Making memories with BUF

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When Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 came out, I remember thinking one of the coolest scenes was Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) designing replicant memories – you see her scrubbing through moments and making slight tweaks and adjustments. One part of that scene features a children’s birthday, which was achieved by shooting real kids on bluescreen with multiple cameras, and then using projection mapping to achieve the little ‘scrubbing’ movements. BUF handled the visual effects.

Last year I had a quick chat to overall visual effects supervisor John Nelson about that work. And now that BUF has released its VFX breakdown for Blade Runner 2049 (which contains a whole lot of their other awesome shots), I thought I’d share what John told me about the birthday scene.

John Nelson: The kids were sort of a science project. Conceptually, the idea for that is that Ana makes memories but what we were thinking there is that she controls space and time. What I was told is we’re bringing in the kids. The kids will do this action. Then Ana will be able to scrub back and forth and move them around in time. I had to figure out a way to do that.

We shot the kids on bluescreen. There would be an interactive light that Roger Deakins put in. Then I would measure with a tape measure from the centre of the table that the kids were around to the camera. Then I would walk around in a 180 degree arc, drawing a line on the floor of the stage. So I had this 180 degree semi-circle with Roger’s camera right in the middle of it. Then I set up two cameras to the left and two cameras to the right so I had five cameras looking at these kids. Then we brought in the kids and then we made them do all of their actions.

What we could do then is by using all five cameras, we could swivel them around, make them go in reverse, make them freeze, we could make all the actions of the kids independent from the actions of Roger’s camera. I mean, in the end, I think what we did is, Denis went for it to be very subtle. It’s very subtle. We really were in control of space and time. We could make them reverse. We could make them stop. We could make them go forward. Make the glitch do anything. But what he chose to do is very subtle stuff because that’s what he was trying to hone in on.

Woh, a VFX event on Last Jedi, Apes, Blade Runner, Paddington 2, Star Trek and Neill Blomkamp shorts

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Check out that list again in the heading – those are some of the biggest visual effects  projects around, and they’re all going to be discussed by the studios behind the work at the upcoming SPARK FX 2018 in Vancouver.

It’s on Saturday 10th February at the VIFF Vancity Theatre, a neat cinema venue which will also host in the foyer a Career Fair featuring a ton of local studios looking to hear from potential artists.

I’m lucky enough to be one of the chairs of the event, so I’ll be there to watch the presentations – which by the way are from ILM, Weta Digital, Double Negative, Framestore, Oats Studios and Pixomondo – and to moderate one of the sessions.

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Photo by Cindy LMh.

The quick run down is:

9am – STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI with Dan Seddon from ILM
10:30 am – THE VISUAL EFFECTS OF BLADE RUNNER 2049 with Chris McLaughlin from Dneg
12:00 pm – DISCOVERING THE VFX OF STAR TREK with Mahmoud Rahnama from Pixomondo
1:30 pm – REAL-TIME FILMMAKING: INSIDE OATS STUDIOS & NEILL BLOMKAMP’S LATEST SHORTS with Oats’ Chris Harvey
3:00 pm – PADDINGTON 2: THE CHARMING SIDE OF A CG BEAR with Claire Michaud & Pablo Grillo from Framestore
4:30 pm – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES with Dan Lemmon & Joel Whist from Weta Digital.

Check out the full program for the Saturday here.

Then, on Sunday 11th February, there’s another special VFX-related event with a Diversity Summit to be held at the Vancouver Film School. I’ll have more details on that soon.

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A pic from the Women in VFX panel I moderated last year. Photo by Ana Norambuena.

Last year, SPARK FX was an absolute delight – the talks were incredibly engaging, and then outside the main speaking room the career fair was one of the busiest and buoyant I’ve ever seen.

Hope to see you in Vancouver.

Re-visiting Jumanji

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Anyone who saw Jumanji in the 90s knew that CG and VFX was already changing films forever. I got to chat to former ILM animation supervisor and now director Kyle Balda about his work on it, for VFX Voice magazine.

The VFX magic of ‘The Shape of Water’

Recently, I was able to interview several of the effects filmmakers behind Guillermo del Toro’s amazing The Shape of Water. You can check those pieces out at VFX Voice and Cartoon Brew. The film has also been shortlisted in the final 10 movies for consideration for the visual effects Oscar, and will be at the VFX Bake-Off today in Los Angeles.

Now the studio behind the film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, has released a two-minute VFX breakdown. It showcases the digital effects by Mr. X Inc, championed by Dennis Berardi (Senior Visual Effects Supervisor), Luke Groves (Co-Visual Effects Supervisor), Trey Harrell (Digital Effects Supervisor) and Kevin Scott (Animation Supervisor). And it also serves to show the impressive collaboration between Mr. X’s digital work and that of the practical creature effects, led by Mike Hill (Creature Lead Designer/Sculptor) and Legacy Effects’ Shane Mahan (Project Supervisor/Make Up Effects). Enjoy the video above!