Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker VFX Reel

Now that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been in theaters for over a month and a half, we can start being a little more casual about the film’s spoilers. In fact, the visual effects house Industrial Light and Magic has just released The Rise of Skywalker VFX reel that shows how the team brought the final chapter of the Skywalker saga to life.

In The Rise of Skywalker VFX reel below, you can see how the crew used footage from The Force Awakens to give General Leia scenes after the passing of Carrie Fisher, used even older footage from the original trilogy to create a flashback with a young Luke and Leia, created a new water system for the lightsaber battle on the remains of the second Death Star, crafted a massive fleet of ships for the final battle, and used some old school filmmaking tricks combined with VFX for a quick shot at the end of the film.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker VFX Reel

The Rise of Skywalker VFX reel was revealed exclusively by Vanity Fair. It shows details of the work completed by hundreds of digital artists, as well as this year’s Oscar-nominated creature shop supervisor Neal Scanlan, and visual effects supervisors Patrick Tubach, Roger Guyett, and Dominic Tuohy.

The reel shows the actual footage from The Force Awakens that was used to give Carrie Fisher a “new” performance as General Leia in this movie. Roger Guyett even explained a bit about how it was achieved:

“Basing it around the performances that she’d given us previously was the key. We often used motion control. You’ll notice that she has a different hairstyle, she’s wearing different wardrobe, all of those things. I always thought, when we were doing these shots, that everyone’s looking at her face. That was the thing that we held onto, and then we fixed everything else.”

Indeed, if you pay attention to Carrie Fisher’s face, you’d probably never be able to tell that her body was created in post-production. However, that’s not the case with the flashback sequences featuring young Luke and Leia training with lightsabers. Even though this VFX reel shows the exact takes used to give us their facial expressions in this scene, young Leia’s face still looks like it was generated in a video game engine of some kind. Maybe it’s because of the addition of artificial light from the blue lightsaber in a darker environment, but it doesn’t look nearly as well-done as Luke’s younger self.

As for another lightsaber battle, the one with Kylo Ren and Rey dueling on the remains of the second Death Star as massive waves crash around them was created with a perplexing blend of practical effects that didn’t actually end up seen in the final scene as well as digitally created water. ILM simulated 133,700,000 gallons of water for those sequences, and any given shot of that battle features between 110,000 gallons and 4.2 million gallons. Yes, there’s some practical water that was used on set in the form of water canons splashing Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley, but it ended up being all for nothing. Guyett explains:

“To be honest, I’ve asked myself, ‘Why do we have all those water canons?’ The irony is that Dom Tuohy did all the water and that created the mood of that piece. But then we erased all of that [real] water because a water canon does not behave like a wave hitting the side of that pier. So we got rid of all of that and then added our water back in that was behaving correctly. It sounds mad.”

But in the moment, the water helps inform the performances of Driver and Ridley, making it feel more realistic to them. So the practical water splashed may not be seen in the movie, but it was felt by the actors, and ultimately served its purpose.

Other highlights of the reel include a practical stunt flip used for Rey’s leap over Kylo Ren’s TIE Fighter. Plus, there’s the absolutely massive fleet of digital ships created for the final battle. Plus, you might be surprised to see a certain sequence that required part of C-3PO’s head to be created with VFX, and some details that were added to Rey’s body and face while flying Luke Skywalker’s old X-wing. Hopefully more secrets will be revealed when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives on home video.

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