The king of the gaming world is on the move.

The gaming throne is the term used to describe the position of being the best at video games. It has come a long way since the days of Atari and Pong, and today there are countless games to choose from, all with their own unique features and levels of complexity. In this blog, we’ll be exploring the reasons why people love video games so much, discuss the future of gaming, and take a look back at the best video games of all time. So whether you’re a seasoned gamer or just getting started, be sure to read on for some fascinating insights!

We had no idea that Candy Crush would get this big, according to Lars Markgren, co-founder of King, the gaming firm behind Candy Crush, which was founded back in 2003. The first game we created was Pyramid, a really old solitaire game.

In the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale, the leaders of the Westerosi kingdoms met and decided to elect Bran the Broken as their ruler, and that means that Bran is now the King of Westeros. In the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale, the leaders of the Westerosi kingdoms met and decided to elect Bran the Broken as their ruler, and that means that Bran is now the King of Westeros. The Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale is an important event for the fans of the series. Many people have been observing the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale. The Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale is an important event for the fans of the series. Many people have been observing the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale. The Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale is an important event for the fans of the series. Many people have been observing the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale. The Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale is an important event for the fans of the series. Many people have been observing the Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale. The Game of Thrones Season 8 Finale is an important event for the fans of the series.

After being mortally wounded by a boar, King Robert I Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, is succeeded by his son, Joffrey I Baratheon, who is crowned Queen Regent by his mother, Cersei Lannister. Robert’s youngest brother, Renly Baratheon, is declared king at Highgarden with the help of House Tyrell.

Vishal Gondal, the CEO of Indiagames, is a 28-year-old Indian gaming king who has come a long way from his humble beginnings in the backyards of Chembur, an eastern Mumbai suburb. Vishal was introduced to the world of games when he was just 13 years old.

Meet the king of the gaming world, Lars Markgren, the co-founder of King, the Candy Crush video game company, which was founded in 2003.

A king is the male ruler of a monarchy or realm, and they are usually inherited by birth, though some, such as Aegon the Conqueror and Robert Baratheon, were not. Robert Baratheon was the first King of the Andals and the First man to sit on the Iron Throne.

Meet the king of the gaming world, Lars Markgren, the co-founder of King, the Candy Crush video game company, which was founded in 2003.

Our newest game, King’s Throne: Game of Lust, is an empire simulation RPG in which you rule a kingdom and experience medieval royal life.

King’s Throne: Game of Lust On PC is a Simulation MMORPG for Android, released on Jul 30, 2019. More Games, Games To Play, King On Throne, World Play, and 2d Game.

King’s Throne: Game of Lust is an empire management mobile game with unrivaled potential, and players all over the world are eager to play it.

Gaming Thrones are designed to be a supportive extension of the user’s body when it comes to electronic peripherals and monitors and to be your personal command center when it comes to long hours spent with electronics. Gaming Throne is designed to be your personal command center, where comfort and control are critical for spending long hours interacting with electronic devices.

The Predator Thronos Air, surrounded in metal, ushers you into its screen-filled paradise, where gaming is nonstop and you take your place upon the throne.

GT Throne is the first and only gaming chair that uses patented technology to incorporate dynamic vibration into your gameplay, so get going.

Acer 22nd October 2016, the gaming chair started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. It was a huge success with the help of its users and developers. It raised $200,000 from the user community. The campaign ended in December 2016 with the fundraising goal of $100,000. The chair has a frame that holds a large number of sensors. These sensors measure the player’s movements and send signals to the computer that is connected to the chair. The computer reacts by causing the chair to vibrate. The vibrations are very gentle and do not interfere with the smoothness of the user’s game. The chair is designed to provide a very comfortable game experience. It works exactly like a normal chair, so it is easy to use.

Predator Thronos Air, Gaming Throne with Massage Pad and Gaming Chair, Up to Three Displays, 130 Degrees Recline, LED Lighting, PC Landing Pad, and Stabilizing Arm,

At IFA, Acer introduced its absolutely bonkers Predator Thronos gaming chair, which was a (slightly) more affordable version of its epic gaming throne.

With the recent release of the GT Throne, which uses vibrating, gaming chair maker GT decided to take advantage of the niche hype train.

The Predator Thronos Air, which is priced at a cool $20,000, is an all-in-one gaming chair that can accommodate just about everything you need.

The gaming throne is a gaming chair that is designed for gamers to enjoy their favorite game. The gaming throne comes with a wide variety of options so that you can play your favorite games on your gaming throne. This gaming chair is designed for gaming, so it is important to choose a gaming chair that is designed for the gaming throne. The gaming throne is designed in a way so that you can play your favorite game. If you want to enjoy games in an amazing way then a gaming chair is the best option.

On January 6, 2020, YouTube and PCMag released videos.

YouTube and PCMag released videos on the gaming throne, the gaming throne is a popular video game product. The gaming throne is a product that is unique because it provides the game-playing experience and entertainment in a single product. The computer, TV, and gaming chairs are combined in a single product, which increases the comfort and enjoyment of the gamer. The gaming throne is a great product that is also available on Amazon and other various stores. The gaming throne has made its way to the market and is being considered as the best gaming chair. The gaming throne has a lot of advantages and advantages, it is a product that is worth buying. The gaming throne is one of the best products of gaming chairs, the gaming throne is very popular in the market. The gaming throne is a great product that is available in different colors and is an easy-to-carry product.

The gaming throne is a great product, it is a product that is worth buying.

The GT Throne’s most important claim to fame is how well it works as a force feedback device, rather than how well they work as a gaming chair.

The gaming throne’s most important claim to fame is how well it works as a force feedback device, rather than how well they work as a gaming chair. A gaming throne is a device that places your feet and hands in a position that simulates the position of a real chair. You can adjust the position of your legs and arms to your liking. The claim was that it was the first force feedback device that was comfortable enough to play games in.

On January 6, 2020, YouTube and PCMag released videos.

Why do people love video games so much?

Video games are a hugely popular form of entertainment, and for a good reason – they’re great for relieving stress and improving moods. In fact, many people claim that video games are the best way to improve one’s skills and knowledge. They’re also a great way to socialize – whether you’re playing together with friends or competing against others online. And when it comes to gaming, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just starting out, there’s a game out there for you.

Just make sure to give it a try!

The future of gaming

1. What is the future of gaming?

Gaming will continue to be one of the most popular genres in both home and mobile devices. It is also likely that there will be new gaming platforms and

devices introduced in the future that can cater to different types of gamers.

2. What are some of the most popular gaming platforms?

There are many popular gaming platforms, but some of the most well-known ones include Microsoft Windows, macOS, Nintendo Wii, and PlayStation 2.

3. What types of games are popular today?

There is no definitive answer to this question. However, some popular types of games include video games, board games, and internet games.

4. What kinds of games will be popular in the future?

The gaming throne will be occupied by games such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

5. How will game consoles and games evolve over time?

There is no one answer to this question as consoles and games will continue to evolve in different ways at different rates. Some aspects, such as graphics quality and gameplay mechanics, will become more advanced while others – like the cost of gaming hardware – may stay the same or even decrease over time.

6. What are some benefits to gaming?

Some benefits to gaming can include increased creativity, improved problem-solving and communication skills, better collaborative teamwork skills, increased hand-eye coordination, physical fitness, and even better mental health.

7. How do people become interested in playing video games?

There is no one answer to this question as people become interested in playing video games for different reasons. Some might be drawn in by the unique gameplay mechanics of a certain game, whereas others may simply enjoy the social aspect of gaming with friends.

8. Are there any negative aspects to gaming?

There could be a few negative aspects to gaming if it becomes addictive. Also, if the person’s physical or psychological health is deteriorating as a result of spending too much time in front of a screen, that could be considered a negative aspect.

