Cartoon Saloon, Mercury Filmworks Partner for New Animation Studio

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Kilkenny, Ireland-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon — the studio behind Oscar-nominated animated features The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea — and Canada-based animation studio Mercury Filmworks are partnering to create a new 2D-focused, Kilkenny-based animation studio to develop children’s and family TV entertainment, for multiplatform global distribution.

Dubbed Lighthouse Studios, the joint venture will have its own not-yet-announced management team, reporting to a board of directors comprising executives from both Mercury Filmworks and Cartoon Saloon.

It plans to announce more information about its first development and production projects, as well as hiring details, in the coming weeks. The venture was revealed on Monday with support from Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through IDA Ireland and intends to create at least 140 jobs in the next three years.

Both partners also continue their own TV and film operations. Mercury Filmworks’ projects have included Disney’s Tangled animated series, Mickey Mouse Shorts, Wander Over Yonder as well as the upcoming Netflix original series Hilda.

Read the entire article here.

Largest Hand Drawn Animation Studio Formed in Canada-Colombia JV

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — ConVRter Technologies Inc. of Vancouver, announced that it is forming Last Studio Standing Inc. (www.laststudiostanding.com) with Conexion Creativa of Colombia in order to make the largest hand drawn studio in the Americas.

The company is focusing on science fiction-based animated film and television productions including science based children’s content.  In addition, they will co-produce adult animation content that does not fall into the manga genre. “We are taking a new path for animated film, but one that is well traveled in graphic novels and popular with audiences, yet not as prevalent in the mainstream media as it should be,” said ConVRter Technologies CEO Jonathan Kitzen.

Conexion Creativa has over two decades of animation experience and has produced nearly 10,000 minutes of on-air programming to date. “With the new JV we will now be entering the North American and European market for the first time,” said Hernan Zajec, president of Conexion Creativa. Until now, Conexion Creativa had been focused on Spanish language programming for Central and South American audiences, but with the new Canadian entity, the company plans on homing in on English language entertainment for the first time.

The formation of Last Studio Standing marries the latest improvements in Computer Generated Imaging (CGI), visual artificial intelligence, convolutional neural networks, sound design, and new Ultra HD workflow with old-school organic drawing. Conexion Creativa is the last large hand drawn animation studio in all of North and South America, and one of only two in the world still using a paper workflow. Conexion Creativa will focus on character design and the core of the animation. The plan is a hybrid of hand drawn and computer generated backgrounds that combines the two systems for a fast and efficient workflow.

“Hand drawn still has its place in a world of CGI. There is still a desire for that organic look, that quality a computer cannot create, however, with this hybrid approach, I think we get the best of both worlds,” said Zajec. “CGI has its place but that doesn’t mean that hand drawn is dead—there is a desire for both according to extensive market research,” added Kitzen.

The first film from Last Studio Standing is Tonya (almost) Saves the Earth, a sci-fi comedy to  be released in the Spring of 2017. In the film, a 13-year-old high school student is abducted at random and asked to mount a defense of humanity against aliens who believe the humans are too violent and aggressive for the safety of the galaxy. As evidence, the aliens rely on intercepted Hollywood films that show human’s triumphantly killing the aliens time and again. “At first we thought it was just a fun film – but after Brexit, Trump, and the rise of anti-religious and anti-immigrant political movements it really became a film about xenophobia and the fear of ‘other’ that is a very human fear,” said Jessica Hendrickson, who is a creative producer on the project. “It is a good film because Last Studio Standing is all about making two competing styles get along so it is metaphorically about story, the real world, and combinations that have new outcomes – it is a good place for a company to start,” said Zajec.

About ConVRter Technologies
ConVRter is a Canadian based corporation founded in 2013 and the recipient of National Research Council funding for experimental vision systems.

About Conexion Creativa
Conexion Creativa is an award winning Colombian animation studio with the largest output of any Latin American company. It is currently the largest hand drawn animation studio in the Western Hemisphere.

