AFTRS Opens Its DoorEverything you wanted to know about film-making but were afraid to ask
Voted one of the World’s best, the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) will be opening its doors for an all-access Open Day this Saturday, September 6. 
From 2015, in addition to offering a three-year Bachelor of Arts in Screen taught by leading screen professionals themselves AFTRS will now offer an exciting range of new courses. AFTRS courses are designed to ‘future proof’ graduates, turning BA students into creative practitioners through dynamic scholarly engagement with the art of storytelling and maximum “hands-on” practice. 
At AFTRS’ Open Day this year you’re invited to explore their state-of-the-art facilities from behind the scenes, from the TV studio & control room and digital radio broadcast studios to the green-screen VFX set. There’ll also be various information sessions to attend with AFTRS staff on-hand to answer any course queries. 
AFTRS Open Day will run from 10am – 4pm, for more info head here. 
Yvonne-Marie Zaidan

AFTRS Opens Its Door
Everything you wanted to know about film-making but were afraid to ask

Voted one of the World’s best, the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) will be opening its doors for an all-access Open Day this Saturday, September 6.

From 2015, in addition to offering a three-year Bachelor of Arts in Screen taught by leading screen professionals themselves AFTRS will now offer an exciting range of new courses. AFTRS courses are designed to ‘future proof’ graduates, turning BA students into creative practitioners through dynamic scholarly engagement with the art of storytelling and maximum “hands-on” practice.

At AFTRS’ Open Day this year you’re invited to explore their state-of-the-art facilities from behind the scenes, from the TV studio & control room and digital radio broadcast studios to the green-screen VFX set. There’ll also be various information sessions to attend with AFTRS staff on-hand to answer any course queries.

AFTRS Open Day will run from 10am – 4pm, for more info head here.

Yvonne-Marie Zaidan

The Tick TV Series Could ReturnPatrick Warburton up for Amazon pilot reboot
It only lasted nine episodes on TV back in 2001 and delivered paltry ratings, but for those who enjoy their comedies on the cult side, The Tick remains a fond memory. And it appears the show – including star Patrick Warburton – could be getting a second chance at life via Amazon.
Originally created by Ben Edlund in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for a comic shop, the character evolved into an indie comic in 1988 before graduating to bigger things with an animated series that ran for three seasons starting in 1994. From there, it spawned the live-action series that featured Warburton as the good-natured parody of superheroes. David Burke played Arthur, his put-upon sidekick, while Liz Vassey was female hero Captain Liberty and Nestor Carbonell was Batmanuel who… look, you can work it out from the name, okay? Despite great reviews, the series was soon shut down even though the character continues to be hugely popular.
According to The Wrap – which confirmed a story first floated by People Magazine – Warburton has worked out a deal with rights holders Sony television to produce a pilot for Amazon, which commissions the shows then puts them on its streaming service and lets users vote on which they want to see go to series. People mentions that Edlund will also be back to oversee the show and we can only hope that Burke, Vassey and Carbonell will have the requisite schedule freedom to fill out the cast again. SPOON!
That sound you hear is Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion cowering in anticipation of a thousand questions about whether Firefly could receive the same treatment…
James White

The Tick TV Series Could Return
Patrick Warburton up for Amazon pilot reboot

It only lasted nine episodes on TV back in 2001 and delivered paltry ratings, but for those who enjoy their comedies on the cult side, The Tick remains a fond memory. And it appears the show – including star Patrick Warburton – could be getting a second chance at life via Amazon.

Originally created by Ben Edlund in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for a comic shop, the character evolved into an indie comic in 1988 before graduating to bigger things with an animated series that ran for three seasons starting in 1994. From there, it spawned the live-action series that featured Warburton as the good-natured parody of superheroes. David Burke played Arthur, his put-upon sidekick, while Liz Vassey was female hero Captain Liberty and Nestor Carbonell was Batmanuel who… look, you can work it out from the name, okay? Despite great reviews, the series was soon shut down even though the character continues to be hugely popular.

According to The Wrap – which confirmed a story first floated by People Magazine – Warburton has worked out a deal with rights holders Sony television to produce a pilot for Amazon, which commissions the shows then puts them on its streaming service and lets users vote on which they want to see go to series. People mentions that Edlund will also be back to oversee the show and we can only hope that Burke, Vassey and Carbonell will have the requisite schedule freedom to fill out the cast again. SPOON!

