Very good video on using virtual cameras in animation. Here Pixar uses computer animation to duplicate complex photographic tools such as split diopters as you would in “real” cinematography. Thus making the film look more authentic.
I worked with Joe Herrington when I was at WDI from 1989 to 1994. Joe saved some of the old Jimmy Macdonald contraptions from being thrown out. I was designer of video systems but worked closely with the audio department doing post production sound. Here are some audio and video clips showing how theme park sound is done.
Theme parks have a way of transporting us to magical places, and sound is crucial in maintaining the illusion. From the most action-packed attractions to the background music playing between park areas, theme park sound designers have thought of it all. In this episode, we speak to Joe Herrington and Mike Fracassi, two Disney Imagineers who work to maintain the magic for guests of Disney Parks.
The SoundWorks Collection pulls back the curtain on the talented Imagineers who are responsible for the sounds and music of the Walt Disney theme park properties. In our exclusive video profile we explore the history and role of the audio team as they share their stories and creative challenges. We also take a visit through the original John James “Jimmy” MacDonald sound effects collection, which explores some of the classic Disney sound effects.
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney
Jimmy Macdonald was a one-man sound effects wizard. Over his 48-year career with Disney, he created and assembled one of the largest and most impressive sound effects libraries in motion picture history. Beginning in 1934, he added extra dimension to all of Disney’s animated shorts and features including even more current offerings such as the Mouseworks television series. He also worked on the soundtracks for most of the Studio’s live-action films up through the mid-1980s. But perhaps most notable to fans was his greatest role: that of Mickey Mouse, to whom Jimmy gave voice from 1946 until 1977.
Born John James Macdonald in Dundee, Scotland, on May 19, 1906, Jimmy came to the United States when he was only a month old. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and received a correspondence school degree in engineering before moving to California in 1927. His first job was with the Burbank Engineering Department.
In 1934, he was playing drums and percussion for the Dollar Steamship Lines when the band, in between cruises, was called to the Disney Studios to record for a Mickey Mouse short. Jimmy stayed on to work in the newly formed Disney Sound Effects Department, doing vocal effects and cartoon voices.
His voice repertoire included yodeling, whistling, and sneezing for the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, barks for Pluto, and, on many occasions, the excitable, high-pitched voices of Chip and Dale.
Rarely was there a sound Jimmy could not make with one of the more than 500 innovative Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that he built from scratch. He could create sounds as obscure as a spider web shimmering or a friendly bumblebee washing up before supper. Animator and Disney Legend Xavier Atencio once recalled, “If he couldn’t get a particular sound he wanted from one of those gizmos, Jimmy would do it with his mouth.”
In 1946, Walt Disney handpicked Jimmy to be his successor as the official voice of Mickey Mouse, beginning with the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of Fun and Fancy Free. Jimmy provided the famed mouse’s familiar falsetto on all film and television projects up until the late 1970s.
On screen, Jimmy was the silhouetted figure of a timpani player in Fantasia. Four decades later, in 1982, he assisted conductor and Disney Legend Irwin Kostal in the digital re-recording of that film. As an original member of the popular jazz group, “The Firehouse Five Plus Two,” Jimmy played drums and made several Disney television appearances in the 1950s. In the live-action film arena, he supplied sound effects for everything from the Academy Award®-wining True-Life Adventures series up through The Black Hole in 1979. For the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers, he came out of retirement to provide sounds for the feisty dragonfly, Evinrude.
Jimmy Macdonald passed away on February 1, 1991, in Los Angeles.
In an excerpt from a video included in his career retrospective at the Museum of Chinese in America, artist Tyrus Wong and others discuss the visual style Mr. Wong brought to Disney’s “Bambi.” Photo/Video: Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Tyrus Wong, the Chinese-American artist who was the production designer of Disney’s classic feature Bambi (1942), passed away today at the age of 106.
