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'Transformers: Age of Extinction': 5 Things to Know About the Visual Effects

Industrial Light + Magic VFX supervisor Scott Farrar describes a “whole new ball game.”

Transformers: Age of Extinction Still - H 2014
Paramount Pictures
"Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Transformers: Age of Extinction — which has already earned nearly $600 million worldwide — marks the fourth title of the franchise and director Michael Bay again turned to Industrial Light and Magic’s VFX supervisor Scott Farrar to lead the VFX effort. Farrar and ILM have provided large amounts of VFX for all four Transformers films, but this time around, the company completed all of them, at the facilities in San Francisco, Singapore and Vancouver, as well as its Beijing subsidiary. Here's five things to know about the work:

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1. It was the ”biggest show I have ever done”

It was also Farrar's largest crew, with more than 500 working on the film in the various facilities. On the work itself, Farrar said: “our ability to animate has improved. I think the look and sharpness of characters is better. … The density of the shots in incredible. In certain scenes there are three, four or five robots talking. And our [visual effects] shots comprised of about 90 minutes worth of the film — a huge portion.”

2. Farrar has some dinosaur experience; he worked on Jurassic Park

“We know the style of animation … but it's a whole new ball game,” Farrar said of creating the dinobots — robots that transform into dinosaurs. “Its not just mimicking the movement that we did [in Jurassic Park] but having cooler movements.

“Everything is about shot design and design of characters,” he added. “The intention is to make them look mechanical, so for instance you see pistons and shock absorbers inside the arms and legs of the dinobots.”

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3. A key VFX sequence was inspired by John Ford

There’s a “heroic” sequence in Age of Extinction during which Optimus Prime jumps on a dinobot to ride to the rescue. “Basically [the dinobot] is a loyal steed who carries him to save the day, which were more or less modeled after John Ford-western style, John Wayne shots with the horse head in the frame and the rider in the background,” Farrar explained.

4. Animating the Protos transformation was a “painstaking process”

The Protos are “man-made” transformers they are not quite as mechanical as the other bots. “We came up with a different style of transformation,” Farrar said. “They swirl and sweep into the framework of aluminum and turn into a flowing wormlike characters that flow and turn into the robot characters.

“It's a slow, painstaking process to come up with the movement — and you can light it, do shadowing, color correct. As [the parts] turn into cubes, they might have different colors on the different cubes. To get the control, it took pre-existing software and retooling it. It took a lot of really smart people to put it together; that was headed up by John Hansen.”

5. There were nine different formats used to film Age of Extinction

Among them, Imax film, Imax digital, single-frame anamorphic film, GoPros, crash cams, Red cameras on 3Ality stereo 3D rigs and Red cameras for 2D. The film included both native 3D cinematography in addition to conversion work.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com

Twitter: @CGinLA