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Alias and Sony Imageworks Extend Strategic Relationship

(April 18, 2005)

Alias and Sony Pictures Imageworks announced today the  expansion of their longstanding partnership to advance the art and  science of visual effects in filmmaking with the integration of an  additional 150 seats of Maya(R) Unlimited into Imageworks' pipeline.  Imageworks currently uses Maya and Alias MotionBuilder(R) software as  the backbone of its development pipeline. Alias' Custom Development  Centre (CDC) and Imageworks have a long history of working together  to achieve the most innovative and unique CG animation and special  effects in the history of film. Together they've managed to propel  filmmaking into the future by pushing the frontiers of technology and  creativity. 

   "For more than a decade, Alias and Sony Pictures Imageworks have  partnered with a common vision - to use technology to create the most  spectacular onscreen imagery," comments Tim Sarnoff, president of  Imageworks. "We are dedicated to the art of digital production and  character creation, and to continue surprising and surpassing the  expectations of our audiences we need to constantly push ourselves.  This challenge will never end for us - and that's why our partnership  with Alias will continue to be critical to the success of Imageworks." 

   Alias' software has proved to be a key development tool for  Imageworks projects such as the Oscar award-winner for Best Visual  Effects Spider-Man 2, The Polar Express, The Aviator, Oscar  award-winning animated short The ChubbChubbs, Spider-Man, Hollow Man,  Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2 and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's  Stone. 



   "We first started working collaboratively with Imageworks on  Stuart Little, refining the first release of Maya Cloth through  direct feedback obtained by putting it through its paces in  production," comments Kevin Smith, director of the Alias Custom  Development Center. "We've never looked back and have continued to  work closely with Sony and truly value their technical and creative  skills." 

   The most exciting computer graphics talent in the world is using  Maya software and Imageworks is able to recruit the best talent  available with Maya as its core 3D tool. 

   The Polar Express Innovates with Maya and Alias MotionBuilder 

   The most recent project with Alias' CDC and Imageworks was the  creation of a technology solution for The Polar Express with Maya and  Alias MotionBuilder at the core of the project. Rob Bredow, digital  effects supervisor on The Polar Express describes the process of  bringing the movie to life. 

   "Imageworks created three new processes to help achieve the  vision of Polar Express," begins Bredow. "The first step was on-stage  motion capture which used a Sony-proprietary technology known as  Imagemotion(TM). The next step was the creation of what Sony has  dubbed 'wheels,' which allowed us to create the camera moves for the  shots in real-time. Using MotionBuilder, Imageworks created a tool  that allowed the director of photography to control the camera using  a set of 'wheels' - the hardware of which was actually manufactured  by the same people who created the Libra(TM) Pan-Tilt-Roll head. This  allowed the D.P. to control the camera in real-time while watching  the virtual set and the low-res version of the actors on his  monitor-a very similar process to operating a camera on set,"  explains Bredow. "This was a completely new process for us and was  remarkably easy to use and well received by the team." 

   The third step was final integration where the team used both  MotionBuilder and Maya to handle re-targeting, bring the facial data  into the shots, clean up the mo-cap data, up-resolution the  characters and synchronize the audio. The Imageworks layout group was  also involved in the final integration, using Maya to dress each  scene with high-res props, set dressings and ensure continuity. 

   The Polar Express team also relied heavily on Maya Cloth features  for The Polar Express and Spider-Man 2, which were in development at  the same time. Both projects utilized the expertise and engineering  skills of Alias' CDC to develop cloth technology that was beyond what  existed in Maya at the time. 

   "Before Polar Express, the Imageworks artists built digital  clothes like tailors - stitching together all the pieces for one  complete outfit," explains Bredow. "That process could take two to  three months per costume and required an artist who had real life  tailoring ability. With the help of the Custom Development Centre we  changed our process. New enhancements to Maya allowed the animators  to model a costume and directly simulate the 3d model - cutting more  than 50% of costume development time." 

   Bredow concludes, "The close working relationship between Alias  and Imageworks has been key to the success of our team as we depend  on Alias' technology to bring our visions to life. It's rare for us  not to use Maya for a significant part of the pipeline - when you put  a character through the pipeline at Imageworks it's with Maya." 

   New Projects from Sony Pictures Imageworks 

   Currently in production at Imageworks are Bewitched, Zathura, The  Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Monster  House, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3 and the first two animated features  from Sony Pictures Animation, Open Season and Surf's Up. 

   Alias Custom Development Centre 

   Alias Custom Development Centre with locations in Santa Barbara,  Toronto and Montreal is home to the most advanced Maya artists and  programmers in the world. The team works with feature film and game  development companies with state-of-the-art requirements beyond  Alias' current software capabilities. The custom engineering teams  engineer new features and extensions to Alias software, assist with  production pipeline integration and provide custom technology  innovations. 

   About Sony Pictures Imageworks 

   Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is an Academy Award(R)-winning,  state-of-the-art visual effects and character animation company  dedicated to the art and artistry of digital production and character  creation. The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion  Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars(R) for its work on Spider-Man 2  and the CG animated short film The Chubb Chubbs, and nominations for  Spider-Man, Hollow Man, Stuart Little and Starship Troopers.  Imageworks continues to raise the level of the visual effects and  character animation businesses, becoming a major force in the  industry by providing leading edge technology to its world-class  artists. For more information, please visit www.imageworks.com

   About Alias 

   As the world's leading innovator of 3D graphics technology, Alias  develops award-winning software, custom development, and training  solutions for the film and video, games, web, interactive media,  automotive, industrial design, education, and visualization markets.  On March 1, 2003, for the awards year 2002, the Academy of Motion  Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Alias/Wavefront(TM) an Oscar(R) for  scientific and technical achievement for the development of Maya  software, the professional 3D animation and effects package. Alias  offers a powerful range of services for new to advanced users in the  most demanding environments; Learning Tools and training, support,  and professional services help meet rigorous production deadlines. 

   Entertainment customers include: CNN, Digital Domain, Disney,  Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Factor 5 LLC, Midway  Games, Nintendo, Pacific Data Images (PDI)/DreamWorks SKG, Pixar,  Sega, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Square Enix Co., Ltd., Warner Feature  Animation and Weta Ltd. Design customers include AT&T, BMW, Boeing,  Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Italdesign, Kodak, Kwikset,  Mattel, Price Pfister, Renault, Rollerblade, Sharp, Trek Bicycle,  Teague and Timex. 


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