Visual Effects Surprise Oscar Nominations Make This Race Too Tight to Call

A surprise to Oscar watchers on nomination morning was “Love and Monsters” landing a visual effects nomination.

It was the first nomination for Mr. X, the company behind the effects of the film. The monster movie was a mix of special and visual effects. In all, more than 550 VFX shots used. Genevieve Camilleri, VFX supervisor, says the filming locations across Queensland, Australia, guided the team’s approach to the effects. “These unique environments informed how we would scale the creatures to their settings and how they would interact with the film’s post-apocalyptic landscape,” she says.

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In the post-apocalyptic film, the monsters are not new creatures, they are mutated from existing insects and bugs that roamed the earth. Camilleri and the Mr. X team created over 13 different creatures.

Director Michael Matthews relied on the team to bring them to life. “We focused in on the fine details of their sensory and physical movements and interactions to make sure the creatures were fully integrated into the film’s world and brought the story to life without ever overruling the screen with obvious digital enhancements,” he says.

Overall VFX supervisor Matt Sloan notes the key was to keep the monsters semi-recognizable. During the design phase, they studied insects and amphibians before “scaling these to suit our monstrous proportions.”

“Although the creatures in the movie are giant mutants, for the tone of the film, posing and animation were fundamental in conveying an underlying innocence and confusion to most of our creatures.”

MPC entered the race, its fourth time, with “The One and Only Ivan.” The company previously won for “The Jungle Book” and most recently, “1917.”

Set for a theatrical release, the film dropped on Disney Plus because the pandemic had shuttered theaters. Its combination of live-action with CG and VFX elements were mixed with motion capture and virtual production to tell the story of Ivan and his fellow animal friends, who hatch a plan to escape.

MPC took what they had learned from previous experience and pushed existing tech further with this film.

Weta Digital makes a play for Oscar with “Mulan.” An early prep session in 2018 allowed the team to conduct its largest-ever Lidar scan of the Hubei province in China. That material was later used for the film’s main New Zealand shoot to create the Imperial City.

Historical maps of the city served as a reference point for the team to establish the scale of the city itself, which was equivalent to the land area of Manhattan. Houdini software helped with the magic of generating the city.

The Midnight Sky” went to Industrial Light & Magic to observe its Stagecraft LED wall. The wall is famously used on “The Mandalorian.”

Environments were created through the LED wall to immerse actors in the world of this sci-fi drama directed by and starring George Clooney as he tries to stop a group of people from returning to earth after a catastrophic disaster.

The Framestore team used VFX and CG for numerous effects including digital face replacements and for the Aether ship.

Rounding out the contenders is Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” Renowned for practical effects, Nolan did find a real-life superyacht and a Boeing 747 for certain stunts, including the airplane crashing into a building.

DNEG only provided 300 shots for the film.

This race is a tough one to predict, but Visual Effects Society winners may offer guidance.

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