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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.
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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