Wednesday, 29 July 2009 caught up with Peter Jackson just after the press conference and got a quick update on where he and Steven Spielberg want to take Tintin after the first film,The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, hits theaters late next year.

"I've got several favorite stories," says Jackson, "I like 'Seven Crystal Balls' and 'Prisoners of the Sun.' I like 'The Black Island.' I like 'The Calculus Affair.' I haven't made a final decision yet."

Jackson confirmed that work on the follow-up won't start until he's completely done with writing duties on The Hobbit. He did, however, say that he has a neat idea of where he'd like to take Tintin after the first sequel: all the way to the moon.

Published in 1953, Tintin actually beat Apollo 11 by 16 years in a famously retro red and white checkered rocketship. Like the adventure chosen for the first film ("Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure"), Tintin's moon adventures ("Destination Moon" and "Explorers on the Moon") represent only a few stories that span multiple books. Though one of the most recognizable stories, the thought had been that Tintin's moon adventures would be too offbeat for mainstream audiences.

"No moon for the second one," agrees Jackson, "But I think the moon one[s] would be great to do as a third or fourth one. But I think we should stay on Earth for the second one."

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

LONDON - American film director Steven Spielberg and actor Will Smith’s plans to remake cult Korean movie ‘Old Boy’ have been thrown into jeopardy, as the original makers of the 2003 hit are allegedly not authorised to grant a remake.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Spielberg and Smith had recently secured the rights to modernise director Park Chan-Wook’s film from producers Show East.

But Show East filmmakers have found themselves at the centre of a lawsuit from Futabasha bosses, the Japanese publishers of the original manga series, who claim the producers were in no position to negotiate with the Hollywood heavyweights and Universal studios.

Seoul-based Show East has since shut down and its executives have ceased all contact with Futabasha, further complicating legal proceedings, which began last week.

“We haven’t been able to confirm that Show East is bankrupt, and at this stage we’re not sure what effect this will have on the legal case,” the Daily Star quoted a spokesperson for Futabasha as saying.

But, Universal bosses are refusing to halt pre-production on Spielberg and Smith’s planned version and have given them the green light to continue work on the forthcoming movie. (ANI)

Monday, 27 July 2009

Rumours abound this morning that LucasArts could be planning on announcing a previously secret Xbox Live Arcade title called Lucidity.

Joystiq purport to have a screenshot from the secret project, which is said to be a side-scrolling adventure game.

With no official word from LucasArts still, details are scant at best, but it sounds as if Lucidity, will focus on a lead character called Sofi, who will move through the world assisted by the player, who will place helpful objects in her path in order to maintain her progress.

Visually, the game seems to sport an interesting cartoon-look, with heavy stylisation on show. With the publisher now hard at work on bringing several classic adventure titles back to the small screen, could this be the first brand new LucasArts adventure for some time?

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Sunday, 26 July 2009

(From left) Steven Spielberg, Stacey Snider and Indian industrialist Anil Ambani in October 2008
The deal was announced on Wednesday

The film studio Dreamworks, co-founded by Steven Spielberg, is to receive $825m for film production, the studio's Indian partner says.

Reliance ADA Group, run by Anil Ambani, is one of India's biggest entertainment groups and a key player in Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry.

Dreamworks agreed a joint venture with Mr Ambani in October last year.

The new studio will make films in the US, injecting large amounts of Indian cash into America's film industry.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has made some of the biggest box office hits including ET, Schindler's List and Jaws.

Mr Ambani is the world's sixth richest man.

'Visionary step'

The deal was announced in New York on Wednesday by Mr Ambani along with Mr Spielberg and Stacey Snider of Dreamworks.

"This venture with Reliance opens a new door to our future," Mr Spielberg said in a statement.

"Their visionary step has given us a new set of dreams to work towards. Stacey and I thank them for their faith in us and their faith in the movie business," he said.

"We are delighted to partner with such uniquely talented individuals as Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider," Mr Ambani responded.

"Ever since we looked at their business plan, I have never doubted that we would succeed in providing them with the financial muscle required to realise their dreams," he said.

Of the $825m funding announced by Reliance, the Indian company is expected to put in $325m while $325m is be raised from banks and $175m is to come from Disney.

Under the agreement, Dreamworks will make five to six films every year for global audiences.

Officials said production would commence this year for first release in 2010.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Ken McGorry

SAN FRANCISCO — The climactic sequence in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of the most (if not the most) complex compositions of live actors, greenscreen, CG characters, environment, simulated natural phenomena and simulated fantasy phenomena I have encountered in 21 years of writing for Post.
The new Warner Bros. film, directed by David Yates, is the sixth and penultimate installment in the series based on J.K. Rowling's blockbuster fantasy novels.
There's a seventh novel yet to be filmed, so we presume that the budding wizard will need to survive the implacable mortal threat at the climax of HP6.
It's fairly easy to describe HP6's climax on paper — Rowling did it — but how, exactly, would you do this on film? Harry and wizard/mentor Dumbledore enter a foreboding watery cave on the trail of ultra-bad guy Voldemort. They land on an island in a crystalline cavern where thousands of undead humanoids — Voldemort's victims-now-minions — suddenly emerge from the waters, ensnare Harry and drag him down into the murky depths.
Dumbledore reacts with a new trick. In the novel he engulfs the aggressors in vast sweeping arcs of flame that he controls, creating a vortex of fire. Dumbledore even hurls submarine fireballs at the enemy as they retreat underwater. For this sequence's effects Yates called ILM.


