Tenet VFX Shots

Tenet is finally coming to movie theaters around the world later this month, even though the United States will have to wait until early September. In support of the film, some new tidbits about the mysterious production have been surfacing online from director Christopher Nolan himself. Though he’s not giving away any new plot details, he has revealed that not only does this movie somehow have fewer visual effects shots than most romantic comedies, but it was also probably one of the hardest movies for any editor to tackle.

Speaking with ICG Magazine in support of Tenet, director Christopher Nolan touted the impressive number of practical effects that were used in making the movie. The director made a surprising comparison to illustrate that very fact:

“The visual side of the film is huge in scale, but our VFX shot count is probably lower than most romantic comedies.”

Tenet editor Jennifer Lame (Hereditary, Marriage Story), who stepped up in place of Nolan’s usual editor Lee Smith (who was busy with 1917 at the time Tenet was shooting), says Tenet has roughly 300 VFX shots. That might sound like a lot, but blockbuster movies typically have a lot more than that. For example, the Transformers franchise varies between 600 and 1,000 VFX shots depending on which movie you’re looking at. Meanwhile, Avengers: Age of Ultron holds the record with over 3,000 VFX shots. Perhaps the best comparison is Christopher Nolan’s own Inception, which had 500 VFX shots.

Nolan credits his visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson for helping make the movie with as many practical effects as possible. The director said:

“Visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson was responsible for coming up with our safety net,” Nolan explained. “We wanted it all in-camera, but if it couldn’t be done, what choices are there in post-production? I like to say Andrew kind of bid himself out of a job because he helped us achieve such an enormous amount practically. There were still very complicated visual effects for the team at Double Negative, but Andrew’s expertise and background in on-set effects benefitted us enormously.”

However, just because there aren’t nearly as many visual effects in the movie as the traditional blockbuster, that doesn’t mean the movie was easier to piece together in post-production. In the same article from ICG Magazine, Nolan praised Jennifer Lame’s work on the movie:

“Working for the first time with editor Jen Lame was a real pleasure. I joked with her when she first came on that this might be the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut — and I’m not sure she would dispute that right now [laughs]. Working out all the aspects of portraying time running in different directions meant going beyond what was down on the page, as the execution lay with a successful translation of the visual.”

We’ve only gotten a glimpse of what Nolan is talking about in the trailers for Tenet, but hopefully, we’ll be able to see everything when the movie arrives in theaters, which is currently slated to happen on September 2, 2020. In the meantime, tickets in the United Kingdom are already going on sale for when the movie arrives in theaters there on August 26. Lucky bastards.

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