Recently, Industrial Light & Magic unveiled some of the movie making magic that went into the stunning visual effects in The Rise of Skywalker, for which it has been nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures.
Watching The Rise of Skywalker, one fully believes that Rey and crew are racing through the desert, dodging boulders, firing off shots, while the wind violently rushes past. The idea of a stationary vehicle in front of a green screen never occurs, the results are so incredibly realistic and believable… and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the VFX mastery in this film.
As is JJ Abrams’ standard, practical effects are used when possible, which adds a wonderful element of realism and perspective to the shots. For example, when General Pryde’s ship explodes, the interior of the bridge is a practical set, whereas the exterior of the ship and the surrounding environment are digital. The effect is seamless.
Another example of this skillful mix of practical and digital effects are the Orbaks, which were often actual horses in costume, later digitally enhanced to add alien details and variations in color as they charged across the hull of a ship against a green screen backdrop. The giant snake on Pasana was a mix of puppet and CG. The Sandcrawler on Tatooine was a forced perspective shot, with costumed children as the Jawa.
The Star Destroyers rising from Exegol as debris fell from their hulls, the thousands of ships ready for battle as lightning flashed in the sky, was a breathtaking feat of layers upon layers of digital. A specially created CG lightning system was required in order to simulate random and varied strikes on the Resistance ships, and there were over 8 million hours of processor time alone to render the 16,000 ships in the fleet!
Similar to the requirements for a CG lightning system, a new digital program was created for the ocean on Kef-Bir. The ocean there was entirely CG, and the movement of it needed to look natural, to include the waves and sprays crashing over Rey and Kylo as they fought atop the ruined Death Star.
Finally, our beloved Princess was brought vividly to the screen with the use of footage from The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi. With the combination of digital enhancements and stand in actors (including her daughter Billie Lourde in the training scene with Luke), Leia was brought to life for us on screen, one last time.
For more, watch the video produced by ILM exclusively for Vanity Fair.
Leading the large VFX team at ILM and up for an Oscar are visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, and Dominic Tuohy, and creature shop supervisor Neal Scanlan. May the Force be with them!
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