Category Archives: ARTICLE – MAKING OF – MOVIES

Hold on! The VFX of Rogue Nation

In previous Mission: Impossible efforts, Tom Cruise has scaled the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, free-climbed the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario and jumped off a Shanghai skyscraper. The actor, famous for doing his own stunts, again ups the ante in Rogue Nation by grasping onto the outside of a Airbus A400M as it takes off. Not only that, Cruise rides 100 miles an hour on a motorbike – with no helmet – and performs his fair share of stunts and jumps from great heights and even for long periods underwater.

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Method Studios Comes Up Big by Going Small on ‘Ant-Man’

On Marvel Studios’ latest superhero feature, Ant-Man, Method Studios, led by visual effects supervisor Greg Steele, was charged with populating the film’s macro world with insects imbued with personality while maintaining a photorealistic look. “The Marvel creatives were nervous of people being turned off by the ants. What we wanted to do was give the insects more of a visual appeal,” notes Steele. “The first thing to go were all of the nasty thorny hairs all over the ant’s body, which were replaced with peach fuzz. Next were their mannerisms and how they moved. We did a range of tests early on when developing the vignettes. When Ant-Man is shown at small scale, time slows down so that the ants don’t appear too frenetic. We treated them almost like puppy dogs. The cute behaviour went over well.”

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Almost more than you can bear: the VFX of Ted 2

Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 hit Ted resonated highly with film audiences, who not only witnessed a story about a real live – and subversive – teddy bear, but also one that featured a completely computer generated, albeit infused with the often motion captured performance of MacFarlane himself. The CG bear in the first film was realized also thanks to the combined efforts of Tippett Studio and Iloura, overseen by visual effects supervisor Blair Clark. For Ted 2, in which Ted and his new bride Tami-Lynn want to have a baby but must first prove he’s a person, that same visual effects team returned to once again bring the character to life.

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Surviving San Andreas

Brad Peyton’s disaster flick San Andreas recounts the efforts of a rescue helicopter pilot, Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson), who must rescue his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) after a series of major earthquakes and aftershocks rattle Los Angeles and San Francisco from a heretofore unknown fault line. Under visual effects supervisor Colin Strause and visual effects producer Randy Starr, a host of vendors staged widespread destruction and carnage and even a tsunami through several locations. fxguide finds out the ‘How To’ behind some of the film’s biggest effects.

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A Graphic Tale: The Visual Effects of Mad Max: Fury Road

When George Miller looked to return to the world of Mad Max with his new Fury Road, the director began a lengthy development period that saw several false starts but ultimately culminated in a six-month long shoot in the Namibian desert. Here, DOP John Seale would use multiple digital cameras to capture incredible practical stunts with more than 150 vehicles conceived by production designer Colin Gibson, then rigged, driven and crashed thanks to the efforts of key crew including special effects supervisors Andy Williams and Dan Oliver and supervising stunt co-ordinator Guy Norris.

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Innovation and immersion: Escape from Gringotts

For decades, guests at Universal Studios Theme Parks have enjoyed an array of immersive ride films. From Back to the Future: The Ride to Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time to Transformers: The Ride, each experience seems to up the ante on the use of motion simulators, large-scale imagery, stereo, high frame rates, stereoscopic projection, photorealistic animation and visual effects. Now, with Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, that level of immersion has been increased yet again.

Since 2010, Universal’s design division, Universal Creative, had been developing designs for a new ride based on the Gringotts section of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Director Thierry Coup wanted the ride – which opened last July in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley themed area at Universal Orlando resort – to take guests deep among Gringotts’ underground vaults via a roller coaster cart synchronized to enormous 3D projection screens. Here they would witness Harry, Ron and Hermione battling a fire-breathing dragon and escaping the wrath of Voldemort and Bellatrix.

