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VES Festival: The 50 Greatest Visual Entertainments & More

This year marks the ninth Annual VES Festival, and VFXWorld provides a glimpse of some of the highlights, including the VES 50 panel.

Spider-Man 3 was well represented at this years VES festival. Activision, actors, environments and effects from the film were all topics of discussion. All Spider-Man 3 images © 2007 Columbia Pictures Ind. Inc. All rights res

Spider-Man 3 was well represented at this years VES festival. Activision, actors, environments and effects from the film were all topics of discussion. All Spider-Man 3 images © 2007 Columbia Pictures Ind. Inc. All rights res

This year's ninth edition of the VES Festival kicked off Friday, June 8, at the Writer's Guild Theater in Beverly Hills with an Activision presentation on "Rendering Cinematic Game Experiences in Real Time." Cto Steve Pearce first discussed how changes in multi core architecture centered on the GPU have allowed advancements in lighting, texturing and vfx for the next-gen platforms. This has resulted in greater overall immersion and improved facial expressions, as witnessed in such recent titles as Shrek the Third, Spider-Man 3 and Call of Duty 3.

Filippo Costanzo, art director of Central Technology, discussed 3D data acquisition, including how Activision set up its own in-house scanning operation tied to a ZBrush alpha map, before concentrating on the impressive environments Activision created for Spider-Man 3. Alessandro Tento, senior director of art and design, also discussed recent developments.

The 30-month Spider-Man 3 production entailed the creation of a layout map of New York, including 30 neighborhoods, as well as a zoning map procedural tool for the various buildings. For textures, there were 16 base tiles that were reassembled for 600 layouts. Overall, there were 16,000 building pieces.

For lighting, they created day to night horizon shifts and mapped it so that the lowest angle is calculated and stored in 32-bit texture.

As for new developments, Activision plans on reducing its mesh maps, texture and layouts, as it continues striving for an even greater interactive paradigm.

Kicking off the marathon Saturday lineup was a look at the visual effects behind Spider-Man 3. Moderator/visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk said that when reflecting back on the project there are three major areas -- actors, environments and effects. When it came to innovation on the film, it was in the area of character driven effects animation, particularly dealing with the symbiotic goo and the sand fx.

Before turning over the presentation to the artists who worked on those challenges, Stokdyk highlighted some of the other effects work on the movie. Paul Debevec and his team helped redefine the CG actors, especially addressing data collection issues and the animation of the digital model's eyes. New ballistics tools were developed to aid the animators in trajectory and gravity simulation. Many moments in the project also called for limb replacement. There was also some practical effects work, including the building of the atomizer that transforms Flint into The Sandman, flipping cars, some sand work (which was really ground up corn cobs) and water effects. An interesting point he made was that one the signature shots of Spider-Man in the black suit on the building was a complete CG build and that it was one of the easier shots on the project. That same shot would have been one of the most difficult shots on the original film.

This most prominent new work on Spider-Man 3 was done on the symbiotic goo (above) and Sandman. Peter Nofz presented the work on the goo, which began with simple 2D pencil tests to get the movement of the substance.

This most prominent new work on Spider-Man 3 was done on the symbiotic goo (above) and Sandman. Peter Nofz presented the work on the goo, which began with simple 2D pencil tests to get the movement of the substance.

On the previous films the technology available hindered the combination of practical stunt work with digital doubles, but new advances allowed the Spider-Man 3 artists to expand in this area. This was no more prominent than in the work done on the symbiotic goo and Sandman character. Peter Nofz presented the work on the goo, which began with simple 2D pencil tests to get the movement of the substance down. What they learned is that they didn't want it to look like the Blob. Director Sam Raimi drove the development of the goo by wanting it to appear menacing; like it were attacking its host. This moved the visual effects artists in the direction of creating tentacles and knuckles are the goo crawled up the arm of the Peter Parker. Once the initial look was developed, the visual artists helped bring more dimension to the goo by adding texture and spans between the tentacles.

