On the 20th anniversary of The X-Files Movie: ‘splosions!

In my book, Masters of FX, I profiled 16 visual and special effects supervisors about their bodies of work. One of those was Ian Hunter, who, through Hunter/Gratzner Industries and New Deal Studios, has contributed a wealth of practical, miniature, and other effects work for large scale films and other projects.

Hunter supervised the miniature explosion of the federal building in The X-Files Movie, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. Back in 1998, the film featured a mix of practical and digital effects work, but the building explosion and subsequent partial collapse – which happens very early on – was easily the most spectacular scene.

That work made its way as a dedicated spread into Masters of FX, but as a special for the anniversary, I’m sharing Hunter’s full notes on that scene that he prepared for me for the book. Read on to find out more about the concept of ‘pre-disastering’, air rams and cut-up phone books. Continue reading On the 20th anniversary of The X-Files Movie: ‘splosions!

Jurassic Week: the Dinosaur Input Device

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Next up in vfxblog’s Jurassic Week is a brand new oral history on the making of the Dinosaur Input Device. It was this dinosaur-shaped stop-motion armature fitted with special encoders that kept Tippett Studio in the game during the making of Jurassic Park, after its original stop-motion dinos were scrapped in favour of ILM’s CG. This oral history includes a ton of rarely seen behind the scenes images.

https://vfxblog.com/dinosaurinputdevice

Jurassic Week: the history of Viewpaint

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This week vfxblog is celebrating Jurassic Week, a whole week of Jurassic Park-inspired articles to celebrate the imminent 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park and the upcoming release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. First up, a look at ILM’s secret weapon in bringing its photoreal dinosaurs to life: Viewpaint, a 3D texturing tool that let artists paint directly on CG dinosaur models. Start reading at the special dedicated page below.

https://vfxblog.com/viewpaint/

Retro vfx: Godzilla is 20!

Patrick Tatopoulos 6th scale Godzilla upper torso. Destruction of miniature jetty with Godzilla head. Photo by Isabella Vosmikova, © 1998 Tristar Pictures.

In vfxblog’s ‘Man-in-suit, miniatures, mechanics and modern CG: looking back at 20 years since Godzilla’, we chat to visual effects supervisor Volker Engel about this massive 1998 release and its use of practical, miniature, animatronics, puppet and CGI effects – all at once. The Q&A has some fun new facts about the teaser trailer for the film, and about how a whole bunch of shots were done, including one of my favourites, the fisherman running along that pier. You can check it all out at this dedicated link:

http://www.vfxblog.com/godzilla

Remembering this killer ILM shot from Deep Impact, now 20 years old

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20 years ago, the first of 1998’s asteroid films, Deep Impact, was released. In some ways it used visual effects rather sparingly to showcase the result of a partial meteor hit on the Earth. Massive waves hitting New York were a feature of the film, and these were realised as CG water sims by ILM. One shot in particular stayed in my memory – an overhead view of the waves crashing between buildings. Christopher Horvath was behind the sims for that shot, and he spoke to vfxblog about how it was made two decades ago. Read the interview here: http://vfxblog.com/deepimpact/

Dark City at 20: a conversation with colorist Peter Doyle

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Filmed in Sydney and released 20 years ago this week in 1998, Alex Proyas’ Dark City surprised many by instantly becoming a neo-noir sci-fi classic. Fans of Proyas’ earlier works, including The Crow, were perhaps not surprised at the director’s adept skills in crafting a film around a dark sun-less world run by a mysterious group known as the ‘Strangers’.

Helping Proyas to achieve a distinctive look and feel to Dark City was Peter Doyle. Doyle is best known as championing the digital colour grading on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as lending his colorist skills on the Harry Potter films. Now he’s a supervising visual colorist at Technicolor, with recent credits on films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Darkest Hour and Paddington 2.

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Peter Doyle.

But before Lord of the Rings and all those other blockbuster films, Doyle made his mark at Dfilm in Sydney, a film production services lab formed in 1995 that Doyle joined to help establish a wider digital post-production ambit. One of Dfilm’s first prominent gigs in that regard would be Alex Proyas’ Dark City (the company would later go on to work on The Matrix, also filmed in Sydney).

On Dark City’s 20th anniversary, vfxblog asked Doyle, who is credited as visual effects creative director on the film, about his time on the project, which came right as traditional film workflows were truly transitioning to digital, and as Australia’s own visual effects industry was just ramping up. Continue reading Dark City at 20: a conversation with colorist Peter Doyle

‘We tried a million things’ – the oral history of Sphere’s sphere

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Barry Levinson’s 1998 film Sphere, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week, brought with it a diverse array of visual effects straddling both the practical and digital worlds. Its central ‘character’, the sphere itself, was a CG creation by Cinesite, and proved to be one of the toughest design challenges on the movie.

Overall visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun and Cinesite laboured for months over the appearance and textural qualities of the sphere, which needed to be other-worldly, ‘perfect’ and non-reflective – all at the same time. In this oral history of the sphere, vfxblog looks back with members of the visual effects team on the film at how the CG creation was realised – even actor Samuel L. Jackson hilariously weighs in.

Note: Okun’s comments are taken from the fantastic documentary appearing on the Sphere DVD called ‘Shaping the Sphere: The Art of the Visual Effects Supervisor’, while Jackson’s words are from those he made during the audio commentary on the Sphere DVD. Continue reading ‘We tried a million things’ – the oral history of Sphere’s sphere