"Anytime a tree moves, we created it in SpeedTree"

Star Wars is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon that has stoked the fires of imagination since it first hit theatres in 1977, establishing a universe that carried a unique tone both familiar and fantastic. Strange beasts and ships were portrayed as mundane or even boring, only to elicit a deeper sense of wonder as a hero’s journey unfolds. George Lucas pushed the limits of technology to accomplish this vision and with every film since innovation has become synonymous with Star Wars, thanks to the team at Industrial Light & Magic.

When given the enormous responsibility of bringing Star Wars back to the screen, JJ Abrams promised fans that the seventh installment of the Star Wars series would maintain the warmth and tangible nature of the originals, focusing on the extensive use of practical effects, real sets, and cameras spinning real film behind vintage lenses (some of which are the same lenses used in the original trilogy). Despite the heavy use of practical effects in the film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens makes extensive use of CG to both merge the practical and digital sets, but also to create whole new environments.

In the January/February issue of CG World, Environment Supervisor Susumu Yukuhiro recounts what went into creating the Maz’s Castle on the world of Takodana. Recreating the planet from plates of the English country side, the only practical version of the castle set was a destroyed version. The team digitally created the entire castle as well as the foliage that surrounds it.

“Anytime a tree moves, we created it in SpeedTree so we could animate it,” Yukuhiro says. “Also, the grass.”

ILM first began using SpeedTree with their groundbreaking work in Avatar and has been one of our most prolific customers in the film industry helping to even shape our software to suit their needs. (Such as animated growth came from the need for a growing forest in 2014’s Noah). Our work in both these films was pivotal in being honored with a 2015 Academy Award and Engineering Emmy. The ability to quickly create trees with complete artistic control as well as our realistic wind animations has made SpeedTree Cinema the go-to tool for digital foliage in both television and movies.