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Special Effects Innovators
The engineers at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic develop technologies that are out of this world.
The Star Wars movies have long been on the cutting edge of special-effects technology, and “The Force Awakens” is no exception. While director J.J. Abrams used some old-school effects and puppets, the blockbuster sci-fi film relied quite a bit on computer-gen- erated effects (CGI) to bring to life not only memorable characters, but also exciting explosions, droids, space battles, and more. In fact, approximately 2,100 of the movie’s 2,500 shots have some sort of CGI included in them.
But most extraordinarily, the movie features a major character, 1,000-year-old bar owner Maz Kanata, who is played entirely in motion-capture technology by actress Lupita Nyong’o. This technology consists of a mobile rig of cameras and lights coupled with special software that can reconstruct actors’ faces in full motion, enabling en- gineers to apply the mannerisms and facial expressions of an individual actor to the computer character’s image.
The brilliance of the film’s visual effects supervisors, Industrial Light and Magic’s Roger Guyett and Patrick Tubuck, lies in a blend of old-school and new-age effects that is flawless and utterly believable.
But CGI does more than keep movie-goers and gamers wowed. Industrial Light and Magic employs hundreds of people in some very cool places — San Francisco, Vancou- ver, London, and Singapore — to work on projects beyond entertainment, like medicine, robotics, and more!

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