Monday, January 21, 2019

Visual Effects Bake-Off for the 91st Academy Awards

Visual Effects Branch Academy Governors John Knoll, Craig Barron and Richard Edlund talk to the “Solo” visual effects leadership team Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Rob Bredow (Dominic Tuohy not pictured) at the Academy VFX Bake-Off. 

Some quick thoughts about the visual effects Academy Bake-Off which took place on January 5, 2019.

First and foremost, it was a super fun night and the work that was presented was jaw-dropping. The work being done by our industry is astounding. Films that didn't even make the Bake-Off might have won the Oscar just a few years ago.

As a reminder, here were the list of 20 films that qualified to be in the Bake-Off, as chose by the VFX Academy branch's executive committee: Ant-Man 2, Aquaman, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Bumblebee, Chistopher Robin, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, First Man, Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Mortal Engines, Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Paddington 2, A Quiet Place, Ready Player One, Solo and Welcome to Marwen.

Going to the bake-off (again, determined by the executive committee) was Ant-Man 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Chistopher Robin, First Man, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Ready Player One, Solo and Welcome to Marwen.

The new format changes are great. The first presenter can introduce their work while a reel of 'breakdown' or before/afters plays on the screen behind them. Then the 10-minute reel of finished work (with audio), then the three governors (Barron, Knoll, Edlund) ask questions of the four presenters per-film, and take questions from the Academy branch members. It's much more casual and fun than previous formats, and the inclusion of before/after material is vitally important and a huge improvement.

Finally, instead of Academy members voting in-person moments after the event, voting now takes place online. The event was also live-streamed to San Francisco, London and Wellington. These are also great improvements.

I'm going to quickly go through the films that presented at the Bake-Off, which presented in alphabetical order, none in 3-D.

๐ŸŽฅ Ant-Man 2: The work is incredibly well-done and consistent-the reel played very well. The youth work on Michelle Pfeiffer is remarkable.
๐ŸŽฅ Avengers Infinity: Crazy reel, everyone was wowed by Thanos work. Only 80 shots in the film were not touched by visual effects.
๐ŸŽฅ Black Panther: Emphasis on the beautiful Wakanda environments, every single shot in the movie touched by visual effects.
๐ŸŽฅ ChristopherRobin: super subtle, effective animation, great integration of first-unit camera work. Very impressive.
๐ŸŽฅ First Man: Leaned hard on miniatures and the wonderful projection work. Restoration/re-working of real launch footage was cool.
๐ŸŽฅ Jurassic World FK: Dinos look so good, different approach with stand-in dinos on set, practical roller coaster is so cool.
๐ŸŽฅ Mary Poppins R: Integration of live-action/CG/traditional animation was huge, director eschewed digital doubles, heavy wire-work.,
๐ŸŽฅ ReadyPlayerOne: The volume of work is astounding, audible gasps for The Shining presentation.
๐ŸŽฅ Solo: Emphasis on the rear projection work providing imagery and lighting in extensive cockpit sequences, reel was super fun.
๐ŸŽฅ Welcome to Marwen: Greatly benefited from before/after introduction, helped us understand the very difficult design/execution process, fun self-aware presentation.

Of the ten films that presented at the:
๐Ÿฟ7/10 are sequels or part of cinematic universes
๐Ÿฟ1/10 based on classic Disney character
๐Ÿฟ1/10 based on real events
๐Ÿฟ1/10 based on documentary

๐Ÿง‘๐ŸฝSpecial effects supervisor Dan Sudick is a potential nominee for THREE films this year (Ant Man 2, Avengers IW, Black Panther)
๐Ÿง‘๐ŸฝCreature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan is a potential nominee for TWO films this year (Jurassic World FK, Solo)

Finally, and frustratingly, 35 out of the 36 people on stage were white males [3 branch governors and 33 potential visual effects Oscar nominees presented]. We have an enormous inclusion problem and we have so much work to do.

Great writeup from AWN of the Bake-Off, including tons of breakdown reels from each film (these are *not* the breakdown/clip reels shown at the Academy event, FYI): 2019 Academy VFX Bake-Off: Celebrating A Year of Excellence in Visual Effects.

Original Twitter Thread

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