(written from a Production point of view)
John A. Knoll (born 6 October 1962; age 59) from Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, is an Academy Award winning visual effects (VFX) artist, best known for his Star Wars work at Industrial Light & Magic on the original trilogy "Special Editions", the prequel trilogy, the first anthology film, Rogue One, as well as the live-action The Mandalorian spin-off streaming series.
He also worked on several Star Trek episodes and films. He was the VFX supervisor on Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact and had earlier designed the warp effect of the USS Enterprise-D for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Knoll, an avowed first generation Star Wars fan, is also believed to have inserted a small digital model of the Millennium Falcon into the Battle of Sector 001 in First Contact. Knoll served as VFX supervisor for the three new Star Wars films
He also created the acclaimed CGI model of the Bajoran lightship for the popular third season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Explorers" and rendered it again for the fourth season episode "Accession". In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (pp. 320-321), he notes that, although he was busy with Star Trek Generations, for which he built the first version of the CGI Enterprise-D model, and the first Mission: Impossible film, he found the time to create the lightship CGI model as he felt it was a cool design.
Knoll later worked on the Work Bees, the starship with the blue engines and the Deep Space 9 engineers wearing environmental suits seen in the new Deep Space Nine title sequence that first appeared in "The Way of the Warrior". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 335)) He was interviewed for the special feature "Industrial Light & Magic: The Next Generation" on the 2009 DVD release of Star Trek: First Contact. His work with ILM on First Contact earned him a Saturn Award nomination as well as a Golden Satellite Award nomination in the VFX categories.
Knoll was the VFX supervisor on the 1997 special edition releases of the two films Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. He also worked as VFX supervisor on the prequel trilogy Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005), personally creating the beginning of each and making small cameos in the first and third installments, after an even smaller first one as a digitally inserted X-Wing pilot in the special edition of A New Hope. (Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian: "Practical") For the first two films he also received his first two Academy Award nominations in 2000 and 2003 for Best Visual Effects, the first shared with Scott Squires and Rob Coleman and the second with Rob Coleman and Ben Snow. While a fan, he is not known to have been assigned to the sequel trilogy.
The team from the prequel trilogy received several more awards and nominations for their work: two Saturn Awards (2000 and 2003), one Saturn Award nomination (2006), a BAFTA Film Award nomination in 2000, a Video Premiere Award nomination in 2001, a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination in 2003, a Satellite Award in 2005, and three Visual Effects Society Award nominations in 2003 and 2006.
Knoll served as a writer and executive producer for the 2016 film Rogue One, the first Star Wars anthology film, returning to the franchise in 2019 as additional VFX supervisor for The Mandalorian, the franchise's first live-action series, and on which Knoll was, among other duties, made responsible for the traditional build and motion control photography of the Razor Crest (physical) studio model, the show's "hero ship". (Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian: "Practical")
Beside his work on Star Trek and Star Wars, Knoll worked for ILM on the science fiction comedy Innerspace (1987), the fantasy adventure Willow (1988), the adventure The Abyss (1989), the thriller The Hunt for Red October (1990), the comedy Baby's Day Out (1994), the action film Mission: Impossible (1996), the science fiction thriller Deep Blue Sea (1999), and the science fiction film Mission to Mars (2000).
He then worked as VFX supervisor on the three Pirates of the Caribbean films between 2003 and 2007 for which he earned two Academy Award nominations in 2004 and 2008 for Best Visual Effects/Best Achievement in Visual Effects. He shared the first one with Terry D. Frazee. In 2007 he won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for the second Pirates film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Knoll also received three Visual Effects Society Award nominations in 2004 and 2008 and two wins in 2007, a Golden Satellite Award nomination in 2004 and a Satellite Award in 2006, a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination in 2004, a Hollywood Film Award in 2006, two BAFTA Film Award nominations in 2004 and 2008, a BAFTA Film Award in 2007, two Saturn Award nominations in 2004 and 2008, and a Saturn Award in 2007.
More recent work for ILM includes the fantasy adventure Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), James Cameron's science fiction film Avatar (2009, starring Zoe Saldana), and the action sequel Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011, co-written by J.J. Abrams). For Avatar, Knoll was again nominated for a Visual Effects Society Award for Best Single Visual Effect of the Year, shared with Jill Brooks, Frank Losasso Petterson, and Tory Mercer.
Star Trek credits
- Star Trek films
- TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint" – Visual Effects Artist: warp effect (uncredited)
Star Trek awards
Knoll received the following award nominations for his work on Star Trek
- 1996 Saturn Award nomination in the category Best Special Effects for Star Trek: First Contact
- 1997 Satellite Award nomination in the category Outstanding Visual Effects for Star Trek: First Contact