The word is out: a contingent of University of Manitoba graduates contributed to the (likely) Oscar win of the movie Avatar.Prime Focus, a visual effects company with offices in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Winnipeg, contributed to several scenes of the 3-D blockbuster. And, in the Winnipeg office, dozens of staff have University of Manitoba connections, whether as graduates or co-op students from the department of computer science.
A few, like Matthew Machnee and Sean Cody, made substantial contributions that got their names into the end screen credits of the movie.
“It was really neat,” says Machnee, who graduated in from the U of M in 2003. “I had worked at Prime Focus right after graduation, then went overseas and came back here again a few years ago. It’s the best place to work.”
“They’re doing some amazing things with digital technology here,” he adds.
Machnee used his skills acquired in computer science to help in the use of software that allows tracking and manipulation of shots as part of the overall look of complex scenes. One shot in particular was the scene inside the military control room where a multitude of holographic computer displays appear.
“That involved a lot of separate pieces that needed to be layered on one another,” Machnee explains, “and for a 3-D film, it meant everything had to be duplicated. Without the software to keep track of it all, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Other movies that Machnee has worked on include Resident Evil 2 and Paycheck.
Among the Prime Focus staff who hail from the University are: Sanjay Fisk (BSc/08); Conrad Wiebe (BCSc/07); and Paul Rondeau (MSc/07), all working on other movies that are in the works.
Cody (BSc/07) is currently in Mumbai working on a project, and Shane Adam (BSc/08) is in Los Angeles working on the upcoming 3-D version of Clash of the Titans, due out in May 2010.
For more information about Prime Focus or to contact Matthew Machnee, contact Karin Ross, production and operations manager, Prime Focus, Winnipeg, at: 949-0070, ext. 242.