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How the filmmakers brought 'Dune: Part Two' to life

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How the filmmakers brought 'Dune: Part Two' to life


AUSTIN, Texas  —  Author Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic “Dune” was long considered unfilmable. Much of the narrative unfolds in internal monologue. It’s notoriously complicated and explores religion, politics, ecology and technology.


What You Need To Know

  • “Dune: Part Two” released in March 2024 to rave reviews and a gross of nearly $380 million worldwide
  • A panel at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, “Dune Two, Real-Time Tech & the Implications for Storytelling,” delved into how real-time tools and processes helped to bring the blockbuster sequel to life
  • Film co-producer Jessica Derhammer said director Denis Villeneuve would shoot everything practically if he could but visual effects were needed
  • One of the tools the filmmakers used was Unreal Engine, which allowed them to pre-visualize locations and even characters 

Cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted a film adaptation in the 1970s. It was canceled because of its inflating budget.

In 1984, David Lynch’s “Dune” was released to negative reviews. It was confusing to audiences, largely because its 132-minute runtime jettisoned pivotal information.

A 2000 miniseries fared a little better. Aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, “Frank Herbert’s Dune” won two Emmy Awards and received some critical praise. Still, it was limited by budget. A sequel miniseries, “Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune,” followed in 2003.

It wasn’t until 2021’s “Dune” that Herbert’s epic was translated to the screen in a way that was satisfying to most of the novel’s fans. At the helm was director Denis Villeneuve, who also co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced.

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Villeneuve – who previously directed 2015’s “Sicario,” 2016’s “Arrival” and 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049” – has stated in interviews several times that bringing “Dune” to the big screen has been his dream since childhood.

“Dune: Part Two” released in March 2024 and garnered more praise than the 2021 film, grossing nearly $380 million worldwide against a $190 million budget.

Unreal Engine helps power ‘Dune’

A South by Southwest panel this week, “Dune Two, Real-Time Tech & the Implications for Storytelling,” delved deep into how real-time tools and processes helped to bring the blockbuster sequel to life.

“Dune: Part Two” co-producer Jessica Derhammer joined filmmaker and self-described “frontier technologist” Brian Frager with Epic Games to discuss how the production balanced the practical with pre-visualization to best represent Herbert’s space epic.

According to Derhammer, Villeneuve wanted to “do everything practical and true and stay on site.” That wasn’t completely possible with a film of this magnitude, however. That’s where Unreal Engine came in.

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Developed by Epic Games, Unreal Engine, a series of 3D computer graphics game engines, was created for PC first-shooters but has been adopted by other industries, most notably the film industry.

“This was a perfect, perfect situation and perfect software (with which) Deni had created his vision. (Cinematographer) Greig (Fraser) had put his touches on it, and Patrice (Vermette), our designer, had put his touches on it. And then we as a production came in and was like, ‘OK, so what do you need?’ Derhammer said.

Frager explained that the technology allowed the crew to pre-visualize sets and even characters. Drones can even be deployed to scout locations, and that data can be inputted to Unreal.

Unreal tech was combined by Villeneuve with traditional storyboards.

“As far as the creative side, very much there’s storyboards all throughout. That’s Deni’s love language – storyboards. That’s how he gets his vision out,” she said. “And then there were more problematic situations where we then brought in Unreal. Problematic means it’s a desert, we don’t know what we’re doing, or there’s an interior ornithopter that’s being built.”

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“They didn’t replace each other, they kind of worked in tandem,” Derhammer explained.

VFX bolsters the practical

“Dune: Part Two” had two principal locations. The vast deserts were captured in Abu Dhabi. Rock formations were mostly shot in Jordan. Sets were constructed on massive stages.

“We all very quickly learned that there’s a lot of prep to do in the desert. We were spending two months total in the desert. We spent about one month in Jordan and one month in Abu Dhabi, but we were prepping it from Budapest,” Derhammer said.

Derhammer said Villeneuve would shoot everything practically if he could, but visual effects were needed. One example is the ornithopter, the preferred flying machine on the planet Arrakis. Unlike a helicopter, the vehicles fly like birds.

“There’s more practical than you would think because we’re in the location. Obviously all the ornithopters are visual effects,” she said. “A lot of the explosions, there are elements later placed in, but even the explosions we did real. We exploded a bunch of stuff in the desert to capture it in the light and then VFX put that into a thing. A lot of the flying stuff that you see, they’re real helicopters in the sky.”

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Derhammer said that while technology like Unreal isn’t practical for all filming situations, it’s something she recommends her fellow producers familiarize themselves with.

“I would encourage many people in my position to explore Unreal, to explore other pre-visualization techniques that can help you support your director as much as you can,” she said. “And this was what this was all about – how we can support our director.”

Villeneuve’s dream

Derhammer said that what ultimately drove the enormous production crew and A-list cast was Villeneuve’s enthusiasm and a deep desire to give life to his vision.

“He’s so passionate. When he says, ‘I deeply love that,’ you’re like, ‘OK, we’re moving on.’ You want it for him. You want to see him succeed because this is his childhood dream. He does not hide it; he shows it,” she said.

 Villeneuve has stated he’d like to make a third film, an adaptation of Herbert’s first sequel novel, “Dune Messiah.” Derhammer said she wouldn’t change the approach.

