The Hollywood sign… in Portland?


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Had a chance yesterday to catch the new Affleck joint Argo, which gives new meaning to the word “suspenseful” (emphasis on the “full”) as it follows the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979.  I was completely sucked into this one and I think the back of my neck is still tingling from the adrenaline.  In the film, there’s a constant barrage of period piece paraphernalia that keeps you successfully cemented in ’79 – and a particularly great shot of the dilapidated old Hollywood sign being refurbbed into the sexy, unwavering steel composed brickhouse we see in the Hollywood hills today.

No way to sugar coat it – the sign was straight up falling apart.  Rushing to it’s rescue were donations by the likes of Alice Cooper, Hugh Hefner and others who stepped in to make sure the landmark was successfully and correctly restored, resetting the clock for years to come.

photo by Benjamin Reed

Portland has it’s own iconic Hollywood sign:  the epic marquee of the Hollywood Theater!

Well, as epic as it may appear from a distance, ye olde marquee has seen better days and is badly in need of an update.  The theater publically has it’s doubts about how long the sign will do the job in it’s current state, as it’s leaking. Which is never good when you’re set to endure another long rain soaked Portland winter.  On top of that (literally), it’s getting a visual assault from a multi-story building going up in what had been forever an empty lot next door.  Our poor sign is under siege!

We need the Portland Hugh Hefner to light that cigar, loosen up that velvet robe and fetch that checkbook out of that inside pocket.  Or maybe a little makeup around the eyes Alice Cooper style as you punch in that credit card number?  Hey, you’re in the privacy of your own home…  whatever floats yer boat.  🙂

Ok, so maybe we’re not as eccentric as the doners in LA’s Hollywood, but we’re just as fearless when it comes to helping out.  The Hollywood has done quite a bit of the sign fundraising already and is close to getting this thing done, but just needs a little bump.

And why do they deserve our help?  Let’s ignore the deep rooted history, like that the theater is the source of the Hollywood district’s name for a second, and talk about the present.  “What have you done for me lately?” like JJ once said.  It may not be common knowledge but the Hollywood Theater is a true diamond in the rough and completely non profit!   The solid slate of independent and art house programming helps to fund filmmaker sponsorship and educational programs, among other endeavors.  This elevates them (in my book) from mere “cool theater” status to straight up Portland Institution.  Our Hollywood Theater is the real deal, and I can’t say enough good things about the team they have in place there.

C’mon, everyone has a favorite Hollywood theater memory.  Am I right?

Hecklevision nights are almost too numerous to even mention.  Maybe it’s one of the film fests that roll through year after year?

Rocky & I w/no idea what we’re stepping into @ Zompire!

I can only speak for myself, but I remember in 2008 when my friend & director Rocky Curby had a short accepted into the Zompire Film Festival…   ohhhh we got a lot more than we bargained for that day. What a complete & total riot!  I will absolutely never forget Zombie  Jesus and some of the other films on the docket – I’ll take those to the grave (and beyond).  Many of us frequent the Hollywood each summer, as they typically host the screenings for the 48 hour film festival year after year – yeah, that’s the weekend you see actors being chased by camera crews on every corner as you drive across town.  When it comes to Portland premiere screenings and helping to launch films, the Hollywood is second to none.  They know what it takes to elevate a screening into an event.  The Hollywood really came through for me as I put together last year’s Portland premiere of Revenge of the Electric Car for visiting director Chris Paine, and that screening helped fuel the film’s west coast momentum.  I wonder how many times Gus Van Sant has had films or events at the Hollywood?  Probably countless.  Heck, it’s at the point now where I’m going to screenings hosted by Gus for complete remixes of his films using cutting room floor footage done by other directors!  GVS & the Hollywood go together like PB &J.

The Hollywood Theater rocks.  And with the new seats, sound system and other grand steps forward the past few years, our future memories (and photos!) also deserve a sign worthy of the namesake.

Theater Executive Director Doug Whyte breaks it down nicely – check the vid over at the Kickstarter page (click this graphic to the left) and let’s do this.  The donations are tax deductible.  In return, you’ll get things like movie tickets + popcorn and your name + message on the new marquee you helped put in place.  Let’s pull together and knock out the next thing on the Hollywood’s fixit list, and restore a true landmark!


Update:  the sign has been fully funded!  Nice move Portland.

Pedal Powered


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The bike rack @ Bent Image Lab

This guy says to me today, “You’re going to bike to work? Like, a bicycle? With the wind and rain and all that?”

And now say in your head again, but be extra whiny where you see the italics to get the full effect of what I’m dealing with down here. Ha ha.  Yes buddy, yes I am.  Call me crazy, but tomorrow I will turn in the keys to that shiny company-provided rental car and proceed to bike 20km (12 miles?) each day to/from the office.  Not that it really needs justification, but oh let me count the ways: Gas is about $8USD a gallon where I’m working, a brief contract in New Zealand. I’ll be turning in some major hours on this crunch and I’ll need the exercise and “zen” time to wind down.  Ahhh…  that almost meditative biking state.  Or maybe some days I’ll flip it, slam a flat white and pretend I’m a bike messenger in NYC…   and race the clock for a change.  Being the southern hemisphere, we’re coming to the cusp of summer and along with it, the wind and rain is fading away.  Yeah…   ok, I could go on, but you know what? The short of it is… damn it, I’m a Portlander. We bike.

When I’m on these jobs where I’m able bike to work, use another gasless alternative, or hop mass transit – I have to say it feels good to have it dialed in and be able to talk about the ol’ commute without it being a total negative downer.  It’s become one of those keys to sanity(tm) I occasionally find the need to rant about.  David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) intellectualized in his book Bicycle Diaries that the only way to truly become one with a city is to take it by bike. To step out of the armored steel chariot and leave yourself exposed to the belly of the beast.  And he’s right.  It opens things up and you can’t help but soak up life around you –  osmosis!  And soak Portland up we do.   And although that’s an unintentional rain joke – when we’re not biking in the rain, sometimes, we’re even biking naked.  Ha!