Wong had a brief career in animation, working at Disney only between 1938 and 1941, but made an outsized contribution to animation history with his innovative production design of Bambi. He was working as an entry-level inbetweener at Disney when he showed art director Tom Codrick his atmospheric pastel ideas for Bambi. that provided a solution to Bambi’s backgrounds by suggesting the atmosphere of a forest without describing every leaf and branch.
Codrick showed them to Walt Disney, who was equally excited by the approach. “Looks like we put you in the wrong department,” Codrick told the young artist. Wong was offered the opportunity to “key the whole picture from beginning to end, to make a painting that sets the mood.”
Wong received credit on the film only as a background painter, but wasn’t recognized for his role as the production designer of the film until many years later. Despite the low pay he received, Wong stayed inside the studio with all the veteran artists during the 1941 strike—”I was being a good boy”—but that didn’t matter. He was let go from the studio a year before Bambi was released. “I don’t feel bitter toward Disney at all, except for a few guys who I know to this day kinda resent me,” he told historian John Canemaker.Reflecting on his work on Bambi, Wong said, “The script would say, ‘Early morning: the deer goes out onto the meadow.’ I would try to create the atmosphere of that meadow, the fog on it and so forth . . . mood sketches. My painting has always been very poetic—that’s the Chinese influence. In Chinese art, the poet is a painter and the painter is a poet. The object isn’t to reproduce photographic reality, as it is in Western painting, but to capture a feeling.”
Wong himself considered animation to be “a minor, very small part” of his artistic life, which also included twenty-six years as a live-action production designer at Warner Bros. where he worked on classic films like Rebel Without a Cause, Around the World in Eighty Days, and The Wild Bunch. He also enjoyed a long career as a greeting card designer, and in his spare time, created murals, ceramics, lithographs, and kites.
Born in Guangzhou, China, Wong came to the United States at the age of 9, where he lived with his father, a laborer. A surprisingly in-depth New York Times obituary offers some fascinating details on Wong’s early years.
Wong’s father encouraged him to practice calligraphy every night, but they were so poor that they couldn’t afford ink. “We can’t afford ink or rice paper,” Wong once said. “But he made me do it with water. That’s a good training.”
In the final decades of his life, Wong received significant attention, starting with a chapter in John Canemaker’s book Before the Animation Begins (1996). More recently, in 2014, Wong had a major retrospective “Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong” at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
A feature-length documentary about Wong’s life, Tyrus, was recently completed by Pamela Tom. Here is the trailer:
Wong is survived by his daughters Kim, Kay, and Tai-Ling.
Tributes have been pouring in from around the industry, including from Frozen’s head of story Paul Briggs, Zootopia director Rich Moore, Inside Out co-director Ronnie del Carmen, and visual development artist Claire Keane, among others:
Here are a few of Wong’s iconic pastel concepts for Bambi:
Beginning in the 1960s, Wong started creating kites that he would fly on weekends at Los Angeles area beaches. Here are a few examples:
From CBS Sunday Morning. Tracy Smith learned all about his life story firsthand:
Here is a Walt Disney Family Museum exhibition from a few years ago.
From August 15, 2013 to February 3, 2014, The Walt Disney Family Museum will present the exhibition Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong. Organized by Michael Labrie, the museum’s director of collections, the exhibition will focus on the life and work of Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong—a celebrated painter, muralist, kite maker, lithographer, Hollywood sketch artist, calligrapher, ceramicist, and Disney Legend. At age 102, Wong is still a practicing artist today.
