Jan 29

Everything Is Fake! These 10 VFX Reels Show Off Some of the Most Impressive Movie Magic in 2013

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Great stuff! ILP’s Kon-tiki breakdown in the this great article about 10 VFX reels that show off the Most impressive Movie Magic of 2013.

By  Jan 10, 2014

It’s easy to complain about movies having too much CGI these days. All too often the digital work in films is poorly executed and only stands in glaring, cartoonish contrast with the real material on-screen (take the aerial assault on the White House in Olympus Has Fallen, for example. Or any frame of R.I.P.D.). When it’s done right, though, you don’t even notice it’s there.

That’s not always the case with the below collection of VFX reels. Not everything is flawlessly executed and photo-realistic. However, when you see the before and after on a lot of these, your mind may be blown just a incy, wincy little bit. To that end, here are some of the coolest visual effects from 2013 films– at least that already have VFX reels online. We’re waiting on you, Man of Steel.



You probably haven’t seen Stalingrad, as it won’t open in the United Status until February of this year, but this film about one of the largest and most influential battles in WWII has been a huge hit in its native Russia, where it broke a bunch of box office records to become the country’s highest grossing domestic film. It’s also the first Russian film made using IMAX 3D, and that of course means it’s got more than a few visual effects in it to fill up that supersized frame.


Kon-Tiki, the true story of a Norwegian explorer charting his way across the Pacific using only a raft made out of balsa wood, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar earlier this year. Considering the majority of the movie is just a few guys floating on a raft fighting their environment to survive, it certainly had to rely on VFX wizards to pull off that which they’d never actually be able to safely film. The below reel focuses on a few key shark sequences in the film, and doesn’t even show one of the film’s most impressive shots (the pull out up from the boat up into the sky and eventually the stars), but it’s worth checking out– especially to see just how much of a difference color grading can make to a film’s look.


The Great Gatsby

This is one of the most impressive VFX reels in the list, but The Great Gatsby has an edge because it’s also the kind of movie you simply wouldn’t expect to have a ton of elaborate movie magic in it. That’s if all you know is the source material, though. If you know Baz Luhrmann directed this, then you’re already expecting plenty of stunning, larger-than-life set pieces.


The Wolf of Wall Street

Yep, Martin Scorsese’s dark comedy about financial criminals does indeed have its fair share of visual effects in it. You can’t really make a big movie these days without dabbling in digital work, even if it’s for something as seemingly mundane as changing the exterior walls of a house. This is the kind of stuff that’s designed so you never even realize it’s CGI in the first place.


The Immigrant

As with Stalingrad above, most people won’t actually be able to see James Gray’s The Immigrant until the Weinstein Company releases it some time in 2014 (hopefully, that is; the studio has been known to hold on to a film for awhile). This isn’t a sprawling war story with tanks and planes, though. It’s a small, personal drama set in Manhattan… in 1920, that is. The city that never sleeps certainly looked a little different over 90 years ago and this is just a peak at how they brought it back to life.


Iron Man 3

This is a particularly nerdy reel because it focuses exclusively on just one aspect of Iron Man 3: Tony Stark’s elaborate heads-up displays that he sees inside the Iron Man suit. If you can appreciate a good user interface, though, you’ll dig this.



Like the Iron Man 3 video above, this Oblivion montage shows off all the cool graphical interfaces that Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough interact with throughout the movie. It may not be as intense as re-creating a Russian war, but all these flourishes help paint the future of the film.


Thor: The Dark World

And now we get back to the kinds of visual effects people expect from big-budget movies: aliens, outer space and plenty of punching, kicking and flying. There’s a particular focus here on the battles in Thor: The Dark World, and how the scale (not to mention giant warriors) were created. We actually wouldn’t mind watching these entire fights in their precompleted versions, as it reveals a lot of action you can’t really see during these dimly lit scenes.


Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is a huge movie. Just utterly massive. And that’s thanks in no small part to the lengths Guillermo del Toro went to create a world in which people climbing inside giant robots to fight giant monsters actually made sense. There’s a really impressive mixture of practical work that’s complemented by digital backgrounds, and it’s that combination that makes this one of the finest pieces of eye candy to come along in quite some time.


Now You See Me

Now You See Me is a fun heist movie. Having said that, one of the frustrating aspects of it is how impossible the actual magic tricks in the film are in the real world. Sure, we’re not expecting any of them to have been performed by actors in real life, but we might have appreciated it more had they been written so that they were a tad bit more plausible. Still, if you want to see how movie magic made it all possible, check out the below video.


