2009’s Highs and Lows
The year 2009 was a tumultuous one. The economy went from bad to worse, and the industry indeed felt the pain. Some studios were hit harder than others. One particular big blow came in February, when The Orphanage announced that it was suspending operation indefinitely—despite the fact that during the first three years of the studio’s 10-year existence it had tripled in size, and throughout worked on some of the biggest effects films, including Iron Man, The Spirit, Superman, and the just-released Chinese epic Red Cliff.
Elsewhere around the industry, vendors were tightening their belts. Notable was the trimming of travel budgets, resulting in low attendance numbers for many of the large trade shows, particularly SIGGRAPH. On the bright side, the annual Game Developers Conference experienced only a very slight dip in numbers, supporting the notion that the gaming industry is practically recession-proof. After all, last December, when shoppers were scaling back, video games were a must-have item.
Another sunny spot: At the box office, the 2009 summer season revenue grew by 2.5 percent over last year, as several big hits helped keep the numbers ($4.34 billion) on the upswing. This brought good news to VFX and CG studios, as they continued to churn out jaw-dropping, effects-laden movies and amazing animated features. As proof of just how far CG technology has come, check out the behind-the-scenes reveal of the highly anticipated Avatar (see “CG in Another World,” pg. 12). Its impact on the way digital artists approach facial mocap, lighting, and more will be felt for years.
As a matter of fact, the entire year, from start to finish, brought us amazing digital work—a bigger Transformers, a “badder” Terminator, a darker Harry Potter, a unique Star Trek, and a social statement in a sci-fi wrapper called District 9, to name a few. On the animation side, stop motion was stunning, particularly in Coraline, and Disney revived its 2D skills in The Princess and the Frog, while CGI continued to wow audiences in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Ice Age 3, Up, 9, A Christmas Carol, and others. (For a look at which films have strong Oscar possibilities, see “Here Comes Oscar,” pg. 22.)
Stereo 3D also invaded theaters, as studios provided another dimension to their features, both live action and animated. If anyone had their doubts about stereo 3D’s appeal, they shouldn’t any longer. Stereo 3D is growing wildly in popularity and is no longer a theme park novelty but a storytelling enhancement when used well.
During the past 30-plus years, CGW has remained on the forefront of CG innovation. As a technology magazine, we focus on the cutting-edge trends and technologies that define this industry. As such, we celebrated the 3D stereo trend in the April issue with a 3D cover and feature, becoming one of the first publications (mainstream or trade) to do so last year. Not resting on our laurels, we decided to go stereo once again in this issue, only now we are presenting it in ChromaDepth, a new 3D process that enables the creation of “normal-looking” color images (as opposed to the overlay of two slightly offset images with the anaglyph technique). Without the ChromaDepth glasses, viewers see regular images. No more fuzzy, distorted looks. With the glasses, the images pop in three dimensions. Just how much dimensionality they have depends on the colors used. American Paper Optics introduced us to this new concept and has been instrumental in helping us bring this state-of-the-art technique to you. So, you may opt to enjoy our issue as you always do, but we encourage you to get into the spirit of what the entire industry is buzzing about, stereo 3D, and see our features—particularly the Avatar story and the Oscar preview piece—as you have never seen them before. Admire the beauty of the cover image, as provided by Twentieth Century Fox, and then don your glasses and watch how it transforms into something even more spectacular. Consider this our holiday gift to you. Enjoy.