×

How ILM Made the World Crumble in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

When Kylo Ren and Rey finally face off, light sabers in hand, they are determined to duel to the end, even as the ground crumbles beneath their feet.

“You’ve got to sell the drama of the moment, because otherwise there’s no point in all of the rest of what we’re doing,” says Dan Pearson, f/x technical director supervisor at ILM, of the work he did to make viewers believe the ground was genuinely falling away in the climatic fight in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Pearson and his team created a simulation engine that was used to make that earth in the forest appear to disintegrate based on the qualities of the ground.

“There are some particles of the ground that are dry and others that have a bit of a muddy quality and we give this information to the simulation engine and it can create the appearance of all these particles moving as they should based on their composition.”

It’s a lot of information fed into their systems that’s designed to make auds believe they’re really seeing the ground move underneath the feet of these characters, because it behaves according to the laws of physics. physical rules we’ve unconsciously come to accept and expect.

Once the simulator can handle and project how the earth will moves, vfx teams don’t have to do as much manual work. But at this point the simulator just worked with ground particles. Any branches from the trees in the surrounding forest followed an entirely different set of rules because “their particles don’t act like dirt particles at all.”

“We read the script for this film early on and saw the opportunity to create the simulator to speed up the pipeline and relieve some of the pressure that we knew would be on getting the effects to look as good as they can,” says Pearson.

More Film

  • Malcolm D Lee Uptown Saturday Night

    'Girls Trip' Director Malcolm D. Lee Boards 'Space Jam 2'

    “Girls Trip” director Malcolm D. Lee is replacing Terence Nance as director of “Space Jam 2,” starring LeBron James, for Warner Bros. and James’ SpringHill Entertainment. The departure of Nance, creator of the HBO show “Random Acts of Flyness,” was due to differing visions between Nance and the producers for “Space Jam 2.” Warner Bros. has set [...]

  • Joker movie

    With 'Ad Astra,' 'Joker' Likely, Venice Set for Strong Showing by U.S., Bolstered by Streamers

    Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra,” Noah Baumbach’s untitled new project, “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” Fernando Meirelles’ “The Pope,” the new “Rambo” installment, and heist thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive art dealer, all look bound for the Venice Film Festival, sources tell Variety. The fest [...]

  • CGV's Massive Imax Screen Order Shows

    CGV's Massive Imax Screen Order Shows Optimism for Chinese Exhibition

    Korean cinema giant CGV has signed a deal with Imax to install a further 40 giant screens in movie theaters in China. The deal suggests that China’s multiplex building boom still has some way to run, and that at least one Korean company is still willing to invest in China, despite China’s currently boycott of [...]

  • BAFTA headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, London

    BAFTA Undertakes Major Renovation of Its London Headquarters

    BAFTA has undertaken a major renovation of its London headquarters that will double the building’s capacity and increase space devoted to the British academy’s programs to promote skills training and new talent. Work has already begun on the $31 million overhaul, which is expected to take two years. In the interim, BAFTA will relocate its [...]

  • Andhadhun

    Booming Digital Lifts Eros Indian Film Distribution Giant

    Eros International, India’s largest and most controversial film distributor, says that its digital revenues now outstrip conventional theatrical and syndication revenues. Its Eros Now streaming platform claims 18.8 million paying subscribers. The New York-listed company reported annual results that were distorted by multiple adjustments to presentation. Reported revenues in the year to end of March [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Second Huayi Brothers Film Is Canceled as Company's Losses Mount

    Still reeling from the cancellation of the theatrical release of its blockbuster “The Eight Hundred,” production studio Huayi Brothers has been hit with another setback: Its comedy “The Last Wish” has also been quietly pulled from China’s summer lineup. Both films have fallen afoul of China’s increasingly heavy-handed censors. The unwelcome development comes as Huayi [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content