Snowpiercer – Movie Review

October 15th, 2014

movie reviewHere we have a movie that first got my attention through some internet buzz it received throughout the year. A movie that didn’t get a wide release and only made it into selected theaters. It turned into a sort of ‘insider tip’ and I placed it on my radar. Now that radar made ‘blip’ and I had a chance to see it. I even watched it twice. It’s a very solid production that certainly would have made its budget back in no time. It even did (world wide) with just its limited release. Studio interference held it back. Which is a shame.

The movie is about a train that carries the last small portion of humanity that’s left on Earth. Due to an experimental try to reverse global warming, Earth turned into a refridgerator. In said train it’s a strict hirarchy that separates poor from rich people. After 17 years and lots of attempts to overthrow the rules it’s time for another uprising. The poor people, living in the back of the train, forged a plan to break through to the next part of the train. Of course the more privileged population of the train wants to keep the less privileged in check. With passion and some luck the orgainzed attack is a success, they make a first step and break through the first line of defence. But it’s a long way to the front. We follow a small group and learn a lot of things about what the train is about and how it all works. Which is a good thing, as we learn this new stuff step by step along with the characters we follow. Every now and then a new secret is revealed and moves the story smoothly from beginning to end.

I think it is a movie with some high ambitions. It wants to make a point about the current state of humanity or civilization. How a civilization works. What a civilization has to do, to be successful. There are sacrifices to make. And do these sacrifices define humanity? And ultimately… (and maybe I’m reading too much into it) are we worth it to be saved? All these ambitious questions crammed into a scifi action movie. Does it manage to get it right? Well, I would say ‘almost’. For movies this ambitious there are higher standards than for just an action movie. There are a couple of things in the movie that fall apart if you think too much about. The movie does explain a lot of things and tries to justify why things are how they are. And depending on how much you’re willing to think about it, these explanations work or don’t. I think the term “Suspense of Disbelief” is appropriate here. If you’re able to suspend your disbelief then this movie will be a fun ride, along with some challenging topics. Topics that couldn’t be more current if you’re willing the check the news and how our civilization is also more and more separated between poor and rich.

Beside these serious topics it’s also an entertaining movie that gets a lot of things right. A lot of nice fight sequences with good action. Very creative play with the idea that we’re on a train. Given the fact that there was only very limited space to organize the shots, the camera work is nicely done. There definitely is some good filmmaking on the screen. Also on the screen are some nice VFX shots of a frozen outside world. Mountains, landscapes and cities that once were full of life now lie dead in a white sheet of snow. The execution of the VFX shots is ok and completely sufficient to the needs of the movie. So from a technical point of view it’s a pretty well done film.

There are also a lot of big names in this movie. Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans. I like all of them and I have to say that everybody did a very fine job in this movie. Chris Evans, who’s the main protagonist, has a chance to show that he got some range as an actor. He did that in earlier films like “Sunshine” (which I love) but I feel that since then he did not have a real chance to do more emotionally enganging parts. I want to see more of that Chris Evans. The other names aren’t just there for one scene either. No ‘stunt casting’ so to say. All of them play important characters and are significant to the plot of the movie. It’s a strange and great combination of actors that does indeed work well.

So all in all it’s a movie I would recommend to everyone. Yes, there are details in this movie that don’t make 100% sense but why should it? It brings up valid topics that are worth some discussion. And if it manages to invoke these discussions amongst people that normally don’t talk about topics like in the movie… job successful. GO see it if you have a chance!


Snowpiercer on IMDb

The Eternals

October 7th, 2014

The Eternals

The original plates I rendered months before I finished this project. As usual I was playing around with some stuff in Vue when it suddenly clicked. I knew I had something that deserved a shot. I also haven’t done any bigger scifi cityscape pics in a while. So this was a motivation to start and detail out the scene in Vue. Due to my mashing together of all kinds of models I crossed some limitations in filesizes Vue was able to correctly save. So I had to work with two scene files for different parts of the picture. Mainly splitted between foreground and hero object detail and less important stuff to flesh out the scene along with background elements. So in the initial stage of composition and setting up the scene I created a lot of junk data to keep alive all alternatives I had in mind for the scene. I wanted this one to be big. Much like “Phoenix Rising” or “Gates To Elysium”. Scale and detail was important for this one. Once I got my atmosphere, composition and scene ready… rendering time! Then… silence.

I had the renders done and when I looked at them I realized how much time I would need to get this to a point I would be happy with. I instantly saw a lot of parts that needed a lot of attention. Plus the fact that, while I worked on the pic, new ideas popped up on how to refine certain details even more. So I left the renders for a couple of weeks. Of course I couldn’t leave these renders alone. I already invested some serious time! I had to do something with it. The Photoshop stage then had a lot of overpainting, atmosphere and lighting tuning. I also got back into Vue and added new stuff to the scene. Ships, buildings and additional detail. I didn’t want to overload the image with stuff but I fear I lost that battle (again!). At least there is a lot to discover, wouldn’t you agree?

