Oscars 2018: Best Visual Effects nominees

Andy Serkis as Caesar in "War for the Planet of the Apes."

20th Century Fox

Watch behind-the-scenes footage revealing the secrets of the FX artists for the five films nominated for this year's Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Winners of this year's Oscars will be announced on Sunday, March 4, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.


"Blade Runner 2049"
John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover

MPC Blade Runner 2049 VFX breakdown by mpcvfx on YouTube

The FX highlight of this sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 classic was a recreation of Sean Young's replicant Rachel from the original "Blade Runner." How did they get the character to appear as Young did 35 years ago?

The filmmakers created a digital model of Young based on footage and photos from the original period, built over a digital "skull" (constructed with the program Maya) that matched her facial features, and applied surface textures using Mari. Young was also photographed with a special lighting rig that captured all angles, with light sources from different directions, to help with lighting the digital construct.

Body double Loren Peta performed the actions on set, using motion capture, while the digital head was composited onto the footage and animated. The result: a beautiful vision of Rachel that entirely avoids the "uncanny valley" phenomenon of CGI humans who appear almost but not quite human.

blade-runner-2049-rachel-620.jpg

Rachel reborn in "Blade Runner 2049."

MPC/Warner Brothers

Nelson previously won for the effects of "Gladiator," and was nominated for "Iron Man" and "I, Robot." Hoover was previously nominated for "Superman Returns" and "Armageddon."


"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | VFX Breakdown | Framestore by Framestore on YouTube

The latest entry in this franchise, festooned with pop art-inspired colors and a delightfully cheeky wit, displays an inventive use of environments in which to populate its characters, many of which are CGI creations, including Baby Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and that slimy beastie that pervades the opening credits.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-rocket-raccoon-baby-groot-framestore-620.jpg

Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot, two of the animated creatures in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

Framestore/Marvel Studios

Sudick has a remarkable eight previous Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. Fawkner was nominated for the first "Guardians of the Galaxy." Townsend and Williams were both nominated for "Iron Man 3," while Williams also earned a nomination for "Marvel's The Avengers."


"Kong: Skull Island"
Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus

Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of Kong: Skull Island by ILMVisualFX on YouTube

This VFX breakdown reel from Industrial Light & Magic shows the full dramatic range of the film's simian star, as well as the pyrotechnics, water effects, and battles with giant creatures that made him all the more believable.

Rosenbaum has won two Oscars for Best Visual Effects, for "Avatar" and "Forrest Gump." White was nominated for "Marvel's The Avengers," and Benza was nominated for "Transformers" and "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon."


"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"
Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

Behind the Magic - Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Bombing Run by ILMVisualFX on YouTube

Industrial Light & Magic's VFX breakdown clip of the Resistance's bombing run against a First Order dreadnought shows a mixture of live action, miniatures, CGI effects and explosions composited to create a truly epic space battle.

Morris previously won the Oscar for "The Golden Compass." Scanlan won for "Babe," and was nominated for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Corbould won for "Inception," and was also nominated for "The Dark Knight" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."


"War for the Planet of the Apes"
Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Andy Serkis' remarkable motion-capture performances as Caesar, leader of the apes, still have not gotten Oscar recognition. But at least the special effects artists for the three recent "Apes" films have been nominated for their remarkable ability to transform an actor into a simian without losing the performer's humanity. 

In this featurette we see how the artists of Weta Digital funnel Serkis' performance into the digital realm.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) VFX Breakdown | Motion Capture & CGI by CG Record on YouTube

Letteri has four Oscars for Best Visual Effects ("The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," "King Kong" and Avatar), and received an additional five nominations, including for the two previous "Apes" films." Lemmon and Barrett were also both nominated for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Dawn of the Planet of the apes," while Barrett won last year's Oscar for "The Jungle Book."


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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.