The struggles – and successes – of Spawn

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After pioneering the development of CG characters at ILM on The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park, Mark Dippé took on the directing duties for Spawn, based on the comic by Todd McFarlane. He was joined on the production by vfx supervisor and ILM ‘partner-in-crime’ Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams. The New Line film was released on August 1st, 1997 and contained over 400 vfx shots – a huge amount at the time – that were completed by 22 companies, with ILM as the lead vendor.

Spawn was a much anticipated film, made at a time before the explosion in comic book movies. It was a tough shoot for the first time feature film director, and an ambitious production in terms of its visual effects. Dippé and Williams are speaking this week, with Scott Ross, at SIGGRAPH Asia about their work on Terminator 2. In the spirit of looking back and key visual effects projects, vfxblog spoke to them briefly about the challenges of bringing Spawn to the screen. Continue reading The struggles – and successes – of Spawn

T2 is 25: Robert Skotak’s liquid metal effects

T2Mercury-3James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day is 25 years old. Soon on Cartoon Brew, I’ll have a full-length piece tracing the effects work by 4WARD Productions for the nuclear nightmare sequence, thanks to an in-depth conversation I had with 4WARD’s Robert Skotak. But first, a special preview and a look behind the scenes at some other work 4WARD produced for T2 – the T-1000 re-assembly sequence in the steel mill, where the pools of liquid metal start to re-form.  Continue reading T2 is 25: Robert Skotak’s liquid metal effects

Old meets new: the vfx of Independence Day – Part 2

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Under the artful watch of visual and digital effects supervisors Volker Engel, Doug Smith and Tricia Ashford, a crack team of in-house effects artists and several post houses carried out the significant CG, matte painting and compositing duties for Independence Day. Among those was VisionArt, which came onto the production late in the game to help produce dogfight sequences, Alien Attacker shield effects and the final Mothership explosion. Faced with next to no time on these shots, artists at the studio capitalized on Side Effects’ Prisms (pre-Houdini) and developed its own procedural systems, in particular a tool called ‘Sparky’, to deliver the effects on time. In Part 2 of our retro ID4 coverage (Part 1 looked at the Model Shop), vfxblog talks to two VisionArt artists on Independence Day, Rob Bredow, now CTO at Lucasfilm, and Daniel Kramer, now a visual effects supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks. Continue reading Old meets new: the vfx of Independence Day – Part 2

Old meets new: the vfx of ‘Independence Day’ – Part 1

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Roland Emmerich’s 1996 disaster blockbuster Independence Day is about to get a very new sequel which features the latest in cutting-edge digital visual effects. Twenty years ago the director and his prolific effects team were faced with the gargantuan task of realizing big, big shots, a feat they achieved using both CG techniques – at the time still very difficult to accomplish photorealistically – and some of the best miniature work ever done. In this two part feature, vfxblog looks back at the practical and digital accomplishments on the vfx Oscar-winning Independence Day. We start with an exclusive video focusing on the film’s model shop. Continue reading Old meets new: the vfx of ‘Independence Day’ – Part 1

Animator Tom St Amand reflects on 25 years of ‘The Rocketeer’

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Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer was released 25 years ago today – on 21 June, 1991. Tom St Amand was ILM’s stop motion animator on the film and responsible for bringing to life an armatured version of the flying character which would then be composited into live action aerial plates. vfxblog asked St Amand to go back a quarter of a century and discuss how motion control, stop motion and optical effects made those dynamic shots possible.

Continue reading Animator Tom St Amand reflects on 25 years of ‘The Rocketeer’

‘Mission: Impossible’: ILM’s pioneering vfx 20 years on

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The Mission: Impossible spread from Masters of FX, detailing ILM and John Knoll’s work on the film, today celebrating its 20th anniversary.

1996 really was a big year in film releases and in vfx break-throughs. Mission: Impossible might not necessarily be thought of as a vfx blockbuster in the same vein as Twister or Independence Day from that year, but in many ways it ushered in several new techniques and drew upon a raft old ones to help tell this thrilling first story in the M:I franchise. Now 20 years old, here’s a quick look back at one particular technique – projecting mapping – that was used on the film at a time that the effect was still not all that common. Continue reading ‘Mission: Impossible’: ILM’s pioneering vfx 20 years on