How ILM Singapore shot the Battle of Crait in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Even though the clips of Solo, the latest roll-out from the Star Wars juggernaut is doing the rounds and casting a followers mind away from its last release The Last Jedi, its thrill is very much vivid. The Episode VIII of the epic space opera series opened December last year and probed the adventures of Luke Skywalker whilst imparting the techniques of maneuvering the Jedi Forces to Rey, even as a seismic battle ensues in the galaxy.

As it is the norm with the Star Wars movies, The Last Jedi too featured certain spellbinding visuals that we couldn’t help but marvel; leaving us wanting for more of it. Acclaimed VFX studio Industrial Light and Magic were the chief helmers of the visual effects for the movie. Having delivered over 2000 shots, a sum of 87 of those was by its branch in Singapore and Alex Pritchard was the supervisor.

He now explicitly explains the scenes they worked on and their co-ordination with other ILM studios – “We shared work with both the San Francisco and London locations. We worked on the Battle of Crait with San Francisco. Our shots were primarily the ones where the actors were seen inside the ski speeders. With the London studio, we worked on shots of the Mega Destroyer and the escape ships being fired upon. These particular shots were some of our most difficult as they involved the complete destruction of the escape ships and we are incredibly pleased with the end result. The remainder of our work encompassed some great Star Wars moments for instance, Luke standing in front of the burning remains of destroyed Jedi temple or the exchange between Luke and Kylo inside the Jedi hut.”

With the UK and US studios of ILM too involved with the project, ILM Singapore had to co-ordinate well with their counterparts to ensure the smooth functioning of the work. But Pritchard feels that wasn’t a challenge at all. He says, “The coordination between facilities went quite smooth thanks to our amazing production team. Most of our work was shared with the San Francisco location and since we have worked together on many projects, the back and forth was fairly straightforward. There’s a shorthand that develops over time and we are able to communicate with great efficiency because of that. Because Singapore sits between the time zones of SF and Lon there were a few times where we needed to be available on both ends of our workday but that’s what happens when you’re part of a truly global effort.”

One of the decisive moments in the movie was the battle sequence involving the Mega Destroyer and how it culminated into mass destruction of the escape ships. Not only was it gripping to witness, but also difficult to shoot. Just ask Pritchard, who deems that as among the “most challenging” scenes. He elaborates,Some of the most challenging shots for my team included the destruction of the escape ships that I mentioned earlier. These were the shots where the Mega Destroyer was firing huge cannon and picking off the transports one by one. The main challenge here was dealing with the scale of the elements in the shots and making sure the Mega Destroyer felt massive, as did the cannon that it was firing. To sell this, we made sure that the Mega Destroyer has small-scale detail and the cannon projectile was slow enough to feel large and impact full.

“Another challenge was the destruction of the ships once the projectile impacted. We used rigid simulations to break up the ships and then layered atop other simulations for smoke, fire, shooters and sparks. We referenced classic Star Wars explosions from A New Hope and then modified the look to have directionality to work with the aesthetic of the Mega Cannon. We knew we would have to repeat this process for numerous explosions so our FX team leveraged a sequence set up,” he added.

“We were quite pleased with the end result and the fact that we were able to remain true to the language of Star Wars while adapting it to fit into this new chapter.”

The Last Jedi also probed the tensions between the First Order and the Resistance. Whilst the latter claimed the Starkiller Base, the military junta counter-attacked and led an all-out assault at the 34ABY that was termed The Battle of Crait which resulted in a First Order victory. The sequence was pivotal to the narrative of the film and ILM Singapore is at the credits for the colossal encounter that left the audience breathless.

“We split this sequence with the team in San Francisco. Our work on the sequence consisted primarily of the shots where we see the actors were inside the cockpits of the ski speeders. These were challenging shots as they were shot on green screen and the set ski speeder that was built fell off into darkness away from the actors. Because the sequence was daylight and the set was not an exact match, we ended up replacing most of the exterior of the ski speeders. This involved replacing engines and wings as well as giving them movement that felt more natural for the speed they were travelling. We also needed to add glass and reflections to enclose the actors. This was tricky because this was an action sequence so you needed to be mindful of what was reflecting and when – for example, a blaster from a proceeding shot or maybe debris and smoke,” Pritchard elucidates.

“Our Lighting TDs (Technical Directors) did a great job of providing various reflected elements that the Composting team could mix and match to work within the evolving cut. For the background we relied on our generalist and FX teams. Our generalists used reference from the salt flats in Bolivia to create and render a fully digital environment. Also they took into consideration continuity by making sure to add history trails from the battle and damaged ships burning in the distance.”

