“I’d rather be doing this than anything else,” says Roger Guyett, and when the “this” includes being able to make ghosts and dragons come to life, allowing viewers to vicariously experience the terrors of Quidditch players zooming through fierce storms, it’s easy to see why he might be someone who loves his work.For Guyett, the particular path that took him from friendly spirits (Casper) to the Force itself (current can’t-talk-about-it work on Star Wars: Episode III) began in London in the late ’80s with “a lot of work in commercials, a lot of pop videos,” doing graphic design, but realizing that there was more potential in pixels than “just flying a logo around for BBC.”Guyett’s particular CG light on the road to a digital Damascus came at the Siggraph show the year “a whole bunch of people were talking about The Abyss.” A “natural progression” started then, leading not only the film biz to ever-increasing reliance on CG effects, but Guyett to the real home galaxy of Tatooine: ILM in Marin county. “It was the place to work,” he says, and he got busy right away on the blithe spirit of Casper, the Friendly Ghost, the jejuene spookfest being “one of the first big shows” to use a primarily CG character.Then came Dragonheart, with a titular character both scaly and virtual, and together “these two shows took the business into a whole new era,” says Guyett.In that era, he’s seen things evolve at a rate of speed approximating one of the cyclones he helped create for Twister: “The technology is advancing rapidly enough that things suddenly become very doable.” Each one of those “things” leads to the next breakthrough—what was learned about digital storms in Twister, for example, was used in his stormy, thunder-filled Quidditch match in Harry Potter III.Indeed, Guyett singles out that scene from the young wizard’s recent adventure, referring to the quality of the match, incorporating weather effects that would have been impossible, if it were tried with earlier technology, let alone if Harry had to be moved around mechanically.The other advance for HP III was that all the background characters were CG, allowing Hogwarts to become ever more mysterious and dare-we-say magical.Guyett has also learned enough to know what shouldn’t be faked. Of his work co-supervising special effects for Saving Private Ryan, Guyett notes that while the imperative was to recreate the Normandy invasion with all its carnage, chaos and intensity, you don’t want “everyone just pretending those were ‘bangs’ going off.” That film walked a fine line between virtual and actual: There is a tangible, visceral way an actor “will react to a 50-pound shell going off.”“You do the stuff that’s real,” Guyett says. And as the solo effects supervisor for the first and third Potter installments, and the current Star Wars chapter, among others, anything not real—but needing to look that way—won’t phase him at all.
Written by Mark London Williams