Posts Tagged ‘ILM’



Fully Operational Fandom: How Star Wars Inspires Careers

Amy Ratcliffe | April 10, 2014

When Star Wars came along, it captivated the imagination of countless moviegoers. Every facet from the technology to the effects to the characters came together to create something new and fresh. It wasn’t quite like anything people had seen before, and over the years it’s gained a massive following and made an impression upon thousands of people. Star Wars has even inspired others to pursue certain careers. Just think of how many hundreds of fans entered the film industry because of the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his friends.

The saga didn’t only inspire filmmakers. It also spurred people to chase positions in robotics, entrepreneurial roles, fight choreography, and writing. I spoke with fans in those areas about how Star Wars helped shape who they’ve become.

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ILM’s Model-Making Masters of the Universe

Steve Sansweet | February 11, 2013

There was a panel at a relatively small model show Saturday in the community center of my relatively small town, Petaluma, California, population 57,941. That’s not nearly as small as most semi-rural towns in wine country, but for a guy born in Philadelphia it sure is.

There were about 2,000 people who filled the center all day. The display we had at the Rancho Obi-Wan table attracted folks for the length of the show. There were babies in strollers and grizzled granddads whose lifelong hobby has been building exquisite scratch-built and model kits.

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ILM’s Road to the Death Star

StarWars.com Team | February 5, 2013

ILM's Path to the Death Star
(Click image to download high-resolution PDF.)

Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, Skywalker Sound & ILM Receive Oscar Noms

StarWars.com Team | January 10, 2013

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Lucasfilm congratulates all of this year’s Academy Award nominees, including ILM’s Jeff White who is nominated for Visual Effects for The Avengers and Skywalker Sound’s Gary Rydstrom, nominated for Best Sound Mixing for Lincoln. We also congratulate our very own Kathleen Kennedy on her Best Picture nomination on Lincoln. Lincoln received 12 nominations — the most for any film this year.

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Snagging a Piece of Special Effects History

Pete Vilmur | November 1, 2011

Ever since 1980, when the second issue of an industry magazine called Cinefex gave extensive coverage to the making of The Empire Strikes Back‘s special effects, I’ve pretty much been an fx geek. Setting up models against a blue screen — state of the art for the special effects industry in the ’70s and ’80s — the artists at Industrial Light & Magic would create the X-wing run down the Death Star trench, the snowspeeder attack against the AT-ATs, and the speederbike chase through the Endor forest, to name a few. These set-ups would include the models, the pylons propping them up, stage lights, the blue screen, and of course the camera — items that recently became available in an auction staged out of the old ILM facility in San Rafael, California.

Naturally, as an effects junkie and a resident of the Bay Area, this was destined to be a red-letter day.

Large crate from the ILM stage containing blue screen material

Because ILM has gone almost exclusively digital in the last decade or so, it shed off its modeling division a few years ago, with the new owners inheriting much of the old studio supplies that had served ILM for so long. But with the new studio recently disbanding, all the old lights, cameras, editing tables and booms — not to mention tables, desks, and even the contents of their drawers — were going to the auction block. With hundreds of lots available — several of which were literally room-fuls of stuff — there was a lot to scrutinize.

Pouring over scores of photos depicting the tools that created some of the most memorable effects shots in history, I’d marked about ten items of interest, two of which I and a colleague were ultimately able to win. I didn’t get everything I’d hoped to, but was glad to be able to take home a little piece of history in the end.

Below is a selection of some of the more interesting pieces of last week’s auction, at least interesting to those with a bent for analog-era special effects. To check out the entire list of lots (which are now closed), go here (Note: the photos below are a combination of our on-site photos and those posted by the auction house).

The “Vista Cruiser” motion control head used for Return of the Jedi
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Halloween, Industrial Strength

Pete Vilmur | October 25, 2011


2011 — Shawn Feeney (video here)

For one night every year, the creative minds of Industrial Light & Magic are loosed upon the world to determine which among them — artist, sculptor, rigger, or animator — can conjure up the coolest, cleverest, creepiest or kookiest Halloween costume.

The annual ILM Halloween Party has long been a tradition for the Bay Area special effects house, an event originally staged at Industrial Light & Magic’s San Rafael, California address. Though the venue has changed in recent years, the party goes on, and with it, a new festive invitation for company employees.

Until recently, ILMers and employees of the various Lucasfilm divisions received a physical invitation to the Halloween party, which often exhibited cool and quirky artwork designed and illustrated by the ILM Art Dept. In 2009, the invitations went digital, and for 2011, the very first video invitation has been created, courtesy of ILM’s Shawn Feeney (you can check out Feeney’s stop-motion pumpkin-carving prowess here).

Be sure to also check out the last fifteen or so year’s worth of ILM Halloween Party invites below (some have been slightly modified to hide venue info), and if 2005 turns up, we’ll update the post!