 

GROUNDBREAKING ANIME “GHOST IN THE SHELL” RETURNS TO THEATERS FOR LIMITED ENGAGEMENT FEBRUARY 7 – 8, 2017

GROUNDBREAKING ANIME “GHOST IN THE SHELL” RETURNS TO THEATERS FOR LIMITED ENGAGEMENT FEBRUARY 7 – 8, 2017

Mamoru Oshii Classic to Screen in 110 U.S. Theaters

Santa Monica, Calif., – January 9, 2017 —The “Ghost in the Shell” franchise has been entertaining audiences for more than 25 years and this February, Lionsgate and Funimation Films are partnering together to bring the 1995, groundbreaking anime film back to theaters for a two-day limited theatrical engagement.  The original “Ghost in the Shell” movie from acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii, will return to the big screen on February 7 – 8, 2017 in 110 theaters across the United States. Moviegoers will be able to enjoy both the original Japanese version with subtitles as well as the English dub of the film. Each will be available on separate days of the engagement, beginning first with the subtitled version.  Tickets are available beginning today and can be pre-purchased via the official movie website at funimationfilms.com/ghostintheshell.

Viewed as ahead of its time when it premiered in 1995, “Ghost in The Shell” quickly turned into a pop culture phenomenon and the inspiration for future mainstream movies. The movie became the first anime film to rank #1 on Billboard in video sales, which currently total more than 1.5 million copies across the franchise. With the release of “Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie” in 2016 and a new live action version of “Ghost in the Shell” set to release at the end of March, there has been a huge resurgence in fan interest for the franchise worldwide.

“We’re excited to be partnering with Lionsgate to bring the original ‘Ghost in the Shell’ movie back to U.S. theaters,” said Gen Fukunaga, CEO and founder of Funimation. “’Ghost in the Shell’ is truly a seminal work in anime cinema and it helped firmly establish a market for the genre with U.S. movie audiences.”

“’Ghost in the Shell’ is an iconic property and it is great that fans will be able to watch it on the big screen for the first time in 20 years,’ said Kevin Carney, VP Marketing Lionsgate. “Many fans will be seeing the movie in a theater for the first time and Funimation has been a terrific partner to help make this possible.”

Lionsgate will be releasing a new, deluxe collector’s edition of the remastered original on Blu-Ray with Digital HD.  This new edition will feature steelbook packaging and Mondo artwork and will be available in retail outlets beginning March 7, 2017.

Synopsis
2029 – A female cybernetic government agent, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of “The Puppet Master,” a mysterious and threatening computer virus capable of infiltrating human hosts. Together, with her fellow agents from Section 9, they embark on a high-tech race against time to capture the omnipresent entity.

For more information on “Ghost in the Shell” visitfunimationfilms.com/ghostintheshell

About Funimation Films
Funimation Films, the theatrical division of Funimation Entertainment, acquires both anime and live action movies from prominent international filmmakers that appeal to the interests and passion of all types of fans and distributes them throughout North America. The division was launched in December 2014 following the box office success of “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” that same year. Funimation Films released “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’” a year later and which became #9 highest-grossing anime movie in North America.  Funimation Entertainment is a subsidiary of Group 1200 Media, a fully integrated, next-generation, independent entertainment studio based in Dallas. For more information on Funimation Films, visit funimationfilms.com.
About Lionsgate
Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) is a vertically integrated next generation global content leader with a diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, premium pay television networks, home entertainment, global distribution and sales, interactive ventures and games and location-based entertainment.


With the acquisition of Starz, Lionsgate adds to its portfolio of businesses the flagship STARZ premium pay network serving nearly 25 million subscribers and the STARZ ENCORE platform with over 31 million subscribers.  The combined company will operate five over-the-top (OTT) streaming services and the Starz app delivering content directly to consumers.

The Company’s feature film business spans eight labels and includes the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise, the Now You See Me and John Wickseries, the Golden Globe-nominated La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water (in partnership with CBS Films), Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween, Roadside Attractions’ critically-acclaimed Manchester by the Sea, Codeblack Films’concert film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and Pantelion Films’ Instructions Not Included, the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the U.S.

One of the largest independent television businesses in the world, Lionsgate’s slate of premium quality series encompasses nearly 90 shows on more than 40 different networks.  These include the ground-breaking Orange is the New Black, the fan favorite Nashville, the syndication success The Wendy Williams Show, the acclaimed drama The Royals, the acclaimed Casual, the breakout success Greenleaf and hit Starz series including Outlander, Black Sails, Survivor’s Remorse and Power, the second highest-rated premium pay television series of 2016.