This retrospective features more than 150 works including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, painted scarves, kites, and more. Although he never met Walt Disney, it was the ethereal beauty of Wong’s Eastern influenced paintings that caught Walt’s eye and became the inspiration for the animated feature Bambi, which changed the way animation art was presented, and continues to be an inspiration to contemporary artists.Overcoming adversity, poverty, and racial discrimination, Wong used his passion and interpretation of the bold art of the Sung dynasty, and his experience working as a Depression- era muralist, California watercolorist, and film production illustrator, to become one of the bohemian artists whose creativity and drive helped shape the cultural, artistic life of Los Angeles during the 1930s and 40s
In 1938, Wong took a job at the Walt Disney Studios as an inbetweener, one who goes through the tedious process of making “in-between” drawings that filled out the movement of the characters between the animators’ key drawings. He recalled “At the end of the day, I thought my eyes were going to pop out,” as he flipped through countless drawings of Mickey Mouse and stared at the light in the drawing board. When he heard that Disney’s next feature-length film was going to be Bambi, he saw an opportunity to present his work.
Wong read Felix Salten’s Bambi and “thought the story was very, very nice—the feeling—you could almost smell the pine,” and made sample sketches creating the lush mountain and forest settings, inspired by Sung dynasty landscape paintings. He had a different approach and one that had never been seen before in an animated film. He explained, “I tried to keep it very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest.” Tom Codrick, the film’s art director, was impressed with his sensitive style, which was vastly different from the more ornate style of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which preceded it. Tyrus’s Chinese-inspired sketches and paintings set the look and tone for Bambi, and were some of the most strikingly beautiful art ever produced at the Walt Disney Studios.
In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend, and his work continues to inspire and influence the leading animators of today.
The exhibition also includes paintings, hand painted ceramics and silk scarves, original greeting cards, works on paper, and his latest work including handmade and hand-painted kites, which range in size from six inches to 100 feet.
About Tyrus Wong
Wong was born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China in 1910. In 1919, he and his father immigrated to America leaving behind Wong’s mother and sister, whom they never saw again. Arriving in the United States, they were initially held on Angel Island because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After their release from Angel Island, they settled in Sacramento, later moving to Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood.
Wong’s interest in painting and drawing emerged at an early age. Though they were poor, his father encouraged his talents by having him practice calligraphy by dipping his brushes in water and “painting” on newspaper. Indifferent to school, he dropped out of Benjamin Franklin Junior High in Pasadena, CA to attend the Otis Art Institute on a full scholarship. There he received formal western art training while studying the art of the Sung Dynasty at the Los Angeles Central Library in his free time.
Despite graduating in the midst of the Depression, Wong led an active life as an artist. He exhibited work throughout the country, including a 1932 group exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute that featured Pablo Picasso. Wong and other young Asian artists including Hideo Date and Benji Okubo gained recognition by exhibiting as the “Orientalists.” Wong was also hired as part of the Federal Arts Project, a branch of the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). His work during this period was heavily influenced by his friend, the highly regarded modernist painter Stanton MacDonald-Wright, best known for his use of rich harmonious colors (a style referred to as “synchrony”) and his integration of Chinese compositions.
The Dragon’s Den
Though he exhibited regularly, Wong and his fellow artists struggled to survive. Their answer was the Dragon’s Den, a subterranean, trendy, Chinatown restaurant that attracted Hollywood stars such as Peter Lorre, Anna Mae Wong, and Sydney Greenstreet. It stood out among the chop suey joints of Chinatown and was the brainchild of close friend Eddy See. It boasted wall to wall to murals and hand painted menus by Wong and his fellow artists. It was there that he met Ruth Kim, his future wife.
Walt Disney Studios
In 1938, following his marriage and birth of his first daughter, Wong said he “needed a job.” It was at that time he began at Disney as an “inbetweener,” drawing hundreds of sketches of Mickey Mouse. He found the work tedious and numbing. When he heard that the studio was in pre-production on the feature film Bambi, he went home and painted several pictures of a deer in a forest. These small, but evocative sketches captured the attention of Walt Disney and became the basis for the film’s visual style.
