The Oscars: ILM Talks Star Trek
Industrial Light & Magic more than raised the bar for J.J. Abrams' successful Star Trek reboot: blending the real and the virtual in a very creative way in making a more believable movie in space, and offering a number of advancements in simulation and lighting, which are discussed by Visual Effects Supervisors Roger Guyett and Russell Earl and Animation Supervisor Paul Kavanagh.
Bill Desowitz: Let's first recap some of the new tools you created for Star Trek and their impact.
Roger Guyett: As a broad overview, I would say that the project had all sorts of different challenges because it had such a broad spectrum of work. Most specifically, we did a lot of stuff with virtual pyrotechnics to overcome the issues of doing pyrotechnics in space and dealing with non-terrestrial kind of gravities. And just the creative aspect of being able to place explosions in a movie like this does have that level of space battle, combat, and that was a lot of fun for us to do.
BD: Audiences expect more realism.
RG: Right: And we're constantly looking at the way that we've solved those problems in the past. If you looked at Star Wars, they were just filming elements and compositing those into shots. But they're filming the elements in the real world, which has gravity, and what we were trying to do is overcome -- or at least respect -- the physics of real space. And that was certainly a big achievement on the show. The lighting style was certainly a big departure for us, and Russell can talk to you about the destruction.
Russell Earl: That was one of the other things that we knew we had to deal with from early on, including the destruction of planet Vulcan. So for that we knew we were going to have massive landscapes, we were going to be on the surface and then shots in space, where we were destroying full planets, so we worked with some proprietary tools here -- Fracture -- that we used to break up the surface of the planet or the terrain based on gross sizes, and that could be run through our physical simulation engine to then break and destroy and emit secondary particles of dust and debris. So we had to figure out an efficient way to do that in a variety of scales. In addition, a lot of the destruction was caused by our Black Hole, which was another big simulation.
RE: Yeah, and we had to direct it, so think about how this Black Hole would cause the destruction and everything would eventually collapse upon itself . At the same time, making it exciting and visually interesting.