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“Probably a lot of the same thing. It was a pretty well-oiled machine by the time we were done with it. Maybe a little more prep time would be nice. It honestly ended so well, and I don’t think I would have changed a thing,” she said.



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Austin, TX

Tesla skirts Austin's environmental rules at Texas gigafactory

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Tesla skirts Austin's environmental rules at Texas gigafactory


Tesla has used a new Texas state law to exempt its Austin gigafactory from Austin’s environmental regulations, as reported by Austin Business Journal.

Tesla’s Texas gigafactory is commonly referred to as being in Austin, but it is actually situated not far outside the city’s official borders.

This is technically part of Austin’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction” (ETJ) an area around the city which doesn’t technically belong to the city, but which the city can still exercise some control over the development of.

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Due to the large amount of unincorporated land in Texas, and its growing population causing cities to tend to sprawl outward, it is prudent for some cities to help plan the areas immediately outside their limits, so that infrastructure can be compatible if the city later grows to encompass those areas. This is why Texas and some other Western states have ETJ laws.

But, last year, the Texas legislature passed a law, SB 2038, allowing developments to remove themselves from these ETJs relatively easily.

Earlier this year, Tesla filed a petition to remove itself from Austin’s ETJ, and that petition was accepted, according to Austin Business Journal.

The law has been challenged by several cities in Texas, though Austin is not one of the cities opposing it.

Tesla’s removal from the ETJ allows it to skirt Austin’s environmental regulations, particularly over regulation of water quality and flooding issues, according to an Austin spokesperson interviewed by Austin Business Journal.

Both of these would be important at the gigafactory site, since the property encompasses 2,100 acres and runs directly along the Colorado River, just after it runs through Austin’s center.

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Tesla itself has pointed out the ecological importance of its location, as when the site was first selected, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the area would be an “ecological paradise.” That promised ecological paradise has not yet materialized, but the company did present a plan to create a 120-acre public space alongside the river last October.

Tesla is also building something called a “Giga Water Loop” at the site, but we don’t actually know much more than that about what it is.

Water issues have been in focus at other Tesla locations, particularly its gigafactory in Grünheide,outside Berlin, Germany. While some opposition to the factory has come from front groups for the oil industry, there have also been criminal allegations by legitimate environmental groups related to Tesla’s management of its water usage.

The issues have rankled Tesla’s relationship with the local community in Grünheide, with locals voting down expansion of the factory and, in a crazier and much less productive move, resulting in sabotage that led to the factory’s temporary shutdown.

In Germany, Tesla has responded to local issues by attempting to manage its water use better, and by replanting trees to make up for the site’s encroachment into a managed forest area nearby.

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But now, in Texas, it seems like Tesla would rather not have to deal with that sort of thing at all (though, as usual, Tesla did not comment on why they took this move). By exempting itself from Austin’s regulations, there will be less oversight of what sort of water usage or discharge the site has, and whether that might affect other parts of the river.

And yet, Tesla has still benefitted from its proximity to Austin, as the city extended utility connections to the site during the construction process. Austin did this without first annexing the area, as at the time, Texas law was clear that the area was in the city’s ETJ.

Now due to changing Texas law, Tesla gets to keep those benefits, but has exempted itself from environmental oversight, despite making many environmental claims about the site in question.

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Austin, TX

Texas Longhorns QB Arch Manning Gives Texas A Bright Glimpse Into the Future

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Texas Longhorns QB Arch Manning Gives Texas A Bright Glimpse Into the Future


There isn’t a need to get the quarterback battle talks going again, but Arch Manning’s showing on Saturday was everything Texas needed.

With Quinn Ewers only playing for about 30 seconds, it was all Manning. Something that was by design, as Ewers himself said he knew he’d see limited action. While you never want to read too much into spring games, Manning getting a chance to play a lot and thrive was needed.

Injuries are unfortunately a part of football, and Ewers has missed a couple of games per year in Austin. Manning was only featured in garbage time last year, but his dominant spring showing should instill confidence in case Ewers goes down and for the future. 

He went 19 of 25 on the day with three scores for 355 yards. Two of his touchdowns were deep shots, which have been hard to come by consistently for Texas. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the former five-star and top-ranked quarterback with the “Manning” name was surgical.

To make matters better for Texas, who went about a decade with mediocre to below-average quarterback play, true freshman Trey Owens balled out too. The quarterback situation is looking a lot like the one that saw Alabama go from Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa, to Mac Jones, to Bryce Young. 

Steve Sarkisian was quite pleased about what he saw from Manning when speaking to the media. 

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 “I wanted Arch to be able to just go play football. … The biggest thing I saw from Arch was something that we really harped on with him about a week and a half ago about just dialing into playing the play and keeping your eyes up.”

In a perfect world, they won’t need to turn to Manning as a result of injury, but he showed accuracy, arm strength, and was constantly making the right play. While waiting his turn another year wasn’t likely in his plans, he should hit the ground running when it’s his turn.



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Austin, TX

Page Not Found – SwimSwam

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Page Not Found – SwimSwam


Oops,

We lost that page. Maybe Mel renamed it. Maybe Braden moved it. Maybe Jared stayed up too late drinking coffee and deleted it.




If you really really need it, try a search here. If you still can’t find it, shoot us an email.





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