Remember the red dust clouds released from the ski speeders when they jetted across the battle landscape? The FX team apparently came up with it and the supervisor is elated with the way it all panned out when he exults, “We are truly happy with our work on this sequence and hopefully you would never know that we replaced most of those live action ski speeders.”

Whilst the shots were computerised, the locations were real as Pritchard said the Battle of Crait was shot from a reference of the extensive salt flats in the Latin-American region of Bolivia, which was later used to build a digital environment that’s alike in appearance and choreograph the battle better. Other sequences were filmed in Ireland and many in the United Kingdom.

Being heavy on VFX, The Last Jedi didn’t just call for some intensive work, but a lengthy one as well as the Singapore team was apparently involved in the project for around 9 months. “The team in Singapore was a good mix of strengths that accompanied the work well. We had some junior artists that had the opportunity to step up and work on solid mid-level shots as well as senior artists that were able to tackle the more iconic one off challenges and also mentor the more junior artists,” said Pritchard as he sums up the team spirit while pulling off one of the iconic scenes of the movie.

The post How ILM Singapore shot the Battle of Crait in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ appeared first on AnimationXpress.

Of Shemaroo’s buzzing 2017 and how it did it all come together

Shemaroo Entertainment had quite a buzzing year in 2017. Having come up with various DTH services, it was also occupied with hectic promotional work to garner customers. Shemaroo head of operations and OAP Mahesh S Newalkar elaborates on the busy period whilst enlightening with the round figures of promos it developed. He says, “In the past one year, we have launched various services on the DTH platforms under different genres like devotion, spirituality, comedy, kids, regional language, Bollywood and classic cinema. Thus, it requires us to communicate the show line-ups and even have engaging promos to attract new customers. To meet both the objectives, we produce almost 50-60 promos in a month and during seasons when there are promotional offers, the number goes up to 80.”

Now that translates to a staggering two or more promos per day, which really is a Herculean task given the limited time at disposal to do the same including the ideation of the concept. So how does Shemaroo go about that? “To overcome such situations, we often have the entire team ideate including the business divisions. Some selective ideas are then further polished by the creative leads. We encourage everybody to throw in whatever ideas come to their mind, as crazy ideas are often the starting point of original creative solutions. Creativity has to flow and labelling any idea as good or bad only stunts people’s ability to think.”

“Additionally, the presence of all relevant team members during the ideation reduces the scope of any ambiguity and keeps everybody on the same page. I feel when people are involved in a project since its inception, the level of commitment and ownership is very high,” he added.

The promos made, stretch across three platforms – TV, apps and also YouTube. Newalkar highlights the difference in design in each – “While promo for any medium has to be engaging yet informative, the only difference is the subscription or download information as the main emphasis is always on the plate design for call to action (CTA). For promos on television, the missed call number and other price mandates along with the terms and conditions need to be communicated very clearly to avoid any legal issues. As for a promo for an app, an overview of the user interface along with offerings need to be highlighted.”

Stringent deadlines definitely call for precise planning, quick ideation followed by swift execution. But during the execution phase, Newalkar says that they need to restrict themselves from going overboard with more graphics as it hampers their delivery deadline. He also expresses the regret they feel about not having more time to build on animation and graphics to further enhance the look and feel of the promo.

In actuality, from cracking the concept of the promo to the final post production, the entire process on an average takes around three days and involves at least six team members. However, Newalkar reveals there have been instances when they have delivered promos in a short span of only eight hours as well!

But to execute the same requires a strong staff, as he then explains how the strength of Shemaroo’s operations and OAP team has multiplied recently. He says, “In just a span of two years, the team size has almost doubled from 50 people to a strength of 90 now. The team is full of young, dynamic and creative individuals, who are always ready to brace new challenges and are extremely committed to their work. Though the experience of each professional ranges from anywhere between six to 15 years, there is no hierarchy and each one is always open to learn from the other. This team at Shemaroo entertainment, services multiple business divisions like DTH, IPTV, VOD, Youtube, domestic and international mobile and works on some marketing collaterals as well.”

He further goes on to explain, “The OAP team at Shemaroo is broadly bifurcated into three main functions- pre-production, production and post production. Pre-production comprises promo producers who ideate and conceptualise, script writers, graphic visualisers who plan the visual graphics and pro-editors, who identify video shots. Production function comprises voice over artist, graphic designers, motion graphic animator and video editors. Post production team comprises sound designers and the quality check team. The final stage of quality check is very important as it ensures all the mandates are fulfilled as per platform guidelines.”