For the sand effects, animation supervisor Spencer Cook was in charge on bringing The Sandman to life. During the very opening of the birth of Sandman scene, key frame animation was used on the rolling grains of sand. For the performance of the Sandman emerging and reforming into his human form, both the on-set performance of Thomas Hayden Church and a video performance from animator Scott Fritz were used as reference. In this area, the effects team really pushed the boundaries of combining character animation with effects.

Jonathan Cohen, who developed the sand program with Doug Bloom, explained the process in creating the believable sand movement. Spheres were used for the particles of sand, adding and subtracting friction and balance until the look was right. They combined the various sand simulations into one tool, which they dubbed Sand Storm, which was applied to muscular animation underneath. This allowed the surface sand to shift and fall with the character's movement. The character and vfx animators had to work together on the facial animation to control how the sand moved and fell in order to keep the emotion of the performance right.

In designing the final battle scene in Spider-Man 3 between Spidey and Sandman, some moments were prevised and other sequences were designed by the animators with the construction site location in mind.

In designing the final battle scene in Spider-Man 3 between Spidey and Sandman, some moments were prevised and other sequences were designed by the animators with the construction site location in mind.

Cook closed with an elaboration on the approach to the sand monster. Raimi wanted the character to become less human looking as it got larger. In designing the final battle scene, moments were prevised and other sequences were designed by the animators with the construction site location in mind. Raimi reviewed the work and chose what best suited the overall film. Some of the original animation's performance, where the monster crumbles, had to be toned down, because the animator created pain and agony on the creature's face where Raimi felt it added too much emotion to the scene, which was meant to be spectacle.

In fielding questions, an attendee wondered how the sand was driven to collect and form Sandman in the birth sequence. Cohen said that natural push and pull forces were applied to make the sand particles move to in a given direction, much like a robot simulation would be programmed. A question was asked regarding the use of bluescreen when Spider-Man's costume is partly blue. Stokdyk said that under the right lighting the digital bluescreen was different enough from the blue of the suit to work and helped avoid other lighting and comping issues that arose from greenscreen.

After lunch, artists from New Deal Studios spoke about the challenges in model effects with shortening time frames. Studio owner Ian Hunter said that their recent work on Balls of Fury was a record eight days! In regards to their work on the upcoming film, Live Free or Die Hard, Matthew Gratzner said that it was a project that they would have previously had 10 weeks to do, but now only had half that time. A question at the end addressed the concern that CG is shrinking the amount of model work that studios receive. Hunter believes that at least for his firm that CG has helped increase some model work, because it has allowed model work to be used in films that it couldn't have been before due to technological improvements that can remove wires and rigs as well as better compositing tools.

For the presentation, the artists highlighted the challenges they faced on four projects -- Don't Say a Word, Constantine, The Forgotten and Star Trek: Insurrection. Scott Schneider discussed the three week schedule to construct a third scale replica of Don't Say a Word's final location, which included a large mass grave that collapses in on the villain. To create the final shot, Schneider and his team combined shots from the location with the replica and soundstage shots of the actor Sean Bean being covered in dirt. Additional New Deal was called on to create a plate of a city parade for a glass reflection in a car windshield and a crowd scene. This all had to be constructed and shot in four weeks.

Michael Fink recalled on Constantine how one portion of an elaborate vfx sequence was done practically.

Michael Fink recalled on Constantine how one portion of an elaborate vfx sequence was done practically.

For Constantine, the visual effects supervisor Michael Fink knew one portion of a vfx sequence could be done practically: a shot of a cubicle-filled office exploding, as Rachel Weisz' character is violently pulled through several walls of an office building. So it was up to Aaron Haye and his team to construct a third scale office with cubicles and all the little details like computers, staplers and papers then pull a doll replica of the Weisz through the set as the environment around her shatters. Other than some camera shake and sparks, the two-and-a-half second shot is a completely practical effect.