9. Do people actively enjoy playing video games for hours on end, or does it have more of a passive feel to it?

There is no one answer to this question as people are likely to have different opinions. Some people may enjoy playing video games for hours on end while others may view it more as a passive activity.

The gaming world is booming and the future looks very bright. As a gamer, now is the time to invest in your skills and take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Make sure you have the right equipment – gaming can be an expensive hobby! But don’t worry, the future of gaming is full of new and innovative platforms that are sure to keep you entertained. So, whether you’re a fan of strategy games, racing games, or action games, there’s something for you on the gaming scene. Keep gaming strong and see where it takes you!

The best video games of all time

Video gaming is one of the most popular hobbies there is. So, it’s no wonder that the best games of all time are constantly being released. If you’re looking for something to keep you entertained for hours on end, these are the perfect choices. With so many different games to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one to pick. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best video games of all time. From strategy games to action and adventure games, these games will have you hooked from the start. Additionally, make sure you register for gaming tournaments if you want to compete against the best players in the world! Thanks for reading!

Furthermore, what about games in the future?
There is no doubt that video gaming is growing more and more popular with each passing day. So, it’s safe to say that the future of gaming looks very bright. This means that we can expect to see even more innovative platforms and games in the years ahead. Whether you’re a fan of strategy games or action/adventure titles, there’s sure to be something on this list that you’ll love! Keep your eyes peeled for new releases and don’t hesitate to register for gaming events if you want to compete against some of the best players around. has the gaming throne changed over the years?

The gaming throne has seen a lot of changes over the years. Beginning with Super Mario Bros., the home console gaming industry took off. In the early days, arcade machines were the only way to play games at home. This led to the development of home gaming systems such as the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System. As arcade machines became popular in homes and businesses, console gaming systems such as the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo were born. By 2004, video game sales topped $10 billion annually globally (US). With such a lucrative market, it’s no wonder that gaming has become one of the most popular pastimes there is!


Gaming is a fun and rewarding activity that can be enjoyed by anyone. From improving creativity and problem-solving skills, to reducing stress levels and fatigue – gaming is truly an amazing way to spend your free time. So if you’re looking for something new to do, why not give gaming a try? You won’t be disappointed! If you’re looking for a challenge, try out battle royale games. It’s a fast-paced and exciting gaming experience that will leave you wanting more. And if you’re an old hand at video games, don’t forget about retro games – they’re a great way to enjoy a classic gaming experience. So what are you waiting for? Give gaming a try today!

What is the gaming throne?

Gaming has become a popular pastime, and the throne is currently contested between Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox. Xbox One is a powerful console that can be used for a variety of games. Nintendo Wii U features motion controls which make it fun and unique to play games on this device. However, the king of the gaming world is Sony PlayStation. They have been dominant for many years, but now Microsoft is challenging their throne. PlayStation 4 is also a powerful console that can be used for a variety of games. So, who will be the king of the gaming world in the coming years? Stay tuned for more updates!


Gaming has come a long way since its humble beginnings on consoles. Nowadays, gaming is available on practically every device and platform, and the industry is worth billions of dollars. In this blog, we’ve explored the different reasons why people love video games so much and looked at the future of gaming. We’ve also looked at the best video games of all time and given a sneak peek of what’s coming up next in the gaming world. Do you have any thoughts or questions about gaming that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

The Most Affordable & Professional Animation courses online

Do you want to learn animation? Are you looking for the best online animation courses that will teach you everything you need to know about animation? If so, you’re in the right place! This blog is dedicated to providing the best information on the best animation online courses so that you can start your animation journey the right way. Browse through our list of animation online courses and choose the course that best suits your needs. From beginner animation courses to more advanced animation courses, we’ve got you covered. And if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Top 9 Animation, Motion Graphics & 3D Courses Online (Free & Paid)

Animation 101: The Foundations of Animation

This course is for those who want to learn the fundamentals of animation and have a desire to move forward with their skills. It covers many different topics including creating characters, backgrounds, poses and effects.

What You Will Learn: This course focuses on giving you the tools necessary to get started in making your own animations. Through lectures and videos, you will learn about key principles that are essential for every animator such as creating characters, poses, and how they relate to motion. After completing this course you will be able to animate better than ever before!

Animation 101: Introduction to Animation & Character Design

Animated movies today look so realistic thanks in part to the advancements made by professionals in the field of computer


Top 10 Online Animation & 3D Courses | Top 10 Education Video

Top 9 Animation, Motion Graphics & 3D Courses Online (Free & Paid)

Maya for Beginners: Learn to Make Movies (Coursera) – $79/month

Character Setup and Animation (Coursera) – $79/month

Animation 101: The Essentials (Udemy) – $39

Motion Graphics Basics: From Scripting to Visuals (Skillshare) – 2 Weeks Free then$99/year

Complete 2D Animation Course by Aaron Blaise – $50 top course compilations

Animation course

Animation courses online are undoubtedly the best and most affordable way to learn animation. The courses can be completed by anyone, regardless of whether they have any formal training in the art form. There are several great courses available online, and the course fee is almost always very reasonable. Animation courses online are an excellent way to help you to enhance your skills and learn new concepts.


1. What is animation?

Animation is the process of making a film, video or television program that uses an image representing movement to suggest the existence of a character or event.

2. What are the different types of animation?

There are three main types of animation: traditional animation, computer-generated imagery (CGI), and virtual reality.

3. How do animation courses help in learning the process of animation?

Animation courses help students learn the process of animation more fluently. They teach the fundamental techniques and practices required to create successful animated projects, whether they be for personal use or for professional purposes. In addition, animation courses often include advanced topics such as rigging and character development that can enhance an individual’s skill set in these areas. Finally, many animation programs also provide students with exposure to software suites that allow them to produce high-quality animation output on their own timeframes. What are some benefits associated with taking an animation course?

5. Are there any eligibility criteria required to take an animation course?


No specific eligibility criteria are required to take an animation course, but prior experience working with animation software is generally recommended. students must have some level of experience or education in animation before enrolling in a course. However, there are many courses that are open to students without any prior experience or training.

6. How much does it cost to undertake an animation course?

Animation courses vary greatly in price and range from free to tens of thousands of dollars.

7. Are there any online courses available that offer a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the art of animation?

Yes, there are several online animation courses available that offer a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the art of animation. Some good examples include Animation: A Creative Art from The New School, Animated Storytelling from Rhode Island College, and Introduction to Animation from Auburn University.

8. Are animations created using specific software or tools? If so, can courses provide a great way to learn animation and other skills that can be applied in the real world? There are many online animation courses available, but some of the best include Animation Mentor, The Animators’ Market, and Frame By Frame. animation courses are free while others aren’t but they usually have very good reviews so you’re likely to find something suited to your needs.

Animation Courses

Animation is a skill that can be used in a variety of different settings, from television commercials to online animation. As a result, there are a variety of animation courses available online that can be very affordable and professional. Some even offer certification after completing the course, which makes them a great option for professionals looking to improve their skills. In addition to tracking your progress and getting instructor feedback, many of these courses provide resources like project files and video tutorials. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced animator, there’s probably a course out there that will fit your needs!

Affordable Online Animation Courses

Animation is a great way to bring your creative ideas to life. However, the cost of animation courses can be prohibitive for some. Thankfully, there are many affordable online animation courses out there that offer quality education and a beginner-friendly learning curve. Make sure to explore all of the options available to you and find the course that’s right for you. Many of these courses offer student discounts, so be sure to take advantage of them! Additionally, make sure the course is professional and accredited by a recognized body before enrolling. Finally, don’t let expensive animation classes keep you from pursuing your creative dreams. Find an affordable course that will help you get started quickly!

