Saturday, September 19, 2009

NM in the News

This fall, people around the US are seeing New Mexico -- and movies made or partially made here -- on screens big and small. Season 2 of Crash is now up on Starz, "Burning Plain" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" premiered Friday, "Georgia O'Keeffe" plays on Lifetime tonight -- "Gamer" and "My One and Only" premiered earlier this month. Others like "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and "The Book of Eli" will be coming out shortly.

From the Las Cruces Sun-News / California Chronicle:

By S. Derrickson Moore, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.

Sep. 18--MESILLA -- Internationally-renowned writer and director Guillermo Arriaga said he plans to make more movies in Las Cruces and hopes to someday buy a home here.

"To be making a film here is to be blessed. I love it here. I love border towns," said Arriaga, in Mesilla for a Sept. 11 screening of "The Burning Plain," which goes into limited national release in the United States today. It was filmed principally in Las Cruces and Oregon in late 2007 and early 2008. The film, which stars two Academy award winners, Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, has garnered several positive reviews.

Novelist and screenwriter Arriaga, who was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for "Babel," makes his directorial debut with "The Burning Plain," which he also wrote. He was nominated for The Leone d'Oro (Golden Lion) Award, the highest prize given to a film at the Biennale Venice Film Festival, where actress Jennifer Lawrence won an award for her portrayal of a tormented teen in a border town (Las Cruces).

During a Sept. 10 interview in Mesilla, Arriaga put down his cell phone and reported that his family, including his teenage son and daughter, "are really excited to hear I'm here. We had a great time here. I love this place. I love the people and I hope they're happy with us. I think Las Cruces looks beautiful in the movie."

A friendship with Gov. Bill Richardson and an extensive tour of the state was not enough to entice him to shoot the film in northern New Mexico, he said.

"I suppose the right thing to do was to shoot in Albuquerque. But it was not the kind of landscapes I thought would work for the movie. I was mesmerized by your place -- the Organ Mountains, the flavor, the light, the neighborhoods." ...

More at: 'Burning Plain' Arrives Amid Passionate Reviews

Meanwhile, the Valencia County News-Bulletin has news about New Mexico's latest animation program:
UNM-Valencia strikes a pose for animation degrees
Written by Shirl Sazynski/News-Bulletin
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 07:51

"Tango tango!" the room chants.

"Do the Macarena!" someone else yells.

Red lights flood the stage and a scintillating, futuristic backdrop sets off her every move, but Nadja Burns of Houston isn't in a club.

She swings her arms and trailing flames appear on the maquette projected on a pull-down screen at the far side of the room. It's 9 a.m. in the simulation lab at the Digital Media Arts building on the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.
College administration and staff cluster inside a room that looks like some magician's trick -- the unassuming door tucked into a corner of a wall gives no indication of the lab's cavernous size. Freshly minted monitors line rows of desks, so new they're still loosely wrapped in the lightweight, protective dust covers from shipping; shallow white cardboard boxes conceal keyboards that haven't been hooked up yet.

Thanks to a $2.5 million Federal Title-V STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grant covering a comprehensive technology and science makeover throughout campus, the campus just received a revolutionary motion-capture animation suite, the Open Stage Markerless Capture System. Dominick Murphy of Organic Motion, Inc was there to demonstrate it.

The next volunteer, Chad Perry, senior public affairs representative for UNM-VC, walks into the aluminum frame and white cloth cube, left open on one side. He's wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt, khakis...and socks, so as not to damage the special reflective-fabric floor. Perry jumps around playfully and nothing happens for a minute.
"Strike the pose," Murphy offers.

Once Perry holds his arms out in a rigid cross shape, the video stream begins. On cue, a spiky, blue-haired woman in a sci-fi bikini-covered body suit jumps around and shoot fireballs.

Earlier motion-capture technologies (used to animate characters such as Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" movies) relied on painstaking measurements of tracking markers dotting an actor's spandex suit, meticulously calibrated to a computer system.
The setup process for each actor took several hours before shooting could begin. Whenever a hand or limb overlapped another part of an actor's body in a pose, the rendering system became confused as to which body part went where.

Now, programming innovations and a higher hardware processing speed allow actors to enter the motion-capture studio without a constricting suit. A battery of 14 cameras shooting red beams tracks basic motions in real-time, creating a 3-D mesh skeleton linked to the movement of 21 bones -- even following foreshortened poses, such as an actor holding his or her arms crossed at the chest...

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