The 21st century ushered in a new form of filmmaking that forever changed the way movies are made. Tremendous advances in technical filmmaking have enabled directors to produce films that have given new meaning to the term “cinema magic”.
Visual effects can make or break a movie. The majority of big-budget productions use CGI to create realistic imagery, but not all achieve excellence in the pursuit of blurring the line between reality and fantasy. Today’s stunning visual effects owe much to the films that preceded them, many of which evolved digital imaging technology alongside the development of cinema itself.
ten Jurassic Park (1993) changed the game
1993 ushered in one of the most breathtakingly realistic monster movies of all time. by Steven Spielberg jurassic park brought prehistoric beasts back from extinction through a combination of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and animatronic puppets, seamlessly blending digital art with practical alternatives.
The Tyrannosaur paddock sequence is easily one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history. Spielberg’s masterful use of scale framing, combined with his use of ambient lighting and environmental weather, lends a level of weight and power to the Tyrannosaurus. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created 56 computer-generated shots totaling 6.5 minutes of jurassic parkscreen time; minimal but masterful use of CG ensured that the dinosaurs would look as real as possible.
9 Rogue One (2016) Achieved Photorealism
Directed by Gareth Edwards, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an immediate prequel to star wars (1977). The film follows Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso as she joins forces with Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, alongside other Rebel fighters who band together to steal the plans for the Galactic Empire’s new weapon, the Star. of death.
A thug contains nearly 1,700 visual effects shots from ILM, including photorealistic digital recreations of actors Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher. The special effects and action settings, especially the final fight at an Imperial base on the tropical planet of Scarif, possess a level of grounded granularity the saga hasn’t seen since that battle on Hoth. Connecting the prequels to the original trilogy in ways audiences could never have imagined, A thug is an incredibly well-executed Star Wars spin-off.
8 Blade Runner 2049 (2017) was breathtaking
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as “K”, a Nexus-9 replicant who discovers a long-buried secret that threatens to throw what’s left of society into chaos and destabilize the course of civilization. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard, alongside Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto in supporting roles.
Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that enhances and even surpasses the mastery of the original. Framestore created the visual effects for Blade Runner 2049 and delivered nearly 300 VFX shots for the final film. As a result, Villeneuve achieves a cerebral image, accomplishing an exceptionally sublime production that is narratively pleasing and visually satisfying.
seven The Two Towers (2002) Gave Audiences Gollum
Based on the second volume of The Lord of the Rings written by JRR Tolkien, The two towers is the intermediate part of the trilogy adapted by Peter Jackson. To succeed The Fellowship of the Ring, the film follows Frodo and Sam as they travel to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. During their quest, they meet and are later joined by Gollum, the former Keeper of the Ring.
Weta Digital served as the primary visual effects company for the film. They used roto-mation and keyframe tracking to replicate Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance in Gollum’s creation. The final film features 799 digital shots with 73 minutes of visual effects, and the results speak for themselves; 20 years after its initial release, The two towers still holds.
6 Infinity War & Endgame (2018, 2019) gave audiences Thanos
Avengers: Infinity War and End of Game are the 19th and 22nd chapters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Utilizing the use of new camera technology passed down from The Arri Group, these are the first feature films to be shot entirely in digital IMAX.
Infinity War and End of Game collectively contain over 5,000 VFX shots, with work done by Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, DNEG and several other studios. The results are truly breathtaking. Josh Brolin’s Thanos is such a real character; its performance is enhanced by the stunning work of Weta Digital.
5 Ex Machina (2014) was made on a meager budget
Ex-Machina follows a programmer asked by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an artificially intelligent humanoid robot. Written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut, the film features performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.
DNEG served as the primary visual effects studio for Ex-Machina. All scenes with Alicia Vikander’s Ava were shot twice, once with and once without Vikander present, allowing cinematographer Rob Hardy to capture the background of the scene, a painstaking process that paid off. Alex Garland directs with incredible confidence and panache, taking familiar concepts and presenting them in a deep and complex imaginative way to construct a gripping sci-fi thriller.
4 Avatar (2009) was truly groundbreaking
Written, directed, produced and co-edited by James Cameron, Avatar takes place in the middle of the 22nd century. The film follows humanity’s efforts to colonize the lush alien planet of Pandora, which threatens the existence of an indigenous tribe known as the Na’vi.
Many innovative visual effects techniques were used during the production of Avatar. Production began in the 1990s, but was delayed to allow time for the technology to reach the necessary level of advancement and adequately represent Cameron’s vision. Weta Digital served as the primary visual effects studio for Avatar, with additional work provided by ILM and Framestore. The final film contains over 2,500 VFX shots.
3 War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) Rose The Bar
Directed by Matt Reeves, War for the Planet of the Apes is the third and final part of the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy. Reprising his role as Caesar, Andy Serkis stars alongside Woody Harrelson as Steve Zahn. The film follows the conflict between humans and apes, with Caesar setting out to avenge those he has lost after the conflict escalates into a full-scale war.
Weta Digital produced the visual effects for War for the Planet of the Apes. Over 1,400 VFX shots make up the final film. The monkeys were created using a combination of CGI keyframe animation and motion capture performance. The team worked under the direction of Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon, focusing on creating highly realistic interactions between animals and their environment.
2 Interstellar (2014) contributed to the publication of scientific research articles
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar follows a group of astronauts who travel through space in search of a new home for humanity. Directed by Matthew McConaughey, the film features an ensemble cast with performances from Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn, Bill Irwin, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck and Timothée Chalamet.
DNEG served as the primary visual effects studio for Interstellar. The graphics team developed a computer-rendered black hole so realistically and accurately that their research led to the discovery of two scientific phenomena. The results provided new insights into the gravitational lens surrounding black holes and contributed to the publication of three scientific research papers.
1 Dead Man’s Chest (2006) deserves recognition as the benchmark for visual effects in cinema
Directed by Gore Verbinski, Dead Man’s Chest is a direct sequel to 2003 The Curse of the Black Pearl and the second global tranche of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The film follows Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow as he navigates treacherous waters, crossing paths with Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones, half man, half crab, half octopus.
Davy Jones is a success in technical cinema. Her character design is flawless. There is not a single point in the film where the audience’s suspension of disbelief is compromised, thanks to ILM’s technical directors, supervisors, animators, artists, operators and composers. Additionally, the color grading and distinct use of film grain heightens the film to give a grounded, gritty and lived-in feel, adding to the overall atmosphere and tone of the series.