Step inside the magic factory to see how Industrial Light and Magic pushes the limits of VFX possibilities.

For 40 years, Industrial Light and Magic has been redefining what is technologically possible in film Let’s take a look at ten ways in which ILM has utilized unique creative problem solving to create stunning VFX work.

1. Creating the Knightship

Created for: Transformers: Age of Extinction

When working on the Knightship for Transformers: Age of Extinction, ILM was tasked with conveying the massive scale of the ship without making it too strenuous on server render times. The result was a combination of atmospheric elements and recognizable details when the viewer gets up close to the ship.

Notable Technique: Using atmosphere to convey scale.

2. The Water of “Battleship”

Created By: Battleship

Water particle simulation can quickly bog down your computer or render farm. So when ILM was tasked with creating dozens of water displacement shots for Battleship, they had to go about it in a new way. Using a new water rendering technique, they were able to render at a much faster rate than before. Some of the shots required rendering hundreds of millions of individual droplets of water.

Notable Technique: Creating a new way to render out particle simulations.

3. The Organic Effects of “Noah”

Created for: Noah

Organic matter is incredibly difficult to simulate, especially when photorealism is important. So when ILM was tasked with creating dream-like renderings for Noah, they had to take extra caution to not draw the audience out of the story. This VFX breakdown shows us how they did the incredibly awesome “tree growing” effect.

Notable Technique: Creating custom growing tree effects.

4. Creating the Kaiju

Created for: Pacific Rim

Some of the coolest creatures to ever hit the big screen are the Kaiju from Pacific Rim. There was a surprising amount of thought that went into creating each creature. One of the interesting things presented in this behind-the-scenes video is the amount of real-world inspiration that goes into creating fantasy creatures.

Notable Technique: Using real-world references to create creatures.

5. Building a Futuristic City

Created for: Star Trek Into Darkness

City simulations can take a long time, especially if the city you’re simulating doesn’t exist yet. When ILM was challenged to make a futuristic version of San Fransisco for Star Trek Into Darkness, they analyzed modern urban design to determine how a futuristic society might look different from a modern one. In this VFX breakdown, we take a look at the painstaking detail ILM put in to creating a futuristic San Fransisco.

Notable Technique: Analyzing urban development to create realistic futuristic environments.

6. The Anatomy of a Shot

Created for: The Avengers

This VFX breakdown explains how ILM put together one of the most iconic shots in VFX history. Using a series of panoramic shots, 3D sets, and green screen plates, ILM artists were able to create a single action shot featuring every Avenger. The challenge was compositing all of the shots together seamlessly. However, despite the seemingly impossible nature of the task, ILM was able to create an amazing end result.

Notable Technique: Blending multiple VFX shots together seamlessly.

7. Invisible Effects

Created for: The Lone Ranger

Sometimes it’s the VFX that are unseen that are the most impressive of all. In this VFX breakdown from the Lone Ranger, we see how ILM was able to create fake mountains, forests, and even people while maintaining photo-realism. It’s interesting to note that most of the landscapes in the film were 100% fake.

Notable Technique: Creating fake environments while maintaining realism.

8. Creating a Maelstrom

Created for: Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End

In Pirates 3, ILM had to create a large vortex of water that pushed the limits of what was possible at the time. So with some creative problem solving and a little help from Stanford, they were able to create a realistic maelstrom. The secret is in rendering out the water on a flat plane then bending the flat service to simulate the drain-like effect.

Notable Technique: Bending flat surfaces to simulate depth.

9. Journey to the Red Planet

Created for: Star Trek Into Darkness

When it comes to creating amazing VFX shots, you’re not always given the best footage to work with. When creating the red planet for Star Trek Into Darkness, the team at ILM had to create an entire alien world with only a limited amount of real footage. The rest of the scene was all created digitally.

Notable Technique: Creating a fake planet from minimal reference footage.

10. ILM’s Virtual Reality Lab

Created for: Anything

This video from the Verge proves that ILM is still on the cutting edge of technological innovations. The video shows us how ILM is using VR technology to push the boundaries of set pre-visualization, entertainment, and collaboration.

Know of any other awesome VFX breakdowns from ILM? Share in the comments below.