The culminating sequence is about seven minutes long and the fiery climax is only about eight shots. Despite their brevity, says Tim Alexander, ILM's VFX supervisor on the film, the fire shots "chewed up a great deal of our time and energy. Fire's pretty difficult and we didn't have a solid solution for it." Still, the decision was to forsake ILM's successful history in filming practical pyro effects and to go with all-CG flames.
ILM's first approach was the standard "brute force" method: Simulate particles — "a lot of a lot of them" — into a 3D volume to try to emulate the look of fire. However, Alexander says, "You have to have such a high density of particles to create the detail that you need in fire that it very quickly becomes unwieldy and slow."
He ended up using a new approach developed by ILM's Chris Horvath. Alexander credits it and the resulting fire effects as ILM's biggest achievement in the film. "We still did a particle sim, but it's a very low particle-count, like fuel flying around in the air, just to tell us where it's going to burn." The team put this low number of particles into a tornado configuration, made it look good, and then ran it through Horvath's secondary engine that actually simulates the fire. ILM calls this the "Verte" engine.
Horvath's engine calculated how the particles would burn "but he does it in two-dimensional slices so he can do very high-resolution simulations very quickly," Alexander says. The fire effect's 3D volume is "sliced" like a loaf of bread, focusing on the X and Y dimensions, but not the Z axis. "You can get really nice detail around the edges of the fire and you can get speed out of it because you're not worrying about depth."
Since the fire itself is moving, the particles move from slice to slice in 3D. "If you look at a fire, it's actually pretty difficult to tell how deep it is. By piling up a bunch of slices together, you still get dimensionality to it but you're giving your time and energy to the screen space, where you need it, like the edges of the flame where you want to see those little licks.
"Chris wrote the whole engine on the Nvidia video card, so it's hardware-accelerated," Alexander says. "The speed of these things is immense. Once you have your low-particle-count simulation, then you feed that into the Verte, which is in the GPU. In one day we could look at two or three takes of the fire, so we got more turnaround with it. The engine is very flexible because all it wants to know is where you want it to burn, so we could do all types of looks with it. We created a flame tornado, but we could also do fireballs with it in the underwater sequence — it's done with exactly the same engine."


Robert Weaver is a veteran ILM TD and sequence supervisor who recently was promoted to associate VFX supervisor. This position is perfect for Weaver since he can now meld his aptitude for technical direction and workflow with his experience in helping to achieve the right "look" for a sequence. He worked on Backdraft (1991), where threatening house fires were portrayed as nearly sentient characters. Weaver also worked with Alexander on The Perfect Storm (2000), where ILM perfected the art of breathing life, and thrills, into huge waves that existed only in the computer — work which won a VFX BAFTA award.
On the new Potter, Weaver served as associate VFX supe and digital production supe — the former including involvement in esthetic, creative decisions and giving direct feedback to artists, and the latter involving management of the technical pipeline.
"It's a nice balance to do both," Weaver says, to be able to "convey the director's vision and be able to put that to film." This is the third Potter film in which Weaver has worked with Tim Alexander and Weaver was comfortable bouncing artistic ideas off him and vice versa.
Appropriately enough, Alexander and Weaver worked on some simulated fire shots back on 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the fourth film in the series was BAFTA-nominated). But, Weaver says, "Looking back, it was somewhat crude compared to what we can do now." The team at the time was pushing the fire sim through ILM's purpose-built "smoke engine" and "it was a constant battle to get the physics correct for fire." ILM augmented those CG fire effects with practical pyro shot on set.
Achieving the look of realistic fire in CG means being able to "choreograph a force of nature," Weaver says. "Back on The Perfect Storm, water had never been done to that scale successfully. Fire is, to us, the new water. It's so difficult to achieve and I feel that this time around, we nailed it."
Alexander and Weaver give some of the credit for the success of the new Verte engine to new super-fast video cards from Nvidia — Horvath was able to build ILM's fire engine on a GPU rather than a CPU. Weaver says doing the effect on the GPU "gave us unbelievable speed-ups over the typical CPU. We built a GPU farm that could handle these massive simulations. What would take a day to run on a CPU, we were able to simulate in 40 minutes. The graphics processor is ideal for handling millions of instructions in split-seconds."
With help from Yates's visual effects supervisor Tim Burke on the set, actor Michael Gambon's work as Dumbledore — kind of like a man dramatically waving a giant wand with a sparkler on the end — meshed well with the CG effects and did not require a digital double.


HP6 was produced in England and the majority of the film's VFX were produced in London at effects houses such as MPC and Cinesite. ILM was not the VFX house of record this time (they did about 142 shots), but their centerpiece is the film's fiery climax. ILM literally spanned the globe, working with the production team in England on HP6 and also with their ILM satellite shop in Singapore, which handled about 15 to 20 shots in the cavern sequence.
One challenge was to schedule daily video conferences with the UK-based Burke and ILM Singapore.


When Harry and Dumbledore land on the subterranean island they go after a talisman (a "Horcrux") that represents a part of Voldemort's soul. But once this MacGuffin is threatened, an army of Voldemort's victims springs to life to defend it. Called Inferi, these folks are a little sympathetic and doubly victimized — first killed by the evil wizard, then kept in an undead state to do his bidding. Yates emphasized that the Inferi not look like grotesque zombies — rather, they appear very skinny and sickly and make Gollum seem like a he was on steroids. Yates stressed that this sequence should not feel like a horror movie — he wanted audiences to feel sorry for these emaciated, water-logged people. "We really investigated how to not make them look like zombies," Alexander says.
For these characters, ILM needed to avoid Gollum and his ilk, including recent zombies such as those found in I Am Legend. "You pull reference from all those movies so everybody's conscious of what's out there and what you don't want to do," Alexander says, "and try not to make a dupe of those."
Yates cast a few live actors to act out some of the Inferi movements — like overwhelming Harry and dragging him underwater — and ILM animators then made the undead individuals move in a very methodical, creepy way. The actors fight with Harry and pull on him but ILM subsequently painted them out and replaced them with CG Inferi.
Marc Chu, ILM's animation supervisor/director, wanted to take on as much animation as possible — the shots with up to 100 Inferi in them are actually all keyframed and handled by the animators. "Once we get underwater and start to get into thousands of them, that's when we went for a particle-spray approach," Alexander says.
In fact, everything about the cavern sequence is CG — even the eerie liquid that Dumbledore must drink from the Horcrux.


