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    An Exploration of Vertical Cinema

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 4/7/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Widescreen! Cinemascope! Panavision! Since the early days of cinema, movie screens have been getting steadily wider. From the squat 4:3 aspect ratio of early 20th century silent movies, through the explosion of sprawling widescreen film formats that began in the 1950s, to today's ever-expanding domestic TV screens, the trend is clear: bigger is better … but only if you stretch things in the horizontal dimension.

    But what happens if you turn this thinking on its head? Or rather, on its side?

    That's the question posed by Vertical Cinema, a Sonic Acts art project comprising ten specially commissioned films made by experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists. Vertical Cinema presentations have been held since 2013 at locations across Europe and in the USA, with the films frequently being projected in churches. The movies are projected using a custom-built 35mm film projector in vertical Cinemascope. No landscape images here. In Vertical Cinema, everything is portrait.

    Here's what Vertical Cinema has to say about this unusual twist on traditional cinematic conventions:

    For the Vertical Cinema project, we "abandoned" traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.

    With its mission to challenge established conventions, Vertical Cinema wears its experimental heart firmly on its sleeve. But what's to stop someone making a full-blown narrative feature film in this unusual vertical format? On the face of it, the challenges seem considerable. The entire movie industry is built around the landscape image. Even if you could get such a film made at a technical level, would the vertical format clip your storytelling wings? And would audiences actually want to see it?

    To answer these questions and more, Cinefex spoke with six filmmakers and visual effects experts: Douglas Trumbull (filmmaker and VFX innovator), Tim Webber (creative director and VFX supervisor, Framestore), Rajat Roy (global technical supervisor, Prime Focus World), Paul Mowbray (head of NSC Creative), Marc Weigert (president and VFX supervisor, Method Studios) and Charles Rose (CG supervisor, Tippett Studio).

    Photo Gallery: Highlights from D23 Expo 2015

    Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Studios didn't have a massive presence at this year's Comic-Con, partly due to the fact that Disney has its own fan convention in the bi-annual D23 Expo. I drove down to Anaheim this weekend to spend a day at the show (my first D23), and found it an interesting mix of Disney fan culture, consumer product previews, and vintage collectible bazaar. While I didn't get to attend the massive panel presentations, here are some of my favorite sights from the show floor. A Disney Archives exhibit, animation maquettes, and John Lasseter's hawaiian shirt collection were standouts. Also, an up-close look at the upcoming LEGO Wall-E set!

    In Brief: Recapping a Deluge of Star Wars News

    This past weekend was D23 Expo, Disney's bi-annual fan convention that's on track to become the company's own Comic-Con. Along with tons of news related to Disney's animated and live-action films, the company unleashed announcements for the next few years of Star Wars. Let's see if I can sum up all the good stuff here. First, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow has signed on to direct Episode IX. Gareth Edwards' Rogue One had its main cast revealed in its first publicity photo (Donnie Yen!). Disney CEO Bob Iger also announced that 14-acre Star Wars-themed lands would be coming to Disneyland and Disney World--you can spot some Ralph McQuarrie influence in the concept art. Painter Drew Struzan showed off his Force Awakens poster art, given away at D23. And attendees got to get up close to costumes from the film, including the incredible Captain Phasma chrome armor. And on a D23-unrelated note, here's a fun story about the hunt for the original theatrical release of Star Wars. Phiew!

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    Inside ILM's Virtual Reality Testing Lab

    The Verge recently visited the ILMxLab in San Francisco, where artists and developers experiment with cutting-edge VR and AR technologies for experimental film production and consumer entertainment research. From The Verge's report: "ILMxLab is the VR and augmented reality think-tank from Industrial Light & Magic. Their mission? Create the future of entertainment. And you'd better believe they're starting with Star Wars."