Jan 10


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ILM presents another stunning breakdown, this time for Star Trek into Darkness

See Also :Everything about Start Trek on IT’S ART // Making of Lone Ranger by ILM


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Oct 31


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From Disney’s press release. Also announcing the release of star wars 7 -released 2015

Global leader in high-quality family entertainment agrees to acquire world-renowned Lucasfilm Ltd, including legendary STAR WARS franchise.

Acquisition continues Disney’s strategic focus on creating and monetizing the world’s best branded content, innovative technology and global growth to drive long-term shareholder value.

Lucasfilm to join company’s global portfolio of world class brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC.

STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.

Burbank, CA and San Francisco, CA, October 30, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.

Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.

The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney’s very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney’s portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company’s ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world’s highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.

Note: Additional information and comments from Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, and Jay Rasulo, senior executive vice president and CFO, The Walt Disney Company, regarding Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, are attached.

Investor Conference Call:

An investor conference call will take place at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT today, October 30, 2012. To listen to the Webcast, turn your browser to /investors/events or dial in domestically at (888) 771-4371 or internationally at (847) 585-4405. For both dial-in numbers, the participant pass code is 33674546.

The discussion will be available via replay on the Disney Investor Relations website through November 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST/2:00 PM PST.

About The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with five business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, interactive media, and consumer products. Disney is a Dow 30 company with revenues of over $40 billion in its Fiscal Year 2011.

About Lucasfilm Ltd.

Founded by George Lucas in 1971, Lucasfilm is a privately held, fully-integrated entertainment company. In addition to its motion-picture and television production operations, the company’s global activities include Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, serving the digital needs of the entertainment industry for visual-effects and audio post-production; LucasArts, a leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software worldwide; Lucas Licensing, which manages the global merchandising activities for Lucasfilm’s entertainment properties; Lucasfilm Animation; and Lucas Online creates Internet-based content for Lucasfilm’s entertainment properties and businesses. Additionally, Lucasfilm Singapore, produces digital animated content for film and television, as well as visual effects for feature films and multi-platform games. Lucasfilm Ltd. is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

May 13

An Inside Look at the Real Stars of Battleship: The Awesome Special Effects

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Some nice inspiration from the #1 in our business.


An Inside Look at the Real Stars of Battleship: The Awesome Special Effects.

Feb 11

Breakdown + Awards | ILM + Bafta

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Some weekend inspiration from the guru’s at ILM.

The Visual Effects of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”


It is also Bafta night tonight.  The nominees for best VFX are:


THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN – Jamie Beard, Joe Letteri, Keith F. Miller, Wayne Stables
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2 – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Greg Butler, David Vickery
HUGO – Alex Henning, Rob Legato, Ben Grossmann, Joss Williams
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Daniel Barrett, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White
WAR HORSE – Ben Morris, Neil Corbould

The winners are announced Sunday 12th around 9pm GMT.

Nov 12

ILM Doco: 35 years of industrial magic and light

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I wish I had the Encore channel….


This weekend, Encore will be screening a new documentary “Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible” which is narrated by Tom Cruise. It aims to capture the history and spirit of one of the greatest visual effects houses that has ever worked and which continues to this day to pioneer the field of visual effects. We spoke to the Academy Award nominated director Leslie Iwerks.


The film is a celebration of 35 years of ILM. An amazing 35 years and some 300 visual effects films. A record no other company can match, or even come close to. Dennis Muren alone has won six Oscars, been nominated for another six, and has been awarded a technical Oscar for the development of a Motion Picture Figure Mover for animation photography.


Director JJ Abrams on set of Star Trek 2009 one of many big name directors who appear in the new documentary

The hour-long special has interviews with filmmakers George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau, actors Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Williams, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. It also interviews many of the key visual effects supervisors of ILM, Dennis Muren, John Knoll, John Dykstra, Pablo Helman, Ben Snow and many more.

We asked director Leslie Iwerks if there was anyone she really wanted to interview but could not. “James Cameron,.. he would have been important not only for Abyss and Terminator 2 but for Avatar, but we just couldn’t make the schedule work,” she said.

To take nothing away from ILM or the documentary, because there are so many interviews, you may be lusting after the outtakes and uncut footage that were shot for this documentary as no one supervisor or director has time to be interviewed in any great depth. It also assumes a broader audience so technical complexity is limited and while there are some great before and after reels, you will find yourself watching more for the sense of what it was like to work at ILM and the spirit of the company than any great technical insights.


John Knoll on the Set of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 – left of frame

Film and television shows featured in the special include The Abyss, Avatar, Forrest Gump, Jumanji, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Transformers, Twister, Young Sherlock Holmes and The War of the Worlds (2005), which starred narrator Tom Cruise.