Highly Recommended Animated Online Courses

Animation is a popular genre, and with good reason. It can be used to create a variety of content, from short animations to video games. If you’re looking to get into animation, but don’t want to spend a fortune, these online courses are highly recommended. They’re affordable and feature professional-grade materials, making the learning process easy and fun. The videos are well written and easy to follow, so you’ll be able to learn at your own pace. In addition to the basic modules, the courses offer a variety of extra features that will teach you everything from character creation to scene production. Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll be able to create high-quality animated content that will amaze your audience!


Animation courses online can be a great investment for students who are looking to gain professional animation skills. Not only are the courses affordable, but they also offer high-quality learning materials. Make sure to browse through the different animation courses listed below and choose the course that is best for you. We would love to hear your thoughts about the animation courses that you have tried!

Animation course teaches animation in a very easy way. The animation course is designed to help you learn animation software and its basics effortlessly. You will start understanding the fundamentals of 3d animation through this course that covers everything from basic camera controls, keyframing techniques and more!

Telescope Animation Releases the Concept Trailer for the Animated Feature ‘The Last Whale Singer’
Created Using Unreal Engine and Funded with Support from Epic MegaGrants, the Trailer Introduces the First Piece of a Massive, Interwoven Universe

Telescope Animation Releases the Concept Trailer for the Animated Feature ‘The Last Whale Singer’
Telescope Animation Releases the Concept Trailer for the Animated Feature ‘The Last Whale Singer’

BERLIN – June 8, 2022 – Transmedia content creator Telescope Animation today announces the release of the first proof-of-concept trailer for its upcoming animated film, The Last Whale Singer, giving audiences a glimpse at the future of developing animated content for multiple platforms. Created entirely in Unreal Engine, today’s trailer marks the first look at a massive, shared universe with an interwoven story that includes an upcoming video game, an episodic series, AR/VR projects and more, each created using the same assets designed for the film.

The Last Whale Singer feature film tells the story of Vincent, a rebellious teenage humpback whale, who must confront his destiny and save the oceans from destruction by an ancient evil. Along with the film, the story will expand through a prequel game, and several connected projects leveraging XR technology, all created and shared within Unreal Engine 5, using a custom-built pipeline.

“Our plans for The Last Whale Singer required us to look at how we create content in a different way, which meant we needed to develop a new pipeline from scratch,” said Reza Memari, Telescope’s co-founder and co-CEO, as well as the film’s writer and director. “The clip is proof that our plan is working, and it is the first of many reveals we think both fans and other studios are going to love.”

Founded in 2018 by Memari and veteran producer and co-CEO Maite Woköck, Telescope Animation was envisioned from the start as a transmedia studio, leveraging the full potential of Unreal Engine. Memari and Woköck determined that a custom-designed pipeline within the game engine would allow artists to simultaneously develop projects across multiple platforms, all while using the same tools and assets.

Funding Through Epic MegaGrants and the European Union
Along with giving audiences a first look at an interwoven story that exists across multiple mediums, today’s trailer for The Last Whale Singer acts as a proof-of-concept, confirming the full potential of Telescope Animation’s ambitions. To help accelerate the development process for the video and speed its release, Telescope received the first of two Epic MegaGrants. Along with financial assistance, Epic also provided extensive technical expertise, but the support didn’t stop there.

Following the confirmation of the first grant earmarked for the trailer, Telescope Animation also received a second MegaGrant to help finalize work on its bespoke pipeline for Unreal Engine 5.

“It’s no longer a secret, something special is happening right now in real-time animation, and we’re thrilled to support talented creators using Unreal Engine to share stories in all-new ways,” shared Chris Kavcsak, head of Epic MegaGrants. “With The Last Whale Singer, Telescope Animation is diving into an ocean of opportunity, building a transmedia universe that can live and grow across a variety of art forms, from the popcorn-friendly big screen to moving XR experiences.”

Created in-house from the ground up, Telescope Animation’s pipeline streamlines the process for artists, game developers, animators and storytellers looking to develop multiple releases at once within Unreal Engine 5. Assets can be created in real time, speeding up the process by virtually eliminating rendering times, and then shared to other projects. Artists can also storyboard in 2D and 3D, directly within Unreal Engine, while virtual reality camera rigs further expand the possibilities by giving artists the ability to create the shot layout directly within virtual sets. Location and character creation can be procedurally generated, saving both time and resources. Telescope is also developing an advanced water simulation, which will be featured throughout the Whale Singer Universe.

Telescope Animation also received a first-of-its-kind grant from Creative Europe MEDIA, the European Union’s program supporting the cultural and creative sectors, highlighting the studio’s “Innovative Business Models and Tools.” The funding helped Telescope establish its first facilities, and further the development of its proprietary pipeline. Since its founding, Telescope Animation has grown from an ambitious idea to a multi-location organization, with a game/AR/VR-focused studio in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, and an animation-focused studio in Hamburg. Staffing has also seen a significant increase, with a growing stable of full-time and contract artists and production teams helping to bring Telescope’s visions to life.

“When we founded Telescope Animation, we knew that we were creating something new – not just in terms of content, but in how we approached the entire process,” said Woköck. “Now that we have all the pieces in place, we will have a lot more to show you in the near future!”

Production on The Last Whale Singer feature film is set to begin later this year, with a theatrical release targeted for 2025. The prequel game, titled The Last Whale Singer: Rise of the Leviathan, is also currently in development for PC, Nintendo Switch, as well as the PlayStation and Xbox family of consoles. The game’s launch will be timed to coincide with the release of the film. Additional projects connected to the shared Whale Singer universe – as well as two other original IPs in development – will be announced in the future.

The Last Whale Singer will make its official, public debut at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 13. The concept trailer will be on display in the Epic Games booth.

About Telescope Animation
Telescope Animation specializes in the development and production of animated feature films, series, games and XR projects for international audiences of all ages. Leveraging the power of Unreal Engine and utilizing a custom-built proprietary pipeline, the studio creates content that can be shared across multiple mediums, making it possible to develop interwoven story universes, where the focus is not limited to one format. Its first original IP, The Last Whale Singer, will debut with a feature film release in 2025.

Building on its promise to look at storytelling in a new way, Telescope Animation is also dedicated to operating on a socially and environmentally responsible footing. Along with a commitment to providing its employees with a favorable work/life balance, Telescope Animation is working toward establishing itself as a zero-emission studio, and partnering with environmentally-focused organizations around the world.

Telescope Animation is based in Germany, and currently has offices in Berlin, Brandenburg and Hamburg, with several team members working remotely on multiple continents.

Telescope Animation:

Digital Domain Conjures Digital Crowds and a New Home for Magic in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’

Thousands of Individual Digihumans Built With a Custom Crowd Sim Tool Helped Populate a New Magical Headquarters and the Site of the Final Battle


LOS ANGELES – May 17, 2022 – In Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the latest feature film installment in the Wizarding WorldTM created by J.K. Rowling, professor Albus Dumbledore knows the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts Magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines? To bring this epic tale to life, the filmmakers brought in award-winning VFX studio, Digital Domain.


“Adding to the legacy of this franchise is a privilege as an artist, partly because the filmmakers are frequently introducing things that have never been seen before,” said Jay Barton, Digital Domain visual effects supervisor. “The pandemic presented some unique challenges, but the filmmakers responded brilliantly, and it pushed us to do things in an entirely new way that led to several custom creations and original techniques.”


Building a Crowd

In The Secrets of Dumbledore, thousands of magic users have gathered to support the candidates running for the highest office in the wizarding world. But while the wizarding world was free to gather without consequence, production of the film began right at the start of the initial COVID lockdown. That meant that creating massive crowd scenes would require more movie magic and fewer actual people. To answer this challenge, Digital Domain used its expertise in digital humans to create CG crowds numbering in the thousands.


