Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ILM to sell Miniatures unit

Lucasfilm's visual-effects house Industrial Light & Magic is in talks to sell its physical production unit, the part of the company that works with models, miniatures and stage work, Variety reported. The sale would mark the end of an era—beginning as the unit that produced the effects for George Lucas' original Star Wars movies—and cement ILM's status as a digital-effects house.

The purchaser is Mark Anderson, a model maker who has worked at ILM for more than 15 years, the trade paper reported.

The unit will be remonikered Kerner Optical, for its location in ILM's former headquarters on Kerner Avenue in San Rafael, Calif., and will focus on all physical production.

Once spun off, Kerner Optical will pick up the slack by seeking work that ILM would not get. Kerner will become a preferred subcontractor for ILM.

ILM's physical production unit never made the move to Lucasfilm's new headquarters at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco's Presidio.

ILM informed its employees of the move on June 13, saying it hoped the deal would be finalized within 60 days, though it has yet to close.

So the end of an era, the work of miniatures and physical FX are still as important today as they have always been, more so in some respects as the technology now exists to add real people into miniature worlds more seamlessly

2005's King Kong contained approximately 800 miniature shots.

Miniature photography for the Lord of the Rings trilogy took up a total of 988 days.

So WETA who have won 4 Oscars for Visual FX out of their last 4 nominations, and won acclaim for their miniature as well as digital work move forward , and Lucas and ILM who haven't had an Oscar win since Forest Gump in 1994 take a huge step backwards. I think a big kick in the teeth for ILM was the fact that Revenge of the Sith didn't even recieve an FX nomination. Maybe it was the fact that the FX scenes were as staged and souless as the live action that scuppered their chances.

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