Canada’s VFX magic recognized by Hollywood at Spark FW 2014

Hollywood talent headed to the Spark FW 2014 conference include John Knoll and Steve 'Spaz' Williams of Industrial Light & Magic. (Pacific Rim pictured)
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With Canadian VFX houses increasingly behind tentpole movie magic, Hollywood’s biggest visual effect gurus are converging on Vancouver this week for the Spark FW 2014 conference.

“I enjoyed every moment when we could take a live action plate and put monsters into it,” John Knoll, chief creative officer of Industrial Light & Magic, told Playback Daily about supervising the merging of live action footage and visual effects on Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which was shot in Toronto.

Knoll will be giving a speech entitled “Cancel the Apocalypse: The VFX of Pacific Rim” on Saturday at the Spark conference, which celebrates VFX and animation innovation.

“I enjoyed the process. A big part of the attraction was this was original content. There was no established style book for what the movie would look like,” Knoll said.

The ILM effects guru has overseen VFX work on Hollywood tentpoles like the Star Trek, Star Wars and Mission Impossible franchises.

So he got a change of pace when ILM came on board Pacific Rim, which was shot on stages at Pinewood Toronto Studios.

“It’s kind of Guillermo’s paean to the giant monster movies that we grew up on as a kid,” Knoll insisted.

For del Toro, who is currently in Toronto to shoot The Strain drama for FX and the Crimson Peak feature for Legendary Pictures, Canada is his home-away-from-home these days.

“I love Toronto, and I love the crews in Toronto,” the Mexican director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth told Playback Daily.

He recalled shooting Pacific Rim in Toronto at the same time that he executive produced Mama, the 2013 Spanish-Canadian horror film.

“The only way I could pull it off was in Toronto. I know the crews, I’m repeating crews between the two projects. Sometimes I can shoot within the same studio, and go from one set to the next, and improvise,” del Toro insisted.

The Hollywood director says he and his family still live in Los Angeles, but relocate to Toronto when he’s shooting here.

“We have a house here, and we come here for the period of the shoots,” del Toro said.

Other Hollywood talent bound for the Spark FW 2014 conference includes Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams, the legendary ILM chief animator and modeler on classics like The Terminator 2 and The Mask, Michael Uslan, who executive produced Tim Burton’s Batman and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Tim Webber, a long-time collaborator with Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuarón.

The Spark FW 2014 conference, which kicked off Wednesday, will run to Saturday in Vancouver.