Saturday, November 28, 2009

Us Now, Documentary on human collaboration

Continuing from my last post, this entry is the on the same subject which is about the importance of sharing or collaborating with others. Whats more interesting about this short film is that it shows how we could use the technology which exists today to improve fundamentally everything we do in our life from socializing to government policies.


Its funny that I felt the first person (Clay Shirky) who appears on the video was Tom Hanks but I just found that he also feels same way about himself. Anyway I found his views very interesting especially the following, "As time goes on, we'll see people increasingly comfortable participating in situations where the social value is really about other people caring enough rather than someone being paid to provide that value."

Here is TED talk by Shirky himself on importance of co-operative model and btw, I am excited to attend TEDx singapore meet later today!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Secret of success is helping others, says Lucas

For sometime I really wanted to post this entry into my blog to just tag this up in my web space so that I won’t forget these really great words of wisdom from this interview. I believe this interview was done on sidelines with 33rd AFI Life Achievement Award which was presented to Lucas.

If you have watched the above video you might have noticed him saying, “getting the most praised for least body of work”. I was very moved by those words especially since I was also who was one among the people who looked only at his success but not at what methods or practice he would have had adopted to achieve it.

This interview had some really good insights into how he achieved his success and following are few quotes which I found really inspirational.

Lucas says, “No matter how easy it looks on the outside, it's a very, very difficult struggle. You don't see the struggle part of a person's life. You only see the success they have. But I haven't met anybody here at the Academy or anywhere else that hasn't been able to describe years and years and years of very, very difficult struggle through the whole process of achieving anything whatsoever.“

Other than passion, practice, perseverance, one interesting point he pointed to be successful really caught my attention and that is helping others. According to him it also matters how much one dug his own life to understand things around him and how we all fit into the bigger picture. He says, "bigger picture" understanding -- of how we fit into the world, and how we fit into the universe. Not necessarily thinking of ourselves, but thinking of others.”

He explains It is ironic that most of the people doesn’t understand this phenomena which exists all around us and we fail to look at the large picture by being a self absorbed creature which would end like a cancer cell. According to him, “If you put that notion on a larger scale, you have to understand that it's a very cooperative world, not only with the environment, with but our fellow human beings. If you do not cooperate, if you do not work together to keep the entire organism going, the whole thing dies, and everybody dies with it. That's a law of nature, and it's existed forever.”

Lucas reminds us that if we look at human history all the inventions and advancements we ever made is because we had worked together. As we know helping others is the basis of any society and it is obvious that as a group we are stronger than an individual but once we become possessive or selfish it is very difficult to win or succeed in anything we start out to.

According to Lucas, ‘My success was based on how much I could push everybody up. And eventually their success was the same way. And in the process they pushed me up, and I pushed them up, and we kept doing that, and we still do that.” He states that even though his friends were his competitors that doesn’t stopped him from enjoying their success as his own.

I think Lucas’s career is a best example for what he is trying to describe above because a good amount of his success was truly based on his associations he had with Coppola and Spielberg from the very beginning of his career.

It is also important to note that Lucas not only revolutionised film industry by bringing the digital realm into reality but also he along with Coppola proved that how films could be made outside the gated Hollywood studio system which existed during their era.

Following are two videos in which he talks about his two early films and how Coppola played a crucial role in both of them.

Finally as a personal note, I think lot of people today doesn't understand the importance of cooperating or helping others. It is very much apparent in the Internet forums where people would just gaze at the threads while never take any effort to contribute back. It is even more ironic when people think that by contributing to forums they are not gaining any knowledge. As for me whole reason I write blog or I am active in the forums is not just to contribute but to learn and expand my knowledge. I think the best possible way to learn is when you share.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

TED talks on CG Face

Here is a talk on the technology by Paul Debevec. Do check out his website for more information on facial capture technologies.


Next is talk by Ed Ulbrich on the technology put into practice in the film Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Please do note that it took 155 people and 2 years to pull this amazing VFX and it was for a invisible VFX which most of the audience wouldn't even have noticed!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Poor film scripts which killed purpose of great VFX

I was searching a bit deeper into one of my favorite website (wired.com) checking for some random articles and I found these two articles very interesting, namely, 10 Sci-Fi Movies We’d Like to Throw Into a Black Hole and 10 Geeky Movies That Should Have Been Great, but Weren’t.

One of the thing which you can find similar in all these movies mentioned in above articles are they all had some good amount of visual effects being Sci-fi or geeky movies but still they fail to impress majority of the audience. This issue reminded me of a in-class presentation (presentation given during late 2006) I did during my degree class back in college.

I think this lists mentioned in the above two articles could be even longer including some of the recent movies but this issue is more serious than critics bashing VFX or VFX artists bashing poor scripts. After my research in college I had came to point of realization that this whole phenomena is effect of various trends and other factors which affected this dynamic industry and this is something which will continue to evolve.

As a VFX artist I love to bash at some of these high budget VFX movies which killed purpose of those great VFX shots and most importantly hard work of people behind it. So here goes my list of 5 bad movies which killed VFX (oh we all love to doing this, lol)

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)

1.) Star Wars prequels
Seriously after watching these prequels it even downed my appreciation for the original trilogy. Tough I enjoyed those best of the best ILM eye candies after a while it was apparent that I was watching these movies just to enjoy the VFX shots not the movie as a whole.