From Disney, Wong headed to nearby Warner Brothers, where he switched from fantasy to realism. He was hired as a production illustrator and sketch artist where he painted and sketched concept art for hundreds of live-action films, including Rebel Without A Cause, Calamity Jane, Harper, The Wild Bunch, Sands of Iwo Jima, Auntie Mame, April in Paris, and PT 109. He was frequently loaned out to Republic Pictures where he worked on many John Wayne westerns, a genre that would become a favorite of his. He stayed at Warner Bros. for the next 26 years until his retirement in 1968.
Throughout his years at the studio, Wong continued to paint and exhibit his fine art. In 1954, he was featured in a short film produced by Eliot O’Hara demonstrating Oriental brushwork techniques. His commercial work included designing greeting cards for over 20 years, illustrating magazine covers and children’s books, and painting calligraphic style designs on Winfield ceramic ware that sold in high-end department stores.
After retiring, he turned his attention to designing and building hand-made kites. His dozens of designs include multi-colored 100-foot centipedes, flocks of swallow, butterflies, and panda bears. In 1990, he and his kites were featured in the short film, Flights of Fancy. To this day, Wong flies his kites every month in Santa Monica.
One of the things I liked about Zootopia was that it wasn’t a reboot or sequel. I enjoyed the story that had many of the best classic Disney elements, but still seemed fresh. The hat tips to the Monorail (above) and Skyway (below) were nice touches. Here are stories, videos and art work that shows the artistic and technical work that went into this movie.
Zootopia is a world where humans don’t exist. It’s a big, crowded metropolis where anthropomorphic animals drive cars, fight crime, eat ice cream and ride trains. Prey and predators of varying shapes and sizes coexist in harmony until their prejudices get in the way.
Judy Hopps, a tiny rabbit, can’t be a cop. The police force is a place for rhinos, wolves, elephants and other bulky animals. Nick Wilde, a quick-witted fox, can’t be trusted. He’s presumed to be running a scam, even when he’s not. In a movie about mammals and their stereotypes, creating a diverse range of species is a necessity. The creators of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest adventure combined months of research with custom-made software to create the verisimilitude of an animal-only habitat.
The team comprising directors, engineers and animators spent about eight months studying animals. They went to San Diego’s Safari Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and all the way to Kenya to observe their movements and mannerisms. But to make the characters look like their real-world counterparts, they needed an up close and personal look. The crew ended up at a Natural History Museum, where they studied fur under a microscope and even brought in lighting setups to see how the strands reacted to light.
Simulating the texture and density of animal fur is a daunting task for any animation studio. The last time Disney worked on a furry character was in Bolt, eight years ago. While the studio managed to create a soft, white layer of fluffiness on the superhero dog, the same tools wouldn’t work for the 800,000 mammal variants in Zootopia.
To make the animals look realistic, Disney’s trusty team of engineers introduced iGroom, a fur-controlling tool that had never been used before. The software helped shape about 2.5 million hairs on the leading bunny and about the same on the fox. A giraffe in the movie walks around with 9 million hairs, while a gerbil has about 480,000 (even the rodent in the movie beats Elsa’s 400,000 strands in Frozen).
During the research phase, the team paid close attention to the underlayer of animal fur that gives it plushness in real life. But the same detailing couldn’t be recreated on a computer. “It’s not practical for production to do it,” said senior software engineer David Aguilar as he displayed iGroom at a Zootopia presentation in Los Angeles. “We created an imaginary layer with under-coding so the animators could change the thickness and achieve the illusion of having that layer to create the density of fur.” That kind of trickery made it possible for them to create characters like Officer Clawhauser, a chubby cheetah with a massive head of spotted fur on his face.
The software gave the animators a ton of flexibility. They could play around with the fur — brush it, shape it and shade it — to create the stupendous range of animals for the movie. “The ability to iterate quickly makes all the difference,” said Michelle Robinson, character look supervisor. “You can push the fur around and find the form you want.” From the slick pouf on the shrew’s head to the puffy, dirty wool on the sheep, the grooming made it possible for them to stylize the characters with quirky features.
