War of the Worlds

[Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks/Amblin Entertainment]

2005 Academy Award® nominee for Best Visual Effects.

As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.

Director: Steven Spielberg
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Ed Hirsh
ILM Animation Director: Randy Dutra
ILM Visual Effects Art Director: Christian Alzmann
ILM Visual Effects Producer: Sandra Scott
ILM Studios: San Francisco

Case Study

War of the Worlds

Release Date: June 29, 2005

ILM created the visual effects for War of the Worlds in record time. With fewer than 12 months from start to end, ILM was tasked with bringing the alien invasion to the big screen in the process developing some groundbreaking new techniques.

Shooting visual effects shots in long takes without cuts was virtually unheard of before this film. The standard method would have been to shoot miniatures using motion control cameras, but ILM gave director Steven Spielberg the documentary feeling he wanted by filming background pieces with static cameras, “destroying” them using CG effects, and then tracking the street scenes back into the plate. The shot design sleight of hand knocked paid off with dividends in the final result.

An alien tripod (created in CG) bursts out of the pavement and topples a church (a photographed miniature) at an intersection and a freeway collapses, all seamlessly integrated. In one of the earliest examples of true virtual cinematography the camera moved around and through a moving car without cuts made possible by a multi-camera, 360 degree, car-mounted rig designed by ILM.