Let’s celebrate the 20th anniversary of this amazing First Contact vfx shot

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It was the end of 1996, I had just finished high school and was discovering visual effects – in particular, the coverage of vfx in Cinefex – and then, Star Trek: First Contact came out.

There are some incredible vfx shots in the film. The opening pull-back from Captain Picard. The ship to ship battles. The Borg cube. But there is one single stunner of a shot by ILM – the assembly of the Borg queen – that blew me away. It wasn’t until reading more about ILM’s work on the shot on Todd Vaziri’s VFX HQ and then in Cinefex that I could really appreciate just how much work went into it, but in the cinema I knew the sequence was something special from a vfx perspective.

Why, though? In some ways it was not groundbreaking character animation/rendering, or any other kind of brand new tech. The reason, I think, is that the shot is just such a classic trick shot and a brilliant combination of clever practical photography, some CG and plenty of paint/clean-up and compositing – but without being over the top. It was exactly what the new digital tools and techniques just gaining prominence should have been used for at the time (and not always were).

On one of the DVD releases, visual effects supervisor John Knoll describes in detail how the scene was film and how the vfx was achieved. Check it out below.

Happy 20th anniversary, Star Trek: First Contact.

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