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Reporters' Roundtable: ILM on the future of visual effects (podcast)

With the Academy Awards a little more than a week away, this show is about one of the awards categories: visual effects. We talk with Russell Earl of ILM and CNET's Daniel Terdiman.

This show is about one of the categories for the Academy Awards: visual effects. This year, there are three films up for awards in the visual effects category: Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9. We're going to be talking with Russell Earl of Industrial Light & Magic. Russell was co-visual effects supervisor for one of those films, Star Trek, and also worked on Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and two of the Star Wars movies.

Also joining us is CNET writer Daniel Terdiman, who covers digital media, culture, and gaming for the Geek Gestalt blog on CNET.

Now playing: Watch this: Future of visual effects


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Show notes and talking points

Let's start with a refresher: (Video clip). Russell, what are we looking at here?

Let's talk about the technology here: how much was practical vs. computer-generated.

When you're doing visual effects on a film like Star Trek with deep cultural baggage, how can you stay true to that style while bringing the franchise completely up to date?

What was the hardest part of doing the visual effects for Star Trek? And the part you're most proud of?

And what's with the lens flares? Won't they have better lens coatings in the 23rd century?

When you're pitching for a new film, how do you distinguish yourselves from the other talented visual effects houses? How do all these studios work on a film together? What's a 911 Film?

Working with directors. Do they know what's possible? How much of J.J. Abrams' vision, or Jim Cameron's, gets realized in a film?

Merits of the films in the Oscars running this year, like Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9. They're all sci-fi. Any slights?

What is really the difference these days between visual effects and computer animation like goes on at Pixar? The movie Up is up for an award in the animation category. But isn't Avatar really just a big cartoon, too?

A discussion of the "uncanny valley" separating animation from "live action" movies.

Role of 3D in visual effects?

How about sound?

Talk about the tension between spectacle and story.

Challenges yet to solve in effects?

That's it for this week's Roundtable. Next week, we're going to explore the heart and soul of Microsoft, with former Microsoft spokespeople Robert Scoble and Don Dodge. Also joining us will be CNET's Microsoft reporter Ina Fried. Don't miss this great show. For updates, watch my Twitter feed. E-mail comments to roundtable@cnet.com, and get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog. That's all for this week, so long!