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Hong Kong Filmart 2012: VFX and Digital summit

Hong Kong’s Digital Magic hosted the fifth edition of the summit, offering an entertaining run through some of the company’s recent 3D and post projects from around the region before presentations from other local players.

While NZ has perhaps become a little spoilt for developing 3D and high-end post production services in recent years, much of it paid for by work on international features, Hong Kong’s have been built from the ground up.

Always competing with China on cost, local providers have relied on setting the bar a little higher than their dominant neighbour to provide a higher quality end product, evidenced not least by speaker Frankie Chung’s win of the Best VFX gong the previous evening at the Asian Film Awards. Chung won, with Wook KIM and Josh Cole, for his work on local director TSUI Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.

Chung presented clips from the feature, explaining the level of work on each shot for the 3D capture and subsequent animation work. He spoke entirely entirely in Chinese, with sporadic interjections from a translator, although the complexity of some of the shots (mostly wire work martial arts fighting) didn’t need translation.

Dennis Law provided an alternative to the heavily film-focused presentation. A Hong Kong native now producing LA casino shows, he’s introducing glasses-free 3D technology into his next production, having recently worked with Digital Magic’s Percy Fung to produce a 3D BluRay DVD of his stage show The Monkey King.

“However good your seat in the house, your view won’t be as good as watching the BluRay,” he said, before adding quickly, “don’t tell the Las Vegas casinos that.”

Noting that whatever was done in making 3D and VFX-heavy films put China and Hong Kong in direct competition with Hollywood, he claimed the introduction of the glasses-free 3D work into his next production as one area in which Asia was leading the US.

He noted that the cost wasn’t cheap, but – for long-running shows – it saved money. His new show has been contracted for a 10-year run.

Percy Fung, back to whom all roads seemed to lead during the morning’s presentation, presented a selection of work and an overview of how 3D was developing around Asia. His company shot Thailand’s first 3D feature, Dark Flight, which was posted in Thailand.

Now on the seventh generation of in-house designed 3D steadicam rigs, the company clearly has a commitment to working internationally. What holds Asia back for 3D productions, particularly the ASEAN nations, is the number of digital screens available. Less than 20% in Thailand, noted a speaker at a separate panel discussion during the day.

The work on Dak Flight was of the standard one would expect from an independently-funded 3D feature – not Weta standard, but very watchable. And when did NZ do zombies on a plane anyway?

Much of the work was done within the confines of airplane cabin and cockpit, with Digital Magic completing the shoot with two rigs in 20 shooting days.

Fung presented other clips of work, including one done in Hong Kong for government 3D promotion of HK’s facilities. The quality was high, although the 3D shot of a sewage treatment plant arguably contained too much information.

He noted that, as a free port, HK post companies were able to work on any material without needing to meet censorship regulations. Utilising this capacity was what allowed Digital Magic to do much of the 3D and post work on 3D Sex & Zen, including the censorship cuts for international territories.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the presentation was the least polished. Digital Magic showed some low-light test shooting of Canon’s C300, using Kodak stock rated to 20,000 ISO.

The light sensitivity and hyper-focus gained from a variety of light sources, including a cell-phone, iPad and single match impressed that audience, even on a repeat sowing towards the end of the presentation.

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