2010 – Designer: Shawn Feeney

2009 — Designer: Marci Velando

Detail:
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MythBusters Grant Imahara Inducted into the 501st

StarWars.com Team | April 7, 2011

Amongst the cosplayers, droids, and comic book fans attending this year’s WonderCon in San Francisco, California, MythBusters Build Team member Grant Imahara was inducted as a 501st Legion Honorary Member by the Golden Gate Garrison (with special help from the Southern California Garrison.)

WATCH VIDEO: The 501st induct Grant Imahara at WonderCon

Grant is well-known on Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters, but he started at THX then went on to make some amazing sets, droids and props at Industrial Light and Magic as a modelmaker. His robot-building skills are legendary — not only for his work on R2-D2 alongside ILM’s Don Bies, but for the lovable Energizer Bunny, his intimidating fighting robots, and his latest creation of first robotic talk show sidekick Geoff Petersen, for Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show.

In 2004, the ILM rock stars were asked to compete in Junkyard Mega-Wars: At The Movies. Grant and his ILM team made a gigantic, flame-throwing R2-D2, and of course won the competition.

You can see that awesome R2-D2 in action here:
WATCH VIDEO: Junkyard Mega-Wars: At the Movies

Grant has also been featured over the years on StarWars.com for Putting Star Wars to the MythBusters Test, for being a big fan of The Clone Wars and for his w00tstock spoken word performance about dressing up as C-3PO.

We chatted with Grant about his induction into one of the coolest Star Wars groups in the galaxy — The 501st Legion — and whether this means we can expect his droids to be moonlighting for the Empire…

Was it a complete surprise?
Actually yes! You kept hinting at a surprise during WonderCon, with a specific time and place that I needed to be. If you watch the video, I don’t actually realize what’s happening until they announce it! You know, I talk on camera all day long and I’ve done tons of public speaking, but I was so surprised and overwhelmed in that moment that I feel like I was a bit tongue-tied.

If you’re now in the 501st, does that mean all robots you build will be secretly working for Darth Vader?
Ha! I think all my robots secretly work for me! Think about it: the Energizer Bunny, Geoff Peterson (the robot skeleton sidekick from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), my combat robot Deadblow, and certain R2 units… that would be a pretty formidable army!

Why are you proud to be part of the 501st Legion?
It’s a real honor to be inducted into a group that not only strives for accuracy in representing these characters from a saga that I love, but also does volunteer community service and is considered a part of Lucasfilm’s “extended family.”


Be sure to follow both Grant Imahara and The 501st Legion on Twitter.

Marooned in Space!

Pete Vilmur | November 30, 2010

Replica Prop Forum recently posted a pretty cool find that sheds light on a little-known corner of Star Wars behind-the-scenes history. According to a post by “GKvfx”, A New Hope’s TIE fighters once donned maroon paint, at least in some recently unearthed test shots revealed in the post. The find is further bolstered by supporting images of the TIE pod in The Making of Star Wars book by J.W. Rinzler, also cited in the post.

It’s unclear if the paint scheme was abandoned for practical or aesthetic reasons, but the thought could send shudders down the spine of color-scheme snobs —

Fuchsia paint and chartreuse lasers? Puhleeeeze.

Be sure to check the second page for some rare test shots of the TIEs’ ion engines too.

Rare ILM Behind-the-Scenes Photos at Vanity Fair

Pete Vilmur | November 12, 2010

With tonight’s premiere of the new ILM documentary Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible on Encore, VanityFair.com has posted several rare behind-the-scenes photos from films worked on by ILM’s Dennis Muren –

Eight-time Oscar winner Dennis Muren is the first visual-effects artist to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ahead of Encore’s November 12 documentary about Industrial Light & Magic—the visual-effects arm of Lucasfilm where he is creative director—Muren shares behind-the-scenes photos from five of his famous projects: Terminator 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Jurassic Park, and E.T.

The new documentary airs Nov. 12 at 9 pm on Encore.

Head on over to VanityFair.com to check out the photos, and see the StarWars.com interview with documentary director Leslie Iwerks.

Walter Cronkite Visits ILM in Early 1980s Video

Pete Vilmur | June 28, 2010

TheBehindtheScenes.blogspot.com recently posted a heads-up for a rare video gem from the ‘80s offering a glimpse inside the Industrial Light & Magic facility during the classic trilogy era.

Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, who hosted a news science magazine show called “Universe” between 1979 and ’82, took cameras inside the cloistered environs of Industrial Light & Magic where it appears at least one “making of” Empire set-up was re-enacted for the benefit of Cronkite and his audience. Some great chatter between Cronkite and George Lucas, too, who personally hosted the tour.

Check it out — the audio/video quality is pretty sketchy, but the rare look inside the ILM studio during the company’s early days is worth the watch!