Sony Pictures Imageworks

April 18, 2005 11:41 ET

Alias and Sony Pictures Imageworks Strengthen Strategic Relationship to Advance Visual Effects in Hollywood




APRIL 18, 2005 - 11:41 ET

Alias and Sony Pictures Imageworks Strengthen
Strategic Relationship to Advance Visual Effects in

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 18, 2005) - Alias and Sony
Pictures Imageworks announced today the expansion of their longstanding
partnership to advance the art and science of visual effects in
filmmaking with the integration of an additional 150 seats of Maya®
Unlimited into Imageworks' pipeline. Imageworks currently uses Maya and
Alias MotionBuilder® software as the backbone of its development
pipeline. Alias' Custom Development Centre (CDC) and Imageworks have a
long history of working together to achieve the most innovative and
unique CG animation and special effects in the history of film. Together
they've managed to propel filmmaking into the future by pushing the
frontiers of technology and creativity.

"For more than a decade, Alias and Sony Pictures Imageworks have
partnered with a common vision - to use technology to create the most
spectacular onscreen imagery," comments Tim Sarnoff, president of
Imageworks. "We are dedicated to the art of digital production and
character creation, and to continue surprising and surpassing the
expectations of our audiences we need to constantly push ourselves. This
challenge will never end for us - and that's why our partnership with
Alias will continue to be critical to the success of Imageworks."

Alias' software has proved to be a key development tool for Imageworks
projects such as the Oscar® award-winner for Best Visual Effects
Spider-Man™ 2, The Polar Express, The Aviator, Oscar® award-winning
animated short The ChubbChubbs, Spider-Man, Hollow Man, Stuart Little,
Stuart Little 2 and Harry Potter® and the Sorcerer's Stone.

"We first started working collaboratively with Imageworks on Stuart
Little, refining the first release of Maya Cloth through direct feedback
obtained by putting it through its paces in production," comments Kevin
Smith, director of the Alias Custom Development Center. "We've never
looked back and have continued to work closely with Sony and truly value
their technical and creative skills."

The most exciting computer graphics talent in the world is using Maya
software and Imageworks is able to recruit the best talent available
with Maya as its core 3D tool.

The Polar Express Innovates with Maya and Alias MotionBuilder

The most recent project with Alias' CDC and Imageworks was the creation
of a technology solution for The Polar Express with Maya and Alias
MotionBuilder at the core of the project. Rob Bredow, digital effects
supervisor on The Polar Express describes the process of bringing the
movie to life.

"Imageworks created three new processes to help achieve the vision of
Polar Express," begins Bredow. "The first step was on-stage motion
capture which used a Sony-proprietary technology known as
Imagemotion™. The next step was the creation of what Sony has dubbed
'wheels,' which allowed us to create the camera moves for the shots in
real-time. Using MotionBuilder, Imageworks created a tool that allowed
the director of photography to control the camera using a set of
'wheels' - the hardware of which was actually manufactured by the same
people who created the Libra™ Pan-Tilt-Roll head. This allowed the
D.P. to control the camera in real-time while watching the virtual set
and the low-res version of the actors on his monitor-a very similar
process to operating a camera on set," explains Bredow. "This was a
completely new process for us and was remarkably easy to use and well
received by the team."

The third step was final integration where the team used both
MotionBuilder and Maya to handle re-targeting, bring the facial data
into the shots, clean up the mo-cap data, up-resolution the characters
and synchronize the audio. The Imageworks layout group was also involved
in the final integration, using Maya to dress each scene with high-res
props, set dressings and ensure continuity.

The Polar Express team also relied heavily on Maya Cloth features for
The Polar Express and Spider-Man 2, which were in development at the
same time. Both projects utilized the expertise and engineering skills
of Alias' CDC to develop cloth technology that was beyond what existed
in Maya at the time.

"Before Polar Express, the Imageworks artists built digital clothes like
tailors - stitching together all the pieces for one complete outfit,"
explains Bredow. "That process could take two to three months per
costume and required an artist who had real life tailoring ability. With
the help of the Custom Development Centre we changed our process. New
enhancements to Maya allowed the animators to model a costume and
directly simulate the 3d model - cutting more than 50% of costume
development time."

