February 17, 2009
Visual Effects Society announced the nominees for the 7th Annual VES Awards. the awards recognize outstanding visual effects in film, animation, television, commercials and video games. Nominated features include Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, Waltz With Bashir, Roadside Romeo, Wall-E, Iron Man (with five nominations), The Dark Knight, and Cloverfield. Commercials for Coke, Audi and Wrigley's 5 are also on the list, as are several television shows and student works.

The awards ceremony will take place on February 21st in Los Angeles.

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July 7, 2008

Now this kind of advertising I can get behind. Run Wrake (who we already love—and maybe fear a little—thanks to Rabbit) has applied his quirky collage technique to The Control Master, a pseudo–1950s-sci-fi film in which an evil genius and two heroes battle. The commercial angle here is that all the elements of the film come from CSA Images, a stock art company. Not that that gets in the way of the enjoying the film for even one second.

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May 4, 2008
It's not that hard to create a first-person rollercoaster animation using CGI—I knocked off a half-decent one shortly after I first picked up the Softimage|3D user guide. But it is tricky to come up with a good reason to create a first-person rollercoaster animation, and trickier still to pull it off well. I think this ad for the Zürich Chamber Orchestra succeeds on both counts.

[Thanks, Steve Bass.]

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December 16, 2007

Suffice it to say that we here at fps HQ love the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads, but more so when they're animated—as in this little stop-motion number, which is in the spirit of all the Rankin-Bass TV specials that are aired around this time of year. I would have liked to see a Mac Miser and PC Miser, but hey, you can't have everything.

The ad was directed and animated by none other than Drew Lightfoot, who—notwithstanding a brief encounter at this year's Ottawa International Animation Festival—we last saw doing some real-time animation to the amazement of the crowd at our Mike Johnson Animation Innovator presentation in 2005.

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October 31, 2007
Three new podcasts this week, all focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area studio Little Fluffy Clouds. First, two shorts: their 2003 Au Petite Mort, which I favourably reviewed in my coverage of SIGGRAPH 2003; and Alignment, one of three ads they produced for IBM. Finally, there's my interview with Betsy de Fries and Jerry Van de Beek, who have been busily creating animated commercials since they founded the studio in 1996.

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My guests in this podcast are Betsy de Fries and Jerry van de Beek, who form the San Francisco Bay Area studio Little Fluffy Clouds. (And yes, they're named after the Orb song.) Little Fluffy Clouds has been in business since 1996, when the pair left the (Colossal) Pictures studio during its last days. The studio's been busily creating ads for a wide variety of clients since then.

Little Fluffy Clouds
Au Petite Mort
IBM: "Alignment"
Festival Watch: SIGGRAPH 2003
March 2006 issue of fps, featuring Little Fluffy Clouds' Today

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An animated Rorschach test is the backbone of one of three spots that Little Fluffy Clouds produced for Ogilvy's series of IBM commercials.

Little Fluffy Clouds
Trivers Myers Music

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September 8, 2007
One of SIGGRAPH's (many) hidden gems is the collection of digitally animated shorts from the previous Japan Media Arts Festival. Hidden because in the middle of the constantly repeating Animation Theater, the 90 minutes or so of selected Japan Media Arts Festival shorts are each shown exactly once, across three half-hour programs. However, those screenings represent just a slice of all the films shown during the nine days of the festival. (For that matter, films are just one part of the fest, which includes manga, artwork and installations.)

A case in point is that the two films lodged most firmly in my brain were in the festival's Entertainment Division, and both are rooted in live action. In Tadashi Tsukagoshi's Arrow, a man notices that the cigarette butts he's extinguished under his shoe form an arrow, which points straight to a procession of ants marching... in the shape of an arrow. Digital trickery (as well as creative prop placement and hair gel) creates the procession of pointers that the man follows first out of curiosity, then out of dark compulsion.

Koichiro Tsujikawa's dreamy music video to Cornelius's "Fit Song" spends its entire time in the confines of a house, where CGI brings everyday items to a strange sort of life. Strange because aside from a few objects (most amusingly, a discus-throwing action figure and a top-heavy, ambulatory magnifying glass), almost none are anthropomorphized—and many replicate themselves with more of an eye to what looks good and, above all, what works with the music, rather than any strict adherence to physics. I'm a lifelong puzzler, so I was delighted to see a ball of matches explode into a floating array of early 20th-century Japanese matchstick puzzles, some of which solved themselves as the camera floated by. And is it just me, or is the rolling (and, yes, self-reproducing) sugar cubes' initial dance a nod to Norman McLaren's 1964 film, Canon?

The Entertainment Division did have some fully animated works, however. Satoshi Tomioka's Exit online ads for Taito are frantic and deliriously absurd, both involving noisy and chaotic chase scenes with characters looking for a way out of predicaments they've brought on themselves. (A naked man with a bored, negligée-clad girl in tow flees a woman—her mother? his wife?—down a hotel corridor; a cat tries to liberate a fish from the dinner table of an elderly couple. Oddly enough, in both cases the pursuers have glowing laser eyes and preternatural abilities.) Every time I watch these one-minute ads I think about the buckets of money companies like Dreamworks spend trying to make 3D CGI more cartoony, while smaller studios just sit down and do it—sometimes with better results.

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