Before this tool, animators had to work with approximation. When creating the silhouettes or posing their creatures they had to predict the way their characters would change with the addition of fur. “We have to wait hours and hours for renders to come back to see how the characters looked,” said Kira Lehtomaki, animation supervisor. “That works for one character but not for Zootopia. Animators are obsessed with posing and silhouette, so if the render changes shape, any discrepancy can ruin the performances.”
To keep the performances intact, the engineers turned to Nitro, a real-time display software that’s been in development since Wreck-It Ralph (2012).The animators were then able to see realistic renders almost instantly to make decisions on the fly. The tool sped up the process, making it possible to keep subtle expressions on the furry faces in the movie.
While the animals were getting ready to inhabit their virtual world, a team of environment CG specialists put together the backdrops that made their lives believable. The modern-world setting in the movie captures the essence of a city designed for animals. When a train pulls up at a crowded stop, tall mammals step off the train through high doors and tiny commuters scurry through little mouse doors. But the Zootopia zone has different districts to suit the peculiar needs of its many species. Tundratown supports polar bears, and Sahara Square is home to camels. While the rainforest isn’t marked by a specific species, the Amazonian density of the vegetation stands out.
Each environment was meticulously crafted on Bonsai, a tree-and-plant-generation tool that was first used for Frozen in 2013. Once the software learned how to make a tree, it regenerated many different variations to create a rainforest with intricately layered foliage.
It takes a powerful tool to create a universe of complex creatures and detailed environments. Disney’s secret animation weapon is the Hyperion rendering system. It’s an in-house software that has changed the way scenes have been simulated in the past couple of years.
What makes the image generator unique is that it traces a ray from the camera as it bounces around objects in a virtual scene before hitting a source of light. This allows the engineers to replicate the natural movement of light to create photorealistic shots. Disney first introduced the renderer with Big Hero 6 (2014). But with Zootopia, the engineers had to add a new fur paradigm to the existing software. So the renderer also followed the rays as they moved through dense animal fur.
“One of the problems before Hyperion was that you had no idea what the lighting in your scene was going to look like,” says Byron Howard, co-director of the movie. “Now, very early on, almost as soon as we have the layout of the scene with a camera set up, we can get an idea of what that scene is going to look like and do intensely complex calculations. It’s made making films at Disney so much easier.”
Here are Frank and Ollie promoting their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animationon the Tonight Show. Both Frank and Ollie were Disney Legends and The Illusion of Life is still one of the best books on animation. I was lucky enough to meet them both. They are asked about working for Walt and some of the controversies surrounding him. Great interview!
Disney did a great documentary about them. Available as a DVD or on streaming. I recommend this film to anybody interested in Disney history or animation.
I have already blogged about software that allows actors facial expressions to be edited in post. Now take a look at Face2Face: Real-time Face Capture. It can map new facial expressions real time over video. While very interesting from a technological viewpoint, the idea of ‘photoshopping” video will certainly affect journalistic ethics and the trustworthiness of video evidence.
Face swap camera apps are all the rage these days, and Facebook even acquired one this month to get into the game. But the technology is getting more and more creepy: you can now hijack someone else’s face in real-time video.
A team of researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and Stanford University are working on a project called Face2Face, which is described as “real-time face capture and reenactment of RGB videos.”
Basically, they’re working on technology that lets you take over the face of anyone in a video clip. By sitting in front of an ordinary webcam, you can, in real-time, manipulate the face of someone in a target video. The result is convincing and photo-realistic.
The face swap is done by tracking the facial expressions of both the subject and the target, doing a super fast “deformation transfer” between the two, warping the mouth to produce an accurate fit, and rerendering the synthesized face and blending it with real-world illumination.
To test the system, the researchers invited subjects to puppeteer the faces of famous people (e.g. George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger) in video clips found on YouTube. You can see the results (and an explanation of the technology) in this 6.5-minute video:
Proc. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE, June 2016.
