State of the Art - The Industrial Light and Magic special effects thread

Discussion in 'Lucasfilm Ltd. In-Depth Discussion' started by ShaneP, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Started in a Van Nuys warehouse to do vfx for a little space opera called Star Wars, ILM has now occupied the top echelon of special effects for several years.
    This is the thread to talk about all ILM vfx past, present, and future.
    This is not a "ILM versus x-effects house" thread. That's for another thread. This is strictly about all things ILM.

    No ILM question or bit of info is too small here.

    I'll kick things off by talking about ILM's future projects:

    (potential spoilers below)



    Avatar: Jim Cameron's biggie. ILM helped Rob Legato develop the virtual camera system for the film and were brought on late in the schedule to help with the big battle at the end of the film.

    Red Tails: This Lucas project has been in development off and on for at least 2 decades. It will finally hit the screens sometime in 2010. Early script reports show more than a few aerial sequences that I'm sure will benefit from ILM's artistry. Vet Russell Earl steps up into the fx supervisor role for this eagerly awaited(at least by me) project.

    Iron Man 2: Ben Snow returns as fx supervisor for ILM as Stark goes up against War Machine and Black Widow. Snow has mentioned building on the CG hard surface success of the first film and refining it further.

    Rango: Directed by Gore Verbinski, this animated film is ILM's first foray into feature animation. Johnny Depp voices the title character and the film utilizes advanced motion capture to get the subtle facial details and nuances translated to the big screen. John Knoll, of Star Wars prequel fame, and Tim Alexander supervise for ILM.

    The Last Airbender: Movie adaptation of the hit cartoon show directed by M. Night. Vfx are supervised by Pablo Helman.


    So that's a quick rundown of some of ILM's upcoming projects.

    The project I'm most looking forward to is Avatar quickly followed by Iron Man 2.
  2. JohnWesleyDowney Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2004
    star 5
    Since you said we could also post items on ILM's past, I thought someone might enjoy watching this.

    When Walter Cronkite passed away recently, I vaguely remembered that he once toured ILM with Lucas about the time of the Empire Strikes Back. I found this on youtube. The piece briefly veers away from Lucas and ILM, but finishes with Lucas and a great tag line from Cronkite who was a famous fan of space travel, to put it mildly.

    This video shows just how far ILM has come from the early days of the original trilogy.

    Cronkite visits Industrial Light & Magic in the early 80s

    Lucas did a great job, I thought, of explaining things.

    Talk about a blast of nostalgia. I hope to get some reaction from this. I would have LOVED to have toured ILM back in those days!
  3. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    What a great find JWD. I watched it beginning to end. Cronkite's voice really gives it weight too.

  4. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    It is amazing to see how far ILM has come from the early days. Their early development is well covered in "Empire of Dreams." It's crazy to see how they go from a disappointment and logistical disaster in the late 70s to a driving force in a revolution re-shaping Hollywood productions.
  5. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    I really like the part where Ken Ralston and Phil Tippet are moving the Tauntaun around and Cronkite goes "I thought it was real." it just shows how far our expectations and notions of what passes as "real" have come.

    Those old model shops are like little museums.

    But optical compositing was many time such a shot in the dark. And if it didn't turn out right, they'd eithger have to live with it if they didn't have time, or go all the way back to the beginning and reassemble the elements and start over.

    I don't have the same nostalgia for that part of the process like I do miniature work and creature creation.
  6. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    The thing with ILM is that we are literally, literally talking about the folks that invented special effects. When the corporations took over Hollywood, the preferred style was gritty and realistic. In a wave of budget cuts, most of the special effects departments were scrapped all together. With SW in '77, they re-invented the wheel and started a revolution in effects. What they accomplished in a relatively short time is nothing short of amazing. I mean to borrow the phrase, they went from puppets to pixels in just a few short years. An incredible technical feat.

    -Seldon
  7. Kaero_Shan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2006
    I wasn´t aware that ILM is involved in Camerons Avatar. Also very interesting that they help develop the virtual camera system. Are there any links concerning ILMS involvement in Avatar? ´Cause their website is not really up to date.

    So Weta can´t handle Avatar alone. Is it because of any problems in the post I have not heard of?

    I know it`s way too early and only speculation: If Avatar gets an academy award nom for best vfx, will the Weta vfx-supe gets the nom, or the ILM-supe? It would have to be the Weta-supe I think, since they had the most workload.

    Last point, I know ILMs website is not regularly updated because they have other things to do, but they still have only their 2008 films stated as in production. I think it`s somehow a shame that the biggest vfx company can`t get their website updated at least 2 times a year.






  8. Gobi-1 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2002
    star 5
    Either they've run out of time and needed to bring in some extra help or Cameron had a specific scene or shots he wanted ILM to do. More likely the later. For example on Titanic the majority of the effects were done by Cameron's own Digital Domain but because they were running out of time he took some shots to ILM because he trusted them and knew they could deliver.

