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From ‘Children of Men’ to ‘Zodiac’: Six Subtle VFX Breakdowns Prove CGI Is Hollywood’s Lifeblood

Written by on February 27, 2013 

During this year’s Oscar telecast, Ang Lee‘s long-gestating adaptation of the Yann Martel novel Life of Pi took home four major awards, and perhaps the most deserving of all was Best Visual Effects. Thought to be an unfilmable work since the book hit shelves in 2001, due to the nature of its plot, Lee finally brought it to screen with help from many other dedicated workers.

Accepting the award was Bill Westenhofer (alongside Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, and Donald R. Elliott), a visual effects supervisor for Rhythm & Hues, the company that recently collapsed after financial bankruptcy — despite Life of Pi grossing nearly an astounding $600 million worldwide.

While over 40-million viewers tuned in to the ceremony, few were likely privy to the controversy going on just across the street, and one permeating Hollywood, as over 400 visual effects workers lined up to protest. Burdened by the recent closure of Rhythm & Hues, visual effects artists in general are often one of the most underappreciated groups in Hollywood. With strict deadlines, little recognition, and studios attempting to cut costs at every corner, work is moving outside of Los Angeles.

Visual Effects Society executive director Eric Roth (different one) recently laid out a call to action, including bringing tax incentives back to California and calling for a VFX congress where workers can air their grievances. So, we wanted to bring this issue to your attention in a different way. All of us know how much visual effects work goes into blockbusters like The Avengers and Transformers — and in general, the massive teams that construct the fantasy worlds we see in these tentpoles do stellar work — but its more germane to showcase some subtler examples on how, precisely, Hollywood would collapse without its CGI workers.

With its permeation into the world of filmmaking, one may be surprised at the vast majority of films nowadays (and pretty much every modest release) that takes advantage of VFX techniques. We’ve rounded up six examples of films from the last decade that either use subtle CGI or visual effects in places one may not be aware of, all in an attempt to shed light on just how vital this work is to keeping the current system afloat. Check out six different visual effect breakdowns below, read some statements (here and here) from the workers themselves, and let us know your thoughts on the issue at hand in the comments.

Children of Men

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Rust & Bone

Check out three more on the next page >>

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