2.) The Matrix sequels
The very first Matrix is my favorite movie both visual effects and story wise but both movies came after were fail to impress me like the way first one did. It would be better to quote from Weird's article for this one;

The Matrix is one of the best science fiction films ever made, period. The first 40 minutes of the original leaves you scratching your head, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. During the rest of the film, the pacing, the action and the story are beautiful in their execution. The film ends with enough questions to keep the audience talking, speculating and watching again for new clues.
What we didn’t need, however, were answers. The answers are a letdown. They were full of quasi-mysticism about the nature of man and machine
The sequels also feel bloated by the special effects in a way the first film didn’t. At various points, the story just stops so we can see our protagonists fight the bad guys in various unbelievable ways. What began as a compelling story moves steadfastly into mind-numbing, summer-blockbuster territory.
3.) Daredevil
Though there mixed reactions to this movie, for me this movie was one of the first superhero movie which left me with some emptiness and this one represents trend of other superhero movies which followed the same suite like Electra, Fantastic four, Spiderman 3, Ghost Rider and most recently X- Men Origins.

4.) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Great cast, good visual effects but poor script, I think that was this movie was all about. It is interesting to note that there aren't much good Steampunk films made in Hollwywood, another one I could think of is Wild Wild West and I think both these movies didn't really exploit the depth of genre instead they just became like any other high budget Hollywood flicks.

5.) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
This is again one of those sequels which again fail to capture our expectations. Though Schwarzenegger was present in this movie it didn't really help the poor story in any manner. This one was suppose to be direct continuation of last movie but I felt through out the movie it was drifting away from the first two movies.

I think they continued this trend for some reason even in the latest movie T4. I felt the latest movie is not as bad as T3, maybe it because the only thing I could associate T4 with first two movies is the soundtrack and everything else seems like some other new movie. Oh yeah, I liked dramatic out of world and sudden appearance of CG Schwarzenegger at the climax.

There are other movies which I didn't mention but then this list won't have an ending. I only mentioned the movies which I personally had lot of expectations and in which I enjoyed the VFX but not the movie as a whole. So I would like to stress this whole post is more of a personal reflection than a general opinion.

I think the main reasons behind these failures are audience's high expectations and their increasing maturity to high end VFX or action/dramatic sequences. I am not blaming the audience and safe guarding the filmmakers but if you look at the industry as a whole , the audience plays a major role in creating and destroying the trends in industry.

Like I stated before my expectations were very low for the fourth installment of Terminator but due to failure of T3 I felt T4 was a much better film . And on audience's maturity, this is where it gets really interesting because according to an eassy at filmcritic.com,
One of the first films that shocked audiences was The Great Train Robbery, where audiences reportedly ran from the cinema in terror when the criminal pointed his prop gun straight at the camera. A film, which was described as ‘general slaughter’ by a New York Times film critic, was James Cagney’s 1931 Public Enemy. This included eight deaths, all of them off camera, used suggestive sound effects and actors reactions to notify the audience that a death occurred. If you compare this with Bruce Willis’s 1990 Die Hard 2 in which 264 people died, all on camera and all of them very brutally and bloody, this proves that audiences are becoming difficult to shock.
I think only way out of this phenomena is when audience really appreciate visual effects for its story telling qualities instead of it's awe-inspiring effects but then I really don't know when that is going to happen because currently it is very apparent that VFX is used as a marketing tool and not to mention the high end FX race between the top VFX studios.

The industry is always going through constant evolution mainly due to technological development and then due to social and cultural changes. I remember back in my college presentation I quoted Lucas on this issue as follows,
"The market forces that exist today make it unrealistic to spend $200 million on a movie. Those movies can't make their money back anymore."

"It's no accident that the 'small movies' outclassed the spectaculars in this year's Academy Awards. Is that good for the business? No—it's bad for the business. But moviemaking isn't about business. It's about art! In the future, almost everything that gets shown in theaters will be indie movies."

If you compare his statement with latest movie District 9, which had an overall budget of 30 million and which boasted top notch visual effects. It is apparent that there is strong trend for low budget film making and I think in future the budgets will continue to shrink. It doesn't mean the death of high end visual effects but I think it will be the birth of very niche class of films which will use visual effects more for its story telling qualities that can be comparable to films in 70s & 80s.

I think I don't have to stress again how important story is in the process of film making and to conclude this post I would like to quote VFX producer Rick Baumgartner from his blog
On one level, visual effects deals with the problems of human perception – finding ways to take advantage of the strengths and weakness in the human visual system. Cues such as scale, perspective, depth, color, pattern, texture, intensity, shadow, parallax each of us instinctively use to place ourselves in the world. Visual effects take advantage of these cues.
On still another level are the technical problems related to the tools and materials used to develop a visual effects solution. But no matter what the eventual technical hurdles, visual effects starts with the written representation of the story -- the script -- and very quickly moves into iterative visual representations of the story.
The bottom line always is the story: depictions of real or imagined events with characters, objects and environments illustrating some aspect of the human experience

Monday, August 24, 2009

Traditional Mattepaiting and Albert Whitlock

Today I was digging a bit deeper into history of mattepainting, one of my favorite craft associated with visual effects. Though we all seen the craft of mattepainting in very early specials effect films such as the A Trip to the Moon, the digital craft was really perfected by few elite group of men in Hollywood mainly during mid and late 90s. As from my preliminary search on web I think there ain't much information on Internet on this but what I found is worth posting here.

