Robert Legato, visual effects supervisor provides an entertaining look behind the scenes

I have been a great admirer of TEDx talks for some time, providing some amazing video events on some very diverse subjects. Thousands of TEDx events have been done all over the world including Ireland. This is one of the best talks I have seen lately

Robert Legato, visual effects supervisor of Avatar and The Aviator, who also won Oscars for his work on Titanic and Hugo is the subject of the latest ones and its very interesting and entertaining. While most people get into visual effects for the explosions, Robert explains how everything he ends up liking is outrageously simple

To get an and understanding of what people wanted expected from a rocket launch Robert legato bought a group of people into a theatre and showed them the stock footage Saturn 5 rocket launch. Directly following the screening he asked them what was memorable for them. What he actually found out was that they had actually combined camera shots to creating something they had not actually seen at all. So he decided to replicate what they remembered it looked like.  Robert explains how they actual footage for his launch scene for Apollo 13 was done in a parking lot with a tin can, fire  a bit of ice and fire extinguishers.

Later in the talk, Robert also describes creating effects for Titanic, which made use of real footage of the ruins of the ill-fated ship along with effects filling in the gaps.

I really enjoyed the film Hugo and it was interesting to see how Robert created that scene where Sacha Baron Cohen’s leg brace gets caught on a moving train

Robert explains that there was no room to move the train carriage in the studio so a method of creating the illusion had to be created. This is something Sergei Eisenstein a Russian film maker (1898 – 1948) had solved in the 20’ or 30’s. If you have a moving camera with a moving object what is not moving appears to be moving and what is moving appears to be stopped.

He also gave us wonderful insight in to that long take where Hugo makes that long journey on several levels through the bowels of the train station, ending up looking out the face off the clock and the people below on the platforms. The objective was to make you feel the camera was travelling with the boy to do this with a large 3D camera was going to be challenge. It was done with 5 different sets, shot at 5 different times with 2 different boys and only the final section was done with a steady cam.

It’s not only interesting to both hear and see how the visual effects were created but Robert Legato makes it entertaining also.

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Categories: Film and TV

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