Oscar Watch: Best Visual Effects Contenders
Our annual pre-bakeoff look at the most buzzed-about cinema spectacles of the year that could be in the
running for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Director: Peyton Reed VFX Supervisor: Jake Morrison Effects Studios: Industrial Light & Magic, Double Negative, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Cinesite, Trixter, Lola VFX, capital T Release Date: July 17 Box Office: $518.3 million [$179.9m domestic] Highlights: Capturing a teeny-tiny hero’s POV — especially the epic Thomas the Tank Engine battle sequence (Double Negative). And, creating non-creepy photoreal ants with personality (Method). Director: Joss Whedon VFX Supervisor: Christopher Townsend Effects Studios: ILM, Trixter, Double Negative, Fuel VFX, Framestore, Cantina Creative, Luma Pictures, Lola VFX, Territory Studio, The Third Floor Release Date: May 1 Box Office: $1.4 billion [$459m] Highlights: Cobbling together Ultron’s scrapheap Mark I with mo-cap by Andy Serkis (Trixter), ILM’s insanely complex Ultron Prime (2,000 nodes!), a complete bones-up rebuild of the Hulk and the smashing Hulkbuster sequence. Director: Kenneth Branagh VFX Supervisor: Charley Henley Effects Studios: MPC Release Date: March 13 Box Office: $542.7m [$201.2m] Highlights: Blending cartoony humor with CG slickness for animal transformations, emotive digital mice, a destructive enchanted pumpkin and tons of luxe set extensions. Director: Guillermo del Toro VFX Supervisor: Dennis Berardi Effects Studios: Mr. X Release Date: Oct. 16 Box Office: $73.5m [$31.1m]* Highlights: Mother Ghost’s matchmove skeleton and distortion (and ectoplasm), rampaging bathtub ghost (and ectoplasm), the photoreal floating atrium ghost (and ghost baby) and blood-red clay ooze everywhere. Director: Alex Garland VFX Supervisor: Steve Street Effects Studios: Double Negative, Milk VFX, Utopia Release Date: April 10 Box Office: $36.9m [$25.4m] Highlights: DNeg’s painstakingly researched robotic anatomy, Ava’s unsettlingly smooth mix of rubber skin and hard metal, and the fact that no mo-cap was used. Director: Josh Trank VFX Supervisor: James E. Price Effects Studios: MPC, Pixomondo, Rodeo FX, Weta Digital Release Date: Aug. 7 Box Office: $168m [$56.1m] Highlights: MPC’s fully digital rockhard Thing, lighting up the Human Torch (and his digital double), Weta’s photoreal and superstretched skin for Mr. Fantastic. Director: Ron Howard VFX Supervisor: Mark Holt Effects Studios: Double Negative, Luma Pictures, Scanline VFX, Rodeo FX, Release Date: Dec. 11 Highlights: A monstrous whale, foreboding sea, incredible CG storm and gritty digital seaside sets. Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski VFX Supervisor: Dan Glass Effects Studios: Framestore, Double Negative, Method Studios, One of Us, Bluebolt, Rodeo FX, Mokko Studio, BUF, The Third Floor Release Date: Feb. 6 Box Office: $183.9m [$47.4m] Highlights: Alien species that could have inspired human myths (Framestore), richly detailed chases through Chicago (Double Negative), and a nod to Terry Gilliam. Director: Colin Trevorrow VFX Supervisor: Tim Alexander Effects Studios: ILM, Image Engine, Hybride, Tippett Studio Release Date: June 12 Box Office: $1.7 billion [$652.2m] Highlights: A new jumbo sized dinosaur with realistic weight and movement, digital velociraptors with mo-cap personality, and lots of water features, vehicles and other park elements.
Director: George Miller VFX Supervisors: Andrew Jackson, David Nelson Effects Studios: Iloura Release Date: May 15 Box Office: $374.7m [$153.6m] Highlights: Immortal Joe’s Citadel complete with water pumps and sim crowds, an apocalyptic dust storm, the insane final chase/battle and Charlize Theron kicking butt with one arm digitally amputated. Director: Ridley Scott VFX Supervisor: Richard Stammers Effects Studios: MPC, Framestore, The Senate, ILM, Territory Studio Release Date: Oct. 2 Box Office: $487.6m [$214.1m]* Highlights: Turning greenscreen sets and blue skied deserts into the Red Planet, an otherworldly sandstorm, Framestore’s full-scale digital build of the Hermes spacecraft. Director: Christopher McQuarrie VFX Supervisor: David Vickey Effects Studios: Double Negative, One of Us, SPOV, Kelvin Optical, Territory Studio Release Date: July 31 Box Office: $682.3m [$195m] Highlights: An overall elaborate collage of real locales, set pieces, stunts and digital trickery. See: Tom Cruise’s wild plane ride, the Opera House throwdown and prosthetic mask sequences. Director: Joe Wright VFX Supervisor: Chas Jarrett Effects Studios: Framestore, MPC, Rising Sun Pictures, Scanline VFX Release Date: Oct. 9 Box Office: $123.1m [$34.1m]* Highlights: Cloud-soaring pirate ships, an air battle between galleons and Spitfires, puppetry-inspired Never Birds and those frisky mermaids. Director: J.J. Abrams VFX Supervisor: Roger Guyett Effects Studios: ILM, Kelvin Optical, Blind Ltd. Release Date: Highlights: Early footage promises a retro-inspired blend of practical and digital effects: sweeping spaceship battles, war-torn planets, hoards of troopers and at least one adorable droid. Director: Alan Taylor VFX Supervisor: Janek Sirrs Effects Studios: Double Negative, MPC, Lola VFX, Stewart VFX, One of Us, Method Studios, ILM Release Date: July 1 Box Office: $440.6m [$86.8m] Highlights: MPC’s breakthrough in digitally recreating a 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger down to the body movement, facial expression and nostril flares, the robots and vehicles of Skynet’s assault, and ILM nuking San Francisco. Director: Brad Bird VFX Supervisors: Craig Hammack, Eddie Pasquarello, John Knoll Effects Studios: ILM, Rodeo FX, Hybride, Whiskytree Release Date: May 22 Box Office: $209m [$93.4m] Highlights: A jet-pack tour of a futurist metropolis in the making, the six-minute monorail ride-through sequence, the Eiffel Tower rocket and Athena vs. Goliath the robot. Director: Robert Zemeckis VFX Supervisor: Kevin Baillie Effects Studios: Atomic Fiction, Rodeo FX Release Date: Sept. 30 Box Office: $41.8m [$10.1m] Highlights: Digitally rebuilding 1970s New York right down to the hot dog carts, resurrecting the Twin Towers with realistic reflecting surfaces using V-ray and GTX.
Seth Boyden, director (California Institute of the Arts) Richard Williams, director, and Imogen Sutton, producer (Animation Masterclass) Sanjay Patel, director, and Nicole Grindle, producer (Pixar Animation Studios)
Konstantin Bronzit, director (Melnitsa Animation Studio)
Don Hertzfeldt, director (Bitter Films)