For years now, the San Diego Comic-Con has long been the place for Hollywood to announce its latest blockbusters and 2017’s event was no exception. With ever more computing power at their disposal, filmmakers are challenging special effects studios to put grander and grander visions up on the big screen. This years’ batch looks to be among the most amazing to date…
Ready Player One
In the dystopian world of 2044 — one that seems all-too-feasible thanks to climate change, overpopulation and dwindling fossil fuels — teenager Wade Watts escapes from his dreary life by plugging into a haptic virtual reality system. Immersed in a VR world called The Oasis, Wade spends his time searching for an Easter Egg left in the sprawling system by its inventor James Halliday. The finder will inherit Halliday’s wealth and his entire corporation.
As you can see, the film is rammed with movie and video game references and is massively CG-heavy. The trailer kicks off with stunning views of the multi-storey trailer park that Wade lives in, but quickly transports the viewer to world of nostalgic gaming imagery, with warring robots and futuristic car races (starring Akira-style motorbikes and Back to the Future DeLoreans). With Spielberg at the helm and both ILM and Digital Domain on VFX duties, spectacle is virtually guaranteed.
DC’s answer to the Marvel Universe arrives in the shape of Justice League, which invites Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Superman to join forces against Steppenwolf — one of the alien ‘New Gods’ — and his army of Parademons.
Considering the roster of characters here, it’s no surprise that the film needs to call on the combined talents of the artists at Weta Digital, plus London’s MPC and Double Negative. The trailer here encompasses everything you’d want in a blockbuster film, ranging from set extensions and CG landscapes to full and partial CG characters.
ScanlineVFX is also in on the CG action. Creators of the Flowline fluid dynamic system, the company specialises in large-scale simulations of water, fire and smoke — all of which can be seen in the trailer, with Steppenwolf’s Earth-shattering axe, massive fireball explosions and Aquaman halting a wall of water. Whether you like Zack Snyder’s work or not, there’s no doubting he gets a lot of processor-powered ‘stuff’ on screen.
If you can spot a frame of this trailer that doesn’t have some computer-generated visual effects in in it, you have better eyes than us. The third film in the Thor franchise looks very much like the adventures of Thor and Hulk — a concept few have any problems with. And when you’re telling the story of a Norse god and a giant, bottle green, gamma-irradiated scientist, a lot of the pixels on show will need generating by an army of VFX artists and rendered by legions of high-end processors.
The CPUs in question here belong to Industrial Light & Magic, which makes full use of its ‘Death Star’ renderfarm in San Francisco to create the Hulk, stunning vistas of the fantasy worlds of Asgard and Sakaar, an army of Valkyries on winged horses, a huge CG wolf, and a gigantic demon in a sea of fire. And, of course, it’s all been painstakingly rendered at 4K and in 3D.
Kingsman: the Golden Circle
This one is by far the least fantastical of the four Comic-Con trailers here, but it’s still quite the spectacle. The sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service still uses a lot of VFX elements but in a more low-key fashion –- with the exception of the impressive destruction of the Kingsman headquarters… and that giant Bond-style volcano base.
CG is used to sweeten a lot of the stunts too, with computer-controlled camera work for slow-motion sequences. But is also used to create a villain’s robotic whip-arm, and for a glorious sequence in which a cable car is cut loose high in a mountain range.
Unsurprisingly for a film of this scale, the visuals have been delivered by a collection of vendors, with Framestore, The Senate VFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks and French VFX house BUF all contributing specialised work for a variety of shots. Like the other films here, the spectacular visuals show just what is now possible with today’s best processors.