Rogue One and Star Wars VFX

Rogue One & The Force Awakens VFX Breakdowns

The excitement around Rogue One is building and I thought it was a good opportunity to pull together some great resources on StarWars: The Force Awakens that I’ve been meaning to post for some time, as well as the good stuff that’s currently available on Rogue One itself, which at the minute is mostly these two videos!

The Rogue One teaser trailer (which I’m sure you saw when it came out) manages to follow the current trailer trope of a really loud klaxon sound, first established by Christopher Nolan’s Inception and most recently seen in the Wonder Woman trailer. Either way, as a big fan of Gareth Edwards’ work I can’t wait to see it!

Unlike the ultra top secret nature of JJ Abram’s production of Star Wars: The Force Awaken’s there seems to be a bit more openness with Rogue One. In this ‘celebration reel’ you get a good look at some of the film’s central action, characters, sets and locations. It looks visually pretty stunning, and also in a nod to all Londoners features Canary Wharf tube station at 1 minute in!

UPDATE – The Official First Trailer

UPDATE – October 2016 – 2nd Trailer Released

The first official trailer is out. Yes!

Before we dive pretty deeply into the visual effects and editing of Star Wars The Force Awakens, it would be well worth your time to take 10 minutes out and watch Kirby Ferguson’s brilliant episode of Everything Is a Remix focusing on the numerous ways in which the Force Awakens harks back to A New Hope by copying, transforming and combining it’s concepts, visuals and plot points. Kirby’s videos are always exceptionally well crafted and researched.

Star Wars Episode 8

Day one!

A photo posted by Rian Johnson (@riancjohnson) on

The edit to Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode 8 is under way…

Editing Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Editing Star Wars

When it comes to the post production process of Star Wars The Force Awakens I’ve previously gathered together some of the best resources on the web in this previous post including a behind the scenes webinar from Avid and Bad Robot with the final post-production crew, as well as Steve Hullfish’s excellent Art of The Cut interview. Check all of that out here.

StarWars Force Awakens editors

In terms of things that slipped through the net in the first post mentioned above, if you’ve not yet seen it, you should definitely check out Moviola.com’s 30 minute interview with Star Wars The Force Awaken editor’s Mary Ann Brandon ACE and Mary Jo Markey ACE with Glen Garland ACE.

They discuss everything from the pressure of dealing with such a beloved franchise to some of the quirks of working with JJ Abrams, as well as how their editing partnership works and crafting the rhythms of the film. Well worth a watch and it’s interesting to hear how many scenes were taken out, then put back in throughout the post-process.

Gordon Burkell from AOTG.com also has a concise interview with the duo which you can check out here. Here’s a snippet on editing the lightsaber duels.

Maryann: I think with any of those duel fights, you do cut them like a conversation. Not a casual conversation, obviously, but a very heated one. Because it’s strike and hit and react, and one has to be aware of those elements, and making a rhythm for the cut. So, when Finn sort of takes a breath in that particular fight, and stands up again, he doesn’t really need to say anything to his opponent because he starts to charge him again, and that in itself is sort of like an unsaid rhythm.

There are also a few insights from second assistant editor Rob Sealey, who worked on the post for UK side of the shoot, in this interview I did with him back in April 2016.

What was your day-to-day experience of working on the film like? Were there specific ramifications of working on ‘Star Wars’ vs a ‘normal’ film?

It was very much like working on any other film mostly as far as day to day tasks go. There was a really good vibe throughout the crew. Everyone knew this was such a big deal and that the anticipation was huge but I think that just made everyone more determined to do the best job they possibly could.

I made a conscious effort to visit the set almost every day. I was wowed every time. It was like walking into a whole different universe. There would be extras everywhere, BB-8 rolling around, C3PO, Chewie and Han Solo standing on set. It was really exciting to see these characters in real life stood just a few feet away.

 Star Wars The Force Awakens VFX

The majority of these videos, interviews, breakdowns and articles feature a quartet of visual effects supervisors whose responsibility it was to devise, design and create the practical and digital effects that create the seamless world of the Star Wars universe. They are Chris Corbould SFX Supervisor, Creature VFX Supervisor Neal Scanlan, and from ILM VFX Supervisors Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubach.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Blu-Ray release of Star Wars The Force Awakens has an entire disc dedicated to the process of bringing the franchise back to life, all of which make for engaging and entertaining viewing.

