Wired – Design FX

Another shallow FX video summarising years of work by hundreds of incredibly talented artist-technicians into two minutes, still making room for cliches like ‘the director wanted to shoot as much for real as possible’ [insert clip of a shot being assembled from thousands of complex elements].

Still, nice to see so much exclusive footage from the trailers.

Jeff Bridges uses a Widelux camera to capture moments behind the scenes on his movies.

“My photography is mainly focused on my work making movies, which I’ve done my whole life. I think I have a perspective that not many people have. And I get to take advantage of all of the strange sources of light on a set.”
New York Times

“The Widelux is a fickle mistress; its viewfinder isn’t accurate, and there’s no manual focus, so it has an arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in all my work — a lack of preciousness that makes things more human and honest, a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment and to let go of the result. Getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.”

(via an entertaining Nerdist Podcast interview with Jon Favreau)

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The photography of Jeff Bridges

‘Since 1984, Jeff Bridges has documented the sets of most of his movies, compiling a large collection of wide images that give an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at movie making.’ — NYT


The History of the Movie Trailer

Some people consider them the best part of the movie going experience – the Movie Trailer. Take a look at the evolution of the “coming attractions” from simple silent film splices, through the template style of the Golden Age of Hollywood, through Auteurs and finally into the Blockbuster era.

(via kottke.org)

CINEMANIA (2002), Directed by Angela Christlieb & Stephen Kijak, is a documentary about the culture of intense cinephilia in New York City that reveals the impassioned world of five wildly obsessed movie buffs. They spend their waking hours in darkened theaters, and now, these full-time audience members step from their seats onto the big screen in this entertaining documentary which celebrates their obsessions – from the grandiosity of their aesthetic dreams to the austerity of their domestic realities. In Cinemania, the Silver Screen’s biggest fans become the true stars. This is the story of their lives, their memories, their unbending habits and the films they love.

I love how they critique the documentary itself at the end of the film.

Star Wars 80’s High School illustrations by Denis Medri. So perfect.
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Star Wars High

Denis Medri reimagines Star Wars as an 80’s high school flick. This would be beyond wonderful. Seriously. Disney should get right on this!


The Periodic Table of Storytelling second edition – by James Harris

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Buy the print and check out the interactive version that will link you directly to the relevant TV Tropes pages.

(I posted the original here too.)

Use your words

The Periodic Table of Storytelling, second edition

By James Harris (aka DawnPaladin): The Second Edition incorporates all of the learning I received during my three years at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. It has better typography, more story molecules, and updated kilowick counts, but the identifiers are the same so as not to break compatibility with the first edition.

Dead Poets Society
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Dead Poets Society is a terrible defense of the humanities

I think I hate Dead Poets Society for the same reason that Robyn, a physician assistant, hates House: because its portrayal of my profession is both misleading and deeply seductive.

For what Keating (Robin Williams) models for his students isn’t literary criticism, or analysis, or even study. In fact, it’s not even good, careful reading. Rather, it’s the literary equivalent of fandom. Worse, it’s anti-intellectual. It takes Emily Dickinson’s playful remark to her mentor Thomas Higginson, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry,” and turns it into a critical principle. It’s not.

For all his talk about students “finding their own voice,” however, Keating actually allows his students very little opportunity for original thought. It’s a freedom that’s often preached but never realized. A graphic example is presented in one of the film’s iconic moments, when that zany Mr. Keating with his “unorthodox” teaching methods suddenly leaps up onto his desk. Why? “I stand on my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way,” he helpfully declaims. How bold: He’s standing perhaps 2½ feet off the ground.

Keating then has the boys march up to the front, of course, and one-by-one and two-by-two they mount his desk and they too “look at things in a different way”—exactly the different way that he has.
Kevin J.H. Dettmar on Dead Poets Society

If you enjoy that critique, you may also enjoy this one:

I Rewatched Love Actually and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You:

Some fucking guy is running around throwing sandwiches at people and asking female office workers if they want his “lovely nuts.” It’s possible that he says something important, but I couldn’t tell you because the music is louder than the dialogue because #competence.

Oh, looks like his name is Colin, and he’s terribly terribly oppressed because no ladies want to sit on his ginger ween (idea: could it possibly be because you wear a shirt that says “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and call complete strangers “my future wife” in a professional setting and then whine about not receiving immediate intercourse?). Colin decides to go to America in order to locate skanks. This is his entire plotline.


