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‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Big Hero 6’ Dominate Visual Effects Society Awards; JJ Abrams Talks ‘Star Wars’

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' and 'Big Hero 6' Dominate Visual Effects Society Awards; JJ Abrams Talks 'Star Wars'

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” took three of the top VES honors for Weta Digital Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton (including the key visual effects prize, animated character Caesar and live-action compositing). This presumably gives “Apes” a leg up on rival “Interstellar,” which earned a single award for the stunning Tesseract created environment.

However, Disney made VES history with “Big Hero 6” grabbing a record five awards in its surprising animation sweep (including animated feature, the San Fransokyo model, created environment for “Into the Portal,” the animated Baymax character and effects simulation). After its disappointing showing Saturday night at the Annies, Disney upstaged DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2” in the Oscar race for animated feature.

Additionally, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” scored two awards for its spectacular Pentagon Kitchen scene (effects simulations courtesy of Rising Sun Pictures and virtual cinematography headed up by The Third Floor); “Birdman” took home best supporting VFX honors and “Game of Thrones” ruled broadcast VFX with three prizes (both from Rodeo FX).

Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) humbly accepted the Visionary Award, thanking, among others, VFX guru Doug Trumbull, who gave him an autograph and note when he was a youngster about having fun making movies. That’s been Abrams’ motto ever since. Backstage he told me that “Episode VII” will be a more balanced hybrid of CG and practical than his two “Star Trek” movies.

“It’s been amazing how much we were able to do in-camera,” Abrams said. “Obviously, it’s ‘Star Wars.’ There are an enormous amount of visual effects that are done in CG. But what’s really been gratifying is using CG to remove things and to build sets. I remember as a kid seeing [legendary matte painter] Albert Whitlock’s work and realizing, among many gifts, that he had this amazing ability to understand where you should focus. And if you look at his paintings, it’s amazing how loose the brush strokes get where you’re not looking, and he would imply detail but not really paint it.

“And what it speaks to for me is knowing where the audience is looking is like a magic trick. So at a certain point, extending a set or adding things to the background is not really where you’re focused and, of course, it takes a brilliant artist to do any of that well. But what’s great is when you’re able to build a significant amount and focus. So we were able to build quite a lot for this movie and it makes the image, the scene, more effective because it’s real.”

Abrams added that he enjoyed shooting on film and some of it in IMAX. “This movie has been about looking forward and acknowledging what’s come before, because the characters in the story have what we know as ‘Star Wars’ as their history. And many of the crew have family members who have worked on the previous trilogy. There’s no question that the movie has a big heart and that for me was a part of ‘Star Wars.'”

Here are the VES winners:
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
Joe Letteri
Ryan Stafford
Matt Kutcher
Dan Lemmon
Hannah Bianchini
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
“Birdman” 
Ara Khanikian
Ivy Agregan
Jake Braver
Isabelle Langlois
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
“Big Hero 6”
Don Hall
Chris Williams
Roy Conli
Zach Parrish
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program
“Game of Thrones”; “The Children”
Joe Bauer
Steve Kullback
Stuart Brisdon
Thomas Schelesny
Sven Martin
Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program
“American Horror Story”; “Freak Show”; “Edward Mordrake, Part 2”
Jason Piccioni
Jason Spratt
Mike Kirylo
Justin Ball
Eric Roberts
Outstanding Real-Time Visuals in a Video Game
“Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”
Yi-chao Sandy Lin-Chiang
Joseph Salud
Demetrius Leal
Dave Blizard
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial
“SSE”; Maya
Neil Davies
Alex Hammond
Jorge Montiel
Beth Vander
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project
“Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remy”
Tony Apodaca
Marianne McLean
Gilles Martin
Edwin Chang
Mark Mine
Outstanding Performance of an Animated Character in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”; Caesar
Paul Story
Eteuati Tema
Andrea Merlo
Emiliano Padovani
Outstanding Performance of an Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
“Big Hero 6”; Baymax
Colin Eckart
John Kahwaty
Zach Parrish
Zack Petroc
Outstanding Performance of an Animated Character in a Commercial, Broadcast Program, or Video Game
“SSE”; Maya
Jorge Montiel
Alex Hammond
Daniel Kmet
Philippe Moine
Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
“Interstellar”; Tesseract
Tom Bracht
Graham Page
Thomas Døhlen
Kirsty Clark
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
“Big Hero 6”; Into the Portal
Ralf Habel
David Hutchins
Michael Kaschalk
Olun Riley
Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial, Broadcast Program, or Video Game
“Game of Thrones”; Braavos Establisher
Rene Borst
Christian Zilliken
Jan Burda
Steffen Metzner
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal/Live Action Motion Media Project
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”; Kitchen Scene
Austin Bonang
Casey Schatz
Dennis Jones
Newton Thomas Sigel
Outstanding Models in any Motion Media Project
“Big Hero 6”; City of San Fransokyo
Brett Achorn
Minh Duong
Scott Watanabe
Larry Wu
Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”; Quicksilver Pentagon Kitchen
Adam Paschke
Premamurti Paetsch
Sam Hancock
Timmy Lundin
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature Motion Picture
“Big Hero 6”
Henrik Falt
David Hutchins
Michael Kaschalk
John Kosnik
Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Commercial, Broadcast Program, or Video Game
“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”
Dominique Vidal
Isabelle Perin-Leduc
Sandrine Lurde
Alexandre Lerouge
Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Christoph Salzmann
Florian Schroeder
Quentin Hema
Simone Riginelli
Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program
“Game of Thrones”; “The Watchers on the Wall”
Dan Breckwoldt
Martin Furman
Sophie Marfleet
Eric Andrusyszyn
Outstanding Compositing in a in a Photoreal/Live Action Commercial
“SSE”
Neil Davies
Leonardo Costa
Gianluca DiMarco
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
“Wrapped”
Roman Kaelin
Falko Paeper
Florian Wittmann

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