Shooting VistaVision for IMAX 3-D with the Gemini 3D Camera

Posted on July 12th, 2009 in Hardware, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais

Last month I had the opportunity of supervising the VFX of a one-day shoot. It is a teaser trailer we are working on at Modus. The trailer is for a large format 3-D feature, and the 1.5 minute teaser is produced to help build momentum as the larger project is in development.


For this work the camera used was the custom-built Gemini 3D Camera, a remarkable piece of machinery. The camera uses standard 35mm film in VistaVision format, enabling easy film scanning at 4K and 8K resolution. I never thought I would see, let alone work with VistaVision scans in my career… The use of this format is a very inexpensive and productive solution. You get very detailed scans from 24mm x 36mm images without the hassle and costs of 70mm prints.


The camera itself is very small and light weight. It is rather loud when the dual reels are rolling; that being said, I’m more used to quiet HD shoots. A series of pre-packaged twin lenses are ready to be fitted, it takes a couple of minutes. It was brought in by its creator, Sean MacLeod Phillips who was on set as Director of Photography.

Most of the shooting was handled with parallel lenses, with some specific shots in convergence. My experience with stereoscopic work was always with convergent cameras, it will be interesting to compare the results. The scans are already prepped at Modus, a good test of pipeline workflow for large 4K and 8K images; doubling the data for stereoscopy is like two cherries on top.

Modus FX at fmx/09

Posted on April 10th, 2009 in CG Community, The Company, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais


FMX is an annual community-based conference where talents of the VFX industry converge in Stuttgart, Germany for a few days of talks, panels and networking. The event has grown substantially since its debut in 1994, attracting professionals from all over the world. The fmx/09 line-up is no exception, with top names appearing such as:

  • Chris Defaria, Executive Vice President Digital Production, Animation and Visual Effects at Warner Bros.;
  • Eric Roth, Director of the Visual Effects Society (VES);
  • Chris Williams, director of Disney’s Bolt;
  • Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography for Lighting Wall-E;
  • Michael Faust, CG artist from the Oscar-nominated animated documentary Waltz with Bashir;
  • Steve Preeg and Jonathan Litt from Digital Domain on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button;
  • Jeff Okun, Visual Effects Supervisor on The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai.

Modus FX - Autodesk Softimage Masterclass

We are proud to be part of the Autodesk Masterclass line-up at fmx/09, with a presentation on Softimage. Our own Mostafa Badran, 3D department Lead Technical Director will present some of our work on the French series Les Corbeaux, with a demonstration of Softimage best rigging principles on our fully operational crow used extensively in the series. See one of our 349 shots below, with live and CG crows sharing a car rooftop. You can check out more shots on our demo reel.

The session will explore a way of rigging a multi-purpose CG bird character and creating a specific toolset for the animation challenges that present themselves during the production for a multi-use digital crow to be used for close-ups, medium shots and long shots, as an individual, in small groups or crowds.

See you in Stuttgart, from May 05 to May 09 !


More Red Madness

Posted on November 14th, 2008 in Hardware, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais


A very heavy announcement from Red today; so much information, hardware and new benchmarks that it’s hard to digest…
… Images in 6K, from a full 35mm sensor size at 100 fps.
… IMAX size sensors for 9K plates recording at 500 MB/sec.
… 28K images !
All this with modular camera gear.
More details at the Red website.

Shooting with the Red One Camera

Posted on October 13th, 2008 in The Company, Technical, Movies by Marc Bourbonnais


A VFX sequence for one of our feature film projects involves adding a shoreline to a live, green screen interior shoot. In our business, some might be tempted to go the full CG ocean simulation and matte painting route, but we want to develop the resourceful aspects of our studio…
Actually, we were just waiting for a reasonable opportunity to just rent a Red One camera and check out the footage. So a few weeks ago, we found a rent outlet near the seashore to grab some beach and ocean material. The weather was perfect and we got great 4K footage for all of our shots.
The plates we needed were relatively simple, nothing fancy. Setting up the gear and using the camera itself was a breeze, we will certainly do something like this again if need be. We are still testing out the material, and except for some tracking issues probably due to the rolling shutter, the images are great to work with.
As for the results… Well, coming soon to a theatre near you in 2009…


The Modus crew: Martin Pelletier, Lead look developer and Luc Julien, Lead 2D Compositer. Yes, you can work shirtless at Modus FX.