Having worked on The Forgotten for another scene where a character is violently ripped out of a cabin and into the sky by aliens, New Deal was called on four and a half weeks before the film's release to help punch up the climax of the film. Gratzner and his team were asked to create a similar version of the cabin effect at the final location, a large warehouse with a glass curtain, which is behind the villain when he is pulled up into the sky. With such a tight schedule, one of the key ingredients to pulling it off was getting everyone on the model team and production on the same page. The effect needed to be designed and not changed once everything started into motion to construct it.

Gratzner said that the film to really start the idea of "what can you create in two weeks" was Star Trek: Insurrection. The show was one of the first to use all CG spaceships. After testing the final scene, where the two primary ships race off into space, the audience seemed to feel it lacked a big punch. So the production wanted to recreate one of the ships as a model and have it explode as the Enterprise jets out into space. Because the exploding ship was supposed to be mile long, the scale of the model was a "ludicrously" small. New Deal not only created the full ship exploding, but also close-up explosions as the digital Enterprise flies over.

As the industry develops, little has changed in the world of models. The panelists stressed that experience from past projects help them avoid and anticipate problems. Projects are worked out in rhino fx or AutoCAD ahead of time. Before the scenes are shot, extensive tests are done so that the first shot is usually the only shot needed and that the second shot is just done as backup. When asked whether CG will replace models, Gratzner said that the PC answer is that there are pros and cons to doing things in CG versus models and visa versa, but that the more realistic answer is that CG will replace models when it's cheaper and faster than doing it practically.

The next session covered the topic of previsualization or previs or previz or post-viz, whichever the individual user wants to call it. Founder of Pixel Liberation Front, Colin Green, began with an overview of the history of previs from his days working for The Trumbull Co. The first feature that he worked on previs for was Judge Dredd followed by Starship Troopers. For both of those projects the previs was to layout the moves for motion control models. PLF, especially Ron Frankel, began their work with director David Fincher on Fight Club for the big vfx shots. The work even included details highlighting the various composite pieces of the shot. Later for Panic Room, Fincher came to PLF to previs the entire film with the intention that it would help him film quicker as well as begin editing while the shoot was still taking place, allowing the film to reach theaters faster. For Spider-Man 3, PLF's Chris Batty had to work with Sony Pictures Imageworks on integrating their artists into the Sony pipeline, which uses Maya rather than PLF's XSI pipeline. Interesting was the detail leaps from PLF's work on Panic Room to The Matrix sequels to Superman Returns, where the previs animation closely matches the final animation for the film.

Frankel said that the thing that excites him about the growth of previs is the interaction between departments. He has worked closely with production designer Alex McDowell on several films where the collaboration has helped work out intricate set designs before hand saving the productions time and money. He hopes that in the future dps will be more involved in the process, so that every level of the production is connected from the start. Mat Beck added that there have been times in his career where a cinematographer has said that they can't touch his shot.

Ron Frankel has seen a growth of post-viz in which previs artists are getting more involved in story and look development. For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, Frankel had to determine the blocking of the action and pacing.

Ron Frankel has seen a growth of post-viz in which previs artists are getting more involved in story and look development. For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, Frankel had to determine the blocking of the action and pacing.

Frankel added that with the growth of post-viz, previs artists are getting more involved in story and look development. For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Frankel helped develop the Kraken attack with director Gore Verbinski, blocking out action and pacing. ILM actually provided Frankel's company, Proof, with their character rigs and one of their character animators to help layout the sequence. For Charlotte's Web, Proof had done the previs on the film, but was asked back later in post to help layout a fully CG scene where Charlotte writes in her web. Because it was planned as a complete CG shot from the start, there was no previs planned, but the principle vfx house was behind on the project and Proof was brought in to help plan out the key scene.

Chris Edwards worked previs on the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. His team on Skywalker Ranch was made up of eight concept artists and 10 previs artists, who were found from all over the world for specific skills as well as their general knowledge of Maya. They were originally given the task of prevising the new effects for George Lucas' THX 1138. For Episode III, the team did 7,000 previs shots, which they worked on for one year. They followed that with one year of post-viz work. After the work was finished eight members of the crew, including Edwards, formed the previs company, Third Floor, which works on videogame cinematics, commercials, theme park rides, music videos, architectural designs and pitch reels. There recent feature film work includes the Narnia sequels, Starship Dave, Beowulf, Valkyrie and Avatar. Edwards commented that you know you're doing a good job on the previs when the final shots look like your work.

