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Ultramarines - production review

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http://ultramarinesthemovieblog.com/blog/2010-11-01/games-workshop-veterans-ultramarines-movie?utm_source=Ultramarines%3A+The+Movie&utm_campaign=5d04ec6726-Mailer-13&utm_medium=email

So, I've been following the production of the Ultramarines movie since the first mention of it's creation online. Heck, I was even interested when that Blood Angels vs. Orks movie was being produced back in the day.  I watched the aforementioned "preview review" of the film and I find myself being a bit of a doubter. From what I've seen of the animation on the film, it looks... horrible. The models are rough, the textures are almost non-existant. Sigh... without actually having seen the final product, it's rather unfair of me to have such strongly negative reviews. But from what I've seen, this movie is looking fairly lackluster.

 

 

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J-Tech said:

http://ultramarinesthemovieblog.com/blog/2010-11-01/games-workshop-veterans-ultramarines-movie?utm_source=Ultramarines%3A+The+Movie&utm_campaign=5d04ec6726-Mailer-13&utm_medium=email

So, I've been following the production of the Ultramarines movie since the first mention of it's creation online. Heck, I was even interested when that Blood Angels vs. Orks movie was being produced back in the day.  I watched the aforementioned "preview review" of the film and I find myself being a bit of a doubter. From what I've seen of the animation on the film, it looks... horrible. The models are rough, the textures are almost non-existant. Sigh... without actually having seen the final product, it's rather unfair of me to have such strongly negative reviews. But from what I've seen, this movie is looking fairly lackluster.

 

 

I agree that their concept art looks fantastic, and I think that they have their proportions down correctly. However, I am also dismayed at their animations.

Dan Abnett did the story for it, so that may be the only saving grace. I'm still going to pick it up, since this could be a first in a long series of 40K Films sanctioned by Games Workshop.

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What has me baffled is, they've announced that the ONLY edition that can be purchased is the Collectors edition from Codex until Spring of 2011.

Hmm...what? I thought the movie was coming out in November, so if we just want to spend a normal DVD price for a sub-par animated movie, we have to wait six to eight more months? Got to be kidding. This is probably the worst marketing move they could possibly make. Because, one person will buy the Collector's Edition and put it up on the internet and everyone else will .torrent it and save their money.

Judging from the quality of the trailers I've seen so far, this movie only really warrants a torrent download anyway.

 

I'm still wondering why they didn't have the same guys who did the Dawn of War 2 opening cinematic. I understand that animated movies are expensive and all, but with all of the IP franchising going on with Games-Workshop, I can't believe they're short on cash to do this right.

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It's not Avatar graphics. Appearently the animation house are ones responsible for the Bionical films - so this movie is a step up on the quality scale for them.

Obviously the budget for this movie was modest. However, there is no necessary connection between the quality of the graphics and the quality of storytelling. I watch Doctor Who episodes from the 1970's - shoestring productions don't phase me.  

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Fresnel said:

It's not Avatar graphics. Appearently the animation house are ones responsible for the Bionical films - so this movie is a step up on the quality scale for them.

Obviously the budget for this movie was modest. However, there is no necessary connection between the quality of the graphics and the quality of storytelling. I watch Doctor Who episodes from the 1970's - shoestring productions don't phase me.  

 

I could say a lot about this, among other things how pre-judging a movie by the quality of animations/graphics is part of a general mentality that has led to a dramatic decrease in quality of movies through the last 2 decades but it would only stir up a controversy needlessly.

 

Suffice to say that I consider American cinema at its pinnacle in the 30s to mid 60s. So much for special effects.

 

Alex

 

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Fresnel said:

It's not Avatar graphics. Appearently the animation house are ones responsible for the Bionical films - so this movie is a step up on the quality scale for them.

Obviously the budget for this movie was modest. However, there is no necessary connection between the quality of the graphics and the quality of storytelling. I watch Doctor Who episodes from the 1970's - shoestring productions don't phase me.  

I'm in the same boat here, loving the original Star Trek series over the newer ones mostly due to storytelling. I was still a little disappointed to see the Space Marines first "sanctioned' foray into a cinematic attempt look sub-par in comparison to the plethora of other options that they had to animate the film.

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We're also pretty spoiled as far as CG animation goes, thanks to Pixar, Dreamworks, etc. They did the best they could with a very limited budget and (apparently) very little or no financial help from GW... I'll wait til I see it to decide. I still enjoy old school cartoons from the 60's through the 80's, and most of those don't even have "great story" to fall back on. :) While I would have loved to see the entire movie rendered in Blizzard-quality cinematics, I'm still happy that a Space Marine movie got made.

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At the risk of looking foolish - the models and sets look completely in tune with the setting IP. It looks to me that considerable thought and effort has gone into this aspect of the production; this bodes well for the other areas. The voice talent employed is A-list. The writer is very well regarded. So I have it on pre-order. It's about the same money I often lay down in GW every vist anyhow...