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The secrets behind SpongeBob’s live action scenes

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water has already raced to become the second highest box office performer for films released in 2015, behind only Fifty Shades of Grey (!!!). That stunning result speaks volumes about SpongeBob’s existing fan base, but also new converts who gravitated to the hybrid 2D/CGI film. Helping to realize director Paul Tibbitt’s vision for the film was Iloura, who combined 3D animated characters with live action backgrounds. We delve into the making of the CG characters and live action sequences with Iloura visual effects supervisor Glenn Melenhorst, with a special look behind the scenes of the Patrick Star ice-cream sequence.

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The practical and digital tech behind Chappie

When director Neill Blomkamp seemingly burst onto the scene in 2009 with District 9, he had already demonstrated his deftness at making raw sci-fi with several short films. Tetra Vaal (2004), for instance, introduced a law enforcement robot amongst the slums of Johannesburg. With Chappie, Blomkamp returns to the style and feel of Tetra Vaal, while feeding into the mix the complications presented by artificial intelligence.

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Shoot and stitch: making Jupiter Ascending’s Chicago chase

Much of the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending takes place on alien worlds with vistas and creatures brought to life with complicated CG builds. But one scene, in which Jupiter (Mila Kunis) and Caine (Channing Tatum in antigravity boots) are pursued up and around the city of Chicago by alien ‘shadow’ spacecraft, required a more practical approach to shooting. Not only did the Wachowskis want to film the real actors and stunt doubles as much as possible, they also wanted to acquire real – and flexible – background plates.

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Rodeo helps Birdman soar with invisible fx


Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) playing a Hollywood actor past his prime – once famous for the superhero Birdman but now trying to kickstart his career as a Broadway producer and thespian. The film is presented in one seemingly long continuous take, thanks to the efforts of Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki, who also helps illuminate Riggan’s complex relationship with his alter ego during several hallucinatory events. Whilst certainly not a large scale visual effects film, Birdman features numerous seamless invisible shots, including the long takes and the odd events that happen around Riggan. Helping to bring those to the screen was Montreal studio Rodeo FX headed by President Sebastien Moreau. We find out how some of the key shots were achieved from visual effects supervisor Ara Khanikian.

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Journey to The Hundred-Foot Journey


You might not consider Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred-Foot Journey a visual effects film, and in a sense that is true, but some innovative effects techniques ranging from Klaus Cam helicopter plates to carefully selected shooting locations and reflective table-tops helped tell the story of two restauranteur families. We talk to visual effects supervisor Brendan Taylor about the film.

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How previs helped make The Maze Runner

Wes Ball’s The Maze Runner features complex maze environments and even more complex creatures – all requiring meticulous planning to bring to the screen. Previs and postvis would help the filmmakers prepare for the live action shoot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and then aid Method Studios and other VFX shops in creating intricate visual effects shots involving the moving maze and the mechanical Grievers. We talk to John Griffith, who was previs director at 20th Century Fox on the show, and Jourdan Biziou, The Third Floor’s previs supervisor, about the film.

Griffith worked early on with Ball and his visual effects team on exploring ideas for the Glade and the Grievers, using a game engine approach. “It was the perfect film to put Crytek’s Cinebox software through its paces,” says Griffith. “I had been developing it for almost four years prior, having developed it on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. By then the pipeline had become a very smooth process. It has sped up the process of creating previs and added a whole other level of quality and realism to the work we produce.”

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Digital Domain’s live action date with Destiny

The launch of Activision and Bungie’s incredible new game Destiny was accompanied by a live action trailer dubbed ‘Become Legend’, a spot directed by Joseph Kosinski for agency 72andSunny. The commercial made heavy use of real locations, practical costumes and effects from Legacy Effects and VFX by Digital Domain to show Fireteam taking on alien invaders at various game locations around the solar system. The game itself has stunning imagery, rarely seen before at this level in a game. Destiny takes full advantage of the new console hardware and so provided a high bar for the look of the live action commercial. We talk to DD visual effects supervisor Eric Barba about the work involved in bringing the look of the stunning world of Destiny to a live action TVC.

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