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Month: July 2017

Visiting Weta Digital

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 9.14.35 AM

I had a chance to pop over to Wellington recently to chat to the team at Weta Digital on the new, and incredible, War for the Planet of the Apes. You’ll see some coverage coming out over the next few days, but here’s a hint at the first piece, for 3D Artist magazine. It has lots of cool details on Weta Digital’s new tools, and its approach to performance capture and new characters in the new film.

Quickshots: How one of the coolest shots in ‘Baby Driver’ was pulled off


Last night in Sydney I got to watch Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver for a second time, and see a post-film Q&A hosted by director George Miller. The Q&A was fantastic, diving into Wright’s directing choices, musical influences and juicy details about how some of the big driving stunts and shots in the film were captured.

Miller is certainly one of Wright’s idols, but the Mad Max helmer was also clearly taken by Wright’s film. In fact, Miller’s very first question was a very specific one about how a shot towards the end of the film of Baby (Ansel Elgort) and (Debora) Lily James coming to a screeching halt in a car park, in a car they have just stolen, was done. It’s a ‘oner’ in which the car is being driven super-fast, comes to a screeching halt, and the camera pushes in on the pair as Debora then says, in realisation, “Not a chauffeur…”

How the beach scene in ‘Contact’ went down to the wire


Yesterday I posted an interview with Contact’s visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston about his work on the film, which is now 20 years old. This included the incredible mirror shot, and for that high speed compositing supervisor Sheena Duggal also weighed-in on how that shot was made at Imageworks.

Well, Sheena has now also provided me with a great behind the scenes run-down of the challenges Imageworks also faced for the beach encounter Jodie Foster’s character has with her father on Vega (or does she…). That scene made use of bluescreen photography and a virtual environment all pieced together from plates shot in Fiji, despite the restrictions of the vfx technology at the time.

And it also had to be done twice. 

The famous mirror shot in ‘Contact’ was almost something else entirely

Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Visual effects artists and aficionados are often asked which movie or shot was their biggest influence, a question that regularly evokes a response about films like Star Wars, Blade Runner or Jurassic Park.

Those films, of course, are all milestones in the VFX world. But in recent years, if that kind of question has come up in conversation, I have started noticing that the mirror shot in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact was being raised more and more – the one where a young Ellie races to the medicine cabinet, with the camera in front of her as she comes upstairs, only to reveal we have been watching her reflection in the mirror. Not only is it a shot considered a milestone in invisible and seamless visual effects, it is a scene that even VFX pros regularly admit they have no idea how it was pulled off.

Contact is now 20 years old, and its visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston sat down with vfxblog to revisit its fine effects work, which was primarily done by Sony Pictures Imageworks, and ranged from the invisible to the fantastical. In the process, I learnt something about that mirror shot I’d never heard anywhere before.