5 movies revolutionising CG in 2014

We look at five movies that are really pushing the VFX envelope this year, in the fourth in our series of articles sponsored by HP.

2014 has already been a great year for VFX, and it shows no signs of letting up. Between Gravity bagging Oscars galore and The Lego Movie enchanting kids of all ages, there's already been plenty of CG-related excitement in the movie industry this year, and we've not even hit a Summer blockbuster yet.

In the following post we take a look at five movies that look set to cause a VFX stir in 2014, from city-stomping Kaiju, to sword-swinging Spartans, we've shortlisted a selection of movies making the very most of visual effects, which you can look forward to in the remainder of 2014.

01. Godzilla

What will the new incarnation of Godzilla look like?

It's the most anticipated monster movie of the year, and this co-production from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros is the latest reboot of Ishirō Honda's '50s classic, this time re-imagined by British director Gareth Edwards.

Edwards shot to prominence after his directorial debut Monsters was released in 2010. Edwards famously filmed the movie with a cast made up non-actors, and also - thanks to a tiny budget - worked as the visual effects lead, using Adobe's After Effects.

There was an online rumour at the time that the movie cost just $15,000 to produce, after Best Buy totted up the cost of the kit that Edwards used during the shoot. It wasn't quite made for that - Edwards later confirming that it was more like a few hundred thousand - but the prospect of seeing what he can do with more than $150 million certainly whets the appetite.

For Godzilla, though, Edwards has passed over the VFX mantle to MPC, with Guillaume Rocheron taking on supervisory role. And if the early trailers are anything to go by, we're in for the most spectacular monster flicks in movie history.

  • Release date: 16 May (UK/US)

02. 300: Rise of an Empire

The sequel to 300 will be on an even grander scale than the original

300 may have divided opinion amongst movie critics, with Roger Ebert claiming it featured "one-dimensional caricatures, who talk like professional wrestlers plugging their next feud", but one thing is for certain: it looked amazing!

And if imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Zack Snyder's movie adaptation of the Frank Miller/Lynn Varley comic series must have amassed some serious self esteem since its 2006 release - its visual style has been aped repeatedly.

To re-create the comic book aesthetic, the VFX team behind 300 (Hybride Technologies and Animal Logic) used a combination of superimposition, matte painting, blue screen and more advanced CG techniques to give the movie a visual style that evoked Miller and Varley's original artwork.

For 300: Rise of an Empire, Snyder returns to produce, and the VFX credits go to MPC, Rhythm & Hues, Cinesite, Scanline VFX and The Third Floor all in attendance. Fans of the original look set to get more of the same, with similar techniques being employed as for the orginal, but on an even grander scale.

  • Release date: In cinemas now

03. Noah

Noah will go all Old Testament on your ass

For those of you that spent many a childhood weekend at Sunday School, this may, or may not, sound like the most appealing proposition for your next cinema visit. Biblical movies aren't to everyone's taste, but the trailer for Noah certainly puts the emphasis on action.

Emzara: "Noah, what did he say?"
Noah: "He's going to destroy the world!"
BOOM!

Russell Crowe as Noah faces off against Ray Winstone's Tubal-cain (Noah's East End nemesis). Russell's making the Ark to save all the good guys, and Ray wants to hitch a ride.

And in the background the whole bloody planet faces God's wrath in the shape of an apocalyptic flood.

As well as Winstone and Crowe, Noah also stars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Anthony Hopkins (he had to be in there somewhere). The VFX for the show are created courtesy of ILM, Look Effects, Blind Squirrel Digital and Prologue Films. And what can you expect from them?

Well, some of the best crowd replication since World War Z, and the end of the world as imagined by Darren Aronofsky, director of Black Swan, The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream. Oh, and there's a good chance the religious right won't be happy.

  • Release date: 28 March (US), 4 April (UK)

04. Guardians of the Galaxy

You may not have heard of these Marvel characters, but you soon will

If you're feeling a little uninspired by the recent movie releases from the Marvel comic universe, then Guardians of the Galaxy should be the perfect antidote. you'll find no Captain America here, and Iron Man's safely squirrelled away in his lab. What you will find is a genetically engineered racoon, a tree-man called Groot, and a hero called Star-Lord who is, well, a bit of a tool. Sounds good to us!

"You can't do any motion capture with a raccoon - they won't let you put the suit on," executive producer Victoria Alonso told Cinema Blend. "And clearly we can't do mocap on a tree, per se, but we definitely will have performers to emulate [director James Gunn's vision]. He's very clear on where he wants to take the characters."

The film is directed and written by James Gunn, and stars Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Benicio Del Toro. MPC has come on board to provide the VFX, and the 3D modeller for the movie was Andrew Bennett, who worked on most of the Harry Potter movies, so we're hoping that fans of the comic won't be disappointed come the movie's release in August.

  • Release date: 1 August

05. The Lego Movie

If you love Lego, you'll love this

OK, so many of you may have already seen The Lego Movie, but we simply had to include it in our list (and it's still in some cinemas, so don't miss your chance to see it!). Not only does The Lego Movie provide further proof that director/writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller can now be elevated to the double-A list of movie making, but it's also notable for its CG work being so good, that many people didn't even realise they were watching a computer-generated movie.

"One of the big hurdles we wanted to solve was that we wanted the audience to believe they were seeing something that was real," cinematographer Pablo Plaisted explained to fxguide. "So we did do a lot of research into what made stop motion films look real - what was the kind of visual language there and what that would mean for us."

Working with Lord and Miller - and Co-Director, Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) - Animal Logic's team of 350 artists, technicians and support staff spent more than two years working on the film. And to ensure the vision for the movie was realised, McKay relocated to the Animal Logic studios in Sydney to perfect the photo-real animation style.

  • Release date: In cinemas now

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