When it comes to a story then there is none. The only thing is the title. I can imagine, that the citizens of that city look at these huge structures, as if they would still be there, even after they are long gone. So they started to call them ‘The Eternals’. What they do? I have no idea. But maybe it fires up the imagination of the viewers and you people come up with great ideas. =D

This picture is part of The Luminarium’s latest Exhibit: Illuminate VI. A fantastic source of inspiration that can be found here. It also features a neat interview with me, about myself and how I approach my work.

Quick shout out to Nicolas Bramke who helped with some pointers and ideas. Your input is always appreciated.

Vue – Photoshop – 6000x2553px

Photoshop Stage


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Luminarium Exhibit #24

October 6th, 2014

The Luminarium Exhibit #25

They did it and here it is! The 24th Exhibit of The Luminarium Artgroup: Illuminate VI. It features some of the best digital art that’s currently on the internet. This time there was no specific topic and they all burned down a firework of creative sparks. There is digital art, digital painting, 3d, 2d, photography and music! As a sidenote there is also a neat interview with me online. Congrats to everyone involved! Check it out for a neat inspiration overload!

All of the works, from all kinds of different fields of expertise, surely are a nice source for inspiration! So be sure to check it out -> Illuminate VI along with that nifty interview!

The Luminarium: WebsiteDeviantartShadowness



Worlds We Know

September 9th, 2014

Worlds We Know

This one was actually finished a couple of months ago. I started it late 2013 I think and I don’t really know anymore why. I guess there was no specific reason other than experimenting with Vue. As usual a sudden, unexpected creative spark fired up and I continued to work on it.

As usual I started with a simple setup in mind and ended up with more detail than I actually wanted. Even though it’s still pretty reduced to the basics. I guess I also wanted to play more with what DAZ characters can do. For the pose of our lady I started with a preset and invested quite some extra time to work on smaller details. Also wanted to streamline the process of using DAZ characters in my work. So it’s ultimately a learning piece I guess. In between testrenders I even had one atmosphere that was much darker but still kind of cool looking. I stepped away from it because the darker atmosphere and the highlights it created didn’t point to the spots in the pic that I wanted the viewer to see. That’s when I decided to stay daytime with some popping colours.

Technically it’s Vue, DAZ Studio and Photoshop for this one. Business as usual, I worked out a plate in Vue for later detail work in Photoshop. A lot of fixing of elements, overpainting and creating mood. I also worked with some displacement mapping in Vue, to get some waves into the pool to suggest that our lovely lady is walking, instead of just standing there. That process turned out to be a little tricky, but again… learning by doing. The result works I think. I definitely wanted this to be colourful and popping. The result certainly is colourful and I’m not sure if it’s really my taste because I usually enjoy a more balanced colourpalette. That’s ok though. Trying new stuff and playing around can’t be wrong if something a little decent comes from it.

Vue – DAZ Studio – Photoshop – 5000x2283px

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Guardians Of The Galaxy – Movie Review

September 8th, 2014

movie reviewAs usual with Marvel movies I have to start this one with saying that I’m not too familiar with the comics and have no specific idea how much of the comics went into this movie. That said… this movie pretty much rocks. Quite literally. I was following the development of this movie from early on. Once first details came out I really liked what they were going for. I hoped for some really creative stuff that hopefully does not involve Earth and shows us some places we haven’t seen yet. I wanted this movie to give the whole Marvel universe a new twist and perspective. Since it (yes it does) takes place in the same universe as The Avengers. Who knows if there will ever be a specific crossover but just the idea is pretty cool. It’s like a completely different world within the Marvel universe.

I don’t want to go into specific plot details since you should really go and see this film. Let’s just say that we mostly follow Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) from Earth, who got abducted as a young kid and grew up to be some sort of scavenger/bounty hunter in space. He’s looking for the ‘Orb’. An artifact a lot of people are looking for apparently. Once he found it, he’s not exactly making friends and ends up with a bounty on his head. A Racoon (Voice: Bradley Cooper) and his Tree-creature like friend (Voice: Vin Diesel) capture Quill, but not without bumping into Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is trying to get the artifact. They all end up in a space prison where they meet Drax. All of them come together and manage to escape with the help of some great teamwork. When they find out how much the Orb is worth they decide to split the cash. Of course things do not work out as expected and once they discover the power the Orb holds, everything goes against them.

