A Breed Above

Animation Magazine - - Visual Effects -

ILM re­vis­its and remixes its iconic dig­i­tal crea­tures for the re­turn visit to the land of di­nosaurs in

By Bill De­sowitz.

Though barely a drop in the bucket on the ge­o­logic scale of time in which sci­en­tists dis­cuss real-life di­nosaurs, a lot has changed in the cre­ation of the dig­i­tal ver­sions in the 14 years since movie­go­ers last vis­ited the world of Juras­sic Park.

And the vis­ual-ef­fects artists at In­dus­trial Light & Magic have tapped into new an­i­ma­tion, light­ing and ren­der­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to give Juras­sic World, due in the­aters June 12, a new breed of greatly im­proved dig­i­tal di­nosaurs.

Di­rec­tor and co-writer Colin Trevor­row ( Safety Not Guar­an­teed) wanted to re­cap­ture the spirit of di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg’s orig­i­nal 1993 Juras­sic Park film but also give it a con­tem­po­rary spin. In the new movie, which stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dal­las Howard, the theme park tries to re­verse de­clin­ing at­ten­dance by cre­at­ing some­thing big­ger and more spec­tac­u­lar: an en­tirely new species of in­cred­i­bly vi­cious di­nosaur called In­domi­nus rex.

“It’s a hy­brid of Tyran­nosaurus rex and

Walt Dis­ney en­vi­sioned To­mor­row­land — an orig­i­nal Dis­ney­land at­trac­tion that opened in 1955 — as an in­spir­ing and op­ti­mistic vi­sion of the fu­ture, full of sweep­ing tow­ers, clean open spa­ces and life-im­prov­ing con­ve­niences science could only hint at.

But in turn­ing that vi­sion into the fea­ture film To­mor­row­land, which hit the­aters May 22 from Dis­ney, it was the con­trast pro­vided by later years’ pes­simism and darker vi­sions of the fu­ture that ap­pealed to di­rec­tor Brad Bird, writer-pro­ducer Damon Lin­de­lof and star Ge­orge Clooney.

To bring the vi­su­als of the story to life, the film­mak­ers tasked ILM with cre­at­ing the land­scape of To­mor­row­land, which in­cor­po­rated Dis­ney’s Ex­per­i­men­tal Pro­to­type Com­mu­nity of To­mor­row, or EP­COT, idea of ur­ban plan­ning as well as a recre­ation of much of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where Dis­ney pre­miered “It’s a Small World,” along with “The Carousel of Progress,” the an­i­ma­tronic at­trac­tion “Great Mo­ments with Mr. Lin­coln” and the fa­mous Peo­ple­Mover.

ILM worked on the pavil­ions, set pieces and set ex­ten­sions of the World’s Fair, which was com­prised of full CG en­vi­ron­ments.

“Brad had a real affin­ity for the World’s Fair, that styl­ized 1964 look,” says Ed­die Pasquarello ( The Avengers), vis­ual-ef­fects co-su­per­vi­sor with Craig Ham­mack ( Star Trek) on To­mor­row­land. “He was very ar­tic­u­late about match­ing the World’s Fair and we knew where we had to go.”

The movie is about a sci­en­tif­i­cally cu­ri­ous and op­ti­mistic teen played by Britt Richard­son who learns To­mor­row­land is real and tracks down Clooney’s Frank Walker to reach it. The movie also fea­tures Hugh Lau­rie as the bril­liant vil­lain David Nix, and re­quired three dif­fer­ent vi­sions of To­mor­row­land: a 1964 ver­sion, a 1984 ver­sion and a dystopian fu­ture ver­sion, each of which re­quired its own fla­vor.

See­ing Triple “For To­mor­row­land, he re­ally wanted to con­vey a mood in each of the three ex­pe­ri­ences,” says Pasquarello. “While it’s un­der con­struc­tion in 1964, it needed to have a cer­tain op­ti­mism to it. Years went into the plan­ning with ar­chi­tects and ILM, and it truly was a city plan­ning ad­ven­ture. Brad had a hand in the lay­out and where build­ings were placed.”

