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June 2018

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Page 15 of 43 14 POST JUNE 2018 SUMMER MOVIES SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY ILM BLENDS OLD AND NEW TECHNIQUES TO COMPLETE 2,000-PLUS VFX SHOTS BY LINDA ROMANELLO ith the return of one of cinema's most beloved heroes, Han Solo, in his own origins story, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney and Lucasfilm give audiences a look at the iconic character's early life in the criminal under- ground world, his initial meeting with future co-pilot Chewbacca and first encounters with gambler Lando Calrissian. To create the unique look of the film, Ron Howard was brought on to helm the project as director, and was supported by a stellar team that includes Academy Award nominated DP Bradford Young (Arrival), who shot Solo predominantly on Arri Alexa 65 cameras, two-time Academy Award– winning editor Pietro Scalia (Alien: Covenant), special creature effects legend Neal Scanlan and visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Amazing Spider Man and Men in Black 3), among others. According to Howard, "This film is charged with youthful energy and cool. While it had to be true to the aesthetic and sensibility of Star Wars, we also wanted to push the envelope to make it work for young audiences, so it would feel more relatable than nostalgic. And yet, in a way, this is the first real character study in the galaxy so far for fans. The story very much reflects the spirit of the orig- inal movies in the combination of playfulness, the- matic focus, mixed with great action, and a universe that is fascinating, inviting, entertaining and a little bit thought-provoking." To tie together the work of set designers, cos- tume designers, Scanlan's creature work, Young's photography and more, was the visual effects efforts of Industrial Light & Magic, headed up by Bredow, the newly named SVP, executive creative director and head of ILM. Bredow oversaw the 2,000-plus visual effects shots for the film, created by a team of more than 1,200 artists worldwide and additional contribu- tions from outside vendors, including the Montreal, Canada-based Hybride, with which ILM has part- nered on a number of previous projects. Effects work pretty much spanned the full gamut, including CG characters and/or objects, digi-doubles, set extensions, matte paintings, green screens and more to create vehicles, character performances, otherworldly environments and spacecraft unique to the Star Wars universe. From the speeder chase and train heist to the infamous Kessel Run, the VFX team had an immense chal- lenge in creating the over 90 minutes of visual effects required for the film. As Bredow told Post on the morning of the film's LA screening, "This movie had a particular aesthetic that we were going for, which was inspired by the 1970s' way of making the film. We leveraged a lot of the older original visual effects techniques and then updated them for modern technology." The teams combined "some of the best old-school techniques with cutting-edge technology" to pull it all off, resulting in Solo's unique look and feel. Bredow and ILM collaborated closely with the spe- cial effects team, led by supervisor Dominic Tuohy, and industry veteran creature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan, to bring Howard's vision to the screen. "I think we pulled out every trick in the book on this film, and developed a few new ones of our own," explains Bredow. "We took some of the oldest visual effects techniques, such as front- and rear- screen projection, and updated them with the latest technology. This allowed us to film 360-degree envi- ronments on the stunning Dryden's Yacht set. We also used the latest laser projection technology to surround the Falcon cockpit with screens." Bredow explains further that, "rear projection is not a new technique. In fact, it's been done for probably a hundred years, where you place a projector behind a screen and photograph that projector with something else going on in the fore- ground. We did a really nice version of that for this film for several different scenes, including the cock- pit of the Millenium Falcon. We made a 30-foot- tall screen that wrapped 180 degrees around the cockpit and then we put seven, 4K laser projectors around the back, which would project on the back of that screen, and when you got into the cockpit and looked out the window, you actually saw the stars that were out there, or whatever environment we were going to next. And then when you pushed the levers on the Millennium Falcon and pushed it into hyperspace, you would actually see the stars stretch and go into hyperspace for real, in-camera. Not only did it create a really convincing look for the camera, but it looked just like we had done it with blue screen, or even better, because the light coming off of the screen was lighting the actors and the set in such a way that everything looked really integrated. So, that's a fun example of taking something that's been done before in Star Wars and improving the quality of it because of the greater interactivity between the lights and the cockpit and also being very efficient with the way we were able to do the work. We had a very com- pressed post production schedule, so in that case, we were able to get some shots right in-camera that were going into the film." Bredow adds that the effect also immersed the cast into hyperspace, so they were "actually experi- encing it like you would on a simulator ride, only at feature-film quality that worked in-camera." The team also combined rod puppets and crea- ture costumes with state-of-the-art digital effects to introduce new characters, such as the droid L3- 37 and Rio to the Star Wars universe. "We made every effort to capture as much in-camera as possible, not only for the creatures and environments but also the incredible vehicles in the film," says Bredow. "Those are real 550 horse- power speeders, where VFX removed the wheels and enhanced the world around it," he says. As for the droid L3-37 and Rio characters, there was a bit more involved that proved slightly more of a challenge. "Some of the work that I'm most happy with in the film, really revolved around the techniques that we chose and it did require really careful execution to make sure that it looked seam- less," says Bredow. "One of the characters that I particularly like is L3, which is a droid in the film, she plays kind of Lando's right-hand person, and she's played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is a hilarious actress, and a fantastic person to collaborate with. She was very into this idea of performing in a physical droid suit. But the design of the droid was such that there was no way to make a fully-practically suit — with L3, you can see all of her innards and there's no way to hide a person in there. So, we collaborated closely with the costume department to make an amazing W

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