When it comes to the story you could almost say “have you seen one Marvel movie, you have seen them all”. It’s a weak spot in this otherwise great picture. Another thing that’s business as usual is the fact that the villain was pretty weak again. He’s not fleshed out enough to really care about his motivations. He’s just there to be the bad guy. And one scene in space that, for my taste, did go a little too far into “who cares about science” territory. After a kinda hoaky flashback at the start of the movie it soon finds its path and starts to get intertaining. Along with so many other big action summer blocbuster productions this movie is also falling into the trap of lining up one action sequence after another. Over the span of this movie there were enough things to counter these negative impressions though. Especially the way the film establishes its characters. It’s all done bit by bit throughout the movie and no single big exposition dump where everything is explained at once. So the characters stay fresh throughout the film and at the end still have some secrets left for a, highly possible, sequel. As successful as the movie is now, it’s a great statement for visual and character originality. Marvel risked something with this movie. They took fairly unknown comic characters and picked James Gunn, a director that doesn’t have much experience with science fiction fantasy. But what he’s great with is interaction between characters and especially the humor that can be found within these characters. Much like Joss Whedon who did a fairly good job with the Avengers movie.

Now to some technical things. The direction by James Gunn works really well and shows in the more quiet moments when we have some witty character interaction and conversations. Especially the funny stuff! The overall acting is pretty much flawless and enjoyable. The interaction between CG and live action characters is pretty amazing. The motion capture, 3d, design and voice work is fantastic and does a good job bringing us closer to the CG characters. What I’m talking about? Rocket and Groot of course. These two have a great relationship going on and couldn’t be more different on the outside. Together they are almost unstoppable. Aside from the characters this movie lives from the places it shows. We get to see some fantastic environments and planets. Probably some of the most creative stuff to see in a film right now. It’s obvious that the concept artists had fun with this movie and it definitely shows in the result. We also have one of the most beautiful colour palettes going on there. Every place has a different feel, lighting and colour mood. Everything well balanced and thought through from an artistic standpoint. Just gorgeous to look at and a lot of fun.


Guardians Of The Galaxy on IMDb

Adobe Master Class Book Feature

September 6th, 2014

Adobe Master Class: Advanced Compositing in Photoshop

Recently “Adobe Master Class: Advanced Compositing in Photoshop” written by Bret Malley was released and is now available. In the book he very thouroughly explains various Photoshop techniques to achieve and realize all kinds of visual ideas. The book itself comes in very nice shape, printed on very good paper and an easy to follow layout. Now what role do I play? Well, not a too big one but still something I’m sorta proud of. Beside great artists like Andree Wallin, I’m featured in the Ebook version of the book that can be bought separately or downloaded if you already own a print book version. The cool thing about the Ebook version is that it comes with a bonus chapter about Scifi!

Right now there is also a Discount/Promo code available if you buy a copy via the Peachpit site. The Promocode is: AMC2014

Adobe Master Class: Advanced Compositing in Photoshop on Peachpit: here

Adobe Master Class: Advanced Compositing in Photoshop on Amazon: here



Impact No. 5

August 25th, 2014

Impact No. 5

This one was created for the latest issue of the ‘All About Space’ magazine. Topic for the article is, yes you’re right… Apocalypse. I enjoy this pic quite a bit and it does a nice job printed in the magazine here.

All About Space on the Internet: here

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Movie Review

August 25th, 2014

movie reviewI bought the first part of this movie on Bluray. The reason why? Well, it came with the 1968 Charlton Heston original. Fantastic! But no, I didn’t hate the first one. I actually liked it for what it wanted to be. Solid characters, some impressive VFX work and a small hint on what’s in store for the sequel.

Now that certain hint is maybe something you don’t remember too vividly since the first movie glanced over it a bit. Don’t worry though, it’s explained in the opening sequence of this second part. Some nice animation graphics and compositing work there. After that short introduction we find ourselfes a couple of decades in the future. Due to a virus, originating from the laboratory that kind of gave Caesar his intellect, mankind went almost extinct and struggles to get back on its feet.

It’s a post-apocalypse setting placed in and around San Francisco. While the humans stood in the city and built a kind of colony, the apes found a place in the Redwoods and built a nice home there as well. In order to maintain electricity for the small human colony they send out a small team to secure a dam that’s located somewhere near the woods. Man and Ape co-existed rather peacefully up until that point and barely took notice from each other. Now our team, on the search for the dam, has to cross Ape territory. That’s potential for conflict. The fact that one of the humans shoots one of the apes doesn’t help the cause.

Caesar spares the humans and allows them to explain themselfes. Both come to an agreement and the humans get safe passage to the dam. Of course there is this one human character that manages it to destroy all trust between the team and the apes. From here on out it’s a little back and forth between our small team (a father (Jason Clarke), his girlfriend (Keri Russell), his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and three helpers) and Caesar. This is the part where the movie dragged a little for me. The end of the first act basically. Even though there are some good moments in there. Especially when it pulls on your heart strings a bit.

