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VFX News And Developments for August 2016
Jill Gilbert
Jill Gilbert Named Luma’s EP Of Animated Content

Santa Monica and Melbourne-based creative studio Luma has hired industry mainstay Jill Gilbert as executive producer of animated content. Based out of the Santa Monica office, Gilbert will be responsible for the oversight, development and management of Luma Toons original animated content and animation service work, as well as contributing toward acquisition and development of branded content.

Gilbert will work closely with animation director Raphael Pimental and CG supervisor Andrew Zink to expand the roots of Luma Toons, the dedicated animated content arm that Luma launched in 2014 with the critically acclaimed The New Adventures of Figaro Pho.

Currently, Luma Toons is building a diverse slate of animated content including films, series, digital content, and VR for multiple distribution platforms. With an eye towards originality and authenticity, Luma Toons content will be created in partnership with top talent and emerging creative voices who possess a unique vision that will push the boundaries of what animation is capable of.

With over two decades of experience specializing in the production of animated content, Gilbert has been instrumental in the development and production of over 60 live action and animated feature films, working for some of the world’s most iconic brands and studios.

Gilbert comes over from Psyop, where as EP and managing director she developed an array of animated content for various platforms in addition to launching an IP initiative for the company and overseeing development and production for original projects. Prior to Psyop, she was VP of production at the newly formed feature animation arm at Paramount Pictures. She successfully launched into production Paramount Animation’s first film, SpongeBob SquarePants in 3D, and oversaw all creative and production-related aspects of the movie, and managed recruiting efforts for premiere animation talent both domestically and abroad. The job at Paramount Animation was preceded by tenures as VP of creative affairs at DisneyToon Studios and as VP of business development for animation at Technicolor Digital Productions.

Luma’s credits include visual effects for Hollywood blockbusters such as Deadpool, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Insurgent, Prometheus, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War; as well as award-winning live action films including Prisoners, True Grit, and No Country for Old Men.

Moth Collective Joins Hornet
Hornet, which maintains studios in New York City and London, has signed Moth Collective, the London-based animation ensemble consisting of Daniel Chester, David Prosser, and Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits.
Since collectively graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2010, they have quickly become known for their perceptive, emotive storytelling. “It’s about balance.” said Chester of their approach, which veers towards more filmic sensibilities. “I’m usually trying to go in for something funny, snappy and time-efficient, David tends more to abstract moments that take slightly longer to breath, while Marie-Margaux allows details and emotion to flourish. If you take a little bit of each of those, it allows us to create what feels like a beautiful, short film, rather than a few minutes of animation.”

Whether it’s examining the looming threat of artificial intelligence, the effects of rainforest deforestation, or the plight of refugees, their colorful, hand-drawn animation style and narrative cadence possesses a maturity that belies their youth. 

Moth Collective is represented by Hornet Inc. in the USA, UK, Europe, and Canada. They have worked with clients such as The New York Times, the NSPCC, the WWF, the Guardian, RayBan, Kiehl’s, and the Global Canopy Programme. They have also won a number of awards, including the D&AD Graphite Pencil, the Best Commissioned Piece at both the Annecy Film Festival and the British Animation Awards, the ADC Young Guns 12, and the YCN Professional Award.

Pixar Opens Up USD
Pixar Animation Studios has announced the official open source release of Universal Scene Description (USD), technology used for the interchange of 3D graphics data through various digital content creation (DCC) tools. USD provides an effective and scalable solution for the complex workflows of CG film and game industry studios.

“We believe that being open with our technology and sharing it with our peers in the industry is how we can best continue to drive innovation,” said Ed Catmull, president, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. 

With this initial release, Pixar is opening up its development process and providing code used internally at the studio. “USD synthesizes years of engineering aimed at integrating collaborative production workflows that demand a constantly growing number of software packages,” said Guido Quaroni, VP of software R&D at Pixar.

USD provides a rich and powerful toolset for reading, writing, editing, and rapidly previewing 3D scene data. With many of its features geared towards performance and large-scale collaboration among many artists, USD is ideal for the complexities of the modern pipeline. One such feature is Hydra, a high-performance preview renderer capable of interactively displaying large data sets.

“With USD, Hydra, and OpenSubdiv, we’re sharing core technologies that can be used in filmmaking tools across the industry,” said George ElKoura, supervising lead software engineer at Pixar. “Our focus in developing these libraries is to provide high-quality, high-performance software that can be used reliably under demanding production scenarios.”

“Integrating Hydra into our proprietary Virtual Production Renderer helped us solve one of our biggest challenges,” said Kevin Wooley, virtual production engineering lead at ILM. “With the performance improvement, we can handle incredibly complicated digital environments, with thousands of pieces of geometry, while preserving the editability of the scene.”

Along with USD and Hydra, the distribution ships with USD plugins for some common DCCs, such as Autodesk’s Maya and The Foundry’s Katana.

We are committed to working with Pixar to make USD the platform-independent scene representation of choice for Maya artists,” said Marc Stevens, VP of film & television, Autodesk.

“The Foundry strives to constantly deliver the best innovations to our customers and one of the best ways we can do that is through our partners, so we were delighted to work with Pixar on the release of USD,” said Andy Whitmore, chief product officer at The Foundry. “This technology will ultimately give companies better and more powerful pipelines by building more robust connections between their tools of choice, resulting in more empowered artists and therefore greater creativity.” 

To prepare for open sourcing their code, Pixar gathered feedback from various studios and vendors to receive early testing from the community. Studios such as MPC, Double Negative, ILM, and Animal Logic were among those who provided valuable feedback in preparation for this release.