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>> CineFix Host: Last time we talked about VFX,
we stopped just short of the Matrix's bullet time in the new millennium.
But have you ever wondered how we got from there to here?
These are the top 10 innovations in VFX of the 21st century.
>> Everett: All right boy follow my lead.
>> CineFix Host: Starting us off at number ten, we're warming
up with one of the least flashy innovations in CG
technology that has nonetheless had one of the biggest
effects on Hollywood filmmaking to date.
If you've made fun of how blockbusters look lately, you know it's all the rage to
criticize them for being almost exclusively teal and orange.
And while we won't completely decry the look, we will put our vote in for
But either way,
what we're ultimately talking about is that the color of films can be changed.
There's an artistic spin on the look of motion pictures,
like a moving Photoshop and it's called color grading,
or coloring, which makes film makers sounds a bit like creative
kindergarteners going to town with their Crayola, but that's besides the point.
Back before the 2000s we didn't have Photoshop or iMovie, or Instagram or
nearly as many likes on our purple tinted selfies of sunsets.
So film makers use celluloid and prisms things called telecines to
color time the look of the film when it completely analogue fashion.
It was pretty good but it has it's limitation.
So, when Joel and Ethan Coen wanted a dusty Autumn look for
their period dramedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?,
despite shooting in the vivid green middle of summer.
Their cinematographer Roger Deakins said, screw it.
Let's just scan the entire thing into the computer and color it that way.
And thus, digital color grading was born.
Sure, digitally scanned portions of the film were used as early as 1993 on films
like, wait for it, Super Mario Brothers, in order to complete bigger VFX shots.
But, Brother was the first film to a, scan the entire film, and
b, use it solely for coloring.
Since then, practically every single film has undergone a similar process.
Today, filmmakers can endlessly tweak the visual moods of their scenes.
And it's all thanks to the digital intermediate innovation pioneered at
the turn of the century.
>> [MUSIC]
>> Speaker 3: No.
>> [MUSIC]
>> CineFix Host: Moving forward to number 9,
it's time to get a little more flashy and effectsy.
Is that a word?
It can be, it is now.
One of our pre 2000 picks was the gorgeous digital alien pseudopod from the abyss,
a creature made up entirely of water.
But the following years didn't see much more 3D fluids than that.
Ants and Titanic both made some good attempts, but the results were limited.
You see there are two basic ways to simulate fluids.
You can calculate them particle by particle drop by drop, or
consider an entire volume at once and simulate the mass as a giant flowy mesh.
The problem is, that drop by drop doesn't scale very well to larger bodies of
water because the calculation is getting insane and volume mesh looks
pretty dopey in situations where water might break up in smaller droplets.
But in the year 2000,
Industrial Light & Magic developed a solution by combining the two approaches
into a high-bred simulation that used volume calculations for larger
bodied portions of the water, and droplet type simulation for when they broke down.
They debuted this innovation in the ocean disaster film, The Perfect Storm.
Other specific algorithms and software have come miles further for
films like The Day After Tomorrow, Happy Feet, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and
the Life of Pi.
The basic approach is still exactly the same, it's not just water,
fluids are more than just liquid to computer nerds.
They also include gases, flames and volumetric effects, which make us a little
suspicious about what your resident Geek Squad employee might have in his thermos.
But the point is this.
Without ILM in the Perfect Storm, we wouldn't have the wonderful, lifelike and
incredible physics simulations in films that we have today.
>> CineFix Host: Next up at number eight, we have to pay homage
to the incredible VFX contributions of Peter Jackson and
Weta Digital from The Lord of the Rings.
In addition to innovations in water effects, character animation,
fire effects and digital camera movements,
we'd like to honor the first-of-its-kind work on crowd effects.
And the first-ever movie use of artificial intelligence for
the members of their giant digitally rendered armies.
Beginning in 1996, Peter Jackson had his workshop begin working on a program called
"Massive", which was used to create enormously complicated crowd animations
with digital characters numbering up to 70,000 for his upcoming films.