Beck, who works a great deal on TV, said that previs helps a great deal with the tight schedules and allows concepts to be worked out for practicality considerations. He showed an example of a scene from Smallville where Clark must leap onto a rocket. The previs not only helped them work out how the shot would look and be done, but also allowed actor Tom Welling to sign off on the work. For another episode, an invisible super soldier was to come running down a hall throwing guards to the side as he goes. After the production team saw Beck's previs, they said it would be too expensive and the network didn't want anyone to die. So Beck devised a solution, which had actors watch the super solider on surveillance cameras from the command center, which allowed some of the initial previs to actually be used in the sequence thus decreasing the cost of the scene.

Moderator Tad Leckman, who was a former animatics animator for ILM before going into teaching, said that he really noticed the growth of previs at ILM when he started receiving reels from previs artists and recently has students whose goals are to get into previs. He closed with the thought that the industry is in its adolescence, having matured, but has a lot of potential to grow even further.

Next up was the panel titled "VFX Manipulation: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." Ron Brinkmann, the author of The Art and Science of Digital Compositing, started off with a history of photo and film manipulation, which dates back as far as 1857. He chronicled the many dictators who had photographs doctored for political reason. He also showed off some modern photographs that appeared in major newspapers that walk the grey area between touch up and forgery. Brinkmann also emphasized that fact that it's no longer expensive to manipulate photographs, giving the power to anyone who may use it for nefarious reasons.

The panel then went into were manipulation applies to film. For Eraser, a fictional company's name needed to be digitally changed 250 times for legal reasons. Product placement is often added after the fact like in the case of Popeye's Chicken's deal with the makers of Are We Done Yet? or removed as in The Way of the Gun when Dos Equis beer disapproved of their bottles being presented as shards of glass in which the lead actor gets imbedded in his arm. In The Guardian, the U.S. Coast Guard sponsored the film and asked for medals to be added to actor's shirts to show off his proper rank. When the makers of Big Momma's House 2 changed the time frame for a flash-forward at the end of the film, a baby needed to be reduced in size so that the one-year child would appear to be six months old.

John Knoll, who worked on the Star Wars special editions as well as the prequels, said that the changes for the original series started with George Lucas' desire to improve the shadow under Luke Skywalker's landcrusier.

John Knoll, who worked on the Star Wars special editions as well as the prequels, said that the changes for the original series started with George Lucas' desire to improve the shadow under Luke Skywalker's landcrusier.

John Knoll, who worked on the Star Wars special editions as well as the prequels, said that the changes for the original series started with George Lucas' desire to improve the shadow under Luke Skywalker's landcrusier. The prequels are noted as the real birth for performance manipulation. The practice started when Lucas edited a scene shorter and needed background characters to be digital moved for continuity reasons. Other changes included combining parts of one take with another take up to digitally tweaking an actors' expression. For Episode I, 50 shots were altered and by Episode III the total had grown to 350.

The dirty little secret in Hollywood is that vanity fixes are done all the time, but the panelists couldn't give specific examples because of confidentiality agreements. Acne and injuries are covered up, clothing is either added or taken away depending on the context, digital diets are given to trim a few pounds and digital arousal was an area just presented but not elaborated on. Brinkmann did however share one example of a digital diet taking place in Look Who's Talking Now. The producers wanted star Kirstie Alley to appear thinner in a dress.

Patrick Davenport of Image Metrics presented examples of how technology has advanced making digitally recreating deceased actors easier. Davenport showed an uncanny example of his company's technology. They used their performance capture system on a scene from The Misfits, capturing the performance of Marilyn Monroe then used the information to digitally recreate her face, which matched the original performance perfectly. Recreating dead actors for film, television and commercials is not new, but a person from the crowd wondered why we haven't seen a new Cary Grant film yet. The consensus of the panel was that recreating an actor for an entire film is expensive and a production company would have to weigh the cost with the actor's marquee value. Additionally, the risk is high that audiences would not accept a digital recreated icon.

