Breaking FX ground
Steven Spielberg pushes the Cg envelope again with The BFG
t’s a big job,” says steven spielberg, appropriately enough, about The BFG. “there are thousands of effects shots. i think it’s the most ambitious motion capture of a character that any film has ever done.” just one look at Mark Rylance, working with spielberg again so soon after bagging the best supporting actor oscar for Bridge Of Spies, confirms that. as the towering beanpole at the heart of Roald Dahl’s classic 1982 children’s book, this is Rylance as you’ve never seen him before. this is a Rylance big enough to give Frank stallone, who famously railed against the british actor pipping his big brother sly to that oscar, pause for thought. this is a Rylance almost entirely composed of pixels.
The BFG — big Friendly giant if we’re being formal — is squarely in spielberg’s sweet spot, using cuttingedge effects in the service of a small relationship picture. it starts with the giant doing something distinctly unfriendly by snatching young sophie (Ruby barnhill) from a London orphanage and whisking her off to giant Country. but a fast friendship forms, meaning the emotional weight of the film relies on the believability of the VFX as much as the performances.
“steven was very keen on having the actors in the same space, even though Mark Rylance would be 24 feet tall,” says producer Frank Marshall. “a simulcam enabled him to see on a monitor what it is going to look like. it’s two separate cameras that put bfg and sophie together in the same shot. it was a big leap forward in putting Cg characters into the real world.”
but it was not just the title character who gave spielberg nightmares. For the director, the “toughest part” came with the creation of the phantasmagoric lands of giant Country and Dream Country, where the dreams of the world are harvested. “We had to create everything from scratch,” says spielberg. “None of it is real… but it looks real.” What does a real land of dreams look like? it’s not long until we find out.
The BFG is out on July 22.