Each character is randomized with a variety of traits.
>From their size and proportions, to their outfits and dirtiness,
to even their personality.
Then, each character is given a range of actions that they can do,
in the form of between 150 and 350 different animations for each.
All of this is processed by every single characters digital brain.
That combines up to 8,000 different criteria to makes it's decisions,
including the abilities to digitally see and
hear resulting in their ultimate decision action and thus, animation.
The result allowed digital artists to place starting points for
their Orcs and Elves in scenes like Moria and Lothlorien, and let them loose,
resulting in characters that independently scale pillars, picked fights and taunted
members of the Fellowship, all while appearing to be individually animated.
It's a mind blowing technology that its becoming industry standard for
crowd animation and it represents one of the biggest landmarks in the animation of
scale ever engineered for film.
>> Speaker 4: It's a match we found it >> Speaker 5: Yes, the sixth, the spirit.
>> CineFix Host: Of course, if you heard The Lord of the Rings and
immediately thought about Andy Serkis' pioneering work as MOCAP artist,
you're in good company, because so did we.
Unfortunately, Lord of the Rings actually wasn't the feature debut of
motion capture technology.
Although Serkis' virtuoso performance certainly helped elevate it as the most
notable of its generation.
No, in fact, the credit for motion capture technology in a feature film rightly
belongs with our number seven pick the massive flop that was the all-CGI feature
film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Okay, technically Sinbad Beyond the Veil of Mists got their first but
it didn't really see much of a release so
we're happy to just give it this mention and move on.
Because not only did Final Fantasy debut the first full motion capture, but
it was also the first real attempt at a photo real animated feature film.
Although photo real here should be taken in context, and
with a grain of salt, but, back to the motion.
If you don't know, motion capture is the digital technology that dresses people up
in silly jumpsuits, sticks ping pong balls all over their bodies and
makes them dance around, magically capturing their movements into a computer.
Of course, those ping-pong balls are actually called tracking marks and
an array of cameras are used to triangulate the 3D position of
each mark individually so as to apply the data to a corresponding 3D skeleton,
thus digitizing the exact movements of the actor.
But, let's not get hung up on the specifics.
It's a wonderful way to bring the complexity and
nuance of a real-life performance into a computer, and
it all got its start here, with The Spirits Within.
>> Agent Smith: More. >> CineFix Host: Of course, motion capture
had it's limitations back then.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within still had to manually animate faces and
hands because the tracking wasn't at a point where it could capture
that level of detail yet.
So our number six goes to the innovation that solved the problem of the human face
with The Matrix Reloaded.
Now, VFX-wise, everybody remembers The Matrix for the bullet time.
But perhaps its most important invention came from the sequels.
Yes, those, the ones you've all tried so hard to forget.
In order to completely digitize photorealistic CGI stunt doubles for
Matrix Reloaded, most noticeably Agent Smith in the scene where there's like
a bajillion of him, Image Metrics Created, Universal Capture.
What is Universal Capture?
Well, after 3d scanning a full model of an actor's face and capturing a neutral
reference image and matching the data from the 2D image to the 3D model,
5 synchronized cameras record the actor's performance from different angles and
track each individual pixels motion from each angle.
By comparing this to the reference image and triangulating in 3D space,
they can calculate the exact 3 dimensional motion of every point in the actor's face,
and successfully apply it to their 3D model.
If that sounds ridiculously complicated, that's because it is.
And because I said it real fast.
Just know that it's basically like performance motion capture on the face.
But instead of using ping pong balls,
it uses every single one of your pores, freckles, and acne.
Crazy, right?
>> Conductor: All aboard.
>> Conductor: All aboard.
>> CineFix Host: Most performance captured technology continued to mature and
it wasn't long until an animated film came out that used the complete tool kit
to completely animate an entire digital cast with motion capture.
