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  • >> CineFix Host: Last time we talked about VFX,

  • we stopped just short of the Matrix's bullet time in the new millennium.

  • But have you ever wondered how we got from there to here?

  • These are the top 10 innovations in VFX of the 21st century.

  • >> Everett: All right boy follow my lead.

  • >> CineFix Host: Starting us off at number ten, we're warming

  • up with one of the least flashy innovations in CG

  • technology that has nonetheless had one of the biggest

  • effects on Hollywood filmmaking to date.

  • If you've made fun of how blockbusters look lately, you know it's all the rage to

  • criticize them for being almost exclusively teal and orange.

  • And while we won't completely decry the look, we will put our vote in for

  • originality.

  • But either way,

  • what we're ultimately talking about is that the color of films can be changed.

  • There's an artistic spin on the look of motion pictures,

  • like a moving Photoshop and it's called color grading,

  • or coloring, which makes film makers sounds a bit like creative

  • kindergarteners going to town with their Crayola, but that's besides the point.

  • Back before the 2000s we didn't have Photoshop or iMovie, or Instagram or

  • nearly as many likes on our purple tinted selfies of sunsets.

  • So film makers use celluloid and prisms things called telecines to

  • color time the look of the film when it completely analogue fashion.

  • It was pretty good but it has it's limitation.

  • So, when Joel and Ethan Coen wanted a dusty Autumn look for

  • their period dramedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?,

  • despite shooting in the vivid green middle of summer.

  • Their cinematographer Roger Deakins said, screw it.

  • Let's just scan the entire thing into the computer and color it that way.

  • And thus, digital color grading was born.

  • Sure, digitally scanned portions of the film were used as early as 1993 on films

  • like, wait for it, Super Mario Brothers, in order to complete bigger VFX shots.

  • But, Brother was the first film to a, scan the entire film, and

  • b, use it solely for coloring.

  • Since then, practically every single film has undergone a similar process.

  • Today, filmmakers can endlessly tweak the visual moods of their scenes.

  • And it's all thanks to the digital intermediate innovation pioneered at

  • the turn of the century.

  • >> [MUSIC]

  • >> Speaker 3: No.

  • >> [MUSIC]

  • >> CineFix Host: Moving forward to number 9,

  • it's time to get a little more flashy and effectsy.

  • Is that a word?

  • It can be, it is now.

  • One of our pre 2000 picks was the gorgeous digital alien pseudopod from the abyss,

  • a creature made up entirely of water.

  • But the following years didn't see much more 3D fluids than that.

  • Ants and Titanic both made some good attempts, but the results were limited.

  • You see there are two basic ways to simulate fluids.

  • You can calculate them particle by particle drop by drop, or

  • consider an entire volume at once and simulate the mass as a giant flowy mesh.

  • The problem is, that drop by drop doesn't scale very well to larger bodies of

  • water because the calculation is getting insane and volume mesh looks

  • pretty dopey in situations where water might break up in smaller droplets.

  • But in the year 2000,

  • Industrial Light & Magic developed a solution by combining the two approaches

  • into a high-bred simulation that used volume calculations for larger

  • bodied portions of the water, and droplet type simulation for when they broke down.

  • They debuted this innovation in the ocean disaster film, The Perfect Storm.

  • Other specific algorithms and software have come miles further for

  • films like The Day After Tomorrow, Happy Feet, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and

  • the Life of Pi.

  • The basic approach is still exactly the same, it's not just water,

  • fluids are more than just liquid to computer nerds.

  • They also include gases, flames and volumetric effects, which make us a little

  • suspicious about what your resident Geek Squad employee might have in his thermos.

  • But the point is this.

  • Without ILM in the Perfect Storm, we wouldn't have the wonderful, lifelike and

  • incredible physics simulations in films that we have today.

  • >> CineFix Host: Next up at number eight, we have to pay homage

  • to the incredible VFX contributions of Peter Jackson and

  • Weta Digital from The Lord of the Rings.

  • In addition to innovations in water effects, character animation,

  • fire effects and digital camera movements,

  • we'd like to honor the first-of-its-kind work on crowd effects.

  • And the first-ever movie use of artificial intelligence for

  • the members of their giant digitally rendered armies.

  • Beginning in 1996, Peter Jackson had his workshop begin working on a program called

  • "Massive", which was used to create enormously complicated crowd animations

  • with digital characters numbering up to 70,000 for his upcoming films.

  • Each character is randomized with a variety of traits.

  • >From their size and proportions, to their outfits and dirtiness,

  • to even their personality.

  • Then, each character is given a range of actions that they can do,

  • in the form of between 150 and 350 different animations for each.

  • All of this is processed by every single characters digital brain.

  • That combines up to 8,000 different criteria to makes it's decisions,

  • including the abilities to digitally see and

  • hear resulting in their ultimate decision action and thus, animation.

  • The result allowed digital artists to place starting points for

  • their Orcs and Elves in scenes like Moria and Lothlorien, and let them loose,

  • resulting in characters that independently scale pillars, picked fights and taunted

  • members of the Fellowship, all while appearing to be individually animated.

  • It's a mind blowing technology that its becoming industry standard for

  • crowd animation and it represents one of the biggest landmarks in the animation of

  • scale ever engineered for film.

  • >> Speaker 4: It's a match we found it >> Speaker 5: Yes, the sixth, the spirit.

  • >> CineFix Host: Of course, if you heard The Lord of the Rings and

  • immediately thought about Andy Serkis' pioneering work as MOCAP artist,

  • you're in good company, because so did we.

  • Unfortunately, Lord of the Rings actually wasn't the feature debut of

  • motion capture technology.

  • Although Serkis' virtuoso performance certainly helped elevate it as the most

  • notable of its generation.

  • No, in fact, the credit for motion capture technology in a feature film rightly

  • belongs with our number seven pick the massive flop that was the all-CGI feature

  • film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

  • Okay, technically Sinbad Beyond the Veil of Mists got their first but

  • it didn't really see much of a release so

  • we're happy to just give it this mention and move on.

  • Because not only did Final Fantasy debut the first full motion capture, but

  • it was also the first real attempt at a photo real animated feature film.

  • Although photo real here should be taken in context, and

  • with a grain of salt, but, back to the motion.

  • If you don't know, motion capture is the digital technology that dresses people up

  • in silly jumpsuits, sticks ping pong balls all over their bodies and

  • makes them dance around, magically capturing their movements into a computer.

  • Of course, those ping-pong balls are actually called tracking marks and

  • an array of cameras are used to triangulate the 3D position of

  • each mark individually so as to apply the data to a corresponding 3D skeleton,

  • thus digitizing the exact movements of the actor.

  • But, let's not get hung up on the specifics.

  • It's a wonderful way to bring the complexity and

  • nuance of a real-life performance into a computer, and

  • it all got its start here, with The Spirits Within.

  • >> Agent Smith: More. >> CineFix Host: Of course, motion capture

  • had it's limitations back then.

  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within still had to manually animate faces and

  • hands because the tracking wasn't at a point where it could capture

  • that level of detail yet.

  • So our number six goes to the innovation that solved the problem of the human face

  • with The Matrix Reloaded.

  • Now, VFX-wise, everybody remembers The Matrix for the bullet time.

  • But perhaps its most important invention came from the sequels.

  • Yes, those, the ones you've all tried so hard to forget.

  • In order to completely digitize photorealistic CGI stunt doubles for

  • Matrix Reloaded, most noticeably Agent Smith in the scene where there's like

  • a bajillion of him, Image Metrics Created, Universal Capture.

  • What is Universal Capture?

  • Well, after 3d scanning a full model of an actor's face and capturing a neutral

  • reference image and matching the data from the 2D image to the 3D model,

  • 5 synchronized cameras record the actor's performance from different angles and

  • track each individual pixels motion from each angle.

  • By comparing this to the reference image and triangulating in 3D space,

  • they can calculate the exact 3 dimensional motion of every point in the actor's face,

  • and successfully apply it to their 3D model.

  • If that sounds ridiculously complicated, that's because it is.

  • And because I said it real fast.

  • Just know that it's basically like performance motion capture on the face.

  • But instead of using ping pong balls,

  • it uses every single one of your pores, freckles, and acne.

  • Crazy, right?

  • >> Conductor: All aboard.

  • >> Conductor: All aboard.

  • >> CineFix Host: Most performance captured technology continued to mature and

  • it wasn't long until an animated film came out that used the complete tool kit

  • to completely animate an entire digital cast with motion capture.

  • And we can thank Robert Zemeckis for this innovation for

  • his wonderfully heart-warming, if a little dead-eyed, Polar Express.

  • Yes, except for a dance notable for being humanly impossible to physically perform,

  • all of the animation from Polar Express was motion captured and pasted onto CGI

  • characters by a star-studded cast that included Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks,

  • Tom Hanks, and Tom Hanks, because, well, he was basically everyone in that movie.

  • But the film also gave us the feature debut of painted marker facial tracking,

  • that stands alongside our number six's markerless computer wizardry

  • as one of the more important performance capture techniques of the digital era.

  • It's a film that paved the way for Zemeckis's visually impressive, yet

  • increasingly less successful CGI efforts, like Beowulf, A Christmas Carol and

  • Mars Needs Moms.

  • Along with pretty much every single movie nowadays that uses performance capture.

  • Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, and

  • The Hobbit use a revolutionizing piece of technology and something that will

  • continue to shape the faces of special effects for years to come.

  • >> Air Traffic Controller: This is an emergency protocol 90206

  • calling Sky Captain, Sky Captain do you read?

  • [NOISE] Repeat,

  • calling Sky Captain, come in Sky Captain.

  • >> Sky Captain: This is Sky Captain, I'm on my way.

  • >> CineFix Host: So by 2004 filmmakers had pretty much nailed down digital people,

  • but they still had a ways to go on digital worlds.

  • Sure, 2000's the Gladiator had a bad ass digital coliseum that won it an Oscar.

  • But for our number four,

  • we want to honor the films that pioneered the concept of the digital backlot.

  • An entirely green or blue screen set.

  • And while Sin City, 300,

  • and The Hobbit all made magnificent use of the technology, our pick goes to the first

  • film that used the technique, with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

  • The entirety of the locations in this film were generated digitally.

  • Director Kerry Conran actually started on a trailer for the film in 1994, with four

  • years, a Mac computer, and a homemade living room blue screen at his disposal.

  • But the little trailer got him some big funding,

  • ultimately garnering him an opportunity to scale up the project to full size.

  • The exclusively digital process required enormous precision in order to

  • properly composite the actors into completely 3D environments.

  • So Conran actually shot the film twice, once with stand-ins, and

  • then finally with the stars, but

  • only after showing them what it would look like as a final product.

  • It was a big risk that unfortunately didn't quite pay off for the investors.

  • But it ultimately created an entirely new mode of filmmaking.

  • One that has found its way onto the set of nearly every single CGI

  • blockbuster out there.

  • Which is why it absolutely belongs on our list.

  • >> Will Turner: I challenge Davy Jones.

  • >> Davy Jones: I accept.

  • >> CineFix Host: As film technology continued to develop, the digital and

  • physical worlds continued to grow closer and closer.

  • As we moved into 2005 and 2006, films like Spider Man 2, King Kong and

  • Superman Returns found new, creative ways to fool audiences with impossible visuals.

  • And CGI characters finally began to climb out of the uncanny valley.

  • But the need for fantastical characters interacting with normal ones began to

  • rub up against the inconvenience of filming a scene piecewise in

  • two separate locations both onset and in a motion capture studio.

  • So as usual, Industrial Light & Magic came along and changed VFX forever, again,

  • by inventing IMOCAP for Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest.

  • IMOCAP is basically just normal motion capture that happens alongside principle

  • photography.

  • They stick on the tennis balls, the spandex onesie and

  • then toss the actor out to go shoot in front of real lights camera and action.

  • Then they attached two extra witness cameras to the side of the primary camera

  • and used them to capture the actor's motion data.

  • Triangulate all the information and composite the result back into the scene.

  • In combination with the gorgeous rendering of Davy Jones's face/octopus beard,

  • Dead Man's Chest succeeded as the most convincing example of

  • photo real CGI mimicry of its time.

  • >> CineFix Host: While we're sad to skip over the remarkable grafting of

  • Brad Pitt's aging CGI face on the bodies of other actors in the Curious Case of

  • Benjamin Button and it's successor, the Social Network's twice the Armie Hammer,

  • twice the handsome, we are of course delighted to see pretty much

  • every other innovation on our list put together for 2009's Avatar.

  • We all heard the marketing hype built around this film,12 years to develop,

  • invented new technology, revolutionizes film making blah, blah,

  • blah, blah, blah, but this movie was the real deal.

  • James Cameron created the first completely believable fully

  • integrated intermeshing of 3D and live action worlds for the film.

  • And he waited the rumored years and years to do it for a reason.

  • All the other stuff on this list had to be invented.

  • Once that happened and only then,

  • did he turn it up to eleven and really scale it beyond belief.

  • And while Cameron innovated on everything from 3D cameras to data management,

  • which sounds like a thrilling story for another list We're most interested in

  • his two main contributions to performance capture and live virtual rendering.

  • In terms of performance capture, Cameron got both bigger and smaller.

  • First, he sextupled the previous maximum usable area that motion capture could