Life After Pi is a short documentary about Rhythm & Hues Studios, the L.A. based Visual Effects company that won an Academy Award for its groundbreaking work on Life of Pi – just two weeks after declaring bankruptcy. The film explores rapidly changing forces impacting the global VFX community, and the Film Industry as a whole.

This is only the first chapter of an upcoming feature-length documentary Hollywood Ending, that delves into the larger, complex challenges facing the US Film Industry and the many professionals working within it, whose fates and livelihood are intertwined.

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The subversive blockbuster

Playfully subversive and countercultural, the Lego Movie satirises surveillance culture and our modern-day neoliberal struggles, says Ben Walters.

Lego Bad Cop

The film’s exuberant, kid-friendly larks – Wild West! Robot pirates! Unicorn kittens! Batman! – are laced with satirical digs at surveillance culture, built-in obsolescence and police brutality, as well as inane positive thinking. Its opening sequences show a world in which a pliant, consumerist populace, mollified by overpriced coffee and dumb TV shows, is exploited by cynical leadership; political and corporate power are conflated in the villainous figure of “President Business”.

Our screens have been filled with images of urban collapse and apocalyptic destruction, dystopian wastelands and zombie hordes. But, like Washington and Westminster, Hollywood has been better at scaring us with the threat of calamity than inspiring hope for the new.

The Lego Movie – a toy story every adult needs to see – The Guardian


Designing the end titles for Star Trek Into Darkness

Andrew Kramer created this complex sequence using After Effects and Element 3D, his own $150 AE plugin!

If you’re interested in learning After Effects, Kramer’s tutorials on Video Copilot are essential, and very entertaining.

A cinema experiment: what rival visions would emerge if you pitted the director of The Bicycle Thieves against the producer of Gone with the Wind on the same movie material? History can tell us…

What is neorealism?, a video essay created for Sight & Sound magazine, May 2013.

“The only great problem of cinema seems to be more and more, with each film, when and why to start a shot and when and why to end it.”
Jean-Luc Godard

The woman in the red dress
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Colour and meaning in The Matrix universe

In answer to a fairly simple question on Quora – In Matrix Revolutions, what’s going on when Neo and a sentinel appear to merge? – Chris Peters (citing Philosopher Ken Wilber) wrote this wonderful explanation of what the different colour gradings mean in The Matrix universe:

The Matrix universe is themed around 5 colors, Green, Blue, Yellow, Red and White, which represent different levels of our existence.

Take the red pill →

Save The Cat
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Why every Hollywood movie feels the same

Peter Suderman writing for Slate on the 2005 screenwriting book that’s taken over Hollywood—and made every movie feel the same.

It’s not déjà vu. Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula—one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay.

The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet

  1. Opening image (p. 1): Sets the tone for the story and suggests the protagonist’s primary problem.
  2. Theme is stated (p. 5): A question or statement, usually made to the protagonist, indicating the story’s main thematic idea.
  3. Set-up (p. 1-10): An introduction to the main characters and setting—the background.
  4. Catalyst (p. 12): A major event that changes the protagonist’s world and sets the story in motion.
  5. Debate (p. 12-25): A question is raised about the choice now before the protagonist. Often this section lays out the stakes for the journey ahead.
  6. Break into Act II (p. 25-30): The hero definitively leaves his old world or situation and enters a strange new one.
  7. B-story (p. 30): A secondary plotline that often fleshes out side characters—frequently a mentor or a love interest—who assist the hero on his journey.
  8. Fun and games (p. 30-55): Snyder says this section offers “the promise of the premise.” It’s an exploration of the story’s core concept that gives the story its “trailer-friendly moments.” It’s usually lighter in tone, and it typically builds to a big victory at the midpoint.
  9. Midpoint (p. 55): The A and B stories cross. The story builds to either a false victory or (less often) false defeat. New information is revealed that raises the stakes.
  10. Bad guys close in (p. 55-75): After the victory at the midpoint, things grow steadily worse as the villains regroup and push forward.
  11. All is lost (p. 75): Mirroring the midpoint, it’s usually a false defeat. The hero’s life is in shambles. Often there’s a major death or at least the sense of death—a reference to dying or mortality somehow.
  12. Dark night of the soul (p. 75-85): A moment of contemplation in which the hero considers how far he’s come and all he’s learned. It’s the moment in which the hero asks, “Why is all this happening?”
  13. Break into Act III (p. 85) A “Eureka!” moment that gives the hero the strength to keep going—and provides the key to success in Act III.
  14. Finale (p. 85-110) Relying on all he has learned throughout the story, the hero solves his problems, defeats the villains, and changes the world for the better.
  15. Final image (p. 110). A mirror of the opening image that underlines the lessons learned and illustrates how the world has changed.
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Everything right and wrong with ‘Skyfall’

Firstly, here is everything wrong with Skyfall, in 4 minutes or less:

Pretty damning, right? What a dumb movie.

