Masterclass: Industrial Light & Magic – Report

Posted on: Friday 03 July 2015 9:58am by Simon Bor


  • “TV is not dead,” says top Vlogger.
  • The visual effects industry in Soho has grown from 1,000 people in 2003 to 6,000.
  • Is Xlab the future of interactive storytelling?
  • The verdict on that new Star Wars film.


Disney Channel’s David Levine introduced this year’s masterclass by Scott Pritchard, sequence supervisor at ILM London.

First, changemaker Laura “Laurbubble” gave a talk and presentation about her career as a video blogger or Vlogger.

She described Vlogging as presenting short videos of 1-5 duration that interact with the viewer. They are often about lifestyle, comedy, fashion or gaming. It’s becoming the way to connect with today’s kids. 1 in 3 UK children now own a tablet and a recent US survey of 13-18 year-olds gave the top five places for most influential figures to YouTubers.

Laura has been making videos for eight years and set up Laurabubble. She soon found she was being asked to work with traditional channels such as Radio 1 and CBBC. “TV is not dead,” said Laura – stating that 5-15 year olds still watch 14.6 hours every week, but traditional channels use Vloggers and on-demand TV to trail programmes, for catch-up TV and get instant feedback on new product.

After the short, came the blockbuster movie, with Scott Pritchard taking us through the history of Industrial Light and Magic from the first Star Wars film through Indiana Jones, Jurassic World to … well … the latest Star Wars film.

First he explained the difference between a special effect and a visual effect, the former being filmed with the live action, such as explosions; the latter created separately and added to the live action footage.

The show reel was like watching the history of blockbusters with clips from Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Marvel franchises. A lot has changed since the companies early days; state of the art puppets have been replaced by computer techniques that could hardly been imagined back in the seventies.

The London branch of ILM opened last year and now has 160 staff; Scott explained that Soho has become a major centre for visual effects and it was mainly due to the Harry Potter films being made in the UK. In 2003 there were 1,000 people working in VFXs, now it’s 6,000.

Scott explained that it was often ILM’s job to restrain clients from overusing  effects and admitted that there was a backlash against the use of CGI in movies. However, the company continues to strive to get closer to making their effects as realistic as possible.

It’s policy for anyone in the company to come up with ideas and the rulebook is torn up on a regular basis. Not everything works, they experiment with new techniques all the time, and they have blooper folders for every production they are involved with.

We were shown a glimpse of the future with a trailer for Xlab: virtual reality where the viewer can get even closer to the world of cinema. The trailer indicated that the technical possibilities were huge and the great challenge would be storytelling.

In the Q & A session, Scott was asked what the most difficult VFX was to achieve. A human, was the answer. “No one has got that right yet.”

And the new Star Wars movie be any good? “It’s awesome,” said Scott.

To see full details of the speakers check the Session Guide.

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Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor


I studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, I have been awarded an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University. I set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and have been involved in children’s television since the mid eighties. As a writer, I have co written and created several shows… Read more