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ILM Selling Physical Unit

Visual FX and Tech

ILM Selling Physical Unit

With the model spacecrafts, miniature sets and hand-painted mattes seen throughout the original Star Wars trilogy replaced by computer-generated imagery for the new films, it was just a matter of time before Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) did away with its practical unit all together. Daily Variety today reports that the company is in talks to sell off its physical effects operation, which was left behind when Lucasfilm moved to its new headquarters at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The division of ILM that deals with models, miniatures and stage work has received a bid by veteran ILM model maker Mark Anderson, who will reportedly rename it Kerner Optical, a reference to ILM’s original headquarters on Kerner Avenue in San Rafael, Calif. The studio would then become a preferred subcontractor for ILM, creating practical elements to augment ILM’s strictly digital pipeline.

The sale, which is expected to close within 60 days, will end an important part of ILM’s legacy as a groundbreaking visual effects studio. In the mid ’70s, the company devised a motion-control camera system that allowed miniature models to be composited with background footage for Star Wars, resulting in the spectacular space dogfights that changed the face of the science-fiction film and earned the company multiple Oscars for visual effects.

Once regarded as the top VFX studio in the world, ILM has been overshadowed in recent years by Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based Weta, whose combination of digital effects and model work has garnered Academy Awards for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.

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