First of all here is an almost comprehensive list of those artists by a VFX artist called Domingo Lizcano. He had done a great job collecting images and matte paintings of almost all the artists used who used traditional methods of mattepainting. It is quite difficult to find articles and resources on these old techniques, maybe there isn't much information on traditional methods of mattepaiting because of the closed nature of Hollywood during that era.

Anyway a good insight into these techniques can be found this book called 'The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting'. It is important note that one of the coauthor of this book, Craig Baron worked in ILM during early days for Return of the Jedi(1983) and others. After ILM he founded Matte World Digital, one of my favorite VFX studio. I particularly admire their work because of its invisible nature. It is very evident in their work for Benjamin Button which made Baron won a Oscar for VFX.

As I said I am big fan of invisible visual effects and this is one the reason why I admire the work of all these old great artists. One of the legend of this invisible craft was Albert Whitlock, he is considered as one of the most skilled matte artist of all time. He was born in London in 1915 and started his career by working in film warehouse, then miniature painters to helping carpenters, creating titles and then signs for several of Hitchcock's early classics and later he had worked for Disney and finally Universal as matte artist.

(Excerpt from Albert Whitlock: A Master of Illusion)

Following are few of my favorite Albert Withlock matte paintings.

Mattepainting with live action (History of the World: Part I (1981))

Original live action plate and matte of above shot

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Mattepainting with live action (The Birds (1962))
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A Photo realistic Matte Painting from film Earthquake
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Mattepainting with live action (History of the World: Part I (1981))
There quite lot of good shots and I can't include them all here but here is a montage put together by Craig Baron for Visual Effects Society's tribute to Albert Whitlock talk session.

Floyd W. Martin on his article on Whitlock states that most of the films he worked were not Sc-Fi or visual effects oriented films but normal films in which mattepaitings were subtly used to tell the story. Martin continues, Whitlock was often depicted the natural world through his paintings and extensively used the technique of perspective & depth which Italian Renaissance mastered perfected. Though Whitlock associated himself with Fresh impressionist art movement which studied the affects of light on objects than objects itself.

Following is an excerpt from Whitlock's interview by Super-8 Filmaker magazine on above subject of the effect he looks for in a mattepainting.
Well, you can't live on matte shot for a lifetime. Eventually you realize that it's quantity that film producers are interested in, so you start developing techniques whereby you can turn out quantities. So by necessity, you find yourself in a situation where you're looking for minimum of effort. As my mentor in England would say, the right kind of scribble is better than wrong kind of painting. After a little bit of accidental painting you realize that you're painting something close impressionism.

Like impressionistic painting, my paintings are not concerned with the object, but the effect of light on the object.
He further continues in the interview stating, whenever he looks for a reference he don't look for the exact reference he could find in terms of the location or the subject but in fact he look for a similar reference which has the same lighting condition which he want replicate in his shot. According to him, "In there you have phenomena, which is much more important for creating a realistic effect. the light, the time of day and effects in that painting are much more important than the individual buidlings which nobody would take account of. "

This above statement of Whitlock had an instant strike on my mind because I never looked at my work in this perspective though I pay lot of attention to lighting on my work but I never wondered that those buildings or structures in my painting will never exits if there is no light. I think a normal viewer would often think if there is no light then it is a night shot but only very few would think even in a night shot there are lights.

I think we all have to closely look at and study the methodologies which masters like Whitlock used to perfect their paintings. It is especially very important in this digital era where these concepts are very much overlooked because of the simplicity of the tools we use.

To end this write up I am quoting couple of authors from articles on Whitlock, firstly from Matrin whose article I mentioned before;
'Though his work may go unrecognized because it is so convincing, Whitlock's artistry with special effects is important in understanding three concepts: the collaboration necessary in movie-making, the need to use effects for budgetary reasons, and the fact that film is a two-dimensional illusionistic medium.'
And finally to quote Ray Zone on his article called Matte Painting Monet in American Cinematographer Magazine July 2000 issue
He was truly unique a master painter with the precise mind of a photographer. He would paint in f-stops and light his images according to the key lights and fill of the original photography the kinds of computations that are done today by highly complex computer software. Whitlock made such calculations in his head, and he knew what would work on the screen. "Hopefully, the camera does lie," Whitlock said, "because it’s looking at a painting that we are trying to convince people is the real thing."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some bitter truth about the industry

Yesterday I saw this old thread in mattepaiting.org about interview of Hollywood illustrator/storyboard artist, Sylvain Despretz and interestingly Despretz himself had commented there few days ago. Go through the thread if you have time since it has some valuable information and different views, even Dylan Cole has his say (guess he was active in the forum almost 5 years back).

