2012 VFX Bakeoff: And Then There Were 10
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a stripped down version of its former self, though shot natively in stereo, which Charles Gibson, the VFX production supervisor explained. Yet the most noteworthy work was ILM's mermaid attack (under the supervision of Ben Snow): "We see mermaids in several forms," Gibson suggested. "They started out as kind of hybrid top/bottom, classic, Splash version. And then we seem some amazing tracking work by ILM where they managed to in stereo 3-D explicitly sort of fuse a digital tail onto a human. But once the battle starts, they're completely CG, and there's a design change in the middle of the film where they went for a more realistic look when the mermaids are in their creature attack form. And ILM stepped up to the challenge and was able to create photorealistic tops for the CG mermaids."
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the most surprising entry, was given a thorough rundown by ILM's esteemed John Knoll, the VFX production supervisor who was thrilled to work with Brad Bird on his maiden live-action film. He described the Red Square bombing, Tom Cruise climbing the Burj, the sandstorm chase, wrecking the new BMW Vision hybrid prototype, the climax inside the robotic parking garage and the missile flight. He also mentioned the extra visual kick supplied by IMAX. "When Tom's climbing the Burj, about half of that is really Tom climbing the Burj at full height, and most of the work there is painting out the safety cabling and the reflections of the cable and the reflections of the reflections and the camera and whatever crew members were in there. And that was one of our IMAX sequences, so the removals were challenging."
Veteran John Dykstra discussed his first global experience as production VFX supervisor on X-Men: First Class: introducing new and old characters and lots of environments and destruction. "Each of our 12 characters, old and new, needed unique signature powers and each power had to be visually engaging based on the comic books and film genealogy. All of our animation was performance based. For example, Emma Frost (January Jones) had to perform as a human diamond. [Everything] was critical to the look of the diamond and the sharp edges were really important to giving it that extra sense of tempra. Kevin Bacon is another great example of the genesis of our characters. Shaw in the comic books simply swells up when he imbibes energy; we thought it would be much more interesting to see energy moving through him in a physical way. Shaw's body ripples at the point of impact, ripples become waves as the energy transfer continues. Eventually the magnitude increases until Shaw sprouts multiple hands and heads. These appendages are linked together with webbing, creating truly disturbing images, which seems totally appropriate for our master villain."