So what is and is not ethical in this area? The panel believes that for entertainment purposes the ethical responsibility lies with the decision makers on the project and that anything goes as long as actors or actors' estate (in the case of deceased performers are concerned) are on board. Where ethics really come in play with artists is when they are asked to manipulate footage for political reasons. The panel encouraged the audience to keep a healthy skepticism and use their own expertise to decide what is real or not and what is right and wrong.

The final Saturday event was "VFX Guilty Pleasures." Model maker Gene Kozicki, director Joe Dante, Geek magazine's Jeff Bond and Free Enterprise writer Mark A. Altman presented their favorite effects flicks that others might make fun of them for liking. Dante has a special place in his heart for the films of his youth like Them!, Kronos, Invaders from Mars, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers and Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik. Dante said that the footage of iguanas battling and other prehistoric mayhem from One Million B.C. was used as stock footage for 25 years. Other films and TV shows highlighted included Land from the Lost, Godzilla, Black Hole, Battle Beyond the Stars, Moonraker, Buck Rogers, the original Battlestar Galactica. Silent Running, The Last Starfighter, Space: 1999, Flash Gordon, Flesh Gordon and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

One interesting note was made by Joe Dante: He said that nothing can fix story if it's not set from the start. He's dismayed by how films have totally become product when schedules have made it so that no one on the production sees the complete finished film before it first screens.

"Shrek through the Ages" featured the talents behind the creation of the world of the green ogre. The audience was given a tour of prehistoric Shrek to Shrek the Third (above). All Shrek images & © 2007 DreamWork

Sunday began with the panel "Shrek through the Ages," featuring four talents behind the creation of the world of the green ogre: production designer Guillame Aretos, character technical director Lucia Modesto, animation director Tim Cheung and co-visual effects supervisor Philippe Gluckman. Aretos began by taking the audience on a tour of what he called "prehistoric Shrek," from when Jeffrey Katzenberg first bought the rights to the 10 page book William Stein wrote for his grandkids to being ready for visual development. They'd initially planned to go with a Grant Woods influence of simple patterns and bold shapes using mix of motion capture CG and real small miniatures, a similar vfx process as featured in Jurassic Park at about the same time period, but once DreamWorks bought PDI the company abandoned this costly approach for more realistic CG. However, the fact that Shrek is a "road movie" made it less cost effective due to the large amount of locations and people; past films in the genre to that point (e.g. Antz, Toy Story) relied on restricted environments. Modesto then illustrated how character technical direction, which comes between the modeling and surfacing processes, plays a role in how the characters come to life. She emphasized that with a property like Shrek, where it seems like assets should be able to move from film to film and cut down on the work, the constant upgrades to the software mean tweaking cannot be avoided and sometimes it is to the benefit to just redo; a specific case she cited had to do with all the models being redone in Shrek the Third so that Shrek could have detailed toes for some scenes, which were previously masked by him always having shoes or socks on in the prior films. Hair, facial expressions and clothing also needed constant evolution from sequel to sequel, which made these the bulk of innovative their creative efforts. More and more work in particular needed to be put into controlling hair by both Modesto's department and the vfx team, from Prince's bouncy locks to Rapunzel's braid to Merlin's beard. More clothes and hairstyles on the few same basic model body types in turn created a wider cast variety, from princesses, to villains, to crowd scenes.

Lucia Modesto, character td for the Shrek series, noted that the model for Shrek had to be redone in Shrek the Third so that he could have detailed toes for some scenes. Previously his feet was masked by shoes or socks. 

Lucia Modesto, character td for the Shrek series, noted that the model for Shrek had to be redone in Shrek the Third so that he could have detailed toes for some scenes. Previously his feet was masked by shoes or socks. 

