Full liquid metal, now in 3D: re-visiting the freakin’ T-1000 walking out of the fiery truck crash

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

If you’ve never seen James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day – either on the big or small screen – now’s the time to embrace this wonder of filmmaking and effects. The movie has been digitally re-mastered and received the ‘full liquid metal 3D’ stereo conversion treatment by Stereo D. The new release just premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and will have public release dates around the world in August.

Twenty-six years ago, T2 helped usher in a new wave of digital visual effects artistry thanks to the pioneering computer graphics work by ILM, capitalising on their work for The Abyss, and then which the studio took even further on Jurassic Park.

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It was the liquid metal T-1000 played by Robert Patrick that represented the majority of this CGI work in the film. Indeed, a hero reveal of the ‘cybernetic organism’ emerging from the flames of a burning truck wreckage became one of ILM’s signature shots for years to come.

Two of the principal artists behind that work were animation director Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams and associate visual effects supervisor Mark Dippé. In this special vfxblog interview conducted at SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Terminator 2, Williams and Dippé recount their efforts to create that memorable shot, known as CC-1.

Continue reading Full liquid metal, now in 3D: re-visiting the freakin’ T-1000 walking out of the fiery truck crash

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

When miniatures and CGI met in the sky: the vfx of Turbulence

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Remember Turbulence? It was a much-hyped disaster flick set on a passenger 747 starring Lauren Holly and Ray Liotta, and released 20 years ago. The film may not by one for the history books, but its visual effects – a hybrid of miniatures and digital techniques – came right at a time where film VFX were transitioning heavily to CGI.

In honour of the film’s 20th anniversary, vfxblog spoke to visual effects supervisor Mark Vargo, who was also credited as a second unit DOP, about how he and teams from Boss Film Studios, Pacific Title Digital and other effects shops handled the work – including depicting the jetliner amidst a wild storm, having it flip over, and an exciting crash into a rooftop carpark. Included are several behind the scenes images and clips of the miniatures work. Continue reading When miniatures and CGI met in the sky: the vfx of Turbulence

Behind the ILM Mars Attacks! tests that convinced Tim Burton to go CG

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Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

1996 was a break-out year for digital visual effects, with advancements in front and centre CG characters (Dragonheart), heavy environments and digital compositing (Independence Day), and photoreal CG simulations (Twister).

Another film that took advantage of the the state of VFX was Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, a quirky off-shoot of the 1960s Topps trading cards. Although its martians were initially imagined by the director to be stop-motion characters, Industrial Light & Magic would ultimately produce a series of tests that convinced Burton to realise them in CG. The newly formed Warner Digital Studios also crafted other key CG shots.

On its 20th anniversary, vfxblog revisits ILM’s breakthrough animation tests for the martians with Mars Attacks!’s visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell and animation supervisor David Andrews (who actually has a VFX supervisor credit on the film). Plus, Mike Fink, then VFX supervisor at Warner Digital, looks back at the saucer and robot effects for the cult classic. Continue reading Behind the ILM Mars Attacks! tests that convinced Tim Burton to go CG

The story behind Hook’s innovative projected matte painting – 25 years ago

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Steven Spielberg’s Hook was released 25 years ago this week (it opened on December 11th, 1991) and at the time was one of ILM’s most intensive visual effects projects. VFX supe Eric Brevig oversaw a raft of flying scenes, matte paintings, models and even Go-Motion animation for Tinkerbell’s wings.

A major innovation on the show was the use of a projected matte painting in the sequence showing Peter (Robin Williams) flying towards Neverland – the first time a dimensional matte painting like that had been seen on film.

To celebrate Hook’s 25th anniversary, vfxblog caught up briefly with Stefen Fangmeier, then an ILM computer graphics supervisor, to discuss how that dimensional matte painting was achieved on the film. Continue reading The story behind Hook’s innovative projected matte painting – 25 years ago

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