The more I think about these issues I feel it is notl ironic when someone says you need have a lot of luck or be at the right place at right time. Actually it matters a lot and God knows what holds for budding artists but anyway all one could do is just work your ass off and be persistent no matter what.

Here are few are quotes which I felt very interesting and insightful from his interview hosted at cgchannel.com
"You could say that most people are essentially interested in the Prestige of the movies that I worked on, more so than any objective notions of personal artistry, or drawings, but I guess you can’t ask too much of people."

"I have learned that Professionalism is often antithetical to Enthusiasm, but that when given a choice, it is also more reliable.

'I am a sort of Artistic Rent-A-Friend; “rent” being the operative word.'

"In music, after enjoying a Century of rich and heartfelt compositions in Contemporary Classical, Jazz, Big Band, Blues, Rock & Roll, all disciplines requiring a decent amount of Skillfulness, we are asked to accept Star-Puppets barking to walls of prerecorded sounds…They even have a new name for “ripping-off without crediting”: it’s now called “Sampling”.

There is an another article by Despretz called 'YOU WANT TO BE A HOLLYWOOD ARTIST?'. Even thought it is more based on illustrator/storyboard artist scenario, it still holds lot of things similar for other artistic trades in film industry. I really liked this article and here are few excerpts from it.
Is there a standard path to a career in film arts?
There is no path to a career in the film arts, or any kind of art, for that matter; this should be the first thing art schools ought to tell their students: "We haven't a clue; no one does". The problem for a student or young professional is three-fold:

a) Acquiring experience, to become competitive.
b) Making money just to live, in a way that remains at least on target.
c) Breaking into the "gated community" of show business.

I'm being offered a job today, but I want to hold out for a better one that promises to begin soon; what should I do?
This is a Jedi Mind Trick; the better job may manifest, sooner or later, but most likely, it won't. Common wisdom says that you might consider taking whatever job is in front of you - even if only for the time being. Look out for you; no one else does.
And here is my favorite one and believe me or not this happened to me already few times even in my short career span.
Will talking about money reflect negatively on me?
You bet it will!

You are expected to behave like Van Gogh.

The industrial world relies on Artistic low self-esteem for its survival. The hunched-back, Igor-like, image of the drooling Artist-Geek, chained to a drawing table, is a staple of our business. To complete that image, you need do nothing more than be ashamed of your need for money. People will be delighted.

Learn to identify the euphemisms of the trade:

"We want people who are excited about the project": We are looking for suckers.
"We would like to send you the script before we discuss money": We are looking for suckers.
"We want team players": We are looking for suckers.
"You are so talented": Are you a sucker?
"He's a trooper": He's a sucker.
"We getting a crop of young artists": We are looking for suckers.
"He's High Maintenance": He's figured us out.

Only then, can you identify the only sign that you are dealing with a professional outfit:
"Are you available; what is your rate?": We mean business!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ancestor of Vue or Fractcal Noise?

Vol Libre from Loren Carpenter on Vimeo.



I made this film in 1979-80 to accompany a SIGGRAPH paper on how to synthesize fractal geometry with a computer. It is the world's first fractal movie. It utilizes 8-10 different fractal generating algorithms. I used an antialiased version of this software to create the fractal planet in the Genesis Sequence of Star Trek 2, the Wrath of Khan. These frames were computed on a VAX-11/780 at about 20-40 minutes each.

Loren Carpenter
I think this is one of the most commonly used algorithm in 2D and 3D computer graphcis today. To know more about its humble beginings read Act II of Micheal Rubin's book driodMaker.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cognitive use of color in films.

Today I read a very good article on cognitive use of color treatment in films by Isaac Botkin, the author of book called Outside Hollywood.

According to Botkin, 'Color can be used to communicate information to audiences in all kinds of ways. For example, the storyline in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic takes place in three different places, each of which is a very different color. Viewers can instantly tell where characters are and what part of the story they are watching. This is a very obvious way to communicate basic information.' He also states that colors can be used to create an emotional state such as safety and danger by altering the mood from warm to cool colors.

It is interesting to note how different directors use colors differently, to explain this Botkin closely examine Ridely Scott's Black Hawk Down and how it bended the normal norms of color treatment. To read more on that check out Botkin's article Color Theory for Cinematographers.

Finally Butkin had posted color chart of the movie Black Hawk Down created by
Brendan Dawes.
(For more color charts check out Dawes's website)

Butkin states that if we look at right color gradient strip we can clearly see the film’s acts and turning points highlighted clearly. When I first vaguely read this article it reminded me of visual cognitive lessons I took back in my college. So Just to refresh my memory on this subject I read through some of my old notes and wrote my insights here as follows:

It is important to note that color is only one of the visual component the director has in his arsenal to alter the visual intensity of any shot. The visual intensity of the shot depends upon the intensity of the story structure and story structure is break down into basically four sections namely Exposition, Conflict, Climax and Resolution. Here is the graph which shows the story intensity at various levels of a story.
Here we can see the graph rising at the Exposition (EX) leading to Conflict (CO) then reaching its peak at the Climax (CX) and finally falls down to the Resolution (R). According to Bruce Block, the author of book called 'The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media' , all good stories follows this uphill structure.

