Young pros with autism contribute to Oscar-nominated VFX films

Exceptional Minds Studio, the LA-based visual effects and animation studio made up of young people on the autism spectrum, earned screen credit on three of the five films nominated for Oscars in the visual effects category — Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and War for the Planet of the Apes.

L-R: Lloyd Hackl, Kenneth Au, Mason Taylor and Patrick Brady.

For Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the artists at Exceptional Minds Studio were contracted to do visual effects cleanup work that involved roto and paint for several shots. “We were awarded 20 shots for this film that included very involved rotoscoping and paint work,” explains Exceptional Minds Studio executive producer Susan Zwerman.

The studio was also hired to create the end titles for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which involved compositing the text into a star-field background.

For Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Exceptional Minds provided the typesetting for the end credit crawl. For War for the Planet of the Apes, the studio provided visual effects cleanup on 10 shots — this involved tracker marker removal using roto and paint.

Exceptional Minds used Foundry’s Nuke for much of their work, in addition to Silhouette and Mocha for After Effects.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Courtesy of ILM

Since opening its doors almost four years ago, this small studio has worked on visual effects for more than 50 major motion pictures and/or television series, including The Good Doctor, Game of Thrones and Doctor Strange.

“The VFX teams we worked with on each of these movies were beyond professional, and we are so thankful that they gave our artists the opportunity to work with them,” says Zwerman, adding that “many of our artists never even dreamed they would be working in this industry.”

An estimated 90 percent of the autism population is under employed or unemployed, and few training programs exist to prepare young adults with autism for meaningful careers, which is what makes this program so important.

“I couldn’t imagine doing this when I was young,” agreed Patrick Brady, an Exceptional Minds VFX artist.


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