John Knoll On ‘Rogue One’s Visual Effects: Part 1

Writing over at American Cinematographer, Jon Witmer discusses the stunning visual effects of Rogue One with ILM’s senior visual-effects supervisor John Knoll.

Rogue One’s story leads directly into the beginning of A New Hope, but it’s also the first ‘Star Wars Story,’ separate from the episodic movies of the Skywalker saga. Given that, how much freedom did you feel stylistically, and how much of an obligation was there to match the look of Episode IV?

Knoll: On one hand we’re depicting locations and showing vehicles that are directly referencing the other film, so you want them to feel like the same thing. We’re not trying to redesign spaceships that we’ve seen before; when you see an X-wing, it’s us doing our best to make it look like the X-wings that you’re familiar with. But our general mantra was, ‘Match your memory of it more than the reality,’ because sometimes you go look at the actual prop in the archive building or you look back at the actual shot from the movie, and you go, ‘Oh, I remember it being a little better than that.’

In opposition to that, in terms of the overall style of the movie, is this mandate that Star Wars Stories are not part of the through-line of [Episodes] VII, VIII and IX, so we don’t have to follow the stylebook quite as slavishly as when we’re doing additional chapters of the same story. So in terms of cinematography style, mood and tone, we’re making it a different movie than what the numbered Episodes are.