There is no greater achievement for VFX pioneers than recognition at the Academy Awards®. Here at Foundry, we're proud to have provided the VFX tools behind every single film nominated in the Best Visual Effects category at the 89th Academy Awards.
To celebrate this year's event, we've taken a look back at some of the most spectacular nominees and winners in the Best Visual Effects category over the last decade. Explore the history of VFX at the Academy Awards on our interactive timeline below.
The Golden Compass won the Best Visual Effects category at the 80th Academy Awards. Set in a parallel universe, Rhythm & Hues' extensive VFX work helped create everything from battling armored polar bears, to the magical alethiometer from which the film takes its name.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Reversing the aging process is something many people dream of achieving, but the visual effects in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button not only make the feat look possible, but positively seamless. The team at Digital Domain employed astounding new "emotion capture" techniques to recreate Brad Pitt's facial expressions in CGI.
James Cameron’s first feature film since Titanic in 1997, Avatar raised the bar for visual effects forever. Taking almost 10 years to create, Cameron and the team at Weta Digital evolved the use of visual effects tools to create this epic.
You can read how Nuke and Ocula helped to deliver James Cameron’s award-winning vision for Avatar in our case study.
Christopher Nolan’s science fiction blockbuster Inception took audiences into a series of riveting dream worlds. With Double Negative's spectacular visuals that see Parisian architecture flipped upside down and a gravity-defying fist fight, the fast-paced thriller pushed the boundaries of physics, and with it the abilities of visual effects.
In Tim Burton’s brilliantly bizarre fantasy film Alice in Wonderland, visual effects pioneers Sony Pictures Imageworks paved the way for the weird and wonderful. Using Nuke, artists were able to distort proportions, creating the Red Queen’s larger-than-life head, Alice’s ever-changing dimensions, and the Mad Hatter’s outsized eyes.
Nominated for the Best Visual Effects Academy Award in 2010, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One is one of the most celebrated films of the franchise for its visual effects work. While several companies contributed to the visual effects, boutique house Baseblack used Mari to perfect the texture of Dumbledore’s tomb.
In Martin Scorsese’s first 3D film, Hugo—the tale of a young boy living in the Gare Montparnasse railway station in the 1930s—a total of 800 visual effects shots were used in the final cut of the epic adventure film. Visual effects company Pixomondo used a mix of Nuke, Ocula and Mari to innovate and develop new approaches as they brought Hugo to life.
Winning Rhythm & Hues their third Academy Award, Ang Lee’s survival drama film Life of Pi earned great acclaim for its mesmerising visual effects. The giant Bengal tiger present throughout the film never needed to appear on set, yet it roams the boat in post-production as if it had been there all along.
After opening the 70th Venice International Film Festival, Gravity—Alfonso Cuarón’s science fiction blockbuster—won the Best Visual Effects Oscar® in 2013. British visual effects company Framestore spent over three years creating scenes that were both literally and figuratively out of this world.
You can read how Nuke was fundamental in creating realistic outer space in Gravity in our case study.
Interstellar was another Christopher Nolan blockbuster to challenge the boundaries of visual effects technology. Using projectors to eliminate the need for green screens, actors were able to see the near-final result during production. Visual effects company New Deal Studios used Modo to engineer overall models of the film's spaceships part by part. That work, along with Double Negative's, helped earn the film a Best Visual Effects award.
Read our case study to find out more about New Deal Studio's work on Interstellar.
Alex Garland made his directorial debut with the breathtaking sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. Telling the story of a programmer who is invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot, Ex Machina broke new ground in CGI. Double Negative were instrumental in bringing the Ava robot to life, using CG-rendered parts that moved internally. The result was the creation of the most realistic-looking humanoid in cinematic history, and won the company their third Best Visual Effects Oscar®.
The Martian picked up 26 Best Picture award nominations in 2015, including at the Academy Awards and
Golden Globes. The Mars scenes were filmed in the Wadi Valley in Jordan, with the Moving Picture Company tackling the epic job of creating a realistic Martian world by adding mountains, hills and the iconic red tint to replicate the color of the planet.
JJ Abrams’ epic film blew away audiences and set new global box-office records. In order to create a film that fans would remember and love, ILM used Foundry tools to bring their ideas to life. From the vivid textures of the Millennium Falcon, to the droid lighting and the immersive blast fire in the opening sequence, The Force Awakens was worthy of its Best Visual Effects nomination at the 88th Academy Awards.
Read more about the VFX tools used in this film in our case study.
The deserved VFX victor at this year’s Academy Awards had its work led by the team at MPC. It has been praised for the innovative use of ‘virtual production’, with the film shot entirely against a bluescreen. The only live action element came in the form of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), with the rest of the animals, jungle and environments being computer-generated. Foundry congratulates all this year’s nominees and looks forward to helping drive the film industry’s innovations in the year ahead.