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    In Brief - Behind the Scenes of 'He Took His Skin Off For Me'

    You may have seen the new short film "He Took His Skin Off For Me", the story of a man who literally removes his skin to live with his girlfriend. The striking look of the main character was done all with practical makeup effects, and this 23 minute behind-the-scenes video is an excellent look at how the makeup was accomplished. The director and effects supervisor explain why they chose to go with a practical makeup--which required over a thousand sculpted and cast muscle applications--instead of CG, and how it serviced the performance. The short's website also has a step-by-step walkthrough of the makeup design and application process. Amazing.

    In Brief: Steven Soderbergh Recuts 2001: A Space Odyssey

    Director Steven Soderbergh isn't shy about his experimentation with other directors' works. After previously recutting Psycho (as a mash-up of Hichcock and Gus Van Sants versions), Heaven's Gate, and releasing a black and white version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the prolific director has turned his attention to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Soderbergh's explains in-depth why the task was so daunting, the role of technology in enabling his editing compulsion, and why he thinks Kubrick would've embraced digital filmmaking. I haven't watched the 110 minute cut in its entirety yet, but a Kottke reader reports on what tweaks were made and how the film feels different as a result.

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    The Wisdom of Shannon Shea - Episode 8 - 1/16/15
    Frank and I wrap up our first season of CreatureGeek with a super-packed show with our special guest, makeup artist and character creator Shannon Shea. Shannon talks about working with Stan Winston, about his new projects and also about his upcoming book. Let us know how you liked this season of CreatureGeek and if you want us back, let us - and the folks at Tested - know!
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    The Sound Design of Godzilla

    I missed this over the holidays, but the latest SoundWorks Collection profile is a lengthy 45-minute conversation (read: podcast) with the Sound Designer and Sound Editor of last year's Godzilla. It's a much more in-depth than the chat the two had with NPR last year, and uses a lot of footage from the movie and behind-the-scenes clips of foley recordings throughout. Really interesting stuff!

    Inside Adam Savage's Cave: The Tarantino Shelf

    One of the shelves in Adam's cave is home to his collection of props and prop replicas from various Quentin Tarantino films. In today's visit to the Cave, we chat with Adam about each of those objects and their origins. How many do you recognize?

    Bill Moseley "Chops" In - Episode 7 - 1/2/15
    Horror character actor Bill Moseley starts off the new year with some talk from the third side of the makeup world: the chair. Bill talks with Frank and I about his time in the makeup chair creating such popular characters such as ChopTop. He also talks about his time as a writer for National Lampoon. Plus, much chatter about cow anus's being removed during alien abductions. Don't miss it!
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    ILM's Effects Reel for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    Industrial Light & Magic's effects reel for the latest Captain America movie breaks down several of the big (and small) effects in the movie. I was especially impressed with the Black Widow reveal from the end of the film. Obviously, this video contains spoilers for The Winter Soldier. (via @asuter)

    In Brief: Dayton Allen's Custom Alien Figures

    One of my favorite magazines growing up was Wizard's ToyFare, which in addition to reporting on new action figure releases, showcased the custom toy modifications and builds and sculptors who made their own figures. These makers could take a Punisher figure, for example, and swap out its head and paint job to make it a kick-ass Bullseye figures. Custom figure sculpts have come a long way since then, and the quality of figures like the ones made by artist Dayton Allen are just as good (if not better) than the sculpts done by toy companies. The Verge has a fun report on a project that Allen started in 2011, custom sculpting the entire cast of Ridley Scott's Alien--in addition to building out the Nostromo bridge and corridor sets for those 4-inch figures. Allen's Flickr gallery of his work in progress is awesome. Bookmark it! And if want to get your hands on your own Alien figure without making a custom sculpt, the NECA series of Nostromo spacesuit figures just went on sale last week!