Cruise had been slated to appear in the documentary, but when scheduling made that complex, the idea surfaced to ask him to narrate instead. Cruise adds real gravitas to the narration and his willingness to do it is as much a comment on ILM and his respect for them as anything. “We approached him to be in it, for about four months we tried to figure out his schedule to get him as an interview, but it never worked out, then almost at the last minute, we asked ‘well how about narrating it?’ and he was thrilled to do it,” Iwerks explained.

The documentary uses extremely interesting historical footage, some of the most interesting scenes and discussions centers around the early days of ILM and especially Star Wars. ILM has one of the finest archives and Iwerks was not limited by availability of material, but the film did have a finite budget. Iwerks commented, “It’s something like US$11,000 for 30 seconds to use a shot from some major feature films,.. so you’ve got to be choosy. And then you have the SAG and Director’s guild fees, WGA, Stunt fees for every person in there… so there were times we used stills to get the ideas across.” But the film does not feel limited in access or material. There is a wealth of talent and footage packed into this documentary.


ILM was formed in 1975 to realize the complicated and unprecedented special effects shots for a new movie called The Star Wars. Led by visionary photographic effects expert, John Dykstra, who features in the film, a group of college students, artists, and engineers pushed the limits in artistry, craftsmanship, technology and time. Models, glass matte paintings, optical compositing, rubber masked creatures, and revolutionary camera systems pushed Star Wars to a level of believability all its own.


Greenscreen work for Star Trek 2009 ILM worked on many of the Trek films including the famous Genesis sequence for Star Trek II

The historic success of Star Wars forever changed moviemaking and in 1977 allowed George Lucas to establish a filmmaking center outside of Hollywood. He relocated to Marin County in Northern California and built Skywalker Ranch. ILM set up shop in the nearby city of San Rafael, inhabiting a nondescript group of buildings and working under the guise of Kerner Optical Research Lab and immediately began work on the next Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. From there, ILM opened its doors to the outside film community, becoming the first independent visual effects studio in the industry. The company’s first outside project was Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Throughout the 1980’s, ILM continued to push ahead with the photochemical effects of the day, but George Lucas could see the potential for an entirely new way of creating cinema magic. He formed the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Division, which soon developed texture mapping, motion blur, digital matte painting and compositing programs for motion pictures. The Genesis effect in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan incorporated the first visual effects shot made in the computer for a motion picture.


Dennis Muren returned to the Star Wars universe here on the set of Episode 1

Since their earliest days of CGI experimentation, and nearly 300 films since, ILM now features the largest and most advanced digital effects system in the entertainment industry. From the earliest creations of wholly computer-generated characters in Young Sherlock Holmes, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park to the startling breakthroughs in films such as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, ILM is constantly expanding the possibilities of digital imagery.

The Pirates series made extensive use of motion capture technology, otherwise known as ‘mocap’ and then a derivation of that technology they pioneered called Imocap. This latest advancement eliminated the need for an elaborate array of sensors and cameras in a controlled environment and instead, only required the primary shooting camera on set to record the performance of actors as data that can be used to drive the action of digital characters. This was a major technological advancement which helped in bringing Davy Jones and his crew to life.


Jean Bolte on the set of Episode 3 of Star Wars

In 2005, ILM’s headquarters were moved from Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge to a 23-acre complex at the historic Presidio of San Francisco. From their humble beginnings in a Van Nuys warehouse to a state-of-the-art facility in the Presidio, ILM has transformed the photo chemical techniques of old into a new digital era, changing the industry one film at a time. Their innovation and artistry has been recognized with 15 Academy Awards® for Best Visual Effects and 23 Science and Technology Awards from the Academy. The company remains the only entertainment entity to ever be awarded the National Medal of Technology.

The Documentary

The film came about from a meeting at ILM with Starz Entertainment, which is a premium movie and original programming entertainment service provider operating in the United States. Starz contacted Iwerks to direct. Iwerks was well known to the network for her 2008 theatrical documentary, The Pixar Story (as producer, writer, director & co-editor), which chronicles the history, business, and artistic triumphs of Pixar Animation Studios and the computer animation they pioneered. That film was narrated by Stacy Keach and featured Steve Jobs, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, George Lucas, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Billy Crystal among others. The Pixar Story had its television premiere on Starz, in, 2008, and garnered record high ratings for the network. The film was also nominated for the 2008 Editors Guild ACE Award for best documentary editing, (against Michael Moore’s Sicko), and was also nominated for the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Non-fiction Special. (The Pixar Story site )

Iwerks is not only an excellent choice for director due to her own previous documentaries but she comes from a family of great filmmakers and animators. If you want to have a director flag the key technological innovations of the last 35 years of VFX, then it helps if they really understand visual effects and are in a position to creatively and technically judge those milestones.