We present a novel approach for real-time facial reenactment of a monocular target video sequence (e.g., Youtube video). The source sequence is also a monocular video stream, captured live with a commodity webcam. Our goal is to animate the facial expressions of the target video by a source actor and re-render the manipulated output video in a photo-realistic fashion. To this end, we first address the under-constrained problem of facial identity recovery from monocular video by non-rigid model-based bundling. At run time, we track facial expressions of both source and target video using a dense photometric consistency measure. Reenactment is then achieved by fast and efficient deformation transfer between source and target. The mouth interior that best matches the re-targeted expression is retrieved from the target sequence and warped to produce an accurate fit. Finally, we convincingly re-render the synthesized target face on top of the corresponding video stream such that it seamlessly blends with the real-world illumination. We demonstrate our method in a live setup, where Youtube videos are reenacted in real time.
We present a method for the real-time transfer of facial expressions from an actor in a source video to an actor in a target video, thus enabling the ad-hoc control of the facial expressions of the target actor. The novelty of our approach lies in the transfer and photo-realistic re-rendering of facial deformations and detail into the target video in a way that the newly-synthesized expressions are virtually indistinguishable from a real video. To achieve this, we accurately capture the facial performances of the source and target subjects in real-time using a commodity RGB-D sensor. For each frame, we jointly fit a parametric model for identity, expression, and skin reflectance to the input color and depth data, and also reconstruct the scene lighting. For expression transfer, we compute the difference between the source and target expressions in parameter space, and modify the target parameters to match the source expressions. A major challenge is the convincing re-rendering of the synthesized target face into the corresponding video stream. This requires a careful consideration of the lighting and shading design, which both must correspond to the real-world environment. We demonstrate our method in a live setup, where we modify a video conference feed such that the facial expressions of a different person (e.g., translator) are matched in real-time.
Telling the story of Van Gogh’s life through fictional interviews with the characters in the artist’s works, Loving Vincent will use a new oil painting for each shot, with movement added from one frame to the next by a painter’s brush. Producer and co-director Hugh Welchman, who won an Academy Award six years ago for Peter and the Wolf, plans to employ 42 painters to make the animation, recreating Van Gogh’s life using workstations designed for ‘stop-motion painting’.
The painters will be allocated landscapes or portraits to work on in a process that the studio has created from scratch. “No one had set up an infrastructure to make painting animation at scale,” says Welchman. “Disney did this for 2D, Pixar for 3D, and Aardman for stop motion – but no one has done it for painting animation.”
Using an approach that mirrors the master-apprentice workshops of Michelangelo, Rubens – and, today, Damien Hirst – the workshop will have a prolific output, producing each frame in just 40 minutes. But it won’t be a canvas sweatshop. “Some painters will be part-time because of personal limits of concentration,” says Welchman. “Some of our best painters find that five hours of intense painting is enough for one day.”
Welchman is keen to use the technique again, and says that the studio’s painters will be showing animations on giant screens in London this June. After the film is completed, a quarter of the paintings will be selected for a touring exhibition; the rest will be sold off.
Drawing its plot from 800 letters written by the painter, Loving Vincent is a fresh take on someone whose life has been well documented – and it might be more fitting than a conventional biography. In his last letter, Van Gogh said: “Well, the truth is, we cannot speak other than by our paintings.”
I love Joe Dante, Warner Bros. animation and Chuck Jones so I had to post this. By the way Termite Terrace is now the Fernwood side of the KTLA News Room, off of Van Ness. Steve
As part of a short film series about films that were never made, director Joe Dante (Gremlins) talks about the time he developed a film about Golden Age Hollywood animators called Termite Terrace, the unglamorous nickname of the Warner Bros. animation studio in the 1930s.
