Definition September 2023 - Web


SHOCK & AWE DNEG – sole VFX WORDS Will Lawrence

partner on the dazzling Oppenheimer – shares the inside story of creating history for Christopher Nolan’s atomic-age epic

I t was while shooting in New Mexico that DNEG’s Andrew Jackson got stuck – quite literally. Working as the visual effects supervisor on Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster epic Oppenheimer , Jackson was moving ahead of the main unit, which was filming in Albuquerque with the cast. He set out into the desert south of the city, driving to the spot where Nolan was to film his version of the Trinity atomic test, executed by J Robert Oppenheimer as part of the Manhattan Project on 16 July 1945. “I thought I’d go early and get ahead,” begins Jackson. “But on the first

day it rained heavily and all the roads were clogged with mud. We had to give up. When we did eventually get there, it was just a sea of mud and we couldn’t set up. We spent two days stuck.” When they were not mired down and soaking wet, Jackson and the VFX crew spent much of their time on set working inside one of the props: a wooden shed that was originally constructed as part of Los Alamos, the desert town that sprung up to house the Manhattan Project. “We didn’t have quite the same level of stress involved with success or failure as they did,” remarks Jackson,

“but it was like our own little science project, for sure.” It was vital that the VFX team stay close to the main production. Nolan was shooting on film with IMAX cameras, screening dailies – all the material Jackson captured during the day would go straight to Nolan for review. “We were almost tacked on to the main unit,” adds Jackson. “We worked closely with Chris all the way through.” Indeed, their professional relationship is so close, Jackson was the first person to read the Oppenheimer script after Emma Thomas – Nolan’s wife and



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