That sound you hear is Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion cowering in anticipation of a thousand questions about whether Firefly could receive the same treatment…

James White

New Trailer for Seventh Son
Jeff Bridges gets his Gandalf on

We saw the first footage from Seventh Son over a year ago at the 2013 ComicCon. Since then it’s had a somewhat leisurely journey to the screen thanks to the divorce proceedings between Warner Bros. and Legendary. But having now settled into its new Universal custody, here’s a celebratory new trailer for the fantasy adventure. Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes and Alicia Vikander star, and the director is Sergei Bodrov.

The film is an adaptation of The Spook’s Apprentice, the first of Joseph Delaney’s best-selling kids series The Wardstone Chronicles. Barnes plays seventh-son-of-a-seventh-son Tom, Luke Skywalker to Bridges’ Ben Kenobi, learning the ropes of witch-hunting and coming to terms with his supernatural abilities. Their first major adversary is Moore’s Mother Malkin, although it’s not the first time Gregory has encountered her: he buried her in a pit covered with magic-countering iron bars years before (that kind of half-arsed temporary solution never turns out well). Vikander’s role is Malkin’s daughter Alice, who may or may not be a chip off the old block. 

"We live in a world now where legend and nightmare are real," intones Bridges. We can’t see whether he says it with a straight face because, for trailer purposes at least, it’s a voiceover. Expect some guff genre dialogue then, but also be prepared for some decent action around all the CG beasties: Bodrov previously directed Mongol: The Rise Of Genghis Khan, and knows his way around a swordfight.

The excellent cast also includes Kit Harington, Djimon Hounsou, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue and Jason Scott Lee. Seventh Son finally arrives in the UK on February 6 next year, while the Australian release date is to be confirmed.

James White

Second Shaun The Sheep Teaser Is Here
He’s off to pastures new…

Following on from the first teaser earlier this year, here’s a longer and more complete look at footage from Shaun The Sheep’s movie, following the adventurous ovine and his buddies as they hit the nearby metropolis.

There’s a definite flavour of Wallace And Gromit at the start here, especially given that regular Shaun character Blitzer reminds us strongly of Aardman’s most famous canine.

In this expanded adventure, Shaun and his pals decide to take the day off. Which would be fine, except they don’t bother to tell the Farmer where they’re going, causing no end of trouble and leading to the poor, put-upon bloke being carted off to the big city. Shaun and co must travel to the confusing, chaotic city and help him out.

We’re promised the usual sheep-powered chaos plus a few new characters including animal warden Trumper and Slip, an orphan dog who helps out our heroes. You’ll want to bleat it (sorry, couldn’t resist) to cinemas when the film arrives on March 26 in Australia next year.

James White

Rosewater Trailer Hits The Web
Gael Garcia Bernal runs into trouble in Iran

Usually found cracking wise and dishing out snark about American politics from behind his desk at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart took a sabbatical last summer to film his directorial debut, Rosewater, which he adapted from Maziar Bahari’s best-selling memoir.

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Bahari, a Tehran-born journalist who has settled outside of his home country, gotten married and is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child. In June 2009, he accepts an assignment to return to Iran and interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the challenger to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the upcoming elections.

With vote rigging rife and protests rising against the corrupt regime, Bahari is initially hesitant to get involved, but shoots footage of street rioting for the BBC. He’s arrested and spends 118 days being interrogated and tortured by a man who identifies himself as “Rosewater”.

As Bahari’s wife and the international media lead a campaign to secure his freedom, he’s offered the chance for release on bail if he promises to spy for the government…

Rosewater is set for release in the US on November 7 this year, but doesn’t yet have an Australian release date.