Cheung spoke about how he sees himself as a "traditional animator" as part of a multinational team, citing that Shrek the Third used 32 animators on average from over 14 countries (including not only the U.S. and Canada, but Paraguay, Hong Kong, Russia, Wales, England, France and others). One lead animator oversaw a team made up of about four animators each, and specifically Shrek the Third had two dedicated crowd animators devoted to that part of the process. The film consisted of 30 sequences with each team would be assigned a sequence and stay on it from start to finish, and given each segment might take six to eight weeks to complete the average production amount would come out to five feet of animation per animator in a given week, or 3.3 seconds of film time. As each new Shrek film came down the pipeline, new characters created challenges, as did the need for more subtle acting moments; also particularly noted came the challenges of more quadraped animations in Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, and capturing the movement and mannerisms to make Artie feel like a convincing teen yet exist in Shrek's universe in Shrek the Third. Cheung stressed the lack of motion capture in the Shrek fims, though he feels it does have its place it doesn't in his opinion lend itself to the environments of Shrek's universe. Gluckman closed out the presentation with a discussion of lighting and vfx. He spoke a lot of how they use global illumination with their proprietary software as a starting base for lighting, but that there is room for manual tweaking. Fabrics evolved as lighting made it easier to capture various textures. He also illustrated the evolution of fire effects from film to film. Generally, the panel agreed that clothing seemed to be the biggest area where future advancements could be made for the Shrek films, particulary as Aretos noted that medieval clothing should have "big, ample folds," which, while they've made progress, has not yet been fully realized. Stereoscopic advances also came up and panelists felt that it had potential, but is a "new frontier" leaving much yet to be explored.


The VES 50 panel featured (top row, l to r) John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston (bottom left) and Douglas Trumbull. Collectively, they discussed their personal involvement the 50 most influential visual effects films of all time. 

Next came "Pirates of the Caribbean -- A VFX Voyage," where vfx supervisor John Knoll took the audience on a 90-minute voyage behind the special effects used in all three installments of the Pirates franchise. Knoll originally took on the first film thinking it would be a small, easy break between Star Wars II and III, which he was also doing at ILM. The needs on the films consisted of three major overall types: environments (time and place), ships at sea and created cursed skeletal pirates. Knoll then walked through step-by-step demonstrations of all three Pirates features. Using clips at different production stages, Knoll showed specific examples of how effects worked. For Curse of the Black Pearl, he showed mattes modifying landscapes, miniatures filled in sections of incomplete boat sets, the complexity of how Capt. Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) and others converted to cursed skeletal pirates. For Dead Man's Chest, the team used many similar techniques plus faced the added challenges of the Kraken and Davy Jones and his crew. Davy Jones and his crew in particular marked the first use of all CG characters using a developed process called iMocap that allowed the actor to wear a motion capture like suit while actually interacting in the scene, vs. shooting MoCap in isolation and compositing afterwards which allowed for better motion reference. The biggest challenges came with At World's End, as the third installment required not only the ships, along with Davy and his crew, but the construction of the powerful Malestrom effects. After completing his presentation, Knoll continued with a frank discussion about how the team's short schedule on the second and third films made things very tough, and his strong dislike of short post schedules, and in fact said the schedule for these two films proved to be "the single hardest part" of doing the movies. It puts people in a situation where "Plan A has to work every time because there's no time for Plan B" to be tried, Knoll said. He felt like it "might take a high profile disaster to change things," by which he did not necessarily mean a missed delivery date but also a substandard final product, as tight schedules take not only a toll on the vfx team but all of the post production process.

The panel "The VES 50," billed as the "crown jewel" of the festival, featured five well-established vfx leaders moderated by one of their peers newer to the field, Knoll, who previously led the Pirates panel. The distinguished panelists were: John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston and Douglas Trumbull. Collectively, they discussed their personal involvement in what members of the Visual Effects Society voted to be the 50 most influential visual effects films of all time with "a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral, artistic element of cinematic expression and the storytelling process" as outlined in their criteria.