Now read these five reasons Skyfall is the best James Bond movie ever:

  1. DIRECTION:Skyfall is not competently directed. Skyfall is beautifully directed. Sam Mendes has serious theatre chops, and it shows. The scene where Bond tracks Patrice through the skyscraper in Shanghai, through a maze of tilting glass and sliding neon, is gorgeous. The tension is impeccably tuned. Mendes lets shots breathe.”
  2. THEMES:Skyfall says something. Actually, it says a bunch of things. It’s a love-letter to London. It’s a film about Britain: about the crisis of British post-Imperial identity and the British realisation that we no longer matter a damn, to anybody; that we spent a hundred years crushing anyone who got in our way, that it gained us a lot of power but very few friends, and that when the power ebbs away the friends don’t come back.”
  3. ACTING: “Craig is perfect in this film. For a two-minute demonstration, watch the ‘psychological examination’ scene. Put aside your doubts about word-association being a kind of clapped-out way of providing a quick shot of character depth, and just watch Craig. To ‘murder’, he drops the three syllables of ‘employment’ with a bitterness that shows he knows damn well he’s being watched. To ‘M’, conversely, he fires off ‘bitch’ so fast it barely registers; it feels genuinely reflexive, and M’s reaction proves she can see that too. To ‘heart’, he grinds out ‘target’ with a kind of horrible relish. I’ve never seen a Bond, even Connery, sound more like a contract killer who may be sitting on some very genuine psychological damage. With Brosnan that scene wouldn’t have been at all believable. ‘Target’ would have been a zinger with an eyebrow-raise attached, not the snarl of something trapped and poked.”
  4. CHARACTERISATION: “I don’t really expect a Bond movie to subject the character of James Bond to any serious examination, any more than I expect the average Doctor Who episode to get really down and dirty with what makes the Doctor tick. But, in both cases, finding one that does is a real treat. The mechanism that makes it possible here is Bardem’s mesmerising turn as Mr Silva.”
  5. STRUCTURE: “Skyfall literally runs backwards. We flip through five decades of history in reverse, five decades of action movies, and then fall through the front cover. Bond goes back to the days before he was Bond, burns his house down, holds his mother as she dies, and is reborn. By the time he gets back to London, we’re moving in the right direction again. M is an older ex-military man in a wood-panelled office. There’s a beautiful secretary licking her lips behind the desk. There’s a nerdy genius down in Q Branch who regards Bond as an unfortunate necessity. There’s a coat-stand just inside the door. James Bond got old, he got tired, he got addicted to booze and pills and failed his marksmanship exam, so he went back and blew up his past with a couple of gas canisters and then turned up to work the next morning with a fresh shirt and hunter’s eyes. He gets to do that. He’s James Bond. When who he was gets too heavy for him, he kills it, and moves on. That’s why we pay to watch him.”

Personally, I’m thrilled that Mendes has signed up for Bond 24.

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Gravity: A Space Oddity

Or: How the future became the past

The first thing that struck me about the trailer for Gravity was how beautiful and terrifying it was.

My second thought was how sad it was to see the space shuttle.

In 1968 Stanley Kubrick and some very talented designers imagined a realistic space plane for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Pan Am Orion Space Plane

In 1981 NASA made the dream a reality with the first space shuttle launch. 30 years later, in 2011, the shuttle made its last flight.

Space Shuttle

Now in 2013 the space shuttle appears in Gravity. Science fiction has become historical fiction.


Alex Jay examines the evolution of the Star Wars logo.

Credit for the Star Wars logo belongs to Suzy Rice. First there was her original design. Second, Joe Johnston revised her logo for the film. And third, there was her original logo with the revised “W”, which can be traced to Jim Novak, whose contribution, although minor, was significant.
Anatomy of a Logo: Star Wars

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The evolution of the Star Wars logo

Alex Jay examines the evolution of the Star Wars logo.


