September 4, 2013
This year’s HP global workstation product launch event was the biggest I’ve ever attended, and the most exciting in terms of the revolutionary new product offerings presented and the people I met and interviewed.
We gathered early on Wednesday morning in a large hall in the NYC Sheraton Hotel, right in the midst of bustling Times Square, and to get the ball rolling were treated to speeches by some heavy hitting HP workstation users.
Mark Russell, Independent Producer, Director and Vfx Specialist
Mark Russell – Director, Producer, and Vfx Expert
First at bat was Mark Russell, and he hit it out of the park. Mark is an independent director, producer and Vfx creator who produced the soon to be released Paramount Pictures, Martin Scorsese film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ a tale of financial intrigue that’s now in post production and destined to become a blockbuster when it hits theaters on November 15th, 2013.
We were treated to some video outtakes from this production that showcased the VFx work that Mark supervised for this film that was primarily shot and produced on Long Island and in Manhattan, just a quick subway ride to Brooklyn where Mark lives.
When you watch the film you won’t know where reality ends and CG takes over, it’s done that well. One series of fly-over shots were taken of a mansion in the Hamptons with multiple takes from a 4-bladed radio controlled miniature helicopter equipped with a super high-definition camera that transmitted the video wirelessly to an HP workstation on the ground for processing and viewing in real time. The mini-copter stays in the air for less than a minute before running out of juice and the ground crew had to plop in new batteries fast to get this small bird back in the air before the ‘magic’ light evaporated. The perfect lighting conditions occur close to sunset and the perfect light window lasts only around thirty minutes, so the film crew had to be super organized to shot this series in the allotted time, and keeping everyone and everything organized was a major part of Mark’s job. Oh, and they did make a rendered CG Model of the mansion that you can’t tell from the real thing for shots that the mini-copter just couldn’t cope with.
The mansion fly-over was a special effect, but not necessarily a CG Vfx one. Computer generated effects were reserved for scenes that couldn’t be done practically without CG. For example, there’s a scene in the film where a helicopter flown by a drunken pilot dangerously skirts buildings scattering terrorized pedestrians. Mark and his team made me believe it was the real thing and saved a lot of lives and money in the process by not trying this stunt with a real helicopter, buildings or really panicked people . No one was hurt and the pilot wasn’t arrested for DUI.
In another scene, a luxurious 100 foot + yacht glides in to a picturesque Mediterranean harbor. The harbor and beautiful setting are real, but the Yacht isn’t. Rumor has it that this mini luxury liner goes up in explosive flames later in the movie, and you just don’t want to do this with a vessel that could cost between $10 and $60 million dollars coupled with annual operating expenses that could top $500K a year …. That’s more than I made last year! OMG.
So, what’s the hook? HP workstations of course. Mark has an HP portable workstation virtually glued to him, and uses it daily to organize his crew, communicate, and do Vfx work on the fly. HP compute power was used during the filming of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and now Mark and his team along with others are burning the midnight oil hunched over HP displays doing post production and editing work, pulling together thousands of shots and transforming these bits and pieces into a stunning movie.