How Jurassic World Dominion VFX Was Able to Continue Through the Pandemic

Industrial Light & Magic VFX supervisor discusses how the VFX team for Jurassic World Dominion continued to work on the film during the COVID-19 pandemic. ILM was founded by George Lucas in 1975 and since then has provided special effects work to iconic films such as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park. Over the years, ILM has nominated and won several accolades, including 16 Oscars out of its 40 nominations.


ILM is in part known for being a groundbreaking force in the VFX industry. There are several "firsts" that the company has accomplished within the visual effects space, such as using digital technology for the first time to create a complete and detailed living creature in Jurassic Park, developing the iMocap system in 2006 for Davy Jones and his crew in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and using real-time rendering for the first time, in conjunction with Unreal Game Engine and digital LED displays, as a virtual set for The Mandalorian in 2019. Filming for Jurassic World Dominion began on February 19, 2020, in Canada, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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During an exclusive interview with Screen Rant, ILM's VFX supervisor David Vickery discusses how the special effects team adjusted to working on the film during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vickery notes that although filming shut down after an initial 3 to 4 weeks due to COVID-19, the VFX team transitioned to a work from home model within 48 hours and continued working on Jurassic World Dominion. Their work included putting in "temporary versions of dinosaurs" in order to help the editing team, as well as integrating scenes of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard that were filmed on green screens and later made to appear as though the actors were actually in Malta. A full quote from Vickery can be read below:

The pandemic had a number of effects on us, really, in that we'd been shooting for three or four weeks and then we got locked down and nobody could film and we stopped. But visual effects actually carried on, we pivoted within a space of about 48 hours, ILM pivoted the entire team to be able to work from home securely, and we carried on. We were working on the post-vis, which is taking the plates that we'd already shot and putting temporary versions of dinosaurs into those so that editorially, it could tell the story and Colin could commit to an edit that he could then turn over to us to do the visual effects work on. But it also had another effect in that we have massive sequences that were staged outside of the UK, the sequence in Malta, for example, where we suddenly decided not to send our main unit to Malta, at all. So Bryce and Chris never went to Malta, so we had to pivot and understand how, from a visual effects perspective, we could integrate them into second-unit photography shot in Malta and make us, make the audience, believe that they actually went to that location. We had to shoot multiple array plates, tracking vehicles running down streets with three or four cameras capturing background plates for us. We scanned huge swathes of Valetta city streets digitally, so that we could rebuild them in in post-production and insert plates of Chris and Bryce on green screen into those shots to create the seamless effect that they actually went to Malta and filmed that.

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Transitioning to working from home immediately in any field is a massive challenge, particularly for one such as the film industry, where deadlines are important to maintain due to the huge financial investment. The fact that the VFX team working on Jurassic World Dominion was able to make that transition to working from home within 48 hours in order to both keep the crew at ILM safe while also doing their best to stay on schedule with completing the film is a feat in itself. Not only did the VFX team's transition to working from home help keep themselves safer, but their work also allowed other members of the crew such as Dallas Howard and Pratt to not have to travel to Malta to film in person there. This would have involved a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19, especially during the beginning of the pandemic when there was no vaccine available.

The VFX field has the ability to create worlds, such as the one in Jurassic World Dominion, that are beyond the viewer's imagination with incredible detail and nuance. This field continues to change and evolve, with more advanced technology and exciting new techniques being introduced year after year, but the same wonder that viewers experienced looking at an extremely lifelike T. Rex during the premiere of Jurassic Park in 1993 is still the ultimate goal. Viewers who have not yet seen Jurassic World Dominion may have a new appreciation while watching the film now knowing that the VFX team continued to adapt to working during the pandemic in order to still produce incredible work on screen.