Effective Work

Bake-off films under Oscar consideration

The following are the seven bake-off films being considered for the three Oscar nomination slots for visual effects and the lead effects houses on each project.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore-CFC, Cinesite, Mill Film, Moving Picture Co.

From anthropomorphic house elf Dobby (who has lots of close-ups and shares screen time and dialogue with the boy wizard) to a living tree that attacks a flying car, the film’s 950 f/x shots walked the edge of new technology. The multiple effects houses tackled numerous problems like CG hair, cloth, feathers, water and skin translucency in a tight 13-month schedule.

Minority Report

Industrial Light & Magic

ILM created hundreds of prisoners for the Hall of Containment through 3-D photo modeling. An effects team with 12 cameras photographed 19 extras from different angles against a greenscreen, then fed the images into a computer to make a 21st-century prison. Add in Officer John Anderton’s custom Lexus and those cool jetpacks to a load of 481 visual f/x shots, and you have Steven Spielberg’s futuristic vision.

Men in Black II

Industrial Light & Magic

Worms were a big part of this sequel’s effects. They came in large form as Jeff, a giant alien crawling through the New York subway system, and in smaller packages as the wise-cracking Twister-loving sidekicks of Agent J (Will Smith), plus Jarra, a baddie levitating in a mini-UFO. There was a slimy time for all CG artists involved.

Spider-Man

Sony Pictures Imageworks

Custom spider webs, new web animation dynamics and the New York building effects innovated in computer graphics by Imageworks using Side Effects’ Houdini software brought Sam Raimi’s cinematic portrayal of a famed superhero to B.O. records.

Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones

Industrial Light & Magic

When you have a film with more than 2,000 visual effects shots (basically every shot in the movie), you have your work cut out. Match moving was essential to the all-digital production, melding live-action plate photography and digitally created virtual elements to create saber-wielding Yoda, a Geonosian droid factory and Count Dooku’s hover bike.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Weta Digital

The software written by Weta Digital’s Stephen Regelous for the prologue of “The Fellowship of the Ring” came back to help the sequel by using artificial intelligence to control crowd behavior. Tens of thousands of soldiers were able to battle in the dizzying climactic standoff at Helm’s Deep as a result. Talking trees and a ring-chasing Gollum are a few more of the challenges Weta pulled off.

XXX

Digital Domain

Flying over buildings on a motorcycle, fleeing from an avalanche on skis, surfing a banister with a food tray; these are all things Digital Domain made Vin Diesel’s extreme secret agent do seamlessly. It took f/x gurus 316 shots that went far beyond normal face replacement to pull off the death-defying sequences.

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