Iwerks had the perfect background for this task. Her grandfather was a special effects pioneer, starting out in the very early days (1923) with Walt Disney himself. A subject Leslie had previously tackled with her award-winning theatrical documentary for Walt Disney Pictures entitled The Hand Behind the Mouse – The Ub Iwerks Story which chronicled the life of Leslie’s grandfather, Ub Iwerks, the original designer and co-creator of Mickey Mouse. That film was narrated by Kelsey Grammer. In speaking to fxguide about her grandfather, she explained how “he was always pushing the envelope…”

After the earlier Mickey Mouse work, Ub Iwerks returned to Disney, “He was leading the technical engineering or process department for film (at Disney) – so it was the optical printer that he designed for Mary Poppins (Dir. Robert Stevenson, 1964) – for all that live-action and animation combination work in that film, the sodium traveling matte process that allowed for that,.. he invented the nodal point perspective lens,.. and then he did the effects forThe Birds (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1963), – so all the compositing and plate shots for The Birds – that was all his work… take ten birds shot in a room on a black background, and then reverse it and duplicate it and composite it and make it look like a flock of birds,.. so a lot of the work he did laid the foundation for what would become rudimentary in the digital era,” she explained. Her father Don Iwerks also worked at Disney for 35 years. “He started as a camera assistant on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , (Dir. Richard Fleischer, 1954)… and worked his way up,… and did all these amazing technical things,” including working on the original Tron (Dir. Steven Lisberger, 1982).


Pablo Helman on Indianian Jones IV at Kerner Optical post the split ILM and Kerner Optical teams still work very well together

Iwerks decided to frame the story based on the technical innovations that ILM pioneered. This technical history provides the roadmap that works to navigate which of the 300 ILM films were featured. And while this does expose, for example the issues ILM had with moving to digital tools around the time of Jurassic Park, unfortunately it did not lead to some other aspects of ILM making it into the documentary. We saw no reference to the Singapore Expansion, a very proud and key extension of ILM, nor much discussion of Kerner Optical and the Presidio split that separated the old model shop team from the digital artists of ILM, which is a shame as so much of the rich history of ILM that was told showed the great work of the model shop team members.

“You look at 35 years and you say ‘What is the story?’. There were challenges on every movie, problems and politics on every film, and so I looked at the big picture, at the movies and asked … ‘what were the turning points for ILM?’ for example, one of the turning points was Jurassic Park and going over to CG, and how it affected the model shop, that was a really significant period for ILM, going over to digital and how that affected the old timers, a change always leads to some sort of concern for people,.. and I felt that was an important issue and a lot of people talked about that, but on other issues… there are a million things we could have focused on, Rango, for example, their next foray into animation, and all of this was discussed in the editing room, but something has to go.”

Certainly Iwerks got a nice balance of pop culture and history over the 35 year history, but it is not without its compromises. This decision of the filmmakers approach of following the technical innovations and the films that drove them, also fails to address the question of how ILM has been so well managed to stay profitable and creatively relevant for 35 years. This is not to say that the filmmakers avoided these issues, but with so much to cover the documentary focuses on just the main aspects of the technical innovation, screen time more than anything defines this. It would be great to see perhaps some other documentary address just how it is that ILM has grown and succeeded when so many other early pioneers were closed, merged or moved away. Triple I, Boss films, PDI, Secret Lab, Robert Abel and Associates, the list goes on and on.

“ILM is one of the most expensive, well at least they have that reputation of being one of the more expensive visual effects houses out there, but they are also the best, they come with 35 years of knowledge – so you get what you paid for!”


Transformers II green screen on set- just one of some 300 films that has amazed and technically impressed audiences since 1975

ILM has been unprecedented in its development of visual effects, but it has also consistently produced great effects without going out of business. It has clearly had to deal with all the crap of Hollywood – the overages, the difficult directors, the impossible schedules, union issues, staff changes, outsourcing and cost overages – and yet survived – more than survived, it has grown and remained one of the best places to work in the industry.

In the end this documentary does much to remind us of why ILM is so beloved and so significant, and yet leaves us wanting more. As we suggested to Iwerks it would be great to see a multiple disc behind-the-scenes making-of set of DVD extras, as each vfx supervisor and each director’s interview “alone were an hour long – at least, so it was tough,” explained Iwerks. “It could have easily been a 2 hour documentary or multi-part series!” she joked.

Encore airs the original documentary celebrating ILM: “Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible” on Sunday, November 14 at 8:00 p.m. (et/pt). Encore will also present five ILM-effects films starting at 2:00 p.m. with Jumanji, followed by Hook, Jurassic Park III, Twister and Starship Troopers.

“Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible”

viafxguide – vfx training – ILM Doco: 35 years of industrial magic and light.