Inside the mind of Pacific Rim: Uprising’s animation director

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Pacific Rim: Uprising might just be an animator’s dream project; giant Jaeger robots fighting giant alien Kaiju. Whenever I watch a film like that, I always wonder, where do the animators start? Notwithstanding the fact that there’s already a Pacific Rim film out there, and perhaps plenty of other giant fighting robot films, something about Uprising’s animation felt different.

So I asked animation director Aaron Gilman to tell me. He’s now at Double Negative and is a veteran of such other effects-heavy films as Avatar and Iron Man 3 at Weta Digital. We talked about getting started with animating such large characters, finding performances, using motion capture and what Gilman calls his ‘Heft and Jank’ approach. Continue reading Inside the mind of Pacific Rim: Uprising’s animation director

Mandelbulbs, mutations and motion capture: the visual effects of Annihilation

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When Alex Garland’s Ex Machina won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2016, it was perhaps considered a major surprise in the VFX community. But the win also highlighted just how crucial the visual effects were in bringing the story of the A.I. robot Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, to life.

Now Garland and Ex Machina’s Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst from Double Negative have re-teamed on Annihilation, about a group of scientists who investigate a mysterious quarantined zone called the Shimmer. While there was a larger visual effects effort required for this new film – which involved the Shimmer itself, an array of mutated creatures and an alien humanoid being – the VFX again remain highly integrated into the storytelling and crucial in realizing Garland’s vision.

vfxblog caught up with Whitehurst for an in-depth discussion about making the film and the visual effects (realized by Double Negative, Milk VFX, Nvisible and Union VFX), including shooting in real locations in the UK, designing with Mandelbulb 3D fractals, filming with practical effects and stand-ins for much of the creature work, and delivering a beautifully choreographed ‘dance’ for Annihilation’s stunning conclusion.

***Warning: this interview contains major plot spoilers*** Continue reading Mandelbulbs, mutations and motion capture: the visual effects of Annihilation

A whole bunch of Blade Runner 2049 VFX breakdowns in one place

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Over the past few months, I’ve seen some incredible – incredible – VFX breakdowns posted by the various studios behind the effects in Blade Runner 2049 (overall supervisor John Nelson). So here’s a whole bunch of them in one place at vfxblog. I’m sorry if I’ve missed any of the major work, please let me know.

The story behind Cloverfield’s classic Statue of Liberty shot – in the teaser AND the final film

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In the summer of 2007, Paramount Pictures ran a teaser trailer for an unnamed film with the release of Michael Bay’s Transformers. It featured a group of New York friends at a party who suddenly witness a massive explosion and then see the head of the Statute of Liberty careening down a city street.

That teaser, which went majorly viral, was of course later revealed to be for the Matt Reeves’ monster movie Cloverfield, produced by J.J. Abrams. Eventually the ‘found-footage’ film released in January 2008 would go on to be a huge hit. But there were two fascinating things about that intense teaser; the first is that it was filmed largely while the production was still in prep as a test-bed for the hand-held VFX requirements of the movie.

The second fascinating fact was that, although the majority of the visual effects for the final film were handled by Double Negative and Tippett Studio, the visual effects for the Statue of Liberty head teaser were done by Hammerhead Productions (a fact even mentioned in the official production notes).

It’s certainly not unusual for a different studio to tackle teaser trailer shots or for shots and elements to change from teaser to final – in fact, it happens regularly simply because these teasers need to get out there, quickly. But it is interesting to see what the differences were between the original teaser (above) and the final scene from the film (below).

Now, on the tenth anniversary of Cloverfield, and as a brand new viral marketing campaign for a third Cloverfield film directed by Julius Onah (once known as God Particle) gets underway, vfxblog revisits the original film’s teaser and the final Liberty head VFX from the film. Continue reading The story behind Cloverfield’s classic Statue of Liberty shot – in the teaser AND the final film