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Kilbourne said:

What has me baffled is, they've announced that the ONLY edition that can be purchased is the Collectors edition from Codex until Spring of 2011.

Hmm...what? I thought the movie was coming out in November, so if we just want to spend a normal DVD price for a sub-par animated movie, we have to wait six to eight more months? Got to be kidding. This is probably the worst marketing move they could possibly make. Because, one person will buy the Collector's Edition and put it up on the internet and everyone else will .torrent it and save their money.

Judging from the quality of the trailers I've seen so far, this movie only really warrants a torrent download anyway.

 

I'm still wondering why they didn't have the same guys who did the Dawn of War 2 opening cinematic. I understand that animated movies are expensive and all, but with all of the IP franchising going on with Games-Workshop, I can't believe they're short on cash to do this right.

Kilbourne said:

What has me baffled is, they've announced that the ONLY edition that can be purchased is the Collectors edition from Codex until Spring of 2011.

Hmm...what? I thought the movie was coming out in November, so if we just want to spend a normal DVD price for a sub-par animated movie, we have to wait six to eight more months? Got to be kidding. This is probably the worst marketing move they could possibly make. Because, one person will buy the Collector's Edition and put it up on the internet and everyone else will .torrent it and save their money.

Judging from the quality of the trailers I've seen so far, this movie only really warrants a torrent download anyway.

 

I'm still wondering why they didn't have the same guys who did the Dawn of War 2 opening cinematic. I understand that animated movies are expensive and all, but with all of the IP franchising going on with Games-Workshop, I can't believe they're short on cash to do this right.

 

The rumour I've heard is that GW hasn't provided any funding for this movie. True or not, I can see them not wanting to risk too much money in case this flops (especially when it's direct to DVD). So getting a budget high enough to copy the DOW2 cinematic is right out. If this succeeds we should see a higher budget for the next one.

 

The only thing that has worried me so far is this collectors edition only stupidity.

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Hmmmm, I think most people here are expecting Avatar-like 3D animation. But that's just way out of budget and timeframe. From what I've seen from the trailers and interviews, they did a great job for the limited budget they had.

Being a 3D artist myself, I know how resource-intensive good models/textures/animations are. If you want a full-length animation on high res and ALL the bells and whistles, you really need a mountain of money to rent a humongous render farm to be renderering non-stop for months on end.

For some projects, I used to do some test animations on my home PC on full dvd quality with all the lighting and effects on and believe me, with a quad-core 2.8 with 6GB RAM, a single frame could easily take 1.5 to 5 hours of rendering, and that's per frame... So even if you scale it up to dedicated render farms which, say, halve that render time per frame and divide the amount of frames, it's still a gigantic thing to process.  75 minutes x 60seconds x 25fps = 112500 Frames. You see, even with just half an hour per frame, that still 56250 hours of rendering, divided by X number of machines.

To save time, you hàve to cut corners here and there on texturing and lighting. Especially when most of the budget probably went to the voice actors, then you have to pay the modelers, texturers, animators, lighting people, screen writers, the rest of the staff etc etc. And thèn you still have to throw a crapload of money at the render farm in order to get the thing done in time... and that's before post-processing even starts.

 

So no, you can not expect the same level of quality like Pixar, Disney or James Cameron, simply because the millions and millions of Euro's to accomplish that simply weren't there.

But yes, they did an awesome job with the resources available, not to mention their Herculean task to gather a voice cast of prime actors, for a little animation film based on some miniatures of an obscure table-top hobby and some spin-off merchandise branches and a few video games.

As for the sales... well I think they will be pleasantly surprised about the sales. I'm pretty sure that 70% or more of all 40K playing people will buy a copy and that they will have a lot of buys from the 'just' 40 PC gamers and novel-lovers. We can best hope the sales be high because it might attract the eye of a richer investor for a bigger, glossier production to follow... So, all the more reason to buy a copy and sponsor the effort rather than just wait for a illegal download that will doom small productions like these to oblivion...

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Meph said:

So, all the more reason to buy a copy and sponsor the effort rather than just wait for a illegal download that will doom small productions like these to oblivion...

At the risk of being overly pious, stealing from this production would be harming some very brave investors - the very people who might find the money for the Beowolf -level* WH40K film of the future. This film is market-tester - a flop will spell doom for any future WH40K productions for a decade.

* More reasonable next step than an Avatar level production.

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Meph said:

As for the sales... well I think they will be pleasantly surprised about the sales. I'm pretty sure that 70% or more of all 40K playing people will buy a copy and that they will have a lot of buys from the 'just' 40 PC gamers and novel-lovers. We can best hope the sales be high because it might attract the eye of a richer investor for a bigger, glossier production to follow... So, all the more reason to buy a copy and sponsor the effort rather than just wait for a illegal download that will doom small productions like these to oblivion...

