On Thursday night in LA, the 10 contenders for the visual effects Oscar were presented at the signature 'bake-off' event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Here, visual effects supervisors representing each film showed 10-minute excerpts of final shots from their work (breakdowns are not allowed).
Michael Scott, who attended the event, has this guest report from the night with notes about what each visual effects supervisor presented.
Richard Edlund introduced the night, the running order was picked in part by drawing lots but also in part by consultation with projectionists. Today the Oscar team need to judge not only providing high quality projection for the bake off but juggle with the normal 2D, 3D or film or digital, and even HFR. All with the aim of having the fairest and smoothest viewing experience for the industry audience.
Life of Pi
Visual effects supervisor: Bill Westenhofer
• Bill Westenhofer was talking a mile a minute to beat the red light
• 90 min of VFX, 10 vendors, 690 shots, which doesn't sound like much until you realize the entire show is only about 930 shots in total
• The ocean was portrayed as a character in itself
• The film was shot stereo, dual Alexa on Cameron Pace rig
• There was no shooting on "location" (ocean), all the water work was done in a tank with set extensions
• Aside from the tiger, other animals early on -- zebra, hyena, chimp -- also nearly completely digital
• Of the 170 tiger shots, only 14% with a real tiger
• The animals are all keyframe animated from reference
• Flying fish sequence utilized special implementation of Massive to accommodate them moving in and out of water
• Letteri spoke of being excited to return to Middle Earth, especially to work again with Gollum
• Gollum was rebuilt from the inside out, new tissue and muscle sim, entire performance captured realtime
• Likewise Trolls, Goblin King, Azog (late addition to the story)
• Goblins started as live actors with animatronic heads, then the heads were discarded on set in favor of replacement, then entire actors were digitally replaced, then eventually entire shots became digital.
• There was simultaneous mocap of troll performances on separate mocap stage, dual performances
• Likewise, simultaneous "scaled" filming of Bilbo/dwarves in Bag End and Gandalf on a greenscreen stage elsewhere
• No miniatures were used, instead it was all digital, due to challenges with stereo and schedule ("Peter likes to change his mind a lot.")
• Everything was physically simulated - in all aspects of production.
Visual effects branch members will now vote on the final five films to be given Oscar consideration, to be announced on January 10th, with the main Academy Awards ceremony on February 24th.
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