I think this structure is very apparent if we look at the color gradient strip of Black Hawk Down, in which according to Butkin, cool colors suggest safety, warm colors suggest danger and finally green color suggest most intense part.

So once we understand the story structure we could use the visual components to get desired intensity. The author Block explains this in his book
using Principle of Contrast and Affinity which basically states, the greater the contrast in a visual component, the more the visual intensity. The greater the affinity in a visual component, the more the visual intensity decreases.

The other main visual components that can be used to create visual intensity are Line, shape, tone, color, movement and rhythm. Its beyond the scope of this post to go into detail of each of them but here are couple of screenshots from Block's book which explains these components graphically.
As a compositor/VFX artist, I strongly believe it is important to understand the story structure in order to alter the intensity of the shot according to director's vision. Since all of these visual components plays a important role in achieving a good composition which helps to sell the particular shot to audience.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rotoscoping Basics by Scott Squires

This is pretty old podcast but every time I watch it I learn something new so I thought I post here so that I could come back watch it again in future.



Don't forget to check out Scott Squires's great blog.
http://effectscorner.blogspot.com/

Sunday, July 19, 2009

DROIDMAKER

I'm not really sure how this will go over, but i've decided to make my book DROIDMAKER downloadable in its entirety, effective today. It's a long book (518 pages), and I still recommend going to Amazon and getting yourself a copy (it's how you can pay for this "shareware"), but below are links to get PDFs of the book: I've divided it into the three "acts" that makes up the saga.

Thank you, and enjoy!
I just started reading this book and it gave me a really good insight into early career of George Lucas and Francis Coppola. It is a must read for any Lucas fan and It has a really good account of hardships he has gone through before getting where he is now.

I remember once my professor told me back in my college days, its easy to write about greatness of a person like Lucas but its hard to write about what methods or approaches he had used to achieve that greatness.

Download the book from Rubin's blog
http://droidmaker.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 13, 2009

'A pixel is not a little square' says Alvy Ray Smith

Its ironic that before reading this memo by Alvy Ray Smith I never wondered what really makes up a pixel. I always believed the computer stores color information as little squares but actually its only a mathematical representation of color information. Like Smith points out its mainly misconception due to the way computer application shows pixels when we magnify an image.

According to Smith,
'A pixel is a point sample. It exists only at a point. For a color picture, a pixel might actually contain three samples, one for each primary color contributing to the picture at the sampling point. We can still think of this as a point sample of a color. But we cannot think of a pixel as a square—or anything other than a point.'
He also states that an image is a continuous straight parallel array of point samples and by using an appropriate image reconstruction filter we could create full colorful image what out of it. It is interesting to note that for example, while using any of these filters they would represent array of point in a form of rectangle which can be almost similar to a square. I believe this is the reason why when we zoom on image we see square pixels which represents the main color value of points sample present in that particular area. Smith's explanation on the same as follows
when you zoom in is this: Each point sample is being replicated MxM times, for magnification factor M. When you look at an image consisting of MxM pixels all of the same color, guess what you see: A square of that solid color! It is not an accurate picture of the pixel below. It is a bunch of pixels approximating what you would see if a reconstruction with a box filter were performed. To do a true zoom requires a resampling operation and is much slower than a video card can comfortably support in realtime today.
I think today it is not really important to understand this very basic issue since it is something our today's image manipulation applications manage quite efficiently underneath the user interface. But at the same time understanding this basic issues may help us to understand other important techniques such as 4:2:2 color sampling which I discussed in my last post. The Bayer filter used in 4:2:2 digital image sensors of digital cameras are similar to an image reconstructions filters such as bilinear interpolation, bicubic interpolation and spline interpolation. They all build full color image from incomplete color samples (sample points) and this is process or algorithm is called demosaicing.

The below two images from wikipedia which explains this visually

The four red dots show the data points and the green dot is the point at which we want to interpolate.
Example of bilinear interpolation on the unit square with the z-values 0, 1, 1 and 0.5 as indicated. Interpolated values in between represented by colour.

Who is Alvy Ray Smith?
He was one of the cofounder of Pixar and also Executive Vice President from 1986-1991 and founder of Altamira which was acquired by Microsoft. He was co-awarded the Computer Graphics Achievement Award by SIGGRAPH in 1990 for "seminal contributions to computer paint systems," including the first full-color paint program, the first soft-edged fill program, and the HSV (aka HSB) color space model.

Most interestingly he gave Pixar its name which meant "to make pictures", an invented Spanish verb meaning. Also while at Pixar he played an important role in hiring John Lasseter who is now the CCO at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Finally check out the Pixar founding documents hosted in his website.

Cheers,
Rahul


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Truth about resolution and pixels

Last week our team had a presentation on RED workflow from good people at Icerberg Design here in Singapore. The key issues we discussed at the end were 4:2:2 color sampling and advantage of 10 bit log space of RED workflow. While advantage of 10 bit log space is almost similar to a film workflow but the compromise we would make would be on the quality of the image.

Is RED 4K really 4K? There is a really good interview of John Galt, Panavision Senior Vice President, Advanced Digital Imaging at creativecow.net and here from few good quotes from the interview.

Any of the high-end high definition video cameras, they had 3 sensors: one 1 red, a green and a blue photosite to create 1 RGB pixel.

