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Gravity Weighs In At VES Awards

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Alfonso Cuaron was pulling triple duty at the 12th Annual Visual Effects Awards.  The director was on hand to receive the society’s “Visionary Award” – an honor bestowed on directors who have made incredible advancements in bridging special effects into the visual storytelling landscape (recent recipients include James Cameron and Christopher Nolan) and was also cheering on the members of his visual effects team that were so crucial in building an authentic reality to the “trouble in space” drama “Gravity.”  Prior to the awards, however, Cuaron spent time with the press to discuss his feelings about the event, and his work on “Gravity.”



“The quality of your visual effects is going to depend on the quality of your cinematography, and the quality of your lighting,” stated Cuaron, who has utilized a vast amount of visual effects in his last three films.  “It’s something I learned very early on.  Gone are the days in which the process is about doing animation renderings and then lighting.  I think that light in many ways has to lead the process.”



Cuaron is a proponent of capturing CGI lighting and authentic lighting simultaneously.  His team spent four and a half years perfecting these results from pre to post vis and every stage in between.    VFX Supervisor Tim Webber, attending the event with his team, felt the experience, although a very laborious one, was worth every second.



“It’s very rare that you get to work on a project of this scope,” said Webber.  “Whilst you’re in the middle of it, you say ‘Ah, I’m never going to do this again,’   You don’t get opportunities like this, if I have another one I would jump at the chance.”



Webber and his team enjoyed the collaborative process with Cuaron, appreciating the detailed scrutiny the director placed on every element of the creative process, from the sophisticated challenges of the VFX to the details of the personal items found in the Chinese Space Station the art department worked on.


“Because the visual effects were such a big part of the movie, we got to be involved in everything about making this movie, and that was a real delight, ” said Webber.



As a directory you are only as good as your collaborators,” said Cuaron.  “You work very closely with them, but you allow them to develop, to flourish.   What you are expecting from them is the surprises, and for them to come and surprise you and elevate your production.”



While “Gravity” swept the awards for live action motion picture, Smaug was able to steal away one piece of gold – the Weta team who created Smaug for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” received the Outstanding Animated Characters In a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Award.  The team was thrilled to be at the VES Awards, and equally as thrilled to be amongst the nominees.’



“It was a year of such outstanding work, we are thrilled just to have been nominated, and to be representing the hundreds of people at Weta who worked on this movie,” said Eric Reynolds.   Added David Clayton, “We spent a full year on Smaug, so it is extremely nice to be out celebrating with our peers and meeting our contemporaries and recognizing everyone’s great work.  There are so many good movies out there this year.”



After the evening concluded, the team was headed back to continue the third installment of “The Hobbit.”



“We have about ten minutes of the third film completed, so we are a long ways from done,” said Reynolds.    “Yes, we really shouldn’t be here at all, we should be working,” said Clayton.



The evening’s other big winners included “Frozen” in the animated categories, and PETA:  98% Human in the commercial categories.


For a complete list  of this year’s winners, please visit: