WETA Digital’s Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon Talk DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Technical Challenges, Deleted Scenes, and Future Projects

by     Posted 162 days ago


The visual effects company Weta Digital became a household name following their groundbreaking work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they’ve worked on a number of other impressive films in the interim, ranging from District 9 to Avatar to Man of Steel.  With Rise of the Planet of the Apes, however, the company built upon the technology used to bring Gollum to life in Lord of the Rings to create phenomenal motion-capture apes.  That technology has advanced even further for the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with astounding results.  What Weta has accomplished in conjunction with the actors that played the Apes is a huge step forward for how technology can shape a movie.  I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.

At the recent San Francisco press day I landed an exclusive video interview with senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri and visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon about their work on the film.  They talked about advancements in technology and the challenges of bringing realism to the screen, deleted scenes, the technical challenges in the script, what it was like working with Matt Reeves, what it meant shooting a majority of the movie on location, future projects like Batman v Superman and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to watch.

New MAN OF STEEL Featurette Takes a Look at Weta’s “Liquid-Geo” Special Effect

by     Posted 1 year, 175 days ago


One of the best special effects in Man of Steel was the “liquid-geo”.  It was a unique presentation of information, and it was another way that Zack Snyder gave Krypton its memorable look and feel.  Weta Digital handled the effect, and explained how it came to be through a combination of “animation and simulation”, and that Snyder wanted the technology to have a tactile feel as opposed to the transparent touch screens that have become the norm for futuristic user interfaces.  The new featurette also explains how Weta came to the excellent “bas-relief, Greco-Roman” design.

Hit the jump to check out the featurette.

Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri Talks THE HOBBIT, How They Didn’t Use Miniatures, Creating Worlds Digitally, and the Next 2 Movies

by     Posted 2 years, 7 days ago


At the recent New York City press day for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was able to land an extended video interview with Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri.  During our wide ranging conversation we discussed turning The Hobbit into three films, how performance capture technology has reached a new level in terms of integrating CG characters into live-action filming and creating worlds digitally, the process of creating an effects-heavy scene, his thoughts on tweaking previous movies effects, how much have they worked on the dragon Smaug, how they didn’t use Miniatures on The Hobbit, and more.  In addition, when discussing the next two Hobbit films (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again), Letteri  said the biggest task left is to stage the Battle of the Five Armies.  In the book, it’s mostly about the dialogue but they are going to make it a big action scene.  He also compared the Battle of the Five Armies to the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.

Hit the jump to watch.  And if you missed Letteri talking about Weta’s work for Man of Steel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Wolverine, Iron Man 3, and the Avatar sequels., click here.

60 Pictures from Inside the Weta Cave Gift Shop in Auckland, New Zealand Featuring LORD OF THE RINGS Merchandise and Much More

by     Posted 2 years, 51 days ago


If you’re a fan of Lord of the RingsTintinKing KongMeet the FeeblesPeter Jackson, cool collectibles, and movie props, you’re going to dig this photo article.  When I visited the set of The Hobbit earlier this year in Auckland, New Zealand, I also got to visit the Weta Cave (Weta’s gift shop) and I snapped over 60 pictures.  As you can see in the pics, the store is a mixture of items for sale and props from the many films that Weta has been involved with.  Even though a lot of the merchandise is available online, it’s definitely a lot cooler to purchase a t-shirt/book/collectible from Weta while visiting New Zealand.

Hit the jump to check out the images.


by     Posted 2 years, 53 days ago


Tonight the wife and I are hosting an inaugural Halloween gathering for three primary reasons: 1) it’s an excuse to hang out with friends, 2) it’s an opportunity to watch horror classics with said friends and 3) our street name is Elm and we can’t pass on the chance to christen the get together with the least original Halloween party name of all time (I’ll let you do the math). All of this in mind, I was finding it difficult to strike a healthy balance of scary movie goodness that was equal parts frightening (for fans of the horror genre like myself) and fun/of the “Halloween spirit” (for those who don’t necessarily enjoy the genre but can appreciate the season). That was until I remembered that we owned Ernest Scared Stupid on Blu-ray. Now the biggest concern I have is making sure no one walks out of the house at the end of the night with that little gem in hand.

All Hallows Eve 2012 party plans aside, in this week’s Top 5 we’ve got a lineup that includes a visit to the New Zealand set of The Hobbit, the first trailer amongst other new assets from Iron Man 3, Cloud Atlas interviews with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and more, the first red band trailer for director Fede Alvarez‘s Evil Dead remake, and a heartfelt plea for a Hollywood adaptation of The Legend of Zelda. A brief recap and link to each lives on after the jump.

70 Things to Know About THE HOBBIT From Our Set Visit

by     Posted 2 years, 55 days ago


Earlier this year, I fulfilled a dream: I visited Middle Earth (also known as New Zealand).  As a huge fan of Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.   While on set with a few other online reporters, we got to watch a few scenes get filmed, interview almost the entire cast and most of the crew, and we saw firsthand how much love is being put into making The Hobbit trilogy as amazing as the LOTR trilogy.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.

With the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opening December 14, WB has lifted part of the embargo and after the jump you can check out my list of 65 things to know about the film plus links to a number of on set interviews.

Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor Talks Creating the Dwarves, Developing the Film’s Weapons, and More on the Set of THE HOBBIT

by     Posted 2 years, 55 days ago


If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you are very familiar with the work of Richard Taylor.  That’s because as the head of Weta Workshop, Taylor was instrumental in bringing Peter Jackson‘s films to life by producing the many sets, costumes, armour, weapons, creatures, and miniatures in the films.   For The Hobbit, Taylor and his team of artisans are once again bringing Middle Earth to life.

Earlier this year I got to visit Weta during my set visit for The Hobbit.  In a room filled with Academy Awards and tons of amazing movie props, a group of us got to talk with Taylor.  He discussed how he’d been working on The Hobbit for over three years, how they weren’t creating any miniatures for The Hobbit, that his team created eight hundred weapons in the seven weeks leading up to the first day of filming, the way 3D printing has helped build some of the props, how HD filming has changed the way they create the prostheses, 48fps, and so much more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

PROMETHEUS Visual Effects Featurettes Reveal How the Opening Scene and Spaceship Landing Sequence Were Created

by     Posted 2 years, 183 days ago


Debate over the merits of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is ongoing, and fuel was added to the fire recently when a behind-the-scenes image revealed an alien that didn’t actually appear in the film.  That image came from the pic’s opening sequence, and now two visual effects featurettes have gone online that give us a look at how WETA created the film’s memorable opening scene and how MPC created the film’s impressive spaceship and planetary effects, including the ship’s landing sequence.  It’s a nice look at how these integral portions of the film came to be, and the WETA featurette gives some insight into one of the more talked-about plot points of the film.

Hit the jump to watch the videos, and if you missed our round-up of what we know about a possible Prometheus sequel so far click here.  Obviously, spoilers for Prometheus follow.

Live Behind-the-Scenes Webcast with WETA Digital for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

by     Posted 3 years, 251 days ago


At 5:30pm (PDT), WETA Digital will be offering a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Director Rupert Wyatt will join WETA as they provide viewers with a look at the rendering and creation of the apes, as well as exclusive footage from the film.

Hit the jump to check out the livestream.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, and Andy Serkis as the ape Caesar.  The film opens August 5th.

First Look at the Digital Apes in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; Live-Chat with WETA on Wednesday

by     Posted 3 years, 253 days ago


With the first trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes set to be released on Thursday, Fox has released a first look at one of the film’s digital apes created by WETA.  There’s not much motion in this brief four-second clip, but I do like the level of detail and it’s a nice reminder that we’ve come a long way since Tim Burton’s atrocious 2001 remake.  I’m also encouraged that Fox recently rescheduled the flick out of a crowded Thanksgiving weekend and into the summer movie season.

Hit the jump to check out the clip, the official logo, and to learn more about a live-chat with WETA.  The film stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, and Andy Serkis.  Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) will direct from a script by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes is due out on August 5th.