In the video, Joe Dante recounts how his friendship with Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones inspired the film, and how he developed the idea with screenwriter Charlie Haas (Matinee, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) in the early-’90s:
Warner Bros., unsurprisingly, didn’t express any interest in a historical drama about animation artists and passed on the idea. Dante has, in other interviews, referred to it as the “heartbreaker” of his career.
Haas’ script for the film has circulated privately for years and has been read by various people. Cartoonist Cole Rothacker is one of those people, and he wrote about it on Tumblr, describing it as “a pretty terrific script, giving animators, who have tedious, thankless jobs, a moment in the spotlight, a movie that pays great tribute to them and all their hard work. It does for animators and Looney Tunes what Goodfellas did for mobsters.”
Rothacker also points out that the film had a strong point of view — that of Chuck Jones’:
All the names were changed, some characters were combinations of 2 or more real people, but it was basically the story of when Chuck Jones first arrived at the WB lot in the late ’30s and rose through the ranks, going from in-betweener to director. It shows the struggles Jones went through, along with his mentor Tex Avery. The movie is definitely from the perspective of Jones, as it depicts the Bob Clampett analogous character as an incompetent, two-faced lout.
Shortly after Warner Bros. passed on Dante’s film, they re-branded Bugs, Daffy, and the rest of the Looney Tunes roster for the 1996 film Space Jam, which was a hit for the studio. Dante eventually worked with the Looney Tunes characters, too, when he directed the 2003 live-action/animated combo Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a creative misfire that was micromanaged to death by Warner Bros. executives who used 25 writers on the film.
If you want a taste of what Termite Terrace might have looked like, here’s an actual late-1930s studio gag reel from Warner Bros.’ animation studio that shows the artists and execs goofing around:
FaceDirector software can seamlessly blend several takes to create nuanced blends of emotions, potentially cutting down on the number of takes necessary in filming.
A new software, from Disney Research in conjunction with the University of Surrey, may help cut down on the number of takes necessary, thereby saving time and money. FaceDirector blends images from several takes, making it possible to edit precise emotions onto actors’ faces.
Shooting a scene in a movie can necessitate dozens of takes, sometimes more. In Gone Girl, director David Fincher was said to average 50 takes per scene. For The Social Network actors Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg acted the opening scene 99 times (directed by Fincher again; apparently he’s notorious for this). Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining involved 127 takes of the infamous scene where Wendy backs up the stairs swinging a baseball bat at Jack, widely considered the most takes per scene of any film in history.
“Producing a film can be very expensive, so the goal of this project was to try to make the process more efficient,” says Derek Bradley, a computer scientist at Disney Research in Zurich who helped develop the software.
Disney Research is an international group of research labs focused on the kinds of innovation that might be useful to Disney, with locations in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston and Zurich. Recent projects include a wall-climbing robot, an “augmented reality coloring book” where kids can color an image that becomes a moving 3D character on an app, and a vest for children that provides sensations like vibrations or the feeling of raindrops to correspond with storybook scenes. The team behind FaceDirector worked on the project for about a year, before presenting their research at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Santiago, Chile this past December.
Figuring out how to synchronize different takes was the project’s main goal and its biggest challenge. Actors might have their heads cocked at different angles from take to take, speak in different tones or pause at different times. To solve this, the team created a program that analyzes facial expressions and audio cues. Facial expressions are tracked by mapping facial landmarks, like the corners of the eyes and mouth. The program then determines which frames can be fit into each other, like puzzle pieces. Each puzzle piece has multiple mates, so a director or editor can then decide the best combination to create the desired facial expression.
To create material with which to experiment, the team brought in a group of students from Zurich University of the Arts. The students acted several takes of a made-up dialogue, each time doing different facial expressions—happy, angry, excited and so on. The team was then able to use the software to create any number of combinations of facial expressions that conveyed more nuanced emotions—sad and a bit angry, excited but fearful, and so on. They were able to blend several takes—say, a frightened and a neutral—to create rising and falling emotions.
