Category Archives: ARTICLE – MAKING OF – MOVIES

THE MAZE RUNNER

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Wes Ball is incredibly knowledgeable for a ‘first-time’ feature director. Being a CG artist and animator himself, he knows what can be done and strives for the results he wants using real-world industry knowledge. The Maze Runner is a story brimming with visual opportunities for Ball to stretch the pixels.

Sue Rowe was brought onboard as VFX Supervisor for The Maze Runner at the very beginning of production, after leaving Cinesite about two years ago. Her history spans thorough some great work on The Golden Compass, John Carter, Troy and X-Men 3. Part of her job was to pull in some of the other key leads for the work at that stage being considered for Method as the sole vendor for The Maze Runner. There was another company that Method outsourced a number of cleanup shots but Method created the 530-odd shots that were in the movie.

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The VFX of Guardians of the Galaxy

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Strong characters, immersive environments and a ripping 80s soundtrack – that’s Marvel’s latest film Guardians of the Galaxy in a nutshell. With two main characters that would be realized entirely in CG, and with vast space and earth-like environments to create, the visual effects crew were once again crucial to completing the film. Overall visual effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti, associate visual effects supervisor Olivier Dumont and visual effects producer Susan Pickett guided the ship. They lead a vast army of VFX artists from 13 companies including MPC, Framestore, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Imageworks and an in-house unit, plus previs/postvis teams from Proof and The Third Floor. fxguide takes a look at just some of the major sequences.

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Guardians of the Galaxy – Framestore

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“Much of the movie’s scene-stealing is left to Rocket, a CGI character impressively crafted by the Guardians’ crack VFX team and voiced with panache by Cooper.” – The Hollywood Reporter

Rocketing to a record-breaking opening weekend success and being labelled as one of the best Marvel films yet, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy wrenches the comic book world into deep space with the universe’s most unlikely bunch of heroes.

Framestore created one of those heroes in the form of Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and animated both him and his arboreal companion Groot (Vin Diesel) in the middle act of the movie that spans more than 40 minutes and 633 final shots. We also created the cavernous expanse of Knowhere – a giant mined out skull that’s home to a whole city – the most complicated environment we’ve ever built.

Our work was overseen by VFX Supervisors Jonathan Fawkner and Kyle McCulloch, with the latter on set at Shepperton and Longcross studios in the UK.

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Legend or truth: the VFX of Hercules

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Brett Ratner’s Hercules tells the myth – and the truths – behind the demigod son of Zeus. Visual effects supervisor John Bruno had to walk the line between the man and the myth in both helping to craft the film’s gritty battle action and bringing to life the Hercules’ legendary Twelve Labors in which he encounters a series of fantastical beasts. Despite these daunting effects tasks, Bruno still saw a need to de-emphasize the effects and maintain realism. “The most fantastical effects were Hercules’ Labors,” says Bruno, “but we still wanted to base those on reality. Although the creatures became quite large we still wanted to set them up in an environment that was quite real.”

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Back to the Future

"Back to the Future," Einstein Jump

This is the first of several follow-up posts to our "Back To The Future" podcast on The VFX Show.  Here's an objective breakdown of "Back to the Future"'s first big effects sequence, the first time slice of the movie that sends Einstein the dog forwards in time.

  Real photographic background plate of Delorean, with glows and time slice animation created by the animation department at Industrial Light & Magic. The fire and sparks (and their reflections) were created on the set with special effects rigs attached to the Delorean. A large strobe light on location provided bright interactive light. Full frame flashing was also achieved in the optical composite. Hey, look in the upper left corner of the screen. Say hi to the crew! Panning left with Delorean. The car is actually on the set, with animation and effects added optically. The pan reveals bluescreen-photographed Marty and Doc. The actors were tracked and matted into the shot. Pan abruptly stops, explosions and flares optically composited to represent time slice effect. First visible frame of explosion element. The main explosion element has a faked reflection in the wet ground, achieved in the optical composite. Explosion element runs backwards, giving the impression of an implosion. On-location, live-action ignition of fire trails appear, and are skip printed to appear to ignite much faster than reality would allow, approximating the feeling of 88mph. Marty's foreground foot is rotoscoped to allow the fire trail to appear behind his leg. The last frame of the shot. In-camera effect, featuring on-set fire trails, using stunt performers. This shot was skip printed in post production to give the ignition the feeling of greater velocity, giving the impression of the Delorean continuing its 88mph journey in a parallel dimension of time. As a result, the fire's motion is somewhat strobey. Notice the relative exposure difference between this shot and the shots preceeding and following it. In this shot, the cinematographer exposed the film to feature the fire (or was underexposed in the colortiming or visual effects process), which reveals the internal structure of the fire. In the shots before and after, the actors and environment were the target exposure values; consequently, in those shots, the fire is blown out and overexposed, leaving only hot white fire shapes. The first frame of the iconic Einstein time slice effect, featuring actors Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. The actors were shot against a bluescreen, standing on a mirror. The mirror gave the effects artists pristine reflections of the actors; the reflections were matted to separate them from the actors, and treated in the composite to appear as wet, pavement reflections by adding displacement and tweaking the brightness. Michael J. Fox's screen right foot was placed behind fire licks via frame-by-frame rotoscoping. Areas of fire were articulated to bury Fox's foot within the fire. Like the previous two shots, the background plate was skip printed to give the fire trails more energy and speed. "What did I tell you?!?" "Eighty eight miles per hour!!" This shot is entirely in-camera. The fire trails are a practical effect, just like all of the previous shots. In the sequence, the trails have been fully formed, and are no longer being generated; as a result, there was no need to skip print the trails for this shot.

In a future post, I hope to dissect the shots more thoroughly from a subjective point of view, and expand upon ideas Mark, Mike and I discussed on the podcast.