Ray Griggs Feels THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS; Peter Jackson’s Weta Will Handle the Visual Effects

by     Posted 4 years, 193 days ago


The 1908 Kenneth Graham children’s book The Wind in the Willows has been subject to many an adaptation — the 1949 Disney cartoon, the 1980s TV series, the 1996 Terry Jones film — but RG Entertainment thinks one more couldn’t hurt.  The studio has hired Ray Griggs (Super Capers) will direct and produce a new Willows feature with a script from Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu) on a $30 million budget.  Variety reports that Peter Jackson’s visual effects company Weta Workshop has signed on to do the special effects for the live-action/animatronic film.

I am fond of the inclusion of the word “animatronics” — the subject material seems to old-timey for the full CG treatment.  The Wind in the Willows follows the adventures of talking critters Mole, Rat, Badger and Toad; check out a full synopsis after the jump.

Want to be in RISE OF THE APES?

by     Posted 4 years, 210 days ago

With the Fox prequel Rise of the Apes (directed by Rupert Wyatt) getting ready to start filming this July, it looks like the production is looking for both principal actors and extras to star in the movie.  But before you get all excited that you can play an ape, as we’ve previously reported, Fox is using WETA for the Ape effects as they’re going CGI rather than men in suits.  Yeah, I don’t agree with the decision either.

But if you still want to be in the movie, you should know it’s filming at Mammoth Studios in Burnaby, BC and all around Vancouver.  The shoot is scheduled to go from July 5 – September 30 and the film is getting released June 24, 2011.  Hit the jump for more info:

PLANET OF THE APES Prequel RISE OF THE APES Gets Released June 24th, 2011

by     Posted 4 years, 228 days ago

Fox has scheduled a June 24th 2011 release date for the Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Apes.  This new release date means the film will open against Pixar’s Cars 2.

Written by Amanda Silver & Rick Jaffa (The RelicThe Hand that Rocks the Cradle) and directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist), Rise of the Apes will tell the story of how “man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.”  THR also reports the heartbreaking news that WETA will be creating CGI apes instead of using costumed actors in make-up. I wish I could say that I was shocked.  More after the jump.

Exclusive Interview with Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor; Talks LORD OF THE RINGS Blu-ray, THE HOBBIT, Neill Blomkamp, More

by     Posted 4 years, 249 days ago

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To help promote the recent release of Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray, I got to speak with Richard Taylor.  If you’re a fan of the LOTR trilogy, you already know who Richard Taylor is and his amazing work.  But for the newbie’s, Taylor is the co-founder and co-director of the Weta companies in Wellington, New Zealand, and he’s the Creative Director of Weta Workshop.  He’s also won four BAFTAs, five Oscars, and numerous other awards for Weta’s success in makeup, costume and visual effects.

As a huge fan of Taylor’s work and the LOTR trilogy, I could have spoken to him for hours.  But due to only having 15 minutes on the phone (he was in New Zealand), I asked his thoughts on LOTR on Blu-ray, we talked about how The Hobbit would look different than LOTR as Middle Earth was more peaceful back then, what did he do on Avatar, and is he working with Neill Blomkamp on his new sci-fi film as he worked on District 9.

If you’re a fan of Taylor’s work, you’ll love the interview.  Hit the jump to check it out:

Ian McKellen Says THE HOBBIT Starts Filming in June – Weta Planning on 3D HOBBIT

by     Posted 4 years, 278 days ago

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings movie - slice.jpg

According to Ian McKellen, Guillermo del Toro’s The Hobbit is on track to start filming this June.  The plan is to film both Hobbit movies at the same time with cameras rolling for a year.  Here’s what McKellen posted on his website:

THE HOBBIT’s, two films, start shooting in New Zealand in June.  Filming will take over a year. Casting in Los Angeles, New York City and London has started.  The script too proceeds.  The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth.  The director Guillermo del Toro is now living in Wellington, close to the Jacksons’ and the studio in Miramar.

But what is unclear is will The Hobbit be shot and/or released in 3D.  I think with the way things are going, it’s pretty clear 3D is happening…and according to Weta, they’re planning for 3D.  Hit the jump for more:

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