To adhere to social distancing guidelines that limited the number of extras, the filmmakers selected 30 performers to be photographed and scanned, while another 50 appeared in the scene wearing period-specific clothing that helped identify which candidate they supported. Some wore South American clothing signifying their attachment to Brazilian witch Vicência Santos; several were featured in traditional 1930s Asian garb to represent their connection to Chinese wizard Liu Tao; still others wore clothing and styles that showed their support of Grindelwald.


Building on photos and scans of the clothing, and using the 30 scanned performers as digital models, Digital Domain began creating hundreds of articles of clothing in Maya. Each garment was meant to fit and flow naturally, allowing for headgear to fit any upper torso clothing, coats or ponchos to fit with any pair of pants, lower leg garments to work with any shoes, etc. Dynamic hair options were also added, with all hair and cloth sim done using Houdini.


With a library of clothes at the ready, Digital Domain created its own mix-and-match tool to create digihumans on a large scale, each with their own original look. Using this custom method and Houdini’s crowd sim tools, Digital Domain was able to create a crowd of around 5,000 unique and photorealistic digihumans. The VFX studio also spent two days at Digital Domain’s LA motion capture stage recording four performers going through a series of movements to give the crowd a sense of realistic movement and purpose. Using these combined tools, Digital Domain was able to turn three visually distinct CG groups into three animated, confrontational factions, giving the filmmakers storytelling options through VFX that simply wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.


Magic Meets Architecture

The Secrets of Dumbledore takes audiences to several remarkable and significant places that fans of the physical wizarding world will appreciate, but few are as central to the plot as the German Ministry of Magic, a five-story, arrowhead-shaped building hidden in the heart of Berlin. Located behind a magical wall, the Ministry building rests in the center of a massive courtyard. To create the magical grounds – and then populate them with crowds of political supporters – Digital Domain began with a door.


In keeping with the traditions introduced in the original series, the German Ministry of Magic is hidden in a way that makes it accessible to magic users alone. To create the entrance to the Ministry, the performers on a soundstage made their way through a series of cones and markers with a bluescreen in front of them. Building off that, Digital Domain took the live footage and created a matchmove version of the scene, building a CG volume of each character. Artists worked in Houdini to create a brick wall, then used intersection sims to break it apart when the characters touched it. The characters then push through the magical barrier, with CG built bricks slowly splitting apart on their own, to find the German Ministry of Magic.


Working from concept art and a small, physical, one-story set, Digital Domain created the German Ministry of Magic from scratch. The five-story structure was modeled in Maya with textures added using Mari and Photoshop. Additional lighting and rendering were then handled by V-Ray. Along with the exterior structure, the VFX team also handled all of the shots of the exterior of the Ministry, as seen from inside the building through CG composited windows.


The action at the Ministry culminates with the ominous appearance of Grindelwald, who arrives on the Ministry grounds in a period-appropriate luxury vehicle, complete with a magical hood ornament that morphs into a small dragon forming the letter “G.” To create this vital moment, Digital Domain created a digital version of the car to show its approach, complete with animated dragon, based photogrammetry and LiDAR scans of the car provided by the filmmakers. As the vehicle pulls up, the crowd mobs it, leading to a clash between supporters with hundreds more adding to the background. The filmmakers utilized a combination of real and CG, with the center of the shot – including the car and the performers – live-action, and the surrounding crowds all CG creations.


Deciding the Fate of the Wizarding World

Leaving Germany behind, the heroes and villains find themselves on a mountain in Bhutan, where the election will determine the new head of the wizarding world. The location features two primary areas, a large courtyard where thousands of wizards and witches converge to vote, and the Eyrie at the top of the mountain where a handful of dignitaries watch the proceedings. The sequence combines two physical sets – one large outdoor location, and another inside a soundstage. The rest, including the mountain, sky and surrounding environment, is the result of digital artists.


Working from real-world aerial photography, Digital Domain began the creation of the mountain and the Eyrie using digital models, photogrammetry and elevation models. Multiple lighting models were then added to give the filmmakers the ability to show the progress of time from day to night. To populate the crowded courtyard, Digital Domain employed its crowd simulation tools and filled the locale with roughly 4,000 digital humans, along with plenty of finishing touches – including massive banners that acted as magical jumbotrons, and also CG fireworks.


The story then leads the opposing forces to the Eyrie for a climactic confrontation, but the action occurs within a magical construct separate from reality. Digital Domain and the filmmakers tried a few different options for what this world might look like, including a bright, white area covered in fog, and an obsidian environment where everything was black and reflective. Ultimately, neither palette quite fit the story, leading Digital Domain to create a crystalline version of the real world that offered some of the best of both previous options. Using Redshift for the lighting and rendering, artists created a world that was intrinsically bright, but received less exterior lighting, giving it a moody feel. The glass-like setting also offered a reflective sheen to amplify the color, including the color-coded spells, all created using Mantra, with the geometry of the world handled in Houdini.


For the final sequence alone, including the introduction of the Eyrie and the battle in the magical construct, Digital Domain contributed over 200 VFX shots. In total, the VFX studio submitted more than 370 to The Secrets of Dumbledore, with well over 250 artists coordinating across multiple offices around the world.


Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is exclusively in theaters now.


About Digital Domain
Digital Domain creates genre-defining experiences that entertain, inform and inspire. Throughout the last quarter of a century, the studio has established itself as a leader in the film visual effects industry, expanding to encompass episodics, commercials and game cinematics, while also embracing previsualization and virtual production. Digital Domain has also become a pioneer in digital humans and virtual reality, adding to a rich legacy that consists of hundreds of blockbuster feature films for every major studio, thousands of commercials, music videos, game cinematics and digital content by world-renowned directors and brands.

A creative force in visual effects and premium content, Digital Domain have brought artistry and technology to films including TitanicThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button and blockbusters Ready Player OneAvengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Staff artists have won more than 100 major awards, including Academy Awards, Clios, BAFTA awards and Cannes Lions.

Digital Domain has successfully become the first independent visual effects studio to enter Greater China. In 2018, Digital Domain acquired one of China’s VR hardware equipment pioneers and leaders – VR Technology Holdings Ltd, Shenzhen (“3Glasses”).

Digital Domain has locations in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei and Hyderabad. Digital Domain Holdings Limited is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (stock code: 547).

Digital Domain:


About the Film

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the newest adventure in the Wizarding World™ created by J.K. Rowling. The film features an ensemble cast, including Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Victoria Yeates, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Fiona Glascott, Katherine Waterston, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Richard Coyle, Oliver Masucci, Valerie Pachner, and Mads Mikkelsen. The film was directed by David Yates, from a screenplay by J.K. Rowling & Steve Kloves, based upon a screenplay by J.K. Rowling. The film was produced by David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, Lionel Wigram and Tim Lewis. Neil Blair, Danny Cohen, Josh Berger, Courtenay Valenti and Michael Sharp served as executive producers. The film’s behind-the-scenes creative team included director of photography George Richmond, three-time Oscar-winning production designer Stuart Craig (“The English Patient,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Gandhi,” the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” films) and production designer Neil Lamont, Yates’ longtime editor Mark Day, Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Christian Manz (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1,” the “Fantastic Beasts” films), and four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (“Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”).  The music is by nine-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard (“News of the World,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” “Defiance,” “Michael Clayton,” “The Hunger Games” films).

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Heyday Films Production, a David Yates film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” distributed worldwide in select theatres and IMAX by Warner Bros. Pictures.


The Road to the Oscars: Digital Domain Recounts a Groundbreaking Year for the

Legendary VFX Studio


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The Road to the Oscars: Digital Domain Recounts a Groundbreaking Year for the Legendary VFX Studio

Work Completed in 2021 Earned the VFX Studio Several Major Awards, Nominations and Accolades in Film, Episodics, Ads/Games, Digital Humans and More


LOS ANGELES — March 25, 2022 — As the 2021 award season comes to a close with this weekend’s Academy Awards, storied visual effects studio Digital Domain today looks back on a groundbreaking year that included work on blockbuster films and episodic, several major accolades, sustained growth across several offices and innovations that touched multiple industries. And with a slate of major projects on the way for film, episodics, ads, games, digital humans and more, 2022 is poised to be even bigger.


