Eye on the Oscars: Sound and Visual Effects
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” Warner Bros.
F/x supervisors: Dennis Muren, Scott Farrar, Stan Winston, Michael Lantieri
F/x houses: Industrial Light & Magic, Stan Winston Studios, PDI/DreamWorks
Highlights: For the artistic convergence of helmers Steven Spielberg and the late Stanley Kubrick, “A.I.’s” f/x team opted for poetic subtlety to visually support the fairy tale of a mechanical boy who yearns to be real. In its portrayal of a futuristic world ravaged by global warming and overpopulation by humans and robots, the pic’s effects artists created mechanical and entirely computer-generated elements including hundreds of impressive robot characters, a completely functional teddy bear (with painstakingly accurate fur on his CG double), a moon-shaped hot-air balloon, a falling Ferris wheel and a futuristic vehicle called an amphibicopter that pilots through a miniature New York hauntingly half-underwater. Other elements include the raucous robot-destroying Flesh Fair and the gaudy neon CG Rouge City.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” New Line Cinema
F/x supervisors: Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor, Mark Stetson
F/x facilities: WETA Digital, Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues, Animal Logic
Highlights: In order to realistically adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” to the bigscreen, the pic’s digital artists blended traditional old-age techniques with more innovative state-of-the-art tactics to create more than 500 visuals for the first of three epic fantasy adventures. Fantasy became reality by blending a mix of miniatures, live action, CG and practical effects. Pic’s team created 68 miniatures; a rushing tidal wave that subtly shapes into galloping horses; a host of realistic digital creatures, including massive armies of battling Elves and Orcs that react to their surroundings; a club-wielding cave troll; a gate-guarding octopus; the ring-obsessed Gollum; and the imposing Balrog, made of smoke and fire. Seamless digital motion-captured versions of the lead actors were used to portray their characters in many of the pic’s action sequences and location shots. Forced perspective helped portray humans playing Hobbits as 3 feet, 6 inches against other humans. Physical locations were supported by intricate matte paintings and CG elements.
“Pearl Harbor,” Buena Vista Pictures
F/x supervisors: Eric Brevig, John Frazier, Ed Hirsh, Ben Snow
F/x houses: Industrial Light & Magic, Asylum VFX
Highlights: “Pearl Harbor’s” effects team worked from scratch to re-create one of World War II’s most infamous historical events. Like “Lord of the Rings,” “Pearl Harbor” blended matte paintings with the intricate composition of live action, extensive physical elements and CG animation to build the pic’s harrowing action scenes. Computers worked overtime to create over 300 f/x shots of elements that were impossible to shoot on set, including three battle sequences, historically accurate CG warships in battleship row and swarms of fighter planes, hundreds of injured sailors, torpedoes, virtual environments, set extensions, CG water, explosions, smoke and fire — all things that had to be comparable to their real-world counterparts. Unconventional camera moves were also created inside the computer, including the pic’s camera-tracking bomb drop from an enemy onto the U.S.S. Oklahoma, as well as following fighter planes through the canyons of burning ships. Physical f/x elements include flipping over a replica of the Oklahoma and computer-controlled explosions, among other wartime f/x.