Ken Ralston, people

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Last night at the VES Awards, vfx supervisor Ken Ralston was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. A few days earlier I’d been able to chat to him about his career, about some specific films like Roger Rabbit and Polar Express, and about his take on the current state of the industry. Check it out at Cartoon Brew.

The race to finish Dante’s Peak…20 years ago

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

Today, many of the visual effects in the 1997 disaster flick Dante’s Peak would probably be done completely digitally. Pyroclastic flows, exploding buildings, bridges and cars being swept away by a torrent of ashen river – these are things that can be done with complex effects simulations, CG elements and masterful compositing.

But two decades ago, the techniques were still in their infancy, and a hybrid approach to realising such shots involving miniatures, practical effects and then augmenting with digital techniques, was just emerging.

c4cygjcvmaagyl_Dante’s Peak, directed by Roger Donaldson, took advantage of this approach by incorporating some of the most convincing miniatures ever put to screen – especially for the river and bridge scene – and using nascent digital effects tools to add even more layers of realism. The work was realised by Digital Domain as well as a host of other modelmaking studios and digital effects houses.

To celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, vfxblog spoke to overall visual effects supervisor Patrick McClung, then at DD, about the hybrid effects in Dante’s Peak, how the decisions about miniatures were made, and how the only slightly related Volcano film heavily influenced production. Continue reading The race to finish Dante’s Peak…20 years ago

You’re a wonderful human being: re-visiting CG Jabba 20 years later

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

You might have seen former ILM visual effects and animation supervisor Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams pop up on vfxblog quite a lot recently. That’s because he was involved in a number of seminal VFX films celebrating their various anniversaries of late, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park.

Williams was also involved in another landmark – and somewhat notorious – moment in visual effects, when George Lucas revisited his original Star Wars trilogy for the ‘Special Edition’ releases. In particular, Williams was asked to animate a digital Jabba the Hutt for a deleted scene from A New Hope when the gangster confronts Han Solo on Mos Eisley.

The scene had been shot for the 1977 release using a stand-in actor (Declan Mulholland) for Jabba, with plans to realise the sequence with a puppet or stop-motion character. But, as Williams recounts in this chat with vfxblog, it wasn’t until the ‘Special Editions’ – released 20 years ago this week – that Lucas felt he could take advantage of advancements ILM was making in CGI to complete the scene and have Jabba moving along the ground, unlike how audiences had previously witnessed the creature in Return of the Jedi. Continue reading You’re a wonderful human being: re-visiting CG Jabba 20 years later

Woh, that’s a lot of powerhouse VFX presentations in one room

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Rogue One. The Jungle Book. Fantastic Beasts. Game of Thrones. Plus all the major Vancouver facilities at the careers fair. And an innovative Women in VFX session looking at how to get more women working in the industry.

That’s what you can see this year at Spark FX in Vancouver, which is happening Saturday 4th February at the Vancouver International Film Centre.

The presentations at Spark are even more impressive considering many of those films and shows are Oscar and VES nominated, and feature some of the top talent in VFX right now.

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Careers fair at Spark FX.

I’m going to be there, too, moderating the Women in VFX panel, featuring artists and supervisors from Imageworks, Dneg and Image Engine.

Here’s how it works – head to the Spark FX site and click on Online Reservations. The sessions are generally $20 each. The Women in VFX session is free. I’d get in now because they tend to sell out pretty quickly.

Hope to see you there – please come say hi!