Posts filed under Film

The Avengers

Because of the scale of The Avengers, Rick Whitfield, Jim Sevin, Tim Gregoire, and I were brought on to engineer the hundreds of playback screens.  Cantina Creative created the animated computer graphics that we needed to playback on the various set throughout the film.

The bridge set alone had 130 monitors.  We needed to develop a way to be able route any of the 30 computer feeds out to the monitors on set.  

Using 4 Blackmagic Design 40x40 3G videohubs we could organize and control what was on any given monitor in the shot.

Our video playback booth built under the carrier bridge set

Our video playback booth built under the carrier bridge set

In order to speed up our ability to manipulate the layout of the graphics on set as well as being able to put green screens on any monitor quickly for post VFX, it was clear I needed to write custom software to control the videohub routers.  

Since the routers could accept Telnet commands over a wired network, I developed a router controlling application in Xojo (formerly Real Studio), that we could setup layouts of all the monitors on set at once and save it to a preset.  This allowed us to switch to saved preset for a given scene with a single button click.

As well as routing the computer screens, we also need to control the timing of the playback graphics for some scenes.  For example, in the scene where the mind controlled Hawkeye shoots the computer virus arrow into the bridge computer, I built a timed delay into our quicktime playback software to create a computer outage ripple effect.

Since the helmsman and map controls at the front of the Bridge set were shapes that could not be actual live playback screens.  It was decided that instead of using green on those surfaces that they should be designed as a static backlit display.  I was approached by the art department about designing the graphics for practical on set pieces.  I goal was to make it blend in and fit with the graphics designed by Cantina Creative that we would be playing back on set.

On the helm display I used Adobe After Effects for the final print image.  I ended up having better control over the shape and curvature.  

As well as making it easier for the animators in post to make the final replaced shot in the film from the composition I created for print.

We also helped out at the Comic-Con Avengers booth.

Setting up a sample of the bridge control screens from the set on the Avengers stage.

Posted on November 12, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback, Development.

Green Lantern

In this film because the autopsy of Abin Sur was originally more elaborate, early on there was a need to have all of his alien anatomy built for use in all the analysis screens.

I modified a human skeleton changing his ribcage to have more of a breast plate structure.  I felt it would give a more visual alien quality as well as better protect his two hearts.  The base models were built in Modo and then detailed in ZBrush

The body and skin of Abin Sur needed to match the life size body on set.  The props department sent me photos of the prop body which I used as reference to sculpt and pose my ZBrush model.  Was also able to use the photos to create an accurate displacement map of his wound.

(Shot in the film of the life size prop corpse that I needed to match)

(Shot in the film of the life size prop corpse that I needed to match)

I decided to render them in slices to give it a CT Scan quality about it.  My fellow artist on the film Chris Kieffer built the final screens.


Most of the scene was cut and only a few shots of the final graphics made it into the finished film.

We also needed to build a promotional video that would play on the giant LED wall billboard during the Ferris Party scene.  I created and animated elements and 3d text for Chris Kieffer to use in his final comp. 

Since there was so much content that needed to be built for the control room during the opening dogfight sequence I assisted Chris in creating the elements needed in the final screens, program the playback files for our playback operator Mike Sanchez to control them on set, as well as making changes and additional material for post VFX. 

Posted on September 25, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback, 3D Modeling.

The Tourist

In the Tourist because so much of the computer screens used surveillance video that was going to be shot later, we ended up compositing most of the screens in post production.  

In the Scotland Yard set we decided to shoot the screens off so that we could get nice reflections of the actors that we could blend back in with the computer graphics that were built by Coplin LeBleu.

Move mouse to see before & after (touch on left & right of image on a touch screen device)

All the 50+ VFX monitor shots in the film were composited in Adobe After Effects.

We also had to match the color and look of the screens that were shot on set.  The three screens behind the 2 standing actors were live on set and the screen on the lower left is one I composited in post.

Again in this shot I needed to replace the bottom left screen with a different surveillance video while still matching the look of the other monitors in the original shot. 

Also needed to replace a phone screen in order to make the action of taking Jonny's picture more visible.

Posted on June 4, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback, Visual FX.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Often in when doing playback graphic on a feature film I need to take existing images wether it's a computer desktop, smart phone screen, software application, news graphics, etc... and add the fake "movie" story content to it.  

In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps I needed to take existing stock monitoring software and add the Keller Zable (KZI) our fake company I the film to it and make it's stock data match the story.  

I also animated the stock ticker animation used to project on Shia LaBouf's face. 

Most of the story driven news segments were shot on green screens.  I needed to build the final composites early in production so they could have them for playback on set.  

I designed and animated the news elements... 

As well as tracking the shots and building the final comps.

Move mouse to see before & after (touch on left & right of image on a touch screen device)

One thing that always proves to be difficult in building content for feature film is clearing the use of artwork and photos.  Even stock photo libraries can be too expensive or have licensing issues with the production company... That's why I make sure I take pictures where ever I go. In one of the news clips we needed a New York background... 

It is actually a photo I took on my iPhone from the top on the building I was staying in while I was there shooting The Taking of Pelham 123.


I cropped, retouched, and flipped it for use in the composition as the backdrop for the news segment.

Move mouse to see before & after (touch on left & right of image on a touch screen device)

Posted on May 26, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback, Visual FX.


One of the biggest challenges in Surrogates was being able to build enough content to fill the 200+ screens in the FBI Surrogate Monitoring set.


The solution we came up with was that having a local production company manage a group of videographers that would go out and shoot footage that would represent the POV of surrogates and then I built multiple After Effects templates set up with expressions so that the production company could just drop in the video clip at the bottom of the timeline and then just change the Random Seed value that would then randomize all the overlay graphics to make it unique.

I also helped build the screens for the end surrogate shutdown sequence with Chris Kieffer.

With the military surrogate POVs, i also built it expression based so that we could quickly make multiple unique random versions of HUD animation.

The FBI screens needed to be interactive, so I built interactive playback files that we could trigger in time with the scene and actor performances.

Posted on May 7, 2014 and filed under Film, Video Playback.