But what we have seen particularly with these Bayer pattern cameras is that they are basically sub-sampled chroma cameras. In other words they have half the number of color pixels as they do luminance And the luminance is what they call green typically. So what happens is you have two green photo sites for every red and blue.

So how do get RGB out of that? What do you have to do is, you have to interpolate the red and the blues to match the greens. So you are basically creating, interpolating, what wasn't there, you're imagining what it is, what its going to be. Thats essentially what it is. You can do this extremely well, particularly if the green response is very broad.

Well 4K in the world of the professionals who do this, and you say “4K,” it means you have 4096 red, 4096 green and 4096 blue photo sites.

I dug a bit deep into this subject and though I felt it was too technical but I got some good insight on this subject.

To really understand this issue first we must take a look at what really defines quality of the image. A common misconception is that resolutions increases the sharpness of the image but in reality the fine details are mostly irrelevant to human eye,
though human eye is capable of reading extremely fine details. This is also true at greater distance and what really defines the sharpness of the image are the contour defining features at a higher contrast. It is important to note that above statement doesn't mean a low resolution image with high contrast will give better viewing experience since it could lead to aliasing issues.

Since resolution and sharpness are completely separate terms, we establish relationship between them using MTF
(Modulation Transfer Function). So each time when generation loss happens during transfer of medium we define it using MTF.

There is a lot more to read and understand on this subject. A good start on that would be the main source of information of what I have written here, an article called 4K systems by Dr. Hans Keining, R&D Depth ARRI .

To conclude, counting pixels wouldn't be the best way to judge quality of an image and the quality of an image depends upon lot of attributes. The MTF just doesn't start at post production, for example there are modulation happening within the camera during the capturing process. So it is really important to take a closer study at these issues separately.

Coming back to the RED discussion, I believe RED's subsampled 4K image would be slightly advantageous even in HD or SD (based on a broadcast scenario) production since MTF would be comparatively lesser compare to a normal 4:2:2 color sampled HD camera.

Cheers,
Rahul

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A legend departed

I don't have much to say but I am happy that I have a very good memory of watching his hit music videos with everyone at home during my childhood. That was before his career downfall and I am glad that I was able to feel that excitement with everyone in my family. Whether he is a good person or not, that doesn't matter anymore but what matters is we all know that we are not going to see any other person like him for at least 100 years.

A alternative view on Global Warming

The Great Global Warming Swindle


I was doing some research on this topic recently for my work and I bumped on few articles stating global warming as a propaganda by mega corporations and all those control freak secret societies for world domination. Whether this could be truth or not I still believe we must keep a control over our carbon levels and the way we utilize our natural resources.

Here are few excerpts from a article which supports the same argument.


Howard C. Hayden, emeritus professor of physics from the University of Connecticut, told a Pueblo West audience that he was prompted to speak out after a visit to New York where he learned that scaremongering billboards about the long-term effects of global warming were being purchased at a cost of $700,000 a month.

"Someone is willing to spend a huge amount of money to scare us about global warming," Hayden said. "Big money is behind the global-warming propaganda."


Hayden pointed out that global warming is taking place throughout the solar system, underscoring the fact that natural causes and not human beings are driving climate change, which has occurred throughout history.

"Yes, the polar ice caps are shrinking . . . on Mars," he said, "On Mars, the ice caps are melting and small hills are disappearing," adding that warming trends were also being observed on Jupiter, Saturn and Triton.

Citing the fact that human activity is responsible for just 3 per cent of carbon-dioxide emissions on earth, Hayden said that carbon levels in the atmosphere have been rising and falling for 400,000 years.

"We are at the lowest levels in the last 300,000 years," he said. "During the Jurassic period, we had very high levels of carbon dioxide."

"About 97 percent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from natural sources, not humans," Hayden concluded, adding that global warming is being pushed not by grass roots advocacy groups, but by giant corporations who stand to gain from selling concepts such as carbon tracking and carbon trading.


Source: Professor: Big Money Behind Global Warming Propaganda, Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet Tuesday, March 11, 2008, link

Anyway the counterpart of this same theory suggest that all these scientists belong to neo cons and they protecting mega corporations such as exxon. This particular website draws relation between those scientists and exxon company.

But its get more exciting when I think why the same neo cons who are the ones behind one world government propaganda would play at both sides. Daniel Taylor states in his article that neo cons are using global warming propaganda as one of their tool for building a world government and here are few interesting quotes form the article.

"In a report titled "The First Global Revolution" (1991) published by the Club of Rome, a globalist think tank, we find the following statement: "In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill.... All these dangers are caused by human intervention... The real enemy, then, is humanity itself."

"Richard Haass, the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations, stated in his article "State sovereignty must be altered in globalized era," that a system of world government must be created and sovereignty eliminated in order to fight global warming, as well as terrorism. "Moreover, states must be prepared to cede some sovereignty to world bodies if the international system is to function," says Haass. "Globalization thus implies that sovereignty is not only becoming weaker in reality, but that it needs to become weaker. States would be wise to weaken sovereignty in order to protect themselves..."

