In the run-up to the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” director J.J. Abrams discussed frequently how the new series of “Star Wars” films would use practical effects whenever possible. It was a course correction that had long been demanded by fans of the franchise, who were generally displeased by the overuse of CGI in George Lucas‘ prequel trilogy.
Still, “The Force Awakens” would not have been made without the extensive digital effects done by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the studio founded by Lucas in 1975 that has worked on every film in the “Star Wars” series. In fact, in an interview with /Film, VFX supervisors Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubach revealed that “The Force Awakens” had more CGI shots than “The Phantom Menace.” Now ILM is showing off their Oscar-nominated work in the new film with a montage that shows the level of detail put into many major scenes in the film.
The demo reel shows us the steps that go into designing creatures, locales, and ships — and sweeps through them in a few seconds. We see the layers of detail that go into each Star Destroyer and how sets that use a mix of green screen and practical design get blended into ILM’s digital backgrounds. While the trenches of the Death Star in the original “Star Wars” were made with miniatures, the X-Wing battles in “The Force Awakens” were entirely done with computers. Even the Jakku scenes, which were mostly filmed near Abu Dhabi, had large-scale CGI, as demonstrated by a shot where Rey and Finn run towards the Millennium Falcon.
“Star Wars” fans will be able to see more of ILM’s work when “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” hits theaters December 16.