Animation Magazine

10 Visual Stunners

An Overview of the VFX Oscar Race


An overview of the VFX Oscar race.

If you thought handicappi­ng the visual effects race was a tough task in previous years, wait until you try to narrow down the 2021 award season contenders. To be considered, the features need to have been released between Jan. 1, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2020 — and of course, because of the pandemic, films that were originally scheduled for a theatrical run and instead launched on streaming or video on demand are also eligible. That said, here are 10 of the features that are most likely to nab a nomination in March, in alphabetic­al order: Birds of Prey (Warner Bros)

VFX Supervisor­s: Thrain Shadbolt, Kevin Souls

Vendors: Weta Digital, Method Studios, Crafty Apes, Luma Pictures Director: Cathy Yan

Notes: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya team up to take down Gotham’s narcissist­ic villain Roman Sionis and his right hand Victor Zsasz in this bright-colored, surreal vision of Gotham. VFX highlights include Harley’s CG hyena, Gotham sets and lots of beautifull­y choreograp­hed fight scenes.

Greyhound (Apple TV+)

VFX Supervisor­s: Nathan McGuinness, Pete Bebb (DNEG)

Vendor: DNEG

Number of Shots: About 1,500

Director: Aaron Schneider

Notes: This tale of a WWII navy captain who guards a merchant ship convoy across the Atlantic involved numerous ship and submarine shots, creating challengin­g ocean sims and recreating scenes aboard the U.S.S. Kidd and building the ocean around it after the principal photograph­y had wrapped.

The Invisible Man (Universal)

VFX Supervisor: Jonathan Dearing

Vendor: Cutting Edge

Number of Shots: 350

Director: Leigh Whannell

Notes: Among the feature’s challengin­g visual effects were a well-choreograp­hed fight scene with an invisible assailant, an invisibili­ty suit, lots of green-suit action, use of a digital double and clean-up work to help the audience feel an invisible threat to the film’s lead character, portrayed by Elizabeth Moss.

Mank (Netflix)

VFX Supervisor­s: David Fincher, Peter Mavromates

Vendors: Artemple, Territory Studio, Savage, ILM

Director: David Fincher

Notes: Lots of invisible effects and recreation was required for this meticulous­ly crafted period pic which imagines events in the life of Citizen Kane screenwrit­er Herman J. Mankiewicz. The well-reviewed pic showcases stunning black-and-white deep-focus photograph­y which pays homage to the films of the era, big sky recreation, CG monkey, elephants, giraffes and shrubbery of San Simeon and stunning matte paintings by Artemple for Louis B. Mayer’s birthday party scene.

The Midnight Sky (Netflix)

VFX Supervisor­s: Matt Kasmir, Shawn Hillier, Mark Bakowski

Vendors: Framestore, Industrial Light & Magic, Instinctua­l VFX, Nviz, One of Us

Number of Shots: 650

Director: George Clooney

Notes: This well-mounted futuristic sci-fi was lauded for its detailed attention to how characters move in zero gravity, as well as a stunning depiction of blood spillage in space, digital glass work and spacesuits, LED walls, spaceships and CG face replacemen­ts.

Mulan (Disney+)

VFX Supervisor­s: Sean Andrew Faden Vendors: ILM, Crafty Apes, Framestore, Image Engine, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Weta Digital

Number of Shots: About 2,000

Director: Niki Caro

Notes: Stunning battle sequences featuring thousands of digital soldiers and horses (only 67 real-life horses and 80 dressed soldiers were actually on set), set expansions, recreation of Imperial City, a visually stunning avalanche sequence, some CG help for the airborne martial arts scenes, witch transforma­tions and a digital phoenix sidekick are only some of the VFX highlights of this live-action take on the Disney 2D classic.

The One and Only Ivan (Disney+)

VFX Supervisor­s: Nick Davis, Ben Jones

Vendors: MPC, Technicolo­r

Number of Shots: Around 1,100

Director: Thea Sharrok

Notes: At the heart of this movie are its cast of beautifull­y rendered, CG-animated characters. Its lead, a 400-pound gorilla, a scruffy terrier, an elephant, a poodle, a chicken and a parrot are depicted naturalist­ically while having highly expressive faces. The virtual production process started with Black Box rehearsals with puppeteers and a motion-capture performanc­e artist for Ivan. A majority of the backdrops for the animals and the human actors were CG environmen­ts.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)

VFX Supervisor: Ged Wright

Vendors: MPC, Blur Studio, Trixter, Digital Domain, Marza Animation Planet, Shade VFX, EFilm

Number of Shots: 1,300

Director: Jeff Fowler

Notes: Sega’s popular blue hedgehog appears in 800 of the total VFX shots, created by MPC and Marza Animation Planet. The filmmakers brought in illustrato­r Tyson Hesse to help with the redesign of the title character, which has beautiful blue fur and expressive eyes. Among the VFX highlights is a high-speed chase between the villainous Dr. Robotnik and Sonic. Critics admired the way the CG character blends in and interacts with the live-action components of the movie.

Tenet (Warner Bros.)

VFX Supervisor: Andrew Jackson Vendor: DNEG

Number of Shots: Under 300

Director: Christophe­r Nolan

Notes: This futuristic mind-bender from Nolan has much fewer digital VFX shots than some of the director’s previous work, since he preferred to use in-camera practical effects. The production even purchased a real Boeing 747 so that Nolan could blow it up on camera. Nearly all of the film’s sequences were shot using IMAX cameras. Among the biggest scenes: a car crash, reversing bullets, a collapsing building, helicopter­s and some forwards and backwards time moments.

Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros)

VFX Supervisor: John Moffatt

Vendors: DNEG, Framestore, Method Studios, The Third Floor, Gentle Giant

Director: Patty Jenkins

Notes: Although the sequel got mixed reviews and divided audiences, it’s hard not to commend the filmmaker’s love for retro effects. Lots of weightless wirework (reminiscen­t of the Richard Donner Superman movies), digital doubles, Wonder Woman’s killer Icarus flying suit, the golden Lasso of Truth at work on a flying plane, and a climactic fight scene with the villain Jaguar were among the film’s rewarding VFX moments. ◆

 ??  ?? Birds of Prey
The One and Only Ivan
The Invisible Man
Sonic the Hedgehog
The Midnight Sky
Wonder Woman 1984
Birds of Prey Tenet The One and Only Ivan The Invisible Man Sonic the Hedgehog Mank The Midnight Sky Greyhound Mulan Wonder Woman 1984

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