“Digital Domain has a long and impressive history going back nearly three decades, but over the last few years we’ve evolved and reached a new level, and 2021 was our biggest yet,” said John Fragomeni, global president of Digital Domain. “It’s all part of an upward, positive outlook that we are experiencing, and we fully expect that to continue in 2022 and beyond.”


Awards and Nominations

For the work that appeared in both feature films and episodic content during the last calendar year, Digital Domain recorded its largest number of award wins and nominations for the company in over 20 years.


This weekend, the best and most accomplished films of the year will be honored at the 94th annual Academy Awards. Digital Domain will be there in strength, having received nominations for three of its VFX supervisors in the prestigious “Best Visual Effects” category, for its work on both Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home and 20th Century Fox’s Free Guy. The studio contributed significant VFX to a third film vying for the award as well, Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.


Along with its two nominations, Digital Domain also earned multiple spots in the Academy Award VFX Bake-Off, an event where the ten best VFX films of the year are given the opportunity to present a behind-the-scenes look at the work done on each film, tailored for the assembled group of VFX professionals. The top five chosen films then become finalists for the Academy Award and receive official nominations. During this year’s Bake-Off, Digital Domain worked on four of the 10 films.


Digital Domain also received a BAFTA “Special Visual Effects” nod for its work on 20th Century Fox’s Free Guy. That high-profile nomination joins an earlier Emmy acknowledgement in the category of “Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Season or a Movie” for Digital Domain’s comlex work on Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, which included helping to create the character White Vision, and featured a superhero battle like no other, as the two versions of Vision fought.


Along with its numerous nominations, Digital Domain took home multiple top honors for its 2021 work, including a Visual Effects Society (VES) Award for Marvel Studios’ episodic series Loki (Digital Domain also received a second VES nomination for Loki, and another for its work on Marvel Studios Black Widow as well). The studio also received a Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) “Outstanding Visual Effects” award for Black Widow, which included the destruction of the flying Red Room fortress, leading to a memorable escape through a field containing thousands of pieces of debris, all created by Digital Domain’s artists.


Beyond its lauded film and episodic projects, Digital Domain received several accolades for its technical work, including a prestigious Lumiere Award for its Digital Human Group, for the facial capture system Masquerade 2.0. Digital Domain’s Advertising & Games group also received three Telly awards, including one Gold for its work on the Ghost of Tsushima “A Storm is Coming” cinematic, and two Silvers, one for the Perfect Dark “Official Announce Trailer” and the other for the NFL Super Bowl LV commercial, “As One.” The NFL piece also earned Digital Domain a silver Clio award.


Pioneering Digital Humans

Although Digital Domain’s history is deeply connected to traditional visual effects, it has quickly become the world’s leading expert on the creation and development of digital, virtual and autonomous humans. Spearheaded by its pioneering Digital Human Group, the studio has come a long way since 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the highly publicized creation of the 2012 Tupac hologram for Coachella.


In February 2021, Digital Domain’s DHG and New Media groups partnered with the NFL and famed advertising company 72andSunny to create a 3D model, virtual human and hologram version of the legendary — and deceased — coach Vince Lombardi. Created with the blessing of his estate, Digital Domain used existing reference material, including black & white SD footage, to create a digital facsimile of the coach. A performer with roughly the same build and mannerisms was then brought in to record the movements, and Digital Domain’s proprietary tools swapped the performer’s face for the photorealistic, CG face of Lombardi. The coach then gave the assembled fans present for Super Bowl LV, along with the millions of fans watching around the world, an original message of hope and unity.


The work on Lombardi was created thanks to recent advancements in facial capture and face swapping pioneered by Digital Domain. Aspects of the same technology also helped to create a digital duplicate of Dr. Martin Luther King reciting his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, add decades to David Beckham for an international ad campaign designed to appeal to the world to make “Malaria No More” and helped earn Digital Domain an Oscar nomination in 2019 for Ready Player One. 


New Tools

For both its VFX and digital humans work, Digital Domain has also created several industry-leading tools, like the award-winning Masquerade 2.0, an evolution of the tech that made Thanos possible in the Avengers films. Masquerade offers the most emotive and photorealistic CG faces on the market.


Joining it is Charlatan, a neural network-powered facial capture tool that is poised to become the industry standard for face swapping and aging/de-aging performers. Charlatan gives filmmakers and character creators in any field the flexibility to take the performance of a real person and analyze the facial mannerisms and nuance in their performance, then create an original, photoreal CG version of that person. That CG face can then be transposed and augmented onto the face of an existing live-action performance, or a CG avatar. “Momentum” is a new software tool created using the proprietary Charlatan tech. The Momentum Live system takes it one step further and allows for face swapping in real time.


Digital Domain is also working on several methods of streamlining the virtual production pipeline, including utilizing remote tools to give filmmakers located around the world the ability to safely continue their work, regardless of location or health restrictions.


Company Growth

In 2019, Digital Domain expanded its North American footprint to include a new art studio in Montreal with plans to expand further. Despite operating under all pandemic restrictions, the office has expanded to employ more than 150 artists and staff. Digital Domain’s Vancouver location has also expanded exponentially to more than 500 employees and continues to grow.


In total, Digital Domain now employs over 1,500 people across nine offices.


Looking Toward the Future

Following a hugely successful 2021, Digital Domain has projects slated for years to come, including the long-awaited release of Sony Pictures blockbuster Morbius, followed soon after by Warner Bros. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Its work will next appear in Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as well as the Marvel series Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk. The VFX studio also contributed VFX for the upcoming fourth season of Stranger Things, Warner Bros. Black Adam and several other soon-to-be-announced projects.


Although with its feature films and episodic work, Digital Domain also has several major projects in the works for 2022 that go beyond traditional live-action work. It helped provide, and even redefine what facial capture can do in games for the recently announced Supermassive Games title, The Quarryand its Advertising group will see the release of several ad campaigns throughout the year.


Additional announcements for projects set to debut in 2022 and 2023 — including massive international blockbusters, major episodic projects, advancements to digital humans and more — are expected soon.

About Digital Domain
Digital Domain creates genre-defining experiences that entertain, inform and inspire. Throughout the last quarter of a century, the studio has established itself as a leader in the film visual effects industry, expanding to encompass episodics, commercials and game cinematics, while also embracing previsualization and virtual production. Digital Domain has also become a pioneer in digital humans and virtual reality, adding to a rich legacy that consists of hundreds of blockbuster feature films for every major studio, thousands of commercials, music videos, game cinematics and digital content by world-renowned directors and brands.

A creative force in visual effects and premium content, Digital Domain have brought artistry and technology to films including TitanicThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button and blockbusters Ready Player OneAvengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Staff artists have won more than 100 major awards, including Academy Awards, Clios, BAFTA awards and Cannes Lions.

Digital Domain has locations in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei and Hyderabad. Digital Domain Holdings Limited is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (stock code: 547).

Digital Domain:


WIESBADEN, Germany — Normally, when a performer peers beyond bright stage lights into a darkened theater and sees every fourth seat occupied, it’s not a good sign.

“Is it because we’re no good?” Günther Groissböck, an Austrian bass, recalled thinking as he stepped before a sparse audience at the State Theater of Hesse here on Monday evening. “Is it because we’re unpopular?”

At least three empty seats separated every occupied one in the neo-Baroque auditorium, which normally holds 1,000 but accommodated fewer than 200 on Monday. This was by design, part of a hotly debated and potentially risky attempt to revive live performance as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic ebbs in Europe. Wiesbaden’s concert could serve as a model for other theaters — or as a warning, if anyone who attended gets sick.

