VFX Videos of the Week 12-05-14

by Graham Edwards

Wanderers - Ringshine

I’m launching this week’s personal selection of VFX videos with a tour of the cosmos. Wanderersa short film by Erik Wernquist – is an inspirational vision of a near future in which humans are beginning to venture into and colonise the planets. According to Werbquist, “All the locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.” If Wernquist’s stunning images, combined with a spine-tingling narration patched together from old Carl Sagan recordings, don’t make your spirit soar, nothing will:

My next choice is a cute little video called A Cup of Tea at Engine House VFX and – entirely appropriate for a visual effects company based in England’s rural county of Cornwall – it demonstrates the basics of CG using, well, a cup of tea:

Now that we’re all maxed out on the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s time to take a trip back in time to the early days of the saga. From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga is a 1983 documentary narrated by Mark Hamill and packed with classic behind-the-scenes footage. I kept my original VHS recording of this for years, until the march of time made it obsolete. So when I stumbled over it on the official Star Wars YouTube channel the other day, I was delighted. The video’s been uploaded in nine parts – here’s the first:

Milk VFX have posted their latest showreel, featuring a wide range of work from features including Snow White and the Huntsman and Les Misérables, TV shows including Doctor Who, not to mention a whole menagerie of prehistoric beasts. Click the image to watch it on their Vimeo channel:

Milk VFX showreel

Only a couple of trailers this week. The first is Terminator: Genisys, the latest attempt to reboot the classic sci-fi franchise. This looks a lot more like a Terminator movie than we had any right to expect – future war scenes, big stunts, Arnie, and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke channeling Linda Hamilton in her role as Sarah Connor. While I didn’t see anything that had me pumping the air with excitement, if they can get the promised “twisty timeline” story right, this could be a winner. Visual effects are led by Double Negative and MPC, and the teams there are clearly on-brief to emulate the style of Cameron’s original movies. Check out the Hunter-Killer that flies in at around the 20-second mark and tell me it doesn’t have that old-school “swinging around on wires” vibe:

The second trailer is for Vice. I’m not sure I’ll be queueing up to see this action-heavy movie about a hedonistic resort populated by client-serving androids, but it’s interesting to note the current popularity of “artificial intelligence in a female body shell” movies, which surfaced recently with the British indie flick The Machine and will continue early next year with Alex Garland’s upcoming Ex_Machina:

Last up is an oldie but goodie. Powerful Visual Illusions is a TED Talk by cognitive neuroscientist Al Seckel. It’s got nothing to do with movie visual effects … except actually it does. Seckel’s lecture is rammed with optical illusions and examples perceptual trickery, all wrapped up in an entertaining monologue which proposes that the human brain actually derives pleasure from being fooled. As Seckel himself says, when we witness the impossible “our expectations are violated in a pleasing way.”

Any theory which statesthat visual effects are pleasing by their very nature scores high points with me. How many points does it score with you?

It won’t surprise you to learn the video you voted into first place last week was – you guessed it – the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Which one’s going to be top of the tree this week? Now’s your chance to decide!

One thought on “VFX Videos of the Week 12-05-14

  1. I recently watched on YouTube a five-part series about the great Ralph Macquarrie, concept illustrator for the original Star Wars trilogy. I’ve been a fan of Ralph since the first Star Wars movie back in ’77, but I found the mini-documentary (the name of which eludes me as I write this) to be rather mediocre, as it’s only related to Star Wars, and we fans know Ralph also worked on other movies, including Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, among many others. Besides, there’s like no footage or photos of him working in the many matte paintings that he did for those movies.
    In any case, my two cents this week.

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