Recently, I was detailing my weekend afternoon plans with a friend who has been an art director for years. I mentioned a few hot new movies that were playing and how much I was just looking forward to settling down into a comfy chair in a big theater with buttery popcorn and an icy drink, ready to relax, sinking in to a riveting story that would whisk me away from that whopping to-do list for a couple of hours.
My friend, looking to relax as well, did not want to hit the movies with me. She explained that movies are anything but relaxing for her as she notices every technical detail, every prop, and every special effect and her mind begins accelerating into stressful work mode. While this was eye-opening to me, I completely relish the ability–and the luxury on numerous levels–to get lost in a big story, whether on the page or the screen. For most of us, the beauty is that while we are engaged in watching a movie, we really don’t think about or have any earthly idea what’s going on behind the scenes. That lack of responsibility is what we are generally paying a good $20 for (at least) before it’s all over.
Once we’ve left the theater and are digesting what we’ve seen, however, the questions begin to abound as to how in the world a movie crew ‘pulled all that off’ with such realism. And what many of us do not realize is that 3D technology has been playing a part–and helping movies crews on all levels to win accolades–for quite some time now. It’s not every day though that you get to put your hands on an Academy Award–and The Foundry team responsible for MARI software is one of the few who are so very, very lucky.
Going beyond that, the Foundry has just announced that their MARI development team is also going to be honored by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the annual Scientific and Technical Awards presentation on Saturday, February 13. The reason they have been given the award and are being celebrated is quite simple: they have added superior and significant value to the process of filmmaking.
“Receiving an Academy Award is the pinnacle of creative and technology achievement in our industry and we are utterly honored to have the outstanding, innovative brilliance of the MARI team recognized,” said Alex Mahon, CEO of The Foundry.
The Foundry is indeed a global developing company that we’ve had the pleasure of reporting on in regards to their 3D modeling products, like MODO. We aren’t the only ones who find them to be fascinating, however, as last year the London Stock Exchange named The Foundry one of its ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.’
With a mission to make ‘smart software for creative people,’ they developed MARI specifically for the visual effects industry with the intention of addressing real issues for artists, and part of its success is most likely due to the amount of input they had directly from those who would be using the tools ultimately. Now, with this new high-end texture painting application they are not only able to work faster, but are also able to offer much higher fidelity in their work. It allows for a wider range of effects, CGI and other ‘graphic facilities’ — all new elements meant to address challenges being experienced by designers previously.
MARI allows designers to ‘paint through images or gradients’ while applying details externally to a model. Corrections can be made in terms of color, and filters can also be applied and previewed as well–in real time.
“The Foundry is a home for the best and brightest talent, our singular focus is solving the problems of creative clients with the highest quality standards for their work. We create tools for the artists who spend their days crafting and pioneering Academy Award caliber films. MARI was created in the best spirit of the creative industries – with exceptional partnership, complex and innovative technology and state-of-the-art artistic requirements,” said Mahon. “The Foundry and the MARI team are committed to continually innovating and improving our software and enabling even greater visual effects to be achieved.”
MARI has been used in the production of films including Avatar, The Avengers, Academy Award winner Gravity, and Jurassic World, among others. In 2015, The Foundry software was used in the creation of all the nominated films in the 2015 Academy Awards category Achievement in Visual Effects, including the winner, Interstellar.
The Foundry’s portfolio of products now includes three Sci-Tech Award winners—KATANA, NUKE and MARI—as well as Sci-Tech award-winning motion estimation technology in the form of FURNACE, which is fully integrated into NUKEX and NUKE STUDIO.
Software from the Foundry also continues to propel the entertainment industry forward on the smaller screen, as several of their solutions were also used in an intellectual new show hailing from the UK which should shed an interesting and scientific light on numerous contemporary topics from vaccinations to the conversation of climate change.
Called ‘It’s Not Rocket Science,’ the comedy science animation show is meant for all ages, and consists of ten episodes so far. Created by Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, both he and his son have worked on the project which is meant to educate and enlighten. Chris provides the narration, while his son Evan is actually responsible for writing and producing the brand-new comedy science animation series.
The Foundry’s visual story tool, Mischief, is behind all the concept drawing, storyboarding, mind mapping and music planning, offering ease for the animators as pen-based sketching application. FLIX was also used for storyboard construction. The team, made up of well-known animators D.C. Turner and Tracy King, was also able to use MODO for modeling, animation, and effects and rendering–as well as NUKE which is a node-based digital composting application.
Turner, King, and Chris Hadfield, as well as David Atkinson, head of design for commercial products from The Foundry participated in a live session on Wednesday, January 20th as part of the formal launch for the show. The session was streamed worldwide, as the panel answered questions not only about the animation and content, but also in regards to use of The Foundry’s software in creating the show.
“Chris Hadfield is a straight-talking science icon who is using this opportunity to further the education work he began while on the International Space Station, and The Foundry is delighted to play a role in that,” says David Atkinson, head of design for commercial products at The Foundry. “This live session will delve into thoughts and processes behind the development of the show and reinforce the depth and breadth of what is possible using the right software and tools.”
Founded in 1996 by Dr. Bill Collis and Simon Robinson, the Foundry team has expanded to a staff of 300 and has also established offices in Silicon Valley, Manchester, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Dublin and Austin. Clients include Pixar, Mercedes-Benz, ILM, Double Negative, The Moving Picture Company, Walt Disney Animation, WetaDigital, Framestore, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Skullcandy.
Is this a show you are interested in seeing? Tell us your thoughts on the new comedy science show as well as the award for MARI in The Foundry’s 3D Software Wins Academy Award forum over at 3DPB.com.