Last Thursday night was the annual Visual Effects Bake-off held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Theater in Beverly Hills. This screening was open to the public and has increasingly become more popular over the years. However, the toughest ticket traditionally has been for the Kate Mantellini’s Before Party. Wildly popular among the visual effects set this party has progressively grown more expensive as the years pass. This year it cost a mere ninety dollars to achieve entry. For your ninety bucks you can expect to be packed together in what was called by my drill instructor during boot camp as “balls to butts.” That’s very close. There wasn’t even standing room. Surprisingly they also fed us for those ninety bucks. The menu was comprised of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, knockwurst with sauerkraut, crab cakes the size of monkey fists, string beans and clammy bits. Wow…meat loaf AND knockwurst for only ninety bucks… Dessert, which was served as the party-goers emptied onto Wilshire Boulevard to make the four or so block walk down to the theater, consisted of half-scale jelly donuts piled high on spun aluminum trays. You could have had as many of those as you wanted though. How do they do all that for only ninety bucks…? Drinks were included but frankly if you’re looking for lushes the visual effects world is woefully short of them. We’re mostly recovering Boy Scouts.
Avatar upped the ante on the future of images in our business. Holographic features seem to be a next logical step. This upping of resolution is the only way for the studios to recycle the existing libraries. The better images are great but I don’t know if I’d enjoy The Third Man on Blu-ray any more than on VHS. In some cases the apparent disintegration of the film adds to its power. Vampyr for example is creepier because of its primitiveness. It feels more like an historical document rather than an entertainment. There’s nothing like the hiss and pop in the soundtrack of 1931’s Dracula…
Six-time Academy Award © winning visual effects artist Dennis Muren is continuing work on his new book dealing with the art of observation for digital artists. Co-authoring the volume is his wife, Zara – an accomplished filmmaker in her own right. Dennis has always been a careful observer of the natural world as indicated within the body of his work. The amount of finesse and detail he applies to each shot is clearly in evidence. Less widely known is the fact that he also has a strong de-constructivist bent. While working together on The Empire Strikes Back, I asked Dennis about a stack of reel-to-reel tapes in white boxes piled on his home office floor. He told me that the boxes contained tapes that held all the recordings of the Beatles and stated "I'm going to listen to all those tapes and figure out exactly how they did what they did...” Sort of like taking watches apart I should think.
There’s a cool little movie that shows the libration of the moon. Paste http://www.pixheaven.net/geant/0505-0604wb_800.gif  into your browser. The parent page is http://www.pixheaven.net/photo_us.php?nom=0505-0604_12full_moon  if you want a more in depth lunar education.