For starters, the HP6 team gave ILM greenscreen plates shot on a very limited set. The cave setting is made of crystals — big ones — that needed to be CG. With a crystalline set, "you've got to deal a lot with refraction and reflection," Weaver says. "It's not just a matte painting."
ILM had to build an entire CG environment where the camera could go anywhere and still look like it was in a crystal cave. Just the crystalline background scenery took seven to eight weeks. The crystal surfaces reflect Dumbledore's fire as well as the characters in the action and the transparency allows you to glimpse action through the crystals.
"We had both fire and water going at the same time," Weaver says, "and the two interacting. We had escape bubbles, with the fire going under the water."
Representing the thousands of Inferi under the water involved normal-mapping: applying a cycle of animation to the character rigs and rendering it, flatly lit, on a card as a sprite. "When we go under the water, with thousands of these creatures," Weaver says, "the normal-mapping allowed us to re-light the Inferi. This was an innovative way of handling a crowd pipeline that we hadn't done before and it worked out incredibly well."


ILM created the water for the sequence as well and, as Dumbledore whips up his fire and it rotates around the island in a vortex, it also whips up the surface of the water. "The lake starts to boil," Weaver says. "We had to create the look of boiling water and the Inferi would be refracted through the bubbles. The fire also penetrates through the water's surface, generating a lot of bubbles.
"Raytracing is very expensive," Weaver says, and you have to be really smart about how and when you do it so you don't spend days working on a two-second shot.
HP6 was "a very difficult water show" for ILM. Even though ILM's shot total is on the low side at around 142, with a staff of about 80, "we actually did more fluids on Harry Potter than we had done in the past on any other show," Alexander says. And Alexander, like Weaver, worked on The Perfect Storm which, he says, "was one of the hardest shows that I have ever worked on."
The look of today's ILM water and fire effects is more realistic than it ever was but, Alexander says, "I don't think it's any easier. We keep making things more difficult for ourselves because we want to achieve more levels of realism and more detail."
"We were all very excited, not just with the results but with the process," Weaver says. "It was a huge challenge."
The team had planned on shooting at least some practical pyro for Dumbledore's conflagration but found they didn't need to. "We tamed fire. It's become a creative tool," says Weaver.
ILM expects to see new clients whose movies require fire that can be choreographed. Maybe a Backdraft 2?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Although legendary film composer John Williams' original theme has lingered throughout the Harry Potter films, he hasn't scored a full installment since "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." No one understands the weight that Williams' return might bring to the franchise's conclusion better than producer David Heyman. Even while admitting that considerable obstacles still stand in the way, Heyman wants Williams back on board for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

"We have talked to John Williams and a lot of it will depend on his schedule for ['Harry Potter'] seven part two," Heyman told "Potter" fan site The Leaky Cauldron. "If we can make [it] work, and that's a big if, for his schedule and ours, then yes."

Williams' music has defined everything everything from the films' opening title sequences to Hedwig's first flight to the mood of Harry's first Quidditch match in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Convincing the composer to return would not only allow him to do the same for the series' climactic final events, but also give him the chance to bookend the franchise with his signature style.

With production already underway on the two "Deathly Hallows" films and the second chapter's release date set for 2011, coordinating schedules in time may be a long shot at this point. For now at least, we can all remain hopeful.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

George Lucas
Lucas still earns "big bucks" from Star Wars merchandise, said

Star Wars creator George Lucas is Hollywood's highest-paid man after earning an estimated $170m (£104m) in a year, business website says.

He beat director Steven Spielberg into second place in the list of 15. Spielberg made an estimated $150m (£91.6m) between June 2008-June 2009.

Lucas's fourth Indiana Jones movie - directed by Spielberg - was out in that same year and took $786m (£480.1m).

Simon Cowell was joint sixth in the list, earning about $75m (£45.8m).

Syndication fees

The website talked to "managers, agents and other Hollywood insiders" to come up with the estimated earnings. said: "In Hollywood, the stars get their pictures on the covers of magazines and designers ply them with free clothes, but producers earn the big bucks."

It said that, in its list, "half made the cut mostly for their production work not their star quality".

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell has set up a company with retail billionaire Sir Philip Green

"As a group, they earned $1.2bn (£730m)," it added.

Executive producer of the three CSI TV programmes and producer of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Jerry Bruckheimer, was third in the list with an estimated $100m (£61.1m).

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld was fourth, with an estimated $85m (£51.9m). said his earning power was largely thanks to "hefty syndication fees" for his sitcom Seinfeld, which went off air in 1998.

The top five was rounded out by TV psychologist Dr Phil McGraw - with $80m (£48.8m) - who began his career in the media on The Oprah Winfrey Show and now appears in his own shows.

Cowell was joint sixth alongside filmmaker Tyler Perry and Dick Wolf, creator of hit US TV show Law and Order and subsequent spin-offs.

Others on the list include rock star Bruce Springsteen and Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Friday, July 17 2009, 19:36 BST

By Liam Martin, Gaming Reporter

LucasArts teases Comic-Con announcements

LucasArts has promised to make several "world exclusive" announcements at the upcoming Comic-Con event in San Diego.

According to CVG, the broadcasts are due to take place during the Star Wars Spectacular keynote, which has sparked suggestions that a new Star Wars title will be announced.