    Has anyone else seen "From Star Wars To Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light & Magic"? It was aired on FOX just right after the release of The Phantom Menace back in 1999. Samuel L. Jackson hosts and John Knolls directed. In it is where Cameron mentions going to ILM for Titanic when he needed to get the effects finished.

    It's never been released on VHS or DVD but I did tape it when it aired. I'm very glad I did. I'm looking on YouTube but I haven't come across it yet.

  9. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Haha! I remember that ILM show on TV. Samuel L was twirling his saber at a droideka. That was a good show.

    Yeah, ILM was brought onto Avatar later, along with Framestore and BUF, to help get the film finished on time.

    Here's a video of ILM's Gretchen Libby talking about recent and upcoming projects for the company.


    ILM Exec. producer talks fx


    And now you want a really cool link for behind the scenes pictures of some of ILM's model and creature work?

    Here is Danny Wagner's website. The different categories have subcategories full of tons of pictures of his work and other ILMers(back when the model shop was still part of ILM) as well as his recent work at Kerner Optical.

    He joined ILM back in '89 for Ghostbusters 2.

    Here: Danny Wagner's cool website
  10. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    ILM is also doing some work on Jonathan Mostow's upcoming film Surrogates.
  11. Jedi Gunny Yahtzee Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    May 20, 2008
    star 8
    Interesting thread idea, Shane! :)

    I'm looking forward to Iron Man 2 as well; should have some really good SFX in it.
  12. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Check those links I put up two posts ago too. Great stuff in the Danny Wagner site.
  13. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Here's an artist profile on ILM's Christopher Horvath from cgsociety.org. It covers his early interest in CG, interest in painting, and his vfx work for ILM, Weta, and Tweak.

    Here: Mad Scientist Horvath
  14. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    They're also working on the last 2 Harry Potter films (The Deathly Hollows).
  15. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Welcome back to the forum Malducin =D=

    Pull up a chair and relax.
  16. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    It will still take me a few weeks to really get back online. No rest for the weary...

    I forgot there is another project call Endirhan (or something like that), which means The Robot. It's a Bollywood film of all things, and it was prominently announced in the India press. Tippett is also involved apparently. Didn't get much coverage over here, maybe close to over a year ago. It stars Aishwarya Rai, so that's enough reason to go see it anyway (besides the VFX).
  17. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Nominees are determined by the producers of the film. Since the bulk of the work is done by Weta most if not all the 4 spots would go to Weta people. That would mean Joe Letteri for sure. Maybe John Bruno or Stephen Rosenbaum for another spot. One could be given to practical FX, but who knows how much there is on the film. Another one could be the Weta Animation supe.

    It all depends on the amount of overflow. You seldom see overflow work companies get a spot on the nominations. If I remember right Titanic was this way, all nominees were from DD (even though close to 20 companies did overflow work) On the other hand when productions have split the VFX from the outset, like The Golden Compass or Narnia, you usually get the overall supe and the supes from the major providers. As always there are exceptions, like The Day After Tomorrow, which at the start was mainly a DD and ILM show, but the overflow work of the Orphanage and others got spots in the nominations.

    As far as ILM's site, yeah they're too busy. Hopefully I can start updating mine to have more current info.
  18. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
  19. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    You might be interested to know that they apparently showed some previs from Red Tails at SIGGRAPH.
  20. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Cool.

    edit: Edited sentence. Saw you said "apparently" showed. So you didn't see it?

  21. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Yeah I saw it, I just didn't have time to confirm with the ILM guys. what they showed might be a demo or another WWII project :p. It was a talk regarding Previs and Postvis, and they should their previz inhouse tool (I think called Zviz).

    The sequence went like this. It was a dogfight and a P 51 Mustang gets behind a German fighter (I think a Messerschmitt, but could have been something else), over an airfield. A person (a German fighter pilot) comes out from a hangar a look up. The Mustang fires and hits the German fighter while descending. The German fighter then crashes into a truck, while the P51 barely pulls up.
  22. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    :eek: :cool:

    Aerial dogfights! [face_dancing]
  23. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    John Knoll is supervising ILM's portion of work for Avatar.

    This is according to cinefex.com
  24. malducin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2001
    star 4
    Probably one of the reason John Knoll didn´t go to SIGGRAPH. I wanted to ask him about Confessions of a Shopaholic.
  25. lionlisure Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 24, 2009
    I was just about to say John Knoll was the ILM supe for Avatar but you beat me to it. Would have loved some info on the vfx work from Shopaholic. Was the clothing cg aswell as the manequins or was it real with i-mocap performers underneath. Films like this never get any coverage and it's too bad cause the work is great.

    Just started watching the Airbender cartoon and I think there's potential for a really good film version and some interesting vfx work, so looking forward to Helmans work on that one.

    Do we think it's likely we will see ILM involved with Captain America? Given the Joe Jhonston link. Imdbpro has 2 ILM projects listed but I'm not going to sign up for it to see what they are.

    Can't wait for the return of ILMFAN Malducin. Miss that site.