Portland and it’s bike scene are regularly ranked #1 as the Best Biking City in America by Bicycle Magazine. The biking infrastructure? 2nd to none. Fully wired with bike lanes & paths, some of which (like Willamette Blvd, Vancouver & Williams Ave, Clinton St, the Springwater Corridor) are almost better termed as bike “highways.” A healthy daily commuter parade that has created fully aware and bike conscious drivers that are increasingly cool with sharing the road.  Beautiful scenery, fresh air, the trees, the river. Ample parking, a bike shop every few blocks, custom builds and unique styles fully encouraged, bike racks on city busses and trains…   it’s not hard to understand;  Portland makes biking easy.

A recent survey at Bent Image Lab turned up that almost 1/6th of the company is biking to work these days, over double the city average.  Any given day, it’s a mob scene at the bike rack out front. A few catch the bus or carpool, and there’s a good number of Benters riding in lower impact scooters and motorcycles. Several are able to walk to work (jealous!). One absolutely crazy dude even drives an old Fiat convertible converted to 100% electric, and there’s another classic VW Karmann Ghia convertible in the Bent family that’s had the same treatment.

I remember during bike-to-work month last year at Laika (Entertainment) out in Hillsboro, there was a huge response.  I was especially impressed with one madman who regularly biked out to the studio in Hillsboro (far west of Portland) from Gresham (the eastern suburb). Let me say that again:  Hillsboro.  From Gresham.   Holey Corn (!!) –  I would guess over 30 miles each way, with steep grades…   2 hours both to AND from, I believe.  Rick, you are the real deal and have my utmost respect.  That, sir, was nothing short of phenomenal and a huge inspiration.  Hard core!

The icing on the cake to all of this would be to rally the studios in town to further support the biking subculture and embrace the fine piece of legislation that our own Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer helped put in place a couple years back: the Bicycle Commuter Act! (click for more info)

I was first introduced to this while at Sony Imageworks in Los Angeles, who (as you can imagine) had very aggressive alternative transportation policy in place, being that California is total smogsville and needs all the help it can get to keep a car off the road. This is a nationwide program and it’s premise is simple: Bike to work 3 days a week, get $20 each month for your “trouble.”

That’s $240 a year towards bike maintenance, upgrades, gear, weather protection, and storage. Or more like pizza & beer…  we need to carb load it and fatten you up.  Ya bike too much!  Ha!

Bikers pocket the cash, and employers save 9.5% on FICA taxes, let alone the cool points and respect scored with employees.  Win/win all around.  No time like the present.   Just do it.  🙂

Thanks to Hinge Digital & The Foundry

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Thanks everyone again for coming out last night to see Hinge Digital and The Foundry show us the goods.  I have the usual blurry iPhone pics to prove it!








Mariana from The Foundry sure knows her stuff, and it was good to get the low down on Katana and a snapshot of Deep Compositing using openEXR 2 renders in Nuke.

And what can I say about Hinge?  Incredible.  Unprecedented.  The Hinge Digital troops brought a big platter of awesome to show and dropped science like Galileo dropped the orange.  I can only speak for myself here, but I have never, EVER in my days seen such an in depth breakdown of a project – detailing the process from inception through execution.  This was like a Bobby Knight basketball clinic, without any chair throwing.

I especially liked seeing the previz and storyboards come to life from infancy to fully realized renders.  Heck, I even worked on this project and was with them for the bulk of it, and I didn’t realize how much prep and hard work went into selling the designs and story.  My head is spinning just as much as yours!  They have a knack for cheating the gremlins and don’t let any problem stand in the way of delivering great results.  It was also great to get the Hinge partners’ unique take on the Portland scene and how they’ve navigated the waters the past 3 years.  I can’t applaud them enough for giving this presentation and I think we all expect big things going forward from the Hinge crew!



















Heads up – the next meeting is slated for late January.   More info as things develop.  Until next time!

Next VFX/PDX Meeting: Thursday, September 20th

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Last time we met, promises were made.  Now it’s time to deliver!

Mariana Acuña from The Foundry joins us to pick up where we left off.  She’ll be giving us an intro to Katana, the new Lighting and Look Dev tool that was formerly the in-house Lighting and Compositing app at Sony Imageworks.  It’s a different approach to rendering that allows for scenes to be managed and scalable into massive constructions like never before.  Other than Sony, ILM is all over it, and even locally,  Laika Entertainment has adopted it for use on their next feature.  Get prepped, because Mariana will give us the live demo & overview and we’ll leave plenty of time for questions.  We’ll also touch on Mari, which is now at version 1.5 and continues to push the boundaries of 3d paint and texturing since it was released from inside the incubator at Weta Digital out into the wild by the Foundry.  Finally, last but most definitely not least we’ll be going over Nuke’s use of OpenEXR 2.0 and the deep compositing and rendering pipeline.  The days of rerendering for holdouts and pulling your hair out trying to correctly layer CG are finally over.

Also joining us will be the talented and hardworking filmmakers from Hinge Digital, who’ve had a busy summer and just wrapped on a character design/rebranding commercial campaign for Carrington College.  They hit a home run on this one and have a lot to show – you won’t want to miss this!

Thursday,  September 20th – 6pm-9pm @ the Art Institute Open Space.  Enter on NW Davis St between 11th and 12th.  Take the main entrance elevator to the 2nd floor – the open space is a right and then another right.

Be there or be [ ].

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