By BRIAN TRUITT
From a post-apocalyptic Wasteland to the stormy surface of Mars, visual effects nominees for this year’s Oscars on Feb 28 have taken audiences to worlds created by Hollywood’s most imaginative movie magicians.
We take a look at how FX gurus created their memorable scenes:
1. Ex Machina
Director Alex Garland’s sci-fi film introduced audiences to Ava, a robot with artificial intelligence (played by Alicia Vikander) who interacts with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer tasked to test how human she is. Vikander wore head prosthetics and a mesh body suit that would showcase her inner mechanical workings.
“When the light catches it, you really see those curves and that shape,” says visual effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst. A scene in which she gets dressed was both technically and artistically tricky: Camera close-ups meant painting out Vikander’s real arms and legs as Ava puts on clothes.
“It was this pivotal, defining moment in the film where we as the audience stop seeing her so much as a machine and begin to think of her more as a person,” says Whitehurst.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s Mad Max reboot is a practical effects spectacular with its Frankensteined doomsday cars and desert landscape. But the sprawling dust storm that Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Max (Tom Hardy) drive into to lose Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his War Boys is the biggest computer-generated set piece in the film.
After filming the actors and vehicles in broad daylight, twisters were added and certain cars had CG versions tracked over them to make the lightning and storm flashes convincing.
Then a layer of flying sawdust was added in post-production to “give it that immersive feel that you were amongst this really nasty, sandy dust storm,” says visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson.
3. The Martian
Hazardous conditions on Mars lead to the Ares crew evacuating and astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) getting left behind on the Red Planet in Ridley Scott’s outer-space adventure.
The shots of the approaching storm seen by Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and her team are CG, but what they actually endure is a complex set-up with a practical approach, says visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers. Shot on a soundstage, the lights were dimmed and black curtains were put up to simulate total darkness for the actors, while huge wind machines hurled heaps of paper strands and 4,000 bags worth of lightweight vermiculite for a “black snow” effect.
Stammers’ team upped the ferocity “to add that further bit of jeopardy,” he says.
4. The Revenant
While director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu insisted on realism for most every aspect of his wilderness epic, CGI came into play when crafting the scene where frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally mauled by a mama bear protecting her cubs. To do it right, visual effects supervisor Richard McBride and his “bear team” immersed themselves in how real creatures moved and behaved.
“It was never meant to be a movie monster,” McBride says. It’s not a quick attack, either: The harrowing sequence involves the digitally rendered animal roughing Glass up even as he plays dead. “You just don’t know what their behaviour is like until you read these (real) accounts.”
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars films are known for their space battles, and The Force Awakens offers one bringing together two of its new heroes. To escape a First Order Star Destroyer, rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and captured Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) steal a TIE fighter as the spaceship is tethered to a fuel line.
Finn and Poe’s new ride is CG but the explosions it causes are real. In addition to destroying as many radio-controlled droids as possible, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould worked with the stunt department to figure out how Stormtroopers would fly through the air after getting hit by lasers.
They opted for a happy medium between “the over-the-top and the namby-pamby version,” he says. – Tribune News Service