NVIDIA provides 15 years of Oscar-worthy visual effects


The Oscar nominations are here—and for the 15th year running, NVIDIA technologies worked behind the scenes of every film nominated for Best Visual Effects.

The five VFX nominees for the 95th Annual Academy Awards, taking place on Sunday March 12th, include:

  • nothing new in the West
  • Avatar: The Way of Water
  • The Batman
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Top Gun: Maverick

For over a decade, filmmakers and VFX studios around the world have used NVIDIA technologies to create the most advanced, visually rich films ever made. Today, developers and artists are transforming VFX with advanced graphics capabilities like real-time ray tracing, simulation, AI, and virtual production—all powered by NVIDIA RTX technologies.

Immerse yourself in natural wonders with state-of-the-art graphics

Award-winning studio Wētā FX created the stunning visuals for director James Cameron’s highly anticipated sequel. Avatar: The Way of Water. The film is one of Wētā’s largest VFX projects to date. The team created 3,240 exposures – 98% of the total exposures in the film, more than two-thirds of which contained water.

In computer graphics (CG), one of the biggest challenges for visual effects artists is getting water to look natural and realistic – from the way it peels off a character’s skin or drips off clothing. But for this film, Wētā developed and implemented a new water toolset that expanded her skills in simulation, rendering, and more.

The team began pre-production and performance capture with a real-time GPU-based ocean spectrum deformer that served as a consistent, physically-based water source on set. From there, Wētā created a new suite of water solvers – many of them within Loki, the studio’s internal multiphysics simulation framework. Loki allows multiple solvers to be coupled in any configuration. For example, hair, clothing, air, and water can all be simulated together.

Other key innovations by Wētā focused on both dry and wet performance tracking, new deep learning models to process stereo camera images and create depth maps for compositing, and neural networks to support facial animation and muscle systems.

Create immersive chase scenes through Gritty Gotham

Wētā FX was also behind the cinematic visuals for The Batman. The team, led by VFX supervisor Anders Langlands, worked on the gripping highway chase between Batman and the notorious villain, the Penguin. As they speed through the city of Gotham under torrential rain, the penguin sets off a series of car crashes and explosions.

To create a sense of danger and exhilaration, the team assembled the car chase scene through greatly enhanced live action and full CG footage. rendering the correct lighting; Simulate realistic raindrops colliding with multiple surfaces, aquaplaning and spray; and luminous rain from headlights and streetlights added to the complexity of these shots. Wētā also worked on background environments for scenes in the Batcave and Gotham City Hall.

Taking CGI to Heaven

The practical effects and the cinematography behind them Top Gun: Maverick was an instant highlight of this heartbreaking Hollywood blockbuster. To add even more realism to these outstanding aerial footage, VFX supervisor Ryan Tudhope and the Method Studios team worked with the camera department, air coordinators and the United States Navy to capture extensive air-to-air and surface-to-air footage real jets. They have recorded over 800 hours of aerial stunts, mounts and plates to give their team a practical foundation for working with visual effects.

The Top Gun: Maverick Team implemented various VFX techniques and created a surprising 2,400 VFX shots for the film. The visual effects included creating and adding CG planes in scenes, adding rockets, smoke and explosions in various action sequences. The invisible nature of the visual effects in Top Gun: Maverick make it a top contender for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

A new swim lane for underwater worlds

In Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverWētā FX has continued to demonstrate its leadership in creating photorealistic underwater sequences. Chris White, visual effects supervisor for the film, was hired to create the Mesoamerican-inspired Talokan Undersea Kingdom.

To give the characters a realistic look in this underwater world, Wētā used a combination of live-action sequences shot in water tanks and dry-for-wet photography, which helped create realistic underwater movement for the characters, clothing, and catch hair.

Wētā also reflected how different skin tones would respond to light with the added complexity of a murky underwater environment. Wētā FX in has raised the bar for realistic water simulation Naked Panther: Wakanda Forever.

All the action on the VFX front

Movie magic occurs when visual effects are so seamless that the audience is completely immersed in the story, unaware that what they are seeing is an effect. This is how VFX supervisor Markus Frank and the production company Cine Chromatix received their nomination for the best visual effects nothing new in the West.

To authentically tell the story of two young soldiers during World War I, Cine Chromatix and the film’s visual effects teams focused on the fine details needed to create VFX that are hidden from plain sight.

The result is stunning. Even after watching Cine Chromatix’s VFX breakdown reel for the film, viewers may have to scrub back and forth to separate fact from fiction.

See how Oscar-nominated VFX are created at GTC

NVIDIA congratulates all of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Visual Effects.

Learn more about visual effects, AI, virtual production, and animation at NVIDIA GTC, a global technology conference taking place online March 20-23. Sign up for free and hear from industry luminaries creating stunning imagery in film and television. Check out all media and entertainment sessions at GTC.

Featured image courtesy of 20th century studios.

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