 

if they get even 7% of the 40k crowd, they'd probably be ecstatic but i think that's a pie in the sky type number.  if they get 1/100 of 40k players to pay full price for the dvd (where they make the most profit), they'll be lucky with the response it seems to be getting.  you may have some insider knowledge on the inner workings of the animation industry and an appreciation of the effort that goes into every frame but the rest of us just see lower quality work than we're used to from the mass market outlets.  if i had to choose between low quality CGI and high quality standard animation (like the superhero direct to dvd movies like batman/superman/superfriends), i'd choose the later.

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It has now been confirmed that GW did not put any money into the film.  Despite what players and fans think, they simply did not have it.  That is why the production company got the job in the first place.  They put up all of the money for the project.

Believe me, after all of the internet cries, direct feedback from conventions and such, GW KNOWS that their fans are not happy with the quality of the animation.  It is not TERRIBLE, as there are worse examples on Youtube for all to see.  However, it sure is lack luster.

I feel bad for the film, because Dan is a good writer, the voice cast is very good, and the subject is something close to my heart.  But, I just can't seem to hit the purchase button...

I have also spoken with several animators in the CGI business, and they have all confirmed that we, as an audience, have very HIGH expectations.  Millions and millions of dollars are spent on films like Avatar, with entire armies of employees working at expensive studios.  Heck, the opening animation for Dawn of War probably cost as much as the entire Ultramarines movie to make.

So, it is a tough one for sure.  Do you support it, praying that a better one will be made.  Or, do you not support it, and send a message to the company.

GW will NEVER have the budget to do an Avatar level CGI movie.  Traditional animation, while cool, will NEVER be as well received as CGI in a world full of Avatar, World of Warcraft, Dawn of War, Halo, and all of the other eye candy games out there.

In a sense, this is going to be as good as it gets for a while...

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God, I wish they would have used live human actors for the Space Marine heads, and composited them onto CGI bodies- it couldn't have been any more expensive than CGI faces, and it would have looked a zillion percent better...

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Adeptus-B said:

God, I wish they would have used live human actors for the Space Marine heads, and composited them onto CGI bodies- it couldn't have been any more expensive than CGI faces, and it would have looked a zillion percent better...

Actually, most of the people that I have spoken to about CGI animation said that live action combined with CGI is the MOST expensive type of work.  Motion capture is the second most expensive.  So, we are left with...what we have...

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Adeptus-B said:

 

God, I wish they would have used live human actors for the Space Marine heads, and composited them onto CGI bodies- it couldn't have been any more expensive than CGI faces, and it would have looked a zillion percent better...

 

 

I believe it would have and it wouldn't have.

It may be a minority view, but imo the trailer looks good. I see a Battlebarge deploying a Thunderhawk. I see space marines doing space marine stuff. I see a bolter round to head shot and powerswords hacking limbs off as they should. Has no one else noted the gore-level on this trailer? It seems to me that the writing and direction are giving us WH40K action exactly as it should be shown. I am expecting something aimed squarely at people who love WH40K, by people who know it.

Emperor save us from Michael Bay B/S. Imagine the train wreck if he got hold of a WH40K project...

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Also, don't forget that for the Ultramarines they used the Image Metrics technology to capture the facial animations in almost real-time, which is a very advanced piece of kit invented by, well, Image Metrics. (http://www.image-metrics.com/)

This alone probably ate a whole big chunk of their budget but did allow them to get some decent animation done on the faces. Their only alternatives were: -Mix in real footage of the heads, incredibly time consuming, not to mention it would have ballooned the costs for the actors because the cost of having people say spoken lines while filming their faces for motion capture is not the same cost as having an actor act...

-Use traditional motion capturing using marker tags; not very accurate for facial animation, very labour-intensive for animators because it required a lot of manual tweak-ups, and you have to hassle the actors by sticking reflective markers all over their faces, all this increases costs dramatically.

-Use key-frame animation where they animate the faces by hand. This is a monk's job, very, very labour intensive and time consuming and when not done by an absolute master of his craft, it invariably looks like clockwork animation with no soul.

the rest of the animations were probably done using a mix of stock motion capture date, some motion capture specifically captured for the film, and traditional keyframe animation.

Some of you might think, but hey that Image Metrics thing was also used by some PC games that might even look better than the Ultra movie. Well, keep in mind that those Games were developed by huge companies, with huge budgets, over a period of 3-4 years. Ultramarines  was put together in little over a year of production time, using a fraction of the budged of an A class PC game.

 

I think it would be best if people would look at tbhis film as the ultimate fanboy flick; decent budget, great actors, great script writer, good modelers, good texturers, decent music score etc etc. Sure it's not on par with high budgets such as Beowulf of Ring fo the Nibelungs, or Battlestar Galactica. And it is DEFINITELY not on par with the budgets of the likes of Avatar and Pixar productions but if given enough love it COULD be the stepping stone towards productions like that.

