Shorter vfx reels demand new strategy

Eye on the Oscars: Vfx, Sound & Editing

Cutting a 15-minute vfx bakeoff reel from massive spectacles like “Avatar,” “Titanic” and “King Kong” was hard enough. This year, with more entries, bakeoff reels are only 10 minutes, and that’s forcing the presenters to rethink their strategy.

The tried-and-true method was to tell a condensed version of the story in 15 minutes, with enough story to keep the viewer oriented and keep the big vfx shots in context. That helped convey the emotional impact of the shots.

With five fewer minutes, though, “Hugo” vfx supervisor Rob Legato took a different approach. “I put in whole scenes, assuming people have seen it. Whole moments that show the variety of work. It reduces the filler and now it’s just the meat and potatoes.” Even so, the first cut of his reel was 20 minutes.

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” has massive effects in most of the movie, so choosing 10 minutes is a very tough challenge for vfx supervisor Scott Farrar. “You want to tell a story, at least I do, something that has a little emotion and action and scope and scale. But our first sweep was 40 minutes. Geez!”

Tim Burke of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” called all that condensing “tricky,” but said he felt they were still able to lay out the story and get down to 10 minutes. Still, he adds, “It is a shame we’ve had to leave out so much good work.”

Eye on the Oscars: VFX, Sound & Editing

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