ILM’s Groundbreaking VFX Technology Leads the Way with Three Oscar Nods

On Sunday, three Disney releases will compete for the visual effects prize at the 89th annual Academy Awards® ceremony: Disney’s The Jungle Book, Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange and Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

But out of the five nominees, Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) division also has three films in the running, having created eye-popping special effects for Doctor Strange and Rogue One, as well as Summit’s Deepwater Horizon.

As a preeminent effects house, ILM’s cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship attracts a range of films and filmmakers from across the industry.

Naturally, ILM artisans produced all of the visual effects for Lucasfilm’s own Rogue One—nearly 1,700 shots, headed by ILM Chief Creative Officer John Knoll, ILM animation supervisor Hal Hickel, and ILM VFX supervisor Mohen Leo, as well as effects veteran and frequent Lucasfilm collaborator Neil Corbould, and involving all four ILM studios around the world (San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Singapore). The film’s most stunning effect was the incredible performance capture and digital rendering of iconic human characters that could not have otherwise appeared in the film (using technology that recently earned a Sci-Tech Academy Award). With ILM’s virtual camera technology, director Gareth Edwards was able to develop compositions for all digital shots as if they were live-action, and, in a first for an ILM feature, the filmmakers incorporated several VFX shots with a main character rendered in real time that were able to stand up to the intense scrutiny that traditionally built effects shots receive.

For Marvel’s Doctor Strange, ILM created nearly 300 shots overseen by ILM VFX supervisor Richard Bluff, including the standout sequences involving the New York City mirror dimension and the Hong Kong time reversal. The team developed a specially engineered camera known as the Strange Cam—designed, modeled and 3-D-printed to capture 360-degree footage of the on-set environments, which the VFX artists viewed in virtual reality headsets to help compose and design the complex camera shots.

For Deepwater Horizon, based on the events of the 2010 offshore oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, ILM VFX supervisors Craig Hammack and Jason Snell oversaw the creation of more than 200 shots, featuring advanced simulations for various elements including oil, water, mud and fire—notably, some of the most realistic digital fire ILM has ever created. The film, including more than 27,000 fire simulations and an incredibly accurate CG model of the oil rig, took more than 65,000 hours of computation.

Congratulations to the Oscar®-nominated ILM artists and to all of the nominated teams on their phenomenal work.