Painting - A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, by Joseph Wright of Derby

Explainers: Would somebody please improve the Wikipedia article on “visual effects”?

BY AUSTIN BURBRIDGE. LOS ANGELES (CINEMA MINIMA) — This publication supplements its stories with explainer links, because so many persons work in the movie business, in so many different specialties, that it is not reasonable to assume that everyone knows everything. For example, directors and cinematographers may know what “a practical” is, but a publicist, or a screenwriter, or someone whose English is not fluent, may not grasp to what, exactly, that term of art may refer. The same obtains for “visual effects.”

Recently, Cinema Minima published an item about the visual effects business. For the benefit of those readers who do not ordinarily read about such things — and for those sixty percent of Cinema Minima readers for whom English is not the mother tongue — an “explainer link” was offered, pointing to a nice, concise article at <>.

I had first turned to Wikipedia for a concise reference for the explainer link, because Wikipedia is a well-known and convenient place to look for such things. A link to an article on Wikipedia can be made very easily (guessing the subject title, and replacing spaces with underscores usually works). Another benefit of pointing to a Wikipedia article is that it frequently offers versions in several languages, which is valuable for a publication with many readers for whom English is a second language, such as Cinema Minima.

But I couldn’t use its article on visual effects. What I found was, in my opinion, junk: grammatically correct, perhaps; but hardly more useful for the general reader than, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” Here is the first sentence …

Visual effects (commonly shortened to Visual FX or VFX) are the various processes by which imagery is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot.

… which, while not inaccurate in a narrowly technical sense, is entirely unsatisfactory as an explanation for the general reader. It is at once vague — “various processes” and “imagery” — really? and yet, too specific — “live action shot.” The problem is, the sentence does make a certain amount of sense — if you already know what “visual effects” is; and thereby, it may pass a cursory inspection as adequate; but the general reader deserves something more concrete — more easily apprehended — than this opaque declaration.

A person who may not be already familiar with visual effects in movie making — and its argot — may come away from reading the Wikipedia article, not really any better informed than before. The entire article treats its subject with abstraction. It talks around the subject, without ever saying what it is, and without examples which would clarify the plain meaning, and focus the discussion. Moreover, it does not offer a basic and simple clarification of the difference between special effects and visual effects.

Wikipedia is — sometimes — a useful reference, but such junky, substandard articles make it an unreliable one. That’s a pity, since <> is handy.

I wish that someone who is not only expert in the art of visual effects, but who can also use words to tell a story well, would login to Wikipedia, and give the article an overhaul. Wikipedia’s readers would benefit from some clarity and precision, and visual effects artists would benefit from a popular representation which would be accurate.

Explain This: “Compiling the best explainer journalism on the web,” is a useful — and entertaining — website by journalist Lilah Raptopoulos.

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Peter Sellers, Peter O’Toole in WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT?

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Independent filmmakers panel at TromaDance Press Conference at American Film Market 2010


BY AUSTIN BURBRIDGE. SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — A panel of independent filmmakers — headed by director Lloyd Kaufman, and including actress Jaime King, producer Richard Saperstein, director Darren Lynn Bousman, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson, writer-director Adam Rifkin, and FilmThreat publisher Chris Gore — will convene at the 2010 American Film Market to discuss the state of independent art and filmmaking during the TromaDance Film Festival press conference.

Filmmakers are invited to attend the event, which will start at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of November 4, 2010, in the Press Room of Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, California. Space is limited; filmmakers who wish to attend should RSVP to Anne Koester at [email protected] as soon as possible.

The annual event promotes the TromaDance Film Festival as a beacon for truly independent cinema. Each year, the fest showcases groundbreaking new films, and new and talented filmmakers — all for free.

Besides the filmmaker panel, the conference will –

  • Present the Soul of Independence Award, bestowed upon one young, deserving filmmaker for embodying the spirit of TromaDance.
  • Present the break-out filmmakers Astron-6 — Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, and Steven Kostanski — who were discovered at TromaDance 2010, and who have been hired by Troma Entertainment to make their first feature, FATHER’S DAY.
  • Explain why the TromaDance Film Festival has moved from Park City, Utah, in the western part of the United States, to Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the northeast.
  • Announce the latest news about the 2011 TromaDance Film Festival.
  • Sceen a new TromaDance Public Service Announcement

Inspired by Trey Parker and founded in 1999 by Lloyd Kaufman, TromaDance is the first film festival wholeheartedly devoted to filmmakers and fans.

Unlike every other film festival, TromaDance does not charge filmmakers a fee to submit their films. Entrance to all screenings is free and open to the public. The organizers of TromaDance believe that films are meant to be seen, especially when it comes to new filmmakers.

The TromaDance Film Festival Committee is now accepting submissions for TromaDance 2011. Deadline for submissions 2011 February 11. [Entry form].

As the largest film market for independent films, the American Film Market complements the ideals of TromaDance; it serves as a meeting ground for contemporary independent minds. In previous years, the TromaDance panel at the AFM has boasted the contributions of Jenna Fischer, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, James Gunn, Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, Penelope Spheeris, and The Toxic Avenger, among others.

Josh Olson received an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of the graphic novel A History of Violence for David Cronenberg’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. He contributes to Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell. He is preparing to direct an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane story, “Until Gwen.”

Adam Rifkin wrote, produced, and directed LOOK, The Series for the American cable-TV network, Showtime. Based on his film of the same name, the series explores America’s camera-crazed and surveillance-based culture. Rifkin wrote DreamWorks’ MOUSEHUNT and SMALL SOLDIERS, and directed DETROIT ROCK CITY.

Lloyd Kaufman — celebrated as a co-founder of Troma Entertainment — is the director of THE TOXIC AVENGER and TROMEO AND JULIET. He is the chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, which produces the American Film Market.

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Color correction in features now as aggressive as commercials, videos

The current trend in motion-picture color correction, observes visual-effects artist Stu Maschwitz, is uncompromising preservation of “correct” skin tones.

As filmmakers’ sensibilities became influenced by the possibilities of the digital intermediate (DI) — popularized by colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld‘s work on Bad Boys II and that of Jet Omoshebi on Underworld — more “pushed” looks became commonplace. Aggressive color correction is more likely to render skin tones in an unflattering way, so a colorist’s capability has been judged by the skill to hold pleasing skin tones through severe corrections.

Maschwitz’s article is illustrated by examples from THE INCREDIBLE HULK and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. He offers specific recommendations for primary and secondary color correction, taken from his book, The DV Rebel’s Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap. [Prolost]

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