Although Mr. Groissböck understood the social-distancing rationale for the empty seats, it still felt strange, he said in an interview following his performance of works by Schubert and Mahler.

“At the beginning it felt almost like an art installation, an experiment,” he said. “But from song to song, it very quickly became something very human.”

Concertgoers were required to wear face coverings to the theater, though they were allowed to remove them once seated. Tickets came without seat assignments, and members of a household could sit together. The theater recorded everyone’s name and address, so they could be contacted later in case someone turned out to be infected.

The driving force behind the event was Uwe Eric Laufenberg, a veteran actor who is the Wiesbaden theater’s director. Not everyone is happy about his aggressive push to restart live performances. Last month, Mr. Laufenberg stirred a political firestorm when he called government-mandated restrictions a violation of the German constitution and suggested reaction to the pandemic was overblown. He was accused by some commentators of echoing the arguments of right-wing groups that have protested measures designed to stop the virus’s spread.

Mr. Laufenberg said in an interview that some theater employees had reservations about opening so soon. But the performance on Monday, the first in a series that continues daily through the first week of June, is part of a general return to normal in Germany, where the growth of new cases has fallen well below 1 percent.

The country is ahead of the curve in reviving its culture sector. Shops, hairdressers and nail salons are also taking customers again, and schools are operating on abbreviated schedules. In the state of Hesse, of which Wiesbaden is the capital, restaurants and gyms have been allowed to reopen, provided visitors observe distancing.

Elsewhere in Europe, governments are also taking steps to get music lovers back into concert halls. Austria announced last week that events of up to 100 people, with social distancing, can be held starting May 29. In August, a new limit of 1,000 people has been proposed, if an event’s organizers present a safety plan for government approval — a development that led the Salzburg Festival, one of Europe’s grandest summer traditions, to announce that it hopes to go ahead with performances, in some form.

In Italy, the government passed a decree on Monday allowing concerts starting June 15, so long as they meet certain conditions, including everyone involved — musicians as well as audience — remaining at least one meter, or about three feet, apart.

Mr. Laufenberg said that putting on a concert while respecting health guidelines involved negotiating with officials and reprogramming the theater’s ticketing software in less than three days. Barriers were erected to funnel the audience into the theater without crowding. Signs were put up to direct the flow of foot traffic and explain anti-contagion measures. Hand sanitizers were placed at strategic locations.

“It’s easier to close a theater than to reopen one,” Mr. Laufenberg said.

During intermission, wine, pretzels and other refreshments were served outdoors from a food cart near the colonnaded theater entrance, instead of in a foyer, like normal. Luckily the weather on Monday was clear and warm.

“It’s not the atmosphere we’re used to,” Wolfgang Allin, an Austrian architect who has a home in Wiesbaden, said shortly after he and his wife, Angelika, took their seats in the balcony. “But you have to take it as it comes.”

The idea for the performance on Monday grew out of discussions between Mr. Laufenberg and Mr. Groissböck, who worked together last year on a staging of Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal” at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany (which has canceled this year’s productions).

Mr. Groissböck was at his home in Switzerland, he said, trying to stave off depression. “We get along well,” he said of Mr. Laufenberg, “and we share the same rebellious attitude” toward the restrictions.

The baritone chose the title of the concert, “My Spirit Thirsts for Action, My Lungs for Freedom,” a line from Schiller. He said it expressed his frustration with the lockdown.

Mr. Groissböck and Alexandra Goloubitskaia, the pianist who accompanied him, accepted drastically lower fees than usual. “Money is the last priority at the moment,” he said, adding: “I’m overjoyed this is even happening.”

For an encore, Mr. Groissböck sang an excerpt from a role he was scheduled to perform at Bayreuth if the pandemic had not interfered: Wotan’s Farewell from the end of Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” The audience was ecstatic, making up in volume what it lacked in numbers.

But Mr. Laufenberg said that performances like this were not a permanent solution, either financially or artistically. “If you want to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet, they aren’t going to be able to follow social distancing rules,” he said. “I can’t imagine that. I don’t want to imagine it.”

Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London.


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When reservations for this year’s cruise with Garrison Keillor, the former public radio host, went on sale last May, Mr. Keillor’s loyal listeners rushed to claim passage. Cabins sold out in 23 hours.

The Veendam, boarding 1,350 passengers, was scheduled to leave for the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on March 18.

But a week before the cruise was set to depart, Mr. Keillor, who has corresponded with cruisers throughout the process, emailed the more than 1,200 guests, officially canceling the cruise.

“Events are moving rapidly,” he wrote. “And in the wrong direction and what was intended to be enjoyable has lost all aspects of pleasure.”

In the wake of the pandemic, would-be passengers who booked directly through Carnival’s nine cruise lines have been able to choose between a refund and rebooking with 125 percent credit, said Roger Frizzell, a company spokesman. But the refund process for those who booked through charters, like Mr. Keillor’s Prairie Home Cruises, LLC, is more complicated. The charter, which essentially rented the boat from Holland America, had already spent much of the money the cruisers prepaid.

Caught in the tangled relationship between the charter operator and the cruise line, more than two months after the canceled trip, passengers out thousands of dollars are still scrambling to determine if they will get their money back — and if so, how much.

It has left some fans feeling let down by their cultural idol, Mr. Keillor, who some six weeks after canceling the trip, sent a mass email that jumped from a personal anecdote about sheltering in place to Franz Kafka to plans for his own novel, “in which Lake Woebegonians catch a virus from eating cheese that causes compulsive admission of innermost thoughts and guilty secrets.” (He offered advanced copies of the novel “AT COST plus postage,” as well as a monetary prize for the winning title suggestion.)

But the email — complete with a limerick written by Mr. Keillor — left a lot of questions unanswered.

“There is a lot of red tape,” said Elissa Wolfson, who had spent $4,947 for reservations for herself and her daughter on Mr. Keillor’s cruise, and now wants her money back. For weeks she has gone back and forth with employees of Prairie Home Cruises. “It’s not only Holland America, it’s Prairie Home — and lawyers. Big ifs here,” she said.

Mr. Keillor, 77, a radio personality, novelist and comedian, is best known for creating public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” which he hosted on Saturday nights for some 40 years on Minnesota Public Radio. He has maintained a loyal following — outlasting two retirements (the first wound up being a sabbatical) and, in 2017, accusations of sexual misconduct.

Mr. Keillor, whose show peaked at 4.1 million listeners, is widely credited with helping shape public radio as we know it. (His final show before his retirement in 2016 included a phone call from then-President Barack Obama, who professed to be a fan.)

The next year, Mr. Keillor was accused of “unwanted sexual touching,” accusations later outlined in a letter published by Jon McTaggart, president of Minnesota Public Radio, in January 2018. Mr. McTaggart said a female colleague working on the show had accused the host of “dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents.”

Responding to the accusations, Mr. Keillor then told The Times: “If I am guilty of harassment, then every employee who stole a pencil is guilty of embezzlement.”

Long before the accusations, Mr. Keillor’s brand had expanded from the radio airwaves to his own holding company — Prairie Grand, LLC, founded in 2002 — which includes a production company and now the charter cruise company.

On 11 cruises since 2005, what Mr. Keillor calls his “floating small town” had traveled to Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and the Canadian Maritime, among other locations.

Without American Public Media, which had chartered the previous cruises and held all financial responsibility, Mr. Keillor was uncertain if they would be able to continue sailing. But after hearing from interested cruisers, his small team worked to restart them. The cruise in March would have been the first since the accusations.

Dick Kaufmann, 80, a retired lawyer and businessman from Washington, D.C., and his wife, Barbara, are among Mr. Keillor’s dedicated listeners. They had attended every previous cruise and looked forward to sailing again.

