After explaining to us about the work of Method Studios on THE GIVER in 2014, Mark Breakspear joined Sony Pictures Imageworks. He handled the visual effects of AMERICAN SNIPER and then SUICIDE SQUAD.

How was the collaboration with director David Ayer and VFX Supervisor Jerome Chen?
There was a good level of collaboration from David to Jerome. I think Jerome was someone who really understood what film David was making and because of that had David’s complete trust. For us, having the direct link to Jerome meant we were able to narrow in on the look of the effects fairly quickly. In those areas of the design that were most nebulous, the second hand that Jerome and David had was extremely useful in getting our shots in the right creative arena as quickly as possible.

What was their approaches about the visual effects?
Magic but not in the same style of magic that we have seen before like in HARRY POTTER. We started off making a playlist of all the different types of magic that we’ve seen before… all the movies we could think of… we showed them to David and he chose exactly 0% of them as reference. We ended up adopting a style of magic that was heavily influenced by fractals, specifically, 3D fractals, or mandlebulbs. Getting the right look was tremendously hard for the FX team as the very nature of the fractal is not something you can model, or create easily. However, our FX lead Charles-Felix Chabert and his FX team were able to create custom shapes based off the mandlebulb principles for us to use as the basis for our magical effects.

What are the sequences made by Imageworks?
We did most of the end battle sequence, where the team take on Enchantress and her brother Incubus. We also did many of the city destruction shots, and the moment Incubus is formed in the subway. Later on, after reshoots, we also did many of the fight sequence where Enchantress is fighting the squad in the horizontal rain.

How did you work with the art department for Enchantress and Incubus?
The art department provided a couple of drawings that captured the look and feel of Incubus. However, he was a character always in motion and we had to develop the look of his internal organs that swirled around inside him, as well as his armor. The art department drawing was a great starting point, but we were still designing his look about 3 months from delivery!

Incubus is a massive CG character. Can you explain in detail about his creation?
Incubus is a bring made up from the souls of many other people. Not just their souls, their internal body parts as well… all in his body, just floating around… He is formed when 4 people get squashed together and he sort of hatches from the combined jumble of human flesh.

How was simulated his presence on-set and his light interactions?
We created the caustics effects from his body entirely in CG. It was always going to be a challenge to make a 10 foot tall orange human look real on set, so his interactive light affects on the surrounding walls was crucial to help him feel like he was part of the environment.

Speaking about FX, can you explain in details about your work on Diablo?
Diablo is able to create fire from his body. Think human flame thrower. Creating fire on that scale is very tricky as it always looks the wrong scale. We had to create some pretty massive flame thrower moments when Mega Diablo is torching Incubus. The fire had to work on the massive scale, still look like real fire, but also allow control over where it went… and also to make sure it didn’t cover over all the action, which when we first simulated the correct dynamics, it did. So we had to cheat some of it’s behavior to get the shots that Jerome and David wanted.

Did you share assets with the other vendors and mainly with MPC?
Only a few assets went between us and MPC. It worked out well and the communication lines were always open clear and both sides did what ever they could to help each other.

What was the main challenge on this show and how did you achieve it?
The main challenges were getting the look and feel of Incubus and also the design and material of Enchantresses costume. We created many different iterations of both designs, and narrowed in on the look. For Incubus we were still designing his look about 3 months from delivery! Enchantress was a unique challenge as the actress had been shot without a costume as we had to add it in later to allow it to behave in a way that normal really cloth or materials couldn’t.

What do you keep from this experience?
The great team I had on the show made it all happen. There were so many people who came to work every day just charged up to do a great job on the show. The energy that gave us all was key to how we all got through the busiest times.

Was there a shot or a sequence to prevent you from sleep?
Not really. The only time I really started to fret was when I decided to try a 21 juice only diet during the busiest months of production. Days 1 through 5 are the worst, after that you sail along. I think at about day 15 you start to realize that food is just a gimmick and your body doesn’t really need it. At least that’s what I was telling myself. My team started to really hate me around day 3 apparently. By day 15 I was intolerable beyond the normal limits. My producer Gen took me aside and literally begged me to have something to eat that couldn’t be sucked up through a straw. That was day 21. On my next show I plan on trying a 30 day juice diet… I haven’t told Gen or the team so please keep that a secret. 😉

How long have you worked on this show?
I first joined the show in the early months of 2015 when vfx producer John Clinton and I were invited to read the super secret scripts in LA. Everything was printed on red paper so you couldn’t photocopy it, and we had to leave our cell phones with the front desk. Final delivery was in July 2016.

How many shots have you done?
The movie shows close to 300 of our completed finals. We worked on many many more than that which ended up getting omitted along the way as many shots often do.

What was the size of your team?
Our team started small, grew to it’s max size around 75% of the way through the schedule before dropping again. At it’s peak we were probably cruising close to 150 people on the show.

What is your next project?
I have just returned from set for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, directed by Matthew Vaughn. Turnover is just beginning, and the work we have is going to be very challenging. Check back in about 8 months and I will tell all!

A big thanks for your time.


Sony Pictures Imageworks: Dedicated page about SUICIDE SQUAD on Sony Pictures Imageworks website.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2016

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