"The overall impression that I came away with was how much effort goes into one little show with so many artists and so many layers -- how much detail, how much technology. I think it's very easy for audiences to go to a film like Jurassic Park or War of the Worlds or Transformers and say, 'That's just a CG character; it's believable, it's cool.' But until you get in there and realize how much work goes into each shot and how much R&D and detail, it just blows your mind. The teams, the organization, the support are really impressive. Not just shot management but also managing the directors' expectations. And yet do it in a way that is seamless. With my knowledge of what I see on screen, I can go in there and they can deconstruct it for me in a way that's really understandable, and then I can put that information on the screen and convey it to the audience in a more commercial way. When you see what they've invented and created for these effects from the early motion control rigs to Imocap, you begin to appreciate it more."
The genesis particle effect was an early benchmark in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
But the ILM culture more than just about the vfx; it's about the primacy of the image from the top down. "They really do get down to the core essence," Iwerks continues. "What is it? What do you need to focus on and not focus on? That really helps from a creative standpoint but also from a budgetary standpoint."
Iwerks got to explore this notion further at a USC panel discussion last week with Ed Catmull, Dennis Muren, Richard Edlund, John Knoll and Scott Farrar. "Dennis is very visionary when it comes to what is the core part of the frame, what is the core part of the scene," Iwerks offers. "There are so many more tools to learn today, but I asked the panel the other night how important it is to know the traditional aspects of film -- of art. Your basic knowledge of figure drawing and composition and lighting and shading. Dennis was the first to say that it is imperative. Without it, you don't have a good shot. It's like saying, you're going to be able to write a book and not know the alphabet."
Iwerks says she had the most fun deconstructing Jurassic Park, which only embraced CG after Muren proved the dinosaurs could be realistically portrayed. "And I think Transformers seems really impressive in the amount of detail of each Transformer. Every single one of those pieces has to be animated, lit, rendered -- it's crazy. You look at each image and the technology is so powerful that they could create those films."
John Lasseter and the computer graphics division were instrumental in pulling off the stained glass knight in Young Sherlock Holmes.