Ever since the beginning of the Star Wars franchise, the films have been ahead of their times with innovations in miniatures and both practical and visual effects. While the original trilogy has garnered praise for the use of miniatures and practical effects, the prequels ushered in a heavier dependence on visual effects or CGI. This change lost a sense of realism that the franchise could have, which is why director J.J. Abrams made it a focal point to take the franchise back to its roots with Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.
The Force Awakens received praise for many reasons, but the use of practical effects when possible was one that many fans appreciated. Given the world that Star Wars has created, a movie completely lacking in CGI is impossible. Now, fans of the movie can see how some of the bigger visual effects-heavy scenes were created.
Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas in 1975, has released a video, titled "Behind the Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens," showing the process of transforming scenes to their finished form. The video highlights memorable scenes such as the first appearance of the Millennium Falcon, it racing through Jakku, creating characters such as Maz Kanata, and much more.
Even though Abrams, Lucasfilm, and Disney concentrated on using practical effects when they could, it is still a fascinating process to see the creation of the Star Wars world. The video does a great job at showing the multiple layers and steps that go into creating a single shot, such as adding the ripples, splashes, and spray from a ship flying over the water. ILM has long been considered one of if not the best company when it comes to visual effects, so any aspiring visual effects artists should be checking out how they work.
Practical effects are great when they are used, but most of if not all of these shots required the use of CGI to make them work. As with General Hux's speech to the entire First Order army, that is an impossible scene to film without the use of visual effects. The video shows the groupings of storm troopers dropped into the frame that would have required hundreds of actors and costumes to be done practically. ILM should once again do great work at making these scenes look as real as can be in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the currently untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is currently available on Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital HD, and VOD.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.