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January 15, 2009

Bafta VFX Award Noms + Making the VFX Bake-Off?

Here are the nominations in Special Visual Effects for this year's Bafta Film Awards 2009, to be held on 8 February at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London

Special visual effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Eric Barba, Craig Barron, Nathan McGuinness, Edson Williams
The Dark Knight - Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul Franklin, Tim Webber
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Pablo Helman
Iron Man - Shane Patrick Mahan, John Nelson, Ben Snow
Quantum Of Solace - Chris Corbould, Kevin Tod Haug

Sadly again, no Cloverfield... So why is that? Variety chimes in with:

Making the Visual Effects Bake-Off

Now we know the seven films that will compete for the visual effects Oscar: Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II, Iron Man, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Why these seven and not, say, Hancock, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cloverfield or The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian -- all of which made the Academy's long list of contenders?

Here's why:

The Academy's vfx branch is fascinated with the intersection of visual effects and acting. They like visual effects that have the emotional punch only an actor can bring. This is a major selling point for Benjamin Button, but also part of the pitch for Iron Man, where much of Iron Man in his armor was digitally animated and had to be a convincing add-on to Robert Downey Jr.'s breezy performance, and The Mummy, which had Jet Li as a digitally animated terra cotta warrior, who had to be convincing as, well, Jet Li. This is an ongoing trend, and I expect it to continue next year with Avatar (assuming Jim Cameron's 3-D/motion-capture epic opens in 2009).

Movies that push vfx into new formats get credit for being pioneers. Journey is the notable entry here. Making digital effects in 3-D is vastly more complicated than making them in 2-D, because many of the 2-D "cheats" that look passable in "mono" are obvious in "stereo." However The Dark Knight also gets credit for pushing digital visual effects into Imax. That meant working at 8K -- and for those of you who aren't digital wonks, that's a lot more resolution, and therefore a lot more detail, than normal 4K or 2K effects.

Beauty counts. Visual effects are becoming more like other categories in the sense that it's more and more about how beautiful the work is and how it contributes to the story, and less and less about the latest tech breakthrough. Benjamin Button has both beauty and breakthrough tech, but Hellboy II may have the most gorgeous and imaginative vfx images of the year.

Okay, so what about "Australia"? If you're shocked by the inclusion of this picture in the bakeoff, you're not alone. Not even Fox really thought it was a big vfx Oscar contender when the season started, and most of the effects seem to belong in what the Visual Effects Society would call "supporting effects." But vfx supervisor Jamie Price told me today that Baz Lurmann challenged them with his "Lean and Lucas" approach: Shoot dramatic locations like David Lean, then intercut them with scenes shot on a stage with bluescreen, like George Lucas. The visual effects had to make it all hang together so you couldn't tell the difference. What, you couldn't tell the difference? That's why it's in the bakeoff.


Posted by dschnee at January 15, 2009 8:06 AM