Lionsgate’s home entertainment business is an industry leader in box office-to-DVD and box office-to-VOD revenue conversion rates.  Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of more than 16,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as a foundation for the growth of the Company’s core businesses. The Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment and Starz brands are synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.  www.lionsgate.com

Nickelodeon Creates Original Movie In-House with Dell Workstations

Did you spend as much time watching television over the holidays as I did? If so, then you might have caught Nickelodeon’s first original animated TV movie, Albert. In the film, Bobby Moynihan (from “Saturday Night Live”) is the voice of a little Douglas fir tree named Albert who wants to become the Empire City tree.

 A Nickelodeon employee works on the Albert movie using Dell Precision workstation and Dell monitors

Albert’s 3.1 million total viewers in Live+7 (which in TV ratings talk means the number of viewers within seven days of first showing) helped Nickelodeon finish 2016 as the number-one kid’s network for the year, according to numbers released last week.

Even if you were one of those millions of viewers, I bet you likely missed the story about how Dell Precision 5810 workstations helped them bring their first 45-minute movie to life, though.

“Using the Dell Precision with NVIDIA Quadro M6000 graphics cards has allowed us to stay competitive with overseas studios because we’re able to turn around results much faster and we’re able to keep a smaller team longer and be more efficient,” said Jason Meier, animation director at Nickelodeon, in the video below.

And if you missed it, or just want to hold on to that Christmas spirit and watch it again, the full Albert movie is available on Nick.com!

The Cintiq Companion from an Animator’s Perspective

In this edition of Old But Good Tech, we’ll review Wacom’s Cintiq Companion which at this point is 3 years old and two generations behind the times. That of course doesn’t mean it’s not a viable option for an artist or animator, so read on and we’ll go over why we think it’s still a good purchase.

The beauty herself!

The tablet features a full HD display with touch control, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and rear 8-megapixel camera, stereo headphone jack, and microphone. It also comes with the Wacom Pro Pen with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. Out of the box the Companion runs Windows 8 (mine is updated to Windows 10) and houses a third-generation Intel Core CPU and Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. The base Windows 8 version houses 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and the Windows 8 Pro version includes 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. My device features a 512gb HD and 8gb of memory as well as an i7 chip.

I bought my Companion off eBay for $900 have been using it now for about 4 months and in that time I have found it to be a capable device if you take the time to hack it to work correctly. Below are my reactions to this old school device.

Unboxing
First off, when you buy one the basic things you get are: the tablet, tablet stand, power cord, pen, pen case, nibs, and a faux leather carrying case complete with two custom pockets for the charger and the pen case. Your mileage may differ since it’s hard to find a new one at this point but it is cool to note that if yours doesn’t come with a pen, the Cintiq 22HD’s pen works with it as well which is nice, although it doesn’t look the same.

The Stylus box

A comparison of the Companion’s pen vs. the 22HD’s pen.

The carrying sleeve that comes with the device. Also note the pockets for the stylus box and charger cord.

Hardware
From a Hardware standpoint the Cintiq Companion performed admirably with any piece of software I threw at it. It worked well with every Adobe application,  Photoshop, Illustrator, Audition, Premiere and Animate all performed exactly as they would using my desktop Cintiq. I found them all responsive and snappy when trying to access menus or drawing or scrubbing the timeline.

The Companion’s programmable buttons.

There are four buttons and a ring with a button inside it which combined with Wacom’s software you map functions to and you can even have the same button do different things depending on which program you’re using which is extremely valuable to me and I get a lot more use out of having them as opposed to another device like the Surface Pro 2 which has no such buttons especially when using it without a keyboard for programs like Animate (Flash), Storyboard Pro and Photoshop which are all keyboard heavy apps. The device itself is extremely solid if not a little heavy and I read that the Cintiq Companion 2 is lighter in weight but I don’t personally use it while holding it in my arm so I really don’t care about the weight so much but you might.

The Cintiq Companion’s stand

The stand the unit comes with is extremely odd in its setup and feels clumsy because doesn’t attach securely and instead just has tabs that fit into slots which I find to be lazy in such an expensive flagship device. There are some larger folios that you can purchase which is the same form factor but are essentially attached to the unit which cost more but I think might be worth it if you find you’re traveling with it and setting it up and breaking it down a lot. As I said I don’t use it like that much so for me the stand is fine.

