Academy retools visual effects category

While the changes to the best picture and animated feature categories got most of the attention, the Academy has also retooled the visual effects bakeoff.

Following on last year’s expansion of the vfx category from five nominees to seven, this year’s bakeoff will expand from seven pics to 10, and will start earlier in the evening as a result. However, the highlight reels will be shorter: 10 minutes instead of 15.

“We felt that to have five nominees out of seven possible didn’t make much of a contest,” said Academy governor Bill Taylor of the visual effects branch. Taylor also said the branch is interested in “looking at visual effects films above and beyond the big tentpole releases,” like 2010 nominee “Hereafter,” and expanding the field at the bakeoff supports that goal.

However, shrinking the highlight reels puts even more pressure on the editors who cut them. The most effective reels tell the story of the picture in condensed form. Telling that story and hitting the vfx highlights in 10 minutes will be no small task.

“I would still try to (tell the story) as much as I could, because I do think it’s helpful to people watching it,” said editor Dylan Firsheim, who cut the “Tron: Legacy” reel for this year’s bakeoff. “You need to be pulled into it. That’s what movies are all about. So you still keep it in mind but you have to put your best foot forward.”

Taylor said that if the effects-heavy tentpoles seem to get short shrift, the Acad could revisit the decision to shorten the highlight reels.

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