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VFX: Making of EX MACHINA Android Ava with Oscar VFX Nominee Paul Norris at SPARK FX

Update: Ex Machina won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.


Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett

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Update: Ex Machina director Alex Garland won Best First Feature Film at the Directors Guild of America Awards tonight.

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Ex Machina is a beautiful film. A beautiful $16-million independent film from director/writer Alex Garland defined by Alicia Vikander’s subtle performance as android Ava.

What’s it about? A young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is chosen by a tech billionaire (Oscar Isaac) to interact with his very human android named Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Ex Machina images.

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Oscar nominee Paul Norris of Double Negative in London told SPARK FX today that performance trumped visual effects in this indie. Production did not put Alicia Vikander in a motion capture suit. There was no green screen on set at London’s Pinewood Studios or on location in Norway. The visual effects department provided director Alex Garland, director of photography Rob Hardy and the cast with stills of what Ava would look like with the effects added  in to give them a reference, but Vikander wore the grey wetsuit covering most of her body on set. And the actors were in all the “plates”.

Norris’s team worked on shots of up to 1600 frames in the longest scene. And of about 800 VFX shots, 300 of them were of Ava, he said. Her environment — a house built like an enclosed glass box with reflective surfaces in almost every shot — complicated their work. But the result — visually stunning.


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