Source: Global warming hysteria serves as excuse for world government,Daniel Taylor,March 14, 2007, link

So who knows they are enjoying while playing at both sides. Just like they like to sell the weapons to both sides during a war.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fusion 6 Advanced Materials



This video shows how to build a car paint shader inside Fusion 6. This particular feature looks very promising and it really shows how much compositing applications are getting closer to the 3D applications these days.

What I really found interesting is interactivity of this feature and its looks a lot like the procedural shaders in Maya Hypershade. Since this is happening inside a compositing application like Fusion I felt its even more interactive than Hypershade in Maya. There is also this tutorial on building Anisotropic Highlights which will help us to understand anistropic attributes in detail.

I believe most of the people have reached a point where they don't know about the basics of shaders since everything is readymade for them even in basic 3D apps so its very insightful to create these shaders or their properties from scratch inside a compositing app.

There are other bunch of new features in Fusion 6 and especially on 3d side of things. Visit eyeon website for more details and also check out few notes on new features like 3D Fog(not just affects the depth but also the color), Transmittance, Composite Materials and many more at http://www.vfxpedia.com/

Monday, June 15, 2009

Changing gear


I got myself this sexy thing yesterday and it's feels great :)

And this is what under her hood:

At her heart she got a AMD Turion X2 RM74 64 bit, 2.2 GHz. Her face is so shiny and beautiful because of her ATI Radeon HD 4570 512 MB dedicated memory. To remember all the random stuffs I throw at her she got a 320 GB HDD. Finally to handle all of me at once she got 4 GB of RAM ;)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Piracy?



A few days back I noticed the soundtrack for my showreel which was uploaded in Youtube had been removed because of copyright infringement. And I felt it was time for me move on to some other video sharing webiste.

Here is good take on this topic..
In 2002, the RIAA(Recording Industry Association of America) reported that CD sales had fallen by 8.9 percent, from 882 million to 803 million units; revenues fell 6.7 percent.[12] This confirms a trend over the past few years. The RIAA blames Internet piracy for the trend, though there are many other causes that could account for this drop. SoundScan, for example, reports a more than 20 percent drop in the number of CDs released since 1999. That no doubt accounts for some of the decrease in sales. Rising prices could account for at least some of the loss. "From 1999 to 2001, the average price of a CD rose 7.2 percent, from $13.04 to $14.19."[13] Competition from other forms of media could also account for some of the decline. As Jane Black of BusinessWeek notes, "The soundtrack to the film High Fidelity has a list price of $18.98. You could get the whole movie [on DVD] for $19.99."[14]

But let's assume the RIAA is right, and all of the decline in CD sales is because of Internet sharing. Here's the rub: In the same period that the RIAA estimates that 803 million CDs were sold, the RIAA estimates that 2.1 billion CDs were downloaded for free. Thus, although 2.6 times the total number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, sales revenue fell by just 6.7 percent.

There are too many different things happening at the same time to explain these numbers definitively, but one conclusion is unavoidable: The recording industry constantly asks, "What's the difference between downloading a song and stealing a CD?"--but their own numbers reveal the difference. If I steal a CD, then there is one less CD to sell. Every taking is a lost sale. But on the basis of the numbers the RIAA provides, it is absolutely clear that the same is not true of downloads. If every download were a lost sale--if every use of Kazaa "rob[bed] the author of [his] profit"--then the industry would have suffered a 100 percent drop in sales last year, not a 7 percent drop. If 2.6 times the number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, and yet sales revenue dropped by just 6.7 percent, then there is a huge difference between "downloading a song and stealing a CD."


It all started with Napster and its amazing where file sharing is stands after 10 years.

“Napster changed the idea of music as something you paid for to being something that was free,” Mr. Usher said in an interview. “It took a whole industry that had its infrastructure built up on making, delivering and selling a CD – a piece of plastic – and it took away the piece of plastic. And without that piece of plastic, you can’t support that pyramid of infrastructure that you no longer need when you deliver for free.”
David Usher, lead singer of the Vancouver rock band Moist

For established musicians who came up through a system built on record sales, radio play and landing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine as measures of success, Napster and file sharing shook the foundations of their world. But for emerging artists, and for a generation of kids who grew up plugged into video games, computers and the Internet, digital media leveled the playing field

Its very clear that due to file sharing nobody is losing out on anything expect few people like major recording companies or film production companies can't hit their more than cent percent profit targets.

Anyways I just embrace the free culture because that is the only way all of us can evolve into better human beings who will be able to do what they love and do it freely. Finally this is what Shawn Fanning who is the creator of Naspter gotto say...

“I’ve never really been concerned with [my own legacy] especially how it relates to the press,” he said. “I mean, I was writing software because I loved writing software. Writing software is a pretty anti-social thing as well. So [a legacy] is not something I tend to think about, I just tend to focus on doing stuff that I enjoy, that I feel good about and I just love creating things, and wherever that takes me, it takes me.”
Its interesting to note that he single handily wrote the whole software code when he was only 18 for sharing music with his peers in college.

Source 1 : Free Culture: Version 2004-02-10
Source 2 : Thank You Napster, Matt Hartley Technology Reporter, Globe and Mail Update,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A few quotes from the movie 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

“You can be mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You can swear and curse the fates. But when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”

“We’re all going the same way. We’re just taking different roads to get there, that’s all.
You’re on your own road.”


