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BU graduate wins Oscar for Inception

11 March 2011

Andy Lockley with Oscar and BAFTA

BU graduate Andy Lockley wins Oscar for ‘Inception’.

NCCA graduate Andy Lockley on his Oscar, Inception and his future in VFX

Andy Lockley graduated from BU in 2000 with an MA in Digital Special Effects. Just over a decade later he's reached the dizzy heights that most film professionals only dream of.

On 27 February Andy was awarded an Oscar at the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, California for his visual effects work on the 2010 smash Inception.

"It feels surreal," he said. "Sitting next to Natalie Portman while we had our name plates attached to our statues is definitely a memory that will stay with me forever! The Oscar is just one of those things you joke about winning with no expectation of ever actually winning one. So when I look at it now I still can't quite believe it!"

The thirty-nine year old, originally from Staffordshire, now lives in London and works at Double Negative who managed the vfx on Inception.

The film, directed by Chris Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, sees the lead character Dom Cobb invade people's dreams to influence events in the waking world. In his most complicated job Dom enters different realms of the dream-world, each with more mind-blowing scenarios than the last.

"The great thing about working with the director Chris Nolan," said Andy, "is that he has a very clear idea of what he wants, which means the team can focus all their efforts on a specific goal and that contributes enormously to the quality of the final product.

"On the creative side of things, there were lots of sessions and meetings where we would design and review the shots, giving notes on how to improve the work or come up solutions for effects that we had no idea how we were going to solve. We spent a lot of time sitting in dark screening rooms with the team, hammering out problems.

"It's always very interesting to see how a shot evolves, starting with sketches and rough block outs using grey shaded CG, through to the final polished shot that makes it into the film. Some of the bigger shots can literally go through hundreds of iterations."

Given that all 548 shots were completed in just under five months, the team had their work cut out. Andy was also specifically responsible for the final quality check of each shot and the individual colour timing of each sequence. This ensured sequences matched the grading clips cut from the master work print of the film, so that when visual effects shots were cut in to the rest of the film the colour remained consistent.

But in a film packed with stunning visual effects, which is Andy's favourite part?

"I love the bridge sequence with the mirrors," he said. "And I think the cafe sequence is really nice. It's a great moment in the film and the sound design makes it really spectacular!"

"But my favourite individual shot would have to be the one of Fischer and Browning sitting by the river towards the end of the film. The camera tracks around them revealing that Fischer is actually sitting with Eames. I love these kind of shots where the audience isn't sure what they just saw. It's a very nicely put together shot made from some quite tricky source material."

Without doubt, winning the Oscar for Inception is the highlight of Andy's career to date, which also includes working on high profile films such as Harry Potter 2, Die Another Day, Cold Mountain and The Dark Knight. But Andy certainly won't be resting on his laurels.

"Every film is different," he said, "with new directors, new challenges and new teams to work with, so it's always changing. There are some really interesting things lined up for me in the near future that I'm very excited about, as well as the current film that I'm working on, Captain America!"

"None of this would have been possible if I hadn't done my MA with you lovely people, so a big thanks to the National Centre for Computer Animation! Employers in the industry knew about the NCCA and actively sourced people from there. I would never have been given the same chance had that not been the case. It also helped introduce me to other people already in the industry. Knowing people is a big part of getting work within the visual effects community."

Andy worked with fellow internal supervisor, Peter Bebb, who also received an Oscar, along with BU guest lecturer Paul Franklin who was external supervisor and founder of Double Negative.

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