The ide­al­ized To­mor­row­land has large foun­tain, sprawl­ing grassy ar­eas and cur­va­ceous ar­chi­tec­ture that is shiny and eco-friendly. The main area is Bridgeway Plaza, which con­tains a tower that’s the cen­ter­piece of To­mor­row­land.

ran­dom­ness of the real world to play out,” says An­drew Jack­son ( 300), the pro­duc­tion vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor, based in Syd­ney. “That’s ex­actly what I like to do, be­cause my back­ground is in spe­cial ef­fects and model-mak­ing. And my first thought is al­ways, ‘How much of it can we shoot in live ac­tion?’ So it was won­der­ful work­ing with Ge­orge “Be­cause of the style of this film, a lot of the shots are less

than one sec­ond long, so it’s re­ally good to know what they are. You don’t want to be adding 12-frame han­dles to a

10-frame shot.”

of all the vis­ual ef­fects,” Jack­son says. “This team did ba­sic track­ing and roto, and my brief to that team was that they should es­sen­tially be bolted onto ed­i­to­rial and do what­ever they need to help de­fine the edit. And it’s a way of giv­ing a di­rec­tor com­plete free­dom to try out dif­fer­ent ideas and turn out things quickly and cheaply. You have a watch­able ver­sion of the film early on and can help it be much tighter be­fore you turn it over to vis­ual ef­fects.”

A tighter film can save time and ef­fort, Jack­son says. “Be­cause of the style of this film, a lot of the shots are less than one sec­ond long, so it’s re­ally good to know what they are. You don’t want to be adding 12-frame han­dles to a 10-frame shot.”

Rid­ing the Storm

The most prom­i­nent use of CG was the Toxic Storm, done by Iloura of Aus­tralia. It was a par­ti­cle sim­u­la­tion done in Hou­dini. “It took a lot of work to make that look con­vinc­ing and we ref­er­enced the big­gest tor­na­does that we could find that split up into mul­ti­ple twisters. But it’s un­like any storm you’ve ever seen. We never did spec­ify what the gasses were but what­ever it was made of, this was not a good place to be.”

The Ci­tadel is a group of three tow­ers that’s the main lo­ca­tion where the peo­ple of this world live. This pro­vided Iloura with another VFX task: “We shot all of the ac­tion on the ground near the base of the tow­ers in Syd­ney, but the rock walls them­selves were a CG en­vi­ron­ment,” Jack­son says. “We built them from a ridge just west of Syd­ney called The Blue Moun­tain. And there are huge cliffs there about 600 feet tall. We went out in a he­li­copter and flew very close and pho­tographed high-res­o­lu­tion tex­tures, and then, us­ing pho­togram­me­try soft­ware, we built 3D sec­tions from those cliffs and then wrapped them into the shapes of the tow­ers. It turned out to be very ef­fec­tive.”

Mean­while, the post-vis team swapped over to fin­ish­ing fi­nal shots as well and did a ma­jor sec­tion in a canyon where the War Rig pulls off. “A lot of the ex­ten­sion work in that part of the film was done by the post-vis team, which we called Fury Ef­fects in the end,” Jack­son says. “Although we went to an amaz­ing canyon lo­ca­tion, we still had to do a lot of work and there are a cou­ple of shots where they blow up the side of the wall and dropped a lot of rocks to block the pas­sage.”

Here again, Mad Max: Fury Road’s in the style of the orig­i­nal Mad Max — only the post-apoca­lypse is per­haps scarier in the 21st cen­tury. Bill De­sowitz is owner of Im­mersed in Movies (www.billdes­owitz.com), au­thor of James Bond Un­masked (www.james­bon­dun­masked.com) and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Thompson on Hol­ly­wood and An­i­ma­tion Scoop at Indiewire.

Iloura came up with the toxic storm se­quence in Mad Max: Fury Road. The Aus­tralia-based vis­ual-ef­fects house used ref­er­ence of tor­na­does in cre­at­ing the ef­fect as a par­ti­cle sim­u­la­tion in Hou­dini.

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