    In Brief: Know Your Star Wars Action Figure Variants

    Even though I was too young to buy the original Kenner Star Wars action figures, I can appreciate the fervor and fandom around collecting these iconic toys. So many Star Wars fans who grew up in the 70s have stories memories about their first or favorite Kenner figures, or the coveted ones they were never allowed to buy. My visit to Steve Sansweet's Rancho Obi-Wan almost two years ago now was the first time I was exposed to the world of Kenner rarities--the variants of figures most sought after by collectors. StarWars.com just published an in-depth examination of these vintage toys--a really fun read for toy collectors. I also want to recommend this Steve Sansweet book that catalogs every Star Wars action figure ever produced (so far), and call out this hourlong documentary about the history of these Kenner figures. Vimeo just picked it up to distribute online.

    Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Barbarella's Space Rifle

    It's time for another One Day Build! You know the drill: Adam tackles a project at his shop from start to finish, explaining his build process along the way. Today's build is a replica of Jane Fonda's iconic Barbarella rifle. The challenge: this iconic sci-fi prop only appeared once, on the cover of a 1968 issue of LIFE Magazine. That's not a lot of reference material to work with!

    My 12 Favorite Coffee Table Books of 2014

    One of my very favorite things to buy, read, and collect are coffee table books. I'm just a sucker for them. These large format tomes--some surpass 500 pages--are like gorgeous picture books for adults. Their size and scale make them ideal to showcase illustration, photography, and layouts. And as someone with a print magazine background and a strong affinity print design, a well laid out spread in a large coffee table book is deeply satisfying.

    I also have a few rules for coffee table books. First, I'm not a big fan of the behind-the-scenes art books that coincide with new film releases. They may indeed have hundreds of production photos and storyboards I'd love to see, but the text accompanying those images is lacking in depth. Those kinds of art books are too often cash grabs timed to capitalize on public mindshare, and put together hastily without enough insight or distance from the production. It's a fine line between the celebration of a subject and promoting it as marketing. Instead of grabbing The Art of Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year, I'll wait for the collected retrospective of Marvel Phase II films that's bound to be written a decade from now.

    My second rule with coffee table books is that I have to actually read them. They live on my coffee table until I've gone through them before being shelved. The bookcase is a hibernation chamber for books, and I like keeping an active roster of books to shuffle through on any given evening.

    So without further ado, here are a dozen of my favorite coffee table books I bought this year. Not all of them were released in 2014, but these are the ones I stumbled on in bookstores, reviews, museum exhibits, and from recommendations. They're a reflection of my journeys and wandering interests, which may intersect with your own. I'd also love to hear what coffee table books you love and have discovered.

    In Brief: Dolby's Answer to IMAX

    The Hollywood Reporter has details about Dolby's vision for a large format theater system to rival IMAX and other premium theater experiences. Simply called Dolby Cinema, it's a combination of Dolby's Atmos Sound system and its in-development Dolby Vision image standard. The latter is a post-production process that hopes to retain the color and contrast of a filmed scene (some people are calling it HDR for film) by widening the color gamut pipeline. Dolby Vision produced films would be projected on dual 4K laser projectors, and Dolby is investing in the format by paying for the projectors and hoping that theater chains will get on board with screen renovations. To pay for all of this, ticket prices for Dolby Cinema showings are expected to start at $18.

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    Colin Cantwell's Pre-Production Work on Star Wars

    Most Star War fans know the name Ralph McQuarrie, the concept artist who laid the foundation for the look of the original trilogy. And some people even know the names of the more celebrated ILM modelmakers, like Lorne Peterson and Don Bies, whose teams at the ILM miniatures shop fabricated the actual shooting models for the films. But not many people know the name Colin Cantwell, even though they might be familiar with his work. Cantwell was a modelmaker at ILM, who was actually the first to prototype Star Wars' iconic vehicles from McQuarries' paintings. His prop model prototypes of the Death Star, TIE Fighter, X-Wing, and numerous other ships are like the missing links between McQuarrie and what we saw on screen.