James White

WETA WorldEmpire visits The Hobbit’s VFX team
The second part of Empire’s extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies coverage: a visit to the hi-tech workshop of Weta Digital.
In a darkened screening room off the main entrance to The Big House, a hard-floored colonial style manse that quarters but a single portion of Weta Digital, Bolg’s unappetising fizzog looms large in the screen. With a few deft flicks of the keys on his laptop, effects supervisor Chris White sets the picture in motion — it’s a shot from the current trailer and rather than the impressively grotesque features of Azog’s spawn it is the fog billowing behind him White wants Empire to pay attention to.
“I’m working on an environment which is very foggy,” he says with a note of expectancy. Empire swiftly congratulates him. There is no two ways about it, this is pretty realistic mist, encircling the hefty orc like a bad mood.
White’s speciality is “challenging environmental effects”. Before he even started in special effects, he studied particle physics at university and emphasises that he builds his environments up from the smallest particle to accurately reflect the real world. And more important than even fog in his current work load is fire and smoke. The screen flicks to a dragon-grilled Lake-town, orange flames engulfing the wooden warren. Here, White has been particularly concerned with what smoke would look like when the burning building has snow on its roof: “Would that turn into steam, white smoke or black smoke?”
At the end of most days, the heads of department gather at the Portsmouth Road headquarters clutching laptops and mugs of tea to get Peter Jackson’s steer on their progress. Taking a look at the burning Lake-town, Jackson mentioned how much he loved it when the flames lick up onto an eve or on a railing and it just gives that look. “Basically there’s a small crew right now and that’s their job”, says White, “to go through and burn buildings, and get that look”.
Fellow supervisor Matt Aitken, whose relationship with Middle-earth goes back to the primordial days before Rings was even greenlit and computers ran on steam, clearly missed his calling as a teacher. With refreshing clarity he talks Empire through a further set of recently finished images. His purview, it transpires, is the Erebor interiors. To make the point, Aitken toggles back and forth between a piece of John Howe concept art and a finished shot of Thorin, deep in the brazier-lit halls of Erebor searching the mounds of treasure for hint of the Arkenstone.
Howe’s art is subtly impressionistic, with a dark, Moria-like splendour just discernable in the shadows. It’s remarkable how the digital version has captured its essence: the glory of Erebor stretching back into the distance, the fitful glow of the fire, and the uncanny digital doubles in mid-shot stooped in misery. There is nothing real in the entire frame, but it is alive.
John Howe’s concept art of Erebor
“Peter saw the painting and said, ‘Yeah, make it look like that,’” laughs Aitken, noting how much Howe and Lee, with their antediluvian tools of pencil and paintbrush, have elevated Weta’s game. “They can move toward an approved look faster than CG or pre-viz. It is hard to understand how we could do these films without having them on-board. They have helped define what this world looks like. I remember getting their Tolkien calendars as a kid.”
Aitken describes Erebor as having a dilapidated former glory gone to ruin. “It has fallen into disuse,” he says, gazing lovingly at the screen. Weta, he insists, don’t simply meet a shopping list of Tolkien marvels, they enhance the storytelling to create a world of feeling as well as wonder. “Thorin is a little bit troubled around this time. A big part of what we are doing with the lighting is making the space feel oppressive. We are trying to take it beyond what is merely realistic. We take it into subjective storytelling.”
As if on cue, John Howe enters. The softly-spoken artist had been envisioning Tolkien on canvas long before Jackson began to work out a theory for bringing the books to the big screen; a theory that would centre on the visionary art of Howe and his fellow artist Alan Lee as conceptual designers.
So many years later, Howe is a pivotal part of the filmmaking process. Once principal production has finished, far from being dispensed with, his services redouble as he hunkers down with his sun-starved digital kin to keep working up marvels of Tolkienalia to be transformed into purest Jacksonian epic.
“I think it is partly to do with Peter’s way of working,” he says, his voice hypnotically smooth, “because he takes his time to decide things that he doesn’t need to decide too early. That he decides when he needs to. We didn’t even know what Smaug looked like on the first movie.”
Azog delivers his team talk before The Battle Of The Armies.
For every CG shot created by Weta Digital there is a chain of source material. There is the book, the script, and then both the pre-viz department. Howe and Lee set to work providing a visual guide to be used on set and later in post. The starting point for shots could be a painting or sketch, or equally the rudimentary CG of pre-viz allowing the digital artists to see the chosen camera angles. Quite often the reference is something that simply springs fully formed from Jackson’s imagination. Howe keeps a sketchbook and pencil handy at all times.
Over 16 years of collaboration, Howe has found Jackson a stimulating partner. “He likes looking at artwork. He knows what he doesn’t want, but he doesn’t know yet what he wants because he hasn’t seen it. And that is the job we have — to bring in things he might not have thought of. I think we designed Beorn’s house six times, if not more.”
He has enjoyed exploring these different aspects of Middle-earth for The Hobbit movies. “It is the same world”, he notes, “but not quite the same part of it. It’s a little wilder, a little rougher, a little more ambiguous.”
The justly celebrated Senior VFX Supervisor Joe Letteri has been away savouring the success of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes in San Francisco, not that he can bask in the glow of simian glory for long. Back in Middle-earth he faces masterminding the tall order of a battle sequence like no other.
“That whole area between Erebor and Dale gets transformed into a battlefield”, he says with a mix of excitement and impending exhaustion, “with armies coming in from all these different directions and the tide of the battle constantly turning. So you have the challenge of trying to follow the flow of the action. Then you also have the technical challenge of creating that whole environment, and all of the characters and creatures that have to interact on it, and just keeping that all alive.”
By comparison, the revolutionary battle effects on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy seem archaic now. Where each character in a battle sequence needed to be broken down individually, now they can populate entire armies with pre-designed and beautifully rendered individuals. Later Jackson jokes that you always get some troll going Method as a Weta artist has got a bit carried away: “Just turn right!” Things have even moved on significantly since The Desolation Of Smaug.
“For Avatar we came up with a nice way to do global illumination called spherical harmonics lighting,” Letteri elaborates as Empire nods in — what is hopefully — a knowing fashion. “In that time we’ve been working on new rendering software we’ve written in house that can handle all the global light properly. We actually rolled it out in a couple of shots on Desolation as a test. We used it extensively on Apes and we’re going across the board on the final Hobbit. You’ll really see its big, full-scale roll out on the Battle Of Five Armies.”
Weta Digital’s concept art of Smaug shows the scale against two 747s.
Yet for all the ground-breaking technical advances being achieved film-by-film, it is still all about “keeping Peter happy”. And Jackson desires not simply realism but “hyper-realism”, something Letteri describes as portraying a real world but never an ordinary one. It must still have a “magical quality”.
“As an example of that you have Smaug, flying over and torching buildings,” relays the effects guru. “Now, Smaug is this huge dragon, twice as big as a 747. He’s massive. He’s got to shoot a tremendous volume of fire. He’s travelling at extremely fast speeds, but the whole thing has to look physically plausible. If you tried to operate a flamethrower that was moving through the air that fast, it would extinguish itself. But we can’t have that. We have to tune the simulations to get what we think is the classic look of a fire-breathing dragon.”
For much more on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, including an exclusive interview with Peter Jackson, pick up the October 2014 issue of Empire: on sale now.

