The first week of March will be a feast for movie enthusiasts; the world’s biggest cinematic spectacle, the Oscars, will dazzle one and all, come March 4. While most of us will speculate about who will take home “the best film” or the “best actor / actresses’ honours, this year will witness one of the fiercest ever battles on the CGI / special effects arena.
So what does it take to emerge as the SFX frontrunner? Plenty of imagination, ingenuity and flawless execution, of course! According to the Academy rules, the best VFX film is chosen on the basis of: (a) consideration of the contribution the visual effects make to the overall production, and (b) the artistry, skill, and fidelity with which the visual illusions are achieved.
The Oscar for Best Visual Effects, 2018, is incredibly hard to predict, more so because the selection process is a layered one – the nominees are determined in three stages. First, the members of the executive committee of the branch cast preferential ballots to determine 20 films for further consideration, which is then distilled to 10 semi-finalists. All members of the branch are invited to a screening of excerpts from these 10 films, at which potential nominees may discuss their work. Ballots are counted using a system of re-weighted range voting to determine the final five nominees.
Interesting, isn’t it?
A quick look at some of the last winners in the category reveals that a combination of great storytelling and next-level VFX always scored big with the jury.
All the past winners have been epics in their own right, and this year, we expect another worthy one to enter the Hollywood hall of fame.
The marquee list – 2018 nominees
So who’s leading the VFX bandwagon, circa 2018? Here’s a list of the most likely winners:
1.“War for the Planet of the Apes”
When it comes to fantasia, some movie franchisees, with their jaw-dropping CGI and VFX displays, have been looked up to as game changers; ‘The Planet of the Apes’ is one of them. After failing to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014), the third outing – ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is shaping to the most-likely contender to bring home glory for the 20th Century Fox’s “Apes” reboot. The odds of it winning, pegged at 8/11, are pretty high. And why not, after all, Weta Digital has drawn on its depth of expertise, to translate body and facial motion to their cg models, to simulate muscles and fur, and create further photo-real environments and effects. Also, real actors in performance capture suits were filmed on location – including in snow and rain – and the film was edited with them ‘as is.’ With an astonishing array of digital apes led by performance capture master Andy Serkis as Caesar, the third Apes sequel could win Weta its fifth Oscar.
A brief look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5XQq1ulspc
2. “Blade Runner 2049”
With Blade Runner 2049, Rodeo has raised the benchmark of retro-futuristic technology and its holographic AI personas a few levels up. While Blade Runner – the original – belongs to a pre-CGI era, the sequel features a heavily digitized, gloomy-looking future LA cityscape, flying cars and what not. Sean Young’s replicant Rachel hasn’t aged a day in this version, and some stupendous effort has gone in to help achieve this –a combination of procedures, including bringing back Sean Young and scanning her in, combining that with archival footage from the original film to create a digital double, followed by motion-captured animation of the stand-in actress.2049 eclipses every single filmmaking limitation, and pushes the envelope of imagination much further.
Watch some of it here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO-eU6N8_7w
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
George Lucas’ space magnum opus, the first instalment of which was introduced in 1977, has now become a pop cult phenomenon, earning millions of fans worldwide. The first seven films from the franchisee have bagged Academy award nominations, and with ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, expectations are sky-high.
With every new production, Star Wars has witnessed steady evolution in VFX. The latest release is expected to be decorated with many big moments – space battles, salt flat battles, and some pretty unique critters. The seamless blend of VFX and storytelling is what Star Wars is known for. The credit goes to overall visual effects supervisor Ben Morris.
4. Kong : Skull Island
Originally debuting in a 1933 film, the legacy of King Kong is a long-standing one. With‘Kong: Skull Island’, the mighty form has earned new, hitherto unexplored dimensions. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts of Successful Alcoholics and Kings of Summer fame and with Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures at the VFX helm, this was touted as a creative masterpiece even before it was unveiled, and it has stayed true to its repute. The result? A completely new take on the creature, driven by shot-on-location aesthetics – a combination of old-school and new-school techniques. Keyframe animation was used to create scale and motion-captured facial performances were relied upon, to add personality and humanity to Kong. The mythical re-imagination is truly larger than life!
Industrial Light & Magic (VFX Supervisor : Jeff White)
Hybride (VFX Supervisor: Philippe Theroux)
Shade VFX (VFX Supervisor : Mitchell S. Drain)
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
In 2014, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy took the box-office by storm, carving a special space in the hearts of film fans worldwide. The reprise was expected to be more adventure-packed than the first release, and it certainly did not disappoint.
For this rollercoaster of a movie Framestore collaborated with VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend to deliver a mind-boggling 620+ shots ranging from creature work, spaceships, to what is being hailed as ‘the best opening sequence in the world’ and an exhilarating space chase across the Galaxies. James Gunn, the director, is a maverick, with a wild bent of imagination.
The collaboration has led to groundbreaking work, which has thrilled global audiences beyond measure. Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
“What we’ve achieved is something totally unique. That is because the mind of James Gunn
is a very unique place; but also the demands of the work pushed our team to create the
– Jonathan Fawner, VFX Supervisor
With so many heavyweights vying for top honours, Oscars 2018 is poised to be an extremely mouthwatering affair. Stay tuned, for this is going to be one hell of a firecracker!