Caesar doesn’t have the best position since he’s getting some criticism about how he’s handling the situation with the humans. Some of them argue that he’s too soft with them and would do better to send them away or kill them. Especially Koba, one of Caesars closest friends and ally. Koba is with Caesar since the beginning and was one of the apes that had a really rough time in the laboratory. So his motivation is unterstandable. He’s only seen the worst of humanity. Caesar on the other hand knows both sides of humanity. And that’s why he’s helping the team to even repair the dam.

From that point on the movie shifts gear and things start to move a little faster, without losing the emotion that it built up to this point. Koba decides that he’s not happy with the situation and discoveres that the human colony is preparing weapons. What he doesn’t know is that these weapons were not prepared for an attack. They were thought for defence. Koba starts to manipulate the apes around him and sabotages Caesar and his try to build a bridge between the humans and apes. Koba manages to get the upper hand and soon enough the ape society turned into a dictatorship of sorts. Koba leads them straight to war and attacks the human colony in San Francisco.

Like I said, I had some problems in the first act. The movie establishes a lot of things, goings ons and I didn’t know where it was going. I also didn’t know who to root for. This changed later in the movie. But to get there took a while. It’s certainly very fascinating how the movie portraits the ape society and how things are done there. They communicate via sign-language (with subtitles) and sometimes even speak. I found it very interesting that they chose to go for subtitles. It’s a point that potentially would have made the movie rather goofy. Speaking apes… you know? But they found the right solution and balance. They do speak in certain situations but it’s very animalistic and sometimes even hard to understand. The ape characters are done so extremely well that it was pretty much impossible to tell them apart from the real live footage. The CG work was exceptional. Some matte paintings looked a little rushed but that’s a nitpick. The facial expressions and the way the apes moved looked great and Andy Serkis, who made himself a name for playing CG characters like Gollum, King Kong surely did a fantastic job as Caesar here. There was a little controversy about him saying that the CG work to create the characters is far less important than his performance in the motion capturing process. I have to disagree with him wholeheartedly. While I absolutely give him credit for some outstanding work and acting, it’s maybe a 60/40 between the work of the CG department and his motion capturing. 60% of the success of his characters definitely belongs to the people who created the creatures he’s playing. Especially when looking at how insanely detailed Caesar looks in this movie. The fur, textures, lighting and so many other things (that even I have no idea of and I do kind of work in that CG field) that have to come together to make Serkis’s performance to work in the first place. Nonetheless I would applaud if Serkis would at least get an Oscar nomination. Also the fact that it were not the “stupid humans” that started the war was very welcome. Yes they started the aggression but tried to make it all good and helped the apes with some issues they had. The apes turned it into a war. I liked that. The humans and apes represented a nice mirror of how things normally work out in our world. No matter how intelligent a species may be.

This movies doesn’t need to be over 2 hourse long. There was room for trimming, especially in the first act. The main protagonists are clearly the apes. The humans felt a little flat. I also wished that Gary Oldman (playing the leader of the human colony) had more space. His character has to face some difficult decisions and there was potential for some drama. The ending part with Gary Oldman felt a little forced though. Almost out of character. I did not expect him to go that route. He seemed more intelligent than that. But anyway… the movie is worth a watch for sure.

A 7.5 for this one.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes on IMDb

All About Space Magazine No. 29

August 22nd, 2014

All About Space Issue No. 29

Not long ago I got contacted by the All About Space Magazine to do an apocalyptic scenario of an Asteroid impact near a well known city. So I did a little Digital Matte Painting for the current issue of All About Space. The article I’ve done it for is about possible doomsday scenarios, quite an interesting read. If you are a Space fan then I’d suggest you check out this magazine. Really interesting topics and facts in there.

All About Space on the Internet: here

All About Space on Facebook: here



Assassin’s Cradle by Rupert Pollard

August 10th, 2014

Assassin's Cradle

A couple of weeks ago I made a cover for self publishing writer Rupert Pollard. Nothing groundbreaking when it comes to the picture but it fits the authors idea and what he had in mind. He sent me a copy, which you can see in the photo, and it looks really good. I haven’t read the book yet but definitely plan to do so.

Here a short description: “In the future, galaxy-spanning conglomerates use subterfuge and treachery in a never-ending struggle for domination. Idries Tanarra, a naïve and overconfident operative, must build a network of allies to help him overthrow the malignant government of Ganoten, but he didn’t expect to fall in love, an operative’s fatal flaw. As he closes in on a solution, allies turn into deadly enemies, and competing forces seek to take advantage of the opportunity he creates. Can he navigate the perilous politics of espionage? Can he divine friend from foe when the stakes are survival? Will his decisions be his undoing or can he escape his predicament to take the ultimate step out of the assassin’s cradle?”

Rupert Pollard on Facebook: here

Assassin’s Cradle on Amazon: here