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It's no secret that the making of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story required key reshoots. While we may never know the full extent of the work that was done, a key narrative in the blockbuster's development was the degree to which the film changed throughout the post-production process. As you would assume, this particularly had a serious impact on the way the movie's visual effects were completed -- and as I recently learned from Industrial Light and Magic's John Knoll and Hal Hickel, it actually wound up changing the way they approached many individual sequences in the film, regularly postponing work as a result of expected alterations.
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Knoll and Hickel over the phone earlier this month about their work on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it was towards the end of our interview that I inquired about movie's reportedly tumultuous post-production period. To start, Knoll noted that early in the planning process room in the schedule was allotted for expected reshoots (as all blockbusters do them these days). He then, however, admitted that the need for more material did wind up slowing his team's work, as more time was being spent on sequences that weren't going to be changed. Said the producer/visual effects supervisor,
We get heads up that the first part of the scene is staying as it is, the second part of the scene, 'We have to pick-up the last part of that, so you might want to hold off a little bit.' So we got a heads up about what was safe to work on, and what wasn't, and it did mean that it was a little more back loaded than we were initially expecting it to be. A lot more. It grew somewhat, partly because of the pickup shoots, and partly because we stalled a little bit on, 'Well, there's no point on getting into the scene yet if we're picking up the last half of it.' So, probably the majority of the heavy lifting happened from September through November on the show. A lot of work happened in parallel at the end.
Can you even imagine the pressure of that? Just being a Star Wars movie means that there is an ungodly amount of expectation riding on the work, so the idea of building a good portion of Rogue One in the final months before release must have been rather insane. I imagine you could fill an Olympic-sized pool with the sweat of Industrial Light and Magic animators (I immediately apologize for conjuring that image).
Chiming in, Hal Hickel added that the portion of Rogue One that wound up being most affected in this area was the third act -- just by the nature of having so many moving parts. The Battle of Scarif not only juggles all of the main characters in the ensemble, but also features some crazy spaceship action happening in the atmosphere above the planet. Just the nature of this forced the Animation Supervisor and his team to take a different tactic. Said Hickel,
The space battle was especially affected by that, because of the nature of the three-ring circus nature of the third act. We just had to remain flexible and nimble in terms of figuring out what part of the story it was going to be telling, and how it fit in with the others. So, for me, that was probably the biggest challenge with regards to the reshoots, but it really didn't feel, to me, very different from most other big action driven films I've worked on - in terms of reshoots; in terms of changes in editorial and that sort of thing.