“It’s not about how well you play. It’s how you feel about what you’re playing.”

“We are meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?”

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be.”

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”

“It has no time limit. You can start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same,
there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of And if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”


I really feel those above quotes were best movie dialogues I have heard in recent times.Its inspiring and thoughtful, at the same time its fits within the storyline.

I really feel bad that this movie didn't won the best movie award in the Oscars. :(

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Disneyland with the Death Penalty

Its an article about Singapore by William Gibson, who is called as father of cyberpunk genre. I been living here for almost past three years and I was amazed by authenticity of this article to this very day. Though it was written in 1993 and I feel nothing much has changed in terms of culture and society from outsider's point of view.

Here are few interesting quotes from the article

link to the full artcile (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive//1.04/gibson.html?pg=5&topic=)

"It's like an entire country run by Jeffrey Katzenberg," the producer had said, "under the motto 'Be happy or I'll kill you.'" We were sitting in an office a block from Rodeo Drive, on large black furniture leased with Japanese venture capital.

Now that I'm actually here, the Disneyland metaphor is proving impossible to shake. For that matter, Rodeo Drive comes frequently to mind, though the local equivalent feels more like 30 or 40 Beverly Centers put end to end.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They're good at this stuff. Really good. But now they propose to become something else as well; a coherent city of information, its architecture planned from the ground up. And they expect that whole highways of data will flow into and through their city. Yet they also seem to expect that this won't affect them. And that baffles us, and perhaps it baffles the Singaporeans that it does.

Myself, I'm inclined to think that if they prove to be right, what will really be proven will be something very sad; and not about Singapore, but about our species. They will have proven it possible to flourish through the active repression of free expression. They will have proven that information does not necessarily want to be free.

But perhaps I'm overly pessimistic here. I often am; it goes with the territory. (Though what could be more frightening, out here at the deep end of the 20th century, than a genuinely optimistic science fiction writer?) Perhaps Singapore's destiny will be to become nothing more than a smug, neo-Swiss enclave of order and prosperity, amid a sea of unthinkable...weirdness.

Dear God. What a fate.

Ancient Mysteries

The famous Egyptian Book of the Dead, in a passage containing a confession to the "Lord of Righteousness," reveals a remarkable correlation to the Ten commandments of the Old Testament:


BIBLE: Have no other gods before me I do not tamper with divine balance
BOOK OF THE DEAD: Make no idols I stop not a god when he comes forth

BIBLE: Do not misuse the name of God I do not offend the god who is at the helm
BOOK OF THE DEAD: Keep the Sabbath holy (Egyptians had no Sabbath)

BIBLE: Honor your mother and father
BOOK OF THE DEAD: I do not harm my kinsmen

BIBLE: Do not kill
BOOK OF THE DEAD:I do not kill

BIBLE:Do not commit adultery
BOOK OF THE DEAD:I am not an adulterer

BIBLE: Do not steal
BOOK OF THE DEAD: I do not roh

BIBLE: Do nor lie
BOOK OF THE DEAD: I do not tell lies instead of truth

BIBLE: Do not covet another's property
BOOK OF THE DEAD: I do no wrong or mischief to others

This comparison provided compelling support for those who claim that the biblical Israelites drew heavily from the ancient Egyptian texts. The Egyptians, in turn, gained their knowledge and beliefs from the older cultures of Babylon and Sumer

Source: Rule by secrecy, Jim Marrs, Page 362
So is there any God or all roads leads to summer? You gotta read this book by Jim Marrs to know the rest of the story. It is must read for anyone who is interested to know an alternative version about our history which may hold a lot of truth about mankind and it's origins.

Is communisim and democracy is the same stuff?

It was the Russian Marxist Vladimir Ulianov, known to the world as Lenin, who referred to the plan for taking over nations as outlined in the Communist Manifesto (1848) as "the conquest of democracy." In the Manifesto itself, just before listing the ten measures to be used in gaining control of a nation, reads: "The first step in the revolution is to raise the proletariat (lower class) to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy." With those of limited intelligence and ability in control, it is very vasy for the secret rulers to direct them.

It was Lenin who coined the term "democratic centralism" to denote strict guidance from a small center and broad "participation" of a large number of people in the activities flowing from this guidance. It should also be noted that the nations controlled by the international money interests are called democracies..

Source: THE CONQUEST OF DEMOCRACY
by Erminie King Wright
So its all about few people ruling over a lot of folks at the end of day! Then for what reason we had Cold War and on going wars for the spreading or safe guarding democracy?

Friendship between a guy and girl

After a long break... not sure whether I am going to resurrect this blog this time but I just felt like posting few things which I kept as note in my desktop.

Whether you’d admit to it without water boarding, there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women. It may be innocent flirting, repressed mommy issues, or you’re playing with fire. But whatever it is, it affects how you are as a man and it affects the quality and content of the relationship

Source: Art of Manliness, Q&A section. Ask Wayne.

Its a very interesting thought and one which I completely agree to. Throughout my life I been irritated by guys who behave like girls or even worse to get attention from them. I strongly believe a guy can keep a good friendship with girl while keeping at least some dignity.