And we can thank Robert Zemeckis for this innovation for
his wonderfully heart-warming, if a little dead-eyed, Polar Express.
Yes, except for a dance notable for being humanly impossible to physically perform,
all of the animation from Polar Express was motion captured and pasted onto CGI
characters by a star-studded cast that included Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks,
Tom Hanks, and Tom Hanks, because, well, he was basically everyone in that movie.
But the film also gave us the feature debut of painted marker facial tracking,
that stands alongside our number six's markerless computer wizardry
as one of the more important performance capture techniques of the digital era.
It's a film that paved the way for Zemeckis's visually impressive, yet
increasingly less successful CGI efforts, like Beowulf, A Christmas Carol and
Mars Needs Moms.
Along with pretty much every single movie nowadays that uses performance capture.
Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, and
The Hobbit use a revolutionizing piece of technology and something that will
continue to shape the faces of special effects for years to come.
>> Air Traffic Controller: This is an emergency protocol 90206
calling Sky Captain, Sky Captain do you read?
[NOISE] Repeat,
calling Sky Captain, come in Sky Captain.
>> Sky Captain: This is Sky Captain, I'm on my way.
>> CineFix Host: So by 2004 filmmakers had pretty much nailed down digital people,
but they still had a ways to go on digital worlds.
Sure, 2000's the Gladiator had a bad ass digital coliseum that won it an Oscar.
But for our number four,
we want to honor the films that pioneered the concept of the digital backlot.
An entirely green or blue screen set.
And while Sin City, 300,
and The Hobbit all made magnificent use of the technology, our pick goes to the first
film that used the technique, with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
The entirety of the locations in this film were generated digitally.
Director Kerry Conran actually started on a trailer for the film in 1994, with four
years, a Mac computer, and a homemade living room blue screen at his disposal.
But the little trailer got him some big funding,
ultimately garnering him an opportunity to scale up the project to full size.
The exclusively digital process required enormous precision in order to
properly composite the actors into completely 3D environments.
So Conran actually shot the film twice, once with stand-ins, and
then finally with the stars, but
only after showing them what it would look like as a final product.
It was a big risk that unfortunately didn't quite pay off for the investors.
But it ultimately created an entirely new mode of filmmaking.
One that has found its way onto the set of nearly every single CGI
blockbuster out there.
Which is why it absolutely belongs on our list.
>> Will Turner: I challenge Davy Jones.
>> Davy Jones: I accept.
>> CineFix Host: As film technology continued to develop, the digital and
physical worlds continued to grow closer and closer.
As we moved into 2005 and 2006, films like Spider Man 2, King Kong and
Superman Returns found new, creative ways to fool audiences with impossible visuals.
And CGI characters finally began to climb out of the uncanny valley.
But the need for fantastical characters interacting with normal ones began to
rub up against the inconvenience of filming a scene piecewise in
two separate locations both onset and in a motion capture studio.
So as usual, Industrial Light & Magic came along and changed VFX forever, again,
by inventing IMOCAP for Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest.
IMOCAP is basically just normal motion capture that happens alongside principle
They stick on the tennis balls, the spandex onesie and
then toss the actor out to go shoot in front of real lights camera and action.
Then they attached two extra witness cameras to the side of the primary camera
and used them to capture the actor's motion data.
Triangulate all the information and composite the result back into the scene.
In combination with the gorgeous rendering of Davy Jones's face/octopus beard,
Dead Man's Chest succeeded as the most convincing example of
photo real CGI mimicry of its time.
>> CineFix Host: While we're sad to skip over the remarkable grafting of
Brad Pitt's aging CGI face on the bodies of other actors in the Curious Case of
Benjamin Button and it's successor, the Social Network's twice the Armie Hammer,
twice the handsome, we are of course delighted to see pretty much
every other innovation on our list put together for 2009's Avatar.
We all heard the marketing hype built around this film,12 years to develop,
invented new technology, revolutionizes film making blah, blah,
blah, blah, blah, but this movie was the real deal.