After a montage reel featuring clips of the 50 films chosen, Knoll started out asking each of the panelists what films influenced them most, and later noted midway during this discussion that part of why things may be influential to different people may very strongly be dependent on the conditions it is seen under. Trumbull, whose father Don Trumbull had worked on films as far back as the list-making The Wizard of Oz, initially didn't understand that much about the work his father did even though the film itself inspired him. Other films he cited included Pinocchio, the 1953 War of the Worlds, but he really got seriously interested after Forbidden Planet. For Ralston, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and its portrayal of the Cyclops fascinated him, as did many movies that let him experience "adventures I couldn't have any other way," such as Forbidden Planet, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Young, the original King Kong and Invaders from Mars. Muren's interests lay in films that "go beyond rigid visuals," such as the original War of the Worlds and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Destination Moon and even to an extent Godzilla, not so much for its technical impact but for its general impact on the genre of monster movies and the business. Edlund also cited Destination Moon, as well as The Bicycle Thief for telling a story with absolutely no dialogue. Dykstra's initial inspiration was 2001, which led to him eventually working with Douglas Trumbull.


The topic then turned briefly to a discussion of what was missing from the list, and after some thought the panelists decided most films they might suggest would be there but not certain of the order; the only films that came up of note were Children of Men, Fantasia, The Birds, The Hindenberg and Destination Moon. For the remainder of the panel time, clips of some of the films on the lists featuring the panelists were showcased and they were provided an opportunity to tell stories about their experiences with different effects on each. Illustrations included rear projection on 2001 to Dykstra's efforts developing motion blur; Muren discussing the saucer effect in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and how difficult it is to get that same natural feeling in CG because it can end up looking too perfect; Edlund discussing the significant challenges in The Empire Strikes Back of erasing matte lines against all the white backgrounds of Planet Hoth and E.T.'s metal ship against mattes in the film E.T.; Ralston discussing the technological challenges of merging elements in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump, and how choices were made between go motion and CGI during the evolution of Jurassic Park.

After the VES 50 panel, VFXWorld briefly caught up with two of the highlighted panelists, Edlund and Ralston. When asked what he saw as a "constant" in the vfx field though having worked on such a wide variety of films with a diverse roster of studios, Edlund commented that the "lust for invention" came to mind, and also spoke that he never saw his early experiences leading to something such as his supervisor work with Mike Nichols on Angels in America as well as Nichols' upcoming feature, Charlie Wilson's War. While Edlund believes his work helps vividly recreate "ability for the movie to be made seamlessly about a period of time that has passed" us by. Ralston expressed his thoughts on the improvements in the integration of live-action and animation between his work from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to today by stressing that technological improvements are not necessarily artistic ones, and "just because you have a computer in front of you doesn't mean you are an animator," stressing that it is truly an art. He also revealed there had been early discussions of taking Who Framed Roger Rabbit in a very 3D direction to which Ralston questioned if they were "trying to pay an homage or look like something totally different" and in the end the more 2D "toon" look remained.

The last presentation of the Festival of Visual Effects was a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, preceded by an hour-long presentation by Douglas Trumbull, whose pioneering work included being one of the four photographic effects supervisors on the film. Trumbull showed off a wide variety of pictures, many never seen before in public, as collected by himself and Doug Larsen on a book they are collaborating on about the making of the film. While he expressed being pleased at Warner Bros. providing of a clean 35mm print for screening, Trumbull lamented the lack of 70mm facilities at the Writer's Guild, as Warner Bros. had offered a 70mm print to show and not making this perhaps "the grand finale he would have hoped for."

Bill Desowitz is editor of VFXWorld.

Rick DeMott is the managing editor of Animation World Network. In his free time, he works as an animation writer for television. His work on the new series, Growing Up Creepie, can be seen on Discovery Kids. Additionally, he publishes movie reviews at his blog, Rick's Flicks Picks. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry. He is a contributor to the book Animation Art as well as the humor, absurdist and surrealist short story website Unloosen.

Shannon Muir is the project management coordinator of Animation World Network. She's also known for writing episodes of the animated series Midnight Horror School in Japan plus authoring columns geared to the non-artist segment of the animation industry. Previously, Shannon held production coordinator positions on several animated television series.