    Studio Scale Star Wars TIE Bomber Replica

    At the recent Replica Prop Forum project showcase, we met visual effects modelmaker Jonathan Faber, who brought his scratch-built studio scale TIE Bomber. This model is an exacting replica of the filming miniature used in The Empire Strikes Back, including the greeblies sourced from WWII and rocket kits like the ones used by ILM's modelmakers. Plus, Jonathan shows us his newest project, a cross-section miniature!

    2001: A Space Odyssey's Aries 1B Miniature

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 3/31/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Deadline Hollywood broke the news: Academy Museum Buys Rare '2001: A Space Odyssey' Model For $344,000. Fans were stunned. As any Stanley Kubrick aficionado will tell you, it has long been legend that all the spaceship miniatures from Kubrick's landmark science fiction film were destroyed after filming at the filmmaker's request, to prevent recycling in cheap imitations. Could this be the real McCoy?

    Before the facts were known, a small studio in El Segundo, California, became mecca for a pilgrimage of visual effects professionals who arrived to gaze in awe at the Aries 1B – the spherical trans-lunar spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey – that, miraculously, had been found after 47 years in obscurity.

    The miniature was up for auction and the curator, Premiere Props, welcomed guests to verify the find. Facebook images began appearing of spectators posing with the ship — Dennis Muren, Greg Jein, Matthew Gratzner, Ian Hunter, Shannon Gans, Dave Jones, Bruce Logan, Pat McClung, Harrison Ellenshaw, Peter Anderson, Bill Taylor, André Bustanoby, Gene Kozicki, Rob McFarlane, Ted Rae, Dan Winters, John Goodson and Kim Smith (and guest appearances, by phone, from Douglas Trumbull and Steve Gawley). The general consensus: the miniature was real.

    The AMPAS Museum of Motion Pictures eventually acquired the ship for a princely sum. Prior to finalizing the sale, event organizer Dan Levin allowed Visual Effects Society Archive Committee co-chair Gene Kozicki and VFX artist André Bustanoby to a make detailed photographic record of the ship; and Gene shared the experience with Cinefex:

    Photo Gallery: Star Wars Costume Exhibit

    I've returned from vacation--two weeks of roadtripping to Canada and back and that took me through seven states and two provinces. Along the way, I tried to stop by as many interesting places as possible, including science museums and art galleries. During a lunch stop in Seattle, I made a point to visit the EMP Museum, where I had previously geeked out over its collection of sci-fi movie props. One current exhibit features costumes from the Star Wars films--the first stop in a 12-city nationwide tour. The exhibit was lovely, and a good complement to the recent Star Wars Costumes book by Brandon Alinger (bring the book along if you're going to visit). If you have the opportunity, I'd recommend going, even if you've seen the costumes before on previous Star Wars museum tours.

    HBO's Westworld Reboot Teaser

    I'm so freakin' excited for this upcoming HBO series. For one, this interpretation of Michael Crichton's film is being shepherded by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, and stars some pretty amazing actors. And two, HBO's president recently revealed that this story would primarily be told from the perspective of the robots inhabiting the titular theme park. Ed Harris as the iconic gunslinger is almost perfect. 2016 feels so far away...

    Jurassic Park Jeep Conversion Project

    Steve Huszar of the Replica Prop Forum is one of many Jurassic Park fans who've converted their Jeeps and Ford Explorers to look like vehicles from the first film. Steve's JP88 conversion project takes a Jeep YJ Wrangler and modifies it to look like the 1992 Sahara used in production. We learn about how the JP fan community works together keep all their car projects consistent and as screen accurate as possible.

    A Thoughtful Treatise On the Pros and Cons of CG

    I'm as guilty of this as anyone. There's nothing I love to drag out more than bad ragdoll animations in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings as an example of crap CG that dates a film. But, as the folks at RocketJumpFilmSchool point out, there's a lot of good CG in films that goes unnoticed and unloved.

    Back to the Future 2 Nike Air Mag Replicas

    Earlier this summer, we attended The RPF Prop Party and showcase, a gathering of replica prop builders in southern California to share their projects. One of those projects is a pair of Nike Air Mag shoes from Back to the Future Part II, created by RPF member Brad Fyfe. Brad shows us his shoe conversion project and a pair of official Air Mags that were auctioned off by Nike for charity. Still working on that power lacing!

