Old meets new: the vfx of ‘Independence Day’ – Part 1

Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Roland Emmerich’s 1996 disaster blockbuster Independence Day is about to get a very new sequel which features the latest in cutting-edge digital visual effects. Twenty years ago the director and his prolific effects team were faced with the gargantuan task of realizing big, big shots, a feat they achieved using both CG techniques – at the time still very difficult to accomplish photorealistically – and some of the best miniature work ever done. In this two part feature, vfxblog looks back at the practical and digital accomplishments on the vfx Oscar-winning Independence Day. We start with an exclusive video focusing on the film’s model shop.

Part 1 – Miniatures and models

One of the revolutions on Independence Day was the decision by Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin to form an in-house miniatures and pyrotechnic unit specifically for the film. Major sequences included views of massive spaceships appearing above Earth, the destruction of landmark buildings including the White House and some stunning F-18 dogfight sequences.

In this exclusive video made possible by Berton Pierce (the director of model making documentary Sense of Scale), Independence Day model shop supervisor Mike Joyce and members of his team recount some of the work behind the film.

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In Part 2, we go behind the scenes of VisionArt’s incredible digital work for the dogfight, alien attack and escape sequences in Independence Day.