In addition, LucasArts plans to reveal Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes and Lego Indiana Jones 2 footage.

Comic-Con will run from July 23 to 26, and will also feature announcements from Microsoft as well as new Left 4 Dead clips.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Star Wars: The Old Republic, a joint project between LucasArts and Bioware, will apparently be a massively multiplayer online game with massive amounts of recorded dialogue.

Shauna Perry, the game's director of audio and localization, outlines everything that's going into adding voices into this game in a post on the official site's blog. Why should you care? It's a sign that the developers are investing heavily in getting this MMO right (and will hopefully make us forget the last attempt at a Star Wars MMO).

Some fun factoids from the blog post:

- Old Republic will have 10x more lines than Knights of the Old Republic

- On any given day, there can be a dozen people working on voice-over -- not including actors

- By the time the game ships, they will have recorded 1,000 four-hour VO sessions.

- The game's entire script has 40+ novels worth of content

- The're working with hundreds of actors in five cities: New York (yay!), London, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.

In Star Wars: The Old Republic, players will choose a character from either the Galactic Empire or the Sith Empire and take on missions, leveling up and making moral choices that will affect the outcome of the game's story. The release date for this PC game is currently TBD, though we've heard it'll be sometime in 2010.

Monday, 20 July 2009

David Bowie's movie-making son has revealed he enlisted teams from Alien and Star Wars to sprinkle magic space dust on his debut film.

Duncan Jones, whose moody first film Moon has received rave reviews, assembled a team to create the space vehicles which was headed by veteran model-maker Bill Pearson.

Pearson, of Shepperton Studios, worked on the models of the space freighter Nostromo in 1979 film Alien.

Duncan, previously known as Zowie Bowie, told the August issue of The Word magazine: "Bill's team was like that old Ripping Yarns episode Golden Gordon where he gets all the old footballers together. We had a guy there who worked on R2D2.

"It was an amazing crew of old-timers and the work was fantastic. Some of these incredibly talented guys don't get to work together any more."

Sci-fi movie Moon stars Sam Rockwell and features the voice of Kevin Spacey, who agreed to appear after the movie had been filmed.

Duncan joked that one day his work would overshadow his rock star dad's achievements, saying: "One day people will say 'Oh yeah, Duncan Jones .. do you remember who his dad was?"

Sunday, 19 July 2009


CHILDHOOD fantasies from the 80s.

Closely following the obviously lustful thoughts of Princess Leia's gold bikini in Return of the Jedi, being highly-skilled with a bull-whip was always high on my list.

And now, thanks to Lucasarts, my whip skills are being put to the test.

This game is available on other formats - the DS, the PSP and the ol' trusty PS2 - but it's really designed with the Wii in mind.

Which is rather splendid use of the unique offering providing by the Nintendo machine.

How good is it? Better than the recent movie, although that's a given. As good as Raiders'? Hmmm, no.

But it's still a worthwhile and innovative attempt at bringing the Indiana Jones series to life in the computer game world.

Set in 1939 - a year after IJ and the Last Crusade - you follow the rather-handsome archaeologist on his quest to find the Staff of Moses.

As usual, there's a bad dude wanting the same object too - this time it's Jones' nemesis, Magnus Völler.

It's all great fun. Several of my online buddies have complained about freezing and glitches but, I must confess, when I played the game, it was smoother than Keanu Reeves in sunglasses.

And a rather large overcoat.


The graphics are standard but acceptable while the gamplay is moderately lengthy and offers plenty of additional factors to entice players to return more than once.

Whip-cracking fun for most of the family. Even Junior - despite the rather baffling decision to make it a 16+ game.

Indeed some of the scenes are a little heavy - but I don't remember being turned away from watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a highly-excited five year old.

Indy, welcome back old boy.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

George Lucas is the grand overseer of all things Star Wars, but he can't be everywhere at once. So how much involvement is he taking in the development of the latest and (hopefully) greatest venture for his franchise, Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Despite the wishes of many folks who hold Star Wars close to their hearts, franchise father George Lucas is, ultimately, the end-all be-all of everything Star Wars. Now, we can assume that the guy can't micro-manage the packaging for every single action figure, but it'd be silly to assume that he doesn't have some say in one of the biggest ventures for the franchise in recent memory, BioWare's MMOG, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"I haven't shown it to him personally, no," BioWare's Ray Muzyka told G4. "But I know he keeps his finger on the pulse of everything LucasArts is working on, so I know he's involved in it. I've talked to him about the project in the past and I know he's excited about it."

Run for the hills! Cancel all The Old Republic pre-orders! If George Lucas is excited about something and thinks it's good, then, by any sound logic, that must therefore mean that it's bad, right? When was the last time George Lucas was excited for something? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? We all remember how that turned out!

But wait, don't you guys remember how awesome The Old Republic E3 trailer was? What did Lucas think of that, I wonder. "I can't say what he thought of the trailer because I don't know for sure that he's seen it," Muzyka said. "But I imagine he has because he's very involved in the development side of things."

Like it or not, Star Wars fans, but George Lucas is "very involved" in the development of his franchise's properties, and The Old Republic falls under that category. It's okay. I'm sure it'll turn out fine.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Tales of Monkey Island

Just finished chapter one of Tales of Monkey Island by TellTale Games. If you are worried that this new addition won't meet your high expectations of Monkey Island gone-by, then fear not. This is every bit worthy of sitting along side the previous offerings. The first chapter will take you between three to five hours to finish. The voice acting is superb, the wonderful monkey island music returns and the comedy is there in all its glory. Please do everyone a favour and buy this. I want more!!!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Produced by the same team that brought you Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, The Pacific should outdo them both in showing the horrors of the second world war

Last month saw HBO release the first official teaser trailer for their $200m (£120m) second world war series The Pacific, which airs on Sky Movies next Spring. It's an epic co-produced by Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg, who collaborated on 1998's Saving Private Ryan and the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers.

