(Published originally with Hubpages on May the 4th be with you 2011)
NAB, Classes & Hanging with Old Friends
With Friends @ The Hilton buffet
April 2011 flew by like light-speed in hyperspace! I had a job for a few days at the beginning of the month. That transformed into the National Association of Broadcasters aka N.A.B. in which I was taking Adobe program effects classes for a few days. The on-again off-again trip my buddy, Sean Kinney, and I were planning was back on somewhat last minute.
After a fun, chaotic few days this was our last chance to hang out with friends and I kept running out to the sports book to check on the NY Rangers – Capitals first playoff game. That’s why you’ll see me decked out in Ranger gear throughout. Unfortunately, the Force was not strong in the Rangers’ scoring during the playoffs this year. Oh, well.
So, like in the movie, “Fanboys,” which I finally saw after our trip, we journeyed north to go to Lucas Valley although we had ‘permission to enter.’ What’s in Lucas Valley, you ask? The Skywalker Ranch…or ranches as there are more than one.Skywalker…as in Luke Skywalker…as in GEORGE LUCAS! Yes, that George Lucas! The creator of “Star Wars.”
“Fanboys” is about a group of childhood friends, post-high school that grew up worshipping the original “Star Wars” movies as many of us did. One of the friends is terminally ill with cancer and so the group decides to go on this crazy voyage for their sick friend to sneak into the most gated compound and see the yet-to-be released“Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” circa 1998.” “Fanboys” stars Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Chris Marquette, Sam Huntington and Kristen Bell. The film also features Christopher McDonald, Seth Rogan, Danny Trejo, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith and William Shatner. Why is William Shatner in the film? He’ll tell you himself. “I’m William Shatner. I can score anything.”
The film is very funny and pays great homage to “Star Wars” fans and everything “Star Wars.” There is a great stand-off between the Star Wars geeks and their rival Star Trek Trekkies, or is it Trekkers? “Fanboys” was a great follow-up treat. Any “Star Wars” fans and perhaps “Star Trek” fans should check it out. May the Force live long and prosper.
LAS VEGAS TO LUCAS VALLEY!
We weren’t exactly driving cross-country like the group in “Fanboys,” but we still had a 7-9 hour trip leaving Las Vegas and heading to San Francisco and the Marin County area.
So, after a few days of N.A.B. we were eager to get to the true journey that would really make our week, month, millennium. After all, we ourselves, filmmakers, were natural “Star Wars” movie geeks too. Sean and I left roughly 10am Thursday, April 14th, and hit the 15 Freeway.
How were we entering the Mecca of Sci-Fi movie geeks? We have a friend, Patrick, who’s working on a hush-hush project at one of the ranches. We were just going for a very short stay of one day and leaving Saturday morning. Sean, a father of two, lives in Los Angeles. I, since July 2010, have been in Vegas. So, on our return we’d be heading back to Vegas.
“Everybody get strapped in. We’re ready to make the jump!”
About a half hour into the drive, Sean says he has a surprise. He breaks out his GPS device and before I knew it, Yoda was telling us to veer left. So, in case we get a little lost or take a wrong turn, Yoda will guide us back on track, using the Force of course. “Veer left, you must.”
In “Fanboys” the group traveled in a cheesy movie detailed van with a homemade R2D2 on the roof. Us older, 40 year-olds were traveling in a Prius so no R2D2 on the roof. We had Yoda’s voice and I added my own surprise by bringing music from “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (What would movie fans do without John Williams supplying the music themes to our lives and for generations to come?)
We stopped in Tehachapi, California, for lunch. This small little town café in the middle of nowhere had a great small town feel. After ordering, we walked around the place that had a little museum with all sorts of art and old photos of the town in history when there were devastating earthquakes and floods that wreaked havoc on the town.
I enjoyed this little cabinet full of an old collection of various types of still, Polaroid and 8mm cameras.