“The reality for me and my wife was that we could go anywhere — or stay moored to dock and not go anywhere — and it would have been a warm and interesting experience,” Mr. Kaufmann said.

As with the previous cruises, this year’s was centered on performing arts. The ship was set to stop at ports in Jamaica and Cayman Islands, before turning back up through Cozumel, Mexico, and Key West, Fla. With 45 musicians aboard, time at sea promised performances of jazz, reggae and honky-tonk piano, as well as nightly shows with music and stories — sometimes in the stylings of “A Prairie Home Companion” — by Mr. Keillor.

Celebrity cruises, whether for fans of Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow or James Taylor, have become a popular part of the cruise business. Such niche cruises often have a patchwork of businesses in the background organizing the trip: charters, booking agents, cruise lines and others.

In Mr. Keillor’s case, the companies involved were his charter, Prairie Home Cruises, the booking agent, Executive Meetings and Incentives, Inc., and the cruise line Holland America, as well as dozens of performers and speakers.

With so many involved, the cruise’s cancellation led to confusion and angst among guests who started asking for their money back. Holland America offered the charter company the options of pushing the cruise “into next year” or to take a full refund, said Erik Elvejord, the public relations director for Holland America.

But with cruise ships quickly becoming a floating symbol of the pandemic and the industry’s future so uncertain, the charter opted for the refund, which Kate Gustafson, the managing director of Prairie Home Cruises, said would amount to almost $1.5 million — less than half of what passengers’ had originally paid.

Mr. Elvejord said the process will take “at least 60 days” from the request “due to the high volume we are processing.”

When passengers eventually receive a refund from Prairie Home Cruises, it will not be the full amount they laid out, Ms. Gustafson said.

The charter company had fronted between $700,000 and $800,000 for airfares, insurance, rentals and other costs, which they cannot afford to return to passengers, she said.

Instead, the money from Holland America, along with an additional amount — potentially as much as about $1 million — not already used for other expenses, will be grouped together and prorated to the cost of passengers’ cabins, she said, adding that she could not calculate the total amount passengers could expect to see.

Prairie Home Cruises said it has gone beyond its contractual obligations in trying to secure passengers even a partial refund. Eric Nilsson, the lawyer for the company, said its charter agreement’s force majeure clause, which considers uncontrollable catastrophic events, “allowed cancellation without penalty or forfeiture of payments made.”

Further, the terms of agreement in the company’s travel insurance specifies that a “governmental declaration of pandemic” releases it of liability — a standard clause in such insurance policies.

Ms. Wolfson said she finds the whole process “rife with bureaucracies” and told the charter company in an email that: “Waiting until June for an unspecified partial refund seems callous, unprofessional, and unacceptable.”

She said that while she was disappointed the cruise was canceled and would rebook if offered a refund, “I’d be really disappointed to be thousands of dollars in the hole because we could really use that right now.”

But that might not be a possibility. In an email to Ms. Wolfson, Ms. Gustafson said that the loss of cruise funds “has hit us in the knees.”

Prairie Grand, the holding company overseeing Mr. Keillor’s production and charter companies, has had just modest royalties and ticket and merchandise sales coming in since Mr. Keillor’s retirement in 2016.

“Prairie Grand itself I doubt would ever claim bankruptcy,” Ms. Gustafson said. “But we may just shut the doors when we’re out of revenue.”

David Bartlow, 77, of Richmond, Va., sailed on all 11 Prairie Home cruises and dates his introduction to Mr. Keillor to his show’s debut during Watergate. He was signed up for the March cruise with his wife, and said the cancellation was “kind of devastating.”

He had looked forward to seeing friends he had met on board, among them Chuck Eklund, 71, of Colorado Springs, and Mr. Kaufmann.

Shortly before the cancellation was announced, the three men hopped on a Zoom call to discuss their options.

“We were all on the horns of a dilemma,” Mr. Kaufmann recalled, adding that for him the eventual cancellation came as a relief.

At their age, those who had not already canceled were strongly considering it, the friends said.

“You could watch the age of the people go up,” Mr. Eklund laughed, recalling previous cruises. “And the number of people on walkers and little scooters have gone up.”

Indeed, when Mr. Keillor’s charter company was given the choice to reschedule or request a refund, Ms. Gustafson said the cruise’s demographics played a role in the decision: “With so many unknowns: the virus, the cruise industry, ages of passengers,” as well as that of Mr. Keillor, “we couldn’t in good conscience select a date that we could guarantee.”

Without another cruise on the itinerary, the company has considered other ways to get together “on land or sea, whenever the pandemic lets up,” Mr. Keillor said.

But for now, he said, he is glad they canceled the cruise. In his email to concerned cruisers on April 20, amid paragraphs lamenting the pandemic and asserting his company’s intention to refund them, he included a limerick:

“I’m glad we’re not on the Veendam

Trying to maintain aplomb

In Corona hell

Sprayed with Purell,

Reading the 23rd Psalm.”

Susan Beachy contributed research.


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Phyllis George, who achieved one level of fame as Miss America 1971 and another four years later when CBS hired her as a member of the otherwise all-male cast of “The NFL Today,” died on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. She was 70.

Her family said the cause was polycythemia vera, a rare blood cancer that had been diagnosed 35 years ago.

Hired as a co-host of CBS Sports’s weekly pregame football show — which featured the high-profile hosts Brent Musburger and Irv Cross and the gambling commentator Jimmy Snyder, or Jimmy the Greek, as he was known — Ms. George immediately became the most prominent woman in sportscasting.

But with her beauty-queen background and her modest television résumé, she was criticized for lacking the traditional sportscaster credentials. She was not a former sportswriter, like Mr. Musburger, and she was obviously not a retired football player, like Mr. Cross.

She responded to her critics by saying that she knew enough about sports, especially football, to get by.

And she was unquestionably a pioneer. To many young women who hoped to have careers in sportscasting, seeing her sharing the studio desk with Mr. Musburger, Mr. Cross and Mr. Snyder and discussing the day’s games was inspiring.

“Sometimes you have to see it to be it; you have to know something is a career option in order to aspire to it,” Hannah Storm, an anchor at ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” wrote in an email. “Which means someone has to be first. That was Phyllis George — a true trailblazer.”

Ms. George was best known for her interviews with athletes. A noteworthy moment happened in 1975 when Roger Staubach, the Dallas Cowboys’ stoic quarterback, unexpectedly confessed to her: “I like sex as much as Joe Namath. I just like it with one person, my wife.”

Late that season, her first with “The NFL Today,” she recalled being worried that she had been chosen by CBS to play a token role.

“I told Brent I was no expert,” she told The Orlando Sentinel. “But every week, what you’ve got to understand is that I get more and more to do because my confidence is growing and their confidence in me is growing.”

Still, it was not easy being a woman in a male bastion years before increasing numbers of women gained wide respect at various networks.

“We talked recently about the ‘me too’ movement,” her daughter, Pamela Brown, senior White House correspondent for CNN, said in an interview. “She said, ‘Pam, I went through all of it’ — all the sexist comments and how during commercial breaks she’d have an idea and one of the guys would steal it as if it were his.”

She remained with “The NFL Today” for three seasons before being replaced during the 1978 season by Jayne Kennedy, another former beauty queen. The next year, Ms. George married John Y. Brown Jr., who had built the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and was elected governor of Kentucky in 1979. She was the first lady of the state for four years.

Phyllis Ann George was born on June 25, 1949, in Denton, Texas. Her father, Robert, owned an oil distributorship. Her mother, Diantha Louise (Cogdell) George, was a homemaker. She attended the University of North Texas, but did not graduate.

She took more than a decade of piano lessons and aspired to a career as a classical pianist; that did not happen, but she played piano at the local and state pageants that culminated in her being crowned Miss America. For the talent portion of the competition, she played “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

When she was announced as the winner of the title and began her runway walk, she nodded to the judges and her crown fell from her head.