The trailer gives the impression that the scale of this show dwarfs those earlier projects. The Pacific will follow the intertwined exploits of three US Marines – Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge and John Basilone – as they plunge into combat against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre of the second world war. It will also, unlike the other two projects, spend time on the home front after VJ day in August 1945. As in Band of Brothers, viewers will be faced with an ensemble cast of largely unfamiliar faces, including Joseph Mazzello (as US Marine Eugene B Sledge), who played the frequently endangered young lad Tim in Spielberg's Jurassic Park.

It was during the making of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers that Spielberg's production template for shooting war was refined and which, judging from the trailer, has been followed in The Pacific. To get that effect, you have to be prepared to build lavishly big. By the time the third episode of Band of Brothers was in the can, more pyrotechnics equipment had been used than in the whole of Saving Private Ryan. Authenticity is also key; The Pacific will draw on memoirs and interviews with veterans including Sledge's With the Old Breed. and Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow.

The Pacific also looks as though it will follow the same visual style of its predecessors – harsh, drained colour palette and shaky camerawork, and will screen in high definition too. Special camera lenses were used on Saving Private Ryan which had the protective coating extracted from the inside, producing images slightly more defused and prone to flares, and making the sky look burned out. The production team also used a different shadow degree to achieve a certain staccato effect in the actor's movements. This style was followed through in Band of Brothers' post-production, and can be seen in this intense battle clip from episode two (which also highlights the other essential ingredient – the stunning, overwhelming audio mix).

Watching The Pacific is likely to be a violent and unsettling experience. But, as Captain Dale Dye (Vietnam vet and military advisor on a host of war films including Platoon) put it in an interview with the BBC: "That's the real deal. I've been there, where the gore is slathered on whether you like it or not. If that's the way it was, good, that's the way we'll show it. If it wasn't we will not show it that way."

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

aliens-rpgThe Aliens role-playing game has officially been canned by Obsidian Entertainment and Sega. Obsidian, the developers behind Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II and the upcoming Alpha Protocol, announced the game with Sega in 2006, but announced on Friday “we are no longer working on the game”.

A Sega spokesperson gave the official final nail, saying the company “has no plans to move forward with the Aliens RPG”. The squad-based action game Aliens: Colonial Marines has also slipped from its June-latest release date, but it currently looks set for late September.

While the Aliens role-playing game may be officially “game over, man”, despite rumours to the contrary, Steven Spielberg’s mysterious LMNO project isn’t. In a fascinating interview with Edge, leftfield game designer Jason Rohrer said: “I did some consulting work, most recently for EA on the Spielberg LMNO project. My understanding is that project’s pretty much been cancelled now, what with the changing economy, but I’m not sure.”

Rohrer specialises in quirky games like PC freebie Passage and iPhone game Primrose. So quite what LMNO is, is intriguing. Spielberg’s other mysterious PQRS project turned out to be Boom Blox. Either way, LMNO is not dead, despite what Rohrer says, according to Electronic Arts.

Kotaku were contacted by the company to say: “LMNO was a code name for a project in development. While the project continues to develop at [Electronic Arts Los Angeles] with Steven, we no longer refer to it as LMNO.”

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The story of a 90-year-old British former Prisoner of War who fell in love with a German interpreter could be made in to a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg, according to reports.

The story of a 90-year-old British former Prisoner of War who fell in love with a German interpreter could be made in to a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg, according to reports.
Steven Spielberg has reportedly been approached to make a movie out of Horace Greasley's war story Photo: REUTERS

Horace Greasley was held captive for two-and-a-half years in a Nazi PoW camp in Lamsdorf, Poland, during which time he began a secret affair with a girl from a nearby village called Rosa.

He would regularly sneak out at night for trysts with his lover and she would help him find food and equipment he could then smuggle back in to the camp.

They were separated at the end of the Second World War, just after she fell pregnant with his child.

But they got back in touch when the Government asked Mr Greasley to verify her story so she could work for the Americans as a translator.

Sadly, Rosa died in child birth and they were never reunited.

Until recently the story had gone untold but it has now been turned in to a book entitled "Do the Birds Sing in Hell?" by author Ken Scott.

His publishers have in turn passed it on to a leading Hollywood talent agency, who are reportedly putting it before Spielberg in the hope it can be adapted.

Mr Greasley said: "It is up to the powers that be in the film world who have become interested.

"I never dreamed of it being turned in to a film. But I do feel that Rosa is worthy of something."

Mr Scott heard about the story through a friend before interviewing Mr Greasley.

He said: "I would be lying if I said I was surprised that it could be turned in to a film.

"There's a love affair, there's the great British stiff upper lip and there is brutality. The story has absolutely everything."

Mr Greasley, from Ibstock, Leicestershire, now lives near Alicante in Spain. He joined the war effort in July 1939 as a 20-year-old conscript.

The private, from 2nd/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, was later captured by the Germans in Carvin, France, and transported to the camp, one of many renowned for its brutal regime.

Spielberg, 62, won an Oscar for best director with the D-Day film Saving Private Ryan.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Lucasarts classics hit Steam, prices revealed

Among the batch of Lucasarts games on Steam are some real classics, like LOOM and The Dig for £2.99.

Lucasarts has finally released the first of what we hope to be many batches of games on Steam, revealing a simple pricing structure for it's back catalogue that's remarkably fair even if the Steam versions of ye olde SCUMM games don't work in ScummVM, apparently.

The first batch of Lucasarts games on Steam covers a broad range of titles, including forgotten classics like LOOM and The Dig, right through to Star Wars tie-ins and recent Lego Indy titles.