 

I, for one, would feel it would be a great shame top shoot this caterpillar in the head before it can turn into a butterfly just because of E-cynicism and unrealistic expectations...

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Meph said:

I, for one, would feel it would be a great shame top shoot this caterpillar in the head before it can turn into a butterfly just because of E-cynicism and unrealistic expectations...

Thing is, both GW tabletop games and FFG have put out some of the most visually good looking products over the last 20 years, admittedly when 40K and WH Fantasy first started there was some fairly hilariously bad stuff too! But its moved along to being of high industry standards and whenever you've gone out and bought something like Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Imperial Armour # or even just the basic table top rules for either setting, they really are admirably good looking books that have had a lot of effort put into them. Even though I no longer have the time for any of the table top stuff, I'm always happy to pick up a friends for a look through and go "****, that's a good looking book!"

Asking us to spend money on something like a DVD which doesn't actually look very good is kind of unrealistic as well compared to what we're used to as a visual medium, its a big ask in this day and age.

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MKX said:

Meph said:

I, for one, would feel it would be a great shame top shoot this caterpillar in the head before it can turn into a butterfly just because of E-cynicism and unrealistic expectations...

 

Thing is, both GW tabletop games and FFG have put out some of the most visually good looking products over the last 20 years, admittedly when 40K and WH Fantasy first started there was some fairly hilariously bad stuff too! But its moved along to being of high industry standards and whenever you've gone out and bought something like Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Imperial Armour # or even just the basic table top rules for either setting, they really are admirably good looking books that have had a lot of effort put into them. Even though I no longer have the time for any of the table top stuff, I'm always happy to pick up a friends for a look through and go "****, that's a good looking book!"

Asking us to spend money on something like a DVD which doesn't actually look very good is kind of unrealistic as well compared to what we're used to as a visual medium, its a big ask in this day and age.

 

...this day and age sucks though. Don't get me wrong: I love the production quality of FFG. But I equally love picking up books I grew up with and leafing through them. Call it nostalgia but books from the 80s have a hobbyist vibe to them that the new high polished products don't have. And for the record - back then the White Dwarf was worth a buy; can't say this about the WD these days anymore.

 

Alex

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Yeah I tend to go through older material for ideas for my games as well, theres a lot of reasons for it, but to say too much more is 'famosus libellus' ;)

What I can say though is that poor quality with a company name attached to it tends to reflect badly in the long run with attracting a new customer base and discouraging for the older.

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I understand exactly what you mean, I love those old books and their 'crafty' feel, same with white dwarf. Ah, where is the time when it was a true hobby magazine and not a the monthly shopping teaser it has become now (I abandoned WD easily more then a decade ago)...

But...I would to drive the point that creating an animation movie is a huge undertaking that by no means can compare to the layout of a book. Don't get me wrong, a lot of work goes into to the DP work to get a beautiful book out but a semi-full-length animation movie is on a different scale entirely. And to be honest, the little photo of the limited edition is very tiny but it does look like a fancy box with detailed and glossy prints and full of visual detail.

And what we've seen so far from the movie feels actually more like a teaser with lots of fast cuts. I think it'll be worth the watch.

And the mentioning I saw here about the comparison of the DOW1 trailer. That kite does not fly. For the DOW1 trailer they spent around 4 or 5 months on it with an entire production team. And because of the limited length and scope of the visuals they were able to use every trick in the book to put together a +- 30 second movie. Let it sink in... 30 seconds after 4 months or 4500 seconds in 12 months, including concepts, storyboarding, pre-viz, voice recording. It's kind of clear to see which of the two had to make the hardest choices of über-quality vs deadlines... Seriously, I've done a few 3D TV commercials in the past, things of 20 seconds, with deadlines of a month or two and believe me, that was blood, sweat & tears to get those things out in time, even with a mighty render farm to ease our burden.

So I for one, as you may have noticed, am gladly getting on my soap box, donning my sandwichboard and instead of shouting 'The End is nigh!' I'll be shouting 'The Beginning is Nigh!'. This could be the first (but true, somewhat crude) step to lots of 40K movies. And no matter the quality of Ultramarines, it will be the measuring point that will decide if we will see more in the near future or not.

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MKX said:

Asking us to spend money on something like a DVD which doesn't actually look very good is kind of unrealistic as well compared to what we're used to as a visual medium, its a big ask in this day and age.

How do other direct to dvd/video animated movies compare to Ultramarines ?

 

Because those do sell well enough to make a profit, meaning expecting people to pay for another one isn't that big an ask, unless the quality of Ultramarines is worse than them. Them being movies that were never expected to get a theatrical release.

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