Thursday, August 11, 2011

43 Full Sail Grads on 'Captain America'

Seventy years after Captain America debuted in comic books, the iconic Marvel superhero has finally received his first big-budget screen adaptation with Captain America: The First Avenger. The film features Chris Evans in the title role, and tells the origin story of Steve Rogers, the man who would become Captain America, and his epic fight against longtime nemesis the Red Skull during World War II.

It’s a story ripe for a modern reimagining, and the filmmakers took great lengths to bring the series’ fiction up to date using the latest 3D visual effects. Helping blend this mix of pulp storytelling and current technology was a group of 43 Full Sail graduates who worked on the film. (See below for the entire list of Full Sail grads who contributed to Captain America.)

A number of these artists worked at Stereo D, a popular postproduction house in Burbank, California that handled the 2D to 3D conversion for the film. To learn more about what goes into the process, we recently spoke with alumni Clarke Godwin (Computer Animation) and Eric Timm (Film) about their respective roles as stereoscopic compositor and stereoscopic artist on Captain America.

“We’re pretty much last stage of production,” Clarke says. “We get the movie right before they do the color grading, then it’s final – so a lot of responsibility comes down on us. Working on Captain America was great because there were a lot of cool challenges, and since it’s based during a real time period there’s a unique look that sets it apart from the other superhero movies out there.”

The difficulty in doing a 3D conversion for a film originally shot in 2D isn’t easy to define, as each presents its own unique problems; it’s definitely not as simple as just doubling the image and pasting them together. Each object and effect in a scene is individually rotoscoped to make them appear at different depths of field – offering the audience a tactile sense of separation between the foreground, midground, and background.

“You definitely need a good eye for detail when working in 3D,” Clarke says. You have to be able to pay attention to every little thing going on during the movie, and then be able to swap between the images for the left and the right eye to pick up any problems in each version. It can be overwhelming.”

“People don’t realize how much work goes into it,” Eric adds. “The big issue with converting to 3D is that it can take a lot of time to perfect the space between the different planes manually. On Captain America I had a two-second shot, only 48 frames, but it took two weeks to finish because there was so much detail in there that needed to be tweaked.”

Applying that technology to the mythos of 1940s comics was never going to be an easy assignment, but the results are a movie that feels authentic to both the character and time period, as well as being great summer entertainment. Hearing Clarke and Eric talk about their role in producing *Captain America: The First Avenger*, you can understand their sense of satisfaction in getting to see the final film with an audience after knowing the amount of effort that went into it.

“Based on what I’ve heard from people I know who are into the comic book, I think everyone did a great job with it,” Clarke says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s really great to be a part of a movie like this, and I love to hear people’s reactions in the theater. You see your shots up there on screen, and it’s so exciting when you’re reminded that’s what you get paid to do.”

“*Captain America* looks fantastic, and I’m really proud of it – we were able to give it the depth and detail of 3D, while maintaining the overall image quality,” Eric says. “To be able to enjoy doing that with people you work well with, while getting credited on these movies, is just awesome. It’s what I’ve been dreaming of since I was back in Full Sail.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't Be Original! (But don't also create a blatant copy either).

I tell my students all the time, "You're not going to come up with an idea that someone else hasn't already thought of, produced, created, shared, told, or expressed. Ancient Greeks gave us every theme that can possibly be told."

Good, now forget that. Because there is a difference in desperately attempting to be completely "original" and "refreshingly unique" in the current state of Film and TV. There are two conflicting sides to the argument that stories are either allusions and/or remakes or "unique." One states no two snowflakes are alike. Really? So someone has examined, measured, and compared every single snowflake that has ever fallen to earth since the beginning of time? Karl Popper would state that "no two snowflakes are alike" as unfalsifiable (IE: can't be proven).

NOTE: The above picture is supposedly of 2 identical snowflakes.

However, we all like to think that we are all individuals and therefore our stories are all new and individual too. Not true. However, the way you express your stories can still surprise even the most seasoned TV or Film viewer. There is a huge difference between Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th but FT13th is essentially Psycho at Crystal Lake.

Victor Miller, who wrote FT13th, took the premise of Psycho and flipped it, changed the setting, and bam! - "new idea." In Psycho, the audience is lead to believe that Norman's mom is behind the Bates Motel murders when it's Norm all along, while in FT13th, we're lead to believe it's Jason creating the carnage when it's really his mother. Same theme, just the opposite of the original. That's surprising.

Being completely original should never be a producer's goal. Instead, being personal should be. If you write and create about personal experiences (and I don't care if they are expressed in horror, sci-fi, drama, documentary, reality TV, etc) then your work will find an audience because it will feel unique. If you find new twists on older successful ideas, you'll find an audience. If you think you're going to become successful by straight up mimicry, audiences are going to scoff because they've "seen it before". (Unless your J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci and you bring the X Files back to life in a show called Fringe.)

What I'm saying is this: stop worrying about being the first at anything, keep it personal, exercise your imagination, and when you know you've written cliches in your writing, delete them and build on what's left.

Now check out this article: