VIZ Announces Digital Content Division, VIZ Labs

VIZ MEDIA CREATES VIZ LABS TO DRIVE DIGITAL CONTENT INNOVATION
New Division To Be Led By Gagan Singh

San Francisco, CA, April 23, 2012VIZ Media, the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga, graphic novels and anime in North America, announced the formation of VIZ Labs, a new division of the company led by Gagan Singh, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. VIZ Labs will focus on innovation in digital content distribution, and will consolidate engineering and digital business efforts across the company into one group. VIZ Media has recently been selectively acquiring engineering talent, and that acquisition strategy will continue under VIZ Labs.

“Innovation in distribution is an integral part of VIZ Media’s future,” said Ken Sasaki, President and CEO of VIZ Media. “As a long-time partner of the company, Gagan helped us shape our digital content strategy, and we’re delighted to have him join our team full time.”

VIZ Labs and Singh are responsible for integrating technology across the entire company, including the digital platforms for VIZ Manga and VIZ Anime. Prior to joining VIZ Media, Singh was the Founder and CEO of West Side Labs, a long time technology partner for VIZ Media. With advanced degrees from Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley, Singh joins VIZ Media with a wealth of experience.

“I am honored and excited to join VIZ Media,” said Singh. “With all VIZ Media has already accomplished in building a digital content platform, there is still phenomenal opportunity and growth potential for the company. VIZ Labs will be the tip of the spear to drive the innovation that brings the manga & anime our fans love through their preferred digital platform.”

Over the past 18 months, VIZ Media has transformed the traditional manga and anime business through a variety of strategic partnerships and digital platforms, making manga and anime more accessible than ever before. VIZ Media’s anime titles rank among the most popular streaming entertainment series online, thanks to partnerships with Apple, Hulu and Netflix. The VIZ Manga digital platform was an industry breakthrough, making high-quality, legal translations of the world’s most loved manga available at VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga apps for iPhone®, iPod® touch and iPad®. VIZ Media took things even further when it introduced Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital manga anthology making the most popular manga series in the world available in the United States within two weeks of their original Japanese release, faster than ever before in the history of the industry. VIZ Labs will announce its first major initiative and VIZ Media’s next digital platform this summer.

Call for Entries: Stop Motion in NY Exhibit 2012

-Statement-
The purpose of this exhibit is to showcase work created by stop motion artists and animators working in New York City. We’d like to present a range of works involved in all steps of the process of making stop motion films–from initial planning phases, i/e/ storyboards, mock-ups, armatures, to the the puppets, sets and films involved in the final product. Our goal is to offer a behind the scenes look at the various, and often invisible phases of making stop motion, and for the exhibit visitors to come away with a renewed appreciation of the range of skills that go into creating stop motion films.

-Important Dates-
April 20th: Submissions are open.
May 14th: Submissions close at 11:59 pm EST.
May 21st: Notification of chosen entries.
June 9th: Gallery opening event.
June 9th-14th: Gallery exhibition period.

-Requirements-
Entry Form (Page 1)
Floor Plan (Page 2)
Release Form (Page 3)
High Res Images (300 DPI) of work. (To be attached)

Click on link below to download the form and apply!
https://www.box.net/shared/4ce3cbc75d55131c8b5c

Warner Bros. Announces CGI LEGO Movie For February 28, 2014

BURBANK, CA, April 23, 2012 – The first-ever full length, theatrical LEGO® movie will open nationwide on February 28, 2014, it was announced today by Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Currently in production, the 3D computer animated adventure will be directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller from their original screenplay, story by Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman and Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, based on LEGO Construction Toys. It will incorporate some of the LEGO world’s most popular figures while introducing several new characters, inviting fans who have enjoyed the brand’s innovative toys and hugely popular video games for generations to experience their visually unique LEGO world as never seen before.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller previously teamed on the hit 21 Jump Street and the 2009 animated comedy adventure Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

The film will be produced by Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and Roy Lee (The Departed, How to Train Your Dragon).

Weinstein Company Announces Four Animated Films For 2013

NEW YORK, April 23, 2012 — The Weinstein Company is gearing up for its biggest year of family friendly entertainment yet with multiple animated films coming to theaters in 2013. Buoyed by the heat that Escape From Planet Earth is generating and the inside buzz that is building on the project, TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein announced the slate and release dates for TWC’s upcoming animated films. In addition to Escape From Planet Earth, upcoming releases include: Santapprentice, The Trick or Treaters and Leo The Lion.

Said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, “Following the success of The Lorax, Rango and the continued achievements of some of the industry’s most successful animated filmmakers, we are producing animation with comedic stories that the entire family can enjoy. Escape From Planet Earth already boasts a great cast including Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Brendan Fraser, James Gandolfini, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry. We will be utilizing all of our relationships with top talent across the board to deliver the appropriate comedic tone and entertainment.”

Escape From Planet Earth, a CG-animated comedy, will be in theaters on February 14, 2013. In Escape From Planet Earth, made in association with GRF, astronaut Scorch Supernova finds himself caught in a trap when he responds to an SOS from a notoriously dangerous alien planet. Leo The Lion, the story of a young vegetarian lion who is seen as an outcast among his fellow lions, will be released on August 30, 2013. The Trick or Treaters, a tale of villains pilfering from the countryside until they are charmed by a young orphan girl, will be in theaters on October 25, 2013. Santapprentice, which tells the story of a young orphan who is chosen to replace Santa when he retires, will be out on December 6, 2013. A-list voice talent will be announced closer to release. In development is franchise project Cricket In Times Square, written by Evan Spiliotopoulos whose credits include The Lion King 1 1/2, The Jungle Book 2; and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers.

Zoic Studios Promotes Levi Ahmu To Creative Director

Culver City, CA: Zoic Studios has promoted rising visual effects talent Levi Ahmu to Creative Director.  The move comes on the heels of Ahmu’s visually inventive, Zoic-produced :15, Show Us Your Skin, for Dove out of David Brown Entertainment, featuring inspired mosaic imagery.  Ahmu also seamlessly weaves inventive digital artistry with an authentic live action storyline in the recent spot Livstand for Yahoo’s new digital magazine launch.  Serving both as creative director and live action director for both projects, Ahmu demonstrates his knack for flexing his creative outlook on all phases of a project, from concept to post-production.

Ahmu, who was recently included in Brief Magazine’s Top 25 Creative Executives Under 30 list, started at Zoic as a compositor in 2006 and quickly rose within the ranks. His credits include VFX-heavy spots, television sequences, music videos and video game teasers for the likes of Yahoo!, California Raisins, Electronic Arts and TV shows True Blood, Fringe and CSI to name a few.

In the visually-driven Show Us Your Skin for Dove, a photo mosaic was generated and stitched using AndreaMosaic, which divided a hero image into a grid in which each square was examined for color ranges and paired with an appropriate corresponding image from a database of 3500+ photos of real women lensed under Ahmu’s supervision.  The hero mosaic was then broken up in Cinema 4D using Mograph Effectors and animated to move past camera and create a feeling of spatial vastness.

Once this epic effect was complete, the team at Zoic composited the animation, along with live action footage and additional photographs, in After Effects to create the visually stunning final spot.  Additional effects such as transitions and titles were also created in After Effects.

“Levi is the perfect expression of today’s Creative Director,” says Zoic Studios Co-Founder Chris Jones. “Pop culture savvy, technically adroit and passionate about visual communication in its many forms, he will make an excellent creative director, and the youngest in Zoic’s history.”

Diving into his new role, Ahmu has also recently displayed his acute technical prowess and keen eye for visual storytelling as Cinematic Creative director on the Skylanders–Spyro’s Adventure game title.

An avid fan of the VFX in his favorite shows created by Zoic, Ahmu was drawn to the company while studying screenwriting and production at USC Film School.  Officially joining the team in 2008, Ahmu quickly became a rising star armed with an extensive foundation of skills in visual effects and digital production.  Ahmu, a true filmmaker at heart, makes it his mission to ensure that the overall narrative is the driving force on every project he directs. Because of these shared philosophies Levi is the perfect match for Zoic whose sincere goal is to tell extraordinary stories.

Franco-Chinese Partnership To Develop Animated Feature Based on Comic “La Balade de Yaya”


Fei Productions is developing the cinematic adaptation of La Balade de Yaya, a comic-strip series, made for youngsters, which has won the hearts of public and critics alike. The first four volumes ( of nine, expected, in total ) have already sold 40,000 copies in France. The rights to the comic-strip have been sold in Italy; and the series is already available digitally through l’App Store in Chinese and French.

This animated film will be mostly a Franco-Chinese co-production. The producers would like that Yaya be realised within the framework of the cinematic co-production agreements existing between France and China. However, partnerships with other countries remain, of course, open. The story of Yaya is a rite of passage both sensitive and poignant. If the context of the story is Chinese, the themes it deals with, such as friendship, sharing, initiation and discovery of the world, have a universal message, and give the film great commercial potential internationally.

Yaya the film – loyal to the universe of the BD — tells of the adventures of a little girl of ‘good family’, who, in 1937, because of the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, leaves in search of her parents with the help of a street kid. The authors of Yaya look also to world literature: the Dickens of Oliver Twist; Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun; René Clément’s Forbidden Games; as well as all the work of Miyazaki. They’re interested, primarily, at looking at the world through a child’s eyes — where their young heroes themselves look questioningly at the strange world of adults. The amount of feedback generated shows how willingly parents and children share their points of view on the adventures of Yaya. Even if this animated film ( 90 minutes, 2D/3D ) targets 8-12 year-olds, it reaches equally a family audience.

The authors of this adaptation will be the same as those of the series. Patrick Marty ( the original creator ), Jean-Marie Omont and Charlotte Girard, who are in charge of the script. Golo Zhao, the graphic artist of the BD, originally from the animation field, will adapt his own designs for the big screen. Patrick Marty will be in charge of the production, in collaboration with Xu Ge Fei ( Editor and Producer ).

Together, they’ve invited in Fabrice Beau, who has worked for over fifteen years in the animation sector, and who is in charge of the commercial development of Yaya.

MEET US! Fei Productions, starting from the experience of the recent Cartoon Movie and Kazachok Forum ( licence-market ) was able to launch the financing of this film. The company will present the project at 2nd Beijing International Film Festival, during the next Marché du Film at Cannes in May as well as Marché International du Film d’Animation ( MIFA ) in June. The project is already exciting great interest with numerous cinema professionals.

Straandlooper Animation Announces New Slate


Straandlooper Animation today announced a slate of new IP to build on the success of the highly acclaimed games trilogy Hector:Badge of Carnage, which it launched back in Summer 2010 and completed with U.S. Publisher Telltale Games in September 2011.

Armed with a Slate Development loan from Northern Ireland Screen to match their own funding, the Straandlooper team is working on three brand new games and two new short films.

The team behind the Hector games, Dean Burke and Kevin Beimers is at work on two new properties – Burke’s new creation Thunder in Donford and Beimers’ brainchild Schrödinger’s Cat; while company founders Alastair McIlwain and Richard Morss are brewing The Sirrush Conundrum, created by Morss.

Thunder in Donford

Creator: Dean Burke

Designer: Dean Burke

Game Design: Dean Burke and Kevin Beimers

Like the Hector games, Thunder in Donford is packed with preposterous point- &-click style irreverence. A boisterous, non-stop cross-country ricochet across Britain, slapped together with the meticulous delusions of a paranoid conspiracy theorist lorry driver, Trev Duvay. Part time trucker, full time loner on an unforgettable crazy road trip that will probably scar your fragile mind for life.

Schrödinger’s Cat

Creator: Kevin Beimers

Designers:Kevin Beimers and Dean Burke

Game design: Kevin Beimers and Dean Burke.

Schrödinger’s Cat — part puzzler, part platformer, part punch-up — stars a dark, dimension-jumping feline superhero who’s both dead and alive, unwittingly charged with disentangling the secrets of time, space, the atomic, the astronomical and the infinite. Up against anything from an unruly band of disagreeable leptons to the sinister creeping tendrils of Dark Matter,

Schrödinger’s Cat is sure to blow the lid off all the things you never knew about life, the universe and everything.

The Sirrush Conundrum

Creator: Richard Morss

Designer: Alastair McIlwain

Game design: Richard Morss and Alastair McIlwain.

An epic puzzler delving into the hidden worlds of espionage and the dark underside of global business’ relations with governments. Accompany outspoken politico and ‘toff’ dissident James Newton Wellbeloved aka Newt as he runs from a kill order and at the same time has to unravel and foil a labyrinthine and outrageous international plot that leads him into the far reaches of alternative archaeology and — for a lifelong skeptic- a mind blowing immersion in so-called ‘psychic’ techniques.

Straandlooper plans to produce and publish the games for iPad, iPhone, iPod, PC and Mac, and is currently seeking the funds to scale up for full production.

The short films will form part of the growing and well received Small Tragedies collection, a lifestyle/issue based black comedy strand, around which the company hopes to built its first venture into ‘social’ apps.

“It’s an exciting time for Straandlooper. We’ve made massive strides with the publication of the Hector games and are looking forward to expanding our catalogue with great new stuff for the same general audience.” As for Hector, the world’s most flawed DI currently in deep cover, on an extended binge, in rehab, or all three, quipped – “Straandlooper? Who gives a toss. Where’s me kebab?”

Adobe Launches Adobe Creative Cloud

SAN JOSE, CA Adobe announced Adobe Creative Cloud, a radical new way of providing tools and services that will change the game for creatives worldwide.  A subscription-based offering, Adobe Creative Cloud is a hub for making, sharing and delivering creative work and it is centered around a powerful release of Adobe Creative Suite 6 software, packed with innovation across its industry-defining design, Web, video and digital imaging tools.

Adobe Creative Cloud Highlights

  • Creative Cloud membership provides users with access to download and install every new Adobe CS6 application announced today and two new HTML5 products, Adobe Muse and Adobe Edge preview.
  • Creative Cloud integrates Adobe’s creative tablet applications, such as Photoshop Touch, into everyday work – seamlessly synchronizing and storing files in the cloud for sharing and access on any device.
  • Creative Cloud members will be able to easily deliver mobile apps to iOS and Android marketplaces and publish, manage and host websites.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud members will have access to application upgrades, including new CS point-product features, before they are launched as part of major CS updates, as well as inventive new products and services as they emerge.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud membership is US$49.99 per month, with an annual contract. A special introductory offer of US$29.99 per month for CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 individual customers is also available.

“The urge to be creative is universal, and harnessing the creative spark — in everyone from school children to creative pros — has never been more important,” said Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer, Adobe. “Wherever and whenever inspiration strikes, Adobe will be there to help capture, refine and publish your ideas.”

Creative Suite 6, Innovative HTML5 Tools Anchor Creative Cloud

  • CS6 includes landmark releases of industry icons such as Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe InDesign CS6, Adobe Illustrator CS6, Adobe Dreamweaver CS6, Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Adobe After Effects CS6, Adobe Flash Professional CS6 and more.  With Creative Cloud membership, creatives can download and install all of the 14 new Adobe Creative Suite 6 applications.
  • Creative Cloud membership also includes access to Adobe Muse and Adobe Edge preview, new tools for HTML5 design and development that demonstrate Adobe’s commitment to the latest Web standards.

Creative Cloud Links Adobe Touch Apps to CS6 Desktop Tools

  • Adobe Creative Cloud integrates Adobe’s line of creative touch tools with CS6 desktop applications.
  • Adobe Touch Apps bring professional-level creativity to tablet devices and address multiple areas of the creative process: image editing, ideation, sketching, mood board creation, website and mobile app prototyping, and the presentation of finished work.
  • Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas have already proved runaway hits on the iPad and Android tablets. Three additional tools, available on Android today, will be coming to iPad soon: Adobe Collage, Adobe Debut and Adobe Proto.
  • A new desktop app, Adobe Creative Cloud Connection, enables the syncing, sharing and storing of files across mobile devices and desktop.
  • Creative Cloud membership includes up to 20GB of cloud storage, with additional storage purchase options coming soon.

Creative Cloud Publishing Services Streamline Website and App Creation

  • Creative Cloud publishing services will include the ability to easily publish apps, magazines and catalogues to iPad, iPhone and Android devices.
  • Members have immediate access to Adobe Typekit, the Web-based font library that pioneered the use of real fonts on websites, delivering more than 700 typefaces from leading foundries.
  • New Web hosting capabilities, integrated as part of Adobe Creative Cloud membership, allow users to easily create and host high-impact websites.  The Integration between Adobe Muse, Typekit and the Web hosting capabilities power a new simplified workflow for delivering high-impact websites.

Members Receive Ongoing Delivery of New Applications, Services and Features
Creative Cloud members will receive ongoing updates to Creative Suite applications as well as other new products and services as they emerge. Coming in the future to Adobe Creative Cloud are:

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, the desktop software tool that enables photographic perfection from shoot to finish; the first complete release of Adobe Edge, a ground-breaking HTML5 development tool; and Digital Publishing Suite Single Edition, the technology behind the delivery of digital magazines on iPad.
  • Creative Cloud will also include training, support and community features that drive meaningful connections between creatives worldwide.

Live Streamed Webcast
The launch event for Adobe Creative Cloud and CS6 will be streamed live beginning at 10 a.m. PT, April 23 at www.adobe.com/special/cs6/launch-event.html and will be available there as a continuous rebroadcast from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. PT on April 23. An on-demand version will be available at http://tv.adobe.com beginning April 24.

Pricing and Availability
Adobe Creative Suite 6 products and Adobe Creative Cloud are scheduled to be available within 30 days and can be pre-ordered now. Adobe Creative Cloud membership will be available to customers in 36 countries and in multiple languages. Pricing for Creative Cloud membership for individuals is US$49.99 per month based on annual membership and US$74.99 per month for month-to-month membership. A special introductory offer of US$29.99 per month for CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS5.5 individual customers is also available. Learn more at www.adobe.com/go/creativecloud.

Adobe continues to offer 14 CS6 point-products as well as Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design & Web Premium (US$1,899), Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design Standard (US$1,299), Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium (US$1,899) and Adobe Creative Suite 6 Master Collection (US$2,599) for purchase. Upgrade pricing is also available to eligible customers. Customers can purchase Creative Suite 6 via Adobe.com and through select retail, resellers and online stores. More information on product pricing is available at www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite.html.

Adobe Touch Apps can be purchased separately from the iTunes App Store‡ or Google Play for US$9.99 each. Special offers for Adobe Touch Apps are available for customers who sign up for annual membership of Adobe Creative Cloud. For more details visit www.adobe.com/products/touchapps.

Adobe Foundation Announces One Miller Dollars In Scholarships

SAN JOSE, CA — The Adobe Foundation announced it is committing one million dollars to establish the Adobe Foundation Creativity Scholarships — a new global initiative intended to unlock the creative potential of students. Offered to high-school seniors who participate in the Adobe Youth Voices program, the scholarship will help them continue their education, pursue creative careers and find innovative ways to improve their communities.

“Our vision for this scholarship fund is to support the next generation of creative thinkers and propel the future careers of those who create.”

Students from the Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) network, which includes more than 800 sites in 52 countries, will be eligible to apply for the scholarships. AYV is Adobe’s signature global philanthropy initiative focused on teaching youth from underserved communities the power of creative self-expression and global citizenship. The first scholarship application cycle is expected to begin in spring 2013, with awards distributed for the start of the academic year beginning in fall 2013.

“The urge to create has never been stronger, and the ability to create is unprecedented, yet a new global study shows that most people feel they are not living up to their own creative potential,” said Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer, Adobe. “We challenge the notion that creativity is reserved for an elite few, and believe that no matter what you do, everyone has the potential to be creative.”

“With Adobe Foundation Scholarships we are reinforcing our commitment to closing the creativity gap,” Narayen added. “Our vision for this scholarship fund is to support the next generation of creative thinkers and propel the future careers of those who create.”

The Adobe Foundation Creativity Scholarships will be focused on youth who plan to pursue an academic program or career in a creative field at an accredited college, university or certification program. Scholarships will be based on financial need, academic performance and potential. Individual scholarship amounts and lengths will vary based on country, curriculum and other factors.

Additional details about the application process will be announced later this year.

Ryan Woodward Announces An Animated Graphic Novel

Ryan Woodward, a veteran feature animator who is also responsible for the popular animated short Thought of You, is placing his bets on animated graphic novels. The first issue of his independently produced series Bottom of the Ninth will be released soon for the iPad and iPhone. The trailer above is intriguing as is the comic’s storyline:

The first app, Prologue, will set up the characters and the world of Tao City. Candy Cunningham is an 18 year old girl, born with a phenomenal athletic ability, and a hot head! Her father, Gordy Cunningham is an aged major league player whose athletic abilities have diminished over the years, but his ability to put on a good clown show always draws a crowd and ticket sales. Throughout the story, Candy faces some serious identity issues. The fame and glory of being a Tao City hero conflict with the true meaning of happiness taught to her by her father.

For more details, visit Bottom-of-the-ninth.com.

Get Ready To Submit To Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Fest

Quick reminder: we’re soon going to begin accepting submissions for the 3rd annual Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival. Last year’s selections were fantastic and we’re planning to put together another showcase of outstanding student animation from around the globe. If you’re finishing up a student film this year, we hope you’ll submit to Cartoon Brew’s festival. Any student film completed after May 1, 2011 and not yet posted on-line is eligible. Full details coming soon!

Music Video Roundup #10

Simian Mobile Disco by Cerulean

Jack Featherstone and Will Samuel designed, directed and animated this abstract video at London’s ISO studio. (Thanks to Felipe Robles for the link.)


Cpt. Metal by Die Arzte

Vienna, Austria collective LWZ, comprised of Martin Lorenz, Stefan Salcher and Markus Wagner, created Cpt. Metal for German punk band Die Arzte.


Te Koop / A Vendre by Pree

Maxwell Sorensen animated this piece over the last two months, during evenings and on weekends. Created entirely in Photoshop and After Effects after scanning “a big pile of real paper textures to keep it more organic”. Sorensen spends his days interning on stop-motion projects at Hornet Inc.


The Rifle’s Spiral by The Shins

That’s Jamie Caliri‘s new video for Portland-based indie rock band, The Shins. Caliri, best known for his Lemony Snicket end titles, created this surreal stop-motion animation inspired by Edward Gorey illustrations and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Go here to watch the making of video.

Brad Bird at the Walt Disney Family Museum

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 19, Brad Bird will speak at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The subject of his talk will be “The Disney Treatment: Walt’s Versions of Classic Stories.” Brad always has thought-provoking things to say, and this is a topic I’ve never heard him discuss at length so it sounds like a can’t-miss event. This is the lecture description:

Director (The Iron Giant, Mission: Impossible/Ghost Protocol) and two-time Oscar®-winner (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) Brad Bird will discuss how Walt adapted well-known and even previously-filmed stories and created what are widely regarded as “definitive” versions. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men; Treasure Island to Swiss Family Robinson, Bird will explore the appeal of these tales to Walt-and how his individual and personal viewpoint made them enduring classics.

Tickets are $12 and available on the Walt Disney Family Museum ticketing site. Their system doesn’t seem to recognize the event, which may indicate that it’s already sold out.

“Laissez, Laissez Entrer Le Soleil” by Charles Lemor

I post films for many different reasons on Cartoon Brew. Laissez, Laissez Entrer Le Soleil merits a post mainly because Charles Lemor added a butt to a house. Perhaps it’s funnier if you’ve been up all night (as I have), but frankly, adding asses to inanimate objects always helps. Besides that bit of whimsy, it’s your typical short made at Supinfocom, which means it has above-average production values for a student film.

The High Cost of Working in Visual Effects Animation

There’s a price to pay for working in visual effects, and we’re not talking about the money that students need to pay John Textor to work at Digital Domain. Many artists are faced with paying the ultimate price–a matter of life and death.

The LA Times published an important article yesterday by Richard Verrier about the health problems faced by visual effects artists and how they’re fighting back. The stories aren’t pretty:

After midnight, when the coffee and Red Bull had worn off, Sari Gennis and her co-workers would take a brisk stroll to make it through their graveyard shift. For four months straight, often seven days a week, a team of visual effects artists worked 12-hour shifts to complete the 3-D conversion of movie blockbuster Titanic. Gennis said the long hours aggravated a severe arthritis condition. She’d already had both knees replaced, and needed a third surgery, but couldn’t afford to take time off for the operation.

or:

The matte painter, who asked not to be identified for fear of damaging his career, said he nearly died when he fell asleep at the wheel after working 75 consecutive days, up to 17 hours a day, doing visual effects work on National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The money was good – $1,000 a day – but the long hours were taking a toll. Three months after his car accident, he began experiencing chest pains and was rushed to the hospital. He said emergency room nurses initially didn’t believe he was having a heart attack because he was only 37. As a freelancer, he didn’t qualify for the company insurance plan to cover his $100,000 in medical bills. His employer, the now-defunct Asylum Visual Effects, refused to hire him back.

Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, union representatives hosted an information session for Sony Pictures Imageworks artists who are pushing to unionize the studio, a story that we covered last week on Cartoon Brew. The Animation Guild reported that the meeting was a success with over 75 Imageworks employees attending.

So will this turn out to be the VFX Spring as some are suggesting? There’s a lot of positive sentiment right now, but no one is under the illusion that working conditions will improve overnight. Animation Guild rep Steve Hulett noted on his blog that the Imageworks meeting was “only the first few steps of a long hike, but we’re going to do whatever it takes to reach out and get visual effects artists and technical directors under the big union tent.”

Disney Studio Chairman Rich Ross Resigns

Walt Disney Studios chairman Richard Ross was forced to resign after less than three years on the job. “I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me,” Ross said in a company-wide email. He had taken over the spot in 2009, after spearheading the Disney Channel’s growth with properties like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. Though Ross didn’t greenlight John Carter, the film’s spectacular failure resulting in a writedown of $200 million played a role in his departure. Deadline Hollywood reported that Ross’s own slate of theatrical features hasn’t debuted yet.

The studio’s live-action units will feel the impact of Ross’s departure more acutely than Disney Feature Animation and Pixar, which are still overseen by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. In fact, the most notable animation-related decision of Ross’s tenure had nothing to do with Disney Feature or Pixar. Ross will be remembered for shutting down Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap studio ImageMovers following last year’s Disney bomb Mars Needs Moms.

No replacement has been named, though plenty of names are being floated in the media. Lasseter’s name has been mentioned, though he is considered a longshot for the position.

Read more about Ross’s departure at Deadline Hollywood and New York Times.

Trunk’s Rok Predin Creates New Animated Short Called “Inside”

Trunk’s Rok Predin has created a new animated short, Inside, with a soundtrack by Ivan Arnold. The film initially suggests a child’s “lift the flap” book but quickly subverts this familiar visual narrative by confounding the viewer’s expectations.

Predin’s background at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana is clearly visible in the work. He says the visual journey “lets the viewer ponder the traditional relationship between internal and external space while being a very visually pleasing film.”

Inside was created using Cinema 4D and composited using After Effects. It was conceived, animated, composited and directed by Rok Predin. The producer was Richard Barnett for Trunk Animation.

Aardman Creates Ad Campaign for Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce

LONDON, UK -- Aardman has joined forces with Levi Roots to produce his first ever above-the-line advertising campaign for Reggae Reggae Sauce.  The £2m campaign, created by JWT London, encourages consumers to “put some music in your food” and will premiere during a primetime TV slot on ITV on Thursday 3rd May and run until mid-August.

The ‘fabulocious’ ad, which has been designed to put Reggae Reggae Sauce on consumer shopping lists this BBQ season, also launches the new Mild Reggae Reggae Sauce variant, a product specifically designed to appeal to consumers with milder taste preference so as to broaden the brand’s appeal to a wider audience.

The ad features Levi cooking up a BBQ in the back garden of a Brixton house singing the “It’s so nice I had to name it twice” Reggae Reggae Sauce song, the tune that sealed the deal for him on Dragons’ Den. Levi splashes sauce onto sausages, kebabs and chicken drumsticks to give them a Caribbean flava and a culinary kick.

Tim Beard, Reggae Reggae Sauce’s Marketing Controller says: “It’s been five years since Levi was last on our TV screens on Dragons’ Den and we know from research that there are consumers who have neither seen Levi’s original pitch nor heard his Reggae Reggae Sauce song. Therefore we wanted to introduce Levi to them just as he was before he and his sauce became famous; an ordinary man on a mission to put some Caribbean flava into everyday British meals.”

Tim continues, “We decided to put the Reggae Reggae Sauce song at the heart of the TV advertising creative to rekindle the memory of Levi singing and playing an acoustic guitar during his Dragons’ Den performance when he slayed the Dragons and won the nation over with his performance.

“If you’ve ever put Reggae Reggae Sauce onto kebabs, chops, sausages, steak or even into pasta you’ll know that it certainly livens up the dish and gives your tastebuds a bit of a wakeup call.  We wanted to show the sauce’s transformative effect, its ability to liven up any dish, and felt that that best way to do that simply was through the use of animation.  Of course the best people for the job, in our view, were Aardman.  We knew that they would be able to make the food look both fun and appetizing and when it came to Levi, we felt that the Aardman team could create a Levi model which could truly bring out his character as well as capture his look and style perfectly.

“The campaign heralds the start of an exciting next step on the Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce journey.  Currently the brand is a major player within the jerk BBQ sauce sector and this campaign will see the brand move into the wider sauce category challenging the more traditional players in the sauce and condiments categories with the expressed ambition of becoming a kitchen cupboard staple.  With this aim in mind, the introduction of a new milder variant will also broaden the brand reach to a new consumer groups.”

And the ad is destined to generate success at the tills; of those consumers aged 22-40 years old, who’ve had a sneak preview of the ad, 65% agreed that they were more likely to buy Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce in the future.  So there is confidence that the ad will successfully achieve the aim of increasing overall awareness and brand loyalty as well as, driving household penetration and frequency of purchase.

The TV & cinema ad will be supported by an integrated campaign comprising of PR, online amplification, in-store POS and sampling.

Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce is available in major supermarkets with an RRP of £1.59 (in a glass format). For more information, visit www.facebook.com/reggaereggaesauce.

HP’s New Z1 Workstation Now Available

PALO ALTO, CA – HP announced that the HP Z1 Workstation is now available worldwide for a starting price of $1,899 through global resellers and retailers, including CDW, MelroseMAC and PC Mall.

The world’s first all-in-one workstation with a 27-inch diagonal display was unveiled in Las Vegas on Feb. 14 at the HP Global Partnership Conference.

Built for computer-aided design, digital media and entertainment professionals, the HP Z1 provides blazingly fast rendering and performance. It offers a full range of workstation-class graphics cards and processors and is thoroughly tested and certified to work with today’s leading industry applications.

“We’ve been visiting customers around the globe, in industries from automotive to audio and video, and the response is overwhelmingly positive, with comments like ‘it’s insanely cool’ and ‘just the right size,’” said Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager, Commercial Solutions Business Unit, HP. “Customers say they’re impressed with the combination of accelerated performance and design that’s not available on any other product in the market today.”

Designed like no other, the display of the new HP Z1 snaps open so users can easily swap out parts and make upgrades without any tools required. The HP Z1 combines a sleek industrial design with accelerated performance, featuring Intel Xeon processors, NVIDIA Quadro graphics, support for more than 1 billion colors and HP’s world-class reliability.

“The HP Z1 is a combination of performance and form factor that would make a great addition to any workplace environment,” said Scott DeTota, senior director, Product and Partner Management, CDW. “IT managers will love its unique serviceability feature that truly sets it apart from the competition.”

“When our customers see how easy it is to open an HP Z1, without any tools, to change the hard drive or upgrade the memory, they’re hooked,” said Sandy S. Nasseri, president, MelroseMAC. “This is exactly what they’ve been looking for in a space-saving workstation for production or post-production work. The HP Z1 with an NVIDIA Quadro GPU, Avid Media Composer 6.0 and Adobe’s Creative Suite is the hottest thing to happen to digital media and entertainment in years.”

“Our customers range from small businesses and large enterprises to schools and government agencies; however, they all have one thing in common — a need for reliable technology,” said Kristin Rogers, executive vice president, Sales and Marketing, PC Mall. “The HP Z1 has all of the benefits of a traditional all-in-one PC, but adds workstation-class performance and reliability and, most importantly, upgradability.”

Fusion ioFX Accelerates Adobe CS6 Production Premium


Fusion-io announced that the upcoming release of Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium, Adobe’s powerful new generation of post-production software, is optimized to work with Fusion’s new ioFX workstation products. The Adobe enhancements enable tighter integration between the applications and the ioMemory architecture of the ioFX to accelerate Adobe After Effects CS6, Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Adobe Photoshop CS6, and other components in Adobe Creative Suite 6 software, empowering artists to rapidly perform compositing, video editing, image manipulation, and other data-intensive production work.

“Thanks to Global Performance Cache and the Fusion ioFX, After Effects users can experience a faster, more responsive workflow,” said Steve Forde, After Effects product manager, Adobe Systems Incorporated.  “The Fusion ioFX memory tier provides the high throughput needed to manipulate all digital content in Adobe Creative Suite 6 for real-time content creation such as image editing and compositing as well as boosts video playback, encoding and transcoding, and other data-intensive activities.”

Based on the Fusion ioMemory platform, the Fusion ioFX is a new flash-based workstation memory tier for production professionals that connects via the host’s PCI Express bus. Continuing to drive application acceleration for customers, the Adobe team worked closely with Fusion-io to optimize Adobe Creative Suite 6 software to take advantage of tighter integration with Fusion’s new ioMemory architecture for workstations. With the resulting ultra-low-latency performance, software developers like Adobe can now integrate features like highly threaded caching for Adobe After Effects CS6, which is specifically tuned to maximize data throughput, allowing for high-resolution production.

“Adobe’s team is constantly leading the way in optimizing applications, and that was very clear while working with the After Effects team to accelerate Adobe Creative Suite 6 with the new ioFX memory tier,” said Vincent Brisebois, Fusion-io Performance Computing Industry Senior Director. “The Creative Suite applications are used for millions of artists worldwide, which is why we were so excited to work closely with Adobe to help digital artists move beyond the delays that can hinder creativity and storytelling. By eliminating wait times traditionally associated with image manipulation, compositing, video editing and other data-intensive tasks digital artists face, Adobe’s optimizations for the ioFX allows professionals to spend more time fully engaged in the creative process.”

VFX Software Developer The Foundry Announces HIERO for Windows

London, UK — Visual effects software developer The Foundry announced a new Beta version of HIERO, which allows users to download and trial the software on the Windows operating system.

HIERO 1.0 was launched in March 2012, and is currently available on Mac OSX and Linux. Since its release HIERO has received praise from a variety of studios that have adopted The Foundry’s new pipeline in a box.

HIERO allows production facilities to efficiently conform, review and export shots to visual effects artists and into finishing systems. HIERO 1.0 is NOT a compositor or a system for finishing, grading or editing. Specifically designed to work seamlessly with The Foundry’s NUKE and NUKEX compositing applications, HIERO also enables collaborative working with other editorial, VFX and finishing tools.

“In the NUKE department at The Mill HIERO seemed a natural choice to fill the pipeline gap that we were bridging using in-house scripting and third party software,” said Hugo Guerra, joint head of Nuke compositing at The Mill. “Using HIERO and NUKEX together is the perfect solution for us. With these tools we save time and money on our pipeline, leaving the artists more time to be creative and not be delayed by the technical part of the process. This means our productions get better, faster and more collaborative”

“HIERO has removed all the tedious, manual labor from conforming,” said Andres Kirejew, partner and VFX Supervisor at Township. “I pointed it towards my EDL and 1.5tb of RED Epic footage magically relinked! HIERO breaks out shots with ease and automatically names, symlinks and prepares them for NUKE roundtripping. HIERO is ******* brilliant. Seriously, at the price point, it’s a no-brainer!”

“HIERO has the potential to make NUKE a true stand-alone product, and move it up to a level where you can complete projects completely independently in a commercials environment” said Ludo Fealy, VFX supervisor at MPC. “Everyone wants to see this happen.”

The HIERO development team has also been working hard on a range of other features and additions that will be available in upcoming versions of HIERO. As well as Windows support future releases will also include 3:2 Pulldown (a technique used to represent 24p material in NTSC interlaced format), and SDI Monitor Out — allowing users to playback short-form post projects (such as commercials and promos) that match the quality, format and colors that they will be broadcast in.

Also in a forthcoming release, The Foundry will be introducing HIERO Player — a powerful playback tool that will allow VFX artists to view their shots in context of a conformed HIERO timeline.

Smith Micro Bolsters POSER 3D Graphics Software With Service Release 2 and International Versions

Enhanced Poser Brand Extends Reach with Localized German and Japanese Versions

ALISO VIEJO, CA — April 18, 2012 — Smith Micro Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: SMSI) Productivity and Graphics Group, today announced enhancements to its popular Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 3D graphics products with Service Release 2 (SR2), as well as localization of the products to Japanese and German, based on high demand from loyal international Poser users.

“For artists who invest their time and creativity mastering animation software, being able to count on their software provider for support, enhancements and rapid corporate responsiveness is critical to their craft,” said Steve Cooper, Senior Product Manager of Graphics Solutions for Smith Micro Software, Inc. “For 17 years, the Poser team has demonstrated our commitment to making Poser the most robust, easy to use, exciting graphics software on the market. And that same dedicated team will continue innovating Poser and serving the global, expanding user base well into the future.”

Since 1994, Poser has continued to raise the bar as the standard for 3D figure design and character animation, enabling artists, illustrators, animators and graphic designers to easily create full 3D scenes with digital humans, animals and props. With SR2, Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 users will experience improved stability and feature enhancements requested by the dedicated base of Poser users across every area of the application.

SR2 provides substantial improvements for rendering, animation, rigging tools, the Content Library, as well as the Cloth and Face Room and introduces support for new PoserPython Methods. Poser Python support has been expanded to enable even more third party support for the product. For details check out the “ReadMe” at http://poser.smithmicro.com/updates.html.

Poser SR2 is available to English language customers now and will launch to Japanese and German users in May 2012. The Japanese and German translated versions of Poser include localized interface elements, content and fully localized versions of the Poser 800-page user manual with updated screen captures. The Poser Quick Start Guide with full tutorials and support video has also been translated, enabling international users to learn Poser in their native language.

“Poser has a massive following and a long-established history in the Japanese market,” said Tetsuo Okuda, Executive Vice President, e frontier, Inc. “Smith Micro Software’s development team is professional, experienced and has diligently supported the Japanese localization process every step of the way. We are confident Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 will be well received by customers and a huge success in Japan.”

Pricing and Availability:
English language Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 customers can download SR2 now with a registered application serial number at http://poser.smithmicro.com/updates.html. The MSRP for Poser Pro 2012 is $499.99 and Poser 9 is $249.99. They are available direct from the Smith Micro online store and from popular resellers, catalogs and distribution partners worldwide.

Japanese Availability:
Japanese language Poser 9 customers can download SR2 in mid-May 2012 with a registered application serial number.

German Availability:
Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 will be available to German language customers in mid-May 2012. Poser SR2 will be included in the release.