Our Green Screen Stage

Posted on September 22nd, 2008 in The Company, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais

A nice thing about having a lot of space: one thing we wanted to get going at Modus was to set up a ready-to-use shooting stage. We’re trying out a permanent green screen for the moment. We have already used our studios for shooting extra FX material for one of our film projects, so we are very happy to have a dedicated setup, right in our building!

As you can see in the pictures, it’s a very simple build, drywall, plywood floor and luan sheets for those nice rounded corners. Next in the process: lighting. We do not know if we want to build a permanent fixture or go for rentals when need be.






Siggraph 2008 : Day 1

Posted on August 12th, 2008 in Software, CG Community, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais


So I’m in California for my 11th Siggraph, 4th in Los Angeles. The first thing that struck me is that housing is booming in downtown LA. What used to be a dead zone around the Convention Center is now covered with condo towers.

Got all my registration worked out at 7:30 this morning, as always the crowds at Siggraph are extremely well-behaved and the hundreds of non-registered attendees waiting patiently at the doors walked in without so much a fuss.

I attended the new Computer Animation Festival presentations in the morning, a nice addition to the regular classes. I miss the now defunct Electronic Theatre but these new sessions look great. The program on stereoscopy is particularly interesting. Two sessions this morning:

3D primer : The fundamentals of Stereoscopy
The most comprehensive 3-D tutorial I’ve seen. Very informative, both historically and technically. I particular enjoyed Peter Anderson explaining 3-D cinema with chopsticks. Interesting to see a battle forming between Real-D and Dolby 3D

Great Failed Ideas in Production
As suggested during the session, this panel has to come back. Hearing CG masters like Dyksrta and Knoll talk about tough calls in their careers is, to say the least, comforting.

The rest of the day was a bit rushed, where I jumped around in 3 vendor sessions:

Nuke user group
Their first user group; I could not stay long but did get to see some interesting workflow for The Mummy 3 and Ocula, Foundry’s new tools for stereoscopy.

Softimage Education Summit and Research Summit
I gave a very short talk for the education partners of Softimage about what students need to know to get into VFX studios. Short answer: be pleasant to work with, period. I met new traning centers that will stay in touch. I stayed around for the start of the research summit to meet with old friends that I can only meet at Siggraph.

Autodesk User Group
A very big event, happening at the Shrine Auditorium. The show itself was quite long (just over 3 hours) but most of the presentations were good, notably the Mudbox 2009 preview and the stereoscopy recap. Still, 3 hours is a heck of a long time for marketing chit-chat.


And that’s more than enough for one day. See you all tomorrow, with the start of the exhibition.

The Visual Effects Society publishes its first white paper

Posted on July 17th, 2008 in CG Community, Working in CG, Technical, Movies by Marc Bourbonnais

The Visual Effects Society (VES), the entertainment industry’s only official organization representing the extended community of visual effects professionals, has published its first ever white paper, entitled “The State of Visual Effects in the Entertainment Industry.”

The paper, drawn from input from numerous sources including a VES Think Tank discussion, the VES Executive Committee and others, examines existing conditions within the visual effects industry and how these issues affect the entertainment business on a macro scale, from workflow to the interaction of personnel within various departments and the extraordinary impacts that the digital revolution has caused.

To see the white paper, click here:

A VFX Shop in my Tub

Posted on February 11th, 2008 in Working in CG, Technical, Movies by Marc Bourbonnais

Still on location… Not too many CG characters in this movie, but scripts can change… And after a few discussions with the director and producer, a new shot concerning CG critters set in moody lighting was added. All the other shots involved props, so matching the lighting would be easy. But with this new shot, I would definitely need a shading sphere*. Shooting starts in a couple of days. What to do?

Simple. Get a cheap, round light fixture (4.50 $). I prefer neutral grey than pure white; grey primer will do just fine (4 $). Because it needs a lot of coats and I did not want to go back in forth from the studio shops, I made my own paint shop in my hotel bathroom…. Don’t tell the hotel managers.

The trick is to spray enough coats of paint to get a nice even look, while keeping the paint fumes out of the hotel corridor. I found it safer to do it at night. And voilà! A nice grey shading sphere for under 10 bucks!


* For the non VFX-savvy folks reading this, a shading sphere is just a flat colored sphere that is used to capture the lighting, shadows and some color bleeding on a movie set. You move it around in spaces where CG characters will be inserted later as the camera is filming, so it gives you a visual cue to start building your CG environment. In the same fashion, white spheres are also used, as well as chrome balls for highlights.

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