Then there’s the OAP lead who “guides the team to understand the requirement from the client” and “keeps them motivated all along, ensuring no deadlines are missed, without compromising on the quality.”

But how was the experience of working with the team on various projects? “We saw an opportunity in the infotainment sector with children being glued to laptops and tabs and parents and teachers deviating from the traditional methods of learning. We started curating a list of popular mantras. A team member, Ameya Joshi who has a deep understanding of devotional content was appointed to lead the project. We carefully chose the ones which were popular and easy to chant.”

“Our graphic designers Yogita Jadhav and Swapnil Khemnail, designed the look and feel of the project. The design template and animation was done by the motion graphics team Vishal Sasane and Gaurav Thorat. We had to keep in mind that the visuals had to be bright, colourful and engaging as it was supposed to cater to kids. It was edited by our senior editor Krishna Kumar and Vaibhav Banker.”

He further states, “While the visuals were being worked on, another important aspect was choosing the right voice. We appointed Inner Voice Services for the music direction and to scout for young vocal talents. We auditioned over 50 kids and shortlisted 10 who were classically trained and had a good diction.”

The chants and prayers were chosen from Vedas and ancient books, and finally created 22 mantras in just a span of 10 days. “These videos were then uploaded on YouTube and shared with our DTH operators for the devotion services that we offer. It also gives me great pride to share that the mantra kids project has garnered more than one million subscribers and over 1.5 million views. We have received rave reviews from parents and teachers who now use it as part of the teaching module for prayers.”

A lot of times, creativity has to be compromised due to budget and time constraints. Has that ever been a case at Shemaroo? “Last minute requests and stringent deadlines are part of our business. Having said that, we do have a promo calendar created in advance for the entire month and anything urgent that crops up does somewhere disrupt our schedule. The calendar is designed in such a way that we have enough time for planning, execution and re-work, if any. There are quite a few occasions when we have a sudden and urgent request from teams to deliver a certain promo, sometimes overnight or in a span of few hours. This is usually during live events. The team then rises to the occasion and goes that extra mile to deliver the required promo to the best of their abilities without compromising on the quality. Of course, this is a high-pressure environment and it’s only each members drive and commitment that leads to the desired results.”

There’s more than just promos that Shemaroo work on, though, as they specialise in a whole host of other creatives, including short movies. “In addition to all the work mentioned above, we also create in-channel packaging elements, logos for properties and services, channel indents, show packaging elements, short format videos, channel programming logic and scheduling, 15 minute version of full movies and lyrical videos, creative banners and thumbnails for our services on YouTube, UI Designs for mobile, promotion and marketing collaterals, video format conversions trailers, posters, metadata for IPTV/ VOD,” Newalkar concludes.

The post Of Shemaroo’s buzzing 2017 and how it did it all come together appeared first on AnimationXpress.

‘Coco’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ bag more prizes at the seventy-first BAFTA awards

As the seventy-first British Academy Film Awards culminated at the Royal Albert Hall last night, the likes of Coco and Blade Runner 2049 were left with more awards to add to their already bulging cabinet as each bagged the best prizes in animation and VFX categories respectively.

The Disney-Pixar feature fought off challenges from Loving Vincent and My Life as a Courgette for the best animated film, as Coco’s strong run at the awards continued with the Golden Globe, Annie Awards and Lumiere Awards already in the bag.

But all isn’t over yet as the biggest prize of them all, the Oscars, is coming next month and Coco remains in contention for that as well.

Likewise, Blade Runner 2049, the Denis Villeneuve sci-fi crime thriller that’s been sweeping awards aside for its stunning visual effects, is bestowed with yet more silverware for the same, as it was adjudged the best in special visual effects category at the BAFTA. The nominations also featured heavyweights such as Dunkirk, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes and The Shape of Water.

VFX supervisors Gers Nefzer, Paul Lambert (Double Negative), Richard Hoover (Framestore) and the head of VFX for the movie John Nelson were the recepients.

The post ‘Coco’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ bag more prizes at the seventy-first BAFTA awards appeared first on AnimationXpress.


Terrible inventors unite! You would think we’d build a shitty robot together, but instead we turned my car into a computer mouse. Just to keep you on your toes.

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I turned this car into a COMPUTER MOUSE

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WIENER 500 – Wiener Dogs in Racing Cars

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Crusoe and Oakley have their first ever NASCAR style race in a ferrari and BMW ride on cars for dogs. Who will win? We shall see? gentledogs start your engines!

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Music : Alix Lhoumeau Animation : Damien Tran Palefroi Januray 2018

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