5 visual stories from 5 VFX Oscar nominees

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Over the past year I’ve been able to cover the visual effects in all of the films nominated for the VFX Oscar – Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, The Last Jedi, and War for the Planet of the Apes. Now in this special series of visual stories, I’m pin-pointing a specific scene or character from each nominated film with just one of the nominees from that movie. Find the stories below:

How the orange haze of Blade Runner 2049’s Las Vegas meant 13 hour renders

The story behind those crazy dioramas in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Inside Kong: Skull Island’s final battle

The making of The Last Jedi’s crystal foxes

The art of translating humans to apes

Inside Kong: Skull Island’s final battle

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There are a number of fierce fight scenes in Kong: Skull Island – one of the most intense is the final battle between Kong and a giant Skullcrawler. ILM handled the complex sequence, which included not only extensive character animation, but also a photoreal jungle and water environment and plenty of effects simulations.

Academy Award nominee Scott Benza was ILM’s animation supervisor on Kong: Skull Island. The other Oscar nominees for this film in the VFX category are Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White and Michael Meinardus. Here Benza details how that final fight came together.

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The making of The Last Jedi’s crystal foxes

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Towards the end of The Last Jedi, we meet on Crait a number of Vulptex creatures, fox-like animals with crystalline bristles. Although a detailed animatronic was made for the production, the Vulptices were ultimately crafted in CG by ILM.

Academy Award nominee Ben Morris from ILM was the overall visual effects supervisor on The Last Jedi. The other VFX Oscar nominees for the film are Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould. Here, Morris explains the design of the Vulptices, and how they went through both practical and digital builds.
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The art of translating humans to apes

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In War for the Planet of the Apes, Weta Digital proved once again its status as a leading creature house, and one of the most accomplished at taking motion captured human performances and using that as a basis to further realize photoreal digital characters with meticulous attention to detail.

Academy Award nominee Daniel Barrett was Weta Digital’s animation supervisor on War for the Planet of the Apes. The other nominees in the visual effects category for the film are Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist. Here Barrett breaks down a few of the main challenges in translating human motion captured performance into digital apes, including dealing with, of all things, smiles. Continue reading The art of translating humans to apes

The story behind those crazy dioramas in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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A unique scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has Ego (Kurt Russell) explaining to the Guardians his history of universe travel and his many lovers. This is told in a sequence featuring visual effects by Animal Logic, which created 3D picture dioramas with characters inside resembling almost porcelhine-like statues.

Academy Award nominee Christopher Townsend was the overall visual effects supervisor for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The other Oscar nominees for visual effects for that film are Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick. Here Townsend outlines the creative process behind the dioramas, including the false start in their design.

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How the orange haze of Blade Runner 2049’s Las Vegas meant 13 hour renders

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Some of the most visually startling moments in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 are the distinctively orange and hazy Las Vegas scenes. The look for these was said to be inspired by a rare Sydney sandstorm (one that I remember living through).

Academy Award nominee Richard R. Hoover was Framestore’s visual effects supervisor on Blade Runner 2049. The other nominees for the film in the visual effects category are John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer and Paul Lambert. Here, Hoover discusses how getting that orange tinge proved more difficult than first thought, and how making the city look realistic proved even harder.

I talked to Richard at SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 in Bangkok. The conference is in Tokyo in 2018.

Continue reading How the orange haze of Blade Runner 2049’s Las Vegas meant 13 hour renders

Tracking nightmares: behind Blur’s half-digested Billy shots in Deep Rising – from 20 years ago

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

“We said, sure, we can do it! And we did it, although it was very, very painful.” David Stinnett, Blur Studio

While it may not have made a splash at the box office when it was released 20 years ago, Stephen Somers’ Deep Rising certainly contained some considerable ‘out-there’ practical and CG creature work. Most of that was tackled by special make-up and creature effects designer Rob Bottin, Dream Quest Images and ILM, with one particularly gruesome sequence in the 1998 film – the ‘half-digested Billy’ scene – featuring some startling digital make-up by Blur Studio.

Blur had only been formed a few years earlier in 1995, but already had established itself as a creative CG, animation and VFX house. It took on the tough Billy shots, in which actor Clint Curtis emerges partially digested yet still alive from a creature before collapsing, and helped generate one of the film’s classic moments.

On Deep Rising’s 20th anniversary, Blur co-founder and CG supervisor on those shots, David Stinnett, recalled for vfxblog the challenges involved, from coming on board late in production, having to hand-track every single frame, and creating the CG with a tool that many people didn’t think was up to the challenge. Continue reading Tracking nightmares: behind Blur’s half-digested Billy shots in Deep Rising – from 20 years ago