News / Vancouver

Vancouver's Rogue One animators part of a global digital effects cast of 500

Around 75 people from Vancouver worked on the effects for the blockbuster, representing a sixth of the film's digital effects global workforce

Felicity Jones stars in the newest entry in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Around 75 Vancouver-based employees of Industrial Light and Magic worked on the digital effects for the movie.

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Felicity Jones stars in the newest entry in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Around 75 Vancouver-based employees of Industrial Light and Magic worked on the digital effects for the movie.

Somewhere in Vancouver are two theatres where a lucky few — those who made the vehicles explode and the blasters shoot — recently got an early sneak peek at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

“We keep (the locations) secret,” said Hanna Price, manager of human resources for Industrial Light and Magic’s Vancouver studio. “We just don’t want to advertise where they happen because we don’t want to have to turn people away if they just showed up spontaneously.”

Around 75 people from Vancouver worked on the digital effects for the blockbuster, representing a sixth of the entire global workforce of 500 who worked on the digital effects for the film. Different scenes were split up among Industrial Light and Magic’s studios in San Francisco, London and Singapore and Vancouver.

“We touch a number of different disciplines,” said Andrew Poole, VFX production manager. “Animation is one of them, we have teams that do the digital environments, teams who (digitally) build the vehicles that you see, and some teams just specialize in blowing up vehicles and buildings.”

ILM has studios around the world in order to attract global talent, Price said. Over the past few years, Vancouver has grown to be one of the biggest hubs for animation work, attracting studios like ILM and Sony Pictures Imageworks. ILM’s Vancouver studio has also worked on movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Pacific Rim, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Revenant.

With so much of Rogue One being created through digital effects, it takes a slew of very specific specializations to create the different elements of the movie.

“We have traditional artists who have learned to operate in a digital environment, we have computer engineers, we have physicists, we have biologists who are now animators so they know how to make a creature move realistically,” Price said. She added that choosing the studio crew for a particular project “is not unlike casting an actor, because you have to have a very specific set of experience and skill.”

The movie, which comes loaded with fan expectations, has so far opened to mostly good reviews. But the animators who watched the movie last night described two emotions: pride, and relief that the huge and complex project was finally complete.

“We had so much fun working on it and we were just so proud by the time it was over to see it on the screen was incredibly exciting,” Poole said.

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