The Periodic Table of Storytelling by ~DawnPaladin

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Based on data from TV Tropes [WARNING: Do not click link until you have ample free time available].

Use your words

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

A detailed infographic by ~DawnPaladin on DeviantArt

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Why Star Trek is great

Star Trek's Captains

Matthew Yglesias writing for Slate:

The standard line among Trek apologists is that the franchise is not just a lot of sci-fi nonsense but a meaningful exploration of what it means to be human. And among Trek’s kaleidoscope of Vulcans and androids and holograms and shapeshifters, this is a core concern. But Trek has a very particular take on what it means to be human. Part of what it means, the franchise teaches us, is participating in an ongoing progressive project of building a utopian society. Even though the bulk of Trek comes from the ’90s, the franchise launched in the mid-’60s, and the now-anachronistic spirit of midcentury optimism has remained at the heart of the franchise throughout. It’s a big part of what makes Trek great.

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Data-driven script analysis

The New York Times profiles Vinny Bruzzese, one of the only entrepreneurs to offer data-driven script analysis services to Hollywood studios. His process isn’t explained in any real depth, which makes me hugely skeptical.

For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?

“A cursed superhero never sells as well as a guardian superhero.”

His recommendations, delivered in a 20- to 30-page report, might range from minor tightening to substantial rewrites: more people would relate to this character if she had a sympathetic sidekick, for instance.

Script analysis is new enough to remain a bit of a Hollywood taboo. Major film financiers and advisers like Houlihan Lokey confirmed that they had used the service, but declined to speak on the record about it. The six major Hollywood movie studios declined to comment.

But doors are opening for Mr. Bruzzese nonetheless, in part because he is such a character. For instance, he bills himself as a distant relative of Einstein’s, a claim that is unverifiable but never fails to impress studio executives.

Continue reading

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Full track from Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel score

Sounds like the music from the Man of Steel trailer to me. It’s not nearly as bold as John Williams’ Superman theme, but I like the mood. The drums are certainly very exciting. Zimmer’s Batman theme never grew on me however — even now I can’t recall it — though if I’m honest when I hum the Williams’ Superman theme I tend to transition into humming Star Wars.

(via Collider)

See also: Zimmer on John Williams’ Superman Theme – uk.ign.com


io9 has a detailed look at the new bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek Into Darkness.

I’m in total agreement with commenter MonkeyT:

So where are the actual dynamic words and numbers people communicate with? All the consoles are either video game controllers or playskool desks.
“How much antimatter do we have?” “Err… three out of four glowing buttons, sir.”
“How fast are we going?” “No red lights yet, sir. All blue.”
“Red-thingy moving toward the green-thingy. I think we’re the green-thingy…”

In the 2009 movie we barely got to see the bridge, and what we did see was a blur of fast editing, a camera that never settled down and that infamous lens flare. Into Darkness probably won’t need a detailed set that looks like it might be the center of operations for a functioning starship either, it just needs flash. Shame really.

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The bridge of the JJ Enterprise

A detailed look at the new bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek Into Darkness.

Life on the Internet

Technopanic: The Movie

Disconnect claims to be a film that “explores the consequences of modern technology and how it affects and defines our daily relationships”, but Jeff Jarvis says it’s the Reefer Madness of our time.

Disconnect begins by throwing us every uh-oh signal it can: online porn; people listening to their headphones instead of the world around them; people paying attention to their phones (and the people on the other end) instead of the boring world in front of them; skateboards; people ruining office productivity watching silly videos; kids wearing Hooters T-shirts; sad people chatting with strangers online; people gambling online; people getting phished into bankruptcy; and worst of all, kids using Facebook. Oh, no!

Trailer afte the jump →

Oliver Stone
Humans and other animals

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

From a fascinating Guardian interview with Oliver Stone:

[…] in 2011 the US federal government survey reported that only 12% of US high school students knew their country’s history. Why is that? “My theory is history is boring because the horror stories are left out. What’s left in is the sanitised Disney version – a triumphalist narrative. We kind of always win. And we’re always right.”

For five years Oliver Stone has been working with historian Peter Kuznick on a desanitised version — complete with horror stories — to be presented as a 10-hour TV series: The Untold History of the United States.