    Image credit: Colin Cantwell

    Jason DeBord, who runs the Original Prop Blog, had the privileged of sitting down with Mr. Cantwell for an extended interview about his work in special effects, which ranges from design on 2001: A Space Odyssey to conceptualizing the look of the NORAD command room set for WarGames. The eight-part interview is on YouTube (and embedded below), and DeBord's post about his visit features some fantastic artifacts from the production of Star Wars. Not only do we get to see some of Cantwell's original sketches and art for Star Wars for the first time, but also production illustrations for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and WarGames. Cantwell has also put up his collection for sale, with an auction just started this morning. You can read more about his collection on the auction site, as well as see what pieces are available.

    The Make-Up and Production Design of Planet of the Apes

    It’s not easy to make a world full of apes. In recent years, it hasn’t been cheap either. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes series reboot cost close to a hundred million, and this year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes cost a reported $170 million. So it’s remarkable to realize that the original Planet of the Apes, released in 1968, cost only $5.8 million, which even in those days wasn’t that expensive. With the franchise successfully reinventing itself in modern day, the original still holds up well after all this time, a genre classic that meant so much to fans growing up, and a film that helped create a generation of make-up talent. “Planet of the Apes is one of the most important make-up movies ever,” says Rick Baker, the make-up FX master of An American Werewolf in London and Men in Black fame. “It inspired a whole generation of kids to become make-up artists.”

    A great movie has to have a great team behind it, especially if you want audiences to take a film with talking monkeys seriously. Richard Zanuck, who was then the head of 20th Century Fox, was captivated with the screenplay for Apes, but he knew it was crucial that audiences found it believable, or the movie would be a laughing stock, so he brought in director Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton, Papillon), and cinematographer Leon Shamroy (The King and I).

    Charlton Heston had a good working relationship with Schaffner, and was eager to come aboard the Ape train, but before the project landed at Fox, it was turned down everywhere. Linda Harrison, who played Nova in the film, recalled, “Nobody wanted it, but Dick Zanuck really believed in it.” In the AMC documentary on the Apes series, Heston recalled the reaction was, “Spaceships? Talking monkeys? You’re out of your mind, that’s Saturday morning serials, get out of here.”

    Enter make-up artist John Chambers, who was recently celebrated in Argo. As recalled in the book Planet of the Apes Revisited, Chambers built his make-up talent during his time in the Army, creating prosthetics for wounded soldiers that replaced noses, arms, legs, chins and more. He went into television in the early fifties, then branched into movies in the sixties. Whether Fox would give the green light to Apes depended on a screen test with Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Linda Harrison, and James Brolin. The make-ups Chambers created for the test were still crude, but it gave the studio a fair idea of how the movie, and the make-up, would turn out, and they finally gave it the go ahead.

    Until the unprecedented success of Star Wars, the major studios didn’t take science fiction seriously, but that wasn’t the main reason the budget for Planet of the Apes was low. As Harrison recalls, “They had to go under the radar. The board of directors at Fox wouldn’t greenlight the movie if it was over six million, so they had to come in under six million so they wouldn’t have to deal with the board.” Production designer William Creber was up for the challenge. “I had done a lot of Irwin Allen’s TV shows,” he says. “It was fun, it was challenging, and we had to do it for a price.”

    In Brief: Examining the Typography of Alien

    There are a few blogs I follow that don't get updated frequently, but when they do, the wait is worth it. Writer Dave Addey's blog Typeset in the Future, which I first shared with you guys back in February, is one such site. Addey scrutinizes in-depth the use of typography in science fiction film, with 2001 and Moon being his first two explorations. His newest post tackles the design in Ridley Scott's Alien. In addition to calling out the typefaces used in various scenes (Futura! Helvetica! Pump Demi!) Addey digs deep into the origins of more obscure elements, like the type labels used in the Nostromo's emergency self destruct keyboard--now that would be a cool prop to replicate. There are many shout outs to Moon in this post as well, so it's well worth relinking back to Moon production designer Gavin Rothery's amazing behind the scenes blog for that film. If you recall, we chatted with Rothery in our story on Cold War-era Sci-Fi propaganda art.

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