Why Disney’s VFX team stuck to the basics of Rogue One

This story about the director of visual effects design for “Andor” was first published in TheWrap Awards magazine’s Drama Series issue.

For Disney+’s “Andor,” an erudite elucidation of the prequel universe first seen in the film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” visual effects supervisor Scott Pritchard took things back to basics in real locations, to despite having technology that in 1977 might have made George Lucas Vader sigh with envy.

“I’m of the opinion that first and foremost, we’re storytellers,” said Pritchard, who first joined ILM with 2015’s “The Force Awakens.” “We have to push the story forward. ‘Andor’ is the perfect show to exercise that type of philosophy. It’s more about the background, the texture, the setting, the place, and giving you something for the characters. [to play off]because most of our work was the environment.”

Pritchard, who has worked on films such as Christopher Nolan’s “The Pale Blue Eye” and “Inception,” said the series’ visual effects rely heavily on CGI extensions that emerge from on-set cinematography. That’s truly surprising given the ornate setting that envelops rebel leader Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his growing network of allies and enemies.

“There’s an area called the Barbican in London, which has amazing brutalist architecture with lots of walkways and pillars that we could basically put holes in. [with CGI] and create negative space,” Pritchard said. He added that VG and aerial cameras were used quite sparingly. “I think that really helped ground the work in reality. Most of it was basically an operator with a shoulder-mounted camera and a first-person point of view.”

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Showrunner Tony Gilroy’s series is marked by exciting visuals, notably an escape sequence featuring Cassian and Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) fending off Imperial forces, and the penultimate episode’s full-scale battle that sets the stage for the events that follow. in “Rogue One.”

“Tony’s style is very stripped down, the colors aren’t too flashy, he’s very grounded,” Pritchard said. “We definitely leaned towards the look that [‘Rogue One’] had for our space battle, because for that movie, they developed a specific look to make the CG models look like the thumbnails from the first four movies in the ’70s and ’80s, which we all remember very fondly. We were leaning towards that.”

Before and after shots of the visual effects of Disney+’s “Andor” (Photos provided by Disney+)

The hardest place to get to, Pritchard said, might have been the huge salvage site first seen in the third episode of the series. The structure used a combination of computer stitching and CG stretches created from footage shot in a city not far from London’s famous Pinewood Studios, along with spiraling helicopter-assisted aerial photography captured from misty cliffs and various sites where oil rigs being taken apart for reference photography. . He created a fully formed post-industrial world, with a focus on spaceships from the “Star Wars” universe.

“There’s always a really nice feeling that something is going on absolutely everywhere,” Pritchard said. “You have sparks, steam, smoke, and movement in every frame.”

Read more of the drama series question here.

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