Bredow concludes, "The close working relationship between Alias and
Imageworks has been key to the success of our team as we depend on
Alias' technology to bring our visions to life. It's rare for us not to
use Maya for a significant part of the pipeline - when you put a
character through the pipeline at Imageworks it's with Maya."

New Projects from Sony Pictures Imageworks

Currently in production at Imageworks are Bewitched, Zathura, The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Monster
House, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3 and the first two animated features
from Sony Pictures Animation, Open Season and Surf's Up.

Alias Custom Development Centre

Alias Custom Development Centre with locations in Santa Barbara, Toronto
and Montreal is home to the most advanced Maya artists and programmers
in the world. The team works with feature film and game development
companies with state-of-the-art requirements beyond Alias' current
software capabilities. The custom engineering teams engineer new
features and extensions to Alias software, assist with production
pipeline integration and provide custom technology innovations.

About Sony Pictures Imageworks

Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is an Academy Award®-winning,
state-of-the-art visual effects and character animation company
dedicated to the art and artistry of digital production and character
creation. The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars® for its work on Spider-Man 2
and the CG animated short film The Chubb Chubbs, and nominations for
Spider-Man, Hollow Man, Stuart Little and Starship Troopers. Imageworks
continues to raise the level of the visual effects and character
animation businesses, becoming a major force in the industry by
providing leading edge technology to its world-class artists. For more
information, please visit

About Alias

As the world's leading innovator of 3D graphics technology, Alias
develops award-winning software, custom development, and training
solutions for the film and video, games, web, interactive media,
automotive, industrial design, education, and visualization markets. On
March 1, 2003, for the awards year 2002, the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences awarded Alias/Wavefront™ an Oscar® for scientific
and technical achievement for the development of Maya software, the
professional 3D animation and effects package. Alias offers a powerful
range of services for new to advanced users in the most demanding
environments; Learning Tools and training, support, and professional
services help meet rigorous production deadlines.

Entertainment customers include: CNN, Digital Domain, Disney, Electronic
Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Factor 5 LLC, Midway Games, Nintendo,
Pacific Data Images (PDI)/DreamWorks SKG, Pixar, Sega, Sony Pictures
Imageworks, Square Enix Co., Ltd., Warner Feature Animation and Weta
Ltd. Design customers include AT&T, BMW, Boeing, Fiat, Ford, General
Motors, Honda, Italdesign, Kodak, Kwikset, Mattel, Price Pfister,
Renault, Rollerblade, Sharp, Trek Bicycle, Teague and Timex.

Alias is headquartered in Toronto with Custom Development Centers in
Santa Barbara, Toronto and Montreal and offices worldwide. Please visit
the Alias website at or call 1-800-447-2542 in
North America. International contact numbers include: Northern Europe,
Middle East and Africa, +44 (0) 1494 441273; Germany, East & Southeast
Europe, 0049 89 31 70 20; France, Spain and Portugal, +33 1 44 92 81 60;
Italy, 39 039 6340011; Japan and other parts of Asia Pacific, 81 3 5797
3500 and Latin America, 770 393 1881.

(C) Copyright 2005 Alias Systems Corp. All rights reserved.

Alias, the swirl logo, Can you Imagine and Maya are registered
trademarks and the Maya logo and Alias/Wavefront are trademarks of Alias
Systems Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. MotionBuilder
is a registered trademark of Systemes Alias Quebec Inc. in the United
States and/or other countries. Oscars, Oscar and Academy Award are
trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences. Spider-Man is a trademark of Marvel Characters, Inc. in the
USA and certain other countries. Harry Potter is a registered trademark
of Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P. ImageMotion and Libra are
trademarks of Sony Picture Imageworks Inc. All other trademarks
mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners. Alias, 210
King Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5A 1J7, Tel: 416-362-9181,
Fax: 416-369-6140.Alias, 210 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
M5A 1J7, Tel: 416-362-9181, Fax: 416-369-6140.


Contact Information

    For additional information or images, please contact:
    Donna Teggart
    Director, Global Communications
    (416) 874-8592
    Sony Pictures Imageworks
    Camille Bingcang
    (310) 840-7313