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Rogue One’s Oscar-nominated visual effects came courtesy of a Vive

Director Gareth Edwards strolled the set — in space

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is up for an Academy Award tonight in visual effects, and if it cops an Oscar the artists who worked on it will have a Vive to thank, in part.

The BBC went behind the scenes of how Rogue One filmed its CGI sequences, particularly the ones in space, which, duh, are not filmed on location. Graphics supervisor Steve Ellis noted that director Gareth Edwards patrols his set in a very hands-on way before setting up his shot. The Vive, mashed up with an iPad, allowed him to do somewhat the same thing in VR with Industrial Light & Magic artists in London and San Francisco.

What they did, more or less, was strap a Vive controller to the tablet and then Edwards could, in a rough-draft way, more easily show the artists what was in his mind's eye rather than try to write it down, see their interpretation, send it back, and go through a process of trial-and-error, or accept that the shot couldn't be created and try another.

The apparatus more or less opens up a window to the virtual set and the user(s) can walk with it to set up the angle. It's cool to see, in the excerpts, the Death Star from different angles and understand its scale relative to a Star Destroyer, even the distance from the star whose system it is menacing. Someone had to think about these things, after all.

That swooping assault on Scarif, with the Alliance fleet popping in out of hyperspace, also took a lot of design that the viewer shouldn't take for granted. I had some trouble with Rogue One as a story, but it was undeniably a gorgeous, exciting movie. Getting the late Peter Cushing (and a younger Carrie Fisher) into the film was a hell of an achievement, one that caused Lucasfilm to later say it would not use the technology to re-create Fisher in future movies; the actress famous as Princess Leia died Dec. 27.

John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould are the named nominees for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is up against Kubo and the Two Strings, The Jungle Book, Doctor Strange and Deepwater Horizon for the Oscar. The 89th Academy Awards are tonight, and coverage begins at 7 pm ET on ABC.

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