Best of all, the pricing system for the games actually looks remarkably fair and the games seem to be slotted into one of three price bands based on their age and success, with the old adventure games which we're so fond of coming in at just £2.99 a pop - which is about what you'd expect to pay if you tracked down a physical copy on eBay probably. Check out the rest of the prices below.

The Dig - £2.99 / $4.99 / €3.99

LOOM - £2.99 / $4.99 / €3.99

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - £2.99 / $4.99 / €3.99

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - £2.99 / $4.99 / €3.99

Star Wars: Starfighter - £2.99 / $4.99 / €3.99

Star Wars: Republic Commando - £6.99 / $9.99 / €8.99

Armed and Dangerous - £6.99 / $9.99 / €8.99

Star Wars: Battlefront II - £12.99 / $19.99 / €17.99

Thrillville: Off the Rails - £12.99 / $19.99 / €17.99

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures - £12.99 / $19.99 / €17.99

Oh, and don't forget that Telltales' Tales of Monkey Island is now available on Steam too

Sunday, 12 July 2009

This one is from Monkey Island - CMI The Monkeys Are Listening!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

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Friday, 10 July 2009

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

THX tells us more about where THX and its "Deep Note" got their names... Plus, a peek at some of the best fan trailers from a contest last year.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

There’s a sequence in DreamWorks/Paramounts’ Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in which the Devastator, a gigantic Decepticon robot, scales an Egyptian pyramid as easily as a gorilla climbing a tree and rips off the top. With over 52,632 parts and nearly 12 million polygons, the robot is the biggest model Industrial Light & Magic has built in its 30 years of model-making. And they built the bot for IMAX shots.

“What’s happened in this picture is that the scale and density of the characters, and the number of characters, have gone way up,” says Industrial Light & Magic’s Scott Farrar, who was visual effects supervisor for director Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers and his 2009 sequel.

Two effects houses created the robots. There were 16 robots in the first film, and 59 in this one. Digital Domain handled 13 robots and ILM created 46, including the returning Autobots Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, the revived and somewhat altered Decepticon leader Megatron, an old robot named Jetfire, and the huge Devastator, among many others. Devastator and Optimus Prime, two of the most complicated robots, star in the two IMAX sequences, both created by ILM and both among the most complex in the film.

The first IMAX sequence takes place in a forest where Optimus fights two Decepticon robots while crashing through trees, many of which are CG models with branches broken through rigid-body simulations. During the forest fight, the 28-foot-tall Optimus Prime and his 10,000 parts appear actual-size on IMAX screens.

The second IMAX sequence begins with the Devastator forming itself by smashing into other Decepticons that transform from giant mining construction vehicles. It starts with a mining excavator, crunches a dump truck into its torso, piles on a cement mixer to create a mouth, smashes into another dump truck and a bulldozer to make legs, and forces a scoop loader and a crane into arms.

Once built, the voracious creature sucks everything nearby into its huge cement-mixer mouth, creating a vortex of sand and dust that ILM formed using fluid simulation. Then it climbs the Great Pyramid. When it slashes the top of the pyramid with its mighty arms, 120,000 bricks shoot off and tumble down the sides, an effect powered by the largest rigid-body simulation ILM has ever run.

“We put a lot of hard work into the sequence,” says Jeff White, associate visual effects supervisor. “Getting our pipeline to handle IMAX resolution has been quite a challenge.”

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Digital production supervisor Jason Smith was in charge of that pipeline. After deciding to scan the IMAX frames at 6K resolution, ILM ran tests at 4K and 5K. “At the beginning of the show, when we were deciding what resolution we needed to work at, we ran shots all the way down the pipeline, including color timing at Company 3,” Smith says. They also talked with Paul Franklin, who supervised the effects at Double Negative on The Dark Knight. For that film. Double Negative worked primarily at 5.6K (See Film & Video's original coverage), but ILM settled on 4K resolution.

“Their visual effects covered some portions of the frame,” Smith says of Dark Knight. “But we were dealing with robots everywhere covering up everything. When we compared the resolution we were scanning and putting onscreen to 35mm film at 2K, we decided 4K looked great. Plus we knew painting clean frames and color grading would be more difficult above 4K. When you hear 2K to 4K it might sound like double, but the render times are six times bigger and the memory requirements are six times bigger in IMAX. Across the board, it turned out to be six times bigger.”

During the height of production, ILM dedicated 80 percent of its total rendering capacity to Transformers 2, one time even hitting 83 percent. “We broke all the ILM records,” Smith says. “Everyone else squeezed into 17 percent.” How much is that? ILM’s render farm has 5700 core processors, the newest of which are dual processor and quad cores (eight cores per blade), with up to 32 GB of memory per blade. In addition, the render farm can access the 2000 core processors in the artists’ workstations, which ups the total core processors to 7700. As for data storage, the studio’s data center currently has 500 TB online. Transformers 2 sucked up 154 TB, more than seven times the 20 TB needed for 2007’s Transformers.

The switch to 4K resolution for the IMAX sequences had an impact beyond rendering. “Everything is bigger with IMAX,” Smith says. “When we were rolling out the IMAX sequences, we had more model resolution and detail, and we had a huge wave of machine upgrades all the way through paint and compositing. We switched to [The Foundry’s] Nuke to make handling the comps easier.”

The IMAX sequences also meant ILM had to create multiple image pipelines — Bay filmed these sequences with three IMAX cameras and three VistaVision cameras. “Because the VistaVision film runs sideways, it gives you that wide screen, and that extra surface area made it a great bridge format between IMAX and 35mm,” Smith says. “When you don’t want the audience to feel the loss of resolution, VistaVision can act as a buffer.”

