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J.J. Abrams talks The Force Awakens' new lightsaber and practical effects

02.05.2015
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jj abrams star wars

Earlier today we told you that director J.J. Abrams was honored by the Visual Effects Society when they presented him with their Visionary Award due to his use of practical effects in the upcoming STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS among his other work in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, SUPER 8, and STAR TREK. This year he will be releasing quite possible the most anticipated movie of the last decade and surprisingly enough he seems pretty cool about it. Cool enough to talk about the movie and answer some interview questions at every turn.

During the Visual Effects Society Awards the folks at Collider had the chance to speak with Abrams on the red carpet. He talked about a few points that have been in the spotlight as of late including that new lightsaber and the films use of practical effects over CG.

lightsaber star wars 7

On the debate about the new lightsaber, Abrams said:

I cannot tell you how many contradictory emails I have received from people who have both defended it with unbelievably detailed graphics…I’ve gotten things that are nuts, and I’ve gotten people who’ve shown how it’ll kill you and how it doesn’t make any sense.  It’s been the funniest thing to see the arguments that have developed over this thing. It was a number of conversations [that led to the design].  It was a sketch that became a whole thing and, you know, this was not done without a lot of conversation and it’s fun to see people have the conversation that we had, but in reverse.

He admitted he has not seen a first cut of the movie yet since they’re still editing but confirmed what we learned last year about one sequence being shot in IMAX:

It’s really one sequence so it’s not a ton [of IMAX footage], but it’s a good sequence.

star wars VII

Abrams talked about putting the practical effects back in the STAR WARS universe as well as combining it with a lot of CG:

I feel like the beauty of this age of filmmaking is that there are more tools at your disposal, but it doesn’t mean that any of these new tools are automatically the right tools. And there are a lot of situations where we went very much old school and in fact used CG more to remove things than to add things. There are obviously an enormous amount of CG effects in the film, and I can’t wait for you to see the combination. But it was very important that we build as many sets as we could and that the film have a tangible, sort of authentic quality that you believed that these things were actually happening in a real space with real sunlight, if it was an exterior scene, or if we could build a big portion of a scene and not have anything be blue screen, do it where we could. It was a very important piece of work.

I can’t say I put too much thought into the new lightsaber, I thought it was cool and moved on with my day. As for the effects, I’m looking forward to this combination he mentioned and my hope is that it’s all on the screen long enough for us to enjoy.

While we get closer to its release, I’m sure things are only going to get more exciting and crazy around here. With every image, poster, teaser or rumor reported, we get closer to the real thing. I was there in line for THE PHANTOM MENACE and I was on my couch for the next installments. Now I’ll be in line for THE FORCE AWAKENS, a vicious cycle I’m proud to take part in.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens in theaters on December 18th 2015.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: Collider

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10:42AM on 02/06/2015
I still think the lightsabre design looks silly. Anyways i just hope we wont be blinded by the lens flares when it lights up especially those poor bastards who will see it in 3D.
I still think the lightsabre design looks silly. Anyways i just hope we wont be blinded by the lens flares when it lights up especially those poor bastards who will see it in 3D.
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10:07AM on 02/06/2015
Joblo.com, use that video as confirmation that Rian johnson HAS NOT been confirmed to direct ep.9....I keep seeing his name thrown around as directing ep. 9 but the only thing confirmed is he's writing a treatment.

Anyways, this got me really excited. Of course there's going to be CGI, it's Star Wars, but having those sets and creatures goes a long way. That's why phantom menace looks the best out of the prequels, because they built a lot of sets and miniatures--it wasn't until Clones that
Joblo.com, use that video as confirmation that Rian johnson HAS NOT been confirmed to direct ep.9....I keep seeing his name thrown around as directing ep. 9 but the only thing confirmed is he's writing a treatment.

Anyways, this got me really excited. Of course there's going to be CGI, it's Star Wars, but having those sets and creatures goes a long way. That's why phantom menace looks the best out of the prequels, because they built a lot of sets and miniatures--it wasn't until Clones that they went full-blue.
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12:16AM on 02/06/2015
His feelings on CGI are spot on especially after Lucas and his video game prequel trilogy. Basically CGI is one of the greatest things to hit cinema since sound and color. It gives a filmmaker the ability to make anything in their imagination come to life whether it obey natural or physical or even theoretical laws or not. But CGI cannot make a film all by itself. A shitty film with CGI is still a shitty film. Proper use of CGI however turns a great film into a true experience not just a film.
His feelings on CGI are spot on especially after Lucas and his video game prequel trilogy. Basically CGI is one of the greatest things to hit cinema since sound and color. It gives a filmmaker the ability to make anything in their imagination come to life whether it obey natural or physical or even theoretical laws or not. But CGI cannot make a film all by itself. A shitty film with CGI is still a shitty film. Proper use of CGI however turns a great film into a true experience not just a film. Proper use of CGI enhances the best parts, erases the studio strings and crutches, blends multiple sets and scenes into one seamlessly. But CGI should never be EVERYTHING in a movie if its a live action movie. There still needs to be practical for that sense of volume and ability to reach out and touch what is on screen. Jurassic Park knew that, they were the first movie for most people where the CGI just made people thing dreams came true on screen. But even Jurassic Park built some dinosaurs with practical effects.
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10:12PM on 02/05/2015
"Practical effects" = moar lens flares
"Practical effects" = moar lens flares
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10:22AM on 02/06/2015
Well... I love lens flares, so bring them in (I know I'm not in the majority here). They remind me of the old 'shot in CinemaScope' days... All the John Carpenter's movies...
Yeah, I love my lens flares !!!
Well... I love lens flares, so bring them in (I know I'm not in the majority here). They remind me of the old 'shot in CinemaScope' days... All the John Carpenter's movies...
Yeah, I love my lens flares !!!
10:07PM on 02/05/2015

I believe

we are going to have 3 parties in terms of sfx opinions.

Party 1: TOO MUCH CGI (where they will B!tch and moan and say that some stop motion effects looked better in the original trilogy than this and that its too similar to the prequels) They will also make claims that one or two sequences looked too cg until we get a making of DOC and we find out said sequence was a combination of camera tricks and miniatures with some digital polish to clean it up.

Party 2: who will wank off to the
we are going to have 3 parties in terms of sfx opinions.

Party 1: TOO MUCH CGI (where they will B!tch and moan and say that some stop motion effects looked better in the original trilogy than this and that its too similar to the prequels) They will also make claims that one or two sequences looked too cg until we get a making of DOC and we find out said sequence was a combination of camera tricks and miniatures with some digital polish to clean it up.

Party 2: who will wank off to the fact that its Star Wars and say its perfect and exactly like the originals with equal effects (which to be honest wont be the case as the tools both practical and CG are so far advanced compared to the originals that you would be a fool to say it doesnt look BETTER)

Party 3: the reasonable party who accepts that there WILL be some heavy CG sequences but not everything will be CG and that practical effects and SETS will be used and that overall the movie has a nice balanced look. This is the group who realizes times change, techniques change as well as the tools and will be fine with it as JJ will find the right balance etc.
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