    In Brief: John Hughes's Original Vacation '58 Short Story

    originally a short storywhen I was a kid and Chevy Chase and company were getting laughs at the expense my dad, and it's even funnier now that I have a family of my own. What I didn't know is that Vacation was originally a short story that ran in National Lampoon, written by none other than John Hughes. The Hollywood Reporter just reprinted the original short, Vacation '58, which I'd highly recommend you read, if you have any affinity for the film.

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    Bowing Before The Masters - Episode 18 - 7/31/2015
    It's the season 2 finale of CreatureGeek and Boy Howdy, do we have a rock and roll guest to round off this season. This episode we welcome the incredible Todd Masters of MastersFX. Todd and his shop are responsible for effects in such shows as Fringe, Falling Skies, RoboCop, Tales from the Crypt, Slither, True Blood, Six Feet Under - the list goes on and on. He's a true FX artisan and we are more than proud to have him on the program. Along with that, listen in on how you can win a Smooth-On trial pack for your next makeup project by just listening and commenting on the show. It's a jam-packed program, so thanks for listening, thanks of supporting CreaturGeek on Tested and we'll see you in the fall!
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    Making a District 9 Alien Assault Rifle Prop Replica

    One of our favorite science fiction movies is District 9, which features beautiful props by Weta Workshop. Paying tribute to the film, we team up with prop maker Bill Doran and effects artist Frank Ippolito to replicate the movie's Alien Assault Rifle and accompanying alien hand. We walk through the process of building each, with the final cosplay pieces coming together at Comic-Con! (Thanks to Smooth-On for providing materials for this build!)

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 1

    At this year's Comic-Con, we unveiled The Rancor Project: a huge foam-fabricated costume built by effects artist Frank Ippolito. The project was inspired by a test suit made by LucasFilm for Return of the Jedi, which never made it to the film. To show you how the Rancor was created, we visit Frank's workshop and walk through the design process, starting with a maquette sculpture and patterning by foam fabricator Ben Bayouth. Using these techniques, you can build your own creature costume! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Ant-Man and the History of Miniaturization in Movies

    This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 7/21/2015 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

    Small is big. If you're in any doubt of that, check out Marvel's Ant-Man, the latest in a long line of movies in which ordinary human beings are reduced to the size of bugs.

    In Ant-Man, con-artist Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) dons a special suit charged with sub-atomic particles, which causes him to shrink to near-microscopic proportions. Drastically diminished, Rudd faces the considerable challenges posed by an ordinary world magnified to extraordinary proportions. Good job the side-effects of the miniaturization process imbued him with super-strength.

    You'll be able to read the complete story of the visual effects of Ant-Man in the next issue of Cinefex magazine, available to preorder now. To whet your appetite, this article includes exclusive insights from Jake Morrison, Ant-Man's visual effects supervisor, about the challenges involved in creating Marvel's latest – and littlest – screen hero.

    Before hearing from Jake, however, we're going to take out our magnifying glasses and examine some of the other movies which have delighted in pitting pocket-sized heroes against teeny-tiny villains.

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 4

    Over the past month, Punished Props' Bill Doran built a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece was unviled with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below! Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

    Here it is: the final part of the District 9 Gun Prop build! Fortunately, the molding process was fairly painless and yielded some very useful molds. When it comes to casting, having good molds can make or break a project, especially when you need 24 of something, as we did for this whacky alien gun.

    Dump Molds

    Most of the pieces for the gun were done with simple dump molds. This means all I had to do was mix up some Smooth-Cast 300 resin, tint it with a little SO-Strong black, and pour it into the molds we made. The only fancy business we did was to tap the mold around a bit to make sure no bubbles were trapped.

    This process was used for the top scope pieces, the barrel pieces, some of the side greeblies, and all 24 of the tubes that stick out the sides of the barrel length.