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen IMAX shot

Unlike IMAX sequences in Dark Knight, the IMAX sequences in Transformers 2 happen in full daylight. “We watched Dark Knight to see whether we’d notice the letterboxing when they cut between 35mm and IMAX, and we didn’t, but those were night shots. So we did tests and found that even for daytime, you didn’t really read those black bars top and bottom. What you did notice was the field of vision opening up when you go into the IMAX shots.”

All told, ILM needed to create IMAX plates as IMAX, IMAX as 35mm, IMAX as VistaVision, anamorphic as IMAX, anamorphic as 35mm, VistaVision as 35mm, and VistaVision as IMAX. Anamorphic working resolution was about 1.5 million pixels (1828 x 778), VistaVision was about 6.5 million pixels (3144 x 2078), and 4K IMAX about 12.5 million pixels (4096 x 3072). “2K to 4K isn’t double,” Smith reminds. “It’s about eight times the surface area when you look at the number of pixels.”

To create the 35mm frames from IMAX composites, Bay had ILM crop out windows. “You’ll definitely get much more image in IMAX,” White says. “I think that people who see it in IMAX will have almost a completely different experience. The IMAX plates come out almost square. We did our work to that IMAX square and at the end, we cropped out [image on the top and bottom to achieve] 2.35. Michael [Bay] could push the crop up and down to pick the most important parts of the frame.”

White pulls up a shot of Devastator forming on a computer screen to show what he means. Blue lines cut across the top of the enormous robot and the bottom of the frame. “With 2.35, you can get the top or the bottom,” he says. “But with IMAX you get the whole robot in there. When people see this on a six-story screen, I think it’s going to be incredible.”

To pull out the 2.35, the crew used a separate camera. “It wasn’t an up-and-down pan and scan,” Smith says. “We wanted actual camera moves. So a nodal camera pulled the 2.35 crop out, but we put these animated crop cameras together with Michael's approval all the way. And, it wasn’t just a matter of 2K and 4K. It was what the crop looked like for [going from] VistaVision to anamorphic, too. We spent a lot of time getting the most for every pixel so it was as seamless as possible for every audience.”

Bay made sure that viewers watching the 35mm film saw plenty of action, too. “Michael really got on us,” White says. “He told us we had to pay attention to what the 2.35 version looked like and that went all the way from animation to how we composited the elements. He didn’t want an explosion that was halfway out of the 2.35.”

Adding to ILM’s IMAX work was the need to film new elements for the effects-heavy shots. “We have an extensive element library for fire, dust, smoke, and so forth,” White says. “But we scanned a lot of those elements at 2K resolution and they wouldn’t hold up on IMAX. So we had to go out and shoot new elements.”

In addition, although ILM had IMAX plates to start with for many of the shots, Bay had designed camera moves that the studio couldn’t accomplish with the plates they had. “We sent out a virtual background team on location and they took photographs of the entire environments,” White says.

“They shot spheres of images with a nodal camera up on a crane or tripod,” White says. “They had to be flexible and really fast because often the only time we could shoot spheres was over lunch.” Back at ILM, the digimatte team led by Richard Bluff built IMAX-resolution background plates for the effects crew to use with their virtual cameras.

“It was a challenge that the bigger frames made bigger,” Smith says. “It’s just slower and a lot more work for the artists. And, pixels aside, we looked at the model resolution in a more detailed way. We pushed beyond anything we had done before.”

The Devastator is a great example. “Michael [Bay] said, ‘OK, you guys. This is going to be on a screen five or six stories tall. It can’t look dead anywhere.’ So we went back through and added a layer of detail. Tiny hoses, wires, ladders, little details that show you how big the thing is. The challenge wasn’t only when the robot is far away. When you look at his hand or his arm in IMAX, he’s not just a creature. He’s individual small parts at 4K resolution.”

Modelers built Devastator specifically for these high-resolution shots because the megaton menace spends most of its time in IMAX res. Optimus, however, spends as much time in 35mm as in IMAX, so the key for that robot was in painting high-res textures. “We knew the damage to Optimus would be in high res, so we added that detail as we went,” Smith says.

Dave Fogler supervised the team of around 25 modelers and viewpainters (texture mapping) who worked on the film. “More often than not, we worked with 2K maps,” he says. “But we had lots and lots and lots of them for individual parts. The reason is that things start to slow down once you go to 4K. So we had a collection of parts with 2K maps and if they didn’t work in IMAX we’d go to 4K.”

“Lots and lots and lots” is an understatement. The viewpainters created 6,467 texture maps for Devastator alone — 32 GB of textures. “On an average show, we keep one viewpainter and one modeler on to the end to keep an eye on things,” Fogler says. “On this film, we had a crew of six or seven adding details and damage and every time we had an IMAX shot, we’d cross our fingers, see what we could see, then go in and add nuts and bolts.”

Despite the extra work, the crew is understandably amped about the film, about the IMAX version of the film, and about working with Michael Bay. “What can possibly compare to seeing Optimus Prime at actual size fighting Megatron in a forest?” Smith asks. “It’s not like [Michael Bay] picked boring sequences. He picked the most astounding sequences in the movie. Imagine Devastator taking down one of the pyramids in full IMAX.”

Adds White: “You always have a couple signature shots on movies that everyone wants to do because they’re so cool. What’s incredible about this film is that you look through every sequence of the film and they all have signature shots. There’s really no shot that isn’t pushed to an incredible level.”

Monday, 6 July 2009

The 2009 Comic Con is less than a month away but big news is already coming from a galaxy far, far, away. For the first time ever in the San Diego-based convention's 40 year history, a presentation entitled "The Star Wars Spectacular" will be broadcast as a major television event on the G4 cable channel. The Lucas-approved broadcast will be shown on Saturday July 25th starting at 2pm ET/PT and will feature exclusive never-before-seen footage, breaking Star Wars/Lucasfilm news, guest stars, and surprise announcements.

