Best VFX stories 2016: what's been really big in visual effects

Here at Digital Arts we celebrate the talent and skill behind visual effects projects of all variations, just as we’re sure you appreciate and admire the work.

We’ve covered detailed, gruesome, and beautiful visual effects from a range of industry-leading studios such as Framestore, MPC and Rodeo FX. 

We admired the hours of gruelling work behind the fantastic beasts of JK Rowling’s latest film, ridiculous animals for an Opel Motorsport campaign, epic battle scenes from Game of Thrones and the Jungle Book film among other projects. 

Whether you’re a professional, looking for inspiration as you start out in the industry, or looking to gain skills and knowledge, take a look at our top picks - and the most popular VFX projects - from the year.

MPC, Framestore & Rodeo FX: The fantastic beasts of J K Rowling’s new film

The latest film based on J K Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, features many incredible creatures, a number of which were created by visual effects studios MPC (who worked on all eight Harry Potter films), Framestore and Rodeo FX. 

As well as the creatures themselves, MPC also worked on the lower Manhattan skyline, Framestore on the brown suitcase containing the beasts and Rodeo FX created the magical reconstruction of Jacob’s apartment after it was destroyed.

The beauty of magic in the film only comes to life through the work of these creative studios. From The Niffler to the Gangster Goblin, we break down how each intriguing character was designed and simulated.

Read our full feature here.

The Mill: CG animals for Opel Motorsport 

Hamburg agency Scholz & Friends teamed up with London production company The Mill (and its content-driven collective Mill+) to promote Opel Motorsport’s new campaign. 

The humorous CG film uses five unorthodox drivers with distinct personalities – a lion, toad, pig, orangutan and squirrel – to emphasise the idea that anyone can sign up to Opel Motorsports’ network of racers.  

Creative director Willy Kaussen and the team at Scholz & Friends came up with the original animal concept, and The Mill’s 3D animation team worked closely with Willy to bring high-resolution detail to each of the animal characters whilst keeping humour at the forefront. 

Read our full feature here.

Method Studios: Voyage of Time documentary

Unprecedented precision, patience and diligence were required by Deluxe’s Method Studios to create the visual effects (VFX) required for epic origin of life documentary Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience.

Chief creative supervisor at Method Studios Dan Glass began working on the film more than 10 prior to its release, collaborating with Malick to create astrophysical simulations based on scientific data. 

Dan talked to us about the tension between developing artistic and emotional concepts that were scientifically sound, working with particularly long shots that had to translate to IMAX format and accurately using colour.

Read our full feature here.

Iloura, Rodeo FX, The Third Floor: Game of Thrones Season 6 

One of the most epic episode of Games of Thrones won an Emmy – the TV version of the Oscars – for its visual effects.

The Battle of the Bastards episode included both the eponymous battle between huge armies led by Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton – which featured VFX by Iloura – and an earlier battle at Meereen with flaming cannonballs and a giant pyramid – which saw work shared between Rodeo FX and Rhythm and Hues. Pre-viz work on both sequences was done by The Third Floor.

Read our full feature here.

Encore VFX: The Flash, Supergirl & Legends of Tomorrow

Week in, week out, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow wowed us with Blockbuster-standard visual effects. Watch how superheroes get super in these VFX breakdowns from Encore VFX, all overseen by VFX Supervisor Armen Kevorkian.

Read our full feature here.  

Zero VFX & VFX Legion: Hardcore Henry

Best understood as the film industry’s answer to gun-heavy video games, Hardcore Henry is bonkers – a bone-crunching, blood-splattering and stomach-churning ride littered with explosions, sky-high falls and highway chases. And you, the viewer, are in the front seat.  

From inside the protagonist’s (crazed, short-fused and violent) head, you take pliers to a man’s face, pretty much endlessly duck and shoot, and fall from vertigo-inducing, horribly high places, all in one, unbroken cut just in case the experience wasn’t immersive enough already. 

Russian director Ilya Naishuller enlisted the help of Zero VFX and VFX Legion to work around the complexities of GoPro footage and stitch together some crazy shots.

Read our full feature here.

Rushes: Solving Rubik’s Cube

With the help of VFX artists Richard Russell, James Dooley and Lorenzo Newell, lead VFX artist Leo Weston decided to combine his passion for juggling, fascination with Rubik’s Cubes and VFX wizardry – with a resulting fun video that’s leaving YouTube users shocked and confused (We guarantee a fun read in the comment section). 

It’s no surprise the video has fooled so many: Rushes, who is responsible for the trick, is a renowned London-based VFX house. When not busy confusing the people on the Internet, the Rushes team work on commercials for the likes of Nike and Samsung, and films such as Spectre.

Watch the video in our full feature to see how they applied their skills in their viral video. 

Siggraph 2016’s innovations and underlying trends

Siggraph is equal parts inspiration and perspiration: part-academic, part-entertainment, part-art show and part-business. You can see the behind-the-scenes breakdowns on some of Hollywood’s biggest movies next to start-ups showing ground breaking tech and projects that could inspire the next generation of movies and experiences

That means there’s pretty much something for everyone to check out, from artists working in visual effects and animation to digital and experiential designers creating all manner of interactive project. 

Freelancer Ian Failes discusses the coolest demos, Real-time, new tools, behind-the-scenes secrets and jobs.

Read his full feature here

The Sequence Group: 10 top tips to finding happiness in the VFX industry 

Working in visual effects and animation can be tiring work – long hours of fine-tuning and precision. But it’s a profession that celebrates creative freedom and generates great reward. 

Founder of The Sequence Group, Ian Kirby released ten tips to make your life better if you identify with the visual effects industry. 

Find out what Ian has to say about having the right tools in place, beating the 2am grind and making your studio a fun place to work in.

Jungle Book VFX

Glimpse some VFX brilliance in this behind-the-scenes look at The Jungle Book, which was almost entirely computer-generated from an L.A. studio. 

With the task of making an entire jungle out of nothing, as well as a supporting cast of talking animals (that could looked truly awful), it’s hard to believe is that the production never left a non-descript warehouse, instead relying only on visual effects wizardry and movie-newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli (who has now received rave reviews) to create a film that looks like it was entirely shot in live action. 

Read his full feature here.

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