2020 Visual Effects Society Awards nominees

Hollywood should be labeled a danger zone this time of year: so many award nominations are flying around that if you’re walking down Sunset Boulevard and not keeping your head on a swivel, you’re liable to get clocked by one of them. There have been several nominees for various guild awards announced today alone, including the contenders for the Visual Effects Society‘s annual awards show, which “recognizes outstanding visual effects artistry and innovation worldwide in film, animation, television, commercials and video games, and the VFX supervisors, VFX producers and artists who bring this work to life.”

The Mandalorian and Game of Thrones are sitting at the top of the pile, tied with six nominations each. But Toy Story 4 and Alita: Battle Angel are nipping at their heels with five nominees each. Get the full list below.
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Carrie Fisher CGI

Leading up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams spoke a lot about his plan to incorporate Carrie Fisher‘s performance from the deleted scenes of The Force Awakens into the new movie to pay proper tribute to the late actress and Star Wars icon. Abrams promised we wouldn’t get a digital version of Leia, but if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the spirit of what he’s saying is true, there actually was some digital trickery necessary to achieve the end result.

In a new interview, a couple of visual effects supervisors from Industrial Light and Magic clarified just how Fisher’s outtakes were enhanced with CG to bring her last performance to life. Read More »

Best Visual Effects

When I think of the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, I often think of the loudest and most cacophonous movies to play in a theater in a given year. But perhaps that’s unfair, because upon closer inspection, it seems that those types of films are rarely rewarded with the actual prize. So while there are a fair share of obnoxious movies on this year’s shortlist of candidates, the Academy will narrow the field soon for the actual nominees. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the 20 final contenders and see if we can use some recent history to predict the eventual winner. Read More »

Avengers Endgame final battle

Avengers: Endgame builds to a show-stopping climactic collision between good and evil, delivering full-scale comic book action the likes of which Hollywood has never seen.

Now that the film is available digitally, we took a closer look at some of the final battle’s best moments and incorporated audio from Matt Aitken, Weta Digital’s visual effects supervisor, who spills some secrets about which actors were on set on certain days, just how much work was required for that tiny Howard the Duck cameo, and more. Check out our video below, which breaks down all of the biggest and best moments from that jaw-dropping confrontation.
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Game of Thrones season 8 VFX reel

I’m apparently in the minority in thinking that HBO’s Game of Thrones wrapped up in ways that, given the annoyingly increased pacing of the final seasons, I found to be largely satisfying. It’s been slightly more than two months since our last trip to Westeros, which is just enough time for the dust of the reactions to settle, the blazing hot takes to cool down, and a clear-eyed, macro-focused appraisal to become a slight possibility.

Personally, I think it’s still a bit too soon for that. But while we wait for the show’s legacy to crystalize a bit more with time, let’s check out this new Game of Thrones season 8 VFX reel which tracks the notorious destruction of King’s Landing from the series’ penultimate episode. Read More »

Avengers Endgame final battle

The final confrontation in Avengers: Endgame is one of the most epic scenes in comic book movie history. It’s as if a comic splash page came to life, grabbed a basketball, and windmill dunked on the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War. The Endgame battle is a fight between good and evil on a truly tremendous scale, full of the type of jaw-dropping, “holy shit” moments that make you wonder how any other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will ever be able to top it.

We’ll have to wait and see if that ever happens, but in the meantime, I spoke with Weta Digital’s visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken about how Endgame‘s final battle came together. Weta created the VFX for that sequence, and Aitken told me about how much the battle changed over time, which actors were present for its key moments, that applause-inducing moment when Captain America grabs Thor’s hammer, the nanotechnology in Iron Man’s suit, and much more. Read More »

‘Game of Thrones’ Dragons Were Inspired By…Chickens?

Game of Thrones dragons

Each season, we get to see new behind-the-scenes videos detailing the impressive work of the visual effects teams for HBO’s Game of Thrones and how they’re able to generate some of the most iconic images in fantasy from scratch. Take, for instance, Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragons: Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal. A company called Pixomondo has been in charge of bringing Dany’s “children” to life since season 2, and now they’ve revealed the unlikely inspiration for the fearsome winged creatures from our real-life animal kingdom.
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most influential visual effects movies

In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Visual Effects Society – a professional organization of artists, producers, technologists, and more who work in the entertainment industry – polled its nearly 3,400 members and determined a ranking of the most influential visual effects movies of all time. And since this is the internet, we’re legally bound to examine (and potentially argue with) a list like this after it’s published. So let’s take a look and see which films made the cut.
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The Weta Effect

With the advancement of technology happening at an exponential rate, it seems like almost anything is possible, especially on the big screen. Special effects are more advanced than they’ve ever been, allowing entire cities and civilizations to be destroyed with the click of a mouse (all right, it’s a little more complicated than that). But is that a good thing?

A new video essay, called The Weta Effect, offers the hypothesis that the reason people seem to not be as impressed by blockbusters and their special effects over the past decade is that special effects look too polished now. Technology allows the creation of such unrealistic characters, creatures and locations in such a realistic way, that it’s become harder to suspend out disbelief to accept them as they are. Does that make sense?

Find out more by watching the Weta Effect video below! Read More »

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Special Effects in the 80s

Earlier this week, we featured a little infographic counting down the biggest movie sets in the history of cinema. This look into the practical sets from decades past shows both how impressive and large some physical sets used to be, and also just how few giant film sets are built today, in favor of digital effects. But even the world of special effects wasn’t so technologically advanced. And much like extensive practical set building, the use of less-sophisticated but still impressive special effects is something that seems to be missing from today’s movies.

So if you need to escape the present day for awhile, check out this vintage one-hour NOVA special that takes a look at the magic of special effects in the 80s, focusing on films such as Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Watch the NOVA segment on special effects below! Read More »