Her first major job in television was as host of “The New Candid Camera” with Allen Funt in 1974. CBS Sports hired her soon after and began to give her assignments, the most prominent being “The NFL Today.”

Bob Wussler, the president of CBS Sports, said he wanted to hire a woman who would provide a human interest angle that male commentators did not.

“She’s a warm, attractive, very nice individual,” Mr. Wussler told The Sentinel. “She brings the average 25-year-old-lady fan kind of aspect, which I think is important.”

After being replaced by Ms. Kennedy for two seasons, Ms. George returned to “The NFL Today” in 1980 and stayed until 1984. Early the next year, she replaced Diane Sawyer as an anchor of “The CBS Morning News” with Bill Kurtis. She was again criticized, this time for not having a journalism background. After eight months, she resigned.

She went on to host a talk show on the Nashville Network, write several books and start two businesses: Chicken by George, a maker of marinated fresh chicken-breast entrees, which she sold to Hormel, and a line of cosmetics and skin-care products, Phyllis George Beauty, marketed through HSN.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her son, Lincoln Tyler George Brown, and two grandchildren. Her marriages to Mr. Brown and Robert Evans, the Hollywood producer, ended in divorce.

Ms. George recalled to The Kansas City Star in 1995 that despite the difficulties she faced at CBS Sports, she would have done it again. But, she said, she should not have done “The CBS Morning News.”

“They didn’t play to my strengths,” she said. “They didn’t play to anything I had. They just left me sitting there. To show up for eight months, as I did, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”


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Fred Willard, the Emmy Award-nominated comic actor best known for his scene-stealing roles in Christopher Guest ensemble comedies like “Best in Show” and “Waiting for Guffman,” died on Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Mike Eisenstadt, Mr. Willard’s agent, confirmed the death.

Mr. Willard played Frank Dunphy, the father of Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy, on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.” In 2010, his performance earned him an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a comedy. Mr. Willard’s character died of old age in the show’s final season, which recently ended.

It was his fourth Emmy nominations. He had been nominated in the same category in 2003, 2004 and 2005, for his role as Hank, the father of the Ray Romano character’s sister-in-law, on the CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” In 2015, Mr. Willard won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding guest performer for his work on the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Mr. Willard made his first network television appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.

He rose to prominence playing Jerry Hubbard, the sidekick to Martin Mull’s talk-show host Barth Gimble, on the satirical series “Fernwood Tonight” in 1977.

In the following years, he became known as king of the deadpan cameo.

Early in his career, he was a member of the improv groups the Second City and Ace Trucking Company. He later appeared on episodes of “Love, American Style,” “Murphy Brown” and many other TV shows.

Beginning in 1992, Mr. Willard made 50 appearances in sketches on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

His roles in Christopher Guest’s films, comedies in which all the dialogue was improvised, notably included an ill-informed TV announcer at a dog competition in “Best in Show” (2000).

More recently, Mr. Eisenstadt said, the late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel had Mr. Willard on his show about every other week to do sketches until stay-at-home orders began going into effect.

Later this month, Mr. Willard will appear as Steve Carrell’s father in the Netflix series “Space Force.”

Mr. Willard’s survivors include a daughter, Hope Willard. His wife, the writer Mary Willard, died in 2018.

A complete obituary will be published shortly.


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In March, the jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer found himself confined to his apartment in Brooklyn with all his bookings canceled for the foreseeable future, like musicians everywhere. So he decided to work seriously on an idea he had long been toying with.

Mr. Tepfer, 38, who also excels in classical music and has an undergraduate degree in astrophysics as well as sophisticated technology skills, wrote a computer program. He recorded himself playing Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, beautifully, on a Yamaha Disklavier, a full grand piano with a high-tech player piano function; his program then played back each variation, but flipped.

Without getting too theoretical, counterpoint refers to music written in multiple parts, or lines, that overlap and intertwine. Sometimes Bach — as well as other counterpoint masters — played around with inversions of lines. For example, a melodic strand where the notes basically ascend in a specific pattern would be turned upside-down, so that the altered line basically descends — a mirror-like reflection.

The results, Mr. Tepfer writes on his website, are like looking at Bach “through a prism”; the music “feels like a new piece.”

Yet at the same time, it sounds eerily familiar, starting with the upside-down Aria — the theme developed over Bach’s 30 variations. The slowly ascending notes in the lower staff of Bach’s original, which outline a G major triad, become, in the upside-down version, a graceful falling figure in the top line. The gently embellished original melody, with its turns and trills, becomes an animated lower line. And the crucial bass pattern, which begins with four descending notes and provides the foundation for the entire piece, now becomes the topmost voice, starting with four rising notes. The music, which Bach wrote in G major, now sounds vaguely like it’s in G minor, though the harmonies are elusive and disorienting.

Bach’s first variation is defined by its jocular rhythmic swing: Hearty strands of 16th notes unfold atop a dancing bass line, until the parts switch roles — and keep on switching. In Mr. Tepfer’s upside-down version, the sway, contours and character still come through.

Mr. Tepfer has been involved with the “Goldberg” Variations for years, as in his imaginative “Goldberg Variations/Variations” program, in which he plays Bach’s work complete, following each variation with his own improvised reaction to the music. (He made an impressive recording in 2011.)

In that case, Mr. Tepfer indulged in “complete messing around” with Bach, as he put it in a recent phone interview. But with #BachUpsideDown he is, he said, “leaving the info pristine,” and just creating its mirror. To do so, however, while leaving the spacing between the notes — the intervals — the same, involved an arcane process that has been called negative harmony.

This gets very complicated. But the theoretical manipulations the conversion entailed are not likely to matter to most listeners, who will instinctively hear the upside-down versions as having an unorthodox yet weirdly familiar allure. And somehow, the rigor of Bach’s writing — its rhythmic and contrapuntal intricacies — comes through vividly. The new minor-mode cast to the overall sound is disorienting. I’d say wonderfully so.

Take the breathless Variation No. 5, which in Bach’s original is, Mr. Tepfer said, a “stunning combination of virtuosity, keyboard gymnastics and drama.” Turned upside-down, it sounds like a demonic pianist is playing some wild-eyed, impish piece written by Prokofiev in a fit of Neo-Baroque madness.

In Variation No. 7, the Baroque dance character of Bach’s music, with its clipped ornaments and jagged dotted-note rhythms, is almost more pronounced in the upside-down version, though the harmonic realm of the piece now seems curiously spacey. In its new version, Bach’s Variation No. 10, a short fugue, may be the strongest example of the “prism” effect Mr. Tepfer described. You feel you’ve heard this music before. Yet the counterpoint seems to roam all over the place and the harmonic language is vaguely like Hindemith in his Neo-Classical vein.

Variation No. 13 is Mr. Tepfer’s favorite of the 15 he has completed so far. Bach’s original is the first contemplative variation in the series, at once sad and innocent. The inversion works “shockingly well,” Mr. Tepfer writes in his notes, with the melody now in the bass and the two supporting voices in the treble. It sounds like a “more ominous” version of the original, he writes — but “just as poignant.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Tepfer has combined his music-making with his programming expertise. On his latest jazz album, “Natural Machines,” he improvises on standards like “All the Things You Are” while a computer hooked up to the Disklavier he’s playing reacts in the moment and supplies contrapuntal additions.

#BachUpsideDown involved intense work of a new kind, he said, which is why he only finished half of Bach’s 30 variations: “I needed a break,” he added. “I’m about to start again.”

The videos he has created include manuscript pages for the inverted variations that can be printed out easily. Some pianist colleagues have been learning them and sending him videos of their own. Mr. Tepfer has only just begun reading through the upside-down versions himself.

“They’re not harder to play than the originals,” he said — though, he added, “the originals are hard!”


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