual effects supervisor for YES MAN, explained, "The array of ideas that our artists devise and develop requires tools that are as versatile as they are dependable, which is why Maya has become LOOK's go-to 3D program."

EFILM Digital Laboratories EFILM Digital Laboratories, using its proprietary EWORKS system for the digital intermediate, applied the Autodesk Lustre digital color grading system for some of this season's most celebrated films, including MILK, FROST/NIXON, DEFIANCE, DOUBT, BEDTIME STORIES, FOUR CHRISTMASES and YES MAN. EFILM's graded footage from 4K, 35mm and 16mm movies, as well as from the Genesis camera, and even took its Lustre timing and color grading expertise out into the field on REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. "The software-based Lustre technology really lends itself to location work. Not having to ship a slew of gear, the remote unit retained all the strengths with no compromise," said Michael Cooper, EFILM vice president of business development. "In the digital era, we're really fixated on picture quality. We love Lustre because it gives filmmakers the freedom to tell the story they want and gives EFILM the flexibility to evolve quickly with each new digital technology."