The Lucasfilm panels are normally kept secret from those not attending the sold-out "Star Wars Day" panels usually held on the Friday of the convention. This year, Lucas devotees will get to hear exclusives from Lucasfilm's Steve Sansweet and "Clone Wars" supervising director Dave Miloni on the sci-fi-centric G4's popular "Attack of the Show" starring Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn who is a favorite among fanboys due to her tendency to appear in revealing costumes such as the Slave Leia outfit made famous in "Return of the Jedi."

"Star Wars" fans are also invited to participate in the panel discussions by submitting questions through a G4 micro-site. Questions will be answered by the panelists live during the broadcast of the "Star Wars Spectacular."

Lucasfilm is also making Comic Con history with the "Star Wars Stories" project in which fans can be a part of Lucasfilm's historical archive by submitting stories of "Star Wars" movie moments and nostalgia via video testimonials. Attendees can record their testimonials on-site at the Lucasfilm pavilion or at

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Yesterday, HBO debuted the new trailer for The Pacific, a massive, 10-part miniseries exec-produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman, the same powerhouse trio behind 2001's Band of Brothers. This one is set in the Pacific theater during WWII and centers around three U.S. Marines played by James Badge Dale (The Departed), Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park), and Jon Seda (Kevin Hill). You can see from the trailer that, much like the six-time Emmy-winning Brothers, The Pacific won't shy away from the devastating violence of war. And, surely, I'm not the only one who was reminded of Saving Private Ryan while watching soldiers disembark onto the bomb- and bullet-ridden shores of the Pacific Ocean.

From Ryan to Brothers to Ken Burns' The War (which Hanks helped narrate), I continue to be intrigued and impressed by Hanks' and Spielberg's passion for exploring WWII. It makes perfect sense that after Brothers they'd turn their attention to the battlegrounds of the Pacific.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Retro titles like LucasArts' back catalogue of classic adventure releases are being given a new lease of life thanks to the wonders of digital distribution. That's the word from the game maker, which credits online distribution for increased interest in the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

Chatting with blog Destructoid, producer Craig Derrick has said there was immense fan interest in getting Monkey Island recreated, while there was also internal enthusiasm for the project at LucasArts.

"We're experiencing a remarkable increase in retro gaming and nostalgia thanks in part to the digital distribution of games on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, Wiiware, Steam and iTunes. We're seeing that gamers are looking for new experiences, even if they're found in classic games," the developer beams.

"The age range of the average gamer has significantly broadened and people are open now more than ever to different types of game genres."

Monkey Island will return to the PC and Xbox 360 on July 7th.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Noah Wyle is the human race's last hope in a new Steven Spielberg pilot being produced for TNT.

The untitled project features Wyle as the leader of a small group of soldiers and civilians who've survived an alien invasion and occupation. As the extraterrestrials round up the last of humankind, Wyle and Co. must fight to stay alive.

"I am overjoyed to continue my association with TNT on this new project. We have a longstanding relationship spanning four projects, and I couldn't feel more at home," Wyle said in a statement yesterday. "I also have the pleasure of reteaming with Steven Spielberg, who was behind the creation of 'ER,' my home for the last 15 years."

Spielberg echoed Wyle's sentiments.

"It is a privilege to be starting a second series with Noah," he said. "The first didn't do too bad."

Executive producers Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank will join Spielberg behind the camera. Robert Rodat, who earned an Oscar nod for his screenplay for "Saving Private Ryan," will write the script based on an idea he conceived with Spielberg.

"Noah Wyle is an incredibly talented actor and also an extraordinary person, so we're proud to work with him again," said Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming for TNT. "It's also great to collaborate with an amazing production team headed by Steven Spielberg on what is certain to be a compelling and provocative series."

Wyle's previous projects with the cable network include the three "Librarian" made-for-TV movies as well as the "Pirates of Silicon Valley."

On "ER," Wyle played Dr. John Carter, a portrayal that earned the actor five Emmy and three Golden Globe nominations

Thursday, 2 July 2009


Our friend Justin Granado (cool name) sent us this info about famed music composer John Williams and his involvement in an upcoming Star Wars project.

Justin directs us to John Williams' page on that contains a very interesting entry listed under the Filmography section:

"Untitled Star Wars TV Series" (2009) TV series (in production) (composer: theme "Star Wars")

What could this be in reference to? Could John be lending some of his legendary Star Wars scores to some episodes in the upcoming Clone Wars Season 2 series in conjunction with Kevin Kiner? Or is it in reference to production being started on the live-action TV series? Or how about something entirely different?

One thing we do know for certain - we'll be sure to let you know of any new updates on this little nugget as soon as they become available.

Thanks to Justin for the heads-up and keen eye!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Binary Bonsai has stumbled upon a rare find in whatever subbasement where such things are hidden for close to 40 years.

It seems as though shortly after the release of THX-1138 and it's succesive failure at the box-office despite its status as an underrated masterpiece, George Lucas was asked to do a television interview with film critic Gene Youngblood.

A few mentions to it had been made in some books, but it was assumed lost to the sands of time.

But if you go over to the Binary Bonsai, they have it for download.

It's a fascinating look into the mind of a filmmaker who would go on to become one of the most succesfull and well-respected in the modern era. For anyone interested in the beard behind the saga, this is an interesting look at Lucas' film philosophy and opinion of Hollywood at the time. It also sheds light into his approach to filmmaking and the beginnings and endings of American Zoetrope in a way I found quite informative.

At the end of the day, this is a tremendously important historical document. Now if only I could interview him for a few days and come up with a Hitchcock/Truffaut style interview book...

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