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ILM Cracks The VFX Whip for Indy

Industrial Light & Magic recently offered a more in-depth look into the vfx of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL in conjunction with today's Blu-ray and DVD releases from Paramount Home Ent.

Pablo Helman (visual effects supervisor) and Christian Alzmann (visual effects art director) discussed the challenges of blending this INDIANA JONES adventure with the other three and keeping up with Steven Spielberg's fertile imagination.

Helman emphasized the important new technique for jungle repopulation by dragging and dropping virtual vegetation onto a 3D scene. He also mentioned how the vfx team was able to take advantage of Janusz Kaminski's full lighting so the overall look would be complete and consistent. In fact, the opening Area 51 warehouse sequence, which took eight months to complete, was shot with smoke and lights and also required CG enhancement. (Helman previously told VFXWORLD that the original mandate was to resist much CG, but that changed when they got on set). "Steven relies on both previs and postvis," Helman reiterated.

When analyzing the destruction of Doom Town, Helman explained that he first did a demo on the Avid to show how it would work with miniatures. "Steven came up with the idea of a triangular composition of sun, explosion and Indy," Helman added.

Meanwhile, Helman also talked about the difficulty of visualizing the bizarre mind meld between Col. Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and the alien: "Getting into her mind at the end was really playtime," Helman offered. "The original concept was too graphic. Christian got to kill her three or four times."

Alzmann added how handy it was overall to paint right onto the artwork, including the actual crystal skull, and Helman said the environments were an organic blend of Digi-matte and stagework. In all, there were 560 vfx shots and 48 minutes of screen time because Spielberg wanted longer takes. There were also around 300 artists working for eight months at ILM's office in San Francisco's Presidio.

--By VFXWorld Editor Bill Desowitz

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.