‘You can’t wipe them off, they’re holograms.’ Well………

How closely were you watching that game of Dejarik in Solo? Now’s the time to take another look…

Pretty much every Star Wars film has fun Easter Eggs. But Ron Howard’s Solo has one of the coolest ‘inside visual effects’ hidden gem played out so far. And it’s to do with the game of Dejarik – or Holochess – that Chewbacca and Tobias Beckett play on the Millennium Falcon (which is at this stage owned by Lando Calrissian).

Holochess should be something that most avid Star Wars-watchers are familiar with. It showed up first in A New Hope, where Phil Tippett and Jon Berg animated stop-motion creatures that were composited as holograms into a scene of Chewbacca playing the game against R2-D2. A brief refrain of the game appeared in The Force Awakens, too. Then, in Solo, Chewbacca loses at the hands of Beckett.

But…something pretty cool happens during that most recent incarnation in Solo.

Let’s start with the actual clip from the film.

Did you see it? Watch it again and look what happens when Chewie gets frustrated and slams and wipes the board with his arm.

That’s right, two of the creatures actually ‘pop off’ as holograms, presumably because Chewie uses his Wookie strength to almost break the Holochess table.

Both the ‘new’ chess pieces are there (look above the second light from the left on the table).
Chewie goes nuts.
After the table sparks, the pieces have now ‘popped’ off. You can see the gap left on the board.

‘Big deal,’ I hear you say. Well, it’s actually a completely intentional thing. That’s because those two creatures that pop off the board were actually two creatures originally intended to be in the game during A New Hope.

Wait, what?

Well, here’s what happened, as described by Solo visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow at a recent Visual Effects Society screening and Q&A of the film.

The story was, Tippett had originally built 10 more characters, two more than he needed. Apparently George Lucas came out when they were lining up the shots for A New Hope 41 years ago and he said, ‘Oh it’s too crowded.’ So Tippett took a couple of them off the board and they were never seen again.

But…those pieces were not actually lost forever. Relatively recently, Tippett did find the original designs to the two creatures. What’s more, it turned out he’d given the unused stop-motion models to ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren after A New Hope wrapped. And Muren had kept them, all these years.

Just to be sure, watch this clip from A New Hope, which shows just eight characters on the table.

The discovery of the two missing creatures seems to have happened as Tippett was simultaneously cleaning out his studio and preparing rewards for a Kickstarter for his short film project MAD GOD. His studio accessed the original models, scanned them via photogrammetry and moulded new versions for the rewards.

In fact, that Kickstarter project was all documented last year in a video for Tested, which showed how the new moulds were made and the figures crafted for awards.

Jump to production on Solo, and Tippett Studio – which had already re-made the original eight Holochess characters for a brief scene of Finn activating the table in The Force Awakens – was called upon to make this new Dejarik game between Chewie and Beckett.

That spurned the idea, as a story point, that perhaps there were originally ten creatures to the game on Lando’s Falcon, until Chewie’s meltdown.

Bredow related further on this at the VES event:

Tippett said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if the pristine Lando Falcon has two extra characters on the board?’ And then we realised when Chewie does this [mimes hand thumping], two of the buttons popped off the table. If you watch carefully…two extra characters for two shots. Then they disappear, never to be seen again.

Which just goes to show, it really is unwise to upset a Wookie.

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A pic of one of the original missing chess pieces (from the Tested video).
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A pic of the other missing chess piece (from the Tested video).
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Tippett with the collection of chess pieces during A New Hope (one of the missing pieces is identified). This pic from the Kickstarter for MAD GOD Part 3.

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Deadpool 2’s what the…!? scene and how it was made

A lot of crazy stuff happens in Deadpool 2. A lot. But perhaps nothing quite matches the ‘baby legs’ moment. It’s when Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is stuck on the couch of his elderly blind roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) while his legs re-generate, having been earlier torn in half by Juggernaut (oh yeah, that was pretty crazy, too).

We first see the stumpy legs – and possibly more – as Wilson sits. Then, Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives and Wade shuffles up to him, baby-walk style. To pull off the legs gag, director David Leitch entrusted production visual effects supervisor Dan Glass and VFX studio Double Negative to work their magic. vfxblog asked Glass to describe how those shots were made. Continue reading Deadpool 2’s what the…!? scene and how it was made

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://atomic-temporary-105830471.wpcomstaging.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://atomic-temporary-105830471.wpcomstaging.com/viewpaint/

James Cameron on the state of 3D, his plans for immersive filmmaking, how he approached Avatar creature design, why machines won’t like being slaves, and his promise to do a commentary track for The Terminator

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I was lucky enough to score a ticket last night to see James Cameron speak in Sydney. It was at a Vivid event, a festival here famous for lighting up city landmarks and for presentations on culture, new ideas and art and technology.

Cameron shared his journey on all sorts of things, mostly related to his deep sea expeditions and environmental causes. He was incredibly engaging the whole time and managed to pass on a few key insights into his past, recent and upcoming filmmaking adventures (yes, he mentioned the Avatar sequels A LOT).

I’ve gathered a few of his thoughts on the state of stereoscopic filmmaking, what he wants to do with 360 degree video, his approach to making creatures in Avatar, his take on the future of artificial intelligence (it doesn’t go well for humans), and a BIG promise relating to The Terminator. Continue reading James Cameron on the state of 3D, his plans for immersive filmmaking, how he approached Avatar creature design, why machines won’t like being slaves, and his promise to do a commentary track for The Terminator

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

Submit your film to VIEW Conference!

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Are you a filmmaker? The 2018 VIEW Conference is now accepting submissions for its 2018 film competitions.

There’s a €2,000 first prize – the VIEW Award – for short animated film, and the ITALIANMIX award for Italian short films.

Here’s some more info on how to enter:

– The VIEW AWARD is open to professionals and students, individuals or groups. Entries must be 2D or 3D animated films of 30 minutes or less created after January 1, 2016. An international jury drawn from the VIEW conference speaker roster will award the prize.

– The ITALIANMIX award is open to Italian artists working individually or with a group. Animated, experimental, or documentary films of 30 minutes or less created after January 1, 2016 are accepted. The winner will receive a Wacom tablet.

– Any dialog in the films must be in English or Italian, or have subtitles in English or Italian. Each submission should come with a press kit, a description of the project, high res still images of the work, and director credits. There is a €10 fee to enter.

– To enter either competition, go to https://festivals.festhome.com/f/776

– The deadline for entries is September 15, 2018.

The VIEW Conference takes place in Turin from October 22 to 26 and vfxblog will be there – you can register at https://www.viewconference.it.

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

DeepImpact

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://atomic-temporary-105830471.wpcomstaging.com/deepimpact/