Special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer reflects on the practical effects of ‘Dune’

A look back at sand shakers, ornithopters and more.

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about practical effects and digital effects and CGI in modern filmmaking. So I thought, in the circumstances, it would be interesting to go back to an interview I did a little while ago with special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer about Dune.This was for the SPARK FX conference, and now you can hear the audio podcast version of that.

Gerd’s team was responsible for a range of practical effects elements in the film, including life-size ornithopter gimbals, fire, explosions and plenty of sand and dust (including a very cool way to shake the sand). Of course, he and his team worked hand in hand with production VFX supervisor Paul Lambert and his team on the film, and that cross-over is a huge part of why the film works so well.

This episode of the befores & afters podcast is sponsored by SideFX. Head to SideFX’s Houdini Hive rooms at SIGGRAPH 2023 in Los Angeles — August 8 to 10 — for in-depth presentations from industry professionals. Presenters including representatives from companies such as DNEG, Weta Digital, Rise, Folks VFX, Nvidia and Theory Accelerated, as well as incredible presenters including Rich Lord, Matt Estela, Matt Ebb, Ben Watts and Urban Bradesko. Find out more at SideFX’s website for room details and how to score a FREE Exhibits Only pass to SIGGRAPH so that you can attend the Houdini Hive.

Listen in to the podcast below, and also check out a DNEG Deep Dive video I was involved with about the film.

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