THE BREAKDOWN
No. of f/x shots: About 2,100
F/x shops: Cafe FX, Digital Backlot, Engine Room, Hybride Technologies, Industrial Light & Magic, Luma Pictures, The Orphanage, Pacific Title and Art Studio, Pixel Liberation Front, Ring of Fire, R!OT Rising Sun Pictures, SW Digital World of Tomorrow
Why it will be nommed: It’s one continuous visual effects sequence.
Why it won’t: It’s one continuous visual effects sequence.

Visual effects teams are often asked to create that never been seen element — a spaceship, a creature, a unique explosion. “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” visual effects supervisors Darin Hollings and Scott Anderson and their team were asked to do a little more — create entire backdrops, worlds and sequences, and literally participate in every single shot in the movie.

“Usually you’re talking about doing somewhere between 20 and 100 shots of an asteroid hitting the Earth,” says Hollings. “In this movie there was no hiding. Every single shot fell onto the visual effects plate so you really can’t single out one visual effects sequence as the best because the whole film is a visual effects sequence in a way.

“That’s one of the real historically important things about this movie. We had to create an entire look for the film and it was really important to take the viewer to someplace they’d never been before.”

Principal photography was completed in just 26 days in “a blue room in London,” says Hollings. After that, the primary push of more than 2,000 shots was completed by the visual effects team at WOT (World of Tomorrow) and more than a dozen other visual f/x houses in about eight months.

“Since the whole film involved creating these worlds no one had ever seen, it was a huge accomplishment to get the whole thing to look the same with so many different people working on it,” says Anderson. “That required real dedication from the compositors and supervisors, and commitment to one idea about how the movie was going to look.”

Since every shot in the film involved the visual f/x team, previsualization was essential. Even the smallest movements of the actors had great impact. The visual effects team worked closely with director Kerry Conran to take his ideas and inspirations — everything from films like “Metropolis” and “Citizen Kane” to old comicbooks — and develop a specific look for this film. Pre-visualization techniques included 3-D animatics, survey devices and a system of maps. “Before we shot every day we walked through everything just so we could make sure we were exactly where we need to be,” says Hollings. “Losing an hour on this film would have been deadly so we had a live feed on camera to make sure we could premix everything onstage to make sure it was working.”

“Usually you approach a project as finding a way of putting the effects into the movie but in this situation we created a whole cocoon of visual effects so the movie could live,” says Anderson. “It was great to be able to see visual effects as a key element in creating a film and to be able to use visual effects with the sensibility of really creating the fundamental look of the film. It’s a new way of telling a story.”

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