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VES Awards: Invisible Moments in Film Get Moment to Shine

When movie heroes and villains clash onscreen, often the world around them has been crafted by vfx artists, every pixel carefully planned and rendered.

Those artists must resign themselves to a dilemma: If they’ve aced the job, the audience will never notice the excruciating detail of their creations, because everything else will just fall into place in front of them.

Films nommed by the VES in the Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature category each slipped behind the action in their own way.

Martyn Culpitt, vfx supervisor nommed for his work on “Jurassic World,” created a jungle landscape that worked in conjunction with attacking dinosaurs and fleeing park patrons. The foliage had to work with the scale and action of the main characters — a common challenge with these specialized vfx artists.

Take “Ant-Man” for example: “Making something very tiny may sound fun at first, but it can look wrong,” says the film’s effects supervisor, Florian Witzel. “We had to write proprietary software … to make it possible to place the footage of the live actor into the world of the Microverse.”

While the Microverse was a new place to many, other nominees were clearly taking audiences to places with a kind of history, either real or imagined.

“We spent months building (the Twin Towers) perfectly according to blueprints, and then just as much time introducing geometric and textural imperfections to make it feel hand-built,” writes vfx supervisor Kevin Baillie, nommed for his work on “The Walk.”

While “The Walk” had to live up to the blessed memory of the lost Towers, another had to face rabid fans’ collective memories of a galaxy far, far away.

“The environment we made also had to work with ships that ‘Star Wars’ fans have been looking at forever, so it had to be advanced but also consistent with a look from decades ago,” says Yanick Dusseault, vfx art director nommed for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Regardless of the space chase or dinosaur race, there’s always that gold standard in mind.

“We were making an idealized version of the future but one based on images we’d all seen of Tomorrowland from Disneyland,” says “Tomorrowland’s” Barry Williams. “The highest compliment you can pay us is that we didn’t pull you out of the story, that you almost didn’t notice us.”

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