James Cameron created the first completely believable fully
integrated intermeshing of 3D and live action worlds for the film.
And he waited the rumored years and years to do it for a reason.
All the other stuff on this list had to be invented.
Once that happened and only then,
did he turn it up to eleven and really scale it beyond belief.
And while Cameron innovated on everything from 3D cameras to data management,
which sounds like a thrilling story for another list We're most interested in
his two main contributions to performance capture and live virtual rendering.
In terms of performance capture, Cameron got both bigger and smaller.
First, he sextupled the previous maximum usable area that motion capture could
track, allowing him to stage digital set pieces of unprecedented scale.
But then he attached tiny boom cameras to the face of each actor so
that while the massive, broad sweeps of their bodies were recorded on the one
hand, every nuance of their facial performance was captured on the other.
Cameron then combined his performance capture innovations with a newly invented
live rendering technology that allowed him to stage his motion capture actors and,
in realtime, watch the CGI performances that resulted from their movements.
As it happened, on the exact same digital set that would end up in the real movie.
No longer was there guessing and
measuring involved, but actual real-time feedback of the final CGI product.
Cameron also created a motion tracked dummy camera that
could be used to control the virtual cameras so
that real life camera operators could film the motion CAP scene and then digitally
watch it through their monitor as if they were looking at actual Na'vi.
And as if that wasn't enough, he also integrated it with real physical
optical cameras so that he could combine live-action footage shot on a green screen
with digital MOCAP footage shot in a motion capture stage in real time.
Holy [BLEEP], that's enough, moving on.
>> Matt Kowalski: So what do you like about being up here?
>> Ryan Stone: The silence.
>> Matt Kowalski: You gotta admit one thing, can't beat the view.
>> CineFix Host: And finally, counting down to number one,
we're skipping over the not quite notable enough, but still awesome VFX work from
the later Harry Potter's, Inception, Transformers, Watchmen, all those
Marvel Movies, and The Life of Pi, in favor of the incredibly brilliant Gravity.
And while we spent way too much to this video saying the word MOCAP like it was
going out of style,
Gravity followed more in the tradition of Sky Captain in the World of Tomorrow.
In that it composited real actors into digital sets.
Only on the steroids, crack, methamphetamine, horse tranquilizers,
and over the counter hemorrhoids cream all at the same time.
The key to this innovation was first, massive pre-visualization.
They basically finished the movie a few times over,
before even casting the actors.
But mostly the lightbox cage rig that Cuaron and Lubezki created together.
Yeah, we know an innovation that just consists of fancy shining
LED lights might sound a little like, so what?
I've got an LED TV, and you don't see me winning any Oscars.
Avatar had motherflippin virtual reality camera, what's Gravity's deal?
But it's actually a massive deal, because if you ask any photographer,
light is the most important consideration of any photograph.
So when it comes to CGI the thing that ruins the illusion in this millennium
isn't really the modeling, that's all top notch.
Or the animation or the physics simulations, it's the lighting.
So in order to match the digital light with the real world light near perfectly,
Lubezki and Cuaron figured out the exact lighting characteristics
of the space the astronauts were floating in.
Then projected it onto their face from every direction while they were
strapped into the goddamn coolest video game simulator we've ever seen.
It's pretty much the reverse of James Cameron's innovation.
Instead of transporting the actors into the virtual world,
Cuaron transports the virtual world onto the actors.
It's brilliant, gorgeous and previously unthinkable.
And it's sure to be a building block for a VFX future to come.
Which is why it's our final entry in the top ten VFX
innovations of the new millennium.
>> CineFix Host: So what do you think?
Did we leave out one of your favorite 21st century innovations?
Do you disagree with one of our picks?
Let us know in the comments below.
Don't forget to check out our previous top ten VFX innovations,
and be sure to subscribe for more Cinefix movie lists
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Top 10 VFX Innovations in the 21st Century!

412 Folder Collection
邱于嘉 published on September 17, 2019
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