Video editors, filmmakers and consumers of the post-production industry gather at the 12th Annual Supermeet during the week of NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, to discover the latest in digital post technology. Supermeet took place at its usual location, the Amazon Ballroom, inside the Rio on Tuesday, April 9th, 2012 to roughly a thousand post-fanatic geeks. Hosting Supermeet as usual were Daniel Berube of the Boston branch BOSCPUG and Michael Horton of the Los Angeles branch, LACPUG. All of the post-production groups make up what’s called Creative Pro User Group with CPUGs all over the world.
Before Supermeet, one needs to take advantage of ‘supper meat,’ the appetizers served before the event. Veteran Supermeeters know to get there early. It may not be fast food, but it does go fast.
A last minute surprise addition opened the event with DSLR guru, Vincent Laforet, showing off his new toy, the Movi, a small and light enough device that holds DSLR cameras so they can move effortlessly no matter what obstacles get in its way.
What used to be a main Final Cut Pro soapbox, has become a smorgasbord of NLE systems. Avid showcased its newest features in Media Composer 7 that dropped this week for ONLY $999. Adobe showcased new features in many of its platforms including Premiere Pro, SpeedGrade for color correction and After Effects and its new exciting partnership with Cinema 4-D. And apparently the Coen Brothers plan on editing their next film on Premiere Pro according to Al Mooney, the product manager for Premiere Pro.
Autodesk’s Smoke wowed the tech-heavy crowd. Filmmaker Anthony Brownmoore did a demo on how he used Smoke on his short film, “REP 5091.” Blackmagic Design and Red Giant had demos as well. Strangely enough, there was nothing new to demo for FCP X two years after its announcement and first look at Supermeet in 2010. Maybe they’ll make the cut next year.
In the middle of the event a break from festivities lets the digital gurus roam the sponsors’ booths and network with other digital post geeks.
The second half of the show was dedicated to the status of the VFX industry. Perhaps you’ve seen profiles on FaceBook and Twitter turned green. Since the Academy Awards, an issue has risen to the surface that’s been simmering for many years. The VFX industry has been suffering more drastically in recent years. We have seen the end of famous VFX studios such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain among many other VFX companies that have gone bankrupt. To put this all in focus, Scott Ross, the Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Domain and Academy nominated VFX supervisor, Scott Squires, addressed the audience with the facts.
Imagine big visual effects oriented movies without the actual VFX. Scott Squires asked the crowd what “Life of Pi” would look like? A boy in a boat talking to a tiger hand puppet is not going to cut it. Ross added, “Claudio Miranda won an Oscar for best cinematography.” Basically, the Oscar winner shot a boy in a boat in a pool surrounded by bluescreen. All the truly amazing work that brought life to the FX heavy film was added later.
More movies are relying on visual effects to return the movie studios’ investments at the box office. That’s fine for the movie studios, but what about the artists working their butts off 60, 70, 80 hours a week and not seeing an amount of pay to reflect it?
“Most countries have a cap of 60 hours a week. We typically start at 60 and go up from there,” said Scott Ross. He added, “It’s not unusual to work seven days a week.”
VFX companies have at times built VFX studios in Vancouver, Canada so movie studios got tax rebates. And then you have the VFX artists moving their families only to be out of work when the project’s over. What do they do then? Visual effects cost millions of dollars. And there’s no union whatsoever. VFX companies have been ‘under-bidding’ to compete with other VFX companies. And movie studios will start outsourcing VFX more to places like India for even cheaper labor.
Scott Ross informed the crowd of a meeting to take place in May in Los Angeles with as many of the top VFX companies as he can to discuss the possibilities of a trade association. The industry needs to set regulations and assist the individual VFX artists with better working situations including perhaps points in the films they work on. It was a very serious note and very appropriate to take place at Supermeet. Scott Ross and Scott Squires received a standing ovation from the very empathetic audience.
Supermeet always satisfies editors’ exciting curiosity of what’s next in digital post-production and the knowledge of where the industry stands. Things happen and change so often now in this business that one needs to stay informed to survive. If that’s not enough there’s always the giant raffle of amazing prizes at the end of the evening. Grown men with busting guts shout at the top of their lungs, run the entire length of the ballroom when their ticket is called after winning something cool. Supermeet brings out the child in all of us.
Additional Article on Visual Effects at Supermeet.