Ex Machina wins VFX Oscar 2016: discover how the visual effects were created

The big surprise at last night's Academy Awards wasn't that Leonardo DiCaprio finally got a Best Actor Oscar after five unsuccessful nominations, but that a British film with an overall budget of $15m beat the mighty Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the VFX Oscar.

You can watch a behind-the-scenes look at Ex Machina's VFX above, which was created by two London-based VFX firms Double Negative and Milk (well, DNeg has its HQ in London, but also has studios in Vancouver and Singapore). Double Negative has had a lot of Oscar success recently, picking up gongs for Interstellar last year and Inception in 2010. Those two had Paul Franklin as VFX supervisor (watch our interview with him and fellow Oscar winner Tim Webber), while Ex Machina's VFX Supervisor was Andrew Whitehurst. Also picking up the Oscar from DNeg was 2D supervisor Paul Norris (now VFX supervisor at the firm's DNegTV offshoot), and CG lead Mark Ardington.

The film is the first Oscar for Milk VFX, and Milk's Sara Bennett is the first female VFX supervisor to receive an Oscar (and also the second woman to receive an Oscar in the VFX category, and the third to be nominated).

In a statement, Sara said that she was shocked by this, and "would love to see more women in prominent creative roles in our industry."

Ex Machina is a thoughtful film about articificial intelligence and what it means to be human. Most of its VFX are centred around the robot Ava, which is played by Alicia Vikander (who herself picked up the Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl). Watch the Ex Machina trailer below.

Below we've collected VFX and animation breakdowns for the rest of the 2016 VFX Oscar nominees, including a brand new behind-the-scenes look at the VFX of The Martian from London's MPC.

Best Visual Effects Oscar 2016

The Best Visual Effects nominations were culled from a shortlist of 10 that were announced back in December. Those not making the cut include Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic WorldTomorrowland and The Walk (not that it matters, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has has it it sewn up since it came out).

These were themselves chosen from a 'under consideration' list of 20 that also included Bridge of Spies, Chappie, Everest, Furious 7, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, In the Heart of the Sea, Jupiter Ascending, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Spectre and Terminator Genisys.

So here's who made it in with VFX breakdowns and trailers.

Mad Max: Fury Road

VFX by Iloura , plus Black Ginger and Brave New World


VFX breakdown

VFX breakdown

Matte painting reel

The Martian

VFX by MPC, Framestore, The Senate, Territory Studio, ILM, Atomic Arts and Milk.


VFX Breakdown

The Revenant

VFX by Cinesite, Image Engine Design, ILM, MPC, Soho VFX and Vitality.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Animated Feature Film Oscar 2016

The animated film nominations include two major Hollywood films, a great nomination for Aardman and two indie features: Boy and the Wild and When Marnie Was There.

The winner was Inside Out.

Inside Out


'Making of' film




Boy and the World


Shaun the Sheep


'Making of' film

When Marnie Was There


Best Animated Short Film Oscar 2016

These nominations include four indie shorts and Pixar's Sanjay’s Superteam, which ran in cinemas before The Good Dinosaur.

The winner was Bear Story.

Bear Story



Interview with director and animator Richard Williams (with clips)

Sanjay’s Superteam


We Can’t Live Without Cosmos


World of Tomorrow


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