The FaceDirector team isn’t sure how or when the software might become commercially available. The product still works best when used with scenes filmed while sitting in front of a static background. Moving actors and moving outdoor scenery (think swaying trees, passing cars) present more of a challenge for synchronization.
We present a method to continuously blend between multiple facial performances of an actor, which can contain different facial expressions or emotional states. As an example, given sad and angry video takes of a scene, our method empowers a movie director to specify arbitrary weighted combinations and smooth transitions between the two takes in post-production. Our contributions include (1) a robust nonlinear audio-visual synchronization technique that exploits complementary properties of audio and visual cues to automatically determine robust, dense spatio-temporal correspondences between takes, and (2) a seamless facial blending approach that provides the director full control to interpolate timing, facial expression, and local appearance, in order to generate novel performances after filming. In contrast to most previous works, our approach operates entirely in image space, avoiding the need of 3D facial reconstruction. We demonstrate that our method can synthesize visually believable performances with applications in emotion transition, performance correction, and timing control.
Download File “FaceDirector- Continuous Control of Facial Performance in Video-Paper” [PDF, 13.22 MB]
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Visitors to a new exhibition at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg won’t just be looking at art. Thanks to virtual reality, they’ll be exploring a Dali painting in a dreamy, three-dimensional world that turns art appreciation into an unforgettable, immersive experience.
The new exhibition, Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, tells the story of the relationship between Salvador Dali, the surrealist artist, and Walt Disney, the great American animator and theme-park pioneer.
A 1957 photo of artist Salvador Dali and Walt Disney by the beach in Spain is part of a new exhibition at The Dali Museum about the relationship between the two men.Walt Disney Family FoundationDali Museum
But the museum exhibition’s highlight comes after visitors have seen the Disney-Dali show’s paintings, story sketches, correspondence, photos and other artifacts. As visitors leave the exhibition area, they’ll be invited to don a headset to try the virtual reality experience.
Called “Dreams of Dali,” the VR experience takes viewers inside Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’ The painting depicts two towering stone figures along with tiny human figures in a bare landscape with a moody sky. Users can move around inside the painting, using Oculus Rift headsets to navigate a trippy three-dimensional environment that includes motifs from other Dali works like elephants, birds, ants and his Lobster Telephone sculpture.
Accompanied by a haunting piano soundtrack punctuated by bird cries, the VR visuals also include a crescent moon, a stone tunnel and even an image of rocker Alice Cooper, whom Dali featured in a hologram he created in 1973.
“You actually have a three-dimensional feeling that you’re inside a painting,” said Jeff Goodby, whose firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the VR experience. “It’s not just like you’re inside a sphere with things being projected. It’s actually like there are objects closer and further away and you’re walking amidst them. It’s a vulnerable feeling you give yourself up to.”
Disney and Dali met in the 1940s in Hollywood, according to museum director Hank Hine. “Their sensibilities were very connected,” Hine said. “They wanted to take art off the palette, out of the canvas and into the world.” The exhibition looks at the castle motif that became a symbol of Disney parks, along with Dali’s Dream of Venus pavilion from the 1939 World’s Fair, which some consider a precursor of contemporary installation art.
This 1955 design for Disneyland castle is explored in a new exhibition at The Dali Museum about artist Salvador Dali’s friendship with Walt Disney. Walt Disney Imagineering Dali Museum.
Disney and Dali also collaborated on a short animated movie, Destino, (below) that was eventually completed by Disney Studios. The six-minute movie, which can be found on YouTube, features a dancing girl with long dark hair, a sundial motif and a song with the line, “You came along out of a dream. … You are my destino.” Clips will be played within the gallery for the Disney-Dali exhibition and the full short will be shown at the museum’s theater.
The show also displays the Dali painting that inspired the VR experience, Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’
“Dreams of Dali” is part of the museum’s new exhibit, Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, running Jan. 23 through June 12. For more on the virtual reality experience, visit DreamsOfDali.org.