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The vfx supe who doesn’t really think about vfx, and how you can learn from him

Rob Legato has won two visual effects Oscars (for Titanic and Hugo). He also got nominated for Apollo 13 and he’s won a couple of Emmys for his work on two Star Trek TV series. You most recently saw his vfx supervision in The Jungle Book, an almost all-CG film.

But Legato is one of those vfx artists who doesn’t really think in terms of CG or visual effects – he just thinks in terms of how the shots he’s supervising will be part of the final sequence, the final shot, the final frame.

That might sound like an obvious goal, but it’s hard to do. You have to think like a director, act like a cinematographer, be a storyteller. If you consider what Legato has been able to do with those Oscar-winning films, and with The Jungle Book, you’ll realise he’s one of the masters at making vfx shots not even look like vfx shots.

From left: Director Martin Scorsese, cinematographer Robert Richardson and visual effects supervisor Robert Legato on the set of Hugo.

I interviewed Legato for Masters of FX, and I just loved one of the things he said about making vfx:

“There might be only a handful of truly epic shots due to practicality and the rest of the sequence cinematically set up the crescendo of these epic moments,” continues Legato. “Now all the shots are crescendo moments with little cinematic setup to build to a climax. More actually becomes less. One thing I’ve found with all the films I’ve worked on is that once you really believe it could have been actually filmed live than you become much more emotionally wrapped up in what you’re looking at. You no longer think it’s fake or miniatures or CG.”

There aren’t many opportunities to learn from someone with the calibre of Legato, but at VIEW soon in Turin, Italy, he’ll be there. And he’ll be sharing just how he managed to make The Jungle Book feel so natural despite its heavy reliance on CG and vfx. Legato will be giving a talk entitled ‘The Art and Science behind creating a photo-realistic Jungle Book’ and it’s just one of the highlights of the week (which begins 24 October).

You can find out more about VIEW and book tickets at the website

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