VFX Supervisor Ron Thornton Garners Emmy Nomination for Superfire

Fri 13th Sep 2002 | News

Los Angeles — Ron Thornton recently received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special for his role as visual effects supervisor on Superfire, a movie-of-the-week that aired on ABC last spring. The 54th Annual Primetime Emmys will be presented in a live NBC telecast on September 22 from the Shrine Auditorium. Thornton is represented as a visual effects supervisor by Digital Artists Agency (DAA), Los Angeles.

Superfire, produced for ABC by Lions Gate Television and directed by Steven Quale, is the story of a forest fire with the destructive power of an atomic bomb that threatens an Oregon town. (The film eerily presaged the Biscuit Fire that recently ravaged the same area.) In addition to airing as a telefilm on ABC, Superfire aired in an extended version as a miniseries in Europe.

Thornton’s role on the project included supervising visual effects production on location in New Zealand. He also supervised three companies involved in post production visual effects work. They included Foundation Imaging, Hollywood; The Orphanage, San Francisco; and PRP Visual Effects, Auckland, New Zealand. In all, Thornton supervised the production of more than 400 visual effects shots.

One of the more spectacular visuals shows a wall of fire sweeping through a large section of forest at more than 100 m.p.h. Thornton created the effect by shooting fire elements in a specially constructed fire box, The box was surrounded by large mirrors in order to create the illusion of flames rising to infinity. In post production, the fire elements were slowed down to increase their sense of scale and integrated with live action shots of trees and smoke.

“Fire is a very difficult visual effect to pull off convincingly,” Thornton explained. “Everyone knows what fire looks like and can easily spot it, when it doesn’t look real.” Thornton also created the effect of a plane dropping fire retardant onto a burning forest.

Thornton, who currently works as an independent visual effects supervisor, is the founder and former president for Foundation Imaging, best known for its work on the television series Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager. Thornton and his team won a total of three Emmy Awards for its work on the two series.

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