The slot the Companion’s stand slides into. No it does not lock which is one of the reasons I don’t like it much.

A view of the Cintiq Companion’s 3 stand ‘flaps’ which slide into slots depending on what height you want.

One other frustrating thing which has largely been reported about his the power button is exactly where you put your hands to grab it and therefore makes you turn the device off constantly whenever you pick it up. Another odd choice by Wacom was putting the webcam top of the device when it is in portrait display as opposed to landscape display which really to me is quite short-sighted. I don’t know who they assumed it was going to be drawing in portrait mode all the time I’m but I guess they clearly thought people would prefer it that way. In the companion 2 they moved it to the landscape View. So I guess they realized their mistake and fixed it.

Storyboard Pro works perfectly well on the Companion but the menus are small and I did miss the screen real estate compared to my 22HD but that said it’s definitely still usable. Plus you can connect an external monitor to it to add to that real estate. Harmony worked well too and I even managed to animate a little scene without much issue, although I never finished it.

Autodesk Maya also works perfectly with the Cintiq Companion and my only gripe was the tiny menus which was fixable with a small hack (more on that later). I have built multiple models with many parts using and it handled each model like a champion and did not lag when rotating the models I built. I built this kitchen using the companion and it rotates with ease.

Granted the kitchen I built does not have a lot of textures so there is that to consider about its performance but I don’t really spend much time texturing 3D models so for me it works perfectly.

Another example is this shelving area which I also built using the Cintiq Companion and Maya and the companion performed admirably when rotating this model around as well despite there being many small parts to the scene. It has yet to be sluggish in anything I have thrown at it!

When using the Companion, it’s performance seems exactly like using a much larger Cintiq only smaller. The strokes work just as quickly and it feels very responsive when trying to draw quickly as opposed to other devices like the Surface Pro which I have found to lag behind when I draw. One of my biggest tests is using Adobe Animate to see if a device’s Graphics chip can keep up with rapid drawing because it is the processor-intensive application and many people post frustrations when trying to use it with a tablet PC because of its lag of underpowered hardware. The Cintiq Companion however, chews it up and spits it out with ease and I have not seen any delay whatsoever while using it. I’ve tried a lot of Tablet PCs over the years and really it is the only one that is able to handle Adobe Animate.

A small piece I animated using Adobe Animate on the Cintiq Companion

All this said there are a few small things that you need to do to make the Cintiq Companion 1 usable when you take it out of the box. Particularly so because of the high-resolution screen if your eyesight is not fantastic as it’s high resolution screen causes most applications to display extremely tiny menus. Adobe’s applications are notorious for this issue and I have read many times people returned the device rather than finding a solution but sine there are ways to hack the system to fix it, I feel that to return the device is silly for something so fixable. Now granted you might be saying, “Gee I know nothing about hacking and I don’t want to ruin my expensive device.” and I’m with you there but it’s really not a huge issue as this is fairly simple to do and can be done with a simple piece of code which I posted about last year during my review of the Surface Pro 2.

One exception that I found using it however was with Maya whereby regardless of hacking the system to display larger fonts and menus Maya would not actually display them larger regardless. But again thanks to google, I found a hack for fixing Maya’s tiny menus as well and was able to increase the fonts the size that I could see far more easily. That’s said I think you are willing to make a few small tweaks to it it is an extremely powerful and useful machine. In fact I would say that it is the only Tablet PC that I have found that is able Toon Boom Harmony and Storyboard Pro capably

To sum it all up I feel the Cintiq Companion 1  is a  hardy device and I think both hobbyists and professionals alike  we’ll enjoy it regardless of it being an older  device. The added plus is that now that it is an older device it’s cheaper and more likely to be  attainable for an artist.  There are things about the companion to that I have read make it  a better device  but it’s also more expensive because it’s newer and if you don’t have the money the Companion 1 will work very well in your workflow and be a great addition to your arsenal.

I did not see any units available for sale as of this writing on eBay or through Google’s Shopping search but they pop up now and again and you just have to look for them! If you decide to get one based on this review or already have one let’s us know in the comments below!