Variety has put together a special episode of their Artisans series focusing on the visual effects of the film, which features interviews with the quartet of VFX supervisors. It’s a great overview of the mix of practical and digital effects that were married together so successfully.

The land-speeders were quite an interesting one, it was a perfect marriage between us special effects, and digital effects. Ray’s speeder was a great big tractor body so we mechanised that, made a bespoke chassis and mounted a 1000cc motorbike engine in it so we could roar across the desert 60-70 mph with our actor on the front. There was a hidden driver in the engine portion of it. The whole testing procedure took weeks and weeks. – Chris Corbould, SFX Supervisor

The first 26 minutes of this episode of FX Guide TV delivers a smorgasbord of VFX visuals along with interviews from the usual crew, but this time including ILM animation supervisor Paul Kavanagh, who discusses the challenge of bringing a character like BB8 to life, based on the incredible on-set performances from the puppeteers. There is also an interview with Dave Fogler, ILM’s asset build supervisor who discusses building the Millennium Falcon in CG.

FXGuide has a characteristically detailed write up on the visual effects of the film in this post which is packed with numerous VFX breakdown videos, so be sure to watch all of those. A brilliant read based on the FXGuide TV interviews.

ILM decided that its ‘bible’ Falcon would be the five foot model from Episode IV after being able to view and photograph and scan the model at the Lucasfilm archives. “This model is one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen,” says Fogler. “It’s a real high point in effects industrial design. It’s really dynamite. We wanted our Falcon to look like that.

We scanned it. We photographed it. And then you take that data. Our needs were, not only did we need it to look like that, but we get really close to it in the film. We also acknowledged that in a VR experience, someone might walk up to and look at a bolt on a door. So there was a lot of talk about how far we detailed it. We went pretty far – it’s a remarkably detailed model, our Falcon.”

If you’re simply after a visual treat when it comes to the visual effects breakdowns from the film then this 4 minute edit does a great job of pulling together everything that’s been made available.

The always excellent DP/30 has two interviews focusing on the visual effects for the film. The first interview with Chris Corbould and Neal Scanlan focuses on the on-set special effects work and the second (below) is with the Lucasfilm VFX supervisors Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubach and focuses on the digital effects.

The best thing about DP/30 is the off-the-cuff nature of the interviews which always feels like you’re getting more honest answers.

Visual Effects Society Q&A and more…

VES, the Visual Effects Society had a post-screening Q+A with the same quartet of supervisors as well as director JJ Abrams. The questions start at about 3.40 minutes in and the panel is hosted by VES Chair Mike Chambers.

If you’re into your visual effects and you want to take an hour long deep-dive into the film’s creative and technical challenges, then this will be a fantastic watch.

It’s interesting to note that JJ Abrams doesn’t like to use pre-vis very much as he feels like what’s important is not an exact replication of that first idea, but what is created through the interpretation of the ideas by the thousands of artists who all contribute to the film. JJ discusses this at about 29 minutes in.

pre-vis on star wars the force awakens

That said, several of the most complex sequences were pre-vis’d and in this post over on Animation World Network you can check out an interview with Halon’s pre-vis and post-vis supervisors on their work on the film.

“When we started in the early phases, our first goal was to get the spirit and feel down of the desert chase between Rey/Finn and the TIE fighters. We didn’t have a script but we spent lots of time fleshing out ideas and moments for the sequence that would address the beats that J.J. had in mind.

During our last days at Pinewood in London we did a full tech-vis pass on the two large sequences.  Our goal was to communicate camera speed, dimensions and proximity of subjects to camera so that production could visually see the angles and lenses we were shooting from in Maya.”

In this hour long panel discussion from NAB 2016 you can hear from ILM’s James Clyne, VFX Art Director, Patrick Tubach, VFX Supervisor and Matt Wood, Supervising Sound Editor at Skywalker Sound. The panel also features clips from the film (edited out of this video for copyright reasons) that the panel discuss, so it’s worth having watched the film recently to have a really clear sense of what they’re talking about.

But the discussion is packed with interesting anecdotes from the making of the film – like how they came up with Luke’s mechanical hand or the composite sounds that make up a tie-fighter fly-by.

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