WETA World
Empire visits The Hobbit’s VFX team

The second part of Empire’s extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies coverage: a visit to the hi-tech workshop of Weta Digital.

In a darkened screening room off the main entrance to The Big House, a hard-floored colonial style manse that quarters but a single portion of Weta Digital, Bolg’s unappetising fizzog looms large in the screen. With a few deft flicks of the keys on his laptop, effects supervisor Chris White sets the picture in motion — it’s a shot from the current trailer and rather than the impressively grotesque features of Azog’s spawn it is the fog billowing behind him White wants Empire to pay attention to.

“I’m working on an environment which is very foggy,” he says with a note of expectancy. Empire swiftly congratulates him. There is no two ways about it, this is pretty realistic mist, encircling the hefty orc like a bad mood.

White’s speciality is “challenging environmental effects”. Before he even started in special effects, he studied particle physics at university and emphasises that he builds his environments up from the smallest particle to accurately reflect the real world. And more important than even fog in his current work load is fire and smoke. The screen flicks to a dragon-grilled Lake-town, orange flames engulfing the wooden warren. Here, White has been particularly concerned with what smoke would look like when the burning building has snow on its roof: “Would that turn into steam, white smoke or black smoke?”

At the end of most days, the heads of department gather at the Portsmouth Road headquarters clutching laptops and mugs of tea to get Peter Jackson’s steer on their progress. Taking a look at the burning Lake-town, Jackson mentioned how much he loved it when the flames lick up onto an eve or on a railing and it just gives that look. “Basically there’s a small crew right now and that’s their job”, says White, “to go through and burn buildings, and get that look”.

Fellow supervisor Matt Aitken, whose relationship with Middle-earth goes back to the primordial days before Rings was even greenlit and computers ran on steam, clearly missed his calling as a teacher. With refreshing clarity he talks Empire through a further set of recently finished images. His purview, it transpires, is the Erebor interiors. To make the point, Aitken toggles back and forth between a piece of John Howe concept art and a finished shot of Thorin, deep in the brazier-lit halls of Erebor searching the mounds of treasure for hint of the Arkenstone.

Howe’s art is subtly impressionistic, with a dark, Moria-like splendour just discernable in the shadows. It’s remarkable how the digital version has captured its essence: the glory of Erebor stretching back into the distance, the fitful glow of the fire, and the uncanny digital doubles in mid-shot stooped in misery. There is nothing real in the entire frame, but it is alive.

John Howe's Erebor Concept Art
John Howe’s concept art of Erebor

“Peter saw the painting and said, ‘Yeah, make it look like that,’” laughs Aitken, noting how much Howe and Lee, with their antediluvian tools of pencil and paintbrush, have elevated Weta’s game. “They can move toward an approved look faster than CG or pre-viz. It is hard to understand how we could do these films without having them on-board. They have helped define what this world looks like. I remember getting their Tolkien calendars as a kid.”

Aitken describes Erebor as having a dilapidated former glory gone to ruin. “It has fallen into disuse,” he says, gazing lovingly at the screen. Weta, he insists, don’t simply meet a shopping list of Tolkien marvels, they enhance the storytelling to create a world of feeling as well as wonder. “Thorin is a little bit troubled around this time. A big part of what we are doing with the lighting is making the space feel oppressive. We are trying to take it beyond what is merely realistic. We take it into subjective storytelling.”

As if on cue, John Howe enters. The softly-spoken artist had been envisioning Tolkien on canvas long before Jackson began to work out a theory for bringing the books to the big screen; a theory that would centre on the visionary art of Howe and his fellow artist Alan Lee as conceptual designers.

So many years later, Howe is a pivotal part of the filmmaking process. Once principal production has finished, far from being dispensed with, his services redouble as he hunkers down with his sun-starved digital kin to keep working up marvels of Tolkienalia to be transformed into purest Jacksonian epic.

“I think it is partly to do with Peter’s way of working,” he says, his voice hypnotically smooth, “because he takes his time to decide things that he doesn’t need to decide too early. That he decides when he needs to. We didn’t even know what Smaug looked like on the first movie.”

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Azog delivers his team talk before The Battle Of The Armies.

For every CG shot created by Weta Digital there is a chain of source material. There is the book, the script, and then both the pre-viz department. Howe and Lee set to work providing a visual guide to be used on set and later in post. The starting point for shots could be a painting or sketch, or equally the rudimentary CG of pre-viz allowing the digital artists to see the chosen camera angles. Quite often the reference is something that simply springs fully formed from Jackson’s imagination. Howe keeps a sketchbook and pencil handy at all times.

Over 16 years of collaboration, Howe has found Jackson a stimulating partner. “He likes looking at artwork. He knows what he doesn’t want, but he doesn’t know yet what he wants because he hasn’t seen it. And that is the job we have — to bring in things he might not have thought of. I think we designed Beorn’s house six times, if not more.”

He has enjoyed exploring these different aspects of Middle-earth for The Hobbit movies. “It is the same world”, he notes, “but not quite the same part of it. It’s a little wilder, a little rougher, a little more ambiguous.”

The justly celebrated Senior VFX Supervisor Joe Letteri has been away savouring the success of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes in San Francisco, not that he can bask in the glow of simian glory for long. Back in Middle-earth he faces masterminding the tall order of a battle sequence like no other.

“That whole area between Erebor and Dale gets transformed into a battlefield”, he says with a mix of excitement and impending exhaustion, “with armies coming in from all these different directions and the tide of the battle constantly turning. So you have the challenge of trying to follow the flow of the action. Then you also have the technical challenge of creating that whole environment, and all of the characters and creatures that have to interact on it, and just keeping that all alive.”

By comparison, the revolutionary battle effects on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy seem archaic now. Where each character in a battle sequence needed to be broken down individually, now they can populate entire armies with pre-designed and beautifully rendered individuals. Later Jackson jokes that you always get some troll going Method as a Weta artist has got a bit carried away: “Just turn right!” Things have even moved on significantly since The Desolation Of Smaug.

“For Avatar we came up with a nice way to do global illumination called spherical harmonics lighting,” Letteri elaborates as Empire nods in — what is hopefully — a knowing fashion. “In that time we’ve been working on new rendering software we’ve written in house that can handle all the global light properly. We actually rolled it out in a couple of shots on Desolation as a test. We used it extensively on Apes and we’re going across the board on the final Hobbit. You’ll really see its big, full-scale roll out on the Battle Of Five Armies.”

Smaug concept art by Weta Digital
Weta Digital’s concept art of Smaug shows the scale against two 747s.

Yet for all the ground-breaking technical advances being achieved film-by-film, it is still all about “keeping Peter happy”. And Jackson desires not simply realism but “hyper-realism”, something Letteri describes as portraying a real world but never an ordinary one. It must still have a “magical quality”.

“As an example of that you have Smaug, flying over and torching buildings,” relays the effects guru. “Now, Smaug is this huge dragon, twice as big as a 747. He’s massive. He’s got to shoot a tremendous volume of fire. He’s travelling at extremely fast speeds, but the whole thing has to look physically plausible. If you tried to operate a flamethrower that was moving through the air that fast, it would extinguish itself. But we can’t have that. We have to tune the simulations to get what we think is the classic look of a fire-breathing dragon.”

For much more on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, including an exclusive interview with Peter Jackson, pick up the October 2014 issue of Empire: on sale now.

image

New Foxcatcher Trailer Arrives
The true-life drama has a new promo

Following rave reviews and early awards buzz at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Moneyball director Bennett Miller’s latest, Foxcatcher is headed towards cinemas, bringing another compelling blend of real-life sports drama and complicated characters. The brief new trailer has landed and can be seen above.

Foxcatcher, written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, tells the gripping, real-life story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). They’re invited to launch a wrestling academy funded by the eccentric John du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune.

Though it seems like a great opportunity, things turn darkly tragic when the paranoid schizophrenic du Pont lashes out. This latest teaser offers a glimpse into the darker, more driven heart of du Pont, and gives a clearer indication of just how different a performance this is from Carell.

With Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller and Anthony Michael Hall helping fill out the cast, Foxcatcher arrives in the US on November 14 and is set to hit Aussie screens December 18 this year.

James White

Middle-Earth, Wind And FireEmpire visits The Hobbit sound department
The first part in Empire’s extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies coverage: a visit to the sonic temples of the sound department…
The long, hushed corridors of Weta’s Park Road offices possess the unsettling aura of the Overlook Hotel. Instead of the movie posters that decorate Peter Jackson’s inner sanctum at Portsmouth Road, the walls feature vintage New Zealand travel posters: “Kiwis do fly!”. Here across a highly desirable range of bespoke mixing stages, ADR studios, and recording dens, the dragon sneers and warg snarls of Middle-earth are created and the Black Tongue is refined for maximum clarity.
Ruling the sonic roost are Brent Burge (who supervises effects) and Jason Canovas (who supervises dialogue). Furthermore, Dave Whitehead and Dave Farmer are sound editors: curators, creators and aural hunters. They never leave the house without a digital recorder, for who knows when you might happen across a great sound whose use may yet be uncertain? Farmer proudly found the scrape of Freddy Krueger’s finger blades (for the 2010 remake) in a squeaky ironing board.
Dave Whitehead, sound designer on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, reveals Weta’s inner ear: Park Road’s sound department.
“Our job is to simply interpret Peter vision,” says Canovas, who possesses an unmistakable Liverpool accent. “To bring out the best of what he’d got in his head.” A task which often entails negotiating Jackson’s inability to quite verbalise the perfect clang of armour or clatter of staff against stone sounding in his head. “You just have to play him things until he hears it.”
And Pete the piper can be picky.
On Desolation Jackson found the orcs were sounding too “piggish”. “Which meant a lot of the lion sounds that were in there,” notes Whitehead confusingly. “So we had to come up with a new palette of roars.”
Such is the strange journey of the sound department.
“The great thing about Pete is that he never judges,” adds Burge. “He just walks in and goes, ‘I understand where you are going with this. But I want it done this way.’”
There are some big no-nos in the aural landscape of Middle-earth. The one thing to rule them all? Nothing synthetic. “Peter is pretty sensitive to things that sound sci-fi,” says Farmer. “Synth-based stuff doesn’t fly in Middle-earth. It’s a very gritty world.” Indeed, every sound has a real-world basis. Even the use of magic has natural sources such as thunder being the basis for Gandalf’s wonders. And when it comes the emanations of those particularly magical locations such as the enchanted forest realms of the elves? Well, you need to “worldise” your background. “Worldising means taking a sound and playing it back into a space that matches what is on screen,” explains Farmer, meaning they recording sounds for tunnels in tunnels, woods in woods.
And when it comes to the ongoing requirement of film three, no-one seems too flummoxed by the upcoming battle. For Canovas the sturm und clang of war often makes his job easier: “There is just so much going on, you simply have to work toward clarity.” From there it’s just a case of what does Peter want: orc roaring or swords clanking?
“The dwarf chariot has proven tricky to balance,” notes Burge. This turns out to be a dwarvish war wagon pulled by battle rams, with Ben-Hur style spiked wheels (pictured below, skidding on the ice in the current trailer). “You’ve got the mechanics of the chariot. You’ve got these blades that stick out, and Peter wants sounds for how they are used. Plus, you’ve got ice — this chariot is veering on an iced up river being chased by wargs. We’ve had to figure out how it cracks the ice…”Right now ADR on film three is also well underway around the globe, Jackson has only recently returned from London where he and Fran Walsh supervised sessions with their UK-based stars. The sound effects crew are still in awe of Ian McKellen’s ability to walk in off the street, switch on Gandalf and deliver a dozen different takes without batting an eyelid (unless the scene calls for it). “Some of the others,” admits Canovas, “do struggle with the process”.
Still, the Liverpudlian sound man is happy to confess that he is hardly fluent in the idiosyncrasies of Elvish, or dwarvish or Black Speech: “I’m just like, ‘Whaaat?” No matter, he has dialect coaches on speed dial, he can fire off what-the-heck emails to translators, and Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh circle his process like particularly pernickety hawks. “In the end, all I’m interested in is whether he’s saying it angrily or pointedly,” Canovas shrugs. “It’s the emotion you get out of it. You could say ‘fuck’ a million ways, it depends on how you say it. I work with Fran, more or less on a daily basis — she is really focused on performances.”
“It’s the same every year,” laughs Burge, with a quick internal appraisal of what is still to be done. “We get it in five minutes before the deadline.”
For Peter Jackson on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies read the current issue of Empire, on sale now.

Middle-Earth, Wind And Fire
Empire visits The Hobbit sound department

The first part in Empire’s extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies coverage: a visit to the sonic temples of the sound department…

The long, hushed corridors of Weta’s Park Road offices possess the unsettling aura of the Overlook Hotel. Instead of the movie posters that decorate Peter Jackson’s inner sanctum at Portsmouth Road, the walls feature vintage New Zealand travel posters: “Kiwis do fly!”. Here across a highly desirable range of bespoke mixing stages, ADR studios, and recording dens, the dragon sneers and warg snarls of Middle-earth are created and the Black Tongue is refined for maximum clarity.

Ruling the sonic roost are Brent Burge (who supervises effects) and Jason Canovas (who supervises dialogue). Furthermore, Dave Whitehead and Dave Farmer are sound editors: curators, creators and aural hunters. They never leave the house without a digital recorder, for who knows when you might happen across a great sound whose use may yet be uncertain? Farmer proudly found the scrape of Freddy Krueger’s finger blades (for the 2010 remake) in a squeaky ironing board.


Dave Whitehead, sound designer on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, reveals Weta’s inner ear: Park Road’s sound department.

“Our job is to simply interpret Peter vision,” says Canovas, who possesses an unmistakable Liverpool accent. “To bring out the best of what he’d got in his head.” A task which often entails negotiating Jackson’s inability to quite verbalise the perfect clang of armour or clatter of staff against stone sounding in his head. “You just have to play him things until he hears it.”

And Pete the piper can be picky.

On Desolation Jackson found the orcs were sounding too “piggish”. “Which meant a lot of the lion sounds that were in there,” notes Whitehead confusingly. “So we had to come up with a new palette of roars.”

Such is the strange journey of the sound department.

“The great thing about Pete is that he never judges,” adds Burge. “He just walks in and goes, ‘I understand where you are going with this. But I want it done this way.’”

There are some big no-nos in the aural landscape of Middle-earth. The one thing to rule them all? Nothing synthetic. “Peter is pretty sensitive to things that sound sci-fi,” says Farmer. “Synth-based stuff doesn’t fly in Middle-earth. It’s a very gritty world.” Indeed, every sound has a real-world basis. Even the use of magic has natural sources such as thunder being the basis for Gandalf’s wonders. And when it comes the emanations of those particularly magical locations such as the enchanted forest realms of the elves? Well, you need to “worldise” your background. “Worldising means taking a sound and playing it back into a space that matches what is on screen,” explains Farmer, meaning they recording sounds for tunnels in tunnels, woods in woods.

And when it comes to the ongoing requirement of film three, no-one seems too flummoxed by the upcoming battle. For Canovas the sturm und clang of war often makes his job easier: “There is just so much going on, you simply have to work toward clarity.” From there it’s just a case of what does Peter want: orc roaring or swords clanking?

“The dwarf chariot has proven tricky to balance,” notes Burge. This turns out to be a dwarvish war wagon pulled by battle rams, with Ben-Hur style spiked wheels (pictured below, skidding on the ice in the current trailer). “You’ve got the mechanics of the chariot. You’ve got these blades that stick out, and Peter wants sounds for how they are used. Plus, you’ve got ice — this chariot is veering on an iced up river being chased by wargs. We’ve had to figure out how it cracks the ice…”



Right now ADR on film three is also well underway around the globe, Jackson has only recently returned from London where he and Fran Walsh supervised sessions with their UK-based stars. The sound effects crew are still in awe of Ian McKellen’s ability to walk in off the street, switch on Gandalf and deliver a dozen different takes without batting an eyelid (unless the scene calls for it). “Some of the others,” admits Canovas, “do struggle with the process”.

Still, the Liverpudlian sound man is happy to confess that he is hardly fluent in the idiosyncrasies of Elvish, or dwarvish or Black Speech: “I’m just like, ‘Whaaat?” No matter, he has dialect coaches on speed dial, he can fire off what-the-heck emails to translators, and Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh circle his process like particularly pernickety hawks. “In the end, all I’m interested in is whether he’s saying it angrily or pointedly,” Canovas shrugs. “It’s the emotion you get out of it. You could say ‘fuck’ a million ways, it depends on how you say it. I work with Fran, more or less on a daily basis — she is really focused on performances.”

“It’s the same every year,” laughs Burge, with a quick internal appraisal of what is still to be done. “We get it in five minutes before the deadline.”

For Peter Jackson on The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies read the current issue of Empire, on sale now.

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First Footage From Pixar’s Short Film Lava
See what happens when a volcano pines for love…

A couple of months ago, director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera brought some footage from Pixar’s next film Inside Out to premiere in Los Angeles. Also included in the presentation was a full look at Lava, the short that will screen before the movie, introduced by director Jim Murphy. The first look at a scene from the short is online via Yahoo.

While we’re loathe to say too much about the plot (we’d much rather you experience the whole thing for yourself and let the charm wash over you), Lava focuses on Uku, a lonely, three-mile-wide Hawaiian volcano. Yes, you read that right: the romantic lead in the film is a lava-spewing natural formation. The story is told musically, using the singing voice of musician Kuahna Torres Kahele to tell Uku’s tale of longing for love in an ocean where everyone around him – the birds, the dolphins, even the clouds – seems to have found that someone special.

It might seem like a challenge to bring an essentially static character to life, and indeed the animation supervisor-turned-director admits as much. “We struggled with it a lot,” Murphy tells Yahoo. “But I feel like, once we were able to embrace the limitations of it, it unlocked all sorts of possibilities. I love that about animation: You can really make a mountain come alive. You can’t do that in another medium.” For more from Murphy, head to Yahoo’s site.

Both Lava and Inside Out will hit US screens June 19 next year, but Aussies are still expecting a release date.

James White

Exclusive New Poster For ‘71There may be Troubles ahead
Set over one terrifying night during a pivotal period of the Troubles, '71 is a thriller that will make your nerves audibly jangle and even your popcorn break out in a light sweat. It stars man-of-moment Jack O’Connell in another life-and-death military turn to add to his work in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. This time, he’s a British soldier left to fend for himself in territory that, as the film’s new poster suggest, is hardly rolling out the red carpet for squaddies.
O’Connell is Gary Hook, a newbie infantryman who is separated from his comrades when a raid goes horribly wrong. Like Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out in reverse, Hook is left to negotiate a deadly rabbit warren of alleys, houses and darkened streets as he seeks to evade the IRA men hunting him down. But will he make it through the night? Frankly, we don’t know, but we’re strapping in for the ride. TV director Yann Demange, of Top Boy and Criminal Justice, is the man cranking as much tension as humanly possible from Gregory Burke’s screenplay. The Scottish writer is no stranger to this kind of terrain - his play Black Watch tackled the titular regiment’s travails in Iraq - and the early buzz on his first film script is equally positive.Belfast native David Holmes, a man who remembers this fraught period in his city’s history first hand, has provided the score, while Under The Skin production designer Chris Oddy is responsible for recreating the nightmarish cityscape that would give even Snake Plissken the collywobbles.'71 arrives in UK cinemas on October 10, but Australia are still awaiting a release date. 
Phil de Semlyen

Exclusive New Poster For ‘71
There may be Troubles ahead

Set over one terrifying night during a pivotal period of the Troubles, '71 is a thriller that will make your nerves audibly jangle and even your popcorn break out in a light sweat. It stars man-of-moment Jack O’Connell in another life-and-death military turn to add to his work in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. This time, he’s a British soldier left to fend for himself in territory that, as the film’s new poster suggest, is hardly rolling out the red carpet for squaddies.

O’Connell is Gary Hook, a newbie infantryman who is separated from his comrades when a raid goes horribly wrong. Like Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out in reverse, Hook is left to negotiate a deadly rabbit warren of alleys, houses and darkened streets as he seeks to evade the IRA men hunting him down. But will he make it through the night? Frankly, we don’t know, but we’re strapping in for the ride.

TV director Yann Demange, of Top Boy and Criminal Justice, is the man cranking as much tension as humanly possible from Gregory Burke’s screenplay. The Scottish writer is no stranger to this kind of terrain - his play Black Watch tackled the titular regiment’s travails in Iraq - and the early buzz on his first film script is equally positive.

Belfast native David Holmes, a man who remembers this fraught period in his city’s history first hand, has provided the score, while Under The Skin production designer Chris Oddy is responsible for recreating the nightmarish cityscape that would give even Snake Plissken the collywobbles.

'71 arrives in UK cinemas on October 10, but Australia are still awaiting a release date.

Phil de Semlyen