ILM teams in SF thrilled with Academy Award nominations

Two teams at San Francisco's Industrial Light & Magic talk about the work that went into their films nominated for Academy Awards.
January 16, 2014 7:19:17 PM PST
Hollywood is abuzz over the Academy Award nominations and so are the makers of movie magic here in the Bay Area. We paid a visit to the Oscar-nominated digital wizards at Industrial Light & Magic.

The Jedi master Yoda stands guard in front of Lucasfilm's San Francisco headquarters. It's lined with props and costumes from Star Wars, the movie that gave birth to the visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic.

But now it's that other space franchise that has a team at ILM nominated for an Oscar.

"I was too excited to sleep," Patrick Tubach said. "So I woke up, went downstairs, turned on the TV, and started looking online and saw my name and I couldn't believe it."

It's Tubach's first nomination -- "Star Trek Into Darkness" for Best Visual Effects.

"We had so much to do with smoke, fire and lava and those kinds of things that are really challenges for VFX even today," he said.

Much of the challenge was putting real actors into imaginary worlds.

But equally tough -- building and destroying the real city of San Francisco.

"If you're showing them something that isn't believable, they're gonna catch onto that right away," Tubach said.

And doing justice to the most famous starship that never was.

"The Enterprise is something that is really special to people, and the fans know it inside and out," he said.

Creating future galaxies from scratch can look spectacular on screen, but ILM's other Oscar nomination is actually for doing the opposite. In The Lone Ranger, they had to create a world from the past full of effects that you can't see.

"The director, Gore Verbinski, his mantra for the film was that the visual effects had to be hidden, not seen at all, cause it's a western," Tim Alexander said. "He wanted it to feel like a western."

It's Alexander's first Oscar nomination for a film layered with computer-generated smoke and grit.

"We added a lot of hay, we called it," he said. "And it was just little bits flying through the air."

Death defying stunts by digital stunt doubles.

"Probably 80 percent of when you see Silver and Lone Ranger on top of the train car are digital doubles," said Alexander.

ILM won a technical Academy Award for the software that made fireballs. But for one shot they